Thursday, September 13, 2012

Four Sevens Maelstrom MM-X Review

The nightstand test is really helpful in evaluating lights, but generally bigger, more tactical lights don't do well here.  Even the G2X Pro, which starts on low, still puts out too much light.  With these bigger lights and higher lumens outputs, even the lows at 1% are still pretty bright.  But the MM-X did exceptionally well in the nightstand test.  It did well as a work light.  It did well in checking on stuff around the house.  It did well lighting up a scene down the street from me.  Frankly, the MM-X did well everywhere and in every way.  This is a really powerful, really refined light that has no major flaws and very few minor ones.

I received my MM-X from Trevor at Four Sevens.  Before the rebranding the light was known as the X-7 and may still be listed as such in various places.  There is a cheaper version of this light that looks identical, the MM-S.  The difference comes in the emitter.  The MM-X runs the XML emitter while its lesser twin runs the older XPG emitter.  The difference between the two emitters in single cell lights is pretty minimal, but in lights of this class, the difference is large.  The MM-X hits 480 lumens on high while the MM-S hits "only" 380.  It will be part of an upcoming 2-cell shootout along with the G2X Pro and the M7R (which technically only has one cell...).  Here is MM-X product page.  Here is a review of the MM-X and not just any review, but a Selfbuilt review.  You can purchase the MM-X through Blade HQ and the proceeds benefit the site's giveaways:

Blade HQ

Finally, here is the review sample:

IMG_0020

Design: 2

Built from the ground up by Four Sevens as a more tactical light than the Quark line offered.  I can't speak to its tactical nature, but I can speak to how it worked as a rugged larger sized EDC light.  Its funny going from the standard single cell, no throw EDC lights that I prefer to these throwers.  It is truly amazing the kind of performance you can get in these lights and of these lights, the MM-X is quite good.  I like the retention ring at the rear and the stainless steel bezel.  I like the size of the light, even if the head is quite bulky.  I really liked the simple UI, though one small touch would make it amazing.  Overall, this is a very solid two-cell like and much cheaper, on a per lumens basis than its Surefire competitors.  And make no mistake, this like it aimed squarely at Surefire, Fenix, and the other more established brands.  It is a performance-based wake up call to all those that thought 200 lumens were plenty in this product class.

Lumens:weight is (480/6.32 ounces) 75.95, while lumens:runtime is (480/60 minutes) is 8.  Both are excellent, giving you a lot of light for the weight and a lot of lumens for a while.

Fit and Finish: 2

The threads are well-cut and the heat sinks are even and beefy.  The light itself has a surprisingly solid and hefty feel, especially when you compare it to the almost paper thin walls of other Four Sevens lights like those in the Mini series lights.  I guess this light's more tactical design necessitates the difference.  Only one small drawback and I am not even sure if it is that.  When the light is all put together there is a very slight amount of side to side play in the body from head to tailcap.  If you take it in both hands and try to bend it, especially when the light is on low, there will be a minute amount of flex.  When you tighten the light to a higher setting this goes away.  It is not a big deal by any means but is something I have never seen before and therefore is noteworthy.   

Grip: 2

This is the first light I have had with the grip ring on it and I have to admit, this thing rocks.  I have always thought they looked interesting, like here on the Arc Mania Maxlite (I am unsure of which model this is, but you get the idea):


The MM-X's grip ring is a separate piece of aluminum and screws on to the body itself, meaning, of course, you can remove it if you don't like it.  Here is the MM-X's grip ring:

IMG_0018

Nothing like pinpoint control over almost 500 lumens of light with a throw that seems to be about a mile long.  GREAT grip and control. 

Carry: 1

Even for two cell lights, this is a pretty big body.  It is significantly taller than both the M7R and the G2X Pro.  Additionally, that ridiculous throw requires a positively massive head and that is what you get here.  The pocket clip does what it can, but this thing is just really big.  More of a backpack light than a pocket light.

Output: 2

THUMP.  That is the noise of billions of photons colliding with whatever you want to look at and doing it all at once.  With an output of 480 lumens, the MM-X competes quite nicely against a bevy of competitors.  Surefire puts out a 500 lumen light, the Fury, but they run you AT LEAST $50 more than the MM-X.  There are some Chinese-origin lights that do well in terms of high end, dollars per lumens, but nothing on the market has a low like the MM-X.  This is the very best feature of the light and makes it not just a light for running and gunning (of which I did and will do none) but also a good around the house or backpack light.  I'd give it a 3 if I could for the spectacular high and the impressive low.  

Runtime: 2

The low is best measured in days, but is close to being measure in weeks (144 hours is 6 days).  Can you imagine that?  A day and age when our flashlights can run for weeks and produce useful light all the while being small enough to fit in your pocket (with a lot of lumps here).  The runtime on the G2X Pro, even on low, is nothing like what you get here.  There are lots of modes in between with long runtimes as well.  The high hits an hour and half, though as with all lights this size and that brightness, I think that is a theoretical time because in all likelihood you'd have a puddle of molten aluminum by that time.  Still, all of these numbers are impressive, well above par.

Beam Type: 2

Where does that photon THUMP come from?  Right here:

IMG_0022

No bones about it or messing around here, this a pure throw beam.  Note the absolutely fat X-ML diode, that happens to be perfectly centered in a deep, smooth reflector.  It took some getting used to, because even though Surefires have a notoriously tight beam pattern (this is a trick behind their deceptive lumens count), it is nothing like this.  For the type of light this is I am plenty satisfied, but it is an adjustment over the floodier beams I get out of light of my preferred size.  If you are aware of the difference and prepared to accept the trade offs, this is an excellent throw beam. 

Beam Quality: 2

A gloriously neutral output with a steady, even beam.  It is also a nice perfect circle.  Lovely in every way and perfect for the throwy beam type.  Throwers with rings and holes really are a problem as the rings and holes get bigger the further away the target is.  Fortunately we have nothing but buttery smoothness here.

UI: 2

Oh my, so close.  Let me get this out of the way--this is a great UI, but the thing is, it could have been a revelation.  The clicky turns the light on and off.  Twisting the head from tight to loose changes the output from high to low.  You can set the output and then turn on the light, a masterstroke as it gets you the output level directly, no messing around with accidentally turning the light on in the wrong mode, no cycling through modes, just the desired output--bam.  But here is the thing, without playing around with the light or having an insanely good memory you have no idea what the light's setting is.  A few quick markings on the side of the light could tell you what the setting is and avoid the entire problem.  It was so close, so very close to perfection in a clicky.  Still, it is very, very good.

Hands Free: 1

The light can't tailstand, but it has no chance of rolling away, what with the grip ring and the clip.  It is also too big to really put in your teeth.  I also don't buy the argument that tactical lights can't tailstand.  Remember the gorgeous design of the TorchLAB Moddoolar's Triad tailcap.  Plenty of sure fingered access and still able to tailstand.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

This is a really excellent light for those looking for more than a single cell torch can offer.  It is not terribly expensive and compares well in many ways to the other lights in its class.  I also love the grip ring and the UI.  There is not much I'd change about the light at all.  It is another impressive entry in the Four Sevens product line up and a real shot across Surefire's bow.  It also has something that many other more tactically design lights miss--a true low.  By now Four Sevens and others have proven their point--moonlight low should be on every light with multiple outputs.  Every single one.   That one addition takes it from the realm of a pure tactical light to make it an all-star, something that works well at home, in your pack, or on your nightstand.  It also makes me hanker a little more for an Arc Mania MaxLight, if I could ever find one. 

10 comments:

  1. I like this review, and your new metrics that you are trying to use, but I have a problem with the Lumens:Runtime stat. It is meaningless.

    You gave this a rating of 8.0 (480 lumens/60 minutes), but if you check the specs tab and use the runtime listed there (1.3 hours), you get a stat of 6.2, which would lead you to think that a lower number is better.

    But FourSevens just released their new XP-G2 LED lights (20% increase in lumens for same runtime) of which the Maelstrom MMS (old G5) is one. This has a max lumens of 350 (old LED) vs 420 (20% increase) with a runtime of 1.3 hours, giving us a rating of 4.5 vs 5.4 (old LED vs new), leading us to think that higher is better.

    Since you want both numbers (Lumens and Runtime) to be higher/longer, dividing one by the other is misleading. I am not sure that you can really measure these since they are dependent on each other and are also dependent on the number of cells. Since most current LED lights are current controlled, you can't really even use it to measure efficiency. For instance, since the MM-X can use 2 CR123A (total of 6 Volts) or 1 18650 (3.7 Volts), with the same output, so to me, this does not seem to be a valid measurement between different flashlights.

    Again, I do like your reviews and the new metrics, but not this one.

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  2. Tony,
    Great job, BUT...
    If you want perfection in a clicky UI, with a useful flood beam, check out the Sunwayman V11R. Infinite variability, simple on/off clickly, AND markings so you know when you click the button if the light is going to purr or roar.
    IGS

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  3. What Jimmy said -- lumens/runtime is meaningless. A light with an 8 lumen output for 1 minute is not "excellent," it is horrible, yet it comes out identical to the Maelstrom on that ratio.

    Perhaps it should be lumens * runtime ? That would be a reasonable measure of the total photon "juice" the light can extract from its batteries, and thus could at least be a basis for comparing the relative efficiencies of lights that have identical battery requirements.

    Also, how is this light's UI any different from the Fenix click-and-twist UI, which you gave a score of 0/2 in your review of the Fenix LD10? I gotta tell you, the LD10 and similar lights (PD30, etc.) do not pose the problems you ascribe to the Maelstrom here. If the Fenix's head's fully tightened, you click on to the max output. If it's loosened slightly, you click on to the low. Works fine. All you have to do is remember to tighten the head fully when you finish using the light and return it to your pocket. Then you always know where the light is when you pull it out again. If you forget, a small tightward twist of the head will tell you all you need to know.

    I'll grant you that a true moonlight low is an advantage of this light over the Fenixes, but that goes to Output, not UI. Unless I'm missing something, seems like either you should bump up the LD10's score two points or reduce this light's score by 2. Just a respectful observation.

    PS: I know the Fenix PD22 is eventually on your review schedule. From what I can tell of how the new "two button" Fenix UI works on PD22, PD32, LD12, etc., it sounds like a step back, not a step forward, from the LD10 and PD30's UI. To get to the strobe in an emergency, on the PD32 I have to click on w/the tailcap button and then do some wonky "press and hold button #2 for more then 1, but less then 3, seconds" -- you've gotta be kidding me, Fenix.

    For a light whose design (throwy clicky with a strobe) implies that that is supposed to flex into some self-defense applications, I strongly prefer Fenix's old twist-and-click UI (really just "click," since you know where the head is when you draw the light) over the new 2 button UI.

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    Replies
    1. I agree that the ratio is not all that helpful alone. I will try to think of a way to make it more useful, but until then I think the ratio needs context, such as what the lumens count itself is. 8 lumens for 1 minute, even though the ratio, is the same is no where near as useful as 480 for 60 minutes, even though the ratio is the same.

      What I want to avoid is allowing a SUPER high lumens count throw off the score or make the light seem better than it is. The suped up Eiger is a good case in point here, but light uses an AAA lithium to punch out a bunch of lumens, but only for a few minutes. That is both unrepresentative of real use and not helpful in evaluating the light.

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    2. The problem exists even with multiplying.
      FourSevens MM-X = 480 Lumens * 78 minutes = 37440
      FourSevens QP2L-X = 360 Lumens * 102 minutes = 36720
      Four Sevens QB2L-X = 450 Lumens * 90 minutes = 40500

      The problem with multiplying is that any increase in the smaller number (minutes) adds up far faster than an increase in the larger number. For example, take your 8 lumen, 1 minute light.
      Base = 8 Lumens * 1 minute = 8
      Add 1 Lumen = 9 Lumens * 1 minutes = 9
      Add 1 minute = 8 Lumens * 2 minutes = 16

      So, with multiplication, the runtime is the biggest factor.

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  4. The MM-X is my absolute favorite full-size tactical light, no competition. I have the older X7 and if I could have only one flashlight for the rest of my life, that would be it. One comment to your gripe about tailstanding: any light that is designed to be used with a pistol (preferably in the Rogers/SureFire grip) MUST have a fully circumferentially exposed clicky to be employed properly. Despite the many other quality "tactical" lights out there, only the Maelstroms and a handful of other lights (and of course SureFires) can actually be used by armed professionals because any amount of tail bezel around the clicky makes it impossible to use correctly with a pistol. Obviously a fully exposed clicky precludes tailstanding in any way, so it is my opinion that no "true" tactical light can ever possibly tailstand.

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  5. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well.

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  6. The American SF P2X Fury costs $108 on Amazon, while the Chinese 4Sevens Maelstrom costs $99. Although with the new 4Sevens you get 900 lumen burst mode, quite a bit more than the SF 500 lumen high mode.

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