Olight PL-Mini 2 Review (Sub Compact & Compact Weapon Light)

Today I am taking a look at the Olight PL-Mini 2, a weapon light from Olight designed for compacts and subcompact pistols. Thanks to Skyben for sending this Pl-Mini 2 to me to check out and test at the range.

 

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/bfjczyN

YouTube Version of this Review:

Packaging

Packaging for the Olight PL-Mini 2 is much like other recent Olight’s with a white high quality cardboard outer box. On the inside, you have a pull out tray covered by a cardboard cover that contains the manual and a right angle torx key. The light, charger and accessories come housed in a plastic form fitted container. Included accessories are the PL-Mini 2 itself, Olight magnetic charger (Special for the PL Mini lights), a metal 1913 rail piece (Glock is preinstalled), 2 extra screws, and a T6 Torx wrench. Skyben also includes 2 extras, a small little battery case for CR123 batteries, and a USB flash drive sized LED light.

Construction

The light is built from anodized aluminium with a smooth fairly glossy finish. The rear left and right buttons are plastic, and designed to bet pulled down to actuate. Compared to the original PL-Mini the PL Mini 2 is shorter but a bit thicker in height.

The big difference here is the mount. It has the same quick detach lever as the PL2 RL that when unlocked you have to then push on this actuator to expand left and right the attachment point, I like this and it adds additional security incase the quick detach was to come unlatched, the light wont drop off your pistol. The element that the PL Mini 2 adds is that in the unlocked position the mount section then slides forward and backwards allowing you to get the rear end of the light to fit a wider selection of firearms.

For instance the original PL-Mini won’t fit on the rail section I have installed on my S&W Shield, the light is too long, but the PL-Mini 2 I am able to sift the light forward so that it will connect. For those of you wondering I am using a ReCover Tactical SHR9 Rail adapter, and it’s really a nice option for the shield, with super easy install.

One thing to note is that there is No locktight on the screws that hold the adjustable rail section to the light. It hasn’t been a problem through my shooting the light but it’s something I might end up doing to just make sure they won’t ever come loose. I did decide to see if I could pry off the small rail section to see inside, and with a little force I was able. Between the two pieces there is a black silicone gasket, and inside there is a 130mAh battery. I was a little surprised to see the light is mostly potted with a clear silicone type material.

I had no issues with durability, having shot about 300 rounds through it on two outings to the range, from 4 different guns in 3 different calibers, 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP.

Physical Comparisons

PL Mini 2

Weight – 73g

Length (Shortest) – 44mm

Length (Longest) – 52mm

Width – 27.5mm

Height – 32mm

 

PL Mini

Weight 65.5g

Length – 53mm

Width – 28.5mm

Height – 27mm

 

To sum up the numbers the PL Mini 2 is shorter, but has more height and weighs slightly more due to the more complex mount system.

LED/Beam/Runtime

This light uses the Cree XP-L HD LED in cool white. In comparison to the Original PL-Mini the tint in version 2 is a bit warmer, but with a slight green tint in my example. The reflector is a little larger due to the increased height of the light, and it seems to throw a bit larger beam. The light throws pretty well the reflector size, and for a weapon light this is what you want.

600 lumens on such a small platform will have a hard time dissipating heat and this is no different. It’s brightest mode only lasts 2-3 minutes, the good news is the step down is smooth and slow but significant. By the 11 minutes mark, the light is at about 10% relative output. It maintains this steadily for another 35 minutes before decreasing slowly down to almost nothing before it shut off at 100 minutes.

UI

The UI is very basic with essentially no options on this light. The buttons have basically one mode that either lock on if pressed quickly, or act in momentary if held down. There is no strobe on this light.

Recharging

Recharging happens via the magnetic olight charging system. The PL Mini 2 like the original use the special version of the charger, my guess this is to reduce the charging speed due to the small battery. Overall recharge time from shut off point was 52 minutes.

 

Pro’s

  • Adjustable solution that will fit most compact and subcompact pistols with rail support
  • Stepdowns are more gradual and slow, not big steps, but it’s initial 600 lumens only lasts 2-3 minutes.

 

Con’s

  • Holster Support – A few brands announced they will be making holsters for the lights, Olight still has a lot of work to do to catch up to the more established brands in the pistol light market for holster support.
  • Clamp on the left hand side, when mounted easily catches a finger when going to turn it on.

 

Conclusion

The PL-Mini 2 is almost a completely different light from the 1st generation. While they do similar things, the Mini 2 prioritizes it’s modularity to fit smaller compacts and subcompact pistols, and makes design decisions to accomplish this such increasing it’s height, to make it’s overall length shorter to better fit compact and subcompact framed pistols. As a weapon light it works well, I don’t have any complaints there, the magnetic recharging system is very convenient, and works well for the size. My two problems are the quick disconnect lever is a little too long and kind of covers the switch on that side. Left handed shooters would notice this the most or if you trigger the light activation with your off hand for right handed shooters. I think the design could be improved by at least making it round or perhaps coming up with another lever design that is smaller. The other main problem I see is holster support. There are a few manufactures that offer semi custom holsters but not many. Be prepared to be buying custom holsters if you decide to run this light as it’s just not widely supported like some other brands are, especially if you have an adapter rail like I do. As long as you know this going in it’s a nice little pistol light that works well in my testing.

Pick up the PL-Mini 2 on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2Zt1RkL

Klarus ST15R Review (Bike & Camping Flashlight)

Klarus has a new handheld light on the market called the ST15R Night Guardian. It’s a general purpose light that comes with a bike mount, diffuser and a clip to go with you where you go. It runs on multiple lithium battery sizes and will recharge 18650’s via onboard microUSB. Thanks to Flashlightz for sending it to me to take a look at today.

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/WrODgx0

YouTube Version of this Review:

Packaging

Packaging on the Klarus ST15R is a retail top hanging box, that’s mat black with the light in raised gloss black on a camping scene, It touts the lumen rating on the front, that it includes a battery and that it’s rechargeable. The sides show a few feature such as the intelligent thermal protection system, USB rechargeable and others. On the back you get headlining features, and more detailed specifications including LED used, Brightness ratings, runtime, throw, and sizes and weight.

The package includes Flashlight, YLE 18650 2600mAh battery (More on that in the recharging section), pocket clip, lanyard, extra oring, MicroUSB charging cable, Bike Mount, and silicone reflector dome. The dome is nice, I wish more lights included them in the package.

Construction

Klarus stepped up the game on the ST15R in my opinion. The light is very nicely machined and the finish is without fault. The light is made from 6061-T6 Aluminium and anodized in a smooth mat black, with a very light texture. Starting at the tail, you have the mechanical switch that takes a firm press, covered with a silicone boot. It has 2 small raised areas for a lanyard to pass through and that allows the light to tail stand. While not truly deep carry the clip on the ST15R is only 20mm from the top allowing for a decently deep carry, much better than some of the competitors lights.

The tail and body are one piece, below the tail section there is a ring milled out for the clip to attach. The clip is fairly standard, it’s removable and rotates 360 degrees, plenty of relief to fit jeans or a fairly thick piece of clothing but there is a ledge that will get caught slightly. The finish looks to be a glossy parkerized type finish, not paint.

The body tube portion of the light has a nice milling pattern of a tight fine spiral of about 180 degrees. While this does not provide a ton of grip, I like the way it looks alot, it’s something different over standard knurling and is easier to keep clean too. I think it’s a classier look as well, and I suspect it isn’t cheap to machine either. Threads are anodized, and squarecut. There are springs on both ends of the light as well.

On the head section the button for me is a nice little upgrade. It’s an electronic switch with LED indicators underneath the bezel. The way the LED’s are diffused in the bezel makes the light soft and pretty even it just looks nicer than I expected. The LED’s are green, yellow and red based on the battery charge level. Opposite the button is the MicroUSB recharging port with a silicone cover. The cover is tight and there is a little extra bit to fit down into the port. I didn’t have any trouble with any of the MicroUSB cables I have but if yours had a wide connector area it might not fit. The of the head do have some milling for heat dissipation.

The front of the head section itself is smooth, the bezel is a silver anodized aluminum. It looks like the head is assembled from the front. The glass is double anti reflective coated with a large visible black o’ring. The reflector is smooth and deep. The LED is nicely centered and surrounded with a black disk.

Size/Weight

I measured length at 142mm, maximum diameter at 33mm and minimum diameter on the body tube at 25mm. Weight with the included battery, and clip came in at 152G.

Length wise it’s slightly shorter than an Olight Warrior X, and very similar in most dimensions to a Nitecore MH12GTS. See the video for some visual comparisons of this.

 

LED/BeamShots

LED in use is a Cree XP-L HD V6 LED, no official tint data is given but I would call it a bright white, not too cool, but not warm. I don’t find it offensive and like it. For nature stuff it’s probably a little too cool for my ideal light.

The beam pattern has a definite hot spot, more like a thrower, the spill is pretty minimal, less than 5% of the light if I had to guess. I like that Klarus decided to include the diffuser on this light, since it is a bit throwy this really change things up and provides more light 360 degrees around. Now you could use it not only at night while hiking but also inside a tent suspended from the top, etc. More lights should come with a diffuser.

Working Voltage is 2.5 – 8.4V beaning it has no problem taking 18650, 2x 18350, or 2x CR123A.

Low – 10 Lumens

Medium – 100 Lumens

High – 400 Lumens

Turbo – 1200 Lumens

 

Strobe – 1200 Lumens

Beacon  – 100 Lumens

SOS – 100 Lumens

 

For my runtime tests I used the included 2600mAh battery. Total runtime was 210 minutes. The curves on this are generally pretty gradual, no hard step downs until the end. I believe this is due to the active thermal controls the light has and not timed step downs. The light held 80% relative output for right at 20 minutes which is pretty good. The graphs really tell the story, so make sure to check those out.

UI

The light has an on/off switch on the tail, with an electronic switch in the head. Once turned on you have constant on modes, Low, Medium, High and Turbo and you cycle through these with a single click each. The light does have memory mode if switched off with the tail switch in the constant on modes. When the light is on double clicking the switch in the head gets to the strobe modes. Long press on the same button to switch between Strobe, Beacon, and SOS. There are no shortcuts to turbo, or low.

While charging you can can click the mode button and the light will come on in low.

 

Recharging

The light recharges via Micro USB in a port opposite the button. It is recessed and wide cables or cables with large molding may have trouble reaching. I didn’t have this problem on the 3 or 4 I tested. The light does have LED indicators around the button so it will show battery charge status for 5 second when the light is turned on or changed modes. Green is greater than 70%, Orange is between 30-70%, and red less than 30%, and red flashing is less than 10%

The light includes a 2600mAh 18650 battery that is a button top and protected cell. It says working voltage is 4.2V to 2.75V which is a bit low for my preferences. On mine I can clearly see the label of the underlying cell and in this case it’s a YLE INR18650A260 the datasheet can be found http://www.yiklik.com/upload/manual/INR18650A260.pdf This is a Chinese battery supplier, that makes a variety of 18650’s. It seems they have been focused more on batteries for bikes, other personal transportation, and tools more then high draw flashlights.

Recharging Speed was measured at 1A, so charging the light over USB from it’s shut off point took 3 hours and 5 minutes in my test. Terminating Charge Voltage after rest of the battery was 4.17V.

When charged the red LED’s around the switch go to green, and the light gives a brief low power flash of the main emitter. I like this, it’s more noticeable than just an LED changing color.

Pro’s

  • Can take a wide variety of batteries, 18650, 2x CR123A, 2x 16340, 2x 18350
  • Definite upgrade in machining, finish, and packaging.
  • I love the slight sliver of LED’s around the switch, it just better done then similar lights that do this.
  • Includes a bike mount and diffuser dome.

 

Con’s

  • Not a big fan of double click to strobe, I would prefer a double click to turbo UI with triple click to Strobe.
  • No Moonlight mode.
  • Not using a well known established brand of battery for their branded cells.
  • No holster is included, not a big deal for me personally but worth mentioning.

 

Conclusion

To sum up the Klarus ST15R is a nice balance for a light that can be used in a lot of different applications. I wish the user interface was a little different, because I don’t like strobe so easily accessed with a double click. It’s nice that it comes with a bike mount and a diffuser, and I think this improves its usability with it’s more throwy beam. The LED isn’t a super cool tint which can happen with other Klarus lights, so I like that too. The fit and finish is a step up too in my opinion from some of the Klarus lights I have looked at in the past. I love the milling pattern on the body and the anodizing seems to be nicer as well. It’s a pretty nice light and let’s hope Klarus continues this trend in 2019.

 

Pick one up at https://www.flashlightz.com/klarus-st15r-1200-lumens

Xtar X4 4 Bay Battery Charger Review

Xtar has a new charger on the market the X4. I previously looked at the X2 but today I have a review of the X4, the 4 bay version. It’s capable of 4A and capable of charging Li-ion and Ni-MH batteries, with AC or 5V MicroUSB Power. Thanks to Xtar for sending this to me to test and review.

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/E6G69Ki

YouTube version of this Review:

Packaging

The packaging is a white retail box with a gloss photo of the X4 on the front. The sides list a few key features such as the charging speed, Inputs, LCD display, the chemistries and sizes of batteries that are supported. The back gives more specifications and features of the charger. It contains a scratch off anti counterfeit sticker and is insured worldwide. The package contains the charger, AC power cable, and the manual.

Construction

The Xtar X4 charger is a 4 bay charger that can accommodate most common battery sizes. I had no trouble with all 18650’s, it will fit 4x 26650, and I didn’t have any issues with an unprotected 21700. Smaller batteries were ok too, 18350, AAA, etc. It will not charge a protected 21700 battery. The metal sliders are fairly smooth and have enough tension on them to hold a battery securely.

The body of the charger is a black ABS plastic that is heat and flame retardant, and is kind of in an X configuration, in outside appearance. There isn’t a fan in this charger meaning it’s silent, and I didn’t notice it get very warm during use. There is one button on the top, middle near the screen that when held turns the screen off, for night time charging if you wish.

I took some photos of the inside of the charger here. I am not a circuit engineer but to me it looks decent. Quality of the solder joints look good, A few components are not 100% squarely placed but not bad either. I don’t see any cold joints or things that I am alarmed about. If you see something you are concerned about, make sure to leave a comment. I suspect the second contact further down the slot is used in the detection of the battery as well.

Screen

The screen is a LCD with a dark black background and white text that’s tinted blue with a blue backlight. On each bay you get a 0-100% indicator showing what percentage the battery is at, on the top right corner you get the current voltage, below that you get the charge rate, below that in the center you get the mAh that’s been put into the cell since the start of charging, and lastly on the bottom left hand corner you get the cell chemistry that’s been detected. The screen is easy to read and I had no complaints about it. It does time out after a few minutes, you can press the button to wake it up.

Performance

Performance of the X4 is similar to the X2 but faster. The X4 will charge at up to 1A for all 4 slots or 2A on the outer slots if they are used solo. The charger has reverse polarity detection and didn’t charge batteries when they were placed in backwards. Battery chemistry was correctly identified, when you place a new cell in it takes a few seconds for it to go through detection and begin charging. Depending on the battery voltage the charger will apply the proper charge for most cells.

I tried a variety of cells, all the way from 21700’s, 26650, 18350, and of course 18650’s. I had no complaints about Lithium ion charging. It will not charge protected 21700s. I do have a little complain on NiMH charging of AAA cells though. It detected my Duracell AAA batteries here as the proper chemistry but charged them at 1A each. While not terrible, it’s faster than I like to charge them, and I can’t decrease the charge rate with this charger.

Terminating Voltage for a 18650 cell was 4.16V

Terminating Voltage for a AA NiHM was  1.42V

Terminating voltages as you can see from above were lower then what I would expect to see. I probably need a larger sample size of cells and chargers to see if this is a problem with just my example of the charger or an issue with my batteries.

The charger has 0V activation (Although this is generally not recommended for batteries with a Lithium chemistry). For  charging it has a 3 step process TC-CC-CV with soft start technology. This helps with overall battery longevity and long term health. I had no problems with excess heat during use of the charger.

 

USB PowerBank Function

The charger also has a powerbank function on slot 4. If no incoming power is put into the charger and you put a lithium battery into slot 4, the charger will go into powerbank mode. Plug a USB-A cable into the charger and then plug in your device to charge and it’s that simple. It’s not a feature I use often but it’s nice to have if needed.

 

Pro’s

  • All automatic, this make the charger very easy to use but doesn’t give enthusiasts any options on what speed to charge the batteries at. Default settings are generally conservative, which is safe.
  • AC Power via a fairly standard cable. The charger is compatible with 120/240v so it’s safe for international use. It can also be powered via MicroUSB.
  • Affordable, at US retailers it’s coming around $25-30 generally

 

Con’s

  • I would like to see the USB input be in USB-C over MicroUSB because it’s 2019.
  • Terminating voltages seemed to be a little low
  • A little high charge rate of 1A for AAA NiHM batteries.
  • A total of only 4A total charge rate is a little slow for a 4 bay charger.

 

Conclusion

The Xtar X4 is a nice updated charger from Xtar at a pretty affordable price. I have been a fan of Xtar chargers because they are a good value and provide a quality, safe charging experience. I was a fan of the X2 and am also a fan of the X4.

 

A total of 4A charge rate between all 4 bays is a little slow when charging 4x 18650 or larger batteries. Most larger modern batteries can easily take 2A charging speed. That said it’s an upgrade over Xtar’s previous 4 bay model the VC4 that I still end up using a fair amount. It would just be nice to see the X4 do a total of 8A but this might make it a little less easy to use with then having options to select. Maybe that’s for a future product, to offer enthusiasts more options and higher charge rates. Time will tell if this holds true or not. Until then the X4 does a nice job at a pretty affordable price.

More Information on the Xtar X4 Charger  can be found at: http://www.xtar.cc/cdq/AC_Power_Series/2018/1116/292.html

Pick up an Xtar X4 at Illumn or Amazon.

Brinyte WT-01 Prototype Review (SST-40, Qi Wireless Charging)

Wireless charging is popular on many mobile devices these days, but most of the rechargeable flashlights have either a cable you need to plug in or a magnetic charger. Brinyte has come up with a flashlight that uses inductive charging to charge up the light. Today I have a prototype version of the Brinyte WT01. Thanks to them for sending it to me to take a look at.

 

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/Yhdc5Co

YouTube Version of this Review:

Packaging

With my light being a prototype the packaging was not anything near final form. It was a sturdy brown cardboard box. Accessories included the light itself, unbranded generic 3000mAh protected button top 18650 battery, Generic international 2A AC USB adapter with US adapter plug, Charging cradle and microUSB cable.

Construction & Design

The light is made from aluminum, and will be offered in a sand and black anodizing. My prototype was in the Sand color and unfortunately it’s paint and not anodizing. The result is it’s not a very durable finish. I have been assured that in the production version this will be a hard anodizing.

As far as design it’s a larger light. It’s capable of using a 18650 battery with the included spacer or a 26650. Starting at the tail cap, it’s a bit large, and simple. It tail stands nicely. The tail cap is glued in place. On the body tube there is a slight ring to do a cigar grip on. Moving on to the body tube, there are rings milled in and then 4 flats milled in. On my example these flats don’t always line up with the switch which is a little disappointing.

Inside this is a double wall design, threads on the body tube are fine and square cut cut, I would prefer something a bit more course to make it a little easier to thread on and minimize the risk of cross threading. One thing that does happen is when you take off the head and put it back on the light does come on in low mode. There are springs on both the head and tail of the light.

The head of the light itself is pretty smooth, with minimal heat syncing. The switch is electronic and covered by a green silicone cover. It has green and red LED’s under used when charging. The front bezel is smooth, and able to be unscrewed. The glass lens is anti reflective coated. Underneath is a deep smooth reflector and the LED is nicely centered.

Size and Weight

I measured overall length at 156mm, width at its widest point was 45mm, and at it’s thinnest point 33mm. Weight with the included battery is 313g

While this light is capable of running at 26650 battery and double wall construction it just feels a bit long and a bit thick. The tailcap adds to the length.

LED/Runtime

SST-40 LED with deep smooth reflector that’s a fairly neutral white. The SST-40 is a pretty good LED in my opinion. It doesn’t seem to suffer noticeable rainbow but it does seem to turn a bit more green a lower power inputs. The beam is more of a thrower. It has a small hot center, with a small area around that center of corona before it fades into the spill.

Runtimes

I did my runtime testing with the included 3000mAh generic button top protected battery the light came with. Total runtime was just at 100 minutes of usable light. It did do a pretty good job of being able to sustain it’s brightest mode for almost 20 minutes.

UI

UI on this light is non traditional but not complicated. It has 4 output modes of constant light and starts at high, then decreases to medium, then low, each time the button is pressed then off. Press the power button again and you get turbo, then it steps down through all the lower modes. The mode spacing is pretty even to the eye.

Brinyte lists outputs as:

Turbo 1100 Lumens

High 430 Lumens

Medium 70 Lumens

Low 10 Lumens

Strobe and SOS 1100 Lumens

Long press for 2 seconds to reach the 2 blinking modes of Strobe and SOS. To go back to constant on mode you have to go through both blinking modes and the light will resume to where you left off. There were no No shortcuts to go to turbo or to shut off

Light does come on in low if you disconnect the head and reconnect it with a battery inside.

Recharging

This light uses wireless inductive charging in it’s cradle. The cradle is pretty basic, no instruction or lights on it, just a microUSB port. It appears to be using Qi charging, because my Anker Qi chargers recognize the light and it goes through a sequence where it starts to charge but then stops. My guess this is because the inductive coils are not oriented correctly. My guess would be these run around the tail cap and are not on the flat where they would be for a phone typically. The cradle draws 0.2A (about 1W) on standby regardless of if it’s charging or not which is kind of high.

When charging the flashlight has a Red LED inside the button that comes on and it goes green when fully charged. I observed a 1.2A charging rate during charging, so a flat battery took 3 hours and 30 minutes to fully charge. The charging curve was pretty flat, not the usual taper. At the end I measured cell voltage at 4.17V. I will insert a photo of what I found overall capacity of the cell was at when I put it through a capacity test.

One other feature I noticed when recharging this light was that when you pull it off the charger it automatically comes on in low mode, or if the power is stopped to the charger. I could see this being useful for use if your house were to lose mains power and it would help you locate the light.

Pro

  • SST-40 LED, Fairly neutral white, solid beam performance
  • I like that colors are being offered from the beginning. Hopefully the anodizing will be more durable.
  • Nice to see someone try inductive charging on a flashlight.

 

Con

  • It’s a chunky light, and personally I don’t find it very attractive.
  • Recharging cradle draws 0.20a (About 1W) on standby regardless of if it’s charging or not. Kind of high.
  • UI is just different I would like to long press to turn off, and double click to go to turbo, maybe triple click to go to strobe.

 

Conclusion

I like the idea of wireless charging that doesn’t have exposed contacts but not if the cost is a larger light. Design wise I feel like the light is just a bit too generic and large for me. I don’t love that the tail cap is glued in place, but understand why they are doing it. I would like to see them go back to the drawing board and try to reduce the overall size of the light and add some more interesting design features.

 

With the emergency power type of feature I think I will set this light on my kitchen counter in it’s charging cradle so that if the power goes off it will automatically come on and can easily be found. I would like to see at the minimum a UI tweak to allow you to shut off the light without cycling all the way through the other modes.

 

It’s fun taking a look at a prototype light, let’s see if Brinyte makes any changes to the production version before I can say definitely if I give it a recommendation or not.

Quadhands Deluxe Helping Hands System Review

I have been doing some flashlight repair recently and was tired of getting burned hand holding or propping up very small wires, on very small drivers and springs. I was looking at “Helping Hands” solutions on Amazon and just didn’t want to pay some of the higher prices for the quality flexible systems from the industry vendors like Panavise and I didn’t want something light and flimsy. I reached out to Quadhands to see if they would be interested in sending me one to take a look at and they agreed. Thanks to Mark at Quadhands for the support, I think he might be interested in the flashlight hobby now after talking too.

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/az3yl4W

YouTube Version of this Review:

Packaging

Packaging is plain but functional on my Quadhands Deluxe. It’s a sturdy cardboard box and all of the individual pieces were wrapped up in bubble wrap to prevent any scratching or rubbing during transport. No assembly or manual was required.

Construction

The heart of this work holding is the 5lbs, 5mm thick steel plate that’s powder coated bright yellow. On the Deluxe kid like I have it’s 8.5” x 11” base, this is really a great size for smaller flashlight project and most larger electronics type projects as well. It gives you plenty of space to work around, and allows you to space out the 5 arms to get things positioned just right. On the bottom you have 4 fairly large rubber feet that keep it in place, on a variety of surfaces. The powder coating is a great choice here over paint because it’s more durable and can better tolerate heat if your soldering iron makes contact or a blob of solder falls onto it.

The deluxe kit came with 5 of the all metal magnetic arms. You get two 8” arms measured tip to tip, one 12” arm, and two 16” arms. The arms are black in color and are made of flexible metal painted a matt black. They are capable of bending in all directions, up, down and all 360 degrees. Each have an alligator style stainless steel clip to hold your wires, components and circuit boards. In addition to that each has a small knurled wheel made from a black nylon behind the clip that allows you to loosen the clip, to rotate it to the exact angle you need and then tighten it down. For me this was a 2 handed operation to get it just right. There is a little bit of spring back on more extreme bends, this can be a little annoying if you are holding a wire to a small pad to solder but I found moving the arm further away to make less of an extreme bend fixes this most of the time.

The arms have made an improvement over previous generations with exposed magnets. Now they are using a thin slick piece of slick plastic on the bottom to allow  the arms to slide around with no visible scratching while still holding strong. These are very strong rare earth N57 magnets. One of the arms can easily pick up the entire 5lb steel plate, and more.

How it works in practice

I used this most recently to replace some wires on a flashlight driver that had come off due to an impact it suffered. I found the shorter arms for me worked better to hold the circuit board. I held the small board with 2 short arms and then used a third to hold the wire and then held the iron and solder in my two hands. I have done this job before without the Quadhands helping hands system and the result often times was slightly burnt fingers.

I can think of a few improvements that they could implement as addons or different kits. Different size alligator clips could come in handy, even better if they were swapped on and off, I could also see maybe a multi head design to allow you to hold a clip and an electronics or multimeter probe. Maybe offer a heavier duty arm that was threaded with a ¼ 20 thread the popular size for camera tripods and flashlights would open up some cool ideas too for testing or filming with a gopro during testing etc.

Conclusion

The Quadhands workholding helping hands system is a really great option to hold your small PCB’s while soldering or doing other fine work. For a flashlight enthusiast and electronics builders this is a really nice option. I love that it’s made in the USA, and has makers that are easy to get a hold of. It really does work well for small soldering work, and foresee this meeting my needs for a long time. I think this is something that would fall into that buy it for life category and it’s all at an affordable price.

 

Quadhands Website https://www.quadhands.com/

Quadhands Deluxe on Amazon https://amzn.to/2JAaZQJ

Aukey USB-C Charger Review (18W PD)

Intro

USB-C products are in full swing so far in 2019. Today I have the Aukey USB-C PD charger  capable of 18W from this very small cube. Thanks to Aukey for sending it to me to take a closer look at.

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/5g0ZhkU

YouTube version of this Review:

Specs

  • Ports: USB-C x1
  • USB-C Output: 5V @ 3A, 9V @ 2A, 12V @ 1.5A
  • Power Input: 100V–240V, 50/60Hz
  • Size:  1.42 x 1.42 x 1.26 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 oz

Packaging

Packaging was very minimal on this charger. It’s a cardboard box with the name and a picture printed on it and it’s literally just protection for the charger, as it’s very small. Inside there isn’t any documentation or anything like that, it’s a charger you don’t need one. One thing worth mentioning is there isn’t a cable included with this charger at all.

 

Construction

The charger is made from hard gloss plastic. My example here is in black but there is a white model as well. Front edges are 90 degrees but the sides are rounded over. One nice thing to see here are the folding prongs. Not all chargers in this small category feature that. It makes travel easier.

Power

Use Chargerlabs Z-Meter software to show screenshot of power stability and it was pretty good. It varied a little bit at the top end but all within about 0.010 volts. I was able to pull a little over on amperage for short times, but the charger was happiest sticking in the ranges it was designed for. I charged my Aukey powerbank which supports PD and with the killowatt measure 20W easily. My USB-C testing equipment here I am getting figured out, a lot of the manuals and interface are all in Chinese yet so it’s hard to operate. In all this worked out pretty well for charging PD devices under 20W.

Conclusion

While the Aukey USB-C PD 18W charger for me performed well, it’s not the latest and greatest technology on the market or the highest output for it’s size. I would have like to see Aukey use Gallium Nitride technology to increase the power and efficiency on this while reducing the size. Don’t get me wrong this is plenty small and 18W out of this small size is pretty good, especially for the price. This would be a good charger to get if your were looking to replace the stock charger that came with your smartphone or tablet but not expecting a large upgrade, or wanting a more budget friendly pick. You will probably need a higher wattage charger to charge your laptop but if it can trickle charge (Some apple products can) then this will do that too, just expect it to take overnight. In my opinion it would make a good second charger, or office/desk charger to use with most devices.

I have reservations about recommending it for a travel charger because it does only have 1 port, and most people have more than one device when traveling, but it does have folding prongs which some other chargers of this size don’t. So what you gain with folding prongs you lose with overall power.

That said this is a good charger and I think it’s worth considering especially if there happens to be a sale on it at the time. It should work well for phones, Nintendo Switch, iPad, and most powerbanks.

Aukey 18W USB-C Charger pick it up on Amazon https://amzn.to/2F76OGB 

AUKEY 10000mAh USB-C PD Power Bank Review (18W USB-C Quick Charge 3.0)

Today I have a new powerbank to look at by Aukey, if you have been frustrated with the lack of ports or options in what your current powerbank has, this one fixes that by supporting nearly everything you would want in one small 10,000mAh powerbank. It supports USB-C PD for upto 18W charge, Qualcomm Quickcharge 3.0, and good old MicroUSB if you want too. Thanks to Aukey for sending this to me to take a look at.

Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/DTHgZCV

Youtube:

Specs

Model: PB-Y13

Capacity: 10,000mAh (37Wh)

Micro-USB in: 5V 2A

USB-C In: (18W PD), 5V 1.5A, 5V 2A

USB-C Out: (18W PD), 5V 3A,  9V 2A, 12V 1.5A

USB Out 1: (Quick Charge 3.0) 5V-6V 3A, 6V-9V 2A, 9V-12V 1.5A

USB Out 2: 5V 2.4A

 

Packaging

Packaging is simple on this powerbank, and not too big. It’s a simple brown cardboard box with the name and an outline drawing of the powerbank along with a few of the things it supports. On the inside the powerbank came in the semi transparent plastic bag, and you got a USB-A to C cable included as well for recharging or charging your supported device.

Construction

Predictably the powerbank is made of black plastic. The top and bottom cover are a lightly textured mat plastic. The ring around the edges are a glossy black plastic. Both seem to scratch fairly easily. Length came in at 146mm, width at 74mm, and width at 14mm. I weighed it at 193.9 grams. The powerbank is rigid and didn’t crack or creek. On the top edge you have a button to turn the powerbank on, and check battery power level from it’s 4 white LED’s. On the top you have the Quick Charge 3.0 port with orange internals, the USB-C port in the middle, the standard USB-A port on the other edge, then around the corner you have the microUSB for charging if you wish.

Protocol support

As I mentioned in my opening, this Powerbank supports all the standards you hope for in a modern powerbank to charge a wide variety of devices as fast as your device allows. First and most important to me on a modern powerbank is the support for USB-C Power Delivery. In this case it’s good for 18W. That is a good amount of power to charge your phones, gaming systems, etc fast, but it would  take considerable time to charge your laptop assuming your laptop can trickle charge at 18W. This also works for recharging the powerbank itself if you have a compatible charger. It also supports Qualcomm Quickcharge 3.0 on a USB-A port for supported devices. You can recharge the powerbank via USB-C or via microUSB on it’s side at 2A speed.

For my runtime info I used my EB Tester, and put a load on the battery at 3A at 5V (15W load) and the powerbank did this at a steady state for 112 minutes, I then reduced load, to be 1A at 5V (5W) where it ran for another 20 minutes. Total measured capacity was 6086mAh or 30.57Wh, the stated total capacity was 10,000mAhh or 37Wh. So my measured efficiency was just about 83% which isn’t too bad with the losses due to voltage changes.

 

The charger is capable of charging multiple devices as well. I can pull at 2A load on the USB-A port while fast charging my Note 8 via USB-C. 18W however isn’t enough power for my Dell XPS 13 9350 to begin charging via USB-C.

 

Conclusion

For me this is my new medium capacity lightweight powerbank for traveling. I like the thin size, as it makes it easy to slip in a pocket with my Note 8 or other large screen phone. It also has the protocol support I am looking for with devices that don’t support USB-C PD and the flexibility to recharge via USB-C PD or MicroUSB for legacy support. These things along with a fair price add up to be a great little powerbank across a large spread of devices. Aukey has a pretty good reputation for customer service and product quality, if there is a problem they will take care of you, so I have an expectation this will be a reliable powerbank for many years to come.

 

Pickup the Aukey USB-C PD Power Bank at https://amzn.to/2XMrZX5

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Review

Smartphones the past few years from some manufactures have been dropping the support for the wired headphone jack making wireless headphones a necessity. I have looked a a few pairs from Anker and they all had wires connecting the two earbuds together and a little remote on the cable. Today I have the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air to take a look at. These are truly wireless, and have no wire. They are similar to the Apple Soundpods but at a fraction of the price.

 

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/qitF7n0

YouTube Version of this Review:

Packaging

The packaging on this is a little larger than I expected but still the high quality that the Anker family of companies has been known for. Inside the magnetic flap it shows the headphones in a nice retail like display. Included accessories include the headphones themselves inside the charger case, a large tray of different ear tip sizes, a large manual and a micro usb charging cable to charge the case.

Construction

The earbuds are made from a hard glossy black plastic. They are solid and the molding is well done. On the outside they have a tiny LED in the top that serves as a indicator. When in the case it glows. This is also where one of the mic’s is. They are indicated L & R at the bottom of the stock.

The case is made from a soft touch plastic. On the outside there are 3 LED on the front that show the charge status of the case itself. The microUSB port on the bottom is used for recharging the case and doesn’t have any type of cover for the port. The lid hinges open 90 degrees

 

Fit  + Controls

Fit is really important for sound quality with these. Lucky they come with several different sizes of tip. For me I had to play around to get the right fit. I found them fairly comfortable to wear and didnt’ have major issues with them falling out or anything.

The headphones do have control on the right and left flat surfaces. Various taps and presses allow you to do everything from play/pause your audio, skip track, answer a call and even bring up your Google or Siri voice assistant. I will put in a diagram of this rather then explain it all. I found myself sometimes pausing my audio when adjusting the headphones in my ears which was a little unfortunate. I rarely use on headphone controls anyways.

Pairing

Pairing was really simple, I just removed the Air’s from their recharging case, and held them near my phone, with my phone in discovery mode, the phone found the headphones and joined instantly. This was the same on my ipad, as long as I had my phone pairing turned off.

After the initial pairing to use the headphones just take them out of the case and they will pair with your device automatically. I have found you need to take both out of the case not just one for this to work.

Sound Quality

How is the sound quality on these you might be asking. Fit is really important on an in ear headphone like this, so make sure you experiment around to get the best possible seal for your ear. During my testing I listened to a variety of sources of audio. Spoken word from audiobooks and podcasts were very good, honestly this is what I listen to most with headphones it seems these days so I don’t disturb others. For music I listened to the Alice in Wonderland podcast which is a mix of music, with a lot of electronic and EDM. You can tell the sound signature has the bottom end bass rolled off a little early, I assume to keep the headphones from bottoming out early, and to preserve power. These don’t have teeth rattling bass, but are not terrible either. I would put bass response at average or maybe slightly under performing for the price but not bad for something this small and wireless. I was happy with mid’s and highs, they were clear, not muted and a fairly neutral mix with the rest of the sound.

Lag

I did notice some lag in  these Liberty Air’s which was unexpected. I noticed it most when I had the headphones paired with my current generation iPad and listening to Youtube. The audio seemed to be at most maybe a 1/8 second behind the video. I would only notice it when someone was talking directly to the camera and you were looking at the screen. On my Note 8 I didn’t have a problem. Audio was in sync on youtube videos.

Battery Life & Recharging

One of the areas I was a little worried about was with these earbuds being so small I was worried about how the battery life would be. Anker rates the buds at 5 hours of playback time between recharges but in my experience I got over double that. During my 6 hours of use I was listening to mostly podcasts and YouTube content and was within about 2-3ft of my device. My volume levels were under 50% and I think that is partially why I got better then advertised battery life. If you are listening to more active content or fast music at higher volumes you may get closer to that 5 hours of playback.

I did like both on my iPad and my Samsung Note 8 I could see a little battery gauge showing the approximate level of charge the Liberty Air’s had left on them. This is the first wireless headphones that have shown this to me.

Recharging is simple, you just pop them into their case and the case charges them. The case is good for 20 hours of playback according to anker, so 4 complete charges. Recharging the case is simple with the microUSB connector on the bottom of the case. The case has 3 LED’s built in that are there to show battery capacity on the case and these shut off after the first few minutes of charging.

Conclusion

I have been a fan of the Anker wireless headphones in the past, that have the wire between earphones but not connected to your device. I find myself grabbing them more and more when I am being active, or not wanting a wire to deal with. The Soundcore Liberty Air takes wireless earbuds to a new level by pretty much eliminating all wires completely. The battery life impressed me on these, the sound quality is decent but not fantastic for music. Fit will be an individual personal thing. For me they felt good in my ears and stayed in place well, but I didn’t go running in them or anything like that extreme. If you were wanting something to try that are like apple earpods but much less expensive and work on both apple and android while having better battery life and good sound quality, I can recommend the Anker Soundcore LIberty Air’s.