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The flashlight reinvented

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Two new LED flashlights from Chinese company Klarus prove that the torch is no longer merely a tube with batteries, writes JOEL DORFAN.

Klarus Lighting Technology based in Shenzhen, China, is one of the newer flashlight innovators and manufactures to take advantage of what LED’s have to offer to the handheld flashlight industry.

The flashlight is no longer just a tube with some batteries, a lamp and a switch. LEDs combined with electronic circuitry have allowed the flashlight to become a really useful tool.

Long runtime and low output, shorter runtime and high output, strobe modes and many more functions are now possible out of a single product.

Boost circuitry now allows the use of a single battery to power lights with enormous output. This means no longer having to leave the light at home or in the car.

Klarus have used the latest generation of Cree LEDs in two new lights: the XP-G2 and XM-L(U2). The RS1A will give you up to 210 lumens (100m beam distance) and the RS11 up to 620 lumens (160m beam distance). The AA battery form factor of the RS1A makes it easy to carry in jean’s pockets, with the larger 2xCR123 form factor RS11 allowing for easy jacket pocket carry.

Klarus have included features in these two lights that would appeal to the everyday user. For one thing, it has a body mounted switch rather than a tail cap switch. By doing this, they have left the real estate at the rear of the light available for the charger connector.

As versatile as these lights have become, this is not really a one-size-fits-all. You would still need to decide what the primary purpose of the light will be, choose the appropriate product whose primary function suits your need and then have the other functions as a bonus.

Law enforcement officers may require a light that always comes on as bright as possible the first time it is turned on without fiddling through modes and a tail cap switch (Klarus XT series).

The home user may want a light that comes on in a lower mode but then be able to ramp up the brightness as required.

Whereas maximum output is important, LEDs with electronic switching are now able to give you really low output as well. This is useful in the middle of the night when you just want a little light without waking up the family or when you need really long runtime in the event of a power outage. The RS1A will give you up to 68 hours and the RS11 up to 215 hours on a single fresh battery.

These two RS series lights from Klarus have an innovative charging setup. Both lights come with a charging cable that has USB plug the one end and magnetic plug the other end. The magnetic plug automatically locates snapping into place at the base of the light. Many products these days will charge using a standard USB port, so why should flashlights be any different?

To charge the battery you plug the cable into any USB power source. This could be a USB port on your computer, cell phone charger or the USB receptacle in your car.

Lwet’s see how it does on the gadget Five Question User Test:

1. Is it ready to use?

Neither light comes with a battery. To make use of the charge function you will require a rechargeable AA battery for the RS1A or a protected 18650 LiIon cell for the RS11.

Both lights will run on primary cells, which for the RS1A are standard alkaline AA batteries and for the RS11 2xCR123s. This is a useful feature should you run out of charge and not be able to recharge the cells.

Both lights come with detachable pocket clips. This is a great idea if you don’t like pocket clips. However,I found them both to be a little flimsy and failed to grip the pocket positively. They are also located quite far from the tail cap, not allowing for deep pocket carry. They do both however come with lanyards and a decent cordura pouch that can be worn on the belt or just used for protection for bag carry.

2. Is it easy to use?

The lights have 4 modes. High, medium, low and strobe. The user interface to change modes can take some getting used to.

The RS1A has a single button on the body. A momentary press and release will cause the light to come on and then go off. Hold the button down for just over half a second and the light will stay on.

Once on, if you then hold down the button the light will move to the next mode. You then need to release the button and then hold it down again to move to the third mode. Double click the switch at any time to access the strobe mode.

The RS11 has two buttons on the body: A larger raised front button that will act exactly the same as the button on the RS1A to access the 3 brightness modes: and a second more recessed button to access the strobe mode.

Both lights have last-used memory feature. This means that whatever level you had the light set on (for longer than 3 seconds) when you switched the light off, will be the level that the light will come on in next time you turn it on.

The manual that comes with both lights is adequate but changes need to be made to explain the operation of the lights more accurately.

3. Does it deliver on its promise?

With the exception of the slightly fiddly user interface mentioned above, both lights are excellent. Machining and anodizing are perfect. They will both handle some fairly harsh use and continue to function flawlessly. Both lights are rated IPX8 waterproof to 2m.

Beam pattern and throw are outstanding for any light let alone for lights of this size. Both lights tail stand perfectly, allowing the light to be bounced off the ceiling for more flood-like application. The stainless steel bezels on both lights are easily removed allowing for a slightly more slim lined and less aggressive look.

4. Is it innovative?

There are many up and coming flashlight manufacturers, but Klarus are the first to have the magnetic charging feature. No external DC sockets means nowhere for dust or water to get in. USB chargers have become so common that providing you have the proprietary charging cable, you should always be able to find somewhere to plug it in.

Many rechargeable products use a proprietary battery. These two lights will even run on standard primary cells easily available from your nearest battery store.

In all of their higher end lights, Klarus have gone to a lot of trouble to include an easily accessible strobe mode but, at the same time, have found ways to prevent accidental activation.

5. Is it value for money?

At a suggested retail of $74.95 for the RS1A and $116.95 for the RS11, these lights are not cheap. However if you look at all of the features on offer, you are getting a lot of light for you money, especially if you factor in the fact that they are both rechargeable.

* Klarus Lighting Technology have appointed Klarus Lights USA as their distributor in the USA. They carry stock and provide excellent levels of service both pre and post sales. Their contact details can be found at http://www.klaruslightusa.com. To find a dealer in your country contact Klarus Lighting Technology at http://www.klaruslight.com/

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Featured

Hit the road with high-tech night light for bikes

Cyclists need effective lighting by night and day, writes JOEL DORFAN, in his test ride of the latest in high-tech from Fenix

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Since 2004, Fenix Light has been manufacturing quality lights ranging from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and bike lights.

There are many folks who ride their bicycles at night for various reasons. Whether on-road or off-road, there is always the need to see the path ahead of you. During the day, it’s wise to have a really bright strobe light so others around you can see you coming. 

Enter the BC21R V2.0.

The original 880 lumen BC21R was released some years ago. Besides the main light, it also had two red lights at the side. However, there were several complaints about this older version. The main ones were:

  • Plastic construction – does not dissipate heat causing the light output to step down;
  • Rubber mount – stretches and perishes over time;
  • No helmet mount.

With the launch of the new light, now called the BC21R V2.0, the folks at Fenix have kept all of the good features and added a bunch more, as well as remedying all of the complaints from the original. In a nutshell, it offers:

  • 1000 lumen output
  • Removable 18650 LiIion battery
  • Built in USB Type-C charging port
  • Dual Distance Beam System
  • Battery level indication and low-voltage warning
  • All-metal heat fin; IP66 rated protection
  • Quick-release bike mount compatible with Fenix bicycle light helmet mount

The increase from 880 to 1000 lumens means that there is now better coverage of the road ahead. The dual distance beam system means that the areas both near and far are illuminated. They do this by graduating the top half of the front lens that refracts some of the light down towards the front wheel, allowing the rest of the light to illuminate the roadway.

When you do not need all 1000 lumens, sequential taps of the on/off switch will cycle through the different output settings of low, medium, high and turbo. In any of these modes, a double tap of the switch will put the light into strobe (alternating high and low output) mode. On a fully charged battery, runtime on Turbo is published as being 2 hours, and on low at 50 hours. 

Many lights today are sealed units. Once the battery stops taking a charge, the light would have to be discarded. The removable battery means that, once it reaches end of life ,it’s a simple matter of inserting a new 18650 battery. Also, should you be on a really long ride and find that the battery starts going flat, you could stop along the way and swap out the battery for either another fully charged one or two CR123 batteries. 

At any time, you can tap the on/off button, which will light up an indicator to tell you the current state of charge of the battery. This same indicator will flash red when it’s time to recharge the battery.

To prevent damage to the LED light source, temperatures are monitored and, if the light gets too hot, the output is reduced. This is not ideal when you are out on a ride on a hot evening. By changing the head from plastic to metal with cooling fins, however, the light will now remain cooler, allowing for full output for longer periods.

Instead of a stretchy plastic mount like on the older model, Fenix has now gone with a proper clamp type mount. This is secured to the handle bars using a thumb screw; and then there is a quick release that allows the light to be attached or removed from the clamp with ease. Two different-sized rubber inserts for the clamp ensure a good fit on different diameter handle bars.

A bonus of this type of quick release mechanism is that the light is now compatible with the Fenix helmet mount should one wish to mount it there. Also, should you wish to use the BC21R V2.0 as a handheld flashlight or to stop it being stolen, no tools are required to remove it from either the bike or helmet mount.

So how does the BC21R V2.0 perform in real life?

It puts out a very concentrated spot-like type beam optimised for distance. The lens setup ensures that most of the light is below the horizon where it needs to be, which also makes sure that it does not blind oncoming motorists. 

The light will start getting warm to the touch when stationary or when hand held. However, when cycling, the cool air passing over the finned head does keep the light cooler.

Being a single 18650 battery light, a ride of longer than about 90 minutes will see the light starting to reduce output. It’s the tradeoff of size vs run time. Therefore make sure that, if you’re going to need the full 1000 lumen output for an extended period, to carry a spare battery with you.

The older model cost $75, and the good news is that Fenix appears to have maintained this price even with all of the extra features of the V2.0 model. This places the BC21R V2.0 in the mid- to high-range of  single battery lights. Given the features and multi-use applications it’s pretty good value for money.

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.

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While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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