EDITOR'S NOTE: I am always worried that I am missing some of the lower priced lights. So many lights come out every week that it is impossible to keep up, so I am glad a review was done of a more budget friendly torch.
There’s always someone who comes along every now and then raises the bar when it comes to bang for your buck to prove cheap doesn’t have to be nasty. This time it’s the relatively new Chinese light manufacturer Xeno. Check out their site for the E11 CUBE (interesting, unusual, classy design) and the ST02 tactical strike bezel, which looks like it’s been styled by the Devil himself.
This review is for the XM-L T6 emitter version of their E03, single AA flashlight.
Its price, around $30, may not be a bargain to a non flashaholic, but it’s at least $20 less than a comparable single AA light from the mainstream higher end manufacturers out there.
The light should fit most people’s budget. It could be your first light as you’ve just discovered the joy of being a flashaholic. It could be your new EDC which you could use/abuse/loose and not worry about too much. Or it could be something just to buy to scratch an itch while your custom titanium beauty takes a month or so to arrive.
Here is the product page. You can purchase the E03 here:
It’s a unique design. Yes, it’s just a tube made of aluminium but I’ve only seen those finger grips on one other light, the tiny Klarus Mi10 (which I also own). It’s one of the larger AA formats I’ve held. In the photo it’s lined up with a Nitecore D11 V.2 and the compact Nitecore EZAA Q5. It’s slightly shorter than the Fenix LD10. The length/width ratio makes for comfortable handling. There are a few deeper groves towards the tail end which could be used for GITD O-ring pimping. This would match the GITD O-ring between the bezel and lens. I’ve seen some pics of E03’s with GITD boot switches but mine came with a black one.
I really like the stainless steel bezel. You only see a small section of it protruding from the side but look down the barrel and it goes down a decent amount. This gives good protection to the mineral glass. There’s also some detailing to the internal face of the bezel.
At the base of the orange peel reflector you’ll see the perfectly centred XM-L emitter.
There are many things which add perceived value to this light. Even the logo had been though about and actually looks good, as does having a printed serial number on the tail section.
Fit and Finish: 2
To have the finger grips scalloped in the main body, you must have quite thick walls. I would say this light would take a drop or two without any deformation unlike my thin walled Nitecore EZAA.
My example was bathed in flawless black anodizing but I could have chosen a rose red or deep sea blue finish instead. Xeno show their commitment to flashlight collectors by offering this choice of body color and emitters straight off the shelf.
To get inside, the rear end unscrews via silky smooth square cut threads. O-rings are also in place ensuring an IPX-8, 10 meter dunk-resistant, water ingress protection.
A decent amount of finely cut knurling here so the grip feels really good. The two scalloped finger grooves do add to the grip but they’re really just an aesthetic design feature. I don’t think you’d ever consciously try to position the appropriate finger in the appropriate grove. The only part which is smooth is the head area so not much chance of it slipping out of your hand.
It seems most people love a clip option. I’m personally not too bothered but a light should have the option straight from the manufacturer to appeal to the widest audience. No such luxury here. I’ve heard of people using the standard Fenix LD22 clip which just fits around the body where desired. Not glamorous but seems to work quite well.
Extinguishers at the ready!! If you’re into barn burning, lava lights, this will be of interest to you. Everything is setup for a respectable 45lms(4hrs), 20lms(20hrs), 120lms(1hr) on Ni-MH batteries but pop in a rechargeable lithium 14500 and you’ll summon 280lms(45mins), 80lms(2.5hrs), 430lms/20mins.
I don’t normally run these batteries in my lights as sometimes my kids get hold of them, but this light does impress people when I do. If I was being picky, I would have liked a lower low but I’m satisfied with what’s on offer. Note that with a 14500 installed, the low increases to 80 lumens.
Also note that the figures quoted above are for the T6 cool white emitter which is the brightest of the three available.
A full 2 points awarded here due to the choice of battery chemistries and high output possible.
As I mentioned above, runtimes are fine. 20 lumens for 20 hours is good if you need to conserve your battery.
Important: if using a 14500 battery keep the runtime down to only a few minutes as things heat up pretty quickly!
Beam Type: 2
A large emitter such as the XM-L combined with a reasonably shallow reflector will produce plenty of flood. This really throws out a wall of light and is great for area illumination and tasks closer to hand. I find that if using it outside, I don’t have to keep panning left to right whilst walking as you might with a tighter beam light.
Beam Quality: 2
The micro orange peel reflector produces a fantastic quality beam. It’s floody, ringless, smooth, sublime (where’s my thesaurus)!!!!.
I believe the light driver is current controlled so there’s no PWM to spoil things here.
My example is the closest to a neutral tint out of all my lights. I’m very pleased with it. No ugly greens or blues!!
The three levels are controlled by the tail reverse clickie switch which is a little bit ‘spongy’ but more than adequate.
My only complaint would be the default mode sequence. Medium, low, high. I just don’t really like brightness levels that start in medium mode, especially when combined with no last level memory. I use low more than any other mode but that’s just me.
Hands Free: 1
No pocket clip = more roll than Subway! It does tail stand very well as you might expect. There are two small holes near the end to take a thin lanyard, which could be fitted without compromising tale standing.
Total Score: 17 out of 20
This really is an excellent little package which makes me feel like I’m getting a little more than I’m paying for! You are getting a decent emitter with a choice of tints, unique design, battery chemistry options and specs to compete with pricier lights. The blister packaging isn’t particularly pretty but you do get a spare switch, lanyard and O-rings.
I no longer own this light by the way, I gave it to my 6 year old son as he loved its looks so much. He has a few lights now but always sleeps with his E03!! He reads in bed with it most nights and between both of us, we’ve put it through days and days of use/abuse. What better testament.