Nextorch MyTorch 18650 (XP-G R5, PC-Programmable) Review: RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS+

Originally posted: April 29, 2011
Updated: May 5, 2011

Warning: pic heavy, as usual.



The Nextorch MyTorch series is the first fully-programmable family of lights where all settings and features are controlled through a graphical user interface on a computer (connected to the light by USB). This review will look at all the 18650 model. The other members of the Nextorch MyTorch family – the 1AA, 2AA and 3AAA models – are examined in a separate review.

Manufacturer Specifications:


Packaging is comparable for the other MyTorch lights. Inside the cardboard box you will find more cardboard packaging, encasing the light, rechargeable 18650 battery, USB cable, and manual. You can download the Nextuner software and manual from Nextorch's website.

The MyTorch 18650 comes with its own custom 18650 battery that can be charged inside the light, through the included USB cable. A standard 18650 can also be used, but without the USB charging feature.



From left to right: AW Protected 18650, Nextorch 18650, MyTorch 18650, ITP R01, Fenix TK15, Olight M20, Sunwayman M20C, 4Sevens Maelstrom G5.

MyTorch 18650: Weight: 133.6g (no battery), Length: 154.2mm, Width (bezel): 36.0mm
MyTorch 18650 Battery: Weight: 51.3g, Length: 71.5mm, Width: 20.2mm

The overall build elements are similar among the members of this MyTorch family. Overall dimensions of the 18650 model are in keeping with this class of lights.





The MyTorch lights have distinctive styling. The overall pattern is very streamlined, with smooth lines and rounded edges everywhere. They are quite different from the more "tactical" appearance common to most other lights.

The lights do not have traditional knurling, but instead feature a checked pattern along the body handle/tube. This provides some extra grip, but not as much as actual knurling would.

The head and tailcap have raised flutes along their longitudinal axes. This feature provides very good anti-roll characteristics - I'm surprised no one thought of this before.

Black anodizing (manufacturer claims hard anodized) is slightly glossy, and lettering is bright white and clear on the black background. I would have a preferred a few less labels on the 1AA version.

Screw threads are rather fine, but are anodized at the tail end of the body tube, allowing for lock-out. The tailcap spring has a flat cover on it (to prevent scratching your cells).

The lights can't tailstand. However, I rather like the look of the projecting GITD tailcaps, which have a very rounded appearance with a shiny area around them (which feels like chrome-plated plastic?). Note the switches are all reverse-clickies.

The MyTorch 18650 model has a large and wide spring in the head, along with a positive contact button in the center. The tailcap is similar in design to the MyTorch 3AAA, and has a flat contact surface mounted on the top of the spring (which makes contact with the negative battery terminal). This design allows you to use regular 18650 cells, but only the custom Nextorch 18650 battery can be recharged inside the light.

So how does this custom battery compare to a regular protected 18650? Shown below in comparison to an AW protected 2200mAh 18650.







The Nextorch battery is thicker and a little taller than a regular cell (i.e. expect some rattle when using a regular 18650).

Unlike the AA/AAA MyTorch models (which use the Cree XP-E emitter), the MyTorch 18650 uses a XP-G Cool White emitter (R5 output bin).




The head/reflector seems to be about the same size as the MyTorch 3AAA. Thanks to the relatively deep reflector (MOP finish), I would expect decent throw for this light. You will also notice the centering disc around the emitter (with Nextorch name printed on it). A similar centering mechanism was used in my MyTorch 3AAA sample.

BTW, the bezel ring (and tailcap ring) seem to be chrome-plated plastic. They are not made of metal.

For beamshots below, all lights are on Hi on 1x AW protected 18650 (2200mAh), about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences.













Beam pattern is reasonable on the MyTorch 18650 – about fairly typical for an XP-G R5 light with a MOP reflector.



The MyTorch 18650 comes with a different USB cable from the other models in this series. The USB included here is more heavy-duty (i.e. thicker), with a larger head at the mini-USB potion. The reason for this is that this cable also charges the Nextorch battery inside the light (whereas the other models simply use the USB cable to transfer settings).




As with the other MyTorch models, the mini-USB end connects to the light just below the head. Note there is an o-ring around the base of the head, ensuring waterproofness at this end when the head is screwed back down for use. It is hard to tell if there is an o-ring around the point where the lens meets the bezel. Ultimate waterproofness is therefore unknown.




The USB cable’s mini-USB end has an LED that lights up green as soon as power is supplied at the computer end. When connected to the light and charging the Nextorch battery, it turns red. When the battery is fully charged, the LED turns back to green.

Charging time in my testing was a little over 3 hour, from the point where the protection circuit was tripped. This is rather impressive for a USB-based 18650 charger (i.e. slightly faster than my Pila IBC).

User Interface

The UI is common to all MyTorch models, and is quite distinctive.

You set all the features through a graphical user interface on a computer, through their Nextuner software, available for download on the Nextorch website. Note that at the moment they only support Windows-based PCs. I tried the software on one system running XP and another running Windows 7 - both installed and ran fine.

Using the software, you can set the light to have anywhere from 1 to 50 modes, accessed in sequence from the tailcap. Those modes can contain constant output levels (anywhere from 5% to 100% output, selectable in 1% increments), strobe modes (from 0.5 Hz to 20 Hz, in 0.5 Hz increments), or combination signalling modes where you control the length and duration of pulses and the in-between off periods (e.g. beacon modes, custom SOS modes, or anything else you could imagine).

To use the light, turn on/off by fully pressing the reverse clicky switch (i.e. click needed to turn on).

The light does not have memory, and always come on in the first programmed set mode. Soft-pressing the tailcap switch (or clicking off/on) will advance you through the subsequent modes, in repeating sequence.

However, the retention time of the last set mode is long at 15 secs (i.e. if you turn the light off and back on within 15 secs, it advances to the next mode instead of starting at the beginning). I would recommend this interval be shortened to no more than 1 or 2 secs.

Nextuner Software:

The software is pretty easy to install and use (instructions are either included with the light, or are available for download on the Nextorch website).



For the screenshot above, I have set the light to four constant output modes (100%, 75%, 40%, and 5%). This was actually my testing regimen for the runtimes (i.e. scroll down to see output/runtime graphs at these levels). To set each level, you move the green percentage bar to the right or left. Click on the green "Next" indicator to add more modes.

If you click your computer cursor over the white pull-down indicator tab at the right of each mode, you will see the above dialogue box showing your options for that mode. "Luminance" refers to constant output modes, "Frequency" for strobe modes, "Customize" for signalling modes, and "Delete" to remove that mode.



In my second example above, I have set the light to two modes: a 20 Hz Strobe mode, followed by a customized signalling mode. When you select a Customized mode, the area on the right of the screen opens up, and you can choose the number and type of signals that occur (i.e. set as light/dark intervals with millisecs assigned to them by the movable green bars). Here again, you can add as many interval modes as you like with the green Next arrow button.

When you are done setting up the light, you have the options to "Test", "Download" or "Save as ..." (bottom left of the screen).

"Test" is actually quite interesting – since the light is connected through the USB cable, pressing this button turns on the light on and lets you see what each mode looks like. Simply click on a given mode to see the light perform that setting.

"Download" refers to saving the settings to the light. This is necessary to program the light before disconnecting the USB cable.

"Save as ..." refers to saving a copy of the programming as a file on your hard drive. I strongly recommend you do this before exiting, as the software has no way to read the existing settings from the flashlight. If you don’t save a copy to the hard drive, the next time you run the software you will need to start all over again from scratch in building the modes. Accordingly, you can start a session by choosing "Open" from the menu at the bottom, once you have pre-saved a configuration set.

PWM

As expected for fully-programmable lights, I found all MyTorch models used pulse width modulation (PWM) for the sub-maximal outputs. Below are representative 75% and 5% output PWM traces.




Like the other members of this family, the MyTorch 18650 uses ~124 Hz PWM in all modes between 5% and 99%.

Oddly, I didn’t find this level of PWM as disturbing as I normally do (and I am typically quite sensitive to it). I suspect Nextorch must be using some sort of circuit filter to reduce the visible impact of the PWM.

In support of this theory, I could also detect a clear negative deflection at this same 124 Hz frequency on the max 100% mode of all lights, as shown below.



Here it is a blow up of the 100% signal, followed by a blow-up of the 5% PWM:




Whatever this negative deflection at 100% represents, it is definitely not PWM (e.g. there is no visual distortion pattern when shining on a fan, for example). I would have to let those with more knowledge of circuit design try to explain this finding. The end result is that the PWM is not as apparent as I would expect for the frequency.

Strobe

Strobe can be set from 0.5 Hz to 20 Hz, in 0.5 Hz segments. Below are the min (0.5 Hz) and max (20 Hz) traces




Beacon/SOS/Signalling modes

The customized signalling modes can be quite complex, but here is a simple 1 sec beacon of short pulse duration (i.e. 5 millisec pulse, once every second).



You could design your own SOS modes, but this would be time-consuming (i.e. you would need to set all the timing manually in the programming menus). There is no pre-set SOS mode.

Testing Method:

Effective November 2010, I have revised my summary tables to match with the current ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see http://www.sliderule.ca/FL1.htm for a description of the terms used in these tables.

All my runtime graph output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com 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, except for any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

I have recently devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lighbox values to Lumens thread for more info.



As you can see above, throw for the MyTorch 18650 is reasonable for the class. Overall output at the low end of this class.





My first runtime observation is that the capacity of the included Nextorch battery is very similar to a standard AW protected 2200mAh. The main difference is when the cells are nearly exhausted and fall out of regulation. The Nextorch cell tripped its built-in protection circuit once output had fallen to about 1/3 original output, while the AW cell continued into a long moon mode of very low output. Frankly, the clear termination of the Nextorch cell is a good sign.

Runtime performance on Max is right where you would expect for an XP-G R5, given the output level. Regulation pattern is excellent.

At the lower output levels, relative efficiency drops to the lower end of the XP-G R5 class, but is still quite acceptable.


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Potential Issues

Max output is at the low end of the 18650 XP-G R5 class. Ability to take higher voltage 2xCR123A/RCR is unknown (no mention of support by Nextorch, so I did not attempt).

I am always wary of running dedicated battery chargers directly off my computer's USB ports (i.e. the high current draw may damage your USB ports). I recommend you pick up an inexpensive USB-AC converter to run it off a wall outlet instead.

My sample developed some flickering issues over time, when running on the Nextorch battery. A thorough cleaning of the contact surfaces seems to have improved the matter.

Please see my MyTorch AA/AAA round-up review for a broader list of common potential issues across the whole series, in regards to build and interface.

Preliminary Observations

The Nextorch MyTorches are an innovative line of lights – not just for their distinctive styling, but their novel computer-programmable control interface. As with the Potential Issues, I have reviewed many of the general build/interface aspects of the line in my MyTorch AA/AAA round-up review. Please see that review for a discussion of those general features. I will focus below on what is novel about the 18650 model.

The first of these is the ability to charge the included battery within the light, or take externally-supplied 18650 cells. Nextorch has wisely included a heavier-duty USB cable for the internal charging purpose. But I am always concerned about USB-based battery charging solutions, so am happy to report that the supplied USB cable worked well with the two USB-AC converters I have lying around (i.e. one that I use for an iPod Touch, and one that came with another 18650 charger). I recommend you pick up one of these inexpensive converters, so that you can directly charge it from a wall socket.

FYI, the charging time was impressive on my sample (i.e. just over 3 hours). That suggests at least ~650mA average charging rate, which seems to exceed the standard USB 2.0 specs (although I'm not entirely certain about that, see subsequent posts below). Regardless, I think it is always a good idea to go with a USB-AC adapter for regular use.

And of course, you also have the option of just going with your own 18650 cells. There is some rattle inside the light if you do so (i.e. the light is bored for the Nextorch cell, which is wider than typical). All 18650 cells worked in my testing – including flat-top higher capacity ones. Note that you cannot charge externally supplied 18650 cells inside the light (i.e. the internal charging mechanism requires the uniquely-designed Nextorch cell).

Performance was quite good on the MyTorch 18650 – perfectly flat regulation, with reasonable-to-good runtimes. Capacity of the Nextorch cell was comparable to my standard AW 2200mAh protected 18650s. Note the MyTorch 18650 uses the Cree XP-G R5 emitter (all AA/AAA MyTorch models are XP-E R3s)

Beam pattern was good overall, about what you would expect for this size reflector and emitter combo. There were some artifacts around the edge of the spillbeam, but these were not overly distracting.

But of course, the truly revolutionary aspect of these lights is their computer-controlled programming interface. Again, please see my MyTorch AA/AAA round-up review for additional comments on this front.

The 18650 model is a good addition to the Nextorch MyTorch line. Although many of the features are common across models, the 18650 version has the added flexibility of using the supplied battery or your own 18650 cell. Combined with the other members of the MyTorch family, there are thus a lot of battery/build options for those interested in this PC-programmable interface.

A final point to consider - this model might serve well as an "entry point" into the realm of higher-output Li-ion lights. For those who haven't made the jump into dedicated Li-ion chargers and 18650 cells, the in situ charging solution offered here may be a way to test the waters.

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Nextorch MyTorch 18650 was supplied by batteryjunction.com for review.

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




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Page last updated on May 14, 2011 - selfbuilt (at) sliderule (dot) ca (replace the "at" and "dot" labels with the appropriate symbol for e-mail)
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