On paper the RRT-01 looks like a beast, a takes-all-challengers supreme EDC flashlight. 500 lumen output, elegant and simple control ring UI, great pocket clip, and rugged good looks all in a compact package and for about $100. But there are quirks, weird design choices, and build compromises that lead me to question JetBeam's thought process. Make no mistake--this is an AWESOME EDC flashlight, probably my current favorite in the all important 1xCR123a category, but it could have been an all-time classic with just a few tweaks. Its the difference between good Foo Fighters song and a good Nirvana song--one you can hum after hearing it, the other you can hum ten years after hearing it.
Here is the product page. There is (or was) a very limited edition Titanium version called the TCR-1. There are no good substantive written reviews yet, as this light is pretty new. Here is a pictorial review (worth the click, I promise). Here is a good audio review (oh yeah, mixin' it up). There is limited stock of RRT-01s right now and they are current not in stock at Blade HQ (a plug for real time, i.e. honest, inventory). Here is my RRT-01 (which I bought for my own collection, it was not a review sample, more on that in another post):
The light is compact. It has that perfect length to diameter ratio. It has nice knurling. I like the pocket clip design, however unoriginal it is, and I like the stainless steel bezel ring (a nice touch that prevents dings from drops that are more prone to happen when the bezel is aluminum). I like the positioning of the control ring. I like the feel of the ring's movement and its nice detent in the on position. The minimum output is nice as is the maximum output.
There are two drawbacks, both design related. First, the lanyard attachment is very cumbersome and makes tail standing somewhat challenging. Second, the reflector is a smooth, as opposed to orange peel, style reflector making the output ringier than one expects in a light of this caliber and price. They are drawbacks, but I have chosen to deduct the points in the relevant categories. They are not crippling drawbacks and overall this is a very nice light, one I could see being modded in the future to keep pace with technology, the body and design are so good.
Fit and Finish: 2
The threads are smooth, the pocket clip pre-attached and straight, and the LED is perfectly centered. The finish has been quite durable and I love the stainless steel bezel. It makes a huge difference. I have a large collection of lights (shocking, yes, I know) and many have two or three years of use on the them. Those that do invariably pick up dings and scratches. The area that is ALWAYS the most damaged is the bezel. If you drop the light or jam in unforgivingly into a pocket the bezel takes the hits. Those pretty massive steel rings on HDS lights aren't just for looks (or ridiculous mall ninjas). They do, in fact, make a difference in daily carry and I, for one, am thrilled to see more makers using them.
All of the little rings and different diameters and great knurling make this a light that sticks in your hand. Here is light up close:
I really like the way it feels in your hand, even when wet or cold, the light just likes being held. It was especially nice on trips in the moonlight when I was on vacation. Maine can get pretty cold at night, especially on the coast, even in summer. Fog would scarf the crowds of tall pines and when the sun went down it would get downright creepy dark, but the RRT-01 was an excellent companion and not once did I feel like I was going to drop it.
I love this pocket clip. I loved it when Don McLeish designed it for his McClicky body. It worked well then and it works well here. It is a bit flimsy though, by comparsion, but nothing actually all that bad. It also is not pokey or bulky in the pocket. It just hangs in there, nice and quite, until you need it.
Okay, here we go--there is no light on the market, custom or otherwise, that surpasses the utility of the RRT-01's output--nothing. It is not the brightest light, but is certainly the brightest (or tied for the brightest) in the single cell CR123a class of lights (it uses an IMR rechargeable to hit that 500 lumen high). It also has the lowest low of any light I have ever seen at .005 lumens. Around a half lumen is the minimum useful light, and for crawling to the john without waking up the wife, nothing is better. The ability to blind the sun and still stealthily glance at a map or crawl to the bathroom make this light incredibly useful. This is how you do infinite variable brightness.
With the infinite variable brightness runtime is really hard to calculate. It lasts FOR EV AR at .005 lumens, like 100 hours. Curious, though how the Aeon can easily go for 40 hours at 30 lumens...something about that light is just incredible. On high, the 500 lumen high, the runtime is pretty decent at 20 minutes, though I think that that point it would be more of a literal torch than a flashlight. At 220 lumens, a respectable high for many lights, the runtime is 90 minutes. Excellent all around, especially if the Aeon wasn't out there to act as the benchmark.
Beam Type: 2
The traditional flood EDC beam, nothing unusual here. It works quite well and even has a bit of throw in it, more so than you would expect for a light this size.
Beam Quality: 1
We have become so spoiled. Only a few years ago, this sort of output would have been the among the best available. But time marches on and technology moves with it. The reflector's shape is fine, but the lack of orange peel texturing leads to a very ringy output. It is not as bad as a Mag light, for example, but it is pretty bad for a $100. Rings don't bother me so long as they are not atrocious, sort of like knife centering, but if they do bother you, skip this light until the orange peel version arrives (JetBeam has a way of switching reflectors in the middle of production, so just wait and one without rings will probably appear).
I am still not sure which version of the control ring I like better--this one or the one on the Sunwayman M11R Mr. Elfin. Both are excellent and light years ahead of all but the best clickies. It seems clear to me that this is the way the industry is going.
Hands Free: 1
Here is the villain of this piece:
Overall Score: 18 out of 20
The RRT-01 is a very good flashlight. It is easily among the best production lights out there. The competition is still pretty clear--the Mr. Elfin is obvious, but the tried and true Incendio still plugs along, albeit with an inferior UI. To find a truly superior light you are going to have to drop a lot more dough. This is probably the nicest light you could reasonably justify, unless you live on a yacht. The problem is, it is just slightly not perfect and for reasons that are really kind of inexplicable. Why go with the smooth reflector? Why have a protruding lanyard lug? Dumb mistakes on the part of JetBeam cannot, however, hold this light back. It is really, really great.