ArmyTek Partner A2, A1, C1 - XP-G / XM-L Review (2x AA, 1x AA/14500, 1x CR123/RCR123)

subwoofer

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Reader's Note: The test samples were provided by ArmyTek for review.

Coming from the company that makes some of the most customisable lights on the market utilising their proprietary S-Tek driver, the Partner series came as a bit of a surprise. The Partner lights are at the opposite end of the spectrum of complexity, instead providing users with a very simple EDC light.

In this sector of increasingly sophisticated lights and complex interfaces, this simplicity has made me question and examine where I see the ArmyTek Partner lights fitting in. Though we all like our gadgets, there are times when the most appropriate light is a simple one, pick it up and turn it on.

The Partner models come in three different battery choices the A2 (2xAA), A1 (1xAA/14500) and C1 (1xCR123/RCR123) and two different beam profiles using either XP-G R5 or XM-L U2 emitters.

28PartnerGroup4-.jpg




Initial Impressions:

Unlike most of the lights I test, when I first picked up the Partner lights I did not know exactly what to expect. With an in depth knowledge of the Predator lights, expectation was high, and for this reason alone, initially I was disappointed in what I found, but the reason for mentioning this is to make it clear, up-front, that the Partner lights are not a game changer, but are instead a highly usable addition to the ArmyTek range giving a choice of much simpler lights.

The Partner lights have the signature ArmyTek matt anodised surface of the original Predator and other Armytek lights. This finish feels different to standard smooth anodising and gives Armytek's lights a covert appearance. The finish seems to make ArmyTek lights feel less cold to touch and has good grip.

The Partner lights have what at first seem to be a set of heat-sink fins, but in particular with the A2 these are not located at the head end. In fact they seem to act as grip rings for a cigar-grip hold, very much in keeping with EDC lights.

The power switch boot seemed very small, but very quickly in use this has proven comfortable and easy to operate.

As far as initial impressions go, unfortunately, somehow there was another feature that did not go down well with me at first. The beam of the Partner XP-G, when viewed in daylight, appears to have only the hotspot and no spill at all. However, once it got dark, this initial impression as proven wrong as there is enough spill light round the hotspot to not create tunnel vision.

It is important to say at this stage that, having used the various Partner lights, their true usefulness brushes away any initial doubts I had, so read on and find out more about how they performed.

Partnerrotate.gif




What is in the box:

On test are all six of the Partner models. The A2, A1 and C1 come in both XP-G and XM-L emitter versions, so in this section I will take a quick look at only once at the A2, A1, and C1.

Being Pre-production samples, ArmyTek stated that these boxes were not the final version.

01Partnersboxclosed-.jpg


Looking inside, I suspect it is only missing the final printing on the box as each light is presented well with a section of the box holding the accessories supplied.

02Partnersboxopen-.jpg


Starting with the largest, the A2, it comes with a holster, strap, spare switch boot and o-ring and a set of instructions.

03PartnerA2-.jpg


The A1 with its holster, strap, spare switch boot and o-ring and a set of instructions.

08PartnerA1-.jpg


And lastly the C1 with its holster, strap, spare switch boot and o-ring and a set of instructions.

07PartnerC1-.jpg




Taking a closer look and looking inside:

The three different sizes of Partner shown side-by-side. As you can see they share components, the main difference being the battery tube and holster.

06Partnersside-.jpg


The Partner XP-G and XM-L versions use different optics, designed to suit the emitter in use. Neither version uses a reflector, instead using TIR (Total Internal Reflection) optics.

Looking at the XP-G optic from an angle you can see the central hole in the optic and a hint of the anit-reflective coating on the glass lens that protects the plastic optic.

10PartnerTIR2-.jpg


Moving to the front of the XP-G version's optic and you can see how the surface of the optic is reflecting the yellow colour of the LED's phosphor coating.

09PartnerTIR-.jpg


The XM-L optic is something else! The outermost layer is the same coated glass lens, but for the XM-L version, there is a honeycomb optic diffuser sitting in front of the TIR optic giving the lens a very distinctive and unusual look.

PartnerXM-Llens.jpg


Looking at the lenses side by side, there is no mistaking the XP-G and XM-L versions.

Partnerlensrotate.gif


Though there are six different Partner models on test, the tail-caps, are all the same, so I will only show common features once.

Inside the tail-cap, there is a long spring for the negative terminal. This actually allows the A1 to use AAAs as well, if you really need to, as AA sized cells.

11Partnertail-cap-.jpg


The relatively compact switch boot has a bevelled recess around it which allows the boot to be compressed easily (as it bulges out) when operating the switch.

The flats around the tail-cap and head provide a degree of anti-roll.

12Partnertail-capbutton-.jpg


The Partners use almost square threads and a single o-ring . The threads are fully anodised providing lockout should you need this.

14PartnerA1thread-.jpg


The positive terminal is a robust metal pad.

15PartnerA1positive-.jpg


With the main component that changes between A2, A1 and C1 being the battery tube, the differences are in tube length and wall thickness.

Looking down on the A2, the wall thickness is substancial.

17PartnerA2tube-.jpg


With the A1 being the same in this regard.

13PartnerA1tube-.jpg


With the CR123 cell being a larger diameter, the C1's battery tube wall is thinner, but still strong.

16PartnerC1tube-.jpg






Modes and User Interface:

All Partner models use the same simple interface.

There are only two modes, Low and High.

If the Light is left off for 7minutes, it resets back to the default initial mode of Low. (in testing this reset time proved surprisingly consistent amongst all versions of the Partner line up).

When first switching on, the Partner comes on in Low. The power switch is a reverse clicky, so to change to High, a brief half press and release gives you High. (another half press back to Low etc)

Due to the 7 minutes required to reset back to Low, if you have been using the Partner on Low, turn it off, and then switch it back on again several minutes later, it will come on in High. If this is going to bother you, you can always quickly turn it up to High before switching off as doing this will guarantee it will come on in Low next time however soon you use it again.



Batteries and output:

Each of the Partner models (whether XP-G or XM-L) uses a different power source. Initially ArmyTek's specifications did not allow the A1 and C1 to use li-ion cells, however after pressing ArmyTek on this point, they re-tested the driver and confirmed that the A1 and C1 can use li-ion cells, though extended use on high may require active cooling.

The A2 uses 2xAA – either NiMh or Primary (Alkaline/Litihium-AA equivalent).

The A1 uses 1xAA 'size' – meaning it can use NiMh or Primary (Alkaline/Lithium-AA equivalent) or 14500 li-ion (also thanks to the long tail-cap spring, 1xAAA can be used).

The C1 uses 1xCR123 or 1xRCR123.


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.

Partner Model/Power source/ModeI.S. measured ANSI output LumensPWM frequency (Hz)
A2 XP-G / 2xAA Eneloop / High2680
A2 XP-G / 2xAA Eneloop / Low660
A1 XP-G / 1xAA Eneloop / High2620
A1 XP-G / 1xAA Eneloop / Low650
A1 XP-G / 1x14500/ High3640
A1 XP-G / 1x14500 / Low1710
C1 XP-G / 1xCR123 / High2550
C1 XP-G / 1xCR123 / Low650
C1 XP-G / 1xRCR123 / High3250
C1 XP-G / 1xRCR123 / Low1570


Now the XM-L models

Partner Model/Power source/ModeI.S. measured ANSI output LumensPWM frequency (Hz)
A2 XM-L / 2xAA Eneloop / High2170
A2 XM-L / 2xAA Eneloop / Low460
A1 XM-L / 1xAA Eneloop / High2240
A1 XM-L / 1xAA Eneloop / Low500
A1 XM-L / 1x14500/ High4980
A1 XM-L / 1x14500 / Low2100
C1 XM-L / 1xCR123 / High2300
C1 XM-L / 1xCR123 / Low530
C1 XM-L / 1xRCR123 / High4640
C1 XM-L / 1xRCR123 / Low2100


The Partners all use output stabilisation similar to the ArmyTek Predator's FULL stabilisation which maintains the specified output level without dropping at all until the battery can no longer maintain that output. At the end of this incredibly flat output trace you can see the output drop sharply but does not cut off completely when the battery voltage is getting low.

However, when the A1 and C1 are used with li-ion they jump well above the stabilised output level so initially the output does not appear regulated at all. The following output traces will explain further.

In this first graph all of the Partner models are shown, but they are only running on standard AA rechargeable or primary battery types. This is how ArmyTek originally specified the usable power sources.

Here the A1 XP-G is the odd one out as running on only 1 AA cell and with a higher initial output than the XM-L model, it struggles to keep the output steady.

ArmytekPartnerA1A2C1plusXM-Landruntimehigh.jpg


Next we simply add in the li-ion output traces for the A1 and C1 XP-G and XM-L models. Due to the A2 XM-L output being the longest, the other traces are somewhat compressed.

ArmytekPartnerA1A2C1plusXM-Landli-ionruntimehigh.jpg


Taking the A2 out of the picture the other output traces are easier to see.

ArmytekPartnerA1C1plusXM-Landli-ionruntimehigh.jpg


Then for better comparison of the XP-G models running on standard and li-ion cells they are shown on their own.

ArmytekPartnerA1C1XP-Gandli-ionruntimehigh.jpg


And the same with the XM-L models.

ArmytekPartnerA1C1XM-Landli-ionruntimehigh.jpg




The beam

Much like many of the other elements of the Partner range, the beams of the A2, A1, and C1 are the same, with the only difference being between the XP-G models and the XM-L models which have the honeycomb diffuser.

For the comparison, the A2's beam is shown.

The XP-G version has a large even hotspot and is surrounded by a graduated spill fading towards the outer edge. As I mentioned earlier, in daylight this beam appears to only have the wide hotspot, but in the dark the useful spill becomes visible.

This beam has the advantage that the hotspot does give it a degree of throw and this can be useful when peering into an engine bay or similar task.

19PartnerA2indoorbeam-.jpg


The beam of the XM-L model has a real flood light profile thanks to the larger emitter and diffuser. For indoor use, this is my ideal beam format. An excellent soft spread of light, with a smooth tapering hotspot spreading into a wide and bright spill.

This type of beam is perfect for indoor use making it easy on the eyes and giving you a wide field of vision.

20PartnerA2XM-Lindoorbeam1-.jpg


While looking at the Partner A2 XM-L's beam, I need to point out a 'feature' which, though not a problem at all when using it, is something you should know before buying it.

Thanks to a combination of the large square emitter, the TIR optic and the honeycomb diffuser, the spill can appear square rather than round.

I have purposely photographed this effect in a way that enhances its visibility and combined two photographs rotated at 45 degrees to each other. If you look back at the previous beamshot, you may now notice the square shape of the outer spill.

Though you can see this during normal use, it is not a problem at all. In fact the beam of the Partner XM-L is a very easy beam to get on with.

25PartnerA2XM-Lsqrindoorbeamrotate.gif


ArmyTek have given users a choice of beam format to best fit their needs.



What are they really like to use…

The Partner series of lights is a range that has grown on me. As I mentioned, initially I was not overly impressed, but as I have used them more, I can see the benefits of these lights.

For staunch flashaholics, these lights may not seem to have all that much appeal. They are simple two mode lights with no bells and whistles. But who are they good for? Well in fact they are very good for just about everyone who is not a flashaholic, you know, 'normal' people.

If I were making sure my family had lights on hand for when they needed them, it would be exactly this sort of light I would choose. Put a Partner in a drawer, or give your wife one to carry in her handbag, and when it gets picked up it will switch on easily and do the job.

Even a flashaholic can appreciate an EDC light that you can use without remembering a specific user interface, or one that can be lent to a friend, colleague or family member without having to explain anything.

Do not forget that for the flashaholic, there is the performance boost of using li-ion, in particular the Partner A1 and C1 XM-L models becoming real pocket-rockets with outputs just shy of 500lm!

Sometimes simple is best, and with the Partner range you have ArmyTek's distinctive matt finish, good build quality, choice of beam type, regulated output with no flickering, simple interface, and all backed up by ArmyTek's guarantee. Who will you be partnering up with one of these lights?


18Partnerspile-.jpg




CR123 primary cells kindly provided by TORCHDIRECT.
 

JohnnyMac

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Mar 24, 2011
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Great review of some great little lights! Thanks for the work. :)

I too have been playing around with my Partners before reviewing them. I have the A1 & C1 in XM-L and an A2 XP-G. All of them have the diffused flood optics. Like you, I wasn't expecting much from them due to the 2 modes and no moon or super low but darned if they haven't grown on me, especially the C1. Sometimes less really can be more!
 

blackFFM

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Really like the design, I might have to try one someday. I wished the could tailstand but unfortunately ArmyTek cancelled thier mini series.
 

tobrien

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ArmyTek Partner A2, A1, C1 - XP-G / XM-L Review (2x AA, 1x AA/14500, 1x CR123/R

Which one would you go for, the XP-G or XM-L?

Personally I'm considering the XP-G model. :)


— Sent from my unreleased, next generation iPad 44 running iOS 'M' (to be released in the year 2036) that Steve Jobs gave me personally using Tapatalk QuadHD 7 posted by TweetDeck 97.5.2.
 

hei_q

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...

And the same with the XM-L models.

ArmytekPartnerA1C1XM-Landli-ionruntimehigh.jpg

Very interesting... But i am a little confused...

What kind of rechargeable rcr123 have u used? Normal 16340 (3,7V - i can use my 18650 charger) or special RCR123A with 3,0V (have to use a special 3,0V charger)?
 

subwoofer

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Very interesting... But i am a little confused...

What kind of rechargeable rcr123 have u used? Normal 16340 (3,7V - i can use my 18650 charger) or special RCR123A with 3,0V (have to use a special 3,0V charger)?

Why are you confused?

I mentioned that "Initially ArmyTek's specifications did not allow the A1 and C1 to use li-ion cells, however after pressing ArmyTek on this point, they re-tested the driver and confirmed that the A1 and C1 can use li-ion cells, though extended use on high may require active cooling." So this means normal RCR123s can be used (4.2V off the charger).

I used AW 16340 cells for the li-ion test.

You could actually use either the 3.0V or 3.7V RCR123 cells.
 

subwoofer

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Great review of some great little lights! Thanks for the work. :)

I too have been playing around with my Partners before reviewing them. I have the A1 & C1 in XM-L and an A2 XP-G. All of them have the diffused flood optics. Like you, I wasn't expecting much from them due to the 2 modes and no moon or super low but darned if they haven't grown on me, especially the C1. Sometimes less really can be more!

I've just had a read through your review, and you mention the C1 only taking unprotected li-ions. This is confusing as I tested with CR123, unprotected IMR RCR123s and protected RCR123s, and all of them fitted without any issue, however I use AWs RCR123s which are smaller than some.
 

Badbeams3

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One thing I have really come to like in a light is a low battery warning. My Nitecore EC25w has a great one, and has taught me how valuable it is. I no longer see it as a bell and whistle add on luxury. Any more than the fuel gauge in my car.
 

subwoofer

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Just double checked regarding RCR123 compatibility in the C1s. Cheaper, and longer RCR123s do not fit, but with the old trick of adding a ring of copper wire to 'extend' the battery tube, would work. AWs RCR123s fit with no modification.


One thing I have really come to like in a light is a low battery warning. My Nitecore EC25w has a great one, and has taught me how valuable it is. I no longer see it as a bell and whistle add on luxury. Any more than the fuel gauge in my car.

With dual power sources it can be difficult to implement a low battery warning. In the case of these lights, if you use primary cells, you can actually run them down to less than 1V and still get some light. This means using li-ions will result in the protection cutting in.

For low battery warning just use primary cells and it will start to dim when the battery is low.
 

Alfred143

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Has anyone had problems with their Armtek A1? Mine is starting to flicker and rarely stays on Hi mode without fading on and off. Seems like a tail switch issue but not sure.
I use Eneloops.
 
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