Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: Solarforce X3 [AAA Flashlight]

I saw this light in a post over at the CPF forums a few months ago and I have wanted one ever since. So, recently I bought one from lighthound. The first unit I received was defective but lighthound took care of me, and got a replacement unit right out.

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight

Product Description

Price: Mine was $27 shipped

The X3 is a single mode, stainless steel, LED "twisty" flashlight, which takes a single AAA battery and uses a Cree XP-G R5 emitter. Solarforce seems to be shooting for a higher end fit and finish with this model. I would almost call this a gentleman's keychain light.

Official Specs (from their web site)

Constructed of S304 stainless steel
CREE XP-E (R4) LED with lifespan up to 50,000 hours
Strengthened ultra-clear glass lens with two-surface coating
Battery type: AAA (alkaline or rechargeable 1.2V) x 1pc
Structural reversed polarity protection
Output: 50 lumens
Continuous runtime: 1 hour
Able to stand on its tail
Water proof
Dimensions (L x OD): 73 x 13mm
Weight: 30g (without battery)

Head / Bezel


SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Closeup of Head
Here you can see the reverse polarity protection
SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Closeup of Reflector
The emitter is well centered on mine
The head of the X3 appears to be brass. I am not sure, but I believe outer finish is Nickel, not steel. It looks like steel at first glass, but on closer inspection, it just doesn't look right for steel. Again, I'm not sure. The threads are the typical triangular threads you'll find on any budget flashlight.

There's a cross hatch pattern on the head to provide good grip for twisting the light on and off. In practice, the head is a little tight for one handed operation.

The reflector is a textured orange peel style. The texturing looks very non-uniform, but it's effective. I might also be wrong about this, but it sure looks like the glass has that telltale purple tint of anti-reflective coating, which I don't think I've seen on an AAA flashlight.

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Beam ShotBeam


The beam on my sample is very smooth, and slightly floody, due to the textured reflector. The rings and
artifacts are minimal. It's a very workable beam and probably ideal for a keychain light due to the wide hotspot and lots of spill.

The tint on my sample is cool white; not greenish or yellowish at all.

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Closeup of Body
Threads on the body are well machined

Body 


The body appears to be a solid chunk of stainless steel, with a reallly nice polished finish to it. Inside the body at the tail is what appears to be a steel pin with a foam ring around it. It's an interesting design choice.
From what I can tell, this design isn't a "battery crusher" like some other foam ring designs.

Tail


The tail is a typical keychain carry tail, slightly widened to supposedly allow for tail standing. You could just as easily attach a lanyard, lobster claw or other similar widget to it. This light is made to dangle.

SolarForce claims this model can tail stand, but my unit can't. What's interesting is that the first defective unit I had could tail stand. But the replacement unit has the tail more rounded than the last sample I had. I can't get this one to tail stand no matter what I do. But that's OK, the tail is fine for a keychain light, maybe even
SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Closeup of Tail
The tail has a nice look to it
ideal.

Run Time Test


I did my run time test with a second generation Eneloop AAA cell hot off the charger. The light went full steam until it started to dim noticeably at 1:40 and by 1:50 it was sub-lumen, where coasted down until 2:45. At that point it started flashing, and remained flashing until around 4:30. That's right, this thing put out some form of light for almost 4 1/2 hours. 

Fit and Finish


Overall, good. My only couple gripes revolve around the head. The steel finish looks good, but there's just something off about it. There was also a good amount of dirt and grit in the threads.

But those are minor gripes. The X3 has an above average fit and finish for the price range. The threads on the head and body are well machined, and the finish on the body of mine is almost immaculate. There were no scratches, tool marks or noticeable blemishes in the finish. The laser etched text is a little hard to read, though. I personally think it would look better with less text on the body. 

But all things considered, it looks like SolarForce really paid attention to detail with the X3. My sample looks sharp.

Usability


Due to the tightness of the head, it's difficult to use this light for every day carry. But other than that, the X3 has a very usable beam, a solid feel, and well, it kinda looks cool. The efficient circuitry will give you more run time than a comparable one mode AAA flashlight for that output.

Conclusions


The X3 in my opinion is better suited for keychain carry than every day carry. This seems like a nearly ideal keychain flashlight: simple, rugged, effecient. And the tight head, which makes it hard to operate one handed, is preferable for a keychain light, which tend to have the heads work their way off, never to be seen again.

I am currently deciding whether to replace the Fenix E01 on my truck keychain with the X3. And I will most likely be giving a few of these away as gifts.

Gallery



SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - In box: frontSolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - In box: back
SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Open Package
SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Closeup of Head

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Another Closeup of Reflector

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - With Eneloop AAA Battery
SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - BlackShadow Eva AAA flashlight
With BlackShadow Eva AAA flashlight

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Closeup of threads
Closeup of the threads: well machined but dirty
SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - Moon glow
This was taken at about 2 hours even into the run time test
From Left: BlackShadow Eva, Olight I3S, Solarforce X3, Thrunite Ti2, L3 Illumination L10 Nichia 219, L10 with XP-G2
From Left: BlackShadow Eva, Olight I3S, Solarforce X3, Thrunite Ti2, L3 Illumination L10 Nichia 219, L10 with XP-G2

SolarForce X3 AAA Flashlight - On Digital Scale
1.4 Ounces with a 2nd generation Eneloop in it

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