Friday, January 17, 2014

FourSevens MMR-X Review

I have written before about FourSevens' need to stay on the bleeding edge of flashlight design.  As a brand that disrupted the entire market by being innovative, they need to continue to do so in order for their lights and brand to remain relevant.  Surefire can get away with being less cutting edge because their lights are associated with bomb-proof designs and impeccable performance.  Emitter upgrades with no real changes to UI or form factor had left me cold on a lot of FourSevens' designs.  Some of the mainstays of their line had remained unchanged in any meaningful way for their entire lifespan.  As someone with a healthy addiction to flashlights I have come to learn over the years the incremental lumens upgrades, while being a great selling point, are pretty worthless in real life.  I wanted to see some real change.

Here it is.

The MMR-X is a huge step forward.  It puts FourSevens back on that bleeding edge with a host of features.  And, for the first time in my opinion, the performance is now truly elite.  The beam pattern on this light is perhaps the best I have seen on a production light and very close to the best I have seen on a custom.  While the AL Atom was neat, and the headband a great idea, the MMX-R is a flagship product worthy of heralding.  Its not a great EDC light because of its size, but it is a truly sterling flashlight.  The recharging feature is great, the bit of UI programmability is very nice and thankfully not overdone, and the entire light feels and handles much better than the vast majority of aluminum tubes out there.  

Here is the product page. The MMR-X costs $100.  This appears to be the first review of the MMR-X anywhere (thanks Trevor!).  Here is a video overview from FourSevens.  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the MMR-X, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link (review sample sent by FourSevens and to be returned):

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample:

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Twitter Review Summary: Bringing both thunder and lightning, the MMR-X revitalizes 47s line up.

Design: 2

I was so worried about the UI.  The USB interface could have been SO overdone and confusing.  But really the USB serves as a lockout more than anything else.  With the light plugged into a USB port (even a non-computer USB port, such as a wall wart charger), the light is both recharging AND open to change the modes available.  You can't tweak the low's lumen count, but you can change the order of the modes as well as which modes are used.  There are five output configurations and you are bound to find something you like.  More on this below, but suffice to say, in terms of design, the USB interface is very nice--allowing some tinkering without sending you down a rabbit hole.  The USB jack is also nicely and securely hidden.
 
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The rest of the light is pretty standard for an 18650.  But the kit that comes with the MMR-X is great.  You can go from a full on tactical light (yes, I used that word and no I don't know what it means), with a strike bezel, a single ultra high output, and an easy access clicky to a more practical light with a flat bezel, multiple outputs, and a tailstanding reverse clicky.  As has been the trend recently, the MMR-X is a system or platform.  It can be many things to many people and unlike a lot of products that try to do that, the MMR-X switches roles well.  In the non-tactical mode it is easily on par with the Zebralight SC600 Mk. II and the Eagletac TX25C2, two of the better 18650 lights on the market.  Its bigger than those two lights because of the need to accomodate a micro USB port, but it is still pretty small.  Here is the light next to the ubiquitous Mini Mag 2xAA:

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The stats on the MMR-X are quite good.  The max lumen output found on Medium mode and is 72000 (150 lumens for 480 minutes).  The lumens:weight is 163 (800 lumens/4.90 ounces, note that the weight is LESS than FourSevens specs, always a pleasant surprise).  

One small note.  This light uses a "buttonless" 18650.  There are aftermarket buttonless 18650s but your probably best just buying them from FourSevens.  Its not exactly a proprietary battery, but it is annoyingly close.  Only the fact that you can charge the battery while it is in the light makes up for this drawback.  I love the format and the rechargeability, I just which the battery was a normal 18650 rechargeable. 

Fit and Finish: 2

The emitter is centered.  The anodizing is consistent.  The knurling is cleanly cut.  The threads are smooth.  The clicky is nice.  Every single detailed has been attended to and the end result is a light that feels better than other FourSevens lights I have reviewed.  The thin walls of the Mini is obviously out.  The rough-ish threads of the Quark is gone.  And the slop in the body parts I noticed in the review of the MMX is gone.  Absent branding, and ignoring the micro USB port (because Surefire would never be that progressive), this light feels more like a Surefire torch than it does mid-market lights, even other FourSevens lights.  Very, very impressive.

Grip: 2

Its odd to say this, but most lights this size have terrible pocket clips (the Eagletac TX25C2 being the notable exception).  Generally they are bulky paint scrappers that do their best to keep a large, heavy, round object from floating around and banging stuff up.  FourSevens didn't bother with a clip and the result is a light that is much better in the hand than its competition, including the FourSevens MMX.  

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The knurling is very good, but not rasp-like making the light very nice to touch.  As you can see from the picture above, its easy to access the clicky from the place your hands are meant to be.  I still like side switches a bit better, but this is not bad at all.  

Carry: 1 

With the lack of a clip and the extra length the micro-USB port necessitates this light is pretty tough to carry in a pocket.  It is not close to the Eagletac in that respect.  But this is not really intended to be a pocket light and compared to other lights like it, such as the MMX and the Armytek Viking (review coming) this is a pretty darn good pack light.  The head is not overly bulky and there isn't anything to snag or bunch up when sticking this light in a pack.  

Output: 2 

The High is staggeringly bright at 800 lumens.  That's the number to lure in suckers (as it lasts for a minute).  400 lumens is plenty bright but not best in class.  Both the Eagletac TX25C2 and the Zebralight SC600 Mk. II have significantly higher highs for longer.  Its the 1 lumen Moonlight mode that the rest of us appreciate.  The other two levels are 25 lumens on Low and 150 lumens on Medium, giving this light a great high, a great low, and good spacing everywhere else down the line.   But the mere numbers are only a small part of the reason why the MMR-X scores a 2.

ASIDE

FourSevens calls the modes by confusing names, such as Max instead of High.  For purposes of this review here is what they are:

800 lumens (after 1 minute drops and holds at 400 for two hours): High, called MAX by FourSevens
150 lumens: Medium, called High by FourSevens
25 lumens: Low, called Low by Foursevens
1 lumen: Moonlight, called Moonlight by Foursevens

The problem with the nomenclature, and the reason I am going to the trouble of renaming them for this review, is that FourSevens names don't match up with what the rest of the industry is using, so a person may mistake the MMR-X's "High" as 150 lumens, which compares poorly to the High for other lights in this product class.  The MMR-X's true high of 800 lumens is quite competitive.  So for purposes of you doing comparisons I am going to use the nomenclature listed above as opposed to FourSevens' nomenclature.  This, along with the confusing renaming of favorite lights, is another sign that FourSevens rebranding has gone crazy.  I love the site and the logo, but I HATE the jargon.  When your insistence on new and different names for lights and features makes your products look worse compared to competitors, its time to drop all of the jargon.  Just a friendly suggestion from an avowed FourSevens fanboy.  

END ASIDE

Here is the emitter end:

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The big trick with the MMR-X is the fact that you can choose how the light switches between modes.  Here is how it works.  First, plug the supplied USB to micro USB cable into a light and a USB port (either a computer or a powered USB wall wart).  Once you do this you can charge the light, run the light from the external power supply, and alter the outputs.  Altering the output configuration is easy and involves turning the light on and off while it is plugged in.  There is an LED (seen two pictures below in the UI section of this review) that provides information about what configuration you are in and when you have changed from one configuration to another.  Once you have selected your preferred configuration, simply unplug the light or turn it off and it is locked in.  That is the beauty of the programmability here--it is really just a failsafe feature to prevent you from dropping into a programming mode by accident as can happen on lights like those from Zebralight or the notoriously daunting LiteFlux LF3XT

There are five output configurations.  Here they are:

Configuration 1: High only
Configuration 2: High then Low (25 lumens) (this is the default configuration)
Configuration 3: High then Strobe
Configuration 4: Low then Medium then High then Stobe
Configuration 5: Moonlight then Low then Medium then High then SOS then Strobe then Beacon High then Beacon low (I set it to this configuration which has the flashing modes hidden like most FourSevens products).

There is also mode memory, so the light defaults to the last non-flashing mode used before the light was turned off.

In short, this is a light that can do anything.  If you want a lightning strike or a match flame, its got you covered and there are myriad of ways to access any of those outputs.  Its probably more than anyone really NEEDS in a flashlight but the great thing about the output design is that if you just want it to turn on and make things bright it can do that with aplomb.  High end, easy customizability AND simple rock solid performance?  YEP.  

I seriously considered breaking the scoring system here.  This ability to tailor not just outputs but output configurations is truly amazing.  I wrote this review once giving the MMR-X a 3, and then scrapped the whole thing and wrote it again (I very rarely do drafts, no time, hence the more than occasional typos).  This is much better than the system the NexTorches use.  Those lights require a software download and allow for a lot of tinkering, varying outputs by lumens not just choosing between configurations of preset outputs.  Having played around with the NexTorches I feel like they are just TOO much, too fiddly and too tied to a computer.  Like infinitely moveable shelves on bookcases (which I have built before), once the outputs are properly set you probably won't mess with them again.  Why not set them right the first time like FourSevens did?  This is the right amount of customizability.

Runtime: 2

The high runs for an hour before dropping down to "merely" 400 lumens.  The moonlight runs for 35 days.  Well above par.  Move along.

Beam Type: 2

A lot of lights in this product category have HUGE throw heads and I understand why--many torches this bright are used for search and rescue.  But personally I don't have the need for two mile throw and I think very few people do.  Instead I like the more than average throw you get here, but the head is still normal sized.  Put another way--enough throw to run with the big dogs without the downside of a megaphone-shaped flashlight.  

Beam Quality: 2

Ah, the real secret of the MMR-X--its wonderful beam.  This is a smooth reflector light and the overall beam pattern, nice spill with perfect hotspot, is amazing.  There is nothing I can say about the beam pattern.  It is smooth, clean, and perfectly tuned.  Frankly, only the Haiku is in the same league and you know how much I love that beam pattern.  The quality is so high I don't even think the much-vaunted Surefire beam pattern compares.  The market is so big I am wary to say this, but this might be the best production light beam available.  It is certain the best I have seen.  

UI: 2

So its a standard clicky or a reverse clicky. Options alone boost the clicky only interface up a point, but then there is this little secret, here is the before:

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and after:

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As you could see from the output section, the programmability of the MMR-X hits a sweetspot--the Goldilocks of programmability.  When I received the light I was skeptical.  Do you really NEED all of this configurability?  Then I tried it out and realized that this light can go from full on tactical light to kitchen drawer user within a few seconds.  You might not switch the light around all that often, swapping out bezels and changing output configurations, but I bet you do it at least twice.  And the fact that you can do it, but don't need to do it makes this among the most flexible UIs on the market. 

Hands Free: 2

The light's kit comes with a reverse clicky that allows the MMR-X to tailstand and the cuts and grooves in the light make it pretty unlikely to roll away.   Overall nothing to complain about and a great deal of modularity to praise.

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

As great as the MMR-X is, there is one thing that makes it even better.  It is both better and CHEAPER than the light it either replaces or competes with in the FourSevens, the MMX, which retailed for $120.  Cutting edge innovation, breathtaking fit and finish, AND cheaper?  Amazing.  The MMR-X isn't a great EDC light, its just too big, but it is a great flashlight.  There is nothing more capable or flexible on the market.  It is also a superior value, both because of the price and because of the rechargeable battery that is included (hey Eagletac, give us a freakin battery next time, the TX25C2 didn't come with one and 18650s aren't exactly available at the local Quicky Mart).  This review took forever because this light can do almost anything.  I didn't even mention the fact that you could run it from a laptop in the even of a power outage, getting all of the juice from both the included 18650 AND the laptop battery.  That much energy on moonlight would last you probably three months.

The MMR-X can do just about anything and it does everything very very well.  This is a great light and one of the best on the market.  Time to go update the Top Five.      

The Competition

Though they are only separated by a few points on the scale, the MMR-X is orders of magnitude better than the readily available benchmark, the Fenix PD22.  In part the scoring system is a checklist of essentials.  If a light doesn't roll and can tailstand it gets a two in hands free.  That is a checklist.  But the scoring system is also a bit of a judgment call--good design is less of a set of features and more of an overall impression (I was going to write "gestalt" but that seemed to pretentious and I am already hands down the most pretentious gear reviewer out there, no need to push it).  The PD22 hits a lot of checklist points, but is not in the same league as the MMR-X in terms of both quality and value.  This at $100 or the PD22 at the $40-$50 price range is not even a competition.  The PD22 is more pocketable, but that's like saying a Toyota Corolla is a better car because it is smaller than a Rolls Royce Silver Seraph.  This isn't quite the Silver Seraph, more like a Tesla--sporty, green, and innovative, but you get the idea.

The real competition here is the Zebralight, the Eagletac, and the NexTorch.  The first two can be carried daily because of the clip and the smaller size, but neither of which is as versatile as the MMR-X.  The MMR-X's other competitor the NexTorch isn't in the same league.  That light is more of a novelty and the programmability is for the hardest of hardcore flashaholics.  For the rest of us, the MMR-X is exactly what you want and need.

Lots of competitors, but the MMR-X still comes out on top.  Great job FourSevens.

Corrections:

Trevor contacted me today (2/25/14) and made a few corrections, all of which make the light better, but doesn't really alter the overall score:

  • The MMR-X will take ANY 18650, not just flat topped version.
  • The decision to step down as they do with the Burst and Max was something that underwent a great deal of scrutiny.  It was not an accident or a desire to artificial boost the lumens ratings.  Trevor notes that if they wanted to they could have listed the lumens count higher than they did as they always measure them conservatively.  This matches up with both my experience and what others have said on CPF.
  • The rebranding thing was also something that was placed under close scrutiny.  That said I still think it is too complicated.

 

44 comments:

  1. Great Review. I think the real compeition for this list will be the Armytek Viking or even the Predator. Both offer a wide variety of programable modes. Cant wait to read that review and then hopefuly a shoot out with a third option.

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  2. Is this a typo?

    "It is both better and CHEAPER than the light it either replaces or competes with in the FourSevens, the MMR-X, which retailed for $120."

    As I read this, you are saying the MMRX is replacing a model called the MMRX. That seems odd.

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    1. Yes. It should compare the price of the MMX, which is $120, to the MMR-X which is $100. I will go change that.

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    2. I noticed that too, but the whole confusion is emblematic of what a silly chaotic cluster-F Foursevens's rebranding has been. I loved Nutnfancy's SHOT Show video where he not so subtly took the piss out of David Chow for the confusing nonsense Foursevens has fallen in for. (What on Earth was wrong with the name "Mini 123" for your main small light that takes 1 CR123 battery? In what universe is "Mini ML" is a more intuitive or more memorable name?)

      I hope they didn't waste too much money on whatever marketing consultant gulled them.

      Pity, because I like their products a lot.

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  3. Considering you have warmed up to very complicated ui's that are easy to run one they are set up: are you going to give zebralight an extra point since they seem so similar?

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    1. No. The fact that you can only alter the output configurations when the light is hooked up to USB means, as I explained in the review, that this feature acts as a lock out. It is virtually impossible to drop down into the some unexpected mode with the MMR-X. Not so with the convoluted Zebralight tiered multiple output system. Its not as bad as the Liteflux, which could be sent into a mode where the light produced nothing, but still it is not needed and without a lock out or failsafe it is possible to accidentally activate a mode you didn't want.

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    2. I agree that the programming mode can be fell into accidentally on a Zebralight, but I question the merit of having one at all. Surely if the light is well designed, there is no need for such customization - you have expressed this sentiment yourself on multiple occasions too, Tony. Why the sudden and extreme change of heart? It seems your main point for celebrating this light, with a spot on the vaunted Top 5 list no less, hinges on this feature alone.

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  4. I love the all the in-light charging options coming out recently. Micro USB is a must. I probably have five USB wall chargers at home, one for the car, one at work, and most of our friends / family we visit have them as well.

    Also, it's great to be able to remove the battery and use any 18650. Proprietary batteries are a no-no.

    I hate having to bring multiple batteries or a special charger when I travel. I'm seriously considering an in-light charging option for my next flashlight. Great review!

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  5. Is this the light to rule them all or is the TX25C2 still your main contender for that title?

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    1. With no Hi CRI emmiter option and the reasons I list below, I'm a little shocked this light made it to your Top 5 list.

      I fear your love of FourSevens and this USB gimmick have wooed you into overestimating this light, Tony.

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    2. Your point about the TX25C2 not coming with an 18650 battery is a bit misleading as well since it can run on CR123a batteries from your local Quickie Mart. Whereas it would be reprehensible if the MMR-X shipped without a cell since it won't work with anything safely except its proprietary battery.

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    3. For me, I still like the TX25C2 better. It is smaller. It can be EDC'd. But the MMR-X is more flexible and probably will appeal to more people. This is a place where my personal preferences are trumped by what I hope is an objective assessment. More people will like the MMR-X than the TX25C2 if they had access to both, and since I did, I want my review to reflect that.

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    6. By flexibility you can only mean the programability of the MMR-X, since it is hardly flexible in any other respect given its size and battery requirements.

      I'm afraid I have to point to your own previous reviews of Zebralights in which you question the merit of programmability over a well designed unit which needs no such end-user customization.

      And given that your own review criteria are geared toward the Everyday Carry, I cannot fathom how you figure your readership would prefer a unit that cannot fill the role of an everyday carry over one that does - especially one that does so markedly better in every respect, besides the dubious quality of programmability, as the TX25C2 does.

      Please clarify.

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    7. I base this on two things. First, while I have a preference for SMALL EDC stuff, a quick look on any forum or pocket dump site will show that my preference is not shared by everyone. I think I can justify my preference, but again, it is my preference. So I think it is possible for folks to EDC the MMR-X, even if I wouldn't. In reviewing things I try to consider what people want even if it is something I don't. Now there are limits. The Espada XL, no matter how popular, is something I don't think is EDC and I would subtract points for its size, but here the difference between the MMR-X and the TX25C2 is relatively small. I did dock it a point for carry in recognition of that fact. Second, and probably more importantly, I recognize that not everyone can or does buy six or seven flashlights for a variety of needs. In that case the MMR-X's increased flexibility over the TX25C2 is an advantage. I don't like tactical set ups, but someone might and with the MMR-X you get both and you switch seamlessly between the two. So if you are looking for one light to handle a bunch of different tasks the MMR-X is probably better at that than the TX25C2. I like the Eagletac better, but objectively, I think more folks would like the MMR-X.

      Does that clarify?

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    8. I'm sorry Tony, but your response only calls into question the authenticity of all your reviews now.

      By the high ethical standards you hold yourself to in reviewing products I, like many of your readers, was led to believe that your reviews would reflect not what you suppose most people would like, but your own preferences - the only ones which you can speak to with any confidence, and the only ones a reader of YOUR blog (not other EDC forums) is interested in.

      In how many other reviews have your personal preferences been trumped by what you think will appeal to "most" people?

      You have the readership you do because we appreciate YOUR views on gear. Lose that and what are your ethics and everything else here worth?

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    9. (Worth to us, your reader?)

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    10. Adam, you feel very passionately about this review, so I would gladly accept a written rebuttal for publication. It would be easier than doing this in comments.

      Big picture here--the MMR-X and the TX25C2 are very very good lights. One is not significantly better than another. The differences are angels on the head of pin kind of things.

      That said, the flexibility of the MMR-X is pretty impressive. Since I am just one person and don't know how every reader is going to use it, that flexibility has to be worth something.

      Its not selling out or muddling my opinion, but simply acknowledging reality. I have said this before--more options are better. It was one of the reasons I liked the Eiger so much. It was one of the reasons I liked the MBI HF-R so much. Those lights, like the MMR-X, offer a wide variety of set ups.

      The other thing I think you are discounting is the fact that the MMR-X is a substantial fit and finish upgrade from previous offerings from FourSevens. The beam pattern is great and the fit between parts is exceptional.

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    11. Thank you for your generous offer Tony, I will gladly take you up on it. Let me know how best to get in touch.

      For me, the differences are not so minute between the two - especially when you're making a $100 in a flashlight.

      All 5 output modes of the MMR-X can be accessed without programming on the TX25C2 due to its superior UI and it is every bit as modular. USB charging is offset in the TX25C2 by being able to take fresh, readily available, and non-proprietary cells, while your MMR-X would be out of commish for 8+ hours to recharge.

      Finally, as to fit and finish, that's great insofar as it serves the functioning of the light. Both units are warranteed for 10 years, however the special cell that the MMR-X is dependent on is only covered for 1 of those years and will surely fail at some point.

      Beam profile seems excellent on the TX25C2 as well with plenty of spill and greater spot distance than the MMR-X. However the beam can be converted for even greater flood with the diffuser in its kit option, or to red/green to preserve your night vision. You also have the option for a neutral white emitter on the TX25C2, while it's cool white only with the MMR-X.

      I can see a case being made for the MMR-X being superior to a Zebralight maybe, but not the TX25C2.

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    12. Send your rebuttal to everydaycommentary at gmail dot com (in the usual format) and I will run it, with a response.

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    13. Sent!
      Let me know if you don't find it. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to your response and also to your forthcoming review of the TX25C2.
      Thanks again!

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  6. It seems to me that the UI score is too high for a clicky interface. Granted, programmability is cool, but you're locked into a sequence of output levels until you plug it into USB to reprogram again. Contrast this with a selector ring or even the twisty/forward clicky combo on the TX25C2 that give you immediate access to whatever level you desire from off. On this light, even though you can return to the last level selected, you need to cycle through output levels while the light is on to change - similar to the Zebralight UI. At best this should be a 1.

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    1. Also, the fact that this light depends on a proprietary battery to make the UsB charging gimmick work means when your battery fails, as all do eventually, you're kinda screwed. No CR123 option and chances are that no other 18650s will run in the light safely.

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    2. One final thought: as this light is too unwieldy to be useful for EDC, shouldn't the beam profile be geared more toward throw than flood since in all likelihood you would be carrying a floody EDC light on your person and this in your pack? I understand that throw is not high on your list of criteria for EDC lights and I agree with your reasons for making it so, but precisely because this is not an EDC light, should throw not be factored into your equation for rating its beam profile? It doesn't seem right to compare it to those of other EDC lights when, in fact, it is not one.

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    3. Make no mistake this light can throw. Its just not one of those megaphone sized heads.

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    4. You can buy buttonless 18650s. The LED Lenser M7R runs them as well. Its just more money. I agree though, I wish it were a regular 18650.

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    5. Here's the thing with the UI and why it is so well done--it can be just about anything for anyone. If you want it to be a traditional EDC light, no problem. If you want it to be a tactical light, no problem. If you want it to come on in high, no problem (it has mode memory). Usually this much flexibility comes with a daunting amount of complexity, like in the NexTorch or the Zebralight or the God hates you LiteFlux. But here it is dead simple and fool proof. That's worth quite a bit. Its not my favorite UI, but it is certainly worth a 2.

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    7. The TX25C2 also doesn't have a megaphone sized head and throws just shy of 300 yards. How far does the MMR-X throw?

      I am aware that buttonless 18650 batteries can be purchased, however my point was that the 18650 the MMR-X comes packaged with is a "special" cell. Compare it to the one in your LED Lenser M7R and I believe you will notice a definite size difference. Knowing the inherent dangers with LiPo batteries, would you feel safe working another battery inside the MMR-X besides the proprietary battery?

      Without that cell, plugging the USB cable into the unit to change modes becomes potentially as hazardous as diffusing a pipe bomb!

      Finally, since the UI is what you're stuck with when the unit is in use, perhaps the USB programmability feature should be judged under the design section rather than UI, given the limitations of your nearly binary rating system?

      Just a thought.

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    8. It is really hard to measure throw. I can light things up about 500 feet away, but measuring throw is very imprecise.

      As for the battery, I am sure you can find aftermarket batteries if you really are looking for them.

      I haven't decided where to evaluate UBS programmability, but since it alters output, that seemed like the safest place.

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  7. Guys...Adam and Tony. IT'S A FLASHLIGHT!

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    1. I have this silly rule that I try to comment if someone asks for a reply so Adam kept asking. But your right it is just a flashlight.

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    2. Yes Anonymous, this is more or less what I've been screaming into my pillow for the last few days.
      -Adam's wife (still in love, none the less.)

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    3. Sure it is.

      I'm sorry to exasperate my wife (still in love too, darling) and the anonymous reader (and Tony too, perhaps), but then what are we doing here if not seriously considering the worthiness of the things we carry every day?

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  8. Anonymous again... Glad to see a lengthy disagreement about a couple of flashlights between a couple of guys turned into a love letter between a married couple.
    I think we all can agree Adam's wife is a Saint and that's what's important.
    Congratulations Adam.

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    1. ....no place else but EVERYDAY COMMENTARY!
      Thanks Tony.

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  9. Hey Tony just got this light myself - love it. One quick question though, do you know to swap out the tail caps? Foursevens doesn't say how and so far searching on Google hasn't helped either.

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