Fenix PD35 "TAC" 2015 (XP-L V5, 1x18650 or 2xCR123A) Review

candle lamp

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Fenix has recently released their new tactical edition "PD35 TAC" featuring a new emitter XP-L, higher max. output and addition of tactical user interface from the existing PD35.

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Packaging is Fenix's current standard cardboard box, with detailed specification and information printed on the box. Inside, included with the light are user manual, warranty card, product inserts, spare o-rings, spare tail switch boot cover, pocket clip (attached), wrist lanyard, and holster with velcro closing flap.
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Manufacturer Specifications from Fenix website and user manual :

• Uses Cree XP-L (V5) LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
• Powered by one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries
• 137mm (5.4 in.) Length x 25.4mm (1.0 in.) Diameter
• 89-gram weight (3.1 oz.) excluding battery
• Tactical tail switch, momentary-on function
• Stainless steel side switch to select output mode under Outdoor mode
• Side switch only capable of mode changing under Tactical mode
• Digitally regulated output maintains constant brightness
• Low-voltage reminder indicates when battery replacement is needed
• Reverse polarity protection to protect from improper battery installation
• Anti-roll, slip-resistant body design
• Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum
• Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
• Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating

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Like the PD35, the hard (type III) anodizing is a matt black and consistent throughout with no chips or damage of other faults to be found. and anodizing is very good on my sample. Body labels are sharp and clear. Actually labels are not as bright white as some other lights, but those actually help to make them less obtrusive. The clip-on stainless steel clip looks and feels very substantial. It holds onto the light very tightly. The light has anti-roll indentations on the body, but the clip is even more helpful in that regard.
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You can see how the PD35 TAC compares to Fenix PD32 UE and PD35, in appearance. The light is physically distinguishable from the other models.

The PD35 TAC is slightly shorter than the PD35. The head of the PD35 TAC is shorter than the other lights, but the battery tube is slightly longer. This gives you an extra length to insert the really longer 18650 protected cell comfortably. The PD35 TAC is in keeping with dual-switch concept. But the shape and the material of the side switch have been completely changed. Now the light uses a circular stainless steel switch in the head.

The screw threads are identical in both head and tail region on all lights, and feature a square cut of good quality. Note that the heads, tailcaps and body tubes are physically interchangeable among the three models. However, you can't perfectly (electrically) swap the heads or bodies among the lights , due to the different length of the screw threading region of each light.
I tried out several combinations in exchanging the heads, bodies and tailcaps across the lights, and found the following combinations make the light work perfectly:
• PD35 TAC head + PD32 UE body/tailcap
• PD35 TAC head + PD35 body/tailcap
• PD32 UE head + PD35 body/tailcap
• PD35 head + PD32 UE body/tailcap
• PD35 head/body + PD35 TAC tailcap
• PD35 TAC head/body + PD35 tailcap
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The light has 3 parts (i.e. head, body tube, and tailcap).
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Like the PD35, there is a removable single-direction clip, attached by default to the tail region of the battery tube. However, since the head and tailcap are reversible on the battery tube, you can switch the direction of the clip by simply exchanging the head and tailcap. There is no risk the light might catch on something and be pulled off.
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The head has pure cylindrical design with decagonal shape at the side switch (i.e., right under the cooling fins) which provides good grip and anti-roll feature. The head tip has five-point crenellations allowing light to shine through when left placed head down.
There are two cooling fins for heat dissipation on the head. As with the other models, there is a spring mounted on the positive contact board in the head, so flat-top cells can be used in the light. The PD35 TAC has reverse polarity protection to protect from improper battery installation (i.e., the electronics of the PD35 TAC has in-built reverse polarity protection).

Like the PD35, the light has the dual-switch control in the head and tailcap of the light. but the tactical mode was added to the outdoor mode. On-off (and mode changing under Tactical State) are controlled by the physical tailcap clicky switch, but all mode (and State) switching are done by the electronic side switch in the head. The side switch has good feel for an electronic switch, with typical traverse. It is relatively easy to locate by feel. The side switch gives you a nearly metallic sound, compared to the PD35.
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The light uses AR coating lens and the purple hue is reflected on it. The aluminum reflector has a smooth pattern. Surface finish on the reflector was perfect from visual inspection. Centering of the XP-L V5 emitter doesn't seem to be absolutely perfect at the bottom of the reflector cup on my sample, but it doesn't affect the beam quality.
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The battery tube has a plain cylindrical tube design and accommodates either 2xCR123A's or Li-ion 18650 cells. Battery tube is wide and long enough to accommodate wider and longer protected 18650 cells. The diamond-shape knurling is present over body tube. Knurling is of moderate aggressiveness on the body tube. But when combined all the other grip elements (e.g., decagonal shaped element surrounding side switch, cooling fins, clip, etc.), overall grip is good.
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Threads on both ends are well machined square cut, and anodized for lock-out at either end of the body tube. Threads on either ends on the battery tube mate well with the head and tailcap with no issues of cross-threading or grinding.
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The PD35 TAC tailcap is physically indistinguishable from the PD35. The light uses a forward clicky which allows for momentary activation. The rubber switch cap protrudes out the tail end (i.e., the light can't tailstand). The switch has nice stiff tension with average travel. Switch access by finger or thumb is good. There are two holes for lanyard attachment.
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User Interface

The PD35 TAC has the same interface as the PD35 with the exception of "Tactical Mode (State)". There are "Outdoor Mode (state)" and "Tactical Mode (State)". You can switch between them with the electronic side switch in the head easily. To change States, press and hold the side switch for 3 seconds, then the light will flash twice, while the light on. Tactical state came set by default on my review sample.

1) Outdoor State

Turn on-off by the tailcap forward clicky switch (press-on for momentary, click for locked on). Mode changing is controlled by the side switch in the head.

Click the side switch to change modes when on. Mode sequence is Eco -> Low -> Mid. -> High -> Turbo, in repeating sequence. The light has mode memory, and remembers the last output mode used when you turn the light off and back on, even after a battery change.
Note that you cannot set the output level while the light is off. The electronic switch only works when the light is powered on by the tail switch first. As such, there is no standby current in the PD35 TAC.

The “hidden” Strobe are accessed by clicking and holding the side switch for 1 second. A single click on the side switch will return to the memorized output mode in Outdoor State. The light has no mode memory for strobe.

2) Tactical State

Turn on-off by the tailcap forward clicky switch (press-on for momentary, click for locked on). Note that mode change is controlled by the tail switch only (i.e., you can't use the side switch for mode changing under Tactical State).

Click the tail switch to change modes when on. Mode sequence is Turbo -> Strobe -> Low in repeating sequence. The light has no mode memory. If you turn it off-on, the light always turns on in Turbo.
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From left to right, VicLite 18650 (2600mAh) protected, Olight S20 (XM-L2), Nitecore P12 (XM-L2 T6), Fenix PD32 UE (XM-L T6 NW), Fenix PD35 TAC (XP-L V5), Fenix PD35 (XM-L2 U2).
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From left to right, Nitecore P12 (XM-L2 T6), Fenix PD32 UE (XM-L T6 NW), Fenix PD35 TAC (XP-L V5), Fenix PD35 (XM-L2 U2). The head diameter is the same as the PD35.
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The battery tube has a notch on the end where the removable clip can be attached.
The clip seems to be a titanium-coated stainless steel. As mentioned above, the clip is reversible without removing it from the original position.
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The PD35 TAC comes with a basic nylon holster with a velcro strap on the head. The light fits in the holster either head-up or head-down.
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Measured Dimensions & Weight
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The entire light's small & clean cylindrical design makes it feel very comfortable when held in hand. The wall thickness of the body is reasonably thick (1.9mm), and the light feel solid. It is good size to hold and can be used as an EDC light. Overall build quality is excellent.
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PWM

No sign of PWM at any level of the light, leading me to conclude the light is actually current-controlled as claimed. I notice there is no buzzing sound at all output levels.
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Runtime
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The PD35 TAC steps down on Turbo to High after about 5 mins runtime. This is a timed drop-down considering the battery depletion, not a thermal sensor feature to avoid overheating the light. As with the other Fenix lights, the regulation pattern and runtime efficiency of the current controlled circuit seems excellent.

The above runtime labelled as "Accumulated Turbo" is an accumulated runtime for Turbo output (i.e., the light steps down on Turbo to High after about 5 minutes, and can go back to Turbo by clicking the side switch or turning the light off-on with the tail switch). Regulation is maintained very nicely through Turbo mode on 1x18650 battery.
I could see there was three times flashing every 5 minutes to indicate low voltage when the battery power is very low.
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Three lights show a similar timed step-down. But it seems the PD35 TAC steps down the latest on Max. output. The PD35 TAC shows excellent efficiency and regulation.
Note that the output of the light is higher than the other lights throughout from start to second step-down.
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This is the 1 sec sampling frequence for 7 min. runtime scale. The stepped-down time for respective lights is as follows :
• PD35 TAC - 5min 15sec
• PD35 - 5min
• PD32 UE - 3min 10sec
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This is the accumulated runtime graph for Max. output. If all the lights do not step down, their runtime graphs will be like the above. But in this case, it will not be possible for the compact lights to not only maintain the max. output but also to bear up against the heat on 1x18650 cell in a fully regulated pattern for so long without proper cooling the light. Long story short, given the high drive level of the light on Max. output, any kind of the step-down feature is very necessary for small light (i.e., either timed or thermal managed step-down is necessary), in my view. This will give you more efficiency and longer runtime. The PD35 TAC shows excellent efficiency.
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Compared to the other 1x18650 class light, the PD35 TAC shows the awesome efficiency and output. The light is a heavily driven light for this class.
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Beamshot

1. White door beamshot (about 50cm from the white door) on max. output on 1x18650 (2600mAh) VicLite protected cell
- ISO125, F/8.0, 1/25sec, Auto white balance
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- ISO125, F/8.0, 1/100sec, Auto white balance
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- ISO125, F/8.0, 1/800sec, Auto white balance
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- ISO125, F/8.0, 1/2000sec, Auto white balance
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The light has a middle sized bright hot spot. Its width seems to be a bit wider than the PD35. The hotspot is well focused. A soft corona surrounding the hotspot is slightly yellow. The spill beam width is almost the same as the PD35. Beam pattern is good, free from noticeable artifact. The beam tint is close to neutral white on my sample. In my view, the overall beam tint of PD35 TAC is very similar to the Jetbeam Jet 3M Pro (XP-L).
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You can see the side by side beamshot comparisons as shown in the above.
Again, the tint of the PD35 TAC is very similar to the Jet 3M Pro, and close to neutral white.
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2. 7.0m Indoor Beamshot on max. output on 1x18650 (2600mAh) VicLite protected cell
- ISO125, F/2.8, 1/10sec, Auto white balance
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3. 85m Outdoor Beamshot on max. output on 1x18650 (2600mAh) VicLite protected cell
- ISO125, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance
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Beam pattern is good, with a wider spill beam. The PD35 TAC has resonable throw for the class, given the size of the head and reflector.
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Overall Impression
• Build quality is excellent
• Anti-roll indentations on the body
• The light can't tailstand
• Electrical reverse polarity protection function
• Tactical State (Turbo, low, Strobe) is added, but quite distinct UI from Outdoor State
• Mode memory for Outdoor State (except Strobe)
• True flat-top batteries work fine
• Timed step-down feature on Turbo and High
• Output-runtime efficiency is excellent
• Max. output (Turbo) is unbelievably very high
• True Moonlight mode is not available
• Low battery warning indication function (i.e., the light blinks 3 times every 5 minutes)
• No sign of PWM flickers at any output modes
• Beam pattern is good, with a wide spill beam
• Yellowish tint is close to neutral white


Fenix PD35 TAC provided by Gooutdoor.com for review.
 

CelticCross74

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Ive had the 3m Pro since its release. It is an outstanding light. To my eyes the TAC and ET T25C2 XP-L V5 then the 3mPro have differing tints. The Jetbeam and ET have the whitest tints I have yet seen out of a light. To my eyes the TAC leans towards the purple spectrum. The ET and 3m Pro have glorious white tints to my eyes as does the the Sunwayman P25C
 

candle lamp

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Messages
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Thank you for the nice review. It was a pleasure to read.

My pleasure. cp2315! :)

Thanks for the great review:)

Thanks. ven! :)

To my eyes the TAC and ET T25C2 XP-L V5 then the 3mPro have differing tints. The Jetbeam and ET have the whitest tints I have yet seen out of a light. To my eyes the TAC leans towards the purple spectrum. The ET and 3m Pro have glorious white tints to my eyes as does the the Sunwayman P25C

Thanks for your feedback. CelticCross74! :)

You probably have all three lights. The tint of both PD35 TAC and Jet 3M Pro I have exactly looks the same.
My 3M Pro shows slightly purple tint in the spill beam region. In my view, even if they're the same product, the tint can vary depending on the LED.
 

hatman

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Thanks for the detailed review!

Question: I'm confused about the specs on a dealer's site that list the following:


  • Uses Cree XP-L(V5) LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
  • New Cree XP-L LED provides up to 251% performance boost from XP-G2 LED
  • Cree XP-G2 first commercially available single-die LED to achieve up to 200 lumens per watt (LPW) at 350mA
 

candle lamp

Well-known member
Joined
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Messages
1,572
Location
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Thanks for the detailed review!

Question: I'm confused about the specs on a dealer's site that list the following:

  • Uses Cree XP-L(V5) LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
  • New Cree XP-L LED provides up to 251% performance boost from XP-G2 LED
  • Cree XP-G2 first commercially available single-die LED to achieve up to 200 lumens per watt (LPW) at 350mA

Thanks. hatman!

According to the Cree's XP-L information, "The XLamp® XP-L LED is the first commercially available single-die LED to deliver breakthrough efficacy of up to 200 lm/w at 350 mA. The game-changing Cree® XLamp XP-L LED delivers an immediate performance increase of 50% or more as a drop-in upgrade for lighting designs based on Cree’s market-leading XLamp XP-G LEDs".

You will get 199.3lm/W for XP-L V6 (highest Flux Bin) at 0.35A from the Cree's PCT (product Characterization Tool).
So 199.3lm/w = 200lm/w at 350mA is resonable, in my view.

In a same way, you will get 100.8lm/w and 154.7lm/w for respectively XP-G S2 and XP-L V6 at 1.5A as shown below.
So the above "50% or more" make sense to me.

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For "up to 251% performance boost from XP-G2 LED", you will get the similar number when comparing XP-G2's lower Flux bin to XP-L's higher one. But it doesn't seem to be a fair comparison. :rolleyes:
 
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hatman

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candle lamp, thanks for all the detailed info!

In your experience, does the TAC version get as hot on turbo as the 2014 PD35?
 

candle lamp

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candle lamp, thanks for all the detailed info!

In your experience, does the TAC version get as hot on turbo as the 2014 PD35?

Yes, the PD35 TAC on Turbo gets as hot as the PD35. I had a feeling that PD35 TAC is somewhat hotter than the PD35.
If you feel too hot not to hold the light for hand, just switch down the lower level.
 

hatman

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I wonder if any of the competing models in this class don't get as hot.
 

malocchio

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May 27, 2012
Messages
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Great review.....Seems like this torch is very comparable to the Thrunite TN12 2014 light in specs .
 

Doheny

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Sep 27, 2010
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If the Tactical mode only has Turbo and Low (plus strobe), what does Turbo step down to after five minutes when in Tactical mode?
 
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