Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch
Citizen BM8180-03E Product Link
A watch is something that most of us wear every day. At least I do. And one of the problems with collecting them is all the battery changes. That is what I like about the Eco-Drive, and I've always liked Citizen, so this watch as a no-brainer for me. I have a few upscale watches and I have a few thrasher watches, but I was looking for something in between the two, so I ordered this one from Amazon with our Prime account. The price was 87 bucks.

Product Description


On paper, this is almost the perfect EDC watch. It's made by a respected watchmaker, it's solar powered, and it's waterproof with a strap type band. Citizen touts the Eco-Drive line as never needing a battery. In reality it  uses a battery internally to store the charge from the solar cell, so it will need a battery someday, just not for a really long time.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


Brand, Seller, or Collection NameCitizen
Model numberBM8180-03E
Part Number013205070013
Model Year2011
Item ShapeRound
Dial window material typeMineral
Display TypeAnalog
ClaspBuckle
Case materialStainless steel
Case diameter37 millimeters
Case Thickness9.00
Band MaterialCanvas
Band lengthmens
Band width18 millimeters
Band ColorGreen
Dial colorBlack
Bezel materialStainless steel
CalendarDay and Date
Special featuresLuminous
MovementJapanese quartz
Water resistant depth330 Feet
Warranty typeContact seller of record

Setting The Time


To set the time, pull the crown out one click to set the day or date, and two clicks to set the time. With the crown pulled out one click, turn it clockwise to set the day of the week and counter-clockwise to set the numeric date.


Dial


The dial features nice, high-contrast white markings on a black background. It's my favorite part about the watch since I'm getting older and it's harder to read a watch without my reading glasses. The dial also has tick marks for the seconds. I'm not a big fan of the tick marks but it doesn't bother me that much since the hour numbers stand out so well. There's a window at 3 O'Clock which shows the day and date.


Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Closeup Of Dial
Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Closeup Of Case Back
Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Closeup Of Crown
Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Closeup Of Case And Band

Movement


This model uses the typical Citizen high quality Japanese Quartz movement. The only twist is that it uses a solar cell with a small internal battery instead of having a disposable battery that needs to be replaced often.

Because the hour markers are inset, the hands are abnormally short, which looks fine at first glance but takes some getting used to day to day. In my opinion, some of the benefit of having high-contrast markers is lost by making the hands shorter.

The second hand is red, with a bit of luminescent material at the tip so you can see it in the dark. Some users have reported that the second hand does not line up with the tick marks when it ticks, but mine seems lined up perfectly.

The date window shows the day of the week (Sunday in red) and the date. It also features alternating days of the week in Spanish, which is a pain because you have to turn past the ones you don't want. I wish they just made separate English and Spanish versions as it's an inconvenience for users of both languages.

Luminescence


This watch uses a good quality luminescence material, which makes it easy to read in the dark. It's

Making the numbers glow is a nice touch
fairly liberal with the material on the hour and minute hands, and has a little taste at the tip of the second hand, too. The shorter hands don't make it ideal to read in the dark, but they compensated by putting significantly more material on the minute hand. What I've found is that it's not quite as intuitive as some other watches to read at first glance in the dark.

Case


This is a sub $100 watch with a high quality movement, so they had to cut corners somewhere. The stainless steel case is decent but still budget. The crown also feels a little cheap. We will see how it stands up over time. Overall the case appears to be perfectly adequate.

Band


Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Closeup Of Canvas Band
Just about the only reason most reviewers have taken off a star is because of the canvas band. They are right, the band is awful. It's too stiff, it retains water, and the rivets are not only hideous but uncomfortable as well. However, the band isn't a deal breaker. I knew its shortcomings before I bought the watch and factored that into my purchase. I am still deciding on a new band, but it will probably be nylon or possibly leather. Even if you factor the cost of a new band, this watch is still a good deal. This cut corner can be replaced.

Conclusions


I like this watch and I'm happy with my purchase, but it's not as easy to read without my glasses as I thought it would be. But overall, the excellent Eco-Drive movement makes up for the few annoyances I have. It's a sharp looking watch with clean lines. It is currently sharing EDC duties with the Seiko Automatic 5 which I bought at the same time.

I've gotten the watch wet a few times, and so far none of the reported problems with the band smelling. Maybe because I set it out to dry before I wear it again. That's OK, the canvas band is getting replaced soon.

Packaging 


The packaging is fairly standard for a Citizen watch.

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Box, Top View

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Box, SKU View

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Box, Bottom View

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Decorative Box

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch: Decorative Box, Top View



Gallery

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch, Shown With Seiko SNK807 Automatic 5
EDC Friends: Seiko SNK07 Automatic with Citizen BM8180-03E Eco-Drive

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch, Shown On Wrist

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch, Shown With Oakley Shades, Maxpedition Wallet, iTP flashlight and Spyderco Native Pocket Knife
A nice watch is a part of any well balanced EDC diet

From Left: Tag Heuer Link, Citizen BM8180-03E, Casio Cheapie
The Citizen fills a middle role between dress up and yard work

Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch, Shown Next To Ruler



Citizen BM8180-03E Men's Eco-Drive Watch, Shown On Scale
Definitely lightweight, which is a plus for me

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Nitecore MT1A [AA Flashlight]

Nitecore has just been on fire lately. They have all these great new models out, like the EA4 and EA8 and the SRT series. So, it's not surprising that they revisit a standard EDC favorite like the AA format. I had won a $15 gift certificate to DealExtreme, so I bought my MT1A there. But if you don't want to wait 30 days for the shipping, just get it from Amazon or maybe GoingGear.

Product Description


Price: $30-35 Online

This is a single AA flashlight with a forward clicky switch at the tail. It features two mode groups by twisting the bezel: Turbo and Strobe/SOS/High/Med/Low. The emitter is a previous generation Cree XP-G R5. It has some other EDC friendly features like a crenelated bezel (aka "attack crown" or "strike crown") and a reversible clip. The MT1A seems to be aimed at the budget market.


Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • Premium CREE XP-G R5 LED bulb
  • Maximum output of 140 lumens
  • High efficiency current circuit board
  • Maximum runtime of up to 60 hours
  • User-defined mode allows for customizable brightness levels and a multitude of functions
  • Two rapid switching modes suit various user requirements
  • Intelligent memory function stores preferred brightness setting
  • Reverse polarity protection
  • Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (submersible to two meters)
  • Aluminum reflector ensures a powerful and smooth beam
  • Toughened utra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating
  • Constructed of HAII military grade hard anodized aerospace-grade aluminum alloy
  • Detachable two-way rolling clip with anti-rolling design

Tail Switch


Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup of Tail
The MT1A uses a forward clicky switch with momentary on. It has a high walled rubber boot with the distinctive Nitecore "N" on it. The switch is a little on the stiff side but I like the feel of it. The wife has arthritis and she thinks the switch is too stiff, but I like that it won't turn on easily in my pocket.

The cutaway tail makes it easy to activate the switch with gloves, yet still be able to do a stable tail stand. It also has cutouts for a lanyard, but it looks like it would rub. Personally, I'd stick with the clip.

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup of Threads: Head Side

Body


The flashlight is constructed of three pieces: the head, the battery tube and the tail. The threads on the tail side of the battery tube are anodized, allowing for lock-out if the tail cap is slightly unscrewed. The head has a raised octagonal shape, giving it a good anti-roll capability. Finally, an EDC light with a decent anti-roll!

Clip


The clip is the typical snap on type. The clip will
Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup of Threads: Tail Side
The good machining really stands out
detach if put under enough stress, but for daily average use it's probably fine. In bezel down mode, the clip rubs on the anti-roll ring. Definitely the preferred mode for this clip is bezel up, aka "ball cap mode."

Circuitry


The MT1A uses a constant current circuit, with no PWM. The odd thing is that I do get some noise on my camera phone when looking at the emitter on low. But it doesn't look like normal PWM, so maybe it's just a little noise. I'm very sensitive to it and I can't detect it with my eyes or the usual ways like shining on a spinning fan. So at this point I'm inclined to think it's just some noise on the circuit.

User Interface


The forward switch has a great feel, and I'm a huge fan of these so-called tactical switches, but without another switch, it makes for an awkward UI. But that's only with the bezel loosened. With the bezel tightened, it's a single mode turbo blaster. 

The MT1A has mode memory with the bezel loosened, so the awkward UI from using the forward switch isn't that big of a deal. It's a small price to pay for having the forward switch, though it takes a little getting used to. What I do is keep the second mode group on low. I tighten the bezel and it's on turbo, or I loosen it and it's on low.

User Interface Quirks


The higher modes always do a soft start, meaning when you turn the light on, it starts on the lowest setting and quickly ramps up. My Sunwayman lights like the V11R do this, too.

The MT1A also has "pre-flash" under certain scenarios. This is where you start the light on low and it briefly flashes at full output before going into the low mode. I can get it to do this by starting on turbo and then loosening the bezel which has low memorized. The first time I start in low after loosening the bezel, I get the pre-flash. After that, starting on low doesn't pre-flash, so it's not a big deal.

14500 Lithium-ion Battery


I tested a 14500 in my sample, and all the modes work! But, the memory doesn't work quite right. On mine, it only remembered a mode if I stayed on that mode at least 5 seconds. But other than adding a quirk with the memory, the light is fully functional with a 14500. This is impressive since many more expensive models do not retain all their modes with a Lithium-ion battery.

Beam 


The combination of the smooth reflector and the XP-G emitter give this light a nice, tight hot spot. This is a pocket thrower, just like its cousin the Jetbeam BA-10. It has just enough spill to make it useful for every day carry. It's a good looking beam, with very few rings or artifacts. This light has very good optics, including the anti-glare lens. 

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup of Threads: White Wall Beam Shot

Build Quality


The build quality on my sample is very good. It's really on par with most of my more expensive lights. It has above average circuitry, machining, optics and tail switch. The body isn't as thick as my BA-10, but it's still plenty solid, and the threads have plenty of turns on them. Some manufacturers tend to make the threads too shallow, so it's nice to see the above average machining.

Fit And Finish


The fit and finish on my sample is good overall. The knurling and anodizing are average, but everything else is otherwise excellent. The switch on most models stands out for being average to awful. But on the MT1A the feel and finish of the switch are superb. It gives the light the look and feel of a more expensive model.

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup of Anti Roll Ring
Closeup of anti-roll ring
As expected from a name brand light, there were no fit and finish issues like scratches or tool marks. The emitter on mine is perfectly centered. The crenelations on the bezel are precise. The machining on the tail is also precise. Mine does a stable tail stand.

Usability


I had a rocky start with the user interface, but once I got used to it, the light has been very usable. I really use it like a two mode light with just high and low. Most of the time I tend to carry smaller lights like AAA twisties, but I need something a step up from that, and the MT1A is perfect for that. Tonight I used mine to work on my son in law's Jeep.

The pre-flash is a little annoying, but it only happens the first time the light is turned on low after loosening the bezel, so I always flash it once to get rid of it. After that it doesn't happen as long as the bezel is loosened. 

Conclusions


All things considered, this is a good EDC flashlight and a good value. The user interface is a little quirky, but still functional. My MT1A has dethroned my trusty Jetbeam BA-10, which to me says a lot. In fact, the MT1A reminds me of a spruced up BA10 with a slightly better build quality and finish.

Beam Shots: Low/Med/High/Turbo


Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Beam Shot: Low
Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Beam Shot: Medium
Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Beam Shot: High





Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Beam Shot: Turbo




Gallery

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: In Box: Front

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: In Box: Back

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Removed From Package
Packaging and contents are all typical for a medium end light


Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: With Eneloop 2nd Gen.
Shown with 2nd generation Eneloop

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup Of Emitter
Closeup of the well centered Cree XP-G R5 LED emitter
Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Glamour Shot
The knurling is decent but I wish it was a little more agressive

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup Of Bezel

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup Of Switch Boot

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup Of Threads

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup Of Head And Tail Assemblies
Here you can see the reverse polarity protection in the head

From Left: Jetbeam BA10, Mr. Lite J2, Sunwayman V11R, Nitecore MT1A, L3 Illuminations L10, Eneloop AA
From Left: Jetbeam BA10, Mr. Lite J2, Sunwayman V11R, Nitecore MT1A, L3 Illuminations L10, Eneloop AA

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Closeup Of Head
The snap on clip is reversible

Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: Another Closeup Of Bezel
Closeup of the strike bezel
Nitecore MT1A AA Flashlight: On Scale
3 Ounces exactly with the 2nd gen. Eneloop in it

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Nitecore Intellicharger I4

I'm not going to do a full blown review because you really need to be an electronics engineer to dissect the capabilities of a charger like this one. But as someone who charges batteries every day, I do know a thing or two about what makes a great charger, and I'm going to focus on what I know.

My Nitecore Intellicharger I4 was purchased from Amazon.com.

Product Description


Chargers with spring loaded charging bays have been around for a while now. But they only charged
Lithium-ion batteries only ... until now. This charger has 4 separate slots, each with its own smart charger that will automatically detect the type of rechargeable battery, and determine the best rate to charge it at.

Nitecore Intellicharger I4 In BoxThis is a nice advancement, because now I can for example charge the wife's e-ciggy 18650 li-ion battery at the same time I'm charging a couple Eneloops. Also, this charger can be used in a vehicle with an optional 12 charging cable, which the product description on Amazon incorrectly states is included. Luckily, I already had one lying around.

Charging Bay


The charging bay has 4 spring loaded slots, that can accept pretty much any rechargeable cell that fits in a slot. I have used it personally to charge 10440, 14500, 16340, 18650 lithium ion cells and all manner of AAA and AA NiMH and Eneloop batteries.

Nitecore Intellicharger I4 With CordOne observation I have after about a week of use is that the spring-loaded contacts have to be pushed more or less dead-on or there will be lots of resistance, which doesn't give it a great feel. In my cheap Trustfire

charger, I can kind of just jam the cells in and the spring loaded tabs just move. The I4 is a little more precise, but I think it feels fine now that I am used to pushing the contacts a certain way.

Charging Indicators


The I4 basically gives a charge level indication from 1 to 4 or each channel of the charger, and each channel is completely independent. When a battery is inserted, the bottom light will start flashing, showing the lowest level of charge. Since each channel will continuously test the battery, the charge indicator can to go full really fast if a newly-inserted battery is charged or almost charged.

Nitecore Intellicharger I4 With Various Batteries Build Quality


The build quality is a couple steps up from the typical xFire chargers I've been using for the last few years. It's still not what I would call premium quality, but hey, it was only 24 bucks. I've seen other reviewers complain about the quality of the cord, but mine is acceptable. The cord is a little on the cheap side but I seen no reason for concern.

Conclusions


It feels a little cheap but so far it has held up well, and exceeded my expectations. I have a large household and for the most part we use only rechargeable batteries. And that's not even counting all the hobbyist things we do, so there's always a battery charging in our house.

So far, the I4 has fit in nicely into our routine. It also seems to charge my larger capacity 18650 cells a little faster. I like it, and as long as it holds up, it's my go-to charger.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Best AA Flashlights For 2013

Unlike AAA flashlights, which are mostly "twisties", the AA flashlight format is pretty much evenly distributed by switch type. The switch type for a flashlight generally determines its size and shape, and people have differing preferences. For this reason, I am going to break this list up into four categories: Forward clickies, reverse clickies, twisties and electronic switch controlled. For each category, I will give a little background on the pros and cons for each type of switch.

Top 5 Forward Clickies


A "forward" switch, or "forward clicky", is a type of switch that will turn the flashlight on momentarily, without fully engaging the switch. For this reason, it is also sometimes referred to as a "momentary on" or "tactical" switch. This type of switch is quieter, because there's no "click" sound when the switch is momentarily engaged. There's also less wear on the switch if it's used regularly for momentary on. It is referred to as "tactical" because this type of switch can be quickly pressed to use for signaling purposes.

The main downside to this type of switch is that it tends to be a little bulkier than other types of switches, and flashlights using them tend to be a little bulkier. Another downside is that flashlights which use this type of switch for mode switching tend to be less intuitive than light which use a so-called "reverse" switch.



#MakeModelProsCons
1SunwaymanV11R*- Superb build quality
- Infiinte brightness ring
- XM-L U2 Emitter
- Expensive
- Control ring design less efficient
- Needs separate extender

24SevensQuark Tactical AA- Good Design
- Efficient circuitry
- Good user interace
- Expensive
- Cannot tail stand
- Some units suffer "pre-flash"
3NitecoreMT1A- Superb build quality
- Switch has superb feel
- Reversible clip
- Cheap!

- Quirky user interface
- Clip is snap on type
- Clips scratches the unit


4Fenix LD12LD12- Good build quality
- Efficient circuitry
- Side mode switch
- Rugged
- Does not work properly with li-ion
- Reported PWM on some units

5JetbeamBA10- Rugged
- Good build quality
- Simple
- Switch has squishy feel
- Only 2 modes
- Truly awful clip

*The V11R requires a separate AA extender to be able to run AA and 14500 li-ion batteries. Though, they do make a dedicated AA model, the V10A, which is a slightly older model.

Top 5 Reverse Clickies


The "reverse clicky" switch is the exact opposite of a forward switch. The light does not turn on until the switch is fully engaged and released. This type of switch tends to be much more compact, and much more intuitive for switching modes than a forward switch. The main downside is that you lose the momentary on feature.



#MakeModelProsCons
1EagleTacD25A Clicky- Superb build quality
- Efficient circuitry
- Good mode spacing
- Huge following
- Expensive
- Complex user interface
2XenoE03- Good build quality
- Efficient circuitry
- Lots of emitter options
- Comes with backup switch
- Average quality switch
- No pocket clip
3FenixE11- Good build quality
- Simple user interface
- Only 2 modes
- Does not tail stand
4ThruniteArcher 1A- Good machining
- Latest emitters
- Moonlight mode
- Average build quality
- Average quality switch

5LumapowerLM31- Sleek form factor
- Good mode spacing
- Uses PWM
- Average build quality

Top 5 Twisties


A "twisty" flashlight has no switch per se. The "switch" is engaged by turning the head (bezel) until it comes in contact with the flashlight's body, completing the electrical connection. Because there's no actual switch, these types of lights tend to be very compact, often not much bigger than the AA cell they contain. They also tend to be more reliable, as there is one less point of failure.


#MakeModelProsCons
1EagleTacD25A Mini- Superb build quality
- Efficient circuitry
- Expensive
- Complex user interface

2FenixLD15- Superb build quality
- Efficient circuitry
- Expensive
- No li-ion support
3L3 IlluminationsL10- Available with Nichia 219!
- 3 or 4 mode models
- Optional moonlight mode
- Cheap!
- Average build quality
- Twist action a little tight
4ThruniteSaber 1A- Mode memory
- Efficient circuitry
- Well spaced modes
- Average build quality
- Some folks don't like memory
5NitecoreSENS-AA- Novel motion sensor
- Good build quality
- Cheap!
- Motion sensor just gimmick?


Top 5 Electronic Switches


The flashlight with an electronic switch is a fairly recent animal. Flashlights in the category tend to be smaller and more rugged, because there's no actual switch mechanism. They also tend to have a more complex user interface, though usually more powerful than old fashioned switches. Also, electronic switches do draw a small amount of power when the light is turned off. Some of the more recent designs draw less power from the batteries than the battery self-discharges on its own, but that drain is always there for these types of lights.


#MakeModelProsCons
1ZebralightSC52- Good build quality
- Very Compact
- Efficient circuitry
- Lots of modes
- Huge following
- Possible pocket activation?
- Complicated UI
- Customer service issues?
2SunwaymanC15A- Superb build quality
- Efficient circuitry
- Support for li-ion

- Expensive
- A little bulky
3NitecoreEA1- Very compact
- 2 switch design
- Glitchy user interface
- Average build quality
4JetbeamDDA10- Good build quality
- Digital display
- Good mode spacing
- Gimmicky?
- A little bulky