Monday, February 3, 2014

Reader Rebuttal: MMX-R Review

When the Cryo review was released, I got a torrent of emails and a tiny sliver, comparatively speaking, of comments on the review.  I encouraged on particularly heated reader to write a response and told him I would publish it.  He never did.  

When I released the MMX-R review, Adam took to the comment section with the vigor of a caffeinated ninja on a quest.  I responded, best I could, until it got too much for the awkward comment section format.  I asked Adam to send me a rebuttal to my review and told him I would publish it.  Here is that rebuttal with my comments in italics. 

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Dear Tony,

Most of your review I agree with, the exceptions being 1) the UI score and 2) the final analysis in which you deem the MMR-X a better recommendation for more people than the TX25C2 because of its "seamless" flexiblity.

My contention is that your analysis lacks completion on a number of important areas and that the MMR-X is, on the whole, far less flexible than you claim - especially when compared to the TX25C2.

Flexibility can mean two different things and this is the first point where I think Adam and I diverge.  When I was referencing flexibility in the MMR-X review I was referencing flexibility on a level of user selection.  That is, it could be purchased by a user with tactical needs OR a user with EDC, around the house needs.  The TX25C2 would be okay in the first setting, but much better in the second.  Once purchased, I still think the MMR-X is more flexible for a given user, but I think its closer on that account, as Adam demonstrates.  But I was really more referencing not how it is used, but who could use it.  Same word--flexibility, two different meanings.  I was meaning it in the sense of "the MMR-X could flex into two different roles."  Adam was using it to mean "the TX25C2 has a flexible UI."  

In light of the evidence I demonstrate below, I do not believe you have sufficeint grounds for maintaining your current position.

Let's begin with the output configuration programmability of the MMR-X.

As you noted in your review, there are 5 output configurations for the MMR-X:

Configuration 1: High only
Configuration 2: High then Low (25 lumens)
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

To set up each of these modes requires the user to plug the MMR-X into its USB charging cable, plug the USB charging cable into a power source, and then finally click through the series of configurations until the desired output pattern has been selected.

To demonstrate that the TX25C2 is more flexible than the MMR-X in the aspect of output configuration, I now will illustrate how the TX25C2 can perform ALL of these output configurations WITHOUT the need for any such cumbersome programming procedure - especially one which depends on the availablity of an external power source.

Performing the 5 output configurations of the MMR-X with the TX25C2:

Configuration 1: With head completely tightened, click on for High (1000+ lumens).
Configuration 2: With head completely tightened, click on for High and loosen head half a turn for Low (7 lumens).
Configuration 3: With head completely tightened, click on for High then double click and hold for Strobe.
Configuration 4: With head loosened half a turn, click on for Low, then tighten head 1/4 turn for Medium, then tighten head completely for High, then double click and hold for Stobe.
Configuration 5: With head loosened half a turn and red filter attached, click on for Moonlight, remove red filter for Low, then tighten head 1/4 turn for Medium, then tighten head completely for High, then double click and hold for Stobe. SOS, Beacon High and Beacon Low can be accessed from High by twisting to Low and back to High within 1 second successively, cycling through the various stobes and beacons until the desired output is achieved.

The thing that I think Adam is undervaluing is the fact that the MMX-R's configurations are "locked in."  As he proves you can replicate a lot of what the MMX-R can do with a careful management of the TX25C2.  But only the MMX-R can switch into a mode that has high and only high.  There are some applications and some users that need a no-mistakes, no-failure high only.  They don't want to have to check to see if the head is tightened down or fidget with the head and the on button.  For those folks, the MMX-R's "dependence" on a USB power source is actually a failsafe to prevent accidentally activating an undesireable output.  

Adam is right in that there are situations that the MMX-R's need for a USB plug is a drawback, but those instances are really rare if you think about it.  Most of the time you use a light you pick one output mode and leave it that way.  For purposes of that one use the different outputs are irrelevant.  You either need a high or a low.  You don't need both.  The fact that both are available in the same light is a big deal, but its relatively rare that you need to switch from one output to another in the same task.  Let's be generous and say that you do that one or two times out of ten.  I think that is overly generous to Adam's position, but let's say that is true.  There are even fewer times, perhaps one in a hundred, that you need to change the output CONFIGURATION itself on the fly or during a task.  
In fact, as I write this I am struggling to think of a task that would require you to change the output configuration on the fly.  Like moveable shelves, I feel like the output configuration is something you will pick and then leave alone.  The ability to choice is great because it makes the light useful to more users, but the need to hook the light up to a USB cable isn't really a drawback at all.  In fact, as a failsafe to prevent the light from falling into an unwanted output mode at a bad time, I think it is an advantage.  Having used the awful LiteFlux, I can confirm that the ability to change output configurations on the fly is both difficult and problematic.   

While the TX25C2 user is free of the complicated rigamarole of programming his light to achieve these various output patterns, the truly important point to remember here (as pertaining to UI score) is that, unlike the MMR-X user, he is not locked into ANY particular output pattern at all - he can chose whatever light output he wants at anytime and therefore has a more flexible flashlight operation than the MMR-X user.

He also has the additional useful options to switch to High from any output level while the light is on (by clicking and holding the button) or to strobe at any time (by a double click and hold) - even from off.

These functions are especially useful in the following circumstances which I find myself in frequently:

a) When I'm out in the dark lighting the path in front of me using Low output, I often switch to High (click and hold) to light up things further away, and return to Low (release) to continue lighting my path forward.

b) When I'm out on my bike at night (or out walking in bad weather) on the roads where I live in rural Canada, I use the light on Low to navigate my way. If a car isn't seeing me, I can briefly Strobe (double click and hold) to catch the driver's attention, then easily return to Low again (by releasing my hold on the button) to continue lighting my way.

The set of filter attachments the TX25C2 comes with in its complete kit offer even further flexibility in how one can use the light:

Comparing the full kit of the TX25C2 to the base kit of the MMX-R isn't fair.  Sure its more flexible.  It is also more money.  

Using the Yellow filter, the light can be used in fog, rain, or blowing snow, like the fog lights on your car - I keep this filter in the front pocket of my water resistant jacket for such occasions.
The Red filter can be used to preserve night vision while also reducing the output of the light - I screw this filter on before I go to bed at night and usually leave it on until the morning.
The Green filter can also be used to preserve night vision, but with less reduction in light output - I have read that this filter option is popular with hunters and military.  My understanding of the Blue filter is that it is used by hunters to spot blood while trailing wounded prey.

The utility of the Diffuser filter is pretty obvious, however because the beam profile is a bright spot with plenty of spill, I very rarely have a need for it. The only time I ever found use for it was to diffuse the hotspot evenly across the glossy pages of an oversized picture book, during a session of bedtime reading to my 2 year-old son.

This brings us to the difference in beam quality between the two lights.

In your review of the MMR-X you stated it has the beam profile closest to your $600+ McGizmo Haiku, which is a "floody throw". The TX25C2 beam profile can also be termed a floody throw and I believe the difference between its profile and that of the MMR-X is too esoteric a quality for the non-flashaholic to be real factor in choosing between the two lights.

First, the Haiku is $495 from Don and cheaper on the secondary market depending on indications of wear.  Second, I agree this is an esoteric point, but only because of the relative importance gear folks place on beam quality.  It strikes me that there is a progression in your love for flashlights.  When you start its all lumens all the time.  There is nothing that really competes with the need for more lumens.  But then you realize: a) lumens differences on paper amount to very little in real life; and b) that other things matter as much or more than lumens.  The biggest difference between modern lights and say a 2xAA Maglight is most obvious in the lumens area, and thus that is the thing you focus on.  However, when you are only considering modern lights and they all have basically acceptable lumens counts, you realize that runtime, tint, and beam quality are bigger issues.  An emphasis on beam quality may be a relatively unknown thing right now, but as more people progress through flashaholic stages, beam quality will increase in importance.  I used to think the guys on CPF that raved over the tint on their incan Surefires were weird, but then I got a truly high quality light with a great tint and I get it.  I think the same thing will happen for a lot of people with beam patterns and quality.  It is a big deal, even if a lot of people don't realize that yet.  

That stated, the TX25C2 can throw SUBSTANTIALLY further than the MMR-X, while simultaneously being very floody. In this respect too then, the TX25C2 can be said to be more flexible than the MMR-X, as it fulfills the role of a thrower flashlight to a much higher degree than the MMR-X can.

Last point on beam quality: You have a choice between a Hi CRI emitter and a cool white emitter with the TX25C2. With the MMR-X you have no such options and are limited to a non Hi CRI emitter only. I need not explain the importance of Hi CRI emitters here, as you have done that remarkably well elsewhere on your blog. Suffice to say that here too, the MMR-X is less flexible in its offerings.

Adam is right here.  There is no response, but the MMX-R tint is not offensive at all.  I'd prefer Hi CRI but what you get on the MMX-R is actually pretty decent.  

You mentioned tactical setups for the MMR-X and, like FourSevens, EagleTac also offers a crenelated stainless steel attack bezel for those users who feel the need to use their flashlight as a striking weapon. Moving on...

Battery flexibility is perhaps the most major and important point of difference between the two lights, and I think it is the weakest aspect of the the MMR-X package:

The MMR-X is powered by the special 2600mAh LiPo rechargable 18650 cell it comes packaged with. My understanding is that only after some jerry-rigging of the light itself can it then take other aftermarket buttonless 18650 rechargeable cells.

Frankly, knowing the dangers inherent in recharging LiPo batteries, I would never feel safe working another battery inside the MMR-X besides the proprietary battery. And without that cell, plugging the USB cable into the unit to change modes becomes potentially as hazardous as diffusing a pipe bomb - to my mind anyway.

I did concede that it was all but a proprietary battery.  It is what it is and I think I adequately accounted for this both in the review and the score.

Meanwhile the TX25C2 can take CR123a primaries from your local Quicky Mart or RCR123's or any number of regular 18650 batteries, including the high capacity 3400mAh 18650 from EagleTac.
Real world implications: when your TX25C2 runs out of juice, you have many options for getting it back up and running again quickly. Whereas when your MMR-X dies you need to wait several hours for its 18650 cell to recharge - in-unit, no less - rendering your flashligh completely useless during that time.

Most people in a situation that demands constant light usually have a back up battery.  In those situations, one person is carrying either an 18650 or 2xCR123as if they have a TX25C2 or the rechargeable battery for the MMX-R  This is a classic straw man argument--creating a false opponent and then knocking it down.  Of course you have to pay more for the MMX-R cell, but again, I think I accounted for that in the review.

I'm not sure about charging the MMR-X's proprietary cell in a separate charger, but I'm guessing that would be a no-no seeing as how it is markedly larger than other 18650's and probably contains some extra circuitry for the USB charging gimmick, so even keeping a spare charged proprietary 18650 on-hand would be problematic.

Another straw man argument.  I can't think of any reason to charge the MMX-R's battery out of the light.  It is so much easier and convenient to just charge the battery in the light.  Also, the battery wasn't substantially larger so that's not something that would prevent it from charging.  It fit in my i2 Intellicharger with ease, though I didn't charge it using that unit.  

It seems foolish to depend on a light that is so restricted in the kinds of batteries it will run on, for exactly the same reason you were saying about why you won't reccommend those cranking or shaking self-powered flashlights: they may not work when you really need them to. So too here with the MMR-X.

If you concede that you can bring a spare cell for the MMX-R this argument is just wrong, or no more true for the MMX-R than it is for the TX25C2.  

In conclusion, $100 is a lot of money for most people to justify investing in a flashlight. If you're not a flashaholic and are going to sink that much into one, it really should be able to flex into a multitude of roles to justify the expenditure.

As evidenced above, the TX25C2 - in addition to being the more pocketable option for an EDC light - achieves this markedly better than the MMR-X.

The TX25C2 is a great light.  It is probably my personal choice for an 18650 light and does a lot of things very well.  But I think the MMX-R is more appealing to more people.  Both are truly great lights and the differences in overall quality and performance are miniscule.  This is an angels on the head of a pin issue.  You can't go wrong with either light and I prefer the TX25C2 almost purely based on size, but the MMX-R's flexibility for users (as opposed to flexibility during use) makes it very easy to recommend.  

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12 comments:

  1. lol - wow. The passion, it burns!! Bravo for publishing a dissenting review (/critique/argument?). I will say I purchased an MMX-R specifically on your review, and it is a monster. I have multiple USB outlets in my Explorer, two of which are in the little console below the radio, which fits my MMX-R perfectly. It would probably get ditched in an SHTF situation eventually, but it's my go-to vehicle / work light for now and I squeal a little every time I get to use it. :) I'm sure the EagleTac is an amazing light as well, and will put it on my short list.

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  2. This has been interesting or even entertaining.
    Congratulations to Adam for actually doing a decent rebuttal and to Tony for printing it as he offered.
    I don't have a dog in this race. The form and function of these two flashlights do not interest me in the least, even after all the hoopla.
    However, EagleTac are you listening? You should consider hiring (although with such passion, he would probably work for free) Adam. Reminds me of the old Remington shaver ads where the guy said he was so impressed with the razors he bought the company. (Although I thought Norelco was better.) Adam, as a spokesperson would defend EagleTac to the bitter end and you cannot buy passion like that. Congratulations for sticking to your guns. No dueling please!
    And Adam, don't forget to take your wife out to a nice dinner to celebrate.
    And on the way home....if it gets dark...illuminate her walkway with the EagleTac TX25C2 to make it more memorable.

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  3. Full kudos to Tony, for inviting and publishing dissent, and to Adam, for taking the time to express it.

    One methodological thing though. Tony, please continue to be opinionated and describe _your_ experiences. I disagree that you should provide opinions on your view of what other people may like/think/want/need. We do want to hear _your_ voice.

    Your ethics have been, and still are, in my book above reproach. But the validity of the opinions can only be defended through _your own_ personal experience.

    Once again, may I express my appreciation for your generosity of time, and the eloquence and clarity of your opinions.

    PS I had occasion to think of you when my wife used my flashlight (SC52) to look for the grave of her grandparents over the Christmas period in a rural Russina graveyard after dark, she had not visited for 10 years. After paying our respects, I recalled your saying that it is not about the gear, it is about the experiences that the gear allows us to have. How true. Thanks man.

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