LED: CREE XP-L HI V3
Battery: 1x AA / 1× 14500
Modes: 15 (12 output levels, 3 strobes, programmable)
Switch: Electronic switch on head
Date: November 2015
Manker is a new manufacturer that seems to be working very hard to gain a foothold in the competitive market of power LED flashlights. After seeing their Manker Godmes recently, an original flashlight with innovative features, today we’ll review its latest offering, an ultra-compact high performance flashlight that works both with AA batteries (primary, rechargeable) and also with full support of 14500 li-ion rechargeable batteries, promising spectacular performance figures.
Before starting this review I’d like to highlight that this sample we have on the desk today corresponds to the first mass production “batch” and differs slightly in some features from the early pre-production units which were assembled and distributed to other reviewers worldwide some weeks ago. This second batch of T01’s can be easily identified by having a black anodization color and bearing the label “GODMES” instead of “MANKER” engraved on the main body. This detail can lead to some misunderstandings.
The flashlight comes in a rather compact cardboard box, in which we find the flashlight perfectly protected in a custom foam cut-out. Along with the flashlight (unlike as we saw with the Manker Godmes) we find a manual in two languages (English, Chinese) and a pair of spare o-rings.
The machining of the T01 is rather peculiar. Unlike the early test units shipped weeks ago to reviewers, this new production T01 has a matte black anodization instead of natural anodization color/light green as seen in those previous samples. The flashlight is fully machined in aluminum.
For those not familiar or those who haven’t read the already published reviews on the early units, it is a compact flashlight with a very clear EDC character, but still with a very high performance and specially focused on throw for the size.
The main identifying features of the T01 are a slightly oversized head, with an electronic switch on it.
The head hosts a stunning smooth and deep reflector which is relatively free of dust particles (which were reportedly present in the pre-production units) and perfectly centered on a CREE XP-L HI, the domeless version of XP-L. We have a glass lens treated with AR coating and padded by an orange-colored o-ring (instead of the green GITD o-ring in the previous version).
The bezel is detachable, and inspecting the lens o-ring we find that its profile is not “O” but “L” shaped, allowing to embrace the glass lens and improving both the waterproofness and drop impact resistance, as the lens “floats” between the o-ring and walls of the bezel.
The bezel, machined in aluminum, has light crenellations and a classic temperature warning symbol engraved.
On one side of the head we find a protruding area in which the electronic switch is mounted in a slightly recessed manner such that it is more or less protected against accidental activation and also provides convenient access even for large thumbs like mine. The button finishing is quite curious, because it’s surrounded by a stainless steel frame and the silicone switch cover boot is extruded with a brand logo.
Surrounding the head there are three discrete cooling fins for heat dissipation which provide extra help to ward off the heat generated by the powerful LED emitter in this critical area.
The head of the flashlight is machined together with the tube, without the classic “three main parts” construction and also without the threaded interconnection, improving the thermal path of the flashlight. The tube shows a rather complex external machining, with three flat tracks surrounding it, one of them being chosen for the engraving of the model identification.
The lower part of the tube has a groove for the pocket clip and a knurling finish that matches the tailcap. The clip is quite deep-carry, so to secure the flashlight through this into the inside of a pocket the light will be fully protected. The clip has a titanium coating with sandblasted finish, and has a rather low rigidity, but as I have been told by the manufacturer the clip thickness will undergo a change in thickness (+ 0.2mm) to add more stiffness.
The threads have a trapezoidal finish, are anodized and come sufficiently greased from factory.
Finally, we have the tailcap of the flashlight which is machined with a pretty flat base to allow stable tailstand. It is finished with knurling on the exterior, which greatly facilitates grip when screwing-unscrewing the cap.
When fully disassembling the flashlight I’ve found some very interesting details that deserve mention:
On the one hand, we have the pill that contains both the electronics and the LED emitter. The driver is potted: you can see how, in a pretty brass housing, the dark sealing compound prevents deterioration of the components, protecting them from vibration or shock. The dimensions of the pill are considerable, and have pretty generous walls that increase the contact surface with the chassis of the flashlight.
The interior of the flashlight head has a nearly polished finish in areas of contact with the pill which is fixed to the chassis by two screws placed on both sides.
The actual body of the flashlight has a ring machined in the battery housing neck which acts as a mechanical protection against reverse polarity, which is nothing but a ring around the inner diameter of the housing of the battery in top.
Finally, we have the tailcap spring design. To achieve the extreme performance that T01 promises, it has been used a double gold plated spring to enhance the conductivity of this critical point, seeking to avoid the bottleneck effect especially when we demand high current to the battery. You can see how the spring has two separate threads, being the one inside something thinner to avoid compromising its elasticity.
The Manker T01 has a really complete user interface, with two separate groups of modes. We have the mode group “General”, in which we find four fixed output levels and three hidden strobe modes, and a second mode group “Pro”, in which we can program the intensity of each output level and in which the hidden modes have some interesting features not present in the “General” mode group.
(Note: The unit we are reviewing today has 1 small change in the user interface not documented in the printed manual).
- On and off: You have to keep the switch pressed for half a second to turn on the light, and repeat to turn off the flashlight.
- Changing Modes: With the flashlight on, a simple press on the switch toggles between the four output levels, in ascending order.
- Strobe modes: The hidden modes are activated by a quick double click, no matter whether the flashlight is on or off. In the “General mode” we have a strobe mode, followed by an SOS and finally a beacon mode.
- Direct access to low mode: (NEW) A simple click with the flashlight off goes straight to the Low mode.
- Memory: This T01 remembers the last mode used and will activate (by half a second press) on this in its next activation. The strobe modes doesn’t have memory support.
- Mode groups: As mentioned before, we have two different mode groups. The “General” mode group has default values, which include four predefined intensities (L1, M2, H2, T3) and the three hidden strobe modes. To switch between the “General mode” and “Pro mode” we have to keep the switch pressed for 5 seconds (or 10s, according to the manual) with the flashlight off, emitting a confirmation signal at the end of the selection (a single flash for “General mode” and two flashes for “Pro mode”).
- “Pro Mode”: This is a group of alternative modes in which we have greater control over the output levels of each mode, as well as a “constant” mode for the Turbo and a battery state of charge indicator.
- Programming: In the “Pro Mode” group, you can select the brightness intensity that we like best for each mode, to choose between three different available levels. To program, you need to access the hidden strobe modes and progress to reach “custom setting”: The torch will begin with the low mode, alternating between different intensities available (L1, L2, L3) with intervals of about two seconds. When we have the desired intensity, simply make a simple click to memorize and go to the next mode in which we repeat the operation on the remaining three modes. These memorized modes are only available within the “Pro mode” group, so in the “General mode” group will be the default fixed intensities (L1, M2, H2, T3).
- Charge status indicator: In “Pro mode”, in the hidden strobe modes we find a battery status indicator. It is a sequence of flashes that will approximately indicate the state of charge (SOC) of the battery with a flash for every 25% of battery capacity available: Four flashes mean fully charged, three for a ~ 75%SOC, two flashes for ~ 50% and a flash for ~ 25% or less. This indicator works correctly with both AA (primary, rechargeable) and 14500.
- Constant turbo: As we will see in detail in the next section of this review, the T01 is controlled by default timed stepdowns on its Turbo modes. Being aware of the controversy this practice generates among users, Manker has provided a “constant” Turbo mode as a hidden feature along with the strobe and programming options. This function will use the programmed Turbo mode and will try to maintain “constant” output throughout its runtime with no stepdown at all. This function causes an excessive temperature, so it should be used with caution.
- Lock-out: Thanks to the anodized threads we may lock out the flashlight by partial unscrewing of the tailcap, preventing accidental or unintentional flashlight activation when transporting it in a pocket. Also it avoids the standby current draw, always present in devices without a mechanical switch. After my own measurements, with a 1.45V NiMH AA I get a current just under 6uA (0.0057mA), which should fully discharge a 2000mAh Eneloop in 38 years … With a Li-Ion battery at 4.20V the standby current scales up to 22uA (0.0224mA), which will completely discharge an 840mAh 14500 battery in around 4 years, of course in both cases ignoring the own self-discharge of the battery. One could say, especially with a NiMH, the parasitic energy consumption of this flashlight is completely negligible.
(All measurements are taken following the ANSI NEMA FL1 procedure, taking as value the highest reading between 30 and 120 seconds after activation. More details here.)
The test of modes in the sphere shows a fairly consistent deviation between what Manker specifies and what the sphere collects. This percentage deviation appears to be constant throughout all modes, so it is possible that the method by which the official lumen figures were obtained lacks proper calibration. Still, I find the measured lumen figures pretty spectacular.
Let’s dive into, in my opinion, the most interesting part of this review, in which we will analyze the performance of this flashlight, as usual with the help of our flashlight performance charts.
For the above chart we have analyzed the three Turbo modes and two of the three High modes with a Ni-MH battery. For T3, the most powerful of all output levels, I have made two separate tests, one from the “general” group (with stepdown) and the other constant. The flashlight turns off when the battery voltage reaches ~0.84V under load.
Now we repeat the previous pattern, this time feeding the torch with a rechargeable Li-Ion 14500 battery. We can clearly see how the regulation is quite different from one battery chemistry to the other, except for the H3 which for some unknown reason seems to keep the linear regulation. Similar to Ni-MH, the flashlight has a cut-off voltage under 14500 and it turns off when the 14500 voltage reaches 2.5V under load, so there is no danger of completely discharging the battery if we leave the flashlight on by mistake. Of course, the battery recovers when stopped being discharged, so don’t be surprised if when removing the battery and measuring the offline voltage you find it has some more voltage.
To perceive more clearly how the T01 performs its stepdown, I have slightly modified the horizontal X axis of the chart to display the time in seconds, while using the default 2Hz sampling rate of my logging tool. We can see how at start up, the torch by far exceeds initial 700LM, which are dwindling rapidly, beginning to stabilize after about 60 seconds. At 120 seconds, the flashlight starts a slow sequence of progressive stepdowns, reducing its output (at that time about 565LM) to 350LM. Being progressive, this downturn is not easy to realize for the naked eye. You can even see as a result of the stepdown that the flashlight manages to “recover” some output as a result of the lower temperature generated.
It is time to compare the performance of the new T01 against other widely known AA flashlights. Yes, I know. Too many lines. That’s why I put at your disposal a higher resolution image of this chart here. As shown, the T01 even being apart from what is specified, has unmatched performance among which we have seen to date, beating both efficiency and maximum output of the almighty Zebralight SC52, and by extension the rest of the AA gang.
We change the battery chemistry to enter the marginal world of AA flashlights that can be operated with 14500’s… Again too many lines, yes, I know, sorry, that’s why again you have at your disposal an enlarged version of the chart here. T01 again shows a clear superiority in maximum output, but regulation and runtime are now put into more perspective.
And finally, where anecdotal turns into empirical evidence, here’s a direct comparison between the T01 and the SC52:
We’re comparing the two flashlights in their maximum output modes. For T01 I selected both types of regulation (constant and stepdown) to facilitate the understanding of the data.
For quite some time now, modders and enthusiasts have ventured into the world of DIY emitter dedoming, i.e. manually removing the dome that covers the emitting surface of the LEDs through various and varied methods, which in many cases succeeds in multiplying the center peak beam intensity of a flashlight. The problem with this DIY method is “uncontrolled” LED tint as a result, and of course the risk of damaging/destroying the emitter during the dedoming attempt.
Apparently CREE, the world’s famous LED manufacturer has taken well note of such community experiments, and recently announced a new family of factory-dedomed LEDs.
The emitter employed in the Manker T01 is a CREE XP-L HI V3. The HI (High Intensity) acronym refers to this new family of LEDs, which are produced with only a thin coating on the emitting area, but with warranty and tint binning according to manufacturer’s chart.
Manker T01 beam profile is pretty clean, and personally reminds me of the classic and widespread beams of an XR-E of yesteryear, yet so much more powerful. We have a very defined tight central focus, with a quite homogeneously illuminated large spill area albeit including one concentric ring.
Compared to other AA flashlights it is hard to find anything like it in my collection, so to have something comparable I would have to go for a much larger reflector size.
The XP-L HI tint is pretty good cool white without a dominant color. According to the manufacturer the emitter tint binning is 1D.
I’ll be honest and will open this conclusion by first saying that when first details about the performance of this flashlight were revealed on forums and blogs where I am a regular reader I called into question the spectacular figures of this small flashlight. After having tested my unit thoroughly, I can say that I was somehow right to think that way, but I must also admit that, even without being completely truthful to manufacturer’s specifications, Manker T01 performance is just spectacular.
Nitecore MT1A · Fenix LD12 · EagTac D25A Ti · Fenix E12 · Manker T01 · Zebralight SC52 · 4Sevens Quark AA
Negatives: Although I am personally not a fan of lanyards, the absence of a wrist strap and especially the absence of an anchor point to secure it is the main noteworthy negative aspect of this flashlight. Another point possible to become focus of controversy is the existence of different versions distributed among reviewers: the first units we saw had a natural anodization color, and now others appear in black with a different engraving and some other small change in the user interface…
Positives: Leaving aside the consistent percentage deviation between specified and measured lumens figures, the performance of the T01 is simply spectacular. Either by output or by efficiency, the T01 scores at the head of the pack, with a leap ahead I would say. The design and machining is really well done and feels like a sturdy flashlight, well-rounded and pleasant to hold in hand. The throw achieved by the XP-L HI is overwhelming, with a clearly defined profile reminiscent of the XR-E era, but multiplied by 3 or 4 times the performance. The user interface is nice and rich, with a “general” modes group which will cover all the classic requirements of an EDC flashlight, and a “pro” group in which gourmet users can tune each and every one of the modes to customize the sequence of output level at wills or needs. The feature detail to allow you to access (even being so impractical) a timer-less regulated constant turbo seems like a very successful wink to the community. Undoubtedly, the new Manker T01 is the new benchmark in the AA category, the new rival to beat.
*Manker T01 sample provided by manufacturer for test & review.