SPECIAL DISCLOSURE: I have been in contact with Ben at Frelux and tried to time the release of this review to match when he planned on having inventory in stock. I hate reviewing stuff folks can’t buy. Other than that communication I did not share with Ben any of this review or even tell him if it was a positive or negative review. This is the first time I have done this and I consulted a number of other gear reviewers to see if they thought it was sketchy. None did. If you do, leave a comment and I will consider how to do this going forward. Ultimately, I came down on the side of reader service and wanted to make sure you could buy what I review.
If you read my Best Of 2018 for Flashlights, you know that I thought the flashlight market was getting pretty stale, especially the production side. But as 2018 wore on, even the custom side was getting a bit snooze-worthy. Lots of 18350 sized lights with blingy body tubes, 1K lumens, and not much else, unless you can’t get enough of the horrible sculpted pocket clip trend with your knives. There were four or five designs that fell into this category and frankly, I don’t think the market can support that many. Then there was the issue of price—none of these kilolumen monsters could be had for anything like $150. They start at $600 and go up. Its not that they are bad lights, not by any means. Its just that they are all pretty similar to each other. Designs that pushed the evelope were few and far between in either the production or cusotm world.
Then one of my readers asked if I had seen the Frelux Synergy. Not knowing what it was, I Googled the light and became entranced. Here was a small batch light with an unusual form factor, a number of clever design tricks, and a reasonable price tag. I contacted Ben at Frelux looking for a review sample. Then I realized two things: 1) I REALLY liked this light; and 2) it may not be possible to get a review sample in time for the holidays and GOTY. Instead of waiting for something that I had to return, I just bought the last one.
I am glad I did. This is a damn cool light.
Here is the product page. There is an upgraded run, the Firefly, that has some additional machining, decoration, and tumbling. Here is a written review. Here is a video review. Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money for me to keep):
Twitter Review Summary: Unconventional and better for it.
This light looks like Cool Fall’s trio of exotics—the SPY 005, SPY 007, and the Tri-V. The over-under double barreled footprint is quite similar. But the internals, functionality, and details are different.
There are real benefits of the over-under double barreled approach. In the first instance, this is an exceptionally space efficient design if you want to cram in two batteries to boost runtime (which is exactly what Frelux is doing here). Instead of the long, pen shaped light (which is good for formal settings where it can pass as a writing instrument, but not so pocket friendly when the largest dimension is most important), you get something roughly the size of a Zippo lighter. It stows well in a coin pocket, and here, unlike with the Cool Fall trio, it has a pocket clip so it can live elsewhere as well. The other advantage of the double slung approach is that it works exceedingly well in the hand, especially with a clicky instead of a rotary dial. Your fingers just go where they should and the light is both locked in and easy to use. It is a great design, works very well, and looks very time- and material-intensive to make.
But the similarities are pretty sparse after layout is concerned. The entire internals of the light are different and better than those found in the Cool Fall torches. With the spring pins and posts to align, Cool Falls lights were both fiddly and required tools to change the batteries. The Syngery avoids both of these problems. Thanks to a long threaded brass rod and a geared screw, the light comes together intuitively. The battery markings inside the light tell you which polarity is correct (though it runs polarity protection in case you get it wrong). Frelux’s design reminds me of the pass-through stick tang designs with the pommel bolt found on some old timey fixed blades, except unlike there, it is designed to come apart. Overall, the design is simply brilliant, easy to operate, easy to maintain, and great in the hand thanks to ample and strategically placed chamfering.
Fit and Finish: 2
The guy behind Frelux (pronounced FREE LUX), Ben, owns his own IT business. He also has a pretty sophisticated machining set up in his garage. Perhaps these things have focused his attention or perhaps he is just a fastidious guy. Whatever the case may be, the light is one of the best made pieces of kit I have seen in years. For example, the batteries have no play in the battery tubes, but slide in smoothly and easily. This isn’t just a “machine perfect” item though, as a lot of the smaller touches indicate that Ben is passionate about making these lights. Look at the fun labels on the tail of the light (reading: “Reload” and “Make Ready” on the battery compartment cover):
Every corner is chamfered. Every surface is very nicely stonewashed, perhaps to the level of Hinderer’s stonewashed over high polish finish on his knives. The parts mate together very solidly. The switch has good feedback and is a medium stiffness clicky. Even the printing is exceptionally sharp. The only lights I have seen that that are the Frelux’s machining peers are the McGizmo Haiku and the aforementioned SPY007. This is exceptionally crafted piece of kit.
This is why the double slung design is awesome. This light made it out to the Super Bowl of Flashlights (aka Trick or Treat) and it was superb during about 2.5 hours of use (yes, we were greedy and went beyond the city time allotment—lots of candy and much less competition).
Your fingers are in the right spot to manipulate the light and, at the same time, hit the clicky switch. This makes for a very confident grip and high ease of use. After a month of carry I can tell you I prefer this version of the over-under body to that found in the SPYs which could be a bit fiddly when adjusting output.
Thanks to a very rounded, unoffensive machined body, the use of AAA batteries, and a really great clip, even in shorts, this carries okay. Its not as invisible as a 1xAAA light, but it is not that much worse in pants. In shorts it is noticeable, so in a warm climate that is something to consider. In New England, this is just good to go.
The only version available when I bought the review sample was the non-Hi CRI version and it is a bit tinty. Not “original FourSevens Preon” bad, but noticeable, especially now that all my regularly used lights are Hi CRI. The low is perfect at 1.4 lumens and the high at 188 lumens is plenty for me, but some will complain. This, like a Muyshondt, is built for a marathon and not a sprint, which is the way I always want to make the trade between brightness and runtime, but still, in today’s lumens-obsessed marketing I can see people complaining. The combination of a a tinty beam and a less than eyeball busting high makes me take off a point, but just barely so. I am completely and totally done with the lumens arms race so think of this score as .1 of a point off for the high and .9 off for the tint. Unfortunately, the Hi CRI version suffers the normal penalty is has a high of “only” 125 lumens, so that is not a fix either, if you are a lumens lover.
Okay, this is why lumens don’t matter. This runs FOR REAL on high for more than a hour. Sure, thanks to the stupid ANSI spec manipulation, lots of lights claim a high of 700 lumens or whatever, but in reality you get 90 seconds of burst high and then something like 200 lumens from there on. It is totally cheating and one of two major reasons why lumens ratings are all but useless. But here, you get high for a long time. And you get low for a long time (around 50 hours, again, for real). Frelux made all of the choices I would have made in terms of output v runtime if I were making a torch.
Beam Type: 2
Trick or Treat is a great time to test beam patterns and here, this was a surprisingly good thrower for a light this size. As you can see it runs a real reflector:
And thanks to a deep head, comparatively speaking, you can get a bit of reach that you wont find in other AAA lights. I like that. For me, beams should be balance, with the Surefire spill and hotspot set up being ideal. This is pretty darn close to that.
Beam Quality: 2
There were no eggs, no artifacts, and no holes in the beam pattern. This is a quality light with an equally excellent reflector. No complaints here and thanks to a bit of throw, this is probably a better set up for EDC than the optically perfect TIR, which seems to always be calibrated for spill instead of throw.
Yep, easy, good ole’ clicky. Normally I would prefer a selector ring to a clicky, but having owned both this and the SPY 007, in a double barrel configuration I prefer the clicky as it is easier to access, easier to use, and lets me keep ahold of the light the entire time.
The above photo shows why clickies are better in the double barrel configuration—the design forces your finger into the exact right spot. Brilliant design and brillaint unintutive choice. You’d think that selector rings are always better, but here Frelux let fuction dictate form and the result is a better light with an clicky. Go figure.
Hands Free: 2
There is no magnet. You can’t really do the hands free hold (its possible just not comfortable, not that it ever is), but this little torch can stand on its own in three different positions, including on its tail. That flexibility is just cool.
And even better, you can adjust the output while the light is tailstanding, something only side switch lights can do.
Fidget Factor: Very High
With a unique shape, no sharp edges, a wonderful stonewashing, and a snappy clicky, this like is almost as much fun as a fidget toy, if that is your thing.
Fett Effect: Very High
The anodized clip, though still unmarred two months after buying light, will eventually show some cool wear as well the stonewashed and anodized finish. As it comes though, both look a little battleworn.
Value: Very High
This level of machining, design elegance, and utility for around $160 is an unprecedented good value in the gear world. When most small batch lights are coming in around $600 to start, this is a breath of fresh air, both in terms of design and in terms of price.
Overall Score: 19 out of 20
The Frelux Synergy I is not the best light in the world—that would be the still King of the Hill BOSS 35–but it just might be my favorite. As an EDC torch it does everything exceptionally well. Its bright enough. It has great run times. It has a great form factor. It has a simple UI. It can be disassembled entirely without tools. It runs on common batteries. It has a great clip. It can be as simple or as blingy as you want. And it is a stunningly good value for a small batch light. When most lights START north of $500 and the Frelux Synergy I is hitting $160, the light is an exceptional piece of kit. Think about this—how many pieces of gear would you pay twice the asking price for and be happy about it? At $300 I would have still pulled the trigger knowing what I know now.
The two flaws here, if they are really flaws and not just me anticipating complaints, are so minor that they seem hardly worth mentioning. I think the output at 188 lumens is more than plenty and thanks to a deep-ish reflector, you get a good bit of punch. The preflash is weird and something I have never seen before, but it is almost imperceptible. And that’s it. That is the sum total of complaints others might have. For me, this is just an eminently lovable torch and one of my favorite three lights to carry (BOSS 35 and Muyshondt Aeon Mk. 3 being the other two). Its not perfect, but it is a favorite. If Ben puts more up, just pull the trigger. You will be happy you did.
In the $150 price range there is nothing like this. Most production lights this price are lumens cannons and not really functional EDC. Either that, or they are gilded lilly versions of regular lights—titanium bling tubes. Neither really offer the EDC friendly package that the Synergy I does. Really the competition for the Synergy I is the two small Muyshondt lights—the Maus and the Aeon, which are three times the price or more. That’s the sign this is a good light.