Monday, October 29, 2012

Two-Cell Shoot Out

The EDC market, single-cell lights, offer quite a bit of performance and versatility these days, but there are still times when it makes sense to purchase a two-cell light.  Sometimes you want a TON of light.  Sometimes you want a TON of throw.  Sometimes you want a TON of run time.  For me, these lights are the perfect house light--something to stow in handy place and go with you when you explore the things that go bump in the night.  They are also great pack lights and emergency lights for power outages.  They can do those 10% of tasks that your single-cell light can't.

The market is very crowded with these lights and equally crowded with insane specs.  I had no real scientific way of deciding which lights to include so I chose lights from good reputable brands and tried to choose three lights that are as different as possible from each other.  I think you'll agree that I succeeded on that ground.  The three lights in this shoot out represent three vastly different approaches to the two-cell market, in fact, they are so different that one is actually a single-cell light (albeit a 18650 light).  The 47s Maelstrom MMX (also known in its old designation as the MMX7) is the tactical light of the bunch.  The LED Lenser M7R is the Swiss Army Knife light of the bunch.  The Surefire G2X Pro is a great entry level Surefire and a basic two-cell torch (which, according to the Surefire site, is due to receive an upgraded emitter soon).   If your in the market for a two-cell light, at least one of these has to be on your research list.

Here they are all together for size comparison purposes with a MiniMag AA thrown in for scale:

IMG_0005

The lights look pretty cool next to each other, especially in the real sun light used to take this picture.  Here are the relevant individual reviews:

Surefire G2X Pro
LED Lenser M7R
47s Maelstrom MMX7

The flashlight review scoring system can be found here.

Methodology

My shootouts have two parts.  In the first part I use the scoring system to discuss and compare various attributes.  I then rank the products in those attributes with a weighted rank.  In a three product shootout, like this one, the best product will get 5 points, the second best 3 points, and the worst will get 1 point.  This prevents mere inclusion from being worth too much.  Once the points are tallied I then do a little calculation to determine value.  The calculation is simple total points divided by price with the least dollars per point being the winner.  And there will be a winner, no matter what.  In the past I have allowed products to tie in a given attribute.  I have decided against that as it can lead to ties.   

Scoring

Design

The comprehensive nature of the LED Lenser design and package puts it well ahead of both the MMX7 and the G2XPro.  The light can be throw or flood and/or high or low output.  It can be varied for regulated current or not.  It can basically be whatever you want and need.  The fact that the batteries are included and the charging device is well-designed and easy to use makes this light significantly better, design-wise, than its competition. The MMX7 have no where near the accessories that they M7R does, but the light has a lot of great features itself.  The G2XPro is just a bare bones light, removing all of the bells and whistles to make it under the $100 price point.  

M7R: 5
MMX7:3
G2XPro: 1

Fit and Finish

What the G2XPro lacks in design it makes up for in fit and finish.  There is a reason why Surefire lights last forever and are beloved by flashaholics around the world.  The G2XPro lasts forever and shows no wear.  The materials are excellent and the reflector is very good and the emitter is centered.  The M7R's optics are works of art, but the anodizing does not feel as substantial.  Finishing last is the MMX7.  There were no problems, but the body flex and rattle was a concern for me and could be an indicator of a problem going forward.

G2XPro: 5
M7R: 3
MMX7: 1

Grip

There is really no competition here.  There is one simple reason why:

IMG_0018

The grip ring is a great feature and makes the MMX7 one of the best two cell throwers I have ever handled.  The M7R is much thicker than the other two lights as you can see and it is much slicker than the G2XPro.  

MMX7: 5
G2XPro: 3
M7R: 1

Carry

Both the MMX7 and the M7R are significantly bigger lights than the G2XPro, making the Surefire the hands down winner in terms of carry.  I love this light and a good pocket clip (its coming) would make in a winner.  As is it bests the clipless M7R and the MMX7.  They are both just a bit too big for realistic pocket carry.  That said, the M7R's size and lack of any clip (it has a belt attachment) means I am not going to carry it at all, short of a pack of some sort.  

G2XPro: 5
MMX7: 3
M7R: 1

Output

Here is a photo of side by side beam shots on all three lights with a Maglight thrown in for comparison and embarrassment purposes (going across it is the Mag, G2XPro, MMX7, and M7R):

IMG_0011


The MMX7 wins this competition hands down.  It is both the brightest and the least bright at the same time, hitting 480 lumens on high and less than 1 lumen in moonlight mode.  The M7R's flood throw flexibility is very nice making it punch above its weight lumens-wise (it hits 220 lumens).  Meanwhile the narrow tight Surefire beam pattern also allows the G2XPRo to seem brighter than it is (200 lumens) but it's lack of variability in terms of flood and throw puts it in the rear of the pack.  Note how sad and awful the Mag beam is.

MMX7: 5
M7R: 3
G2XPro: 1

Runtime

Again, with a huge advantage of having a moonlight mode, the MMX7 gives you nearly a week's worth of useful light.  None of the other lights even come close.  The deciding factor between the M7R and the G2XPro is the runtime on high.  Here, the high on the M7R is 220 lumens for 2.5 hours.  The G2XPro I have is a 200 lumen model and the high was only 2 hours.  More brightness for longer is a no brainer.  The new G2XPro has been updated and now hits 320 lumens, so it would have an edge.     

MMX7: 5
M7R: 3
G2XPro: 1

Beam Type

There is no question which light wins as only one light can go from flood to throw and back again on a whim.  The MMX7 is a good thrower thanks to the bulky head, better than the G2XPro, but both offer nothing like what the M7R can do.  This is one reason that this light, more than the other two, warrants special consideration. 

M7R: 5
MMX7: 3
G2XPro: 1

Beam Quality

Like the refrain in a Catholic Mass, the M7R and the MMX7 are a bit holey.  It is really surprising when you get to the $100 price point that you'd have these imperfections, but they are the result of a smooth, throw focused reflector.   The Surefire, on the other hand, has a light orange peel reflector and it is perfectly focused giving you an absolutely smooth beam profile.  None of the lights have especially offensive tints, so they are all equal in that respect. 

G2XPro: 5
M7R: 3
MMX7: 1

UI

Well, the MMX7's UI was so close to perfect that even if the other two were good, it would not be a close contest.  As it is, the MMX7 is much better than the G2XPro, but the M7R's baffling, complex, and difficult to implement UI is really a stumbling block.  It gives an unprecedented amount of control, but that comes at the cost of simplicity, and when we are dealing with emergency lighting needs, simplicity is best. 

MMX7: 5
G2XPro: 3
M7R: 1
 
Hands Free

None of these lights can tailstand and I don't know why.  Want to see how to make a good tactical light with a very accessible tail button?

IMG_0015

The TorchLAB Moddoolar Triad tailcap is the best tailcap design on the market (the Moddoolar is probably one of the finest lights on the market as well).  None of these lights come close to this perfection in terms of tailcap, but the MMX7's grip ring also is a great anti-roll device.  The G2XPro has facets on the head to keep it from rolling, while the M7R has nothing at all to stop it from rolling.

MMX7: 5
G2XPro: 3
M7R: 1

Total Points:

G2XPro: 28 points
M7R: 26 points
MMX7: 36 points

Value Calculation

As of right now, the prices are as follows:

M7R: $95
MMX7: $94
G2XPro: $70 (for the 200 lumen model; the 320 lumen model is delayed for a month and price will be around $100)

M7R dollar per point: $3.65
MMX7 dollar per point: $2.61
G2XPro dollar per point: $2.50

Conclusion

The MMX7 is clearly the best of these lights.  the value calculation did not work at all here, in part because the G2XPro was so much cheaper and in part because it could not value just how unique and well-equipped the M7R is. The MMX7, while not quite the tight drum that the Surefire is, it is a great thrower and if you are looking at these lights, that is probably why.  The G2XPro's updated emitter is a sign that Surefire is taking the competition seriously, but as the entry level light it is hard to make the G2XPro competitive with the MMX7.  You want more, you pay more.  The M7R is a totally different approach, as I mentioned in its review.  It is a light system.  I liked it and a washer style clip would be awesome.

In the end, I think this is a closer fight than the value calculations indicate.  I also think that they do not express the rank correctly.  Here is what I would suggest: if you have a light and need a thrower, go with the MMX7.  If you don't have any lights, try both the MMX7 and the M7R.  The system included with the M7R is a difference maker and it can quite easily serve as your only light.  If you are a law enforcement officer and don't need to mount your light on a weapon the versatility and rechargeable battery included in the M7R makes it an extraordinary value.

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this a lot, and it has me very interested in a G2X Pro or 6PX Pro, especially when the upgraded emitters hit the market.

    Let me throw another possibility in the mix. The Fenix PD30 (or the new PD32 with the 2-button UI) would compete really strongly in this group.

    Runtime: PD30 has 257 lumen high for 2.5 hrs or 10 lumen low for FIVE DAYS. (The PD32 has an even higher high.) N.B. that is ten lumens for five days. Not a barely-there, 0.3 lumen "moonlight"/firefly low like the Maelstrom, but a utility/reading output. No contest. Add the diffuser cap and light the room during a power outage. I think the PD30/PD32 would have won this category.

    Weight: This is huge. My PD30 is a measured 3.0 oz WITH BATTERIES. Leaves every light in the shootout in the dust on this category. It is also slimmer than Surefire's E1B Backup (a 1 cell light!) and just 0.5 inch longer. I agree that most 2-cell batteries are not EDCable but the PD30 totally is. I have done it with pleasure for a couple of months now. PD30 would be runaway winner in this category.

    Carry: See above, plus a great factory pocket clip. Would beat every light in the shootout here.

    Fit & Finish: Fenix tends to have the best F&F of the "mainstream" Chinese brands and that is consistent with my PD30. No complaints at all.

    Beam Quality: My R5 PD30 has arguably the nicest beam of any light I own. Pure, clean non-tinted cool white with a good hotspot, a smooth spill and no artifacts. Great. (Can't do the cool adjustable stuff the LED Lenser does. Then again, you could carry 2 Fenixes for less weight than that LED Lenser.)

    Price: PD30 is $57 from Blade HQ. If you want the updated PD32, $68. Once again, beats every light in the shootout

    Awful lot of strengths for one light. Cheapest, most carryable, best utility runtime, competitive high output, nice F&F, beautiful beam.

    It is my favorite Fenix alongside the E05. One of my favorite lights period. I bought a second PD30 just to keep in my car's "gear bag" for emergencies. (I prefer the old twist-and-press UI of the PD30, but I am sure the PD32 is a great choice as well.)

    Just some more food for thought. Thanks for another great article.

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  2. And I forgot -- unlike every light in the shootout, the PD30/PD32 can tailstand! Not the most rock solid tailstand ever, but it works fine.

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  3. Hey thanks for sharing this good post. You share some good led lighting product.
    Led lighting Houston

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  4. Good comparison. I carry another flashlight brand. It's Armytek Partner 2AA.
    It met all my needs and expectations: bright, small, light weigh and has easy operation.

    ReplyDelete