Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Olight I3S [AAA Flashlight]

Olight I3S AAA flashlight, new in box
It comes in a neat little gift box

Product Description

Price: $25 online

This is actually the 3rd generation of this flashlight. The first version was the iTP A3. It was a great light, and had a good following. Then Olight bought out iTP, improved the design and called it the Olight I3. The I3 was an even better light than the A3. It added a screw-on, deep carry clip and tail stand capability as well as using the XP-G emitter.

And now Olight has improved it even more and called it the I3S. My review sample was purchased from goinggear.com, and I see now that there's an Amazon store that beats them by a couple bucks.

Official Specs

(from Olight's web site)

1. Utilizing the newest Cree XP-G2 LED, with the max output of 80 lumens (increased by 20%, based on the old i3)
2. Adjustable output levels: Moonlight, Low, High and Strobe mode (by rotating its head to shift models).
3. High quality stainless steel clip makes it durable and keeps a firm grip on your pocket.
4. The pocket clip is reversible, allowing for hat brim or similar attachment.
5. Aluminum body with scratch resistant type III Hard Anodizing (Only black is available).
6. Flat tail cap allows for tail-standing.
7. Adopt linear current regulation technology, no stroboscopic output.
8. Standard attachment: a triangle ring connects the tail hole with light body on one side
9. Orange reflector, comfortable light fit for close range lighting.
10. 96% transparency ultra-clear high optical lens.
11. Attractive gift box packaging.

Modes


This is a three mode "twisty" with a fourth, hidden strobe mode for emergencies. The mode order is Medium>High>Low, with the strobe being activated by 7 successive twists. Also, the low mode is actually a sub-lumen "moonlight" mode at .5 lumens.

NOTE: There does sometimes appear to be an issue where the light gets "stuck" on medium mode and is hard to get to advance to the next mode. I thought it might be me, or maybe I got a flaky sample, but it's done this on two different lights. It seems to happen mostly when I put a new battery in, and once I get it to advance modes, the circuitry seems to work fine after that. But a couple times it's really annoyed me.

UPDATE: It has been reported on the CPF Forums that the "stuck mode" issue seems to happen when the light and/or batteries are cold. Warming the light up in your hand or cycling through the modes a few times reportedly makes the problem go away.

Beam


Since the XP-G2 has a larger die size than its predecessor, the beam on the I3S has a larger hotspot, and has a beam which is more floody than the I3. Since a floody beam is usually more useful for a small EDC type light, it's actually a plus having more flood. Folks looking for an AAA light with lots of throw should check out the Thrunite Ti, which has the Cree XP-E emiiter with a smaller die size and much better throw.

Tint


Both of my units have a little bit of a greenish tint. I'm not really picky about tint on my flashlights, so it's no big deal to me. Flashlights in this segment are usually a grab bag of tints, except for a few companies that seem to seek out better tinted batches of emitters.But for me it's perfectly acceptable given that it's a budget light.

Clip


The black version has a blacked out clip
The I3S has a reversible, snap on clip. It fits perfect in reverse, so the light can function as a respectable headlamp if you are wearing a ballcap. The clip fits nice and snug. I guess time will tell how this newly designed clip will perform, but so far I'm impressed. And there's not many tiny lights like this with reversible clips, other than maybe the Microstream.

The black version of the I3S has a black anodized clip and keychain, where the other colors have just a plain steel clip and keychain. The keychain is neat because there's a little lobster claw on each end.

Tail Stand


This model will tail stand. It has a completely smooth, flat tail. It will even tail stand on a keychain if you position it right. The ability to tail stand is another feature I look for in all my EDC type lights.

This version has a flat tail, for more stable tail standing

Constant Current Circuitry


It's worth noting that this light uses a very efficient, constant-current circuit. The previous version, the I3, had headache-inducing, low frequency PWM. In my advanced age, the PWM seems to bother me more and more, to the point where I now specifically look for lights that don't have it. Which also means I'm now spoiled on the long runtimes these more efficient circuits offer.

Runtimes


These are my informal runtime tests. I will fill these in as I run each test.


This light appears to be a "vampire" in that it will suck every last bit of power from a battery. Once it can't hold regulation on a mode, it lets it slowly coast down to nothing.



ModeEneloop 2nd Gen.Alakaline
Low118:30 (started to dim at about 112 hours)-
Medium8:12  (started to dim at 7:45)-
High1:22 (started to dim at 1 hour even)-


Comparison to previous version- I3


Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Side by side with previous version, the Olight I3
The new version is a bit shorter
  • The new version is a little shorter.
  • The new version uses current regulation, where the I3 used PWM.
  • The new version has a snap on, reversible clip, where the I3 had a screw-on clip.
  • The new version has a M>H>L mode order, where the I3 used L>M>H.
  • The new version has a much lower low.
  • The new version has a re-designed, perfectly flat tail and comes with both a clip and keychain.
  • The new version uses the newer XP-G2 emitter. Better output and runtime.
  • The new version has better machined, square threads.
  • The larger die size of the XP-G2 makes the new version have a more flood than the I3.

Fit and Finish


Body: This light has a good fit and finish overall, and seems to improve upon the previous version. The twisty action is smooth, and there's no play. This probably has something to do with the square threads, which the previous version didn't have. The threads on mine were lubed, with no grit or dirt, which almost seems to be common these days. The anodizing on the new version is also a little better.

Because of the improved threads, this light doesn't seem to suffer from "mode skipping" such as other lights in its class.

Emiiter: The emitter in mine is almost perfectly centered

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Showing square cut threads
It has nice, square cut threads
Clip: The clip fits well in both positions, and the black version has a blacked-out anodized clip, which also has a decent fit and finish. Other color lights come with a plain steel clip.

Keychain: The keychain is held on by a little triangular piece of metal which is easy to take off, so I'm guessing there could be some issue with it falling off of a keychain. They should've just made it a split ring.


Conclusions


This light is everything the previous versions should have been, and might just be an instant classic. So far it looks like it will dethrone my trusty Fenix LD01 for a daily place in my pocket. I really liked Olight's previous incarnation- the I3- but it had horrible efficiency,  and the PWM gave me a headache. Eventually I moved on in my quest for the perfect AAA light, and left the I3 behind. 

This new one has much, much better circuitry, and also the latest XP-G2 emitter. The flashaholics complained about the I3's horrible efficiency and obnoxious PWM, and Olight clearly listened. With the drastically more efficient circuitry, and the slightly more efficient XP-G2 emitter, this light could very well be the most efficient AAA light currently on the market. 

One thing that baffles me though, is why they abandoned the L>M>H mode order of the I3, especially with the new moonlight mode. Most people use moonlight mode to check on sick children or use the restroom in a camp ground without blinding those around them. In a way, having to cycle through an 85 lumen high mode to get to the don't wake-the-children-up moonlight mode kind of defeats the whole purpose of the mode. But having said that, I understand why they made that choice, and I can live with it day to day. 

I'm not normally a big fan of strobe, beacon, or so-called "disco" modes on AAA flashlights. The one time in a lifetime you'll need it in an emergency probably isn't worth having to cycle past it on a daily basis. But I really like the idea of having the strobe as a hidden mode. Having to cramp my wrist by twisting 7 times in a row in an emergency is a small price to pay for keeping it out of my way the 1,000 times in a row I don't need it.

Olight seems to have hit this one out of the ballpark. I've seen a few people on the forums complain that $25 is too much to pay for an AAA flashlight, but this light might be worth double that. It stops a tiny bit short of being my dream EDC light because of the mode order, but it still looks to be a superb light. And as if all the little design tweaks weren't enough, they even gave the new one square threads, which gives it a much better twisty feel. I've already given one of these away as a gift, and I have a feeling this one is going to be my go-to gift light for quite a while. Will it still be my favorite light once the honeymoon is over? We'll see.

Gallery

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - gift box



Olight I3S AAA flashlight - closeup showing clip and keychain

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - closeup showing Cree XP-G2 Emitter


Olight I3S AAA flashlight - closeup of steel clip and keychain on the red version
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Closeup of emitters side by side with I3
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Closeup of bodies side by side with I3
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Showing clip reversed and clipped to ballcap
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - high mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right
High mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - moonlight mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right
Low mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right
Olight I3S AAA flashlight showing centered emitter on moonlight mode
The emitter on my sample is well centered


5 comments:

  1. "Will it still be my favorite light once the honeymoon is over? We'll see."

    So, is the honeymoon over, and if so how did the i3S fare?

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  2. Yes, and yes! I keep a 10440 in it, and it's usually in my pocket.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the prompt response! Glad to hear you didn't find any problems after using it for a while. I just ordered one of these from Amazon, can't wait to get it. This will be my first EDC flashlight, and I spent a long time (some might say too long!) agonising over which to get. One of the things that really pushed me toward the i3S was having read reviews of the i3 and the iTP and realising that each light in the series directly addressed the major complaints I'd seen in reviews of previous models. I am super impressed that Olight obviously pay attention to their customer feedback, and take the approach of releasing iterative refinements of existing designs rather than just trying to wow people with entirely new designs.

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    2. I'm happy to help. I agree with everything you said. The last version was good but I moved on to other lights because of its drawbacks, one of which was that I kept stripping the screws on the clip. I'm happy to come back to a new version of an EDC light that fell just short of being my favorite.

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  3. Nice. Thanks. You made up my mind between this and the Fenix ld01

    ReplyDelete