Saturday, January 16, 2016

Surefire Titan Plus Review

This light has been delayed time and again, but like Shigeru Miyamoto once said--a good game is delayed until it ships and a bad game is bad forever.  All of the waiting resulted in a light that is at one in the same time the best EDC production light on the market and woefully behind the times.  Its great and stupid all at the same time.  And it is very difficult to evaluate.  My opinion has changed since I recorded the overview.  In fact, it has changed since I initially wrote this review.

I have owned two (it was a mistake, I bought one, never received the shipping confirmation, from Surefire, and then bought another one thinking the Surefire purchase had somehow aborted).  Both have had the same issues, so I am fairly confident it is a matter of design and not that I got a lemon.  But both also have some remarkable features.  This isn't a case of good stuff and bad stuff evening out to a score halfway in between, in fact, during the three month review period I have gone back and forth between thinking this is the new standard to thinking this is a waste of money.  After about 90 days of use I am fairly confident I have a bead on how good the light is.

Here is the product page. The Titan Plus costs $99.95 (and thanks to Surefire's pricing policies there is little variance, maybe $10 bucks here or a stash of free CR123as there). Here is a written review. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Surefire Titan Plus, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample:


Twitter Review Summary: 300 lumens from a 1xAAA covers up a lot of problems

Design: 2

The Titan and Titan Plus are the second generation of Surefire's first EDC-centric flashlight, the Titan T1A (well, third if you include the ultra limited edition T1, which ran on CR2 batteries).  But this is not a case of clear progression.  In many ways the Titan Plus, the upgraded version of the Titan, is a dramatic step backwards for Surefire.  First, unlike the T1A, the UI here is strictly inferior--a twist, twist again UI, instead of a smooth twist selector ring type mechanism on the original T1A.  That is a nod towards price.  The Titan Plus is less than half the price of the T1A.  But that's not the only thing that's strictly worse.  The decision to make the body out of brass is inexplicable.  Its heavier, softer, and offers no performance boost over aluminum.  


The skeptic in me says that they chose brass because its easier to machine (making it cheaper) and it is heavier giving the light heft that stupid people equate with superior goods.  There is a whole history of companies making things heavier because people think "heavier=better".  The great Danish audio company Bang and Olufsen is pretty explicit about why they included a zinc weight in their remotes for ages.  People picked up the remote and naturally thought it was better made and a better product because, again, for some reason people thing "heavier=better."  In the EDC world, heavier is not better and this light is worse because of the choice to run a brass body tube, but its hard to break the habits of stupid people.

All of this said, the fundamentals of the design are solid.  The form factor is great and the clip is the best on any Surefire or any 1xAAA light on the market.  If it weren't for the greatness of the original T1A, the Titan Plus would seem like a big and genuine improvement over the flood of chintzy 1xAAA lights we have been seeing for two or three years now.  But if your Surefire you are always fighting with your past--the history of Surefire lights is heavily populated by some of the best and most innovative lights ever made, production or custom.  Topping that is hard for any company to do, even Surefire.  I wrote this entire review and knocked the Titan Plus a point, but then, after thinking about it, its probably not fair to deduct a point here because it is not as slick as the original Titan when I don't do that for every other light.  In the end, the overall solid, if simple, design is above average.    

The performance ratios are decent, though not great.  The lumens:weight is obviously poor coming in at 150 (300 lumens/2 ounces).  If you choose to make a light out of brass you should expect it to do poorly here.  By contrast the direct competitor light, the oLight S1 Baton, is cranking, scoring 303 on the lumens:weight comparison.  The total lumens output is achieved on high with a rating of 18,000 (lumens x output in minutes).  Again, it comes out behind the S1 28,800.  The total lumens output is, however, the best of any 1xAAA light I have owned.  More on this in a minute.  Here is the Titan Plus on an Expedition Edition Field Note.


For all of the dings, the light is JUST the right size and shape. 

Fit and Finish: 2

The light goes together well and all of the edges are decent.  My first one was pretty roughly machined and others, including EDCish's Aaron, have noted the same issue.  But the second one was fine.


The coating isn't super hardy, but everything screws together nicely and the overall feel of the light is one of solidity.  There is no wiggle between the parts and no gaps.  I miss the old uber thick Mil-Spec HA from the yesteryear Surefires, but other than that one thing, this is a well-made light.    

Grip: 2

I loved the feel of the Titan Plus in hand.  The hex barrel and the finishing (as flimsy as it is) just feel right.  Add to that the magic length to diameter ratio, and the Titan Plus is a clear winner.

Carry: 2

Its heavy for its size, but the Titan Plus is still so small that it doesn't really matter all that much.  Add to that an amazing clip and some pocket friendly surfaces and you have a super EDC light, probably one of the best on the market.  Note to all of the other manufacturers--this is how you do a pocket clip.  Drop those BS friction fit clips.  They are terrible.  

Output: 2

This thing is a flamethrower.  Its high, 300 lumens, is more than double what you can find on many 1xAAA lights.  On specialized lights, like the Peak Eiger and the MBI HF-R can go higher in this form factor and they do so at great cost.  The runtimes on those lights are microscopic compared to the runtimes on the Titan Plus.  And so, if you are looking for the brightest light in the most convenient form factor, the Titan Plus is it.  


I'd like to see a true moonlight low from Surefire, but they seem unwilling to go down that route for some reason.  But like the reigning supercar--when you can just outmuscle your opponents in an objective criteria like top speed (or lumens in this case) you are going to get noticed in a crowded market.  

Runtime: 2

Again, a pure, incontestable win for Surefire--300 lumens for an hour on a 1xAAA is a feat of engineering we have not seen.  You pull off a trick like that and a lot of stuff gets forgiven, including having a paltry 7 hour runtime on your low setting of 15 lumens.  

Beam Type: 2

All flood baby.  Even with the normal Surefire pattern (lots of hotspot very little spill), the uber small reflector (yep, still a reflector, no TIR optics) limits what you can do.  In the role of pure EDC light, that's not a problem at all, but if you are a Surefire fanboy rounding out your collection, don't expect what you get from other Surefires, which is throw well beyond what they should be able to given their size.

Beam Quality: 1

For a $100 I want something a bit nicer.  The artifact free pattern is nice, and Surefire has always been able to do that, but I want a higher CRI emitter here.  I know it shaves off some lumens and that is this light's whole deal, but this yellowish green tint ain't my thing.  The Mk. III Aeon which uses a Hi CRI emitter and hits 200 lumens isn't significantly dimmer but just looks nicer.  

UI: 1

All right Surefire, what are you doing?  The original Titan had one of the sweetest UIs on the planet and now we get a clunky, and I mean rusted Transformer clunky, UI.  The twist, twist again UI is meh, but here it's weird, I can't, for the life of me, get it to run up to High without first going into medium twice.  It was like that on both lights.  I am not sure this is a "flaw" or a "feature" (some BS about protecting your eyes and your battery or something like that), but whatever it is, it is super annoying.  That said the spacing is good and there is no flicker, so it's average.  The biggest issue with that is that the original Titan was (and still is) state of the art.  Sad face.  I am sure it was a concession to hit the $100 price point, but man that potentiometer UI was sweet.

Hands Free: 2

Okay, so there is this plastic cap that goes on the top of the light that allows you to connect it to a keychain.  I had hoped against hope that underneath the flashlight toupee there would be a flat surface to allow the light to tail stand.  But no.  There is another, identical, keychain attachment point.  What a missed opportunity.  That said, it would be sweet to see Surefire come out with accessory caps.  That would open up a whole new space in flashlight design.  Personally I'd love to see a tail standing cap and a glass breaker cap, but I am sure creative minds could think of other uses.   So while I think the redundant connector points are stupid, I am not going to deduct points for it because there is a slim possibility that either Surefire or someone in the community will see the cap as opportunity to expand the functionality of the flashlight.  Also, it doesn't roll and is fine between the teeth.

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

This is a light that won't age well.  Once the rest of the market catches up and starts matching the Titan Plus's runtimes and output there will be literally nothing to distinguish this light from its competitors, except, the Surefire tax.  But for now, this is one of the best EDC lights out there.  I prefer the S1, as I like the clicky and the low and the high better, but if you are deciding between these two lights, you are already in a good place.

The thing that kills me the most about the Titan Plus is what it could have been.  If it had the T1A's UI and kept the runtime, it would be an instant and all time classic.  Maybe Surefire will release something like that in the future and when they do--watch out, I'll elbow you in the ribs to get to the front of the line to buy one. 

You might be wondering how a light that gets a score of 18/20 did so well in my GOTY ballot.  Simple--there are sometimes when a piece of gear does something so outstandingly well that I give more weight to that positive than I do to the negatives.  If the scale wouldn't be broken by doing so I would have given the Titan Plus something like a 4 in terms of output.  It just broke the barrier of what we thought was possible in this battery format and that is a big, big deal.

The Competition

Really there are two competitors--the oLight S1 Baton and the Peak Eiger.  I like the S1 a bit better and the Eiger a bit less.  All three are great, but the S1's form factor is not much, if at all, worse.  The upgrade in UI and better all around output levels makes it a favorite in my eyes.  The Eiger suffers pretty badly because it is very limited runtime.  Its still a great light, but its starting to show its age.  In the end, I have to say for all its flaws and limitations I carried the Titan Plus a lot.  Its a good light.  A very good light.  The S1 might be better, but the Titan is a real competitor.

There are two other factors that less flashoholics might want to consider--the format and country of origin.  A Made in the USA light that has all of the features of the Titan Plus, runs a common cell, and hits at right under $100 is a VERY tempting package.    


  1. I think the points should have been knocked off for the weight and the lack of tail stand. I have a feeling that without the 'surefire' name they would have been?

  2. I've been eager to see your review on the Titan Plus. I just got mine in the mail. The double twist is required for high on my model as well. I was a bit worried it may have been defective, but it sounds like that's how Surefire builds them. I pretty much agree with your review on most accounts, although I don't think it's going to be that outdated for a few years, since it's probably the only American made single AAA with this performance at this price. I was lucky to get this one for $50 during their Black Friday sale, and feel like it's one of the best lights I've ever had for the money. I'd buy another at $100! Hopefully they release another model with the older Titan's amazing UI. If they do that, the price on the Plus might come down. There are a number of exciting lights out this year.

    I'm anxious to get my hands on an S1 Baton to go with this. On that note, have you seen the new Surefire Sidekick micro USB rechargeable keychain light? It's shaped like a key fob and offers 300 lumens for 1.25 hours. I'm hoping you review it soon.

  3. Thanks for the great review, Tony. I have been curious about this product - it seems like $100 opens up a lot of options in flashlights and I wondered if it was worth it.

    On the topic of using brass - isn't brass usually considered a premium material in the flashlight world? I know prometheus charges a small premium for his brass QR lights.

    Also, it may be a little harsh to call the "heavier is better" crowd "stupid." This can be seen all over the place. For example, there is a huge trend in metal smartphones right now even though there are lots of good reasons NOT to use metal (shock absorption, signal problems, wireless charging problems). I know the engineer in us likes to say "heavier is better" is a stupid thought when the "heavier" provides no real function, but if people really feel that way it it can't be ignored. I know you've read Don Norman's book and one of the earliest chapters warns designers not to ignore the emotional response people will have toward their designs, even if the responses don't directly relate to function. I'm definitely one that loves the way metal smartphones feel over plastic ones, even though objectively I know plastic is probably a better option.

    I do wish Surefire had made this in a few different materials thought, and gave people the option. Maybe charge $10-15 less for an SS version and $20 more for titanium (again, I think the prometheus QR lights use a similar pricing model).

  4. The LGS got a shipment in several months ago. I couldn't figure out the UI - neither could the people working there. Several employees tried to get it on high before finally giving up and handing it back to me to figure out. I finally got it on high, thought "well that didn't make any sense," and left without buying one.

    Thanks for the S1 recommendation - mine arrived last week.

  5. I have to criticize your score on hands free. The Preon got a 1 because it could not tail stand, even though you (and everyone else) had yours modified to do so. Then you give the Titan a 2 because surefire COULD make a part to allow this light to tail stand.

    We (your readers) know your biases; so, for example, if I don't care about high CRI emitters, I know how to handicap your score in that regard, because my preference differs from yours. This is not a matter of preference. 1 point for anti-roll, 1 point for tail stand. It would be much more consistent to givethe titan a 17, and amend your score if Surefire, or anyone else, ever releases a readily available component to allow the titan to tail stand.

    1. I am not sure here. The tail cap has so much potential. There was a run of custom caps on CPF that really transformed the old T1A and Surefire was aware that was happening. It can't just the a coincidence that they use basically the same design in their new Titan as was used on the CPF custom tail cap run. Maybe I am a bit silly for being hopeful, but that is where the hope is coming from. Also, because it's is brass, it's not too bad between the teeth.

  6. Hey Tony,

    Nothing to do with this post but I have a question. I've been looking at your SHOT show postings on Do you get recognized when you are there because of your blog. Are the vendors extra nice?

  7. Are you still touting that piece of sh*t Paek Eiger as a viable modern option?? C'mob, i bought that thing because you were so gung ho about and I've never been so meh about a product, not horrible but seriously nothing great either

    1. The only problem with that light is the runtime on high. Based on the comments you made in the YouTube review of the Haiku, it's clear lumens are really important to you. They just don't matter that much, especially when you consider how the eye and brain process brightness. So yeah I still like the Peak Eiger, but I will admit that this new 10mm emitter from Surefire, which is also in the Sidekick, really does change the game. The Eiger is still very good, but no longer at the top of the field.

  8. Lumen count isn't my gripe with the Eiger, it's the premature ejaculation long run time and the inability to control levels that completely disappear when running a 10440 battery, I'm just surprised you still give that light a recommendation when there are so many better alternatives that left that light in the dust a long time ago.

  9. $99 for an edc light is a bit pricey for me. What would you recommend at a lower point say around $50?