Frelux Synergy 2 in depth review (LH351D, 14500, Made in the USA)

Today I have a special light on my review table, the Frelux Synergy 2. If you are a long time subscriber you may remember that in October of 2018 I reviewed the original Frexlux Synergy 1 side-by-side flashlight. The Synergy 2 is the larger big brother and brings lots of new improvements and upgrades to the side-by-side format, and is almost entirely made in the USA. Let’s settle in for a longer review and look at the Synergy 2.

 

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Frelux Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/frelux/

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Packaging

Packaging for the Synergy 2 is a custom made cardboard box. It’s basic, but neatly done with just the Frelux logo and slogan on the top. The inside flap has a quote and a US flag to remind you the light is made in the US. Inside, the light is protected by a laser cut black foam protector. Accessories are a Frelux sticker and little quick start manual with a link/QR code to download the full manual. 

 

Construction and Machining

The Synergy 2 is made from US sourced 6061 aluminum. It is offered in a large variety of anodizing colors with Black, OD Green (what I have here), and a blue being the core colors at the time of review. The clip is made of grade 5 titanium and is also available in  raw, gold, and blue colors. 

It’s a side-by-side battery design, with the batteries in a parallel circuit. At the front of the light you have two brass contacts that have physical reverse polarity protection provided by a circuit board surrounding these contacts. The result is a light that’s a little picky on 14500 batteries if you decide to run those. Button tops are required, and watch the diameter of your cells too. Frelux has a list of tested batteries that are known to work with the Synergy 2, and it’s probably best you stick to those. VapCell’s 1100mAh models seem to be the best option (14.09mm). My 800mAh Keeppowers (14.41mm) were a bit too large in diameter.

The Internal Construction is a neat design; you have a brass threaded rod spanning the length of the light that threads into the head section, goes through the middle and tail section, and then the tail nut tightens everything in place and provides compression on the o-rings on each section to provide water resistance. The switch up front is an electronic switch, but it’s a very satisfying feeling too; it’s solid and crisp. The switch also has a mechanical lock feature which I recommend using during carry. Just rotate it clockwise and the button physically can’t press the e-switch. There isn’t any visual sign it’s locked, which is a little disappointing, but it’s an effective solution and keeps the UI simple. The Synergy 2 doesn’t carry a formal water rating, but Ben has tested it in a 8ft column of water overnight without a problem, so it should be ok in most situations. 

The tail brings the light all together; externally it has a nice USA engraved on one side of the black button and the battery orientation diagram on the other. The tail nut is a cool piece it’s what holds the entire light together and holds the clip on the light (along with the dovetail) during battery changes via an o-ring, which is a nice improvement over the Synergy 1. Internally there is a circuit board with three springs-two for the batteries and one for the brass center rod.

 

Machining 

One of the reasons why I enjoy this light is all the machining content that is shared on the Frelux Instagram page. I am a want-to-be machinist. I enjoy watching several YouTubers make stuff, and just want a machine to play with. Ben of Frelux produces these lights in his home shop with a Brother CNC machine. Make sure you check out the video version of this review for some of this machining footage.

What’s somewhat unique here is how he has setup the 4th Axis on his machine along with the four sided pallet design, to maximize his machining times and get the most work done per cycle. With the pallet design it’s almost like a 5th axis machine. He designed a tool that mounts in the mill to allow the mill to rotate the parts in the fixture and continue machining without human interaction. The Synergy 2 took all of this into account during the design process. It allows him to maximize his time while the CNC is running to get the next pallet of parts ready and do other finishing and assembly tasks. The end result is a light that was designed with production and keeping the overall final product affordable in mind. All tumbling and anodizing is done in house for tighter tolerances on quality. Even the soldering of sub components, finish assembly, packaging, and shipping are done at the Frelux headquarters. 

 

Size and Weight

I measured the overall length at 95mm, width at 41.6mm, and thickness at 21mm not including the clip. Weight with Vapcell 14500 batteries is 6oz or 170g. This makes for a decently heavy light for its size and material. This design inherently has more material left after machining than a typical cylinder light. More aluminum could be removed through more complex machining internally, but it would greatly add to the complexity and overall cost. As far as competition there really are not many other side by side AA lights on the market to compare it to, so can we say class leading? 

Retention

The retention of this light is interesting. I have to first start with the size and how that impacts its pocket carry. I enjoy carrying a 14500 sized light, especially in warmer months as I wear more shorts. Since cargo shorts are no longer fashionable or accepted in my house, the result is less pocket space and an EDC to suit. With jeans it’s a bit of a different story. I find that despite the added width of the side by side format, there is still room for the light in my left front pocket and my phone deeper down in the jeans pocket. It’s too big for the coin pocket that you typically find on the right front side of many jeans. This is where the Synergy 1 was just about the perfect size.

That said one of the Synergy 2’s new features is it’s tension adjustable pocket clip. This is a neat design, the clip is retained in a dovetail in the tail section and then the tail nut that holds the tail section on to the light controls the clip’s ability to slide closer or further away from the body, thus setting the tension. It can be very tight or fairly loose, so it’s adjustable to a variety of different pocket materials. That said the very end of the clip isn’t flared out much so it can sometimes be a little hard to get started onto a pocket. Frelux does include a small adhesive vinyl sticker to place where the clip makes contact with the body to help prevent excessive wear on the anodizing. It’s a nice touch but I wish more then one was included in the package.

 

Grip in the hand is still fairly comfortable. If I choke up a bit I can still get all 5 fingers on the light. It’s a kind of modified pistol grip, if your thumb is on the light jimping on the top, the jimping on the bottom ends up fitting well with my middle finger. I do wish the jimping was slightly deeper and a little more aggressive. 

LED & Beamshots

The Synergy 2 is using a Samsung LH351D LED at 5000k and 90 CRI. This is a great emitter in my opinion and is quickly becoming one of my favorites that’s in current production. It’s a nice combination of tint, output, and high CRI. It’s surrounded by a smooth fairly deep reflector, with an anti reflective coated glass lens on top. There is just a hint of tint shift in the very center of the beam. I only noticed this when shining it at full power onto a white surface, it’s not noticeable during real world use. The resulting beam does have a pronounced hot center and ring at the edges before you get into the spill. Practically this isn’t a bad thing and the deeper reflector helps the light throw better than I initially expected. That said, I would prefer to see an orange peel reflector to smooth that transition out a little further.

This light is using a driver that Frelux had designed specifically for this light and it’s circuit boards are produced and populated in the USA. It has a ramping UI that I will speak more about here in a minute. The light is capable of running on the three most common chemistries of AA sized batteries. Standard Alkaline batteries, Ni-MH producing a maximum of 250 lumens, and Lithium Ion 14500’s producing a maximum of 700 lumens. The driver features memory, Low Voltage Protection(LVP), and temperature protection as well. No PWM was noticed with either battery type. 

 

Heat and Runtime

I ran three runtimes a few times with this light to see the differences. I focused on rechargeable batteries since that’s what most people will run this light with most of the time.

For my test with 14500’s (Lithium Ion) I used 2x VapCell 14500’s. Mine happened to be flat tops which won’t run in this light, but thankfully some small 1mm magnets worked to get around this until my button tops arrive. I got three minutes of the highest output before this light stepped down due to thermals. As you can see the heat continued to increase here but everything was pretty tame, peaking at 33.4C (which is basically body temperature). It’s a safe temp, almost too safe, as I would prefer a bit longer runtime for a little more heat. From there the light ran at 42% relative output for 2 hours and 13 minutes, before stepping down to about 18% relative output and running for another 10 minutes before shutting off. LVP was measured at 3V for each cell.

Next for my runtimes I tried with some older Eneloops (4000mAh Total). Simply put the output here is extremely stable for the entire runtime, and the light ran until 2 hours and 20 minutes of output. The last test I did was with some Amazon Basics High Capacity Ni-Mh batteries. These are said to be rebranded Eneloop Pros but at about ½ the cost. Mine averaged 2475mAh each after testing the cells independently. Overall runtime here was 3 hours and 4 minutes. The extra roughly 800mAh buys you about 45 minutes of extra very stable runtime. Heat on either Ni-Mh was basically ambient temps.

While the light does run on the three different chemistries of batteries, it’s my opinion that the best option is really lithium ion 14500s as these give the most output and still a good amount of runtime for an EDC style light of this size. Alkalines should be the battery of last resort due to their lower output and potential for leaking; it would be a shame to damage the light from preventable corrosion. Since the batteries are in parallel the light will run with only one battery if you wanted. Same outputs, but just less runtime. It can be a weight savings measure or if there was only one cell left in the package in an urgent situation.

The driver has one odd quirk that you should be aware of if you run the light until low voltage protection kicks in. If it takes longer than 30 seconds to change the batteries there is a good chance the light won’t turn back on with fresh cells. The solution is to just leave the tail piece off for 2 minutes to reset the driver. The technical reason for this is there are two sets of code for each voltage range the driver operates on. This could have been eliminated but it would have increased the driver’s parasitic drain, which no one wants. 

 

UI

The Synergy 2 is using its own UI system, but don’t let that be a worry. It’s simple and familiar. It’s a simple ramping UI. From off, a long press of the button will give you a shortcut to the lowest mode of output. From here a long press again will start the light ramping up in brightness which takes about 2 seconds to reach the top output. Unlike other flashlights there is no flash to let you know you’re at the top or bottom of the range, but this isn’t an issue as the light just stops and doesn’t cycle over. While ramping you can stop anywhere and press the button again to reverse your direction of the ramp. Double press from on or off to jump to maximum output. There are no blinking modes on the Synergy 2, and I don’t miss them personally. 

 

Pros

  • Great emitter choice, nice tint and high CRI
  • Multi Chemistry battery support (Alkaline/NiMH & Liion)
  • Impeccable Fit and Finish
  • Made in the USA!
  • Lots of color options but they are not always all available or published.

 

Cons

  • No moonlight mode, lowest mode of operation is approximately 2 lumens with Ni-MH batteries and 5 lumens with 14500s.
  • The light is a little picky about the length and diameter of 14500s
  • The side-by-side format takes up a decent amount of pocket real estate. 

 

Conclusion

The Frelux Synergy 2 is a unique light in the flashlight market. It’s a custom light in the sense that it’s made by one man in his garage in the USA, to exacting standards. Everything about it but the LED and eSwitch are custom designed for this light and made in the USA. Ben machines the light himself, anodizes them inhouse in a variety of colors, solders the USA made circuit boards, and does final assembly and testing himself (and sometimes with the help of the kids). The result is a light that has very tight quality control and superb attention to detail. 

 

It has creative design features too, like you can mix and match body pieces with other Synergy 2’s to create your own color and button combinations. The door is open to different materials for the body sections and buttons too, if he chooses to make this not only a custom light but a highly customizable one too. 

 

The adjustable tension clip is a smart design that I find works pretty well, and being deep carry I find it’s retention is good tool. It stays in place too during battery changes, which is an upgrade over the Synergy 1. This isn’t all the clip does though; it can also be used to tighten the brass nut that keeps the center section mounted to the head too. 

The Synergy 2 does all this at a price that’s less than your typical custom light that’s made in the USA. It’s a light I have thoroughly enjoyed watching develop on the Frelux Instagram  account, and mine will definitely be in my EDC rotation. I imagine I will carry it more when I am wearing jeans vs shorts due to its width, but that’s largely a personal preference with how I carry a knife and smartphone too.

These are truly custom made lights at this point, with Frelux taking preorders and then producing lights in batches and finishing them to your color specifications. So if you are interested in one, be prepared for a potential wait. Wait times so far have been fairly reasonable in my experience, with Frelux being careful about how many preorders they take. So if you want one, make sure to join the Frelux Facebook page and follow them on Instagram too so you know when preorders open.

Overall this is a fun light and one you should definitely check out if you want to get something unique, custom designed, and made in the USA.

Frelux Synergy 2 Order Page:  https://frelux.com/
Synergy 2 Manual:  https://frelux.com/pages/s2
Frelux Instagram Page:  https://www.instagram.com/frelux/
Frelux Facebook Group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/265291334054570/

Kizer Noble Knife Review (Ki4550, S35VN, Titanium, Sebastian Irawan)

Today I have a new knife from Kizer on my review table; the Kizer Noble. It was announced at Shotshow 2020 and is a flipper style knife with a 3.5” blade, 3.25” effective cutting edge, titanium scales, urban style EDC knife and it comes in at just 3 ounces. This is a prototype version that Kizer asked if I would be interested in taking a look at and I jumped at the chance. The expected launch date is sometime in July of 2020 but that may be delayed due to the pandemic situation. That said, like all of my other reviews, I will remain impartial and give my true opinions on it, good, not so good, and ugly. 

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The Basics

In case you don’t know who Kizer is, they are a Chinese knife brand making high quality yet affordable knives. They are known for using genuine blade steels and other materials and high quality workmanship at affordable prices. They are one of the origins of high end Chinese knife manufacturing. Kizer is creating new designs and partnering with respected custom knife designers in the knife community too.

 

The designer of this knife is Indonesian Sebastian Irawan, and if you follow him on social media like I do, this knife is very much in his style.  He has worked with Kizer in the past with a few other designs like the Raja, and Kobold for this year. The speed holes not only achieve a reduction in overall weight, but you can tell they are part of the design element and overall aesthetic .

 

The Noble is a flipper design, and it has a very small tab with some jimping at the top of the tab. Despite it’s small size the blade flips well with a light switch style motion. The small tab also helps comfort in the pocket too. I like how Kizer has chosen to label the steel at the very bottom of the tab too keeping the blade cleaner of markings.

 

Stats & Comparison

Some official Stats from Kizer.

  • Overall length came in at 7.875”
  • Blade length is 3.50”
  • Cutting length is 3.25”
  • Blade width is 0.75”
  • Blade thickness is 0.13”
  • Steel is CPM-S35VN
  • Weight is 3.0 oz
  • MSRP is expected around $155 mark
  • Screw sizes on this are T6 and T8 Torx

 

Compared to other knives

The knife is fairly ambidextrous in my left hand. I had no issues flipping it and when closing I was easily able to pull the lock bar back with my thumb to close it. The clip is reverseable to the left side scale. I will add the caveat I am fairly ambidextrous myself so what’s easy for me might not be quite as easy for you.

 

Packaging

Packaging for the Kizer Noble is quite nice. It’s a flat black box and once the inner sleeve is removed you get a bifold flat black box. Inside is a small folder containing all the paperwork (Manual, Warranty, etc.) and a cleaning cloth. The knife is then inside a nylon pouch with a Kizer vinyl patch sewn on. It’s a nice presentation.

 

The Good 

The Noble is made from Grade 5 TC4 Titanium with a smooth, very tumbled finish. All the edges here are nicely chamfered where they should be, no complaints there. Inside the scales have been milled to reduce weight bringing the overall weight down to 3 ounces on my scale. The lockbar has a steel insert and I didn’t find any lock stick.  If you would like to see a takedown and cleaning video, let me know in the comments below. 

The blade is running on ceramic bearings, and the blade itself is made from domestic U.S. Crucible Industries’ CPM S35VN. It’s widely regarded as a fantastic price to performance steel for EDC uses and the stone washed finish helps hide any scratches it picks up during use. I have this steel on other knives and have been happy with its edge retention and relative ease of sharpening. The blade’s grind is a great slicer with its full flat grind style, that transitions to a “mild” Tanto.

Personally, I am not a huge Tanto fan but this one is mild, and I have found it to be quite useful, especially when opening packages where I don’t want to dip a tip too deep into the contents. The blade spine is rounded, so may present a bit of a challenge on your guided angle sharpening systems, but it is uniform so I don’t think it will be too large of an issue. Where the Tanto meets the belly the grind isn’t super uniform side to side but that’s nitpicking.  Overall, it’s a good blade and one that shouldn’t be too hard to sharpen at home if you are comfortable with multi angle blades.

 A few notes about construction here, the screws holding the knife together are all using T6 Torx screws. They do have some blue locktight on them but it’s very weak and they were easy to break free with a quality driver like my Boker Wiha Torx driver set here. The pivot is using a T8 Torx screw.

 Blade centering from the factory is perfect to my eyes. There is no side to side or up and down play, and lockup is a consistent 50% on my flips.

Kizer’s warranty is a limited lifetime warranty against parts and defects. They will usually ship replacement parts to consumers at low or no cost for those that want to do their own repairs. Depending on who you buy from the retailers can also help with repairs if needed. Shipping it back to Kizer in China is an option too but that does add significant time and cost. If you are doing you own knife maintenance, I don’t see a problem with this approach.

 

The Not so Good

Deployment here is quite good, smooth and easy, but like most frame locks it all depends on where your fingers land. This has a narrow width handle that I like when in my pocket, but this also means my fingers sometimes rest on the lock bar, making it harder to deploy. A quick shift of the finger position and all is well. My ZT-0460 has a similar design and problem. Maybe it’s just how I hold a knife. On the Noble at least your fingers have the speed holes to guide your hand for a comfortable deployment. The flipper tab itself is small, but does have jimping, and it stays out of the way; it’s not going to peck at your pocket contents. Overall, it functions well with a light switch style flick. 

Balance point on this knife is about an inch behind the pivot, not ideal but it’s not something I don’t notice to be honest. When I hold the knife in my right hand, I get a bit of a hot spot on my pointer index finger on the bottom of the scales if I really grip tightly, not a huge thing but something to mention. 

 

The Ugly

I like deep carry clips. If a knife or flashlight rides up too high in my pocket, I just don’t end up carrying it as much, and I like to conceal my EDC and I usually find it’s more comfortable too. This brings me to the clip on the Noble. It’s deep carry, and personally I like the design, but at least on this prototype it feels thin and kind of flimsy and it doesn’t make great contact with the scale (*took out “body” because it sounds like “your body” not the knife body) squarely. This hurt pocket retention, it never fell out of my pocket or came close, but it also doesn’t feel quite as secure as I would like. On thinner pants like dress slacks, it could be more of an issue than jeans. The clip is 3D milled clip out of titanium and it feels like it’s just one snag away from snapping.

I spoke to Kizer about this and they are taking it seriously and plan to make some revisions before the knife goes to production. To be fair, I have not had a problem with the clip snagging or anything during daily carry for several weeks. 

 

Conclusion

My use for this knife is an urban EDC and in the office. There isn’t a ton of texture here for rough or tactical use but for me that’s not the market this knife is designed for. For urban EDC it works well. It’s lightweight overall, and the blade is slicy. It’s an excellent package and letter opener, and has stood up to a bit more rigorous use with some cardboard breakdown duty and thick plastic strap cutting with ease. Despite the smaller flipper tab, the knife opens well as long as you don’t have your fingers on the lock bar. (Duh)

Personally, I like the look of it, and I feel like this is one of those designs that is going to be; love it or hate it. The speed holes save weight and the milling around them adds some style. I like that you can see through it as well as the flow-through construction. It’s more second factor cool and that works for me. 

Overall I am a fan of the Kizer Noble, it ticks my boxes for an urban EDC knife, with good materials, good value, and an interesting but functional design. Kizer has said they expect the production version of this knife to ship out to retailers in July of 2020, but production and shipping are difficult right now so that is subject to change. MSRP is expected around the $155 mark according to Kizer. Some of the well-known knife retailers like BladeHQ have it listed already and have an email notification that you can sign up for if you’re interested. If you like what you have seen here, go check it out!

 

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/X466PZb

Kizer’s official website for the Noble http://www.tizi-outdoor.com/goods/details/1321

See it at BladeHQ https://www.bladehq.com/item–Kizer-Noble-Frame-Lock-Knife–106912

YLP Unicorn 1.0 Review (Samsung LHD351D, 90 CRI, 18650 EDC Light)

YLP is a Russian Flashlight manufacturer (Lights are made in China) that is new to the US market. Their name when translated roughly means bright ray. They have been known by enthusiasts for a few years but it’s been more difficult to buy their lights, having to use google translated versions of their website. Recently they have launched a US English version of the website and got in touch with me to take a look at some of their lights. The YLP Unicorn 1.0 has been on my radar since last year so I selected that to take a further look at and review myself. Thanks to them for sending this out and providing a discount that’s in the description along with links to follow me on various social media platforms. This will probably be a little bit longer of a review so settle back and enjoy. 

 

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging on the Unicorn 1.0 is a nice magnetic closure box full of printing, showing the light on the front, a lot of the highlights on the sides and more details on the back. It’s nicely designed without looking excessive. Inside the light is protected with some custom cut black foam. Accessories include a pocket clip preinstalled, a basic lanyard, and 2 extra o’rings. The manual that came with the light is in borth Russian and English. It’s pretty thorough but an advanced manual is available online as well and I will have a link to it in my description. One other thing to add, my light shipped in a box covered with cool Russian stamps on it too, definitely cool looking and not what I am used to. 

 

Construction

The light is made from aluminum and hard anodized in a gray/brown almost tan color. It’s a really nice color and nice to see something other then black. Machining here is good, with no complaints. Branding is extremely minimal with just the Unicorn 1.0 name and Unicorn logo on the rear of the tail cap, it doesn’t even say YLP on it anywhere! 

The tailcap itself is flat, and magnetic. The internal magnet is held in place with the tail spring so if you want to remove it, it’s easy to do so. You have a place for the lanyard to go on the side of the tail cap if you choose. Threads internally are beefy and square cut.

The knurling on the tail and body tube is aggressive, it feels good in my hands but you may see some accelerated wear of your pants under the pocket clip. It’s pyramid shaped with the tip left on. There is a Y shape milled out of the knurling to add some style to the light, you can see some tool paths in this but I think that’s done on purpose. The tube itself is not removable as it seems to be glued to the head. 

 

The head itself has shallow heatsyncs around about ¾ of the range. The button sits in a slightly raised block on the head but is then recessed inside this. The button itself has a clear silicone cover over it. Underheat there are red and green LED’s used for indicating battery voltage and as a locator beacon. The button itself is on the small side and may be a little hard to actuate with larger gloves on. The front of the light has a smooth bezel with the TIR optic in place. There isn’t glass over the optic so you may see some scratches over time. 

Size & Weight

The YLP Unicorn 1.0 is a pretty compact light for what all it offers. I measured it’s overall length at 102.2mm, maximum diameter in the head at 27.20mm, and minimum diameter on the body at 25mm. When compared to the FW3A is about 20mm shorter, and the Wurkkos FC11 is about 14mm longer. The Unicorn 1.0 weighed in  with a Sony VTC6 battery and clip onboard at 113.6g. Compared to the FW3A’s 98.2g, and Wurkkos FC11 at 111.8G. 

Retention

The Unicorn 1.0 features a reversible pocket clip with plenty of room in it’s top loop for thicker pants. It’s not super deep cary but I found it to carry quite well. As I mentioned earlier the knurling here is aggressive and while I like the feel in my hand, you might find it wears out your pants pocket a little faster them most lights, especially under the pocket clip. The magnet in the tail is quite strong and has no trouble holding the light. It’s also fairly easy to remove if you wish. I had no issues with it activating in my pocket during cary thanks to the recessed e-switch on the head of the light. 

 

LED & Beam

The YLP Unicorn 1.0 is using a 4200k Samsung LH351D at a minimum of 90 CRI. This is one of my favorite emitters right now and a fantastic choice for EDC in my opinion. It’s warmer in tint and doesn’t have any of the green that the LH351D in the Wurkkos FC11 had. My LED was nicely centered, and has a TIR style optic. The light doesn’t have a glass lens, which means overtime you might see a few scratches. Not a huge deal with everything else going on here. The beam pattern does have a defined hot center, and the transition to the spill isn’t the smoothest but it’s not bad either. 

One of the side effects of this light not being designed for huge output numbers is heat is well controlled and it’s also configurable in the UI if you want to push it a bit more. 

1 Minute = 90F

5 Minutes = 101F

10 Minutes = 104F.

 

I measured the parasitic drain of the eswitch at 22?A which is pretty minimal. I didn’t measure any PWM with my scope or eye.

 

Runtime and Outputs

Officially the light produces the following in it’s default UI. .

Turbo 850 lumens

High  450 lumens

Medium 170 Lumens

Low 40 Lumens

Moon 3 Lumens

Runtimes here didn’t have any big surprises from the regulated driver. I performed my tests with a 3000mAh Sony VTC6 battery but you don’t need such a high output battery in this application, a NGR18650GA battery would be a perfect comdination here. Turbo was good for just under 4 minutes, and we then saw stepdowns to 65% relative output. This continued to decline to about 50% output at the 30 minute mark or so but then the light started increasing in output as it cooled and the battery was able to keep up. This peaked at 60% relative output before a sharp decline to the lights lowest mode at the 130 minute mark where it continued running till LVP kicked in at 2.859V at 300 minutes. It’s nice to see active thermal controls on this one. 

 

 

UI

 This light has 4 different UI modes. By default it comes in what YLP calls Basic UI where the light has 5 discrete modes and memory mode turned on. It starts off in low and when you hold the button it starts ramping up about every second. When it gets to the top it automatically starts ramping down. Single click to turn off, Double clicking when on gets your to the maximum output. 4 Clicks gets you to battery check mode where the light flashes the batteries voltage. The way the basic UI works with it cycling up and then down instead of resetting takes a little getting used to as it’s different from a lot of lights and requires you to go up through high before going lower if thats what you want. 

 

The other main UI modes are UI1, which is ramping with memory mode turned on. UI2 which is ramping with memory on and the buttons light on, UI 3 is 5 modes, memory off, and starting on medium instead of low. 

The light has other advanced features which are best if you look at the advanced manual on the YLP website as you can adjust the thermal settings, and engineering mode where you can configure each UI mode through a series of clicks. These are complex and for time sake I won’t go over them in this review, but the manual has you covered and the translation is decent. You can find the full advanced manual here. 

 

Pro’s

  • Great overall size and clip
  • Wide acceptance on it’s battery type, flat tops, button tops, protected, unprotected it takes all the 18650 types.
  • Not another black light
  • Great LED and Tint
  • Very flexible user interface the default Basic UI does it for me just fine but ramping is available if you want it.

 

Con’s

  • Knurling is quite aggressive, and if EDCed in a pants pocket this will eat away at it over time.
  • Not the brightest light in this class but more than enough to get the job done with less heat and more usability.
  • Lowest output mode should be 1 lumen or less
  • Minor annoyance with the Basic UI, I would prefer it start back over on low after reaching top output rather then reversing back down through high, mediu, low etc. 

 

Conclusion

This is a light designed with practicality in mind instead of big numbers for a marketing purpose. As a result it can sustain itself on higher outputs without large stepdows. It’s using a high CRI LED with a pleasant tint and very useful beam pattern. For me it ticks all the boxes on what I want as a solid all purpose flashlight. 

I have taken it walking several times over the few weeks I have had it and it’s done great with that. It’s a useful beam pattern and I like the combination of tint and high CRI LED. It has a lot of UI options for you if you want, if not the default UI I enjoy. 

I hope we see YLP continue the Unicorn line of lights, making enhancements and tweaks as it goes along. At this price point it’s a lot of value, coming in significantly less than some of the well known brands that also share animal names. I look forward to seeing other lights from YLP, after reviewing the Unicorn 1.0 the bar was set high, lets see what they can deliver. I recommend the YLP Unicorn 1.0 without reservations.

If you are considering picking up a YLP Unicorn 1.0 make sure to check the description for a link to their English website and use the code in the description to save 15% off the price which helps cover shipping cost. 

 

Purchase the YLP Unicorn 1.0: https://ylplight.com/en/katalog/1/ruchnye-fonari/unicorn-10/

Use code “liquidretr” at checkout to save 15%

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

Nitecore HC35 Review (2700 Lumens, Quad LED, 21700 Battery, Headlamp)

Nitecore has a new large format headlamp on the market, with 4 LED, and a diffused lens. It runs a 21700 battery, and has onboard microUSB for recharging. While designed as a headlamp I am going to come at this one from the angle of a worklight too. Thanks to Nitecore Store for sending this to me to look at and review. I will have a link to them in the description below. 

 

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging is a large yellow retail hanging box, with photos of the lights and lots of stats throughout. Inside the light and accessories site in a plastic shell.

Accessories include the HC35 with the Nitecore button top 21700 4000mAH battery (NL2140HP), pocket clip, Nitecore branded headband, spare o-rings, micro USB cable, manual, warranty, 18650 adapter. Somewhat strangely no extra USB port cover was included and I actually broke mine during testing. (My fault, not Nitecore’s)

 

Construction

The light is made from anodized aluminum, and machining here is pretty good. Starting at the tail cap, it’s flat, magnetic and labeled accordingly. The tailcap has shallow diamond knurling on it that doesn’t add a ton of texture but enough. 

The body tube features the same knurling and is not reversible. The clip only attaches at the head of the light. 

The light is attached to the headband on one side via a spring steel clip, similar to how a clip on clip works. It’s easy to take on and off and allows for the light to be attached without taking off the pocket clip (Nice) which makes charging easier but it doesn’t take a ton to make the heavy light come loose from an accidental smack or bump. For hiking or house work it’s ok, but I want to see something more secure ideally especially if you were caving/climbing with the light. That said when using this more as a work light rather then a headlamp it’s a handy feature to be able to remove it easily. I used it to change some brakes on a car recently and it was nice to pull off and use as an area flood light. For heavier duty situations a zip tie or even rubber band on the other end of the light would make it more secure.

The head features a fairly large lens, with the 4 LED’s under it. It has a optic sitting on top of the LED with a textured diffuser on top to really even out that beam pattern. Everything is surrounded by a silver aluminum bezel. On top there is a textured rubber button, with a pround silver bezel to help locate it. This does allow the light head stand. This button is a little hard to push if you have on larger gloves. On the back there are 3 deeply milled groves for heat dissipation. Lastly the microUSB port is on the light covered with a gray silicone rubber cover. The head has minimal labeling of just the serial number, model number and various regulatory symbols.

Size and Weight

I measured the length at 128mm, minimum diameter on the body was 26mm, maximum diameter at the head was 30mm. Weight with the battery, came in at 172.3g. The headstrap alone weighs in at 41g. This is fairly heavy. It’s a big headlamp, especially when you put it next it’s 18650 counterparts kind of like the Olight Perun I recently reviewed. 

Comfort when used as a headlamp is ok for a couple of hours. Past that the weight kind of starts to get to you in the forehead. Nitecore could add a bit more padding on the back of the bracket to help with this. I do like that the headbands webbing has ventilation holes. 

Retention

For me this isn’t a light I want to EDC in my front pockets, it’s just too big for that. The pocket clip can mount on either end of the light. When mounted nearest the head about 25mm of the light sticks up, when mounted at the tail, the clip extends past the tail and renders the magnet less useful. The balance point of the light is nearer the head so to keep from having to move the clip each time you mount the light to the strap, it really should go at the tail. 

LED | Beam Shots | Heat

The light is using 4x Cree XP-G3 S3 LED. Tint is pretty cool white. The S3 varient has less green tint, but at lower powers it’s still noticeable. The optics and diffuser here do a very good job of making the 4 leds one uniform floody beam. Perfect for this type of application. I didn’t detect any PWM via eye or my scope. 

Official modes and spacing are listed at 

  • 1 Lumen – Ultra Low
  • 40 Lumens – Low
  • 270 Lumens – Mid
  • 800 Lumens – High
  • 2700 Lumens Turbo, Strobe, Beacon, SOS

 

Runtime

This is really a light designed for longer outputs. Turbo starts decreasing at the 30 second mark and it declines pretty rapidly down to high at 800 lumens. This is disappointing that it’s so short, I would have hoped to get a couple minutes out of turbo output here given the size of the light and relative conservative heat values. From here it mostly maintains this while sagging a little for about 140 minutes, then over the next 20 minutes or so you see 2 large stepdowns and the light runs in low and ultra low for the remainder of time about 475 minutes, till it LVP kicks in at 2.947v. Heat was fairly well controlled, at 1 minute I saw 95F, at 5 minutes 97.8F, and at 10 minutes 101F. 

 

UI

UI here is different different, with fewer shortcuts. It’s a quick press to turn on, and then quick single presses to go up in brightness, and all solid modes are available, ultra low through turbo. Long press to turn off. You have short cuts to low when the light is off, a short press gives you 1 lumen. To directly access turbo from off press the button for more then 1 second. When the light is on there is no way to access turbo directly. 

 

To access the blinking modes double press the button when the light is off, then short presses changes the mode. Long press to exit blinking modes. 

 

Recharging

Charge time from LVP at 2.947V to Full at 4.12V on the included Nitecore 4000mAh 21700 battery was 2 hours and 41 minutes at a maximum of 2.1A via MicroUSB. Charge curve here looked normal, and I have no complaints. It’s nice here that with the included cell adapter the light will also charge an 18650 battery. During charging the blue LED on top will flash, and when charged it goes solid. This LED is also used as a voltage indicator when the light is in use. 

I do wish the light came with an extra port cover (my first time needing one due to my mistake). Also being a new design and a large capacity battery the light would see a benefit from USB-C.

 

Pro’s

  • Blinking modes are not part of the normal operating modes.
  • Very even diffused light but quite cool tint.
  • Direct access to low from off
  • Nice it can run off of 21700, 18650 and 2x CR123 with the included adapters. 
  • No proprietary cables or batteries needed, but it’s still MicroUSB 🙁

 

Con’s

  • Cree XP-G3 emitters isn’t what I would expect to find on something in this price range and I am not a fan of the tint.
  • Turbos 2700 lumen output has a very short duration, only 30 seconds.
  • Long press to turn off keeps tricking my brain. 
  • Wish it had an additional clip to secure the light in the headband for added security
  • Anodizing doesn’t seem to be the most durable, especially around the clip.

 

Conclusion

The Nitecore HC35 is a big bright light. I tend to think of it more as a worklight then a headlamp but it does both jobs fairly well. It’s a bit heavier than I want to use as a headlamp longer term, but what you pay for in weight you get in runtime. With the strong magnet and very floody beam it works good as a work light to stick onto a metal object or tail stand on it’s flat base. 

 

UI here is easy but different from a lot of other lights so I can see people fumbling a little around on this one initially. It’s different having turbo as part of your main mode. I do wish turbo could sustain itself for longer, 30 seconds just isn’t very long. Overall this is an interesting combination of headlamp and worklight. Let me know what you think of the HC35 in the comments. 

 

Full Image Gallery https://imgur.com/a/HWZh9yX

To purchase the Nitecore HC35 Headlamp, visit Nitecore Store at http://bit.ly/2HGp8rP