DarkTort DT-E1.0 Review: RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS, DETAILED PICS, and more!

selfbuilt

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Reviewer's note: the DarkTort DT-E1.0 was supplied for review by DarkTort. Please their manufacturer's thread on CPFMP for more info.

Warning: pic heavy!

UPDATE JANUARY 4, 2009: Additional pics and info have been added to the review, based on feedback from DarkTort. See also my response posts later in this thread.

Manufacturer’s reported specs:
  • CREE Q5 WC, maximum output 225 lumens.
  • PWM-based low output.
  • Battery discharge protection mode.
  • Three-stage (high, low, strobe) light modes.
  • IC efficiency up to 96%.
  • Anti-rolling rugged design.
  • Impact-resistant optical window with Dual-Coating technique.
  • Mil-spec Type III Hard Anodized finish.
  • Impact and drop-resistant according to US-MIL-STD-810F.
  • Waterproof to IPX-8 standard.
  • Forward clicky.
  • Length: 140mm, Head diameter: 32, Body diameter: 25.5mm, Weight: 168g
  • Package: Gift box
  • Battery: Only 18650
  • Lanyard: Taiwan MagForce
  • Flashlight body available can be disassembled, users can change the emitter.
DarkTort is a new arrival to the flashlight scene, and the DT-E1.0 is their first flashlight. Note that this light is 18650-only. MSRP is ~$75.

Let’s get right to the pics:

DT-2.jpg

DT-3.jpg


The light comes in a good quality hard case with metal closing clasp. Sandwiched between the textured foam pieces is the light, extra o-rings, and good quality wrist lanyard. Located under the bottom foam piece is the manual and warranty card.

Does this packaging look familiar? Here’s a blow-up from a page of the manual as well:

DT-11.jpg


Maybe it’s just me, but this looks a LOT like the Edgetac/Nitecore packaging for their lights. Even the o-rings look the same. Interestingly, DarkTort also uses the same viscous blue lube that Edgetac does (and too much of it – again, sound familiar? ;))

DT-5.jpg

DT-6.jpg


The DT-E1.0 is a visually interesting light to look at. The stainless steel bezel is a nice touch, engraved with the company logo. Anodizing is a flawless dark black on my sample, and lettering is sharp and clear. A number of labels are present on the body, to indicate battery orientation and light mode switching, in addition to a good number of identification labels (again, sound like the first products of another manufacturer we know? :whistle:).

DT-7.jpg


As you see can see, the head has an unusual contact surface. Pics in DarkTort’s CPFMP thread show more detail of the internal components, but I haven’t been able to open the head by hand. I’ll have to break out the strap wrenches later and give it a go. Here’s what the business end looks like:

DT-8.jpg


Now that’s interesting – it appears that the red aluminum pieces show through at the base of the reflector. Very stylish. Reflector is OP textured, and fairly deep. According to specs, the emitter is a Cree Q5 premium WC tint.

UPDATE: I managed to open the head by hand, using a cloth around the bezel (strap wrenches weren't necessary). Here' what you'll find:

DT-12.jpg

DT-13.jpg


Nice construction here - note the o-rings at both along the lens inside the stainless steel bezel ring and at the base of the screw threads on the head piece. The reflector looks like a solid piece of metal. But be warned that the reflector and emitter/pill are not screwed it - they will both just fall out if you tip the head over once the stainless steel bezel ring is removed. :sssh:

I have disassembled the screws holding the pill unit together - see the end of this review for detailed pics. Those 3 contacts points in the head are indeed mounted on springs, and control the Hi/Lo sensors for the head twist.


DT-10.jpg


The tail region is unusual. Although you can lock the light out by twisting the tailcap (anodized threads), you can’t insert/remove the battery this way. The battery can only be exchanged by unscrewing the head portion. The tail region is not wide enough to allow a battery to pass through, like you find on a number of Surefire lights.

Body tube width is ample to accommodate my protected AW 18650 batteries. In fact, with room to space - I can detect some battery rattle when shaking the light.

DT-9.jpg


The tail switch is a forward clicky – press for momentary on, click to lock-on. The traverse is longer than more clicky lights, and I find mine is a little “squishy” (i.e. you aren’t always sure if you’ve pressed it enough for it to lock-on, and it sometimes feels like it’s not fully secure).

Note the switch retaining ring is metal in the centre, but plastic for the portion that screws into the tailcap.

UPDATE: DarkTort has announced a new switch assembly for all currently shipping DT-E1.0 lights. Details are available in the CPFMP thread, post 213.

Here's how it fits in my hand (note that I have relatively long fingers ;)).

DT-1.jpg


As for dimensions, my sample is 141.8mm (length) by 32.3mm (head width) or 25.1mm (tailcap width) – consistent with manufacturer specs.

Weight without battery is 119.5g, which is less than manufacturer’s claim (UPDATE: DarkTort has now revised their estimate to match mine).

Here’s how it compares to the competition:

DT-4.jpg

From left to right: AW 18650, DarkTort DT-E1.0, JetBeam Jet-III M, Jet-III ST, Edgetac Raidfire Spear, Olight T20, Olight M20 Warrior.

As you can see, it’s about the same size as the Jet-III M or Olight M20. As such, I’ve used those two lights for the beamshots below. All lights on max on 18650, ~0.5 m from a white wall.

DT-Beam1.jpg

DT-Beam2.jpg

DT-Beam3.jpg

DT-Beam4.jpg


As you can see, the DT-E1.0 is quite bright on 18650 (more on that later). Beam profile is very similar to those lights, although the DT-E1.0 seems a little less ringy to me.

User Interface

The UI is quite simple: tighten the head for Hi, loosen slightly for Lo. To activate the strobe, simply do a rapid loosen-tighten switch from Hi mode. I haven’t measured the strobe freq yet, but it is definitely one of the highest I’ve seen (i.e. quite “tactical”).

Press the forward clicky for momentary on, click for lock-on.

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. Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1 meter from the lens, using a light meter (peak throw is determined for each light, and reported here).

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

DT-Summary.gif


Ok, one of the first things to notice: DT-E1.0 initial Hi output is one of the highest I’ve ever seen for a Q5 light. :drool: It’s neck-and-neck to my Raidfire Spear by ceiling bounce, and has the highest reading yet in my lightbox.

Throw is under 10K lux (which is less than the near 16K lux reported by the manufacturer) but within the range of other lights of this size.

UPDATE: Shipping versions with have a Lo mode output that is half what was shown here, see explanation in runtime section.

Output/Runtime Comparison:

First off – how does this light compare to the other 18650-only competition?

DT-Hi18650-1.gif


Now that’s interesting! Unlike the other 18650-only lights, the DT-E1.0 is not fully regulated on Hi. :thinking: In fact, that’s a rather unique runtime pattern – it seems to slowly decay from max, then briefly jumps back up to max before dropping down.

But here’s the next interesting bit – it doesn’t drop to zero output or simply fall out of regulation the way all the other 18650-only lights do. Instead, it drops to a regulated low output around ~2% of max. I ran the light for over 3 hours at this min level, and it was still going strong! :cool:

You’ll also note that the light runs a lot longer on 18650 than my regulated 18650-only lights do. Given the interesting trace, I thought I’d compare it to multi-power lights on 18650. Note that virtually all multi-power lights are direct drive on 18650:

DT-Hi18650-2.gif


Well, well, what do you know – the DT-E1.0 trace looks an awful lot like direct-drive, until the blip near the end. The difference is that the DT-E1.0 appears to be the most heavily-driven direct-drive light on 18650 I’ve seen yet. :eek:oo:

How about the low mode?

DT-Med18650.gif


I haven’t done a lot of low mode runtime tests to compare, but the ~11hr regulated runtime seems a bit on the low side to me for a defined output light (i.e. that's more what I would expect for a continuously-variable PWM light). It is also less than the 18hr runtime the manufacturer reports.

Note again that the light goes into the regulated “moon mode” low light level at the end of the run. It lasted for ~1.5 hours at this level before the cell's protection circuit was tripped (UPDATE: I've updated the runtime above to show you when it actually cut-off - hit your browser refresh if it doesn't show). :thumbsup:

UPDATE: DarkTort reports that these early review samples erroneously had a MCU adjusted to twice normal output for the Lo mode, hence the shorter runtimes than what they reported (i.e. this sample's Lo is reported to be 20% of max, but shipping version should be 10% of max as originally proposed). If that is indeed the case, I would expect at least twice the runtime at the lower output level. :)

Potential Issues

Aside from the lack of true regulation on Hi, the only real efficiency issue I’ve noticed is the slightly short regulated runtime on Lo.

The tail switch clicky feels a little “squishy” on mine (i.e. you aren’t always sure if you’ve pressed it enough for it to lock-on, and it sometimes feels like it’s not fully secure).

UPDATE 01/12/09: In response to CPF user feedback about the poor switch feel, DartTort has announced a new design that will be included from now on with all shipping lights. Details and pic posted in their CPFMP thread here.

General Observations

There’s no doubt that the DT-E1.0 is an impressive looking light that comes in a nice package. As a first offering nowadays, it’s a bit unusual to come out with an 18650-only light with just 2 output modes (plus strobe). But I’m sure the KISS principle and stylish design will be appreciated by many. :kiss:

The most unusual aspect of this light is the circuit performance. I know a lot people will decry the seemingly direct-drive pattern on Hi – but take a closer look at the 18650-only runtime comparison graph. As you’ll see, the DT-E1.0 produces more light for longer than any of my fully-regulated 18650-only lights in my collection. :eek:oo:

This really is the best of both worlds, IMO – the most maximally-driven and efficient setup on Hi I’ve seen in a 18650 Q5 light. :thumbsup:

The Lo mode is actually quite bright and useful in its own right. Better than the Raidfire Spear’s extreme low, in comparison. But the runtime efficiency at this level seems a little low on my sample.

Regardless of how you feel about the defined output level runtime patterns, the regulated minimum level when the battery is near exhaustion is something I’ve not seen before. Usually, you hit the battery protection circuit like a brick wall, or else you drop out of regulation for a low moon mode. This regulated moon mode is a welcome new addition to the scene. Note too that DarkTort claims to have a built-in battery protection feature – unfortunately, I don’t have any unprotected 18650s to test that with.

For a first offering, this light suggests to me that DarkTort knows how to make high quality lights that are not run-of-the-mill. I'm curious to see what they come out with next. :popcorn:

-------------------

UPDATE JANUARY 5, 2009:

For those curious about modding the existing pill, here's what I found when I disassembled the pill:

DT-14.jpg


As you can see, the emitter is easily accessed by removing the 3 screws on the cover plate. Looks like they used a good amount of thermal epoxy, but you should be able to pop out the mini-star for a DIY emitter swap pretty easily (with basic modding skills and components).

DT-15.jpg


The circuit board is also easy to access should you want to. But be warned - the contact retaining plate is attached under pressure (i.e. the 3 longer screws are holding the plate in place, against the resistance of the 3 springs used to control mode switching).

I found it a real pain to re-attach this plate, as you need to carefully tighten each screw while gently but firmly holding it all together against the springs (recall the exposed emitter dome at the other end of the pill!). When tightening the screws, it's easy for the plate to slip sideways a little - which then makes it impossible to fit back into the head, because tolerances are tight.

Remember that the pill assembly is not screwed in - pressure is maintained by the bezel ring/lens pressing down on the reflector, which in turn presses down on the pill assembly. On the plus side, a manufacturer upgrade of the entire pill assembly (i.e the entire red aluminum section) would be child's play for anyone to swap on their own.
 
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Jarl

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I like the moon mode, but I'm just wondering how they managed to increase the DD current- low Vf emitter?

Anyone else have any idea's?

For a company, IMO they're shaping up quite well- not afraid to go against the flow somewhat if the results are worth it.

Top review :) (as always!)
 

bluecrow76

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Excellent review (as usual!) and very interesting light! The regulated moon mode is a very neat feature.
 

Kamakazikev24

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Wow that was fast! Well done Selfbuilt!
That small peak when the battery is almost flat is like the Nitecore's as well if I remember correctly......
Like the way it will run on a low level for a few hours, giving some emergency light. That could come in handy.
 

Axion

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Excellent review, very interesting (promising) first light from the company with the odd name.
 

DM51

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This review has been eagerly awaited, and it does not disappoint - either in the very high quality of the work put into doing the review, or in the quite unusual features of the light itself.

This new maker, DarkTort, has attracted a great deal of comment and speculation. Their attention to correspondence in their thread in the MP has been very good - much better than some established makers - and this responsiveness gives us reason to hope that their future products will be as innovative and will attract as much attention as this very interesting debut. It looks like they've made an excellent start.

I'm moving this to the Reviews section.
 

Zatoichi

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I've really liked the look of this since I first saw it. It's good to hear it's a decent performer too. The price sounds about right, so I think this has made it to my 'wanted' list. Thanks for the review. :)
 

adirondackdestroyer

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Great review selfbuilt!

If only this one would have run the full 18 hours on low, like Darktort originally claimed it would. I really like the idea of maximum brightness for as long as possible, and then a true moon mode for several hours afterwards. How come more manufacturers aren't doing this?
 

lightmyway

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Thanks for the excellent review and as i anticipated a well thought out design,and it sure looks good i,m sure i will be happy with my purchase .
 

worldedit

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Thanks for the review!
Maybe the runtime is that short on low because it goes into moon mode to early. Did you measure the battery voltage after the test?
 

Sgt. LED

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Thank you for the review self-built, fantastic as always.

I can deal with the runtime not being quite what they claimed it to be but what I AM very unhappy about is that they claim 16,000 Lux and deliver 9,000.

Where are my missing lumens?
 

xpea

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Very interesting light and great review as usual. To summarize:

Pros
*high manufacturing quality
*attractive look (even if it's subjective)
*Good performance compared to competition
*Innovative regulation + moon mode
*ergonomic UI
*reasonable price

Cons:
*over rated specifications (16,000 lux and 16 hours runtime on low)
*misleading perfectly flat manufacturer runtime graph (no good for trust)
*glued head (for a claimed upgradable design, big mistake!)
* "squishy" feeling of the tailcap switch

All in one, apart the usual marketing bulls*t specs, seems a nice product, especially from a new comer :twothumbs
well in fact it's not really a new comer. These guys know how to produce flashlights for sure and I will not be surprised if DT is the OEM NITECORE manufacturer. Let's see how things evolve in the future fot these 2 companies. 2009 will be interesting :whistle:
 
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Axion

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Just wanted to point out that I really like the moon mode thing. Sort of acts as a low-battery warning.
 

corrections operator

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Thanks for the quick review, Selfbuilt! I may just end up buying one, good looks, interesting output on an 18650...calling it neat just isn't giving it justice.
 

Splunk_Au

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Hi selfbuilt, are you taking the lux measurement from the exact center of the hot spot? I think this post might explain why your numbers are usually lower, seems close (9,300 and 9,250). Could you find a point where the highest is?
 

Weanuts

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Bah Humbug, xpea,

Are you better with your specs.

Too bad you didn,t have one, or two, specs, that is.

Congrats to DT

Keep it up DT

And thank you for a great review selfbuilt.
 
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Burgess

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to SelfBuilt --


Thank you for your time and effort.

:twothumbs


Another of your fine reviews !

:thanks::goodjob::kewlpics:
_
 

choaticwhisper

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Great review, Im sure many people were waiting for your review to make the decision to buy or not. Like others have said except for the exaggeration claims by the manufacture, It is a pretty good light.
I dont really want this one but will be looking for whats else they come up with.
 

selfbuilt

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Thanks for the positive comments everyone! :thanks:
This review has been eagerly awaited, and it does not disappoint - either in the very high quality of the work put into doing the review, or in the quite unusual features of the light itself.
Thanks David - I must say, I didn't expect this level of response to the review while I was away at dinner tonight! I hadn't appreciate how much interest DarkTort had generated here. :eek:

It is certainly an auspicious beginning, although I can understand why some may feel it doesn't quite live up to its promise (i.e. 16,000 lux on Hi with flat regulation, 18 hours runtime on Lo). Of course, I don't believe they stated what battery they were using for their tests (or if they did, I missed it) ... it could have been a higher capacity unprotected cell. Unfortunately, I don't have any to test.

Regardless, I consider it a nice light as is ... I would prefer a smoother switch, though.

Hi selfbuilt, are you taking the lux measurement from the exact center of the hot spot?
No, my lux readings are from the point of peak measurement, which may not be dead centre. I move the light around and try to find the absolute peak, which is what I report in my reviews.

I'm using the inexpensive DX meter for these tests, and I've noticed mine tends to report slightly lower than the "average" results posted for other brand meters (on lights I share). But there's huge variability among meters - at the end of the day, all that you can do is compare within results from a given meter. I have verified that mine is linear across a reasonable range, so you can compare the relative results between by reviews.

I can deal with the runtime not being quite what they claimed it to be but what I AM very unhappy about is that they claim 16,000 Lux and deliver 9,000. Where are my missing lumens?
Well, I don't think you are missing any actual lumens - this thing is the brightest Q5 18650 light my lightbox has seen! I suppose it's possible another light meter could report 16,000 - but that would make for a pretty wide swing. Again, in my experience, my lightmeter is typically only a little below the "average" I've seen.

Maybe the runtime is that short on low because it goes into moon mode to early. Did you measure the battery voltage after the test?
I don't think so. I don't have the data in front of me right now, but I believe the protection circuit was tripped on the protected AW cell within an hour or two after the Lo mode run dropped to that min level. In contrast, it definitely continued to run for 3+ hours at that level on the Hi run (where I manually stopped it).
 
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