4Sevens Maelstrom G5 *SHIPPING VERSION* Review (XP-G R5) - RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS +

Originally posted: July 9, 2010
Last revised: September 7, 2010

Reviewer's Note: The shipping and pre-release 4Sevens Maelstrom G5 samples were provided for review by 4Sevens.com. Please see their website or CPFMP launch thread for more info.

Warning: even more pic heavy than usual

UPDATE: Review has been updated with results from the SHIPPING version of the G5. All new text is identified in italics.

Manufacturer Specifications from 4Sevens.com website The G5 is the first of the 4sevens “Maelstrom” lights to hit the market. Using the latest Cree single-die emitter with highest luminus flux output bin, the G5 is designed to give you maximum output and throw possible in a mainstream-sized flashlight. Have they succeeded? Read on …

UPDATE: This review originally contained pics and data from a pre-release sample. Where things have changed, I have updated the review with info from a shipping sample 4Sevens has sent me.



Packaging is distinctive – should look good on a store shelf.



Included inside is the light, good quality belt pouch/holster and wrist strap, manual, 2 4Sevens-branded CR123As, spare o-rings, tactical grip-ring replacement cover, and flat black bezel replacement cover.

The light looks and works exactly the same as the pre-release version, so I haven't updated any of the detailed build pics or text below.





Styling is distinctive – somewhat minimalist, but notice all the cooling fins around the base of the head.

Fit and finish on my sample were excellent – no flaws or chips in the black type III hard anodizing on my sample. Knurling, while not overly aggressive, is quite generous and in all the right places, giving you excellent grip. The included grip-ring and clip (both removable) certainly give additional support. Lettering is sharp and bright white (and thoughtfully kept to a minimum).


From left to right: Surefire CR123A, Fenix TK12, 4Sevens Maelstrom G5, Eagletac T20C2 MKII, Olight M21, JetBeam RRT-2 Raptor

G5 Weight: 145.5g (no batteries), Width (bezel): 38.9mm, Length: 156mm

Although slightly larger than the typical “tactical” 1x18650/2xCR123A light, the overall dimensions of the G5 are still quite reasonable. Most of the extra height comes from the head, where there is a deeper than typical reflector.




Clearly, this light is designed for maximum throw. Note that XP-G emitters are typically considered to be less “throwy” than their earlier Cree generation counterparts (especially the XR-E series). But a lot of that depends on reflector design – and it looks like 4Sevens has gone to some expense to craft a customized one for the G5. Scroll down for beamshots and output/throw measures.



The light use a protuding forward tactical clicky switch (i.e. press for momentary on, click for lock-on), with good feel. All mode switching is done with the head (scroll down for UI discussion). I understand an optional remote pressure switch is also in the works.



The light has high-quality internal components. Note the novel 4-contact-point design in the head. However, since the head's positive contact lacks a spring, newer high-capacity flat-top 18650 batteries may not work (none of my AW ones did, unfortunately).

Although I haven’t shown it, the front of the head easily opens and you can directly access the reflector and the front of the emitter.

Note that due to the protruding forward switch, the light cannot tailstand. But screw threads are anodized allowing for tailcap lock-out.

I have not detected any obvious rattle on any battery type.

Beamshots

UPDATE: Output has increased slightly on 1x18650 on the Shipping Version. I don't plan to re-take the white-wall beamshots, but I will include this new Shipping Version when I do my next batch of 100-yard beamshots.


And now for the white wall hunting. To start, here are some up-close shots comparing to other XP-G R5 lights, about 0.5 meters from a white wall (all lights on AW protected 18650).













Clearly, the 4Sevens Maelstrom G5 is a more focused thrower than these other XP-G lights. And yet – thanks to the XP-G smaller profile and lack of dome ring – it is remarkably “ring-free” in its beam profile.

So how does it compare to the classic “thrower” lights in the 1x18650 class? Here are some outdoor shots focused on a point ~ 10 meters from the lights. Note that these were taken at different times for different reviews, so they may look a little different (e.g. I planted a tree at the end of last summer ).







While not quite in the same league, the G5 certainly seems to hold its own pretty well. Scroll down for some more exact measures of throw taken with my lux meter.

And now some additional long-distance beamshots, to show you how the light compares to others in its class.

Please see my recent 100-yard Outdoor Beamshot review for more details (and additional lights).[/I]







UPDATED SEPT 19, 2010: I've added some additional lights to my 100-Yard Outdoor Beamshot Round-up, including the shipping version of the G5. Check out that round-up thread for more details. Here is a relevant animated GIF comparison of a number of XP-G R5 lights:




User Interface

The build design of the G5 is interesting – especially the fairly unique 4-point switch engagement in the head of the flashlight. This allows you to select the different outputs by simply loosening or tightening the head.

The short-lived DarkTort had something similar, but in that case the points were spring-mounted and had a tendency to “click” slightly as you passed by each one – the G5 is silent as it moves over the points.

Basically, every quarter-turn of the head selects one of the output levels. 4Sevens describes the four modes (from tight to loose) as Primary, Secondary, Auxiliary 1, and Auxiliary 2. You can thus easily slide between four outputs in quarter-turn installments.

One minor point, though - the position just below where a switch occurs can be a bit unstable (i.e. light might flicker or jump back and forth from the lower to higher level if shaken). Best to make sure you are well within a given level’s position for stable operation (i.e. avoid leaving it set within a ~15 degree arc right around where the levels switch).

The G5 has 8 modes in total, split into 2 sets (referred to as Regular and Special mode). In order from tight to loose, you get the following:

Regular: Hi, Med, Lo, Moonlight
Special: Turbo, Strobe, SOS, Beacon

Switching between Regular/Special mode sets is done by quickly loosening and tightening the head from tight 4 times rapidly (i.e. quickly switching between Primary and Secondary 4 times in a row). You have to do this pretty fast, or you won’t switch between mode sets. You also need to make sure you do the full quarter turn each time, or the switch won’t register (i.e. need to see the secondary mode).

On Med/Hi/Turbo, I can detect no sign of PWM flicker by eye or with my sound-card oscilloscope, and I believe the Maelstrom G5 is current-controlled at these levels. On Lo and Moonlight, I can detect evidence of PWM when shinning at a fan, but my sound-card oscilloscope is unable to read the frequency (which means it must be >30KHz at least). 4Sevens informs me that the Lo mode doesn't use PWM on the shipping lights. Either way, certainly not a problem – and this is very consistent with other 4Sevens lights (e.g. Quark series).

Strobe


SOS


Beacon


Strobe was measured at a fairly typical 9.5 Hz. The Beacon is basically a pulse of light that lasts for ~1 sec, issued at ~10 sec intervals.

Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlight reviews method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan.

Throw values were taken at 1 meter for all lights shown below. Scroll down for a discussion of the 5 meter throw values

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

UPDATE: Here is how the new Shipping Version compares to the original pre-release sample in my testing:



I will cut right to the chase – yes, max output on 18650 has increased compared to the pre-release sample. However, max output on 2xRCR/CR123A has decreased relative to the pre-release version.

Basically, all three battery options now give the same max output (which is intermediate to the various output levels of the pre-release version). Note that the differences are not huge – you would need a lightmeter to really see the difference. I suspect many will consider this an improvement, as it means you can now expect equivalent initial output regardless of battery source.

For all "throwy" lights like the G5, throw measures at 1m are misleading (since the beam hasn't fully converged yet). I only report them in the tables to be consistent with the other lights that were measured at 1m. However, if you want to be more accurate, here are my measures at 5m:

G5 pre-release - 1x18650: 720 lux @5m (26.8 "throw") = 18,000 lux @1m estimated (134 "throw")

G5 Shipping - 1x18650: 750 lux @5m (27.4 "throw") = 18,750 lux @1m estimated (137 "throw")

Scroll down for a comparison of runtimes and outputs on all levels. I have updated the tables below to reflect the SHIPPING version compared to other lights of this class.








The results above have been updated with the Shipping Version sample of the G5. As you can see, the G5’s overall output (as measured by my ceiling bounce or lightbox) is at the max end of the range for an XP-G R5 light - on every battery configuration. The Eagletac T20C2-II (R5) is a close second.

What’s even more impressive is the throw – the G5 actually beats out most of the standard tactical crowd of XR-E R2-equipped lights (e.g. Olight M20, original Eagletac T20C2 – and even the JetBeam Raptor RRT-2). On 2xRCR/CR123A, it even starts to approach the classic Tiablo A9 (Q5). This is pretty remarkable for an XP-G equipped light, and is a testament to the reflector design and high output drive level.

Again, for more accurate throw measures taken @5 meters, scroll back up.


Output/Runtime Comparison

Note: Effective January 2010, all CR123A runtimes are now performed solely on Titanium Innovations batteries sponsored by BatteryJunction.com. You can compare the generally excellent performance of these CR123A cells relative to the Duracell/Surefire cells used in all my earlier reviews here. I have marked all the new runtimes of lights with Titanium Innovations CR123As on the graphs with an "*".

UPDATE: To start, I imagine most people want to know how the new Shipping Version compares to the pre-release sample on Turbo, on all batteries. In the graphs below, the solid lines are the Shipping version, and the dotted lines are the pre-release version.



As discussed above, all three battery options now give roughly the same max output initially (which is intermediate to the various output levels of the pre-release version).

But there are a few other differences - for example, Max 1x18650 on the Shipping version is now regulated for the first ~10-15mins of the run, before switching into direct drive. As a result, runtime on Max has of course decreased.

So how do all the output levels compare? I haven't redone all the runtimes, but here's a few examples on 1x18650. Again, the dotted line is the pre-release sample.



Basically, output is slightly lower on 1x18650 on the Moonlight/Lo/Med/Hi levels of my Shipping sample. The Hi mode also shows a runtime difference – the light is now fully regulated over the entire length of the run. On the pre-release version, the light dropped out of regulation and into direct-drive about half-way through the run.

Although many here may prefer this new fully-regulated pattern on Hi, I would note that semi-regulated is typically more efficient, and the gradual drop-off was not perceptible to the naked eye anyway.

I haven't updated the comparisons runtimes below - those are still the pre-release version. But as you can see in the graphs above, there's not a huge runtime difference except on 1x18650 on Turbo.












UPDATE: Again, the comparison runtimes above still show the pre-release version.


Output spacing is definitely a bit different from most other lights – the light lacks a typical “Med” level, as the G5 Med is actually closer to the Lo level on most other lights. In addition, the G5 also has Lo and Moonlight output modes, both of which are lower than what most lights can attain. Although this makes direct comparison difficult, relative efficiency seems to be very good on the G5.

Potential Issues

The 4x switching mechanism for Regular/Special mode sets can be a bit tricky to perform reliably – you must very quick, but also make the full switch into the secondary mode from primary (i.e. a full quarter turn) on each pass.

It was also easy to accidentally unscrew the front part of the head somewhat on the pre-release version (i.e. defocus the reflector) while switching modes - but that may just be in the pre-release version (which was designed for easy access). Confirmed - my Shipping version is a lot stiffer, and this no longer happens accidentally.

Turbo is located with the strobe/SOS “Special modes”, which means you have to do a mode set switch to access it. And since Strobe is the secondary mode of the Special group, this also means that you will need to see the strobe four times to return to the Regular mode set.

UPDATE 9-7-2010: The latest batch of G5s has a revised interface, with Turbo added to the Regular mode set, and the Lo mode has been dropped.

With the reverse polarity protection feature of the head, none of my newer high-capacity flat-top AW protected 18650 cells would work in my G5 sample.

Preliminary Observations

The Maelstrom G5 definitely lives up to its promise to show that XP-G emitters can throw!

Confirmed in the Shipping version, the overall output and throw of the G5 is top-of-class for the general purpose tactical mode lights. It typically exceeds the overall output of other XP-G R5-equipped lights (e.g. Fenix TK12, Eagletac T20C2-II), and the throw of most XR-E R2-equipped light (e.g. Olight M20, JetBeam RRT-2 Raptor, original Eagletac T20C2, etc.). While it can’t quite compete with the dedicated XR-E R2 “throwers”, its throw is actually pretty close to the classic Tiablo A9 with a XR-E Q5 emitter.

Notice too that all this output and throw comes with no discernable rings in the beam (as is common on XR-E lights). There is also no sign on my samples of the dark centre void in the hotspot (as is common on XP-G lights, especially those with smooth reflectors). Definitely a fantastic job on the reflector - well done!

Overall build quality is very high on my samples - they definitely look and feel like a solid, well-built lights. While marginally longer than typical tactical-class 1x18650-sized lights (due to the deeper than typical reflector), the lights don’t feel at all unwieldy. Hand-feel is good, and the light is easy to use one-handed to switch quietly between the four output levels of whichever mode set you are in. Very intuitive and easy to use My only real complaint here is the 4x switching mechanism to go from the Regular to Special mode sets – I found it a bit tricky to do reliably.

Runtime performance certainly seems very good for this class of light. But the light lacks a typical Med mode, and seems to have an unusually large number of Lo modes for a high-output tactical light. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, except it seems to have resulted in the Turbo mode being relegated to the Special modes set with strobe/SOS. That is an issue, since getting back into the Regular mode set means strobing yourself 4 times (i.e. Strobe is the secondary mode you have to keep switching into from Turbo to do a mode set switch back to Regular).

Of course, from another perspective, this division of modes makes sense - the Regular modes have a wide range of outputs for the regular user (and all fully regulated on 18650), while the Special modes contain those the tactical user would like (including max output and strobe). But I personally am sympathetic to the regular user crowd that would like to see Turbo in the Regular set.

Despite whatever your personal user interface preference, the G5 is certainly top-of-class for output and throw. I’m glad to see 4Sevens has managed to dispel the myth that XP-G lights cannot throw – in fact, the G5 shows that you can get excellent throw from this class with the right reflector (and special bonus – no beam rings!). The G5 certainly shows (and shows off) what the high-output XP-G emitter can do with the right reflector.

UPDATE 8-14-2010: As shown in the revised charts and runtime graphs, max output has indeed increased slightly on 1x18650 on the Shipping version compared to the pre-relase sample. However, max output on 2xRCR/CR123A has decreased slightly relative to the pre-release version. Check out the tables and graphs above for more info.

UPDATE 9-7-2010: 4Sevens has confirmed that the latest batch of G5s now includes the Max mode on the regular sequence, and dispenses with the Lo mode, as recommended in this review. The revised sequences are thus: Max, Strobe, SOS, Beacon - Max, High, Medium, Moonlight.

To follow the online discussions for this review, please see the full review thread at CPF.




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