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Thread: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Author's Statement for Transparency and Disclosure
    The test sample/s featured in this article have been provided for technical testing and review by the manufacturer. Test samples are retained by the reviewer following publication of the completed review for the purposes of long term testing and product comparisons.

    All output figures and test results published in this review are the sole work of the reviewer, and are carried out independently and without bias. Test results are reported as found, with no embellishments or alteration. Though best endeavours are made to maintain the accuracy of test equipment, the accuracy of these results is not guaranteed and is subject to the test equipment functioning correctly.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Hot on the heels of its MAG-TAC, MAG-LITE have released a rechargeable version, the MAG-TAC Rechargeable (to be known in this review simply as the MAG-TAC/R)




    Taking a more detailed look:

    The MAG-TAC/R’s cardboard packaging.




    The contents are neatly organised in a foam insert in the tray.




    Included are the MAG-TAC/R, charging base, USB mains charger and cable, USB car charger, pocket clip, screw for fixing the charging base to a surface, pocket clip tool and battery removal tool plus the instruction book.




    The charging base is sturdy and has a micro USB input.




    The MAG-TAC/R without the pocket clip fitted.




    On the tail-cap are the two charging contacts. Being circular there is no need to align them for charging (except when the pocket clip is fitted).




    I’m including this second photo of the charging contacts to show the minor flaw in the separator between the two contacts. The material appears to be PCB type board and both sides of the light there are these minor flaws. Function is not at all affected, but it is likely yours will be the same.




    The switch button is slightly recessed.




    For the diameter of the body, the reflector is relatively deep.




    A XM-L2 LED is used.




    Though not specified as a feature, the head of the MAG-TAC/R has adjustable focus (well, it unscrews and changes the beam). It was easy to take the head off quickly for a clearer look at the XM-L2 LED.




    The head/reflector removed. Actually you can use the light like this for a full flood beam.




    Very clean MAG-LITE quality threads at the head end.




    Taking off the tail-cap you can see the unusual pin contacts.




    Very cleanly finished threads.




    To prevent the light turning on during transit or the cell being drained by the circuit, there is a plastic insulator fitted. Before using the light this must be removed.




    The LiFePO4 cell is retained by a screw-in ring. To remove the ring and cell, there is a special plastic tool.




    The proprietary 18650 LiFePO4 cell has an unusual hexagonal raised contact at one end. Also notice it is actually the negative contact which goes towards the head.




    And a dual pole contact at the other.




    This is a slightly deceptive photo as it is only included to show something a bit confusing. The head-end of the cell has a hexagonal button which happens to be a match for the tail-end retaining ring. They do NOT go together, but if you did remove the cell, you might think this is how it should be.




    When the pocket clip is not fitted you can place the light in the changing base at any rotational position. But notice there is a cut out (more on this later).




    To fit the clip, remove the tail-cap and slide the clip over the body. The tool provided allows you to tighten the cam-lock, securing the clip.




    The clip in place and tail-cap re-fitted.




    The clip is a generous size.




    For scale here is the MAG-TAC/R next to its 18650 cell.




    Now you can see how once the pocket clip is fitted, the clip must be lined up with the cut-out in the charger base to allow it to fit fully into place.




    The charger base can be screwed onto a suitable surface using the supplied screw fitted though the hole in the base.




    Here is the charger base with Micro USB cable fitted.




    And the MAG-TAC/R on charge.





    The beam

    Please be careful not to judge tint based on images you see on a computer screen. Unless properly calibrated, the screen itself will change the perceived tint.
    The indoor beamshot is intended to give an idea of the beam shape/quality rather than tint. All beamshots are taken using daylight white balance. The woodwork (stairs and skirting) are painted Farrow & Ball "Off-White", and the walls are a light sandy colour called 'String' again by Farrow & Ball. I don't actually have a 'white wall' in the house to use for this, and the wife won't have one!



    Starting indoors, the beam is a super clear ice white. The spill is relatively narrow, and there is a strong hotspot.




    Outdoors you can see how the beam gives you a good clear field of vision.





    Modes and User Interface:

    Being a ‘tactical’ model, the MAG-TAC/R has a simple interface with three modes (Maximum, Low, Strobe). Maximum can be used as momentary or constant on.

    Access to these modes is via multiple clicks, but the MAG-TAC/R has no memory, so from OFF the first mode is always momentary Maximum.

    1 Click (and hold) – Momentary Maximum
    2 Clicks – Maximum constant
    3 Clicks – Low constant
    4 Clicks – Strobe
    5 Clicks – back to OFF

    Multiple clicks need to be within 0.5s of each other to register as multiple.



    Batteries and output:

    The MAG-TAC/R runs on a proprietary LiFePO4 18650 cell.

    To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).

    Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.

    ___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
    using I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
    ___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
    High 476 0
    Low 125 0
    Strobe 120 11.6

    * Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

    Peak Beam intensity measured 8800lx @1m giving a beam range of 188m.

    There is parasitic drain at 434uA meaning the cell will be fully depleted in 250 days.


    Despite only having the two constant output levels, during the full run you can see distinct regulated levels at 410lm, 360lm, 200lm and 120lm.

    You get plenty of warning of being low on power as once the output drops to 120lm you still get two hours of runtime before the cell is empty.




    The behaviour at the start of the trace warrants closer inspection. This is something I’ve noticed with a few MAG-LITE lights where unlike many, the output does not peak and then simply drop off, but instead starts to climb again to a peak just over 60s from turn on. It is only after 2.5 minutes that the output stabilises.





    Troubleshooting

    This is a new section I am adding to mention any minor niggles I came across during testing, in case the information helps anyone else.

    No reliable issues were encountered, but on occasion the switch button seemed to double or triple-tap itself. This might be related to the recessed button design as during testing different thumb positions were used, possibly making the press less ‘clean’.

    As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar 'issue' that might be fixed in the same way.



    The MAG-TAC/R in use

    There is a satisfying weight to the MAG-TAC/R. It feels solid and strong and as if it will shrug off any knocks or drops it might get.

    Simplicity is the key here and on a basic level it is just a tactical, momentary operation, maximum output light. Simple and you know what you will get.

    The other functions accessed via multiple clicks are then a bonus, and easy to get to when needed.

    As well as the light itself being robust, so is the charger base. I have no doubts this will take daily hard use as the shell is strongly made and the contact design simple.

    Whether you choose to vehicle mount this or have the charger back at HQ, you can just slam it into the charger without having to be careful or baby it.

    The multiple clicks are a handy way of including extra features, but I have found I’ve accidentally multi-clicked when I didn’t want to . Personally I’d prefer a fast click timing for multi-click mode changes. In terms of click speed, 0.5s is pretty slow.

    What MAG-LITE have produced with the MAG-TAC/R is a purposeful, robust, simple light that does what it says. It is in the tactical line-up and definitely fits tactical use more than EDC use exactly as intended.



    Review Summary

    _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
    Things I like What doesn't work so well for me
    _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
    Solid build Accidental multi-click possible
    Robust charger Proprietary cell
    Car and mains chargers included Recessed button might not work well with gloves
    Safety of LiFePO4 cell chemistry
    Simple interface



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  2. #2
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    reserved for updates...

    Please feel free to ask questions, give feedback or comments.
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Thank you for the review! Too bad about the proprietary battery though.

    About the charging contacts, is there a risk of a short circuit of some kind?

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by newbie66 View Post
    Thank you for the review! Too bad about the proprietary battery though.

    About the charging contacts, is there a risk of a short circuit of some kind?
    Hot off the charger, there is a measurable voltage between the contacts (~3.5V), but if you short this with a resistor, it drops to 0V and does not go up again. My suspicion is that there is only a residual voltage in the charging circuit, and that once shorted the contacts show 0V as they are isolated from the cell with diodes.
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    *Flashaholic* kj2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Thanks for the review. Would be even better if Mag used an ordinary 18650 battery, instead of a proprietary.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by kj2 View Post
    Thanks for the review. Would be even better if Mag used an ordinary 18650 battery, instead of a proprietary.

    They might well have done this with consideration of the main target market as it forces the use of LiFePO4.

    I too would prefer a standard cell, but if it makes the product safer for most users, this is probably a good idea. Think about you friendly neighbourhood LEO thinking it was OK to fit an XXXXFire instead of a quality cell, and said cell having a melt down at a critical moment.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Awesome as usual, Subby.

    What is up with that hexagonal contact? Merely trying to break compatibility with aftermarket batteries?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by subwoofer View Post
    They might well have done this with consideration of the main target market as it forces the use of LiFePO4.

    I too would prefer a standard cell, but if it makes the product safer for most users, this is probably a good idea. Think about you friendly neighbourhood LEO thinking it was OK to fit an XXXXFire instead of a quality cell, and said cell having a melt down at a critical moment.
    Yeah, don't want to see that happen. Battery type may be safer, but as more_vampires says, why the hexagonal contact. Probably some sort of reverse polarity protection.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Mag made the Magcharger pack funky to frustrate using aftermarket batteries. Probably the same thing.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Thanks for another great review. Maglite seems to have made a nice light for its intended target market. The UI seems pretty unique, too. For the intended market I don't think that the proprietary battery is necessarily a bad thing. Most people, excluding flashaholics, don't know much if anything about rechargeable li-ion cells as they are not something you find in local brick and mortar stores.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    rechargeable li-ion cells as they are not something you find in local brick and mortar stores.
    Respectfully, that's not correct.

    Not just talking about lions in cell phones, power tools, tablets, and laptops... I bought my last set of 26650 lion and 18350 at Radio Shack of all places. I was surprised they stocked them.

  12. #12
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    Default Gaming ANSI FL 1?

    Thanks for your fine review.

    According to Selfbuilt's explanation of the ANSI FL 1 Standard, "All output/throw testing does takes place within 30-120 secs after activation."

    I hope it is not overly cynical of me to suggest that M@g may have incorporated a jump in output around 60 seconds as a way of gaming FL 1.
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    Default Re: Gaming ANSI FL 1?

    another great and honest review! I remember how let down I was when I got the original Mag Tac. Sure itd make a great host with its very good and thick body but thats about it. Let me guess the lens is still cheap plastic, is this light IPX8? Those flaws in the PCB in the tail cap are unforgivable.

    Let me see this rechargeable Mag Tac or a Fenix UC35 that I can just plug into my car and have any 18650 in it? Hmmm..Mag seriously dropped the Mag Tac ball again and clearly is stating they do NOT want to compete successfully in the rechargeable 1x18650 market. The Chinese competition eats it. I will say that the new 2 and 3 D cell XML2 Mags are some of the best lights of 2015 though...wow Mag Tac coulda been a contender. Mag must have made this light for a lucrative government contract its the only reason I can think of why they would make this bizarre pile of parts.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    The parasitic draw alone would keep me away.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Thanks for the review.

    Mag seems to have aimed this one towards a small target.
    But did they hit the bulls eye?
    Eh, seems a little up and right to me.
    But the group, is nice n tight.

    Well done.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 10-02-2015 at 07:01 PM.
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  16. #16
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by KeepingItLight View Post
    the ANSI FL 1 Standard, "All output/throw testing does takes place within 30-120 secs after activation."

    I hope it is not overly cynical of me to suggest that M@g may have incorporated a jump in output around 60 seconds as a way of gaming FL 1.
    It is odd behaviour and might be a characteristic of circuitry which is adjusting to the voltage sag of the cell. In my review of the Maglite XL200, this too starts lower and climbs in output (though differently).

    I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to the driver's response to the cell voltage sagging under load.



    Quote Originally Posted by recDNA View Post
    The parasitic draw alone would keep me away.

    I too dislike high parasitic drain. I feel it is lazy design as others manage much much lower. Two amazing examples are the NITECORE Tube which had drain so low it fell below the 0.1uA threshold of my meters, and the Streamlight Sidewinder Rescue at 0.5uA.

    Also consider there are other lights with even worse drain, so it is not the worst offender.

    In reality a duty light like this will be on charge most days so it is not a problem at all. It is never going to be left for 250 days, not unless it has been retired.

    We (flashaholics) tend to have far more lights then we can ever use so leave many on 'standby'. For us, parasitic drain then becomes more of an issue. If you use a light regularly it is much less of an issue, just something to be aware of.


    Regarding target markets, MAG-LITE have gone to the bother of getting the MAG-TAC certified. The specification of this light state:

    Certification - National Tactical Officers Association
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    Default Re: Gaming ANSI FL 1?

    Quote Originally Posted by CelticCross74 View Post
    Let me guess the lens is still cheap plastic, is this light IPX8? Those flaws in the PCB in the tail cap are unforgivable.
    The lens is shatter-proof polycarbonate. Yes, us purists might want coated glass lenses, but it is better to have an unbroken scratched lens than shards of glass falling out in a 'tense' situation. In this application I think polycarbonate is justifiable.

    IPX4 actually, so only 'Water Resistant'.

    I take a very close look at everything I review. The flaw I showed in the tailcap PCB material is small and the photographs are very close up. Even if you can't forgive, one day you might forget
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    So, no real way of modifying a LiFePO4 18650 to work in this light?

    What caught my eye was the clip, which I think would look good on my 6P.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by more_vampires View Post
    Respectfully, that's not correct.

    Not just talking about lions in cell phones, power tools, tablets, and laptops... I bought my last set of 26650 lion and 18350 at Radio Shack of all places. I was surprised they stocked them.
    I was specifically referring to cylindrical li-ion batteries, especially 18650. Radio Shack has many electronic items that can't normally be found on the shelves in typical brick and mortar stores such as Walmart, Target, Meijer's, Kmart, etc. I have never seen them at stores such as Menard's, Lowe's, Home Depot, Farm and Fleet, etc.

  20. #20
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertMM View Post
    So, no real way of modifying a LiFePO4 18650 to work in this light?

    What caught my eye was the clip, which I think would look good on my 6P.
    You probably could carefully transfer the circuit off the proprietary cell once it reaches the end of its life, but it would be very difficult to make your own and get the contacts right.

    It is a good clip.
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Great job, subwoofer; thank you!

  22. #22

    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    what is the clip material?
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by 2000xlt View Post
    what is the clip material?
    I've asked my contact at Mag-Lite and will let you know the reply.
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    Default Re: Review: MAG-LITE MAG-TAC Rechargeable (Proprietary LiFePO4 18650)

    Quote Originally Posted by 2000xlt View Post
    what is the clip material?
    and the official answer is:

    “Engineering Grade Plastic”

    Engineering Thermoplastics are a subset of plastic materials that are used in applications generally requiring higher performance in the areas of heat resistance, chemical resistance, impact, fire retardancy or mechanical strength.
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