Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern

My love of flashlights is well documented. But there are some tasks such as camping and emergency power outages where a flashlight is a poor tool to light up a room or tent. I've always been a big fan of diffusers to turn flashlights into lanterns, but sometimes it's better to just have an actual lantern. I'm also into all manner of USB gadgets, so when a company with a good reputation like Hisgadget graciously offers to send me a rechargeable USB lantern like the OxyLED Q6 for review, I'm all over it.

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product Link
 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product Link

Product Description


The Q6 is a multi-mode, high capacity, rechargeable LED based lantern which is capable of standing flat on a table or hanging from one of the lanyard attachments. It's shaped like a tube, and like many lanterns with this form factor, half of the tube is covered by a reflector.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • 4 brightness settings (dim, normal, bright, and supernova) + a blinking flash mode
  • High-power natural spectrum led provide 200 lumens of illumination, CRI(color rendering index)>70
  • Built-in long life rechargeable battery with Mini USB cable
  • Durable, drop resistant construction; Long Life, Energy saving, Rated for 36,000 hours of use
  • Package includes: 1 x LED Portable Lamp; 1 x Mini USB Cable; 2 X Lanyards; 1 x User Manual
 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - With Diffused Flashlights
Flashlights can fill in for a lantern, but sometimes you want a lantern

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product View 1

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product View 2
Half the tube is covered by the aluminum reflector

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product View 3

One end of the tube has the mini USB connector and a little button to control the lantern modes.

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product View 4 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Product View 5


Initial Impressions


My review sample came packaged well inside a tube. Unboxing it, the lantern looked a little on the cheap side. But it feels sturdy in my hands. On one side of the tube is the aluminum reflector. And the two lanyard points are on the same side, which gives the lantern an interesting but useful quirk: Setting it down on a flat surface always makes it roll so that the light side is facing up--neat.

A plastic cover came protecting the plastic part of the tube from being scratched. It seemed a little silly until I noticed that the plastic is actually good quality, which for a lantern means that lots of diffused light.

I was expecting to see a single LED design but multiple LEDs can clearly be seen, though I can't tell if it's a big strip or just a bunch of separate emitters. Either way, the output seems outstanding on high.

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Initial Impressions 1

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Initial Impressions 2
It's hard to get all this protective plastic wrap off, but I'm impressed they went out of their way to protect the unit!



Build Quality


The unit does look a little cheap, but anyone assuming they cut a lot of corners would be wrong. This is a well built product. I wish I could look inside it without damaging the unit, but I can make some educated guesses about how it's constructed, and I like it. I would definitely come out with a version that has aluminum end caps, but the plastic caps seem sufficient--I've even dropped it a couple times. It should be noted that the missus thinks it would be too heavy with more aluminum, but I think a version like that would be more durable and better to throw into a big box of camping gear.

The mini USB cable and lanyards look a little dicey, but I don't think anyone would be buying this product and expecting a spectacular free cable with it. I have bags of unused lanyards and cables, which these will join. So in the photos, you will see the mini USB cable that came with my Canon DSLR.

Fit and Finish


I'm pretty well impressed with the fit and finish on my review sample. For seller provided review samples, I always assume I'm seeing the best unit of the lot, so I try to be harder on a product when I'm looking for flaws. But a quick look at the reviews on Amazon show that this is a well reviewed product, so I don't seem to be the only one getting a perfect lantern. I can count the number of perfect samples that I've reviewed on one hand and this is one of them.

I've looked and looked and I'm having a hard time finding faults with my sample. Part of it is that the product is very well packaged. The light-bearing part of the tube is covered in protective plastic wrap. In fact, my only fit and finish gripe with this unit is that there's a little piece of wrap sticking out of the end cap and I keep picking at it.


Charging


Charging the unit is simple, and can use any 5V USB port output with any USB mini cable, and one is included, though I've been using the data cable I already use for my Canon camera. A micro USB cable would have been more appropriate, but all my electronics bags have a mini cable so it's not an issue since lots of gadgets still use a mini port.

When the unit is plugged in to charge, a red light inside the unit blinks every second until the unit is fully charged, at which point the red light stops blinking and goes solid.

I did some basic testing and it takes just under 4 hours to charge the unit. And a quick crunching of the numbers gives me a capacity of roughly 2,400 mAh, which is fairly impressive since most companies use the cheapest battery possible. My guess is that this has a single 18650 lithium-ion cell and the most likely candidates in that range would be a Sony or Sanyo, but that's just a guess. This lantern is very light, so whatever cell has, it's high quality.

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Charging Test
Charging the lantern from a battery pack.  710 milliamps is about as much current as it will draw while charging--slightly less than the average phone


User Interface


There's a tiny little button next to the mini USB charging port. Clicking on this button cycles the light through it's 5 modes. There's also a red indicator LED that blinks slowly when it's charging, blinks fast when it's about to go dead, and shows a steady red when the lantern is at full charge.

Modes


The lantern has 4 decently spaced brightness modes plus a blinking SOS type mode. I'm not a big fan of these extra "disco" modes, but having the extra brightness modes makes up for the hassle of clicking through a mode I'll never use. But all the same, I'd prefer these less useful modes be hidden, or removed completely. It's a hassle clicking through them.

Overall the modes are well thought out. Lanterns like this with multiple modes are drastically more useful than single mode lanterns that give you max brightness for 45 minutes and that's it. Having more brightness modes lets you the user decide between output and run time. Changing a tire on the side of the road or walking miles in the dark, you'd probably want longer run time. Where making s'mores by the camp fire, you'd probably want more output.

Tint


The tint on my sample is cool white, leaning a little bit towards being blue-ish. For flashlights, these days I prefer warmer tints, but for lanterns, the cool tints are probably better since warmer tints usually equal less output, and for a lantern you want all the output you can get, especially if it's in an emergency kit. But of course, I wouldn't turn away a warmer version.

Efficient Driver Circuit


I could find no trace of PWM on this unit using my trusty cell phone camera, which is good at detecting it. The main benefit of an efficient circuit is longer run time. The good quality driver and good quality battery give this unit its impressive run time numbers and gives me confidence that this is a well built product.


Run Times


All run times performed with the unit fully charged.



ModeRun Time
High3:45
Medium 25:10
Medium 1-
Low-

Notes:

  • Unit does not get very warm on high like I expected it would. This means that the LEDs are under-driven. In this case, it's a good thing because every bit of heat is power that's not being converted to light.


Lanyard Attachment


The lantern has two lanyard attachment points: one at each end. Here is one of the few areas of disappointment. Most legit lanterns (and even flashlights that can double as lanterns) have a secure attachment point, and these seem a little flimsy. Also, pretty much only a flimsy lanyard will fit through the tiny attachment holes.

A huge improvement would be to put a solid hook or ring coming out the top of one of the ends--the one without the USB port and button. That would allow it to hang like a lantern should, and would still allow it to stand flat on a table.

Usability


This model lantern does much better sitting on a flat surface and in that role, I think it has very good usability. I've been testing it around the house and I'm already a fan. But because half the tube is the reflector and doesn't put out 360 degrees of light, it takes some experimentation to find the best way to light up each room. For example, in some cases it's better to point the light at the wall so that it's not sitting on a table blinding you, but yet the wall "bounce" gives plenty of light. I've also laid it down flat, which it rolls to correct itself to point straight up to the ceiling, and again, makes the most of the bounce.

This wouldn't be my first choice as a hanging lantern because (and I'm guessing) that some scenarios would have it turning its cone of light if it twists for example due to wind coming through a tent. Although my big tent has webbing on the ceiling and it might tuck into that.

Either way, given its output and run times, I'm more than willing to work around its quirks, especially in an emergency. I'm not a lightweight backpacker, but it seems like many would find its weight acceptable given its capabilities.

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - In Hand 1

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - In Hand 2

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - In Hand 3


Conclusions


This lantern reminds me of those fluorescent lanterns everyone used to carry in the 80s. Only this one is a fraction of the weight and with drastically longer run times. Good build quality, good output with an efficient driver circuit and superb run times.

If this model had aluminum ends instead of plastic and a better hook/handle/whatever for hanging, this would be the ultimate lantern and all would kneel before its greatness. But I'm impressed with it just like it is.

The efficient circuit with a good battery in it also qualifies it for my emergency kits/bags. I'm still deciding whether this will replace my EagleTac with diffuser as the lantern in my 72 hour emergency bag since my bag already has a USB solar charger and power pack (and possible tablet.)

Gallery


 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Unboxing 1

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Unboxing 2 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Unboxing 3


 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Unboxing 4

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - On Scale
At 4.1 ounces, I have pocket knives heavier than this lantern!

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Next To Ruler

 OxyLED Q6 Rechargeable USB Lantern - Caliper Measurement






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