XTAR H1 Commander

lightcycle1

Enlightened
Joined
Feb 16, 2013
Messages
388
Not a detailed review, but just some initial observations.

My unit arrived today, fit and finish seem very good and the H1 feels very well made in general. The tailcap feels a bit cheesy and light in construction, Smooth matte anodizing seems uniform and black as coal.

The clicky switch feels positive and sound, but the switch boot feels a bit thin. Wear or tearing of the boot might be a cause of future issue, time and use will tell.

Threads felt a tad gritty, a little Nyogel on the threads and O-ring helped a bit. I'm sure with use they will smooth out. I was a little disappointed with the sharp edges present at the tail end inside edge of the battery tube. XTAR NEEDS to chamfer that and smooth it out. Not real thrilled with the machining quality of the unseen stuff.

The H1 is BIG for a single AA headlamp. I'm sure it's the addition of the red LED and additional circuitry that adds to the overall size. In comparison, it is almost identical in size to my XENO E03 Tiger which I am currently in love with. I do not or never did own a ZL H600, but I would imagine that the size of the XTAR is probably comparable.

There seems to be ample surface area due to 9 cooling fins machined into the body and 5 on the head. I dont think heat dissapation will be an issue with this light.

The main LED appears perfectly centered and fitted, the OP reflector perfect, AR lens and SS bezel ring and glow-ring all appear nicely done and flawless including the extra red LED optic and retainer fitting which also appears to be stainless steel. Lettering is crisp and clean. Clip appears powder coated or painted and fits nicely on the head, and clip arm itself seems quite tight. The strap is nice, comfortable, and the rubber mount appears to be beefier than the Zebralight silicone mounts. The strap is stretchy, but CONSIDERABLY shorter than a ZL strap so you may have issues with it being too tight if you happen to have a large noggin or if you plan on using it with a bicycle or climbing helmet.

Visually, its a good looking unit that doesnt appear cheap. I think that it's pretty appropriately priced at $53.00, which I obtained from Going Gear with free shipping.

I havn't yet had time to test it in nighttime/darkness conditions. The UI is fairly straightforward, and simple with no real hidden modes other than a quick double click to access the red LED and the red strobe. Why XTAR felt it necessary to add a red strobe is completely beyond me. Personally, the red LED on this and another headlamp I have is just a novelty. I have no real use nor serious reason to preserve night vision when using my headlamp. When I need a headlamp, I need to see, and see well. The red serves me no real purpose at all other than a reason to play with it and to belt out my best bad version of The Police " Roxanne" while drinking around a campfire.
For some, the red is a necessity, for me, it's just an extra fun thing to have. At the extreme cost of size and compactness in the H1. The beam quality of the red LED is absolutely atrocious, almost a joke. There are more rings, artifacts and abberations than you would ever belive, and there:s no flood to it at all.
Just a round, dirty red spot. Totally useless IMO.
Back to the UI, it's basically three modes forgetting about the red. Low, Medium, and High on a standard AA. There is a Turbo mode available with a 14500, apparently the light steps down to the 120 lumen HI mode after 5 minutes on turbo. There is no memory, the light comes on low after you shut it off. 1 click steps it up to Medium, and another single click steps it to HI. Shutoff is a press and hold for approximately 1.5 seconds, which is kind of nice.

As far as the batteries, it looks like protected cells are going to be an issue with this light. I think XTAR made a bad design decision here aside from the fact that the light supposedly has a built in protection circuit to avoid over discharging. It's huge for what it is. Another 2mm in tube length would have made a world of difference in fitting in of protected cells, and 2mm extra isnt going to mean jack as the piece is large anyway. I just bought some Eagletac 14500 protected cells to feed this and another light, and I cannot use the Eagletacs in the XTAR. You'll crush the battery protection circuits. I fit one in there today, and the light worked, but torqueing the tailcap down put entirely too much pressure on the battery, and it was slightly visibly pushed down at the button when I removed the cell and inspected the cell. I won't run these batteries in the light, so it's a gargantuan 120 lumen headlamp with a nifty red blinkie
that I cannot take advantage of my protected 14500's and realize the full 5 minutes of 330 lumen Turbo before it steps back down to 120 again, which I can get with an Eneloop.

The beam is like an 80/20 H51 beam, the tint is nice on the XTAR. I am hooked on floody headlamps after using my H502, so much so that I traded off my H51 recently for another light. I hated the floody when I first got it, then it grew on me. Floodies are the way to go in a headlamp IMO.

The more I write about this light the more I'm wondering why I purchased it.

Wait, I know why!!! My Zebralights FAILED again...I have no headlamp except for my Black Diamond Spot......

Now I'm not exactly a fan of Zebralight right now, but when they worked, my H502d floody was the best damn thing since sliced bread.
Compact, powerful, great floody beam, nice tint, good quality build, the Zebralight had it all. But it failed, and that leaves all that moot unfortunately.

This XTAR does not come close to the performance of a properly working Zebralight in any arena.

This headlamp is NOT a game changer, a real serious contender for any headlamp user, and I see limited sales of this headlamp.

It's performance is quite, well, meh IMO. It's big and cumbersome for what it is. It has let's say, a "presence" on your forehead. I strapped it on yesterday and my SO saw it and said "You are a true flashlight geek. That one looks really nerdy." So beware, this one has dork factor points that come with it.
If you're the type that absolutely needs a red LED in combo with a main white, this is probably your ticket.

It's OK. If it lasts and takes a beating and still works, I'd say it's still OK. Nothing to write home to momma about or get excited with if you've
been around the headlamp scene for a while. I can see myself getting bored to death with it pretty quickly.
I guess I just got a little spoiled with Zebralights nice compact size with big output. I thinl the size/output ratio is the most disturbing thing. I should have an 18650 powered light if Im going to wear something this large on my head.


WHAT I AM EXCITED ABOUT RECENTLY: Is the viability of using a XENO E03 Tiger in conjunction with the Nitecore headstrap as a headlight option. Floody beam, good and bright with a standard AA, and an absolute monster with a 14500 that actually fits protected cells if you want output. This is a simple, cheap and smoking hot headlight setup IMO if you don't mind deviating from a dedicated headlamp. The strap is cleverly designed to hold the flashlight up high and centered on your head and easily adjustable for beam angle. It's working great and I can see this combo turning into my go-to setup while the XTAR sits in my gear box.

Back to the XTAR, I'd give it a 5/6 on a ten scale overall. Not impressed with much. Looks solid, it works, but again, meh.

Sorry XTAR, wish I had better to say about your light. It is simply too big for what it is.

I think I might be looking at one of the new small format Sparks.


Sent from my SCH-S720C using Tapatalk 2
 
Last edited:

skyfire

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Dec 4, 2009
Messages
1,824
Location
Los Angeles
thanks for the review!
i had considered this headlamp before since there are so few single cr123 headlamps. and like you, ZL wont get anymore of my money.
saved me $50 to go towards something else.
 
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