4Sevens Preon Review (1xAAA & 2xAAA): RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS, and more!

selfbuilt

Flashaholic
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
6,936
Location
Canada
Reviewer's Note: The Preon 1 and Preon 2 samples were provided for review by 4Sevens.com. Please see their website for more info.

Warning: pic heavy, as usual. :whistle:

Manufacturer's specifications, condensed from 4Sevens’ website:
  • LED: CREE XP-G R5
  • Max Output: Preon 1 - 70 Out-the-front (OTF) lumens, Preon 2 – 160 lumens
  • Material: Type-III Hard-anodized Aircraft-grade Aluminum (Titanium also available)
  • Lens: Optical-grade glass lens with anti-reflective coating on both sides
  • Battery: Preon 1 - One AAA included, Preon 2 – Two AAA included (see voltage range to select acceptable batteries for this light)
  • Operating Voltage Range: 0.9V-3.0V
  • Seven Output Modes:
  • Low: Preon 1 - 1.8 OTF Lumens, 23 hours; Preon 2 - 2.2 OTF Lumens, 23 hours
  • Medium: Preon 1 - 8.5 OTF Lumens, 6 hours; Preon 2 - 22 OTF Lumens, 6 hours
  • High: Preon 1 - 70 OTF Lumens, 0.8 hours; Preon 2 - 160 OTF Lumens, 0.8 hours
  • Strobe: Preon 1 - 1.6 hours
  • SOS: Preon 1 - 2.4 hours
  • Beacon (Hi): Preon 1 - 8 hours
  • Beacon (Lo): Preon 1 - 40 hours
  • Dimensions: Preon 1 - Length: 2.95 inches, Diameter: 0.55 inches, Weight: 0.5 ounces
  • Dimensions: Preon 2 - Length: 5.05 inches, Diameter: 0.55 inches, Weight: 0.88 ounces
  • Waterproof: IPX-8 Rating
  • Included Accessories: Removable clip, Ring for keychain attachment.
  • Note: Preon 1 comes with flat tailcap for head twisty-only action, Preon 2 comes with a reverse clicky switch (allowing both clicky and twisty action). The switch/flat tail can be purchase separately and works on either body.
  • MSRP varies on configuration and construction material (i.e. Titanium available), but standard Preon 1 is ~ $34 and standard Preon 2 is ~$42 with CPF discount. Also available as a kit - both bodies/tailcaps with one head - for ~$45 with discount.
The Preon is 4Sevens answer to the expanding world of AAA flashlights. Have they pulled off a winning design? Scroll down to find out … :whistle:

Preon-10.jpg


The Preon comes in two forms – 1xAAA (Preon 1) and 2xAAA (Preon 2). For all intents and purposes, the parts are interchangeable – the head is common to both lights, and the flat tailcap/clicky switch works on either model. They also come in a range of materials (i.e. Aluminum or Titanium) and colors (e.g. aluminum in Black, Red, Blue, or Gold), and are available individually or as part of a combined kit (accessories are also sold separately).

Preon-3.jpg
Preon-4.jpg


The lights come in similar packaging. Inside the hard carboard case with plastic insert is the light with a removable pocket clip installed – and with either the flat tailcap (Preon 1) or protruding clicky switch (Preon 2). Also included in the package are 1x or 2x Duracell alkaline battery, spare o-rings, keychain attachment ring, and manual.

First thing to notice about the body design is the smooth wall construction – very sleek, with no knurling or ridge detail. My samples were of the four colored aluminum versions, but titanium is also available.

Preon-1.jpg

Preon-2.jpg

Preon-12.jpg

(from left to right: Duracell alkaline AAA, Preon 2, Preon 1, Maratac AAA (Natural), IlluminaTi, VersaTi, LiteFlux LF2XT, Lumapower Avenger GX, Fenix L0D.

Preon 2: Weight 20.2g (with keychain clip), Length 127.4mm x Width 14.0mm
Preon 1: Weight 15.3g (with keychain clip), Length 75.6mm x Width 14.0mm
IlluminaTi: Weight 23.5g (with keychain clip), Length 68.8mm x Width 14.0mm (bezel)
ITP EOS A3 Upgraded: Weight: 11.6g (no clip), Length: 69.7, Width: 14.1mm (bezel)
VersaTi: Weight: 23.2g (no clip), Length: 67.1mm, Width: 14.6mm
LiteFlux LF2XT:Weight: 21.2g (with pocket clip installed), Length 81.2mm x Width: 14.9mm (bezel)
Avenger GX: Weight: 22.9g (with Clicky switch), 22.0g (with twisty switch), Length 93.8mm (with clicky switch) or 86.7mm (with twisty switch) x Width: 15.2mm (bezel)

The Preon 1 is slightly longer than most of the recent 1xAAA lights, but that is due to the ability to swap out the flat tailcap for a clicky switch. Note that the Preon 1 is still roughly in keeping the classic Fenix L0D (which lacks this ability). The Preon 2 is quite reasonable in size for a 2xAAA penlight, and comes with the reverse clicky switch.

Preon-9.jpg


Fit and finish are excellent on all my samples - no flaws or chips in any of the various matte color finishes. Typically, color anodizing is done only at the type II anodizing level, but 4Sevens claims HA (type III) for the Preons. :thumbsup:

Grip is obviously reduced compared to other lights with knurling or extensive ridge detail. As such, you may find it a bit hard to twist modes one-handed with the Preons. The installed pocket clip works well as an anti-roll feature. Identification labels are sharp and clear against the matte background (although hard to read with the gold finish). Quite stylish looking overall. :kiss:

UPDATE Feb 1, 2009:
4Sevens.com informs that they use a proprietary coating on the Preons to increase the roughness to the touch. It is true that the Preons are not quite as slippery as I would have expected from their appearance, but the coating is still not as "grippy" as actual knurling.


Preon-8.jpg


Screw threads are anodized in the head, allowing for head lock-out. :thumbsup:

Preon-7.jpg


As mentioned previously, the flat tailcap and clicky-switch tailcap are inter-changeable, so you can swap one for the other (flat tailcap included with Preon 1, clicky switch for Preon 2 – but both available as extra accessory). No need to anodize screw threads here, as the head allows you to lock out the light.

You can switch the pocket clip for the included keychain clip ring (although you will have to take off the o-ring first :shrug:). Although the keychain clip ring looks fairly thin, it should be durable and stable, given that you can only remove it by unscrewing the tailcap.

Note there is no keychain or split ring included with the Preons.

Preon-5.jpg

Preon-6.jpg

Preon-11.jpg


Superficially, the business end of the Preon looks a lot like the recent ITP/Maratac/Titanium Innovations lights. However, like the IlluminaTi, the Preon is distinguished by its Cree XP-G emitter with a R5 output bin. The emitter is also similarly guaranteed to be perfectly centered (not necessarily the case on the budget ITP/Maratac lines).

No tint bin is specified, but all four of mine were what I would consider a premium “cool white” tint bin for XR-E/XR-Gs (scroll down for beamshots). For those of you not familiar with tint bins, please see my Colour tint comparison and the summary LED tint charts found here.

Like the IlluminaTi, texturing of the orange peel reflector is fairly high on the Preon (both a bit higher than the ITP/Mararacs). Should provide a similar looking beam pattern.

And now for the requisite white wall hunting ;) … all lights are on Max with OP reflector on a Sanyo Eneloop AAA, about 0.5 meters from a white wall.

Preon-Beam25.jpg

Preon-Beam100.jpg

Preon-Beam1600.jpg


As you can see, on 1xAAA the Preon is pretty comparable to the other XP-G R5 light, the IlluminaTi. Beam pattern is very similar to ITP/Maratac lights (although slightly brighter due to the R5). On 2xAAA, max output is considerably increased (i.e. roughly doubled).

User Interface

The regular Preon interface is similar to many of the competing twisty 1xAAA lights, in this case in the Lo > Med > Hi mode sequence. But the Preons have a few additional tricks up their battery tubes …. :whistle:

Basic operation is controlled by twisting the head tight against the body to activate the light, loosen to turn off. Do a twist off-on in under 1 sec and the light advances to its next mode sequence. Wait more than two seconds before re-activating the light after turning off, and it returns to default Lo (i.e. no memory mode).

With the reverse clicky switch installed (standard on the Preon 2), you will need to have the head tight against the body – you can then cycle through modes by repeatedly pressing the switch. Note that the light can still operate as a twisty, even with the clicky switch installed (i.e. just has to be in the clicked On postion)

There is no strobe or SOS mode to worry about in the regular interface. :kiss: But they are “hidden” away if you want them. Normally, twisty-mode cycle selection continues indefinitely - keep doing off-on twists to run through all the sequences in order again. But if you run through the complete sequence twice in under two seconds (i.e. On Lo > Med > Hi > Lo > Med > Hi), you will access the additional hidden modes. These present themselves in sequence as Strobe > SOS > Hi Beacon > Lo Beacon.

Preon-Strobe.gif


Strobe was measured at 9.9Hz. Beacon modes are 5 rapid flashes followed a single ~1.25 sec flash at 10 sec intervals, at either full power (Hi) or lower power (Lo).

Note that there is no memory for “special outputs” either – if you turn off the light for more than 2 seconds, you will be back at constant output Lo when next you re-illuminate. So no worries about getting stuck accidentally strobing yourself here. :thumbsup: Frankly, this is the sort of interface I like to see – “special modes” are well hidden, and not at all obtrusive.

Preon-PWM.gif


Like all multi-mode lights in the tiny 1xAAA class, the Preons use pulse-width-modulation (PWM) for their Lo/Med modes. However, they have among highest PWM frequencies I’ve detected for this class – 2.40 to 2.43 kHz. :twothumbs

You will not notice the PWM in regular use, unless you really go looking for it.

Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for the extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1 meter from the lens, using a light meter.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

1AAA-Summary.gif


As expected, the Max overall output of the R5-equipped 1xAAA Preon 1 is consistent with my only other 1xAAA light using this emitter (IlluminaTi), and is higher than the Q5/R2-equipped competition. Min output levels are reasonable for this class.

Note that this light really “shines” in 2xAAA form (sorry, couldn’t resist). Preon 2 max output is nearly double that of the Preon 1. :eek:oo:

Note also that 10440 Li-is not supported (the published voltage range is 0.9V- 3.0V only).

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Preon-Runtimes1.gif


Shown above is the Hi output mode the Preon 1 and 2, on all batteries. Consistent with the published specs, you get nearly twice the max output for the same runtime when run in 2xAAA form. That pattern was consistent on all batteries tested.

Preon-Runtimes3.gif

Preon-Runtimes2.gif


Individually, the 1xAAA and 2xAAA forms of this light behave as expected. Max output and runtime are consistent with published specs.

Note that runtime on Med was lower in my testing than specified by 4Sevens, but I suspect that is because output is actually somewhat higher than spec (i.e. more like ~20/35 OTF lumens rather than the reported 8.5/22 OTF lumens for Preon 1/2). :shrug: Regardless, output/runtime efficiency is what I would expect for a light of this class.

I have also tested the second sample/color of each Preon light on Eneloop (shown as the dotted lines above). As you can see, the replicate samples were very close in output and runtime to the first batch of Preon 1/2 lights. :thumbsup:

And for how the Preon 1 compares to the 1xAAA competition:

1AAA-HiL92.gif


1AAA-HiEne.gif

1AAA-MedEne.gif


1AAA-HiAlka.gif

1AAA-MedAlka.gif

1AAA-LoAlka.gif


Compared to its class, output/runtime performance for the 1xAAA Preon 1 is right where I would expect it. As you can see, output on Med is slightly higher than most of the other lights (which means lower absolute runtimes). But overall efficiency seems consistent with other lights, given the higher Med output level.

One interesting note - the Preon 1 had the highest max output on alkaline for any light in this class. :cool: Most of the competition are not quite as bright on alkaline as they are on L92/NiMH.

Potential Issues

Lack of head knurling means you may find one-handed twisty mode switching difficult in the 1xAAA format. And the clicky switch is a little soft compared to full-size model switches - but that's a nitpick, given that there are so few clickies in lights this size.

The keychain clip ring and pocket clip are both very stable - but it is either one or the other at any given time, and switching them back and forth is a bit messy (i.e. have to remove an o-ring, and the clip rings are a tight fit around the tailcap screw threads).

Medium mode is a bit brighter than most of the competition, meaning absolute Med runtimes are lower (although overall efficiency seems comparable to others in this class).

Preliminary Observations

There has been a popular resurgence of the AAA form factor lately on CPF, with new lights coming out from several manufacturers. Most likely it was the hugely popular budget ITP/Matatac that really got the ball rolling. But even before that, the LiteFlux LF2XT, Lumapower Avenger and others have created devoted followings.

The Preon takes the current trend toward small size and KISS interfaces a step further, with additional features, choice of materials and colors, improved PWM, 2xAAA option with increased output, and choice between twisty and clicky switch action – all in am incredibly small package. What is not to love? :kiss:

The Preon is definitely intended as something of showy light, with its sleek tumbled-matte finish and multiple colors/body materials. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more ridge detail on the head (to facilitate one-handed switching), but I understand the decision to keep it looking smooth (i.e. more stylish this way).

While personal tastes vary in terms of styling and colors, there is no doubt the Preons carry a powerful punch. I particularly like the 2xAAA option (with roughly doubled output on the common head :eek:oo:) and the slim clicky switch design. The modular nature of the light is quite impressive – you can mix and match parts with ease (and all are available as optional accessories in either form). You can even buy it as a kit with one head and both body formats. :twothumbs

I am amazed that they managed to keep the light this small while adding the option to switch between the flat tailcap for tailstanding or the clicky switch. And special bonus – this means the keychain clip ring or pocket clip can be firmly installed (i.e. no danger of it being pulled off). Both seem reasonably strong to me.

Oh, and the 2.3 kHz PWM freq is also appreciated. ;) This is one of the highest I've seen to date for a 1xAAA multi-mode light. Although anything in the ~1kHz or higher range is typically fine with me (e.g. IlluminaTi, LiteFlux LF2XT, etc.)

Simply put, there’s a lot to like about these 4Sevens offerings in the AAA space. "Atlanta, we have a winner here." :)
 
Last edited:

awid

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Sep 1, 2009
Messages
65
Awesome review as always! This only confirmed the Preon's spot on my wishlight.
 

Phaserburn

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 30, 2003
Messages
4,755
Location
Connecticut, USA
Great review, as always you set the gold standard. I love seeing a new review from you; it's like getting a latest copy of your favorite magazine in the mailbox. Nice!
 

DM51

Super Moderator,
Supporter
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
13,338
Location
Borg cube #51
Excellent review - and not surprising that you have given :twothumbs to the Preon. It has already attracted an enormous amount of interest with its style and performance. It is a very attractive light indeed, and competitively priced too.

Moving to Reviews...
 

selfbuilt

Flashaholic
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
6,936
Location
Canada
Thanks for the support of my reviews everyone! :grouphug:

It is a very attractive light indeed, and competitively priced too.
A good point - I don't normally discuss value-for-money in my reviews, but it does seem like you get a lot for a low price here. :thumbsup:

The kit option (~$45 with CPF discount for both battery tubes/tailcaps with one head) seems like a particularly good deal to me. Of course, you are likely to want to go back later and get another head ... :laughing:
 
Last edited:

madmook

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
149
Location
SoCal
Wow they were WAY off on the medium mode runtimes...

They need to update their website specs with either correct output or runtime.

Kinda disappointed actually, because their 6 hour figure was one of the selling points for me. I have a Ti Preon 2 and a Black kit.

I do like them, but man... the same thing was kinda done with the MiNi AA's medium runtime.
 

1anrm

Enlightened
Joined
Sep 22, 2008
Messages
201
Wow they were WAY off on the medium mode runtimes...

They need to update their website specs with either correct output or runtime.

Kinda disappointed actually, because their 6 hour figure was one of the selling points for me. I have a Ti Preon 2 and a Black kit.

I do like them, but man... the same thing was kinda done with the MiNi AA's medium runtime.


Maybe this will balance out how they under stated runtimes on the quark AA medium lol.

Thanks Selfbuilt for the always excellent review!
 

selfbuilt

Flashaholic
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
6,936
Location
Canada
Wow they were WAY off on the medium mode runtimes... They need to update their website specs with either correct output or runtime.
Maybe this will balance out how they under stated runtimes on the quark AA medium lol.
FYI, I've noticed that 4Sevens is typically conservative in his output and runtime estimates. In this case, I believe 6 hours would have been reasonable if the Preon 1 really was putting out 8.5 OTF lumens. But based on comparisons to other lights in my lightbox, I'd "guestimate" it is more like ~20 OTF lumens for the Preon 1 on Med.

And you'll note that two different samples showed nearly identical output and runtime on Eneloops in my testing, so it's likely a general class effect.
 

madmook

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
149
Location
SoCal
If I remember correctly, the original ORIGINAL announcement thread from 4sevens said that Preon I's medium mode was like 18 otf lumens or some such number, but then they soon after changed it to that 8.5...

Am I crazy? Or does anybody else remember that?
 

spoonrobot

Enlightened
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
396
Of course, you are likely to want to go back later and get another head ... :laughing:

That's the truth! I barely lasted a week before going and getting another head. Worked out great, the new head had a really nice warm tint, instead of the blue tint that the first one came with. Now I have a good pocket light (the 2xAAA) and a great keychain light (1xAAA) that gives me access to a lot of light if I need it and a good balance for EDC work.

Awesome review as always!
 

berry580

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Oct 17, 2008
Messages
1,138
Location
Sydney, Australia
thx for the review =)
on the efficiency end, VersaTi is eating EVERYONE for breakfast.
This gives me the Fenix L1D Q5 verses every other 1xAA class lights feeling just around a year ago lol
 

selfbuilt

Flashaholic
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
6,936
Location
Canada
on the efficiency end, VersaTi is eating EVERYONE for breakfast.
Yes, quite true - for efficiency fiends (and fans of perfectly flat regulation), the VersaTi is king. Of course, it lacks a Lo mode and Hi mode is lower than all the semi-regulated lights. I'm also not sanguine about the VersaTi switching mechanism (i.e. I don't like relying on all those pins in the head).

It does make things a difficult choice, especially in Titanium. If you like the broader feature set, The IlluminaTi and Preon 1 are extemely close in performance - it really comes down to which build you prefer.
 

Elliot

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 2, 2005
Messages
160
Location
USA
Another great review!:D
I thank you, my family thanks you and my credit card bank thanks you.
 

22hornet

Enlightened
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
739
Location
Province of Antwerp / Belgium
Wow!
So, to put this in perspective:
when I joined CPF in 2006, one needed a Surefire P61 HOLA to have this level of brightness. (20 minutes of 120 lumens). Now a Preon2 will do equal, or better, with 2 simple alkaline AAA cells.
We sure have come a long way.

Kind regards,
Joris
 

selfbuilt

Flashaholic
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
6,936
Location
Canada
when I joined CPF in 2006, one needed a Surefire P61 HOLA to have this level of brightness. (20 minutes of 120 lumens). Now a Preon2 will do equal, or better, with 2 simple alkaline AAA cells.
LOL, when you put it that way, it does seem like quite an evolution! :laughing:
 

ubetit

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Jul 2, 2009
Messages
135
Location
Lewis Center, OH
It does make things a difficult choice, especially in Titanium. If you like the broader feature set, The IlluminaTi and Preon 1 are extemely close in performance - it really comes down to which build you prefer.

Excellent review as always. I tried to love my Ti Preon I but just couldn't. I didn't like the gap in the head when keychain ring or pocket clip wasn't installed (didn't want either) and the twisty head threads were always a two-handed operation. My titanium clicky tailcap was finicky as well. Maybe one of the colored Preons would be better for me.
 

amaretto

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Mar 5, 2009
Messages
142
Location
germany
I use a 10440 Li-ion in my preon 1 (even its not recommended) and its remarkable brighter than my preon 2 with 2x AAA. With 10440 you'll get a micro pocket cannon:eek:. I had no problems until now with the li-ion because i use my lights only short term (no longer than 1-2 minutes). Dont know if there would be any problems if you use it longer. Try it or not by your own risk.
 

selfbuilt

Flashaholic
Joined
May 27, 2006
Messages
6,936
Location
Canada
FYI, 4Sevens.com informs that they use a proprietary coating on the Preons to increase the roughness to the touch (at the microscale).

It is true that the Preons are not quite as slippery as I would have expected from their appearance, but the coating is still not as "grippy" as actual knurling. Switching modes one-handed is doable in 1xAAA form, but not as easy as some other lights.

:wave:
 

Latest posts

Top