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Thread: Fenix CL09 Review

  1. #1
    rookiedaddy's Avatar
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    Default Fenix CL09 Review

    Fenix CL09 Lantern

    Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆


    Summary:

    Battery: 16340 Fenix ARB-L16-700U (included)
    Switch: Twisty Tail
    Modes: 7 (Low, Mid, High, Turbo, Red, Red Flashes, Green)
    LED Type: Neutral White, Red, Green
    Lens: Diffuser
    Tailstands: Yes
    Price Paid: ~USD39
    From: Fenix
    Date Ordered: 2017-10-06

    Pros:


    • Compact size
    • Long runtime on Low Mode
    • Very good physical build quality
    • Good white tint
    • Magnet tailcap with loop

    Cons:

    • Wrong battery included for the light
    • Slow micro-USB battery charging



    Features / Value: ★★☆☆☆
    A feature complete lantern in a compact package with good white tint and reasonably price, what's not to like? But why 2 stars?! Well, long story short, either Fenix package the wrong battery or the driver overestimate the capacity of the included ARB-L16-700U Micro-USB rechargeable 16340 LiIon battery, either way, the pairing of this Fenix CL09 with the included battery is bad. The only pleasant surprise is the Low Mode can run much longer than what's claimed by Fenix -- tested ~115 hours vs 90 hours from manufacturer.It may seems like a very good effort on Fenix's part to include/print the runtime chart (it is actually a more desirable information than the ANSI/NEMA/PLATO FL1), but this chart is only useful if it's accurate (or at least "attempts" to be accurate), rather than calculated (plotted from some weird data series scale).






    Design / Build Quality: ★★★★☆
    The design and built quality is top notch, typical of Fenix manufactured lighting equipment. The compact design makes it very easy to carry either on person (using the included keyring attachment) or bag-carry.The driver doesn't offer any over-discharge protection, so don't run your cell down until the battery Low Voltage protection kicks-in. I believe my Fenix CL09 has damage the included ARB-L16-700U after my runtime tests as it's showing early retirement signs... more on that in the next section.




    Battery Life: ★★☆☆☆
    The idea of including a Micro-USB rechargeable battery is good as Micro-USB interface is commonly available almost everywhere (yes, that includes Apple's product users). However, the charging is slow... it takes almost 2 hours for the ARB-L16-700U battery to recharge fully from Red indicator to Blue using the Micro-USB port, although the label on the battery says "INPUT 5V/500mA Micro USB", but my USB meter shows that it's drawing ~0.34A from 5V source. It's faster to use your normal .5A rate charger to charge the cell.
    I first tested the Low Mode runtime, with manufacturer's claim of 90 hours:

    • Battery Fully Charge
    • Starting Voltage: 4.17V
    • Ending Voltage 0.00V (not a typo, it is really that 0.00V)
    • Runtime: ~115 hours


    Yup, it's more than a day's worth of runtime longer than manufacturer's claim. But tripping that battery Low Voltage protection is not a good sign.
    With such excitement, I continue with the Turbo runtime test, and here is where things took a 180° anticlimatic turn. After 8 - 9 rounds of testing, using both the included ARB-L16-700U and a brand new ARB-L16-700 (non Micro USB rechargeable), I have to say I'm pretty disappointed. Not only it does not live up to the 2 hours runtime claim, it drop sharply at around 30 minutes mark to Low Mode. If I then tried to switch the CL09 back into Turbo mode, in within 5-10 minutes, the light turns off with battery reading 0.00V (again, tripping the battery Low Voltage protection).

    I recorded my first Turbo runtime testing to be ~34 minutes before the light drops to Low Mode, and subsequent tests have a much shorter Turbo runtime, the last of which shown in the following timelapse video is ~27 minutes.

    Although the title says CL09 Turbo Runtime 03, it's not my 3rd time testing but rather it's the 8th or 9th, it's my 3rd uploads to youtube.

    The runtime chart at the back of the packaging is either Fenix's way of a bad practical joke or it's simply bogus!
    I've also tested using a primary CR123A, more than half of the claimed 6 hours runtime is spent at the Mid and Low mode instead of Turbo and High. (Yes, CL09 steps down).
    The only viable option for CL09 to Turbo Mode is to use an unprotected IMR 16340 where I get more than an hour of bright output.

    Light Output: ★★★★☆
    Following are all shot in my reading room in pitch black darkness... all photos are subject to 1 second exposure setting, Fenix CL09 is placed attached magnetically at the top right approximately 0.5 meter away from the subject.







    As a comparison, following are Turbo mode of other Fenix's lanterns...



    and other auxiliary mode...



    The output on Low Mode is enough to do night reading (but I still much prefer to read at the Mid 30 lumens mode), here is a closer shot of the Low Mode brightness...


    Summary: ★★☆☆☆
    I initially planned to give Fenix CL09 Lantern a 5 stars rating after the Low Mode runtime test, but decided to cut down to 2 stars after the Turbo Mode runtime test and discover the problem like many other lights that support LiIon 16340 and primary CR123A, this is again just another ANSI/NEMA/PLATO FL1 light that does not tell the whole truth about it's runtime behavior.Would I recommend this Fenix CL09? Well, only if they change the battery to IMR and indicate as such, otherwise, NO.

    UPDATE 2017-10-17:
    After more testing and replacement of the abnormal unit with purchase of additional unit, found that it's not mainly the battery problem (the ARB-L16-700U is in fact lower capacity than the ARB-L16-700), so I stand corrected, issue is with the light. Please read post #9, #10, #12 for update details.

    Full disclosure: This light is not provided for free, it is paid for by yours truly.
    Last edited by rookiedaddy; 10-18-2017 at 06:25 PM. Reason: fixing typos; my bad, output should be 4 stars, copy and paste error.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    nice review rookiedaddy

    This kind of (lantern) light running off a single 16340 is not meant for long turbo brightness. Most or some other manufacturers' 16340 lights could only hit turbo brightness for a short periods and if this light could manage 30 mins on turbo and then drops to low, this is good already, that 16340 battery would have to be very depleted by that time.

  3. #3
    rookiedaddy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Thank you for the kind words mate.

    The main reason CL09 only gets 2 stars rating instead of 5 stars (which I initially planned to give after the low mode runtime test) is the wrong pairing of the included Fenix ARB-L16-700U battery. Due to this pairing, it does not live up to the stated runtime. The drastic drop to Low Mode is ridiculous, and couple with the light triggers the battery's Low Voltage protection (when we switch it back to Turbo) means it will leave users in the dark.

    Fenix CL09 Turbo mode is unlike other manufacturers' Turbo mode. Fenix CL09 stated Turbo mode is only 200 lumens, not 500 nor 600 nor a thousand lumens like other manufacturer.

    I have since tested this Fenix CL09 using the following batteries and all of them giving proper Turbo Mode step down and it runs well over an hour without drastic drop to Low Mode:
    • AW IMR 16340
    • Olight 163P06
    • EagleTac Primary CR123A



    The following is a new comparison timelapse runtime video with Olight H1 Nova and ZebraLight SC30w:

    there is a drastic drop to Low Mode at minute 37.

    and here are the batteries used:

    Fenix CL09 is using a brand new ARB-L16-700 cell for this testing.

    Update 20171017: I stand corrected. Following gray colored text no longer holds true as the main issue of sharp drop to Low Mode from Turbo Mode is not mainly due to the battery.
    Unless Fenix update the package with a better or proper battery pairing with CL09, I respectfully cannot recommend this lantern as it is.
    Perhaps then, I'll update my review and ratings.

    and for users who already own this CL09, I highly recommend that you carry spare batteries with you. I've switch mine to using primary CR123A now.
    Last edited by rookiedaddy; 10-16-2017 at 09:50 PM.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    that is a nice light, i`ve been using it a while as nite light at vacation. very small yet powerfull.
    really good product.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Nice review, but I suspect there can be something wrong with your CL09, or maybe your 16340 cells were not fully charged when used in these tests?

    For these cells of (relatively) low capacity and high internal resistance, it is necessary to have a low enough cut-off current to get them nearly fully charged. Below are my measurement results with three different cells (charged with SkyRC MC3000 with cut-off current set to 20mA):


    That ARB-L16-700U cell is indeed worse than ARB-L16-700 and unable to achieve the advertised runtime, however still acceptable, while the ARB-L16-700 may deliver a remarkable runtime (longer than advertised). The AWT IMR cell doesn't perform better in my experiments.

    Maybe you should ask Fenix for a replacement?
    Last edited by toobadorz; 10-15-2017 at 08:54 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Quote Originally Posted by toobadorz View Post
    Nice review, but I suspect there can be something wrong with your CL09, or maybe your 16340 cells were not fully charged when used in these tests?
    Thank you for the kind words Sir.
    Yes, there could be something wrong with the CL09 unit itself, I have indeed contacted Fenix and the seller and sent them my test results more than 24 hours before publish this review. They went silent...
    The cells get off the USB and cradle charger as full and reads 4.16 - 4.17V after resting 30 minutes before I put them to test. So the cell is as full as it can be with my limited setup. I've also attempted to slow charge at 0.25A with Xtar SV2 and VP1, similar results returned.

    Thank you for the runtime chart. greatly appreciated!

    Indeed, the ARB-L16-700 in your plot is the Turbo Mode runtime expected -- gradual step down in brightness over 1.5 hours and beyond. After the initial good results from the Low Mode runtime (~115 hours), I was shocked at how short the runtime was using the same ARB-L16-700U cell in Turbo Mode. I can't believe that it drops sharply at 30+ minutes to Low Mode and a new ARB-L16-700 did not delivers beyond 40 minutes and drops sharply to Low Mode at 37 minutes.

    If the included ARB-L16-700U did perform like your plotted chart, this would be a review of all praises and 5 stars.

    I'll update the writing and rating if and when I get a confirmation/feedback from Fenix and do a retest.

    Again, thank you @toobadorz.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Quote Originally Posted by narmattaru View Post
    that is a nice light, i`ve been using it a while as nite light at vacation. very small yet powerfull. really good product.
    @narmattaru, yes, it's a nice light. in fact, your review of this Fenix model at BLF (I read about it there first) and here at CPF is what prompted me to acquire it in the first place. thank you
    I was initially only wanted to test for Low Mode runtime but the fact that it tripped the battery protection at the end of the Low Mode testing makes me curious to find out what it would do to Turbo Mode. In my opinion, a light that trips battery's Low Voltage protection is a worrying sign. So, I'm here sharing my experience.

    With yours and @toobadorz test results, I'm hoping that my unit behavior is the exception here.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    I have yet to do a run time test with the CL09 but it is interesting to know the difference in performance in turbo mode between the included ARB-L16-700U and the ARB-L16-700. I purchased another CL09 and ordered a regular 16340 (ARB-L16-700) rather than another on-board rechargeable version. Glad I went that route. So I think the lantern warrants better than a 2 star rating if the problem is just the ARB-L16-700U and not necessarily the Lantern. I consider the "U" version included as just an added perk for the lantern. Maybe that is a way for them to get these batteries out there with some exposure. Preferably I would rather see the lantern $5 less without including a battery. Putting the "U" version battery aside, as long as the lantern performs like you'd expect similar to any other 16340 light, then I'm OK with the lantern.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    update: issue is with the light, and 2 out of 3 that I tested have the same problem. stay tuned. more detailed updates coming soon.

    in the mean time, I'll leave you with the following...

    Both Fenix CL09 were started at almost the same time (5-10 seconds apart), the CL09 on the right (Black body) is on Low Mode, not moon mode, I dial down the exposure when taking the picture.
    Last edited by rookiedaddy; 10-16-2017 at 09:52 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    as promised, below are the updates...

    Update 2017-10-17


    Part 1 of 3
    Received feedback from Fenix, here is a summary of what Fenix wrote back:

    • ANSI standard don't specify for camping light
    • 2 hours 40 minutes is calculated time from 200 lumens to 20 lumens
    • Output of Turbo Mode starts to drop after 20 minutes
    • ARB-L16-700U battery power is lower than ARB-L16-700
    • Fenix QC tested the CL09 with fully charged ARB-L16-700U, it continues to light up after 2 hours


    Part 2 of 3
    I asked my distributor if I can get a replacement for the Iron Grey Fenix CL09, they said YES with no question ask. So I sent the light back to them yesterday and get myself an Iron Grey Fenix CL09 replacement, together with it, I made another purchase for a Black Fenix CL09.

    Although the replacement Iron Grey works as advertised (finally!), the Black CL09 is having the same problem like my returned Iron Grey CL09, that is, it drops to Low Mode at approximately 37 minutes.
    I have reported the issue to my distributor as well as Fenix. Also decided to keep the Black CL09 as further testing reveal that the only issue is with the Turbo Mode, all other modes works as it should.




    Batteries fully charged before testing begins.

    Following are the runtime pictures of both Fenix CL09 on Turbo Mode (do note that the Iron Grey on the left is the normal CL09 while the Black on the right is the abnormal CL09):


    Control Shot


    After 10 minutes


    After 20 minutes


    After 30 minutes


    @ 37 minutes, the Black CL09 brightness drops to Low Mode. There is no tricks here, see the following picture comparing the Moon Mode of both CL09.




    After 40 minutes


    After 50 minutes


    After 60 minutes


    After 1.5 hours


    Just a little 5 minutes shy of 2 hours, at 1 hour 55 minutes, this is closely similar to @narmattaru and @toobadorz runtime.


    After 3 hours


    After ~3.6 hours

    At this point, we have already past the manufacturer's claimed Turbo Mode runtime, but note however, it's Moon Mode after on Turbo Mode 37 minutes. So it's a huge difference between what the manufacturer claims and what happens with this abnormal CL09.

    Part 3 of 3
    Feeling a little frustrated and confused, decided to check the current draw of both lights, and here are the results:

    The above readings are taken based on a charged LiIon battery ~4.1V.

    Since I can't disassemble the CL09, I can only speculate what causes the abnormal runtime behavior on the Black (and the returned Iron Grey unit) CL09 Turbo Mode is the higher current draw. It does help to explain why it prematurely drops to Low Mode and I speculate my previous test of the AW IMR and the 6 months old Olight 163P06 gave the illusion that the abnormal CL09 works with these cells is due to the results of higher internal resistance from these cells and they drive the light to stepped down to lower mode earlier and thus appears to work without sharp dropping to Low Mode.

    Well, it's not scientific, just my speculations, you are welcome to provide and draw your own conclusions.

    With the above, I stand by giving the light 2 stars for the abnormal CL09, while 5 stars if you are lucky to get a normal working one.
    Last edited by rookiedaddy; 10-17-2017 at 09:14 AM.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    I'm not sure if you already addressed this in your post, maybe I missed it: did you exchange batteries between units and repeat the tests to make sure it is indeed a light specific issue and not dependent on the batteries? Thanks!

  12. #12
    rookiedaddy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Quote Originally Posted by jave-mtr View Post
    I'm not sure if you already addressed this in your post, maybe I missed it: did you exchange batteries between units and repeat the tests to make sure it is indeed a light specific issue and not dependent on the batteries? Thanks!
    glad you ask. Yes, I did. It's a required step to eliminate the battery as the source of the problem. Also tested with ARB-L16-700, same problem, Turbo Mode sustained a few more minutes longer than ARB-L16-700U before dropping to Low Mode.

    Made an animated gif of the runtime pics collected...
    Last edited by rookiedaddy; 10-18-2017 at 02:41 AM.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Excellent! Glad that you found yourself a normal CL09!

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    ...was going to pick one of these up, but after viewing this thread perhaps I should wait until Fenix resolves this issue. Thanks for the fine review and thorough testing, rookiedaddy....much appreciated!
    Last edited by phosphor; 10-18-2017 at 03:46 PM.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Thanks rookiedaddy,

    I have one, love it!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    Quote Originally Posted by toobadorz View Post
    Excellent! Glad that you found yourself a normal CL09!
    Ya man, I'm glad too. Now they want my Black CL09 which I want to keep for myself. For all I know, this problem may be unique... hahaha...

    Quote Originally Posted by phosphor View Post
    ...was going to pick one of these up, but after viewing this thread perhaps I should wait until Fenix resolves this issue...
    thanks for the kind words Sir. we can always utilize the excellent warranty services from Fenix resellers and distributors network should we required an exchange.

    Quote Originally Posted by Loverofthelight View Post
    I have one, love it!
    thank you! I love my normal CL09 too.
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  17. #17

    Default Re: Fenix CL09 Review

    This thread freaked me out, so I tested out my CL09 and thankfully no issues with mine! I really like this lantern so I'm happy to report no issues with runtime OR the included battery.

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