When you play fantasy baseball, it is mostly stats. Do I pick up Mallex Smith as a streamer and grab some cheap steals? But everyone once in a while, you sit back and ponder what it would be like if your team of powerhouses was a real team. Would they gel? Would they crush their opponents? What would your team look like in the playoffs?
And in the flashlight world, we have a fantasy team of sorts—Jason Hui bought Four Sevens from David Chow, its founder. One of the most promising designers and flashlight engineers bought what is arguably the most enthusiast of flashlight brands. The end result has been a cavalcade of excellent torches—the Preon Mk. III, the Mini and Mini Turbo Mk. III. The combination of Jason’s aesthetic and FourSevens bleeding edge emitters is truly a flashlight design fantasy team.
And now we have an update of the flagship FourSevens light as a Kickstarter. This is a review of both Mk. III Quarks, the 2xAA version, called the Quark Mk. III QK2A and the 1x16650 version called the Quark Mk. III QK16L. These lights are very similar, but for the power source and the size of the body tube. They are so similar, in fact, that you can swap heads and clickies from one to the other with no problem (they will not, however, swap with the Mini line). These are not revolutionarily different lights, but they are solid and thorough iterative lights and if you are in the market for a full sized EDC light, they are both worth a look, though I have a strong preference for the QK16L.
Here is the product page for the 16L. Here is the product page for the 2A. Here is the Kickstarter page (funded and ending soon…like a day after this review is posted). This is the first review anywhere. Here is the review sample (provided by Jason for review and to be given away…more on that soon):
Twitter Review Summary: An exemplary full sized torch with lots of iterative improvements.
NOTE: Where the scores are different for the two lights, the differences will be noted, otherwise, the singel score applies to both lights.
Design: 2A: 1; 16L: 2
A tube, a clicky, a clip, and an emitter head—that is all there is to a flashlight. The rest is vanity. And here the stripped down, cross-hatched bodies are excellent. The tube walls are thicker than normal and the clickie pops like keys on a crisp mechanical keyboard. The clip is a hybrid between a friction clip and a washer clip, snapping in place and then covered over by a screw down component. There is nothing really revolutionary, but what is here is flawlessly done. That, combined with a host of really clever small ideas makes these Quarks amazing. The tailstand ring is absolutely brilliant. More on that later.
The 2A, while definitely more mainstream friendly (what with its 2xAA power source), is probably too big for true EDC. The 16L is right at the limit for me, an the 2A is even bigger, hence the 1 point difference.
Fit and Finish: 2
No gaps, no loose parts, excellent machining and great polish on the reflectors. There are no flaws here. It is not a super complex light to machine, but nothing is out of place and everything just cinches up nicely.
While I prefer a bit more hourglass to the body tube, what the Quarks lack in shape, they make up for in texturing. There is a real advantage to using a full sized light and grip is the main one. I love my tiny pocket torches as much as the next tech nerd, but using them for an extended amount of time is as frustrating as trying to origami in winter mittens. Here you have plenty of space and your fingers will be much happier. I don’t think I need as much space as the 2A provides, but I took off for that issue above.
Carry: 2A: 0; 16L: 1
While I am fine with both lights being “full sized” the 2A is just too long. There is really no reason to have a double cell set up anymore and the added length is not great. The clip itself is a clever design—a friction clip that is held in place by a detention ring. Additionally, and this is a flaw common to both, there is an excessive amount of body tube AFTER the clip. When clipped to a backpack this is not an issue, but when clipped to a pocket it can be a problem. The light sticks out. Its not terribly discrete. It can knock into things. Its just not good. A shortening of the distance between the clip and the end of the light is a must for the Mk IV. Jason does offer a deep carry clip that works with the Quarks, but the tailcap distance is still too long.
Output: 2A: 1; 16L: 2
The 16L hitting 700 lumens is good, but as always, it is the moonlight low that makes me love a flashlight’s output.. I am a fan of blindingly high lumens, but I am not a fan of serious overclocking. Some of these lights produce so much heat they essentially cannot function for a useful period of time on high. At 700 lumens, the 16L is bright without being dangerous. The 2A at 500 lumens is probably a bit below par this point and yet another reason not to choose traditional cells as your battery format.
Runtimes are fine because, of course, there is a moonlight low here. I would note that the 16L is better but if you know enough to read this site, you know that isn’t a surprise. AA batteries stink.
Beam Type: 2
These are balanced beams, but with a bit of reach than normal EDC torches thanks to deeper heads. I actually like this head a lot as it has a beam type similar to that found on my beloved Mini Turbo Mk. III.
Beam Quality: 2
Ah, Jason dialed in the reflectors (yes, real reflectors…) and the beam pattern is 100% artifact free. They gleam in the dark with zero holes or distortions. The beams are perfectly round and have a nice balance between hotspot and spill. The output is a spectacular Hi CRI output thanks to Nichia’s next gen 319A emitters.
Jason has absolutely locked in both the UI and the programming. It is very easy to use and standardized across all FourSevens lights. This is really outstanding. Ten presses (not clicks) and your in. Once there the light flashes to tell you what mode its in and then you can go from there.
Hands Free: 2
And now we come to it—the real innovation of the Mk. IIIs—the tailstand ring. A small piece of delrin or other similar plastic snaps into the clicky well and lodges in place. The result is a solid tailstanding light with no issues. If you want a tailstander, the ring takes five seconds to install. If you don’t leave the thing in the box and your fine. This is the perfect solution to this age old dilemma and yet another sign that Jason is the best light designer in the business right now.
Fidget Factor: Middle of the Road
The clicky is really outstanding and with the tailstand ring in place the tailcap is awesome. But still, its not a flipper.
Fett Effect: Very Low
Flashlights don’t age really. A few asphalt nuggets or some anondizing going away is about all you get, but it never looks as cool as a lifeworn Sebenza.
At the KS price both lights are a bananas good deal. Buy the 16L. Its the enthuisast light. At their retail price, they are still competitive.
Overall Score: 2A: 16 out of 20; 16L 18 out of 20
These lights don’t reset the game. They don’t rewrite the rules, but the are outstanding iterations on a classic form. The 2A isn’t for us, so the score is naturally lower, but the 16L is an 89 MPH fastball sitting middle middle for enthusiasts. As a pack light or a nightstand light it is awesome. Its decent as an EDC torch too, but I wished the clip was closer to the end of the light. These are minor quibbles on what is undoubtedly a great torch and the proper heir to the Quark name. David Chow—your company is in good hands. Flashlight fans rejoice.
There is a metric ton of competition out there for lights like this, though most opt for the larger and fatter 19650 over the 16650. I like the smaller cell and it has a negligble impact on performance. The 2A is probably the nicest light out there that runs on AAs only, but really that is like being the skinniest guy at the fat camp.
The soon to be reviewed Lumintop Fw3A is a good competitor for the 16K. It is around the same size, the same price, and the same built quality. It has an even harder to find battery and I do feel like it is dangerously hot on high. But it is almost three times brighter than the 16K.
Still, I think the 16K is a very solid light, especially in today’s market. At the KS price, it is a no brainer.