Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flashlight

Most of the people I know in the flashlight community are obsessed with output. They build custom drivers and custom heat sinks all to put out a blinding amount of light and turn night into day. Manufacturers are starting to make super-high-output lights in the never ending quest for more lumens.

But most of the time people like me need a flashlight, it's not to light up a whole street, but fore more mundane tasks like looking into a closet or dark cupboard. I don't need something the size of a soda can to find my dropped keys on the ground next to my car.

So it often seems like I'm the only blogger pushing compact formats like 1xAAA and 2xAAA for flashlights. Single AAA LED flashlights have come a long way in the last few years, and I've purchased and evaluated almost all of them.

My love of compact EDC (every day carry) style flashlights is well documented, so when Lumintop offered to provide a titanium version of their Lumintop Tool flashlight which I previously reviewed, I was happy to accept. This new Tool Ti version is their higher end version, made of titanium alloy with a recessed tail switch. They have half a dozen versions of the Tool and it's easy to find on sites like Amazon. Like a few other larger flashlight manufacturers, they have their own Amazon Storefront.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product Link
Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product Link

Product Description


The Lumintop Tool Ti is a 1xAAA LED flashlight with a titanium alloy body, recessed "reverse clicky" tail switch and a Cree XP-G2 cool white tinted LED emitter. It features a snap-on pocket clip which I believe is steel. It even has a glow-in-the-dark o-ring inside the head, next to the textured reflector and the AR coated lens.

A Whole Bunch of AAA FlashlightsLumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Shown With Aluminum Tool


Official Specs (From Lumintop)


Bulb
Cree XP-G2 R5 LED
Nichia 219BTLED
Output / runtime
5 lumens (36 Hours)                         
32 lumens (4 Hours)
110 lumens (30 Minutes)                        
3 lumens (36 Hours)                         
18 lumens (4 Hours)                       
80 lumens (30 Minutes)                    
Max Beam Intensity
553cd
304cd
Max Beam Distance
47 Meters
34 Meters
Modes
3 Modes(Low-Mid(Default)-High)
Size
Length: 2.91" (74mm)
Head Diameter: 0.56" (14.4mm)
Body Diameter: 0.56"(14.4mm)
N.W
0.78oz(22g)
Working Voltage
0.9v-1.5v
Battery Type
1 X AAA (10440 Not Supported)
Water Resistant
IPX-8 (2 meters)
Impact Resistant
1.5 meters
Accessories
O-ring, Keychain, Reversible clip
EAN/UPC Code
6933165916029
889709160280

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - In Box 1

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - In Box 2


Initial Impressions


Lately I've been really busy, so this review sample sat in a box on my desk for a few days. But I knew I would probably like it, so I wasn't disappointed when I finally unboxed it.
Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - In Box 3

At first I thought it was a "twisty" where you twist the head to power it on and off, because it is so much shorter than my other clicky lxAAA lights. It has a very short throw, recessed tail switch, which is completely flush with the tail. Nicey nice.

Looking it over, everything about it is sexy. It looks to be beautifully designed and executed. I'm a strong believer in first impressions, and this light definitely made a good first impression.

However, being a grumpy old man means that I have the innate ability to find fault with anything, and with this product it's the snap-on pocket clip. I just don't like these kind of clips, mainly because I've lost several flashlights where the clip detaches.

Build Quality


This flashlight costs 70 dollars, and that's a huge sum for a 1xAAA flashlight. Capable lights of this format like my Thrunite Ti5 run less than half the price of this version.

Given that the Tool Ti is the upper echelon of single AAA flashlights, it better be well built because the type of person that's going to buy it is going to have very high expectation. And it is very well built.

The materials, machining and circuitry are all first rate. They didn't skimp or cut any corners that I could tell.

Fit and Finish


Perfect overall. Again, being at the top of its price range, it better have an impressive fit and finish, and it does. It's not possible to have a titanium body without the threads being a little gritty, so I won't ding them for it.

It's hard to find any flaw in the finish. The knurling is machined well for it being titanium, and overall the finish just pops. Everything is as it should be: centered LED, lubed o-ring, lens, reflector, tail switch--it's as good as I would expect for the price range.

Extra points for machining of the switch and the tight fit of the pocket clip. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of snap-on clips, but this one is done well at least. Also extra points for the glow-in-the-dark o-ring inside the bezel.

The feel of the tail switch started out a little gritty like so many other lights I've reviewed, but after a few dozen cycles on the switch, it seems fine now. I do have some concerns that it could get dirt inside the switch, but it's holding up well so far.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product View 1

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product View 2

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product View 3

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product View 4

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product View 5

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Product View 6


Batteries


AAA batteries are about as common as you can get, and the Tool Ti will take alkaline or lithium primary non-rechargeable batteries, as well as any type of NiMH or NiCd rechargeable cells. I did not try a 10440 lithium-ion cell because a friend of mine read one of my reviews and fried his Thrunite Ti3 with a 10440 cell, even though it worked for me. So, I've stopped being daring for now.

For the most part I use Eneloop Pro batteries for common AA and AAA rechargeable batteries.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - With AAA Batteries


LED Emitter


This version of the Lumintop Tool uses a cool white tinted Cree XP-G2 emitter, which is very efficient and a good choice for a flashlight in this single AAA format. It's a medium die LED, which means it's just going to put out a solid wall of light coupled with a small reflector.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Cree XP-G2 LED Emitter

Tail Switch


The flashlight is turned on and off via a recessed "reverse clicky" tail switch. I thought maybe it was an electronic switch of the type commonly found on cameras, but after using it, I'm pretty sure this is just a very short throw mechanical switch.

Many manufacturers get this type of metallic, recessed switch wrong, to where it only has a good feel if you press it dead-on, but this one doesn't suffer too much from that effect. It does have a better feel if pressed straight in the center, but it also has a decent feel when pressed from any angle, and that's impressive.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Tail Switch 3Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Tail Switch 1Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Tail Switch 2




User Interface


This model uses a common reverse clicky tail switch to turn the light on and off as well as cycling through the three output modes. A full press will make the switch engage to turn on the light, and a half press will cycle between output modes without engaging the switch all the way to turn it off.

This type of user interface is very intuitive to most people

Modes


There are three modes: low, medium and high, and they are well spaced as far as output goes.

The mode order is:

Medium-->Low-->High

My preferred mode order is normally Low-->Medium-->High but it's not a huge deal to me. There does appear to be mode memory. I really like the 5 lumen mode coupled with the efficient circuitry, which makes this an ideal flashlight for emergencies due to the long run time on low mode.

Output


For such a high tech product, the output levels are fairly conservative. It's brightest setting doesn't push the envelope, and that's fine with me. The upside to tuning down the max output is that the light won't get uncomfortably warm, and it extends the run time.

While I don't have a light sphere to precisely measure the output, I have lots of small flashlights to compare it to, and I believe it's a bit below its stated output of 110 lumens on high mode.

Circuitry


I would expect a high end light to have first rate circuitry and this one does. There is no trace of PWM on my model, making this a good candidate for survival / emergency preparedness applications because of the efficient circuitry.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - PWM Test
My cell phone camera detects a constant output--very efficient!


Tint


The downside to coupling the efficient XP-G2 emitter with a high efficiency circuit is that the tint is going to suffer, especially on the lower modes. It's not horrible though, and it's obvious they made an attempt to make it more on the neutral side and not that sickly greenish tint some makers have.

There is a version of this Tool Ti with a neutral tinted Nichia LED emitter in it, which probably would've been my first choice. This happens to be the model they sent me. However the Nichia LED would come at a cost of less output, which is already a little on the low side. It's usually a no-brainer to me though, and if you're a "tint snob" like I am, you might as well go all the way if you're going to pay this much.

But overall the tint is acceptable, and while not ideal to me as a tint snob, it's not a deal breaker.

Beam


The beam on my review sample is pure flood, as I would expect from a tiny light, with a tiny reflector and the medium die size XP-G2. This configuration is ideal for every day carry (EDC) tasks. The textured, "orange peel" reflector makes the beam nice and uniform.

The lens has an anti-reflective (AR) coating just like I would expect for the price range.

Pocket Clip


Normally I can't stand these style of clip-on pocket clips.They tend to fall off during heavy use, and you either end up with the flashlight in your pocket and the clip somewhere far away, or you lose both.

However, this clip fits pretty snug, and I would expect it to hold on under even hard use. So far, so good, but I wish they would take the lead of other companies like EagleTac and more recently Thrunite when it comes to pocket clips. I noticed they have a new model out with a proper mounted clip.

The clip on this model is reversible, which is handy to clip the flashlight to your ball cap and use it as a makeshift headlamp. Not my first choice of head lamps, but perfectly fine in a pinch.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Clip 1


Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Clip 2



Usability


One of the most important things I test for is usability. If it's a shiny work of art, that's great, but for me it's all about the functionality.

The ergonomics on this model are excellent and it's a joy to carry and use every day. The clip is more rigid than I'm used to seeing with snap-on type clips and that's a big deal to me, in a good way. It carries fairly well and gives me a decent amount of confidence that it's not just going to fall off.

Something to point out is that for whatever reason, I sometimes accidentally click the switch when I tuck it into my pocket. My thumb naturally wants to press there, which is great when I intentionally turn it on. Just something to think about. Sometimes I pull it out of my pocket to find that, yep, I turned it on when I put it in my pocket.

Overall this is a very usable light. It's compact, with a high efficiency circuit and a good balance between output and run time. The tail switch has an excellent feel to it, and the other touches like the GITD o-ring in the front just make me like it more.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - In Hand 1

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - In Hand 2

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - In Hand 3


Weights & Measures


Most of the weight of this type of flashlight is going to be in the battery, so it's not surprising that it doesn't feel much lighter.

It's worth noting how tiny this flashlight is because of the short, recessed tail switch.

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Calipers Measurement 1

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - Calipers Measurement 2

Lumintop Tool Ti AAA Flaslight - On Scale



Conclusions


The original Tool made it into my EDC bag but I liked the Thrunite Ti5 better for every day carry. The Tool Ti now makes it too close to call. The Ti5 is a little brighter with a creamy, warm tint, but everything else about the Tool blows it away. I would guess that the version of the tool with the Nichia LED would make me abandon the Ti5 completely just because I love the recessed switch.

Either way this is a solid product, even at the 70 dollar price point. It's well designed, well built and classy as hell. This is a model which can be appreciated whether you're a "flashaholic" or an executive like your uncle, Bob. They did a good job on the Tool, and I'm happy to see a manufacturer giving some love to the small, pocket-able flashlights.





Saturday, April 2, 2016

More Flashlight Scam Ads On My Site

A reader on one of my flashlight scam posts recently pointed out that I was serving up the same scam ads as I was warning against. My apologies for that, but it's hard not to run a web site without some of that stuff slipping through. Mostly they are hoping that people who don't understand LED flashlights will fall for the scams.

Basically, most web sites like mine make what little they make to keep the site going from ads. Those ads come mainly from Google, which makes billions from ads. So they aren't too picky as long as those ads don't contain malware.

But they do let site owners like me go through all the ads in the network, ad-by-ad, one at a time, and block the ones I don't want individually. These ad networks contain thousands of ads and it's an incredibly time consuming process.

What's worse, these scammers come out with literally dozens of new variations on those ads every day. This means that every day I have to go through all the new adds, looking at them one at a time in order to block the shady and scam ads.

The ads on my site barely cover the costs of keeping my blog afloat, so it's not really possible to turn them off completely.

So, if you see a shady ad on my site, then feel free to drop me an email, and realize that I try my best for the 10 cents an hour blogging probably earns me. The people behind this scam can make new scam ads and scam variations of their product faster than I can block it.





Thursday, March 17, 2016

Photo Review: Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly

HAP40 is hot. I just got my hands on a Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly--the latest in the series-- and I'm surprised I got one. So far the whole HAP40 series has sold out, but it seems like the Dragonfly has gone even faster than the Delica. If National Knives didn't put a one-per-customer limit on these, I don't think I would've scored one.

My sample is a good specimen. The lamination lines look a little wonky as usual, but I like that "artisan" look they have. The lockup is good, without any trace of "lock rock" in it. It's a tiny hair off center which is acceptable, especially since I'd have no chance of getting it exchanged.

Fit and finish is good, edge is good (not great) and overall it's a fine specimen. Owning the whole HAP40 set so far has been like being punched in the wallet, but I won't lose anything if I decide to part with one or more. Right now all I've decided is that eventually I'm going to start using the HAP40 Stretch.


Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 1

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 2

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 3

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 4

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 5

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 6

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 7

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 8

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 9

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 10


Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - 11

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - Blade 1

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - Blade 2

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - Blade 4Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - Blade 3


Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - Scale 1Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - Scale 2

Spyderco HAP40 Dragonfly Photo Review - With Stretch, Endura and Delica



Friday, March 11, 2016

Flashlight Scam: AlumiTact X700

This is a new flavor of the same flashlight scam which mutates almost every single day. It's easy to spot because they use phrases like "controversial military technology" and "bright enough to blind a bear" and "flying off the shelves" among others.

The AlimiTact X700 scam is in good company with the StrykeLight x2000, T2000Shadowhawk X800, Illumitact G700, Lightstrike 360 and others. It's the same scam, put out by the same people, who make the same ridiculous claims, and mutate the scam to stay one step ahead of the few bloggers who care enough about reporting on this. Most major media outlets show their ads, and none of them seem to care because they make money too from the ads.

The scam basically goes like this: get you, the customer, to pay $75 for a $6 cheap, Chinese flashlight you can get from Amazon, eBay or even direct from China. Anyone who knows flashlights knows that this is a scam, but many people don't know, and that's what I'm doing here. This is a blog about doing gear reviews such as flashlight reviews, and I never intended to turn this into a sounding board for scams. But it's just disgusting to watch this scam mutate and suck more people in.

Many of the different scam ads use different variations of this same photo, usually with different colors emanating from the "flashlight" in the photo. Some of the newer scams use photos of known flashlight brands such as Nitecore and Thrunite, only to get you to order the same $6 flashlight they've been selling all along.


They've been toning down the "blogs" these ads link to, but all the buzz words are still there, like "Navy SEAL" and "Military" and others. They only mix it up slightly from scam to scam.


I'm skeptical about the claims above that all these media outlets have featured this product, which itself is just one of the many flavors of the same scam that anyone in the media could easily find out if they cared about due diligence. But sadly, it wouldn't surprise me if some if these media companies fell for the scam themselves, since most of their collective moral compasses point straight to money.

If you want to gain actual knowledge of flashlights, there are communities out there such as the Budget Light Forum and I also wrote an article, Understanding LED Flashlights as a starting point that readers can use to get a feel for the landscape.

One thing I am hearing from people falling for the scam is that many of them never receive anything for their money, which isn't too surprising. The best I can tell, if you live in many of the countries targeted in the scam, they figure there's no way it would come back to them, so they just take your money.