Friday, January 4, 2013

MBI CoreTi Review

In 2011 MBI posted on CPF that they were working on a 500 lumen single AAA light called the Torpedo.  People scoffed as they usually do when innovators drop their ideas on the unsuspecting public ("Well, see, it uses a principle called lift to make heavier than air objects fly" "Sure, it does Orville.").  Slowly, over time, people realized this was not just vaporware, but in fact a real flashlight that is on its way.  In the meantime, MBI planned on sating the appetites of flashaholics with two lights.  One of those lights--the CoreTi--is the subject of this review.  The other is coming...

I am going to break this to you up front--this light is a pure luxury item.  It is a gorgeously machined, ultra light, ultra thin, Apple-like luxe flashlight.  You do not NEED the flashlight in the sense that you need air, food, and water.  But if you crave a little bling and want a simple to use flashlight on your keychain, tucked into a pocket, or around your neck, the CoreTi is about as sexy as they come.  It is a coin cell light, so there are limitations to how bright it can be, but it easily outpaces the LRI Photons and Inova Microlights of the world.  It is not, however, going to keep pace with new single cell AAA lights or even the Quantum DD on the lumens front.  But this is a long lasting, simple keychain light like the Arc AAA-P.  It gives you a little light for a long time in perhaps the slimmest, lightest package I have ever seen.  After an email correspondence and some parts delays MBI sent me the CoreTi.  The light is so shockingly tiny that the package, about the size of a small pizza box, was comically lightweight.  Simply put--if you like the form factor and design of the Photon or the Microlight but are looking for something a little...cooler, exotic, or "titanium-er" this is your light. 

Here is the product page for the MBI CoreTi.  Here is a store that carries the CoreTi (they were sold out at the time of the review).  You can also preorder them from the MBI website.  There are no reviews, video, written or otherwise of the CoreTi.  Here is an announcement thread for the CoreTi over at CPF where a lot of questions are answered.  Here is the review sample:


Design: 2

I know I have referenced it before on the blog, but I found the 10 Principles of Good Design, by Dieter Rams, to not only be true but also a good checklist for things.  The CoreTi nails all ten.  Well, I don't know about the environmentally friendly thing, as I have very little knowledge of the manufacturing behind titanium (I think that is an article in the future).  Above all this is a very honest device.  Every small feature has a purpose and the purpose is clearly delineated by the features shape and positioning.  The two grooves in the front of the light operate as way of opening the light for battery replacement, a vastly superior method to the eyeglass Phillips screws on most lights of this size.  The button itself is so elegantly simple.  It is button.  Not a toggle switch.  Not something that needs a press or a click.  Press for on, release for off.  That is it.  I said it before, but it bears repeating, if Apple made a keychain button cell, this would be it.

The light is not terribly bright, but few of these kind of lights are.  It is, however, plenty of bright for its intended use.  Its big drawing point is this:

This isn't some sort of novelty Zippo.  The CoreTi is just that small.   There is no data on the lumens output, but I would estimate it to be around 2.5 lumens (though frankly this seems dramatically wrong as it is substantially brighter than my Inova Microlight which is rated at 6 lumens).  The light weighs .50 ounces giving it a lumens:weight of 5 lumens per ounce.  The runtime is listed at 50 hours (compared to the Mircolight's 22 hours).  The lumens distribution (total lumens outputed over the entire runtime of the battery) is 125.  Suffice to say these are very good numbers compared to other coin cell lights.

Fit and Finish: 2

The seams of the light are brilliantly finished.  The button is flush with the rest of the body of the light.  The cutouts are crispy though not sharp.  Even the packaging was outstanding.  This is a beautifully finished light.  I have literally no complaints at all.

One issue, however, if carrying the light.  If you use an unmodified split ring you may have a problem with the hole.  It works well with the supplied neck ball chain or with a smaller split ring.  It would not fit unaided on my preferred keychain, the mechanic's cable.  This is not an issue of fit and finish really, but one of fitting various methods of carry.  As a neck light, it works perfectly.  In other roles it needs a bit of assistance.

Grip: 2

I had the bead blasted version, but there is also a high polish version.  Given the light's shape, it is pretty hard to lose grip, but the matte finish on mine made it even grippier.  In all this is about as good as it gets for a coin cell light. 

Carry: 2

This light is absolutely tiny.  Being made of titanium it is incredibly light.  So light, in fact, be very careful not to send it through the wash in your pants.  It is about as wide as a US quarter.  Here:
That's not exactly a drawback as that is why you get a light like this in the first place.  

A bigger issue that I have is how to carry the light on a keychain.  Granted it is not DESIGNED to be carried on a keychain, but instead around your neck.  It works well with the supplied neck ball chain or with a smaller split ring.  But you might have a problem if you use an unmodified split ring.  Here is a shot up against the 40DD, which also had this issue:

It would not fit unaided on my preferred keychain, the mechanic's cable.  As a neck light, its design purpose, it works perfectly.  In other roles it needs a bit of assistance.  I waffled on docking it a point, but in the end, so many high end lights need help getting on to keychains and there are so many cool methods of attaching something that I decided not to dock it a point.  It works very well as intended, and in the end, that is the test. 

Output: 1

At 2.5 lumens this is probably not a light you could use as your sole EDC light.  As a keychain or neck light it is more than fine--an excellent complement to a more powerful light.  Still, for $70 2.5 lumens is a less than great value.  But if you are looking for value this is not the kind of light you'd be looking for--an ultra luxe Ti coin light.  I'd also note that the 2.5 lumens here seems twice or three times as bright as the 6 lumens from my Inova Microlight.  Lumens are very hard to rate, especially by eye, so don't take much away from this.  Still, this is an awfully bright 2.5 lumens. 

Runtime: 2

50 hours smokes the competition.  The Photon hits 18 hours.  The Inova Microlight claims 22 hours for its upgraded XT model.  You can see, based solely on numbers, there is no real competition.  While the lumens rating might be a little ho hum, in a keychain light its really the runtime that matters and here you have so much of it that you probably won't change the battery but once a year.

Beam Type: 2

In a coin cell light you really, really need to have a floody beam.  Anything else just doesn't work.  Here you get a perfectly flooded beam with no reflector of any kind. 

Beam Quality: 2

Often times these lights seem like a good idea until you turn them on and see a pukey green or ice blue light, something so off, so clearly tinted that the lumens are really useless.  Not so here.  Next to a Hi CRI Nichia 219 it appears slightly green, but next to the competition it looks very, very neutral.  Compared to the coin cell competition, this is a great beam. 

UI: 2

I struggle all the time with flashlights that have mind-bogglingly complex UIs.  I hate them.  I really do.  I test them, use them, and in the end, I am just blown away at how unnecessarily complicated some of the lights out there are.  This is a basic thing, right?  In a keychain light of the coin cell variety, there is no relent from bad UIs.  The Microlight's is particularly awful.  But there, with the acknowledgement that one mode and simpler is better, the CoreTi, kills it.  The button is a momentary on.  Push=on; release=off.  That's it.  Additionally the CoreTi button provides a wonderful tactile feedback. 

Hands Free: 0

This light cannot be used hands free, so it scores a zero.  That said, you know going in that is the case, so this is not that big a deal.  Its sort of like the Al Mark Ultralight Hawk not having a clip.  

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

This is a pure luxury item.  It is a great little backup light, but probably too dim to be used as your only flashlight.  Tucked into a top pocket, a coin pocket, on your keychain or around the neck this is a sweet bit of ultra luxe, in flashlight form.  I'd opt for the matte finish as it gives you a bit more grip and wear resistance, but the full polish version is pretty damn sweet too.  This is a great first product from MBI and hopefully a sign of things to come.  Another premiere custom light maker is always a good thing.  Perhaps in a year or two MBI will be ranked up there with Steve Ku and McGizmo.  If the CoreTi is any indication, there is a very good chance of that happening.

Other Options

There are a billion and one coin cell lights, but only two worth mentioning and even then, barely so.  I was going to do a shootout here, but there is really no reason.  The options other than the CoreTi aren't worth carrying.  If you expand to other battery sizes there are some neat options.   

LRI Photon Series:  You can buy them anywhere, they are cheap, and they are light.  They claim a higher output but much shorter runtime.  They are, however, in my experience, junk.  They simply fall apart and changing batteries is a real hassle.  Even the higher end Photon's are junk.

Inova Microlight:  Better than the Photon, but not by much.  This light has two output levels, but again shitty fit and finish.  Mine has popped open three times during normal use on my keychain.  The keychain attachment is especially crappy.

Quantum DD: This is an entirely different class of product.  It uses a different battery and can hit high lumen numbers.  The question you have to answer in decided between the CoreTi and the Quantum DD is whether or not you want a simple light or something full featured.  The drawback is that the Quantum DD has a more complex and some say finnicky interface thanks to the QTC insert and that the Quantum DD has a much shorter runtime.  I think there are reasons to own both.  If you are an Arc AAA-P person, this is your light.  If you want something less, opt for the Quantum DD.

Your Smartphone Camera Flash:  It is probably better made than the coin cell lights and if you already have a smartphone it is free.  It is probably as bright or maybe even a bit brighter.  So why not just use this?  Two reasons.  First, your phone is not as svelte a package as the CoreTi.  It is harder to pull out of your pocket and it is harder to use with two fingers.  It also makes carrying stuff more difficult. Second reason?

You drop the CoreTi.  So what?  It probably won't break.  You drop your might break.  And as pricey as the CoreTi is, it is not as expensive as an out of contract smartphone.  I generally don't like using my cellphone as a light for these reasons, so having one wouldn't dissuade me from buying a CoreTi if I were in the market for a coin cell backup light.    

If given the option between the two more common coin cell lights and nothing, I might opt for nothing, probably relying exclusively on my cellphone for light, as inconvenient as that would be.  Most coin cell lights are just JUNK.  But, if you need a coin cell light and can spring for a CoreTi, the beautiful look, elegant design, ease of use, and long runtime will make you quite happy.  Just don't expect a spotlight.  


  1. Fellow microlight owner: the keychain does indeed suck, and carry doesn't improve when swapped with a split ring. UI does cause headaches. I don't need a strobe on my keychain light.

    1. I am going to break this to you up front--this light is a pure luxury item. It is a gorgeously machined, ultra light, ultra thin, Apple-like luxe flashlight.
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  2. I remember the Arc AAA well! I had one that I can no longer find, and gave away a couple as gifts.

  3. This little light does, in fact, easily attach to a keyring. No mention here of the magnets that hold the two halves together. Simply open the light, place the 1st half on the split ring, then (paying attention to the fact that the halves must be reunited) place the 2nd half on the split ring. Easy as that, it's on the keychain.

    I've been wearing mine for a couple of months now, and it's a great help in the night. While it may not seem bright under daylight conditions when examining it, with dark-adjusted eyes it's almost too bright! Easily lighting the way for late-night around the house trips, finding that lost screw, or a host of other occasions when just a little is all that's needed.

    And of course, it looks fantastic doing it!