Author Topic: Lighten7 Max X3A Review  (Read 1803 times)

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Offline gearhounds

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Lighten7 Max X3A Review
« on: September 06, 2013, 08:52:32 PM »


A relative newcomer to the flashlight manufacturing world, Lighten7 has evolved rapidly, and is keeping pace with the markets interests. While some of the first generation lights did have some slight issues with ergonomics and regulation inconsistency, the newest offerings are well made, well thought out products. The Hong Kong and Australia based company is incorporating the newest available emitters from Cree, and is keeping pace with other companies. One of Lighten7's newest lights to hit the street is the Max X3A. The form factor of this light is very compact, but promises a large punch. After reviewing its sibling, the Elite S1A, I was pleased to have the opportunity to check out the Max. Check out the company link:

http://lighten7.com/index.html

The light arrived in a standard retail box. The kit package will be, as I understand it, offered in a plastic tool box style case.


As I was sent an early sample light, the kit was short a few of the normally included items. I received the light, a lanyard, and factory manual. The complete kit will additionally include a protected 26650 lithium ion battery, battery charger, spare O-rings, and a conversion tube which will allow the use of a 18650 battery.


The Max X3A has a profile that incorporates a short barreled battery compartment and a wide turbo head. It is very beefy and solid in the hand. It is shown here next to a Lifeproof cased iPhone 4S.


Specs for the Max are as follows:

Length- 5 3/8"--136mm
width at bezel- 2 1/2"--63.5mm
width of body tube- 1 1/4"--32.5mm
weight- 266 grams/ 9.7oz (empty)--366 grams/ 12.9 oz. (with 26650 battery)
suggested retail- $149 for entire kit- includes light, 26650 battery, single bay charger, 18650 conversion tube, and lanyard.

The Max does not feel overly large in the hand.


Unlike the Elite S1A, which incorporates a dual switch interface, the Max has a single side mounted switch for activation. 

Here is the Max side by side with the Eagletac M2XC4


The voltage range for the Max is 2.5V-4.5V, allowing for use with a single li-ion battery only. As previously mentioned, the preferred power source is the large 26650, and the ability to use an 18650 in a pinch.


The Max can be broken down by the user into 2 main components; the body tube, and the head assembly.


Starting at the business end of the light, we find a smooth, heavy stainless steel ring, free of crenellations. Note the universal warning of a potentially hot surface.


Under the clear glass lens is a smooth triple aperture reflector. Both the lens and reflector on this sample are free of and distortions, flaws, or manufacturing debris.


Providing the lumens are 3 Cree XM-L2 emitters.


These are the latest generation of the XM-L series, and are a bit brighter than the previous iteration. Note the change to a continuous solid wafer as opposed to the older banded design.


Very heavy cooling fins create a great deal of surface area to dissipate excess heat.


The Max X3A incorporates what Lighten7 refers to as an "all in one" circuit room, which is just another way of saying that the light enjoys a 1 piece design internally. It is free of a threaded pill, and all electronics are mounted directly to a milled surface that transfers heat directly to the full bulk of the head of the light. The following link shows a view of the interior.

http://lighten7.com/products/elite_s1a/s1a.html

The positive end of the battery makes contact at the traditional end of the light. Reverse polarity protection works as advertised.


Threading is clean and fully anodized. Loosening the body tube slightly provides lockout against accidental activation.


Knurling on the body tube is sufficient for a good grip, and lettering is clean and well centered.


Battery contact at the negative is accomplished by a tension retained spring.


Although the change in knurling gives the impression of a tail cap, the body is all one piece. There are 3 milled slots for lanyard attachment, and tail standing is steady. The heavy head will require that this only done on a flat, level surface.


The user interface for the Max X3A is a simple low-medium-high affair, with a hidden strobe level. When activated via the side mounted switch, the Max starts off on low. a slow timed click raises output to medium, and another goes to high. There is no memory function, and turning the light off is accomplished by holding the switch down for @2 seconds. Turning the light off resets the next output to the default low upon activation. The strobe is activated by a quick double click, even from the off position. Care must be given between modes, as changing them too rapidly will result in activation of the strobe. I have suggested that the timing for entering strobe mode be sped up to counter this. Output, as per the manufacturer is as follows, and appears to be in lumens at the emitter, not out the front:

low- 150 lumens/ 17 hours
medium- 550 lumens/ 3.0 hours
high- 1500 lumens/ .9 hours
strobe- 1500 lumens/ 1.5 hours

Time to install a freshly 26650 li-ion battery, and check current draw values of the Max's driver.

low- .22A
mid- 1.2A
high- 3.8A

Regulation for the Max is constant current, with no indication of PWM. I was unable to detect any audible whine from the internals of the light. Reverse polarity protection functions as advertised when the battery is installed backwards.

Upon turning on the Max X3A, low is certainly bright enough for any close in to medium distance task, and does not irritate the eye, even when shined at a white surface. Mid level offers a jump in output that allows the user to illuminate objects to a more than reasonable range. High is very bright, and the output from the 3 Cree XM-L2 emitters is impressive to say the least. I can only imagine how bright this light could be if the emitters were pushed a bit harder. 3.8A divided between the 3 emitters is hardly taxing them at all, and will guarantee long life. A ceiling bounce test really exhibits the brightness of the Max; it completely blows the Eagletac M2XC4 out of the water, and makes its sibling the S1A seem dim by comparison.

Tint from the 3 XM-L2 emitters is cool white, as advertised, but only barely. It is a very appealing white somewhere just north of a pure white. The beam profile makes for excellent short to medium range use; the three reflector cups are just not large enough to have the Max be a true thrower, save by brute force. As is the case with every 3 emitter head light I have seen, the overlapping output from each emitter gives the edge of the light field a scalloped look. For all but the most fanatical white wall hunter, the edge artifacting is barely noticed. Lighten7 did a good job in designing the reflector set up, as the spot is well focused and defined.

BEAMSHOTS
All beamshots are labeled

Indoor
to hearth- 15'

low


mid


high


to hearth- 25'

low


mid


high


across house- 35'

low


mid


high


Outdoors
Garage white wall

at 25'

low


mid


high


at 50'

low


mid


high


at 100'

low


mid


high


To tree- 20'

low


mid


high


to front of house-35'

low


mid


high


to front of house- 50'

low


mid


high


to shed- closest corner @50'

low


mid


high


CONCLUSION

The Max X3A is overall a beefy, well-made product. It has a huge amount of its mass located in the head, but does not feel unbalanced to me. My personal preference is a light that starts off on high, but that does not appeal to everyone. I would not classify the Max as a tactical light anyway, so starting on low is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brightness levels seem well spaced, and are suited to most tasks. I see no real need for a lower low, as I always have an EDC on hand for true low light needs. As stated earlier, I would like to see a brighter high, even at the cost of shorter runtime- the Max certainly has the construction and mass to sink away excess heat. What would really allow the Max to hit its stride would be another body tube to allow the use of three 18650 li-ion batteries in parallel. 4000mAh is nice with a single 26650, but more than doubling battery capacity with today’s quality rechargeable would allow much higher output, without sacrificing runtime.

Overall, the Max X3A is an impressive little package that fits easily in the hand or back-pack. The price point for the entire kit is not unreasonable, especially since not everyone has 26650 li-ions lying around. Given that comparable products run @$50 more before batteries are factored in, the Max X3A is a solid deal.