Monday, December 7, 2009

review of the second generation led maglite 2AA

Now just remember everybody, I am not a professional reviewer so don’t expect too much from this review.

Ok what is my goal? Why do I want a branded led flashlight? Well I need a reliable flashlight that will last for years. I have many 168 mall cheapo made in china led flashlights that die after some time or after falling down. They cost around 100-200 pesos. Its very infuriating to need light NOW and when you press the button nothing happens. You have to fumble around tightening and un tightening the thing trying to get it to work.

Ok why do I have to buy it online, with PayPal + smart money? Because its cheaper online and you get much more variety. Lots of good brands/ models are not available in the Philippines. Probably saturated by the cheapo models.

Ok this is a 2AA light. Its made of aluminum and a little heavy. The metal construction should add to the durability. As a 2AA light is longer than a 1AA or 1AAA light, this light’s “ecological niche” would be in my backpack or maybe on my desk. I don’t need a super powerful beam. 1 to 3 watts would be fine. If I were say a SWAT team, I would need 3 watts and up but I’m not. In the jargon of flashaholics this would be an EDC or everyday carry. A flashlight you carry around everyday for everyday normal use. Being slightly more powerful than most 1AA lights, I would go to my backpack and get this if I needed slightly more power.

Ok why did you choose this brand? Well, it’s the cheapest branded one among my short list. Competitors were the 2AA Fenix e20 and the Inova radiant. Both of them don’t have adjustable brightness. The radiant even has a plastic body. This one has adjustable brightness and adjustable focus. Plus Maglite has a very good reputation and my dad likes Maglites. Maglite has a reputation for not being on the cutting edge of technology. With the second gen led Maglite, the led bulb is more efficient and more reliable and it has more features. This should help it regain ground lost to other brands. This is the maglite webpage.

The store I bought this from is EDC knife depot. Ok so I bought 3, colored blue, red and grey. One for me, the rest as Christmas gifts. It cost me $23.99 x 3 =  $71.97 + $22 shipping + $0.00 tax = $93.97. It was sent via FedEx. 5 days for delivery. Just beware that the code for the website isn’t 100% bug free. When you try to order, the website adds a wrong amount for shipping, its too low at $8.75. The correct shipping charge should be $22 for 3 lights. So email the owner of the website first before paying by paypal. His email is gabpro21. After that ad an @ sign then type the free email of google . I'm not posting the address to avoid spambots. So for each flashlight including shipping that’s $31.32 per flashlight. At php 47 per $1, that’s 1472 per piece. Pretty cheap considering that that major gunstore chain that can be found in SM malls prices the same model at 2400 pesos. Just take note that the shipping is expensive for one item but if you order multiple items, the cost per item becomes much much less.

It arrived in a FedEx package.

Each comes in a plastic case with the flashlight, 2 Duracell AA alkaline batteries, a small manual and a larger manual See pics.

No lanyard or wrist strap, no problem, I’ll buy one. I might also attach a carabineer. Take note that the lanyard will interfere with candle mode because the butt of the flashlight cant fit on the detached lens unit with the lanyard in the way.

Insert the batteries with the positive side towards the head. You open it by unscrewing the tail. Not doing so may damage the electronics inside. This is one major disadvantage of the Maglites compared to other flashlights like the Fenix e20 which has some protection against that.

The flashlight has no switch, you twist the head. In the jargon of flashaholics its not a clickie, it’s a twistie. The pushbutton switch is a major source of failure and this should make the flashlight last longer. Well, that’s the idea anyway, we’ll have to send this to the Mythbusters. But Maglite has a reputation for toughness so this should be a safe bet. I’ve seen the rubber covering the clickie switch of a flashlight wear down after a few years so the cover is another point of failure. You get this reliability at some cost in convenience. Nothing beats the push on push off action of a button. But you can twist the head one handed.

The led is supposed to be a Luxeon Rebel® LED rated at 3 watts. I don’t know if it actually gets 3 watts. From my standpoint, whats important is that its pretty bright.

Tighten the head of the flashlight to turn it off, loosen it to turn it on. If the light has been off for more than a few seconds it will default to maximum power. Turn it on then immediately off then on again to access the next mode, low mode which is like 25% as bright. Even at low mode its still bright enough to be useful around the house. Low mode is done by flashing the light on and off so fast that you can’t notice it. I tried to see if I could use the strobe effect to better visualize the fan blades of an electric fan.With the naked eye you can barely see the fan blades. I was able to capture one blade with my camera set to high shutter speed. My camera is a canon a590is which has manual control so I can play around with the aperture and the shutter speed.

These 2 pics were taken with with the light at normal and low mode. With normal mode, you are only able see the blades as a blur instead of being able to see one blade.

Quickly twist the head off and on again and you get to the third mode which is on and off flashing. The fourth mode is S.O.S. Do it again and it cycles back to full. I have doubts if I will ever use the flashing and SOS modes in my life.

Construction. Its solid aluminum. There are some unfinished sharp edges at the lanyard hole, but its minor. See pics .


Aside from that, the construction and machining is very good. The knurling on the body and on the head is a little shallow. With clean hands the grip is positive and you can use your fingers to twist the head one handed. But with oily or muddy hands I doubt it would be easy. The flashlight is round so it could roll off a table or something. A little macgyverization is in order.

163 mm long. Reflector is 25mm in diameter, body is 15 mm. I don’t have a scale, sorry. But the weight of the aluminum definitely makes it feel not cheap. I don’t think this would be comfortable in my pocket but its meant to be in my bag or on the desk anyway. I already ordered a fenix e01 for my kechain.

Picture of the component parts.

Side picture of wide beam and narrow beam.

Picture of narrow beam and wide beam.

As you can see, there is a constant spill of light into a big circle. At 1 meter, the big circle is more or less 85cm in diameter. This is constant in zoom and in wide. With the light at zoom, there is a 20 cm bright spot in the middle. As you zoom out, the reflector moves a little forwards, and light reflects off the back of the reflector, giving it a bluish tint.

You can also see the dust on the plastic lens.

You’ll need a damp lint free cloth to clean it up. Since the reflector is now more in front of the bulb, the light intensity drops a bit in wide mode. In wide mode, the central bright zone spreads out and you’ll see an ugly shadow in the center. You know, with this big spill, I don’t think I’ll be using the wide mode too often. With the zoom, the light really throws far. I don’t have any hard numbers though.

The reviews say that this is cooler than the first generation and the light doesn’t drop in intensity as it overheats. Confirmed, the light stays at the same intensity as long as the batteries hold up. The head is noticeably warm but only a little.

I have no light meter handy so I can’t give you any hard data on the intensity, but it’s bright. Don’t look into the bulb if you want to keep your eyesight. It’s blindingly white. The color is a very clean and stark white.

Ok I loaded it up with my year old eneloops, fully charged of course care of  my unomat smart charger and kept it on. After 5 hours I had to go to sleep so I turned it off. The next day, I was able to do another 3 hours (total 8 hrs) before the light starts to get a little dim. The light intensity to my eyes was the same for the entire 8 hrs. This is because there are circuits that try to keep the voltage constant even as the voltage produced by the batteries start to decrease.

The manual says you should lubricate it every 6 months with petroleum jelly. Probably to keep the o-rings soft.

Close up of the led bulb and candle mode.

 Few brands have the candle mode feature. In  this case the reflector serves as a stand. In candle mode loosening the butt end cap serves as an on off switch. One criticism is the butt end cap has to be tightly screwed on for the light to work. Even a little loosening will turn off the light.

Final score:  2 thumbs up! Minimal bugs. Thanks to the website EDC knife depot for a great flashlight!!

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