Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Arc AAA-P Review

It is entirely unnecessary to both read and actually write this review; fun but unnecessary. If you know enough about lights to read reviews of them on the Internet, then you already know: this is an all time great flashlight. If there were a flashlight Hall of Fame (populated by Surefire, HDS, McGizmo, and Arc for sure), this would be an inner circle Hall of Famer. This is a light made by one of the greatest production flashlight companies of all time, at their absolute peak of output and design prowess. The Arc AAA and the AAA-P stand as a testament to just how good Arc was and how, in light of the disastrous Arc 6, far they have fallen.

Here is the product page for the Arc AAA-P. Here is one of Doug's old, classic reviews from the original flashlightreviews.com (how cool it is to link to his site, it was what started me down this road). The product page is the only retailer I could find, so the street price and MSRP are the same, a bargain $39.95

Here is my Arc AAA-P on its keychain (which has changed a great deal since then):

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Design: 2

In World War II Willys and Ford Motor Company made the classic Army Jeep. It was a grayish green, build to be absolutely failsafe and easy to repair, and designed to be easy to run. All three of those things apply the Arc AAA-P. Sapphire lens? Pffft, who needs one? On/off switch? For wussies. This is about light and nothing else. The materials are nice, but it is there simplicity that, like the Jeep, makes this a classic. The light is just the right size for keychain use and just the right size for pocket use, if you choose to put it in that role. So perfect is the size and design, that the Arc AAA is regularly modded to incorporate higher powered LEDs. One such mod, the Miller Mod, cranks out 130 lumens. Here is a two-stage Miller Mod head for the Arc AAA.

Fit and Finish: 2

When compared to the Arc6, the Arc AAA-P blows it out the water in terms of fit and finish. The gray-green HAIII is incredibly nice--even coloration and tough as nails. The head was well made and mated nicely with the body tube. The foam pad, which functions as a spring (and does so well) is also nicely installed. Over time, like years and years, the keychain attachment wears down and sometimes actually breaks, but at that point you have gotten probably close to a decade of use out of the light. It is a known issue, but so unlikely that I am not going to dock the light for it. In a way it is a complement--few aluminum lights last or are used for this long, so while it would happen to them as well, we'll never see it because people pitch those lights long before they let go of their Arc AAA-P.

Grip: 2

There is some ratio of length to diameter that I can't pin down that makes certain lights great in the hand, but whatever it is, the Arc AAA-p hit it dead on. This makes it a great light to use, both on and off the keychain. Additionally the knurling, which has the peaks shaved off of it, and the HAIII coating give you plenty of grip.

Carry: 2

See above: works well on and off the keychain. Pitch the stupid pocket clip though. It is junk.

Output: 1

Okay, here is where, finally, after a decade or so, the Arc AAA-P shows it age. Output is limited to 12 or 15 lumens, without modding. It is plenty of light to do most quick tasks, taking the garbage out or looking for a dropped item in a dark restaurant, but it is not enough to go for a walk or check around the house for critters and the like. A lot of single cell AAA light smoke the Arc AAA-P in this regard, like the previously reviewed Preon.

Runtime: 1

Runtime is good, like 5 hours, but no longer competitive with better lights. For example, my beloved Muyshondt Aeon pumps out about the same lumens for 40 hours AND offers you a high of 115 lumens. Again, as a keychain light, that 5 hours will last a long time, making this a perfectly workable light, but there are so many options out there that are better in this regard.

Beam Type: 2

For a light without a reflector, really, or a lens of any sort, this produced a nice diffuse beam, great for close up work. It has almost no throw whatsoever, but that is not the purpose of this light (again, though, a comparison to the Aeon makes the Arc AAA-P look bad).

Beam Quality: 2

Oooo! Very nice. Not a ring or artifact anywhere, just pure light. It is a little blue, but that is fine, nothing too distracting.

UI: 2

How do you rate the UI in a light that has only one mode? Um, it works very, very well, I can say that. Twist on, twist off and it never stuttered, flickered, or failed. Great activation. No modes, but sometimes simplest is best.

Hands Free: 0

The light can't tailstand and has no anti-roll. It is useful in between the teeth, but the HAIII is really hard.

Overall Score: 16 out of 20

A classic light that even today, with much more powerful and sophisticated options out there, still does very well. It can take YEARS of abuse and work without fail. And like those WWII Jeeps, many are still around today. That tells you something. In this hare-paced world of technology upgrades, maybe the tortoise-like Arc AAA-P is on to something: work well for a long time and you will never be obsolete.

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