01 August, 2014

Fenix UC40 Ultimate Edition

Anticipation post

Well, it's been a long time since I bought an expensive torch. The last expensive torch I bought was the LED Lenser David 19, a 1 AA, 5 mm LED torch that, as far as I can tell, is about 50 lumens. I bought it in 2005 for about $50. At that time, white LEDs were new, and so were circuits required to bump the 1.5V of AA batteries up to ~5V to drive the LED. I thought I would spend more on a good torch and use it for a long time, and this model seemed pretty good since it was efficient and I could save money on batteries. It seemed to work, since in between that time I only bought a ~$3 torch from China.

This year, for some reason, I seem to have gone on a torch buying spree:
  • ~$5 torch from Kaidomain
  • ~$25 Energizer headlamp
  • ~$3 UV torch
  • ~$6 1 AA Cree Q5 torch from eBay. This one is surprisingly good. It can run off AA or 14500 (a rechargeable lithium battery the same size as AA, but 3.7V) batteries and is claimed to output 500 lumens or 7W. But the best part is the head can "zoom" to spread or focus the light, like Maglite torches, and even be removed to act like a candle. It also has 3 modes. I threw in an old battery and it produced a nice even circle of light, a bit blueish, brighter than my David 19! LED technology certainly has come a long way. I recommend this to anyone looking for a basic torch.

And now:
Included: torch, AOD-S diffuser, belt clip, CR123 batteries, battery case

Specs: 10-110-400-960 lumens, 150-16-3.75-1.5 hours.

Included in the box: torch itself, battery (inside the torch), micro USB cable, lanyard strap, 1 spare o-ring.

Inside, on the battery, is the cap so many people had problems with that they had to put an extra notice on the torch. Whose first reaction, on the torch having a problem, is to send it back instead of, you know, maybe OPENING it and having a look at the removable battery? Anyway, to anyone who also got this torch, ONLY THE CENTRE BLACK PLUG IS REMOVABLE. THE OUTER BLACK RING IS PART OF THE BATTERY, even though it looks like cheap plastic and it's not tightly stuck to the battery.

First Impressions
Wow, this torch is pretty small and light. It's comfortable to hold in my hand, and so light that I wasn't sure the battery was inside at first.
960 lumens isn't as bright as I expected, though. I thought it would be too bright to use indoors, but it just illuminates a room well when bounced off the ceiling. It's too bright to look at when I shine it in my hand, though. And I can feel my hand and the torch getting warm quickly, which is impressive. It also makes my photochromic sunglasses change colour, for some reason.
The front glass is verry nice and clear. At some angles it's invisible, not sure if it's due to the antireflective coating or not. The reflector is very smooth and uniform, and the LED chip is neatly centred.

  • No, it can't lock-out, at least not with the included rechargeable battery
  • Yes, it can tail stand no problem. The lanyard might interfere with that, though. And it certainly can't tail stand when charging.
  • The USB port plug is attached to the torch so you can't lose it :) but you can't replace it :(
  • The switch is an electronic type, so it just clicks (like a mouse button), it doesn't have on and off states (unlike say, a click pen)
  • The double-ended battery means you can use the torch without the tailcap. Or charge the battery without the torch. Theoretically you can separate the tailcap and charge one battery with it, while using another battery in the (uncapped) torch.
  • It doesn't work if you take out the battery and plug in the USB cable.

As I said, I don't like the fact that the head can't be removed. Better for waterproofing, but makes it very hard to clean the head contacts. And there are several spring-loaded contacts. Speaking of waterproofing, I'm not sure about the USB plug. Sony does this for their phones, but I wouldn't immerse this torch. And try and keep it pointed up when used in showers.

I'm also not sure about the battery's quality
  • As I said, flimsy black plastic around it
  • The centre, red, positive contact isn't centred
  • There's a gap between the red plastic and the contacts. Looks too easy to short to me.
I agree with them using a custom battery for this torch, though. Klarus' analogous torchlight, the RS11, also charges 18650 batteries over USB. The old, 2012, 620 lumen version could charge any 18650 battery. At least one model also got red-hot - "As it stands right now, if I put in a battery and put on the end cap, the spring on the end will turn red hot within seconds." (http://www.amazon.com/review/R3FB0UCAUX1EWW/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0094BQGN6) The 2014, 930 lumen version now comes with a similar double-ended battery, much like Fenix's.

Belt Clip
I'm very happy with the belt clip from http://www.fenix-store.com/. It sits securely and doesn't move. I'm extra grateful because I did a cursory search of eBay and couldn't easily find belt clips. Only things are: only place I see to put the clip is on the tailcap, pointing towards the head, the clip might scratch the light, and the clip doesn't fit perfectly in the grooves in the light. All minor issues. It works great and even prevents rolling.

Yep, I think that's all I have to say for now. I wonder when the low battery signal kicks in.

Update 7 Sep 15
I've been using this torch nightly as a nightlight. Battery can last 1 week on low, but I don't think it can really last 150 hours (which is more than 6 days continuously). I've found more things I like about this:
  • It's easy to use. Ok I know you and I pay particular attention to the UI, but imagine if you had to lend your torch to someone. How long would you take to teach them how to use it?
  • No flickering (PWM)! Impressive for 100x the lumens between lowest and highest modes.
  • Pretty good CRI. It's not advertised as a feature but I like the colour temp and CRI.

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