4Sevens Quark AA-2 X and 123-2 X Review (XM-L): RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS and more!

Originally posted: September 8, 2011
Last revised: September 10, 2011

Warning: pic heavy, as usual.




4Sevens has just released an update to their core Quark line of lights, now featuring the Cree XM-L emitter (in the AA-2 and 123-3 builds). The original Quark series contained XP-E R2 emitters (which I reviewed here). These were subsequently upgraded to XP-G R5 (with a limited run of S2 emitters). The new “X” series of Quark lights contain the higher-output XM-L emitter.

Manufacturer Specifications:

Common Specs123-2 X SpecsAA-2 X SpecsI received only the bare lights to review, so I don’t know what final packaging will look like. I expect it will be comparable to other 4Sevens products.



From left to right: Surefire CR123A, Duracell AA, 4Sevens Quark 123-2 X, Thrunite Neutron 2C, Nitecore IFE2, Zebralight SC600, Lumintop ED20, 4Sevens Quark AA-2 X, Fenix LD20-R4, Jetbeam BC20.

All weights with no batteries.

Q123-2 X (Regular tailcap): Weight: 44.6g, Length: 112.7mm, Width (bezel) 22.0mm
QAA-2 X (Tactical tailcap): Weight: 60.1g, Length: 149.1mm, Width (bezel) 22.0mm

The Quark series remains quite petite for their respective classes. You can see the Q123-2 X is slightly smaller than even the Thrunite Neutron 2C or Lumintop ED20. The QAA-2 X is slightly shorter than most of the competition.





First off, note that build is unchanged with these new “X” versions of the Quark line. You can still lego (mix-and-match) heads, tailcaps and bodies across the whole line. That said, note that the Q123-2 uses a different head from the other models (i.e. QAA, QAA-2 and Q123 share a common head).

Overall build quality remains high. Anodizing is type III (hard anodized), and lettering is fairly sharp and clear. Overall fit and finish is very good on both samples. There is a generous amount of knurling to help with grip (reasonably aggressive). Screw threads are square-cut, as before.

Also as before, there is a removable single-direction clip, attached by default to either the "tail" region of the battery tube. However, since the head and tailcaps are reversible on the battery tube, you can "switch" the direction of the clip by simply exchanging the head and tail regions. The clip is secured in place by its own removable cover/grip ring.

Note there is anodizing on the tailcap threads, allowing you to lock-out the light. Most lights use a double-coating of anodizing (i.e. on both the tailcap and body portions of the threads), but that would prevent you from switching around the body tube in this case. I recommend you be careful not to damage the single coat of anodizing on the tailcap threads.

Battery tubes are wide enough to accommodate protected cells, although the Q123-2 X may not be able to take all protected AW 17670 cells (18650 certainly won’t fit).

Regular versions use a standard reverse clicky, with a fairly typical feel (maybe a bit stiffer than some). The lights can tailstand on these Regular series Quarks. The Tactical versions use a protruding forward clicky switch, and are capable of momentary action (but of course, cannot tailstand).

Video Overview

NEW: Normally at this point in the review, I like to show the beamshots. But I’m trying something new - video reviews showing both the basic build and user interface. Beamshots will follow after the user interface and circuit discussion.



Video was recorded in 480p, but YouTube defaults to 360p. Once the video is running, you can click on the 360p icon in the lower right-hand corner, and select the higher 480p option.

User Interface

The Quark interface on the Regular series lights will seem very familiar to users of Fenix or Klarus lights. With the bezel slightly loosened, click on to activate Moonlight mode. Soft-press to advance to Lo, followed by Med, Hi, SOS, and Beacon mode in sequence. With the bezel fully tightened, activation yields Turbo. Soft-press to advance to rapid Strobe.

If you turn the light off-on within ~2-3 secs, you will advance to the next mode (i.e. acts as a soft-press). Otherwise, if you leave off longer, you will return to the first output state (i.e. Moonlight or Turbo, depending on the bezel state). There is no long-term mode memory.

For the Tactical interface, you can configure the bezel loose/tight states to have one memorized level from the above sets. Default setting is loose bezel set to Moonlight and tight bezel set to Max. Soft press the switch for momentary on, click for locked on.

To reprogram the each bezel state, you need to loosen-tighten the head 4 times quickly, ending in the state you want to re-program. After 3 secs, the light will flash 3 times, and you can now advance through all the possible modes by clicking off-on. To select the mode you want memorized, wait 10 secs with the light on in that mode. When you turn off the light, that mode will become the memorized set mode for that bezel state.

See the video above for a visual illustration of the Regular and Tactical interfaces.

PWM/Strobe

Q123-2 X


QAA-2 X


Strobe was a rapid ~9.5 Hz on both lights.

There was no evidence of PWM on any output level . As before, I believe the Quark X series lights are current-controlled.

Beamshots:

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for.




As before, the Quark reflector has a light-to-medium orange peel (textured) reflector, to help smooth out the beam. The reflector is fairly small, suggesting these lights will not be great throwers. The opening of the base of the reflector is larger than before, to accommodate the larger XM-L die. Emitters were well centered on my samples.

For white-wall beamshots, all lights are on 1x3.7V Li-ion (18650 or 17670) for Q123-2 X comparisons, 2xSanyo Eneloop for the QAA-2 X comparisons. Lights are about ~0.75 meter from the wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences. All beamshots taken immediately upon activation.

Q123-2 X Comparisons













QAA-2 X Comparisons













As expected, the beam profile is fairly floody on the new X Quarks. Spillbeam width is similar to other Quarks models (and wider than the Thrunite Neutron XM-L models, for example)

Testing Method:

All my 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.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

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.

Q123-2 X Comparisons







QAA-2 X Comparisons



Note: There is now a step-down feature just after 3 mins runtime on max, designed to help limit thermal issues on extended runs. For the Q123-2 X, output drops from ~520 estimated lumens to ~400 estimated lumens, while the QAA-2 X drops from ~400 estimated lumens to ~300 estimated lumens. I put the higher lumen values in the table, as that is what I measured at exactly 3 mins into the run (i.e. just before the drop).

As you can see, neither light is a great thrower – but initial output is impressive for the class/size light.

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Q123-2 X Comparisons









QAA-2 X Comparisons









For both lights, initial output is very high for their respective classes. You can see the step-down in output after 3 mins runtime on max.

Runtime efficiency is typically top-of-class.

Note that I do not have XP-G-based Quarks to compare (my Quark samples above are all the earlier XP-E R2 versions).

Potential Issues

The pre-flash effect is still present on some samples (i.e. a bright quick flash before coming on in Moonlight low mode). I observed it on my QAA-2 X Tactical, but not my Q123-2X Regular. As before, I believe presence of the pre-flash effect is highly variable between individual lights.

Tailcap lock-out is possible, but anodizing is only present on the tailcap portion (i.e. may be less robust than dual-anodizing).

Preliminary Observations

The XM-L upgrade is a welcome update to the flagship 4Sevens Quark line-up.

Compared to the earlier XP-G emitters, XM-L emitters are capable of much higher output – with equivalent runtime – when driven at relatively high levels. There has clearly been a lot of interest here for 4Sevens to come out with this option.

That said, my experience with other lights that offer both emitter options is that the output/runtime efficiency of XM-L tends to drop at lower drive levels – becoming equivalent to XP-G by typical Med output levels. I haven’t compared low modes, but based on Cree specs, I doubt there’s any significant runtime difference at lower drive currents.

In this case, the runtime efficiency of the Quark X models seems excellent at the levels tested. I was particularly struck by the runtime advantage on the QAA-2 X model on Hi (i.e. one down from Turbo). It is also the brightest 2xAA light I’ve seen yet (on Turbo).

These Quark X samples both had smooth beams, with reasonably wide spillbeams (and well-centered emitters). Note also that XM-L emitters produce floodier beams compared to XP-G (when comparable optics are used), due to the larger die size of the XM-L. Subjectively, this will over make XM-L-based lights seem even brighter at close distances or in confined spaces, but will make them appear dimmer at further distances.

The step-down feature after 3 mins on Turbo is a reasonable upgrade to the circuit. This is something I am seeing more and more often among XM-L lights, and it makes good thermal sense (especially in the case of small lights such as these). You can always restore max initial output by simply turning the light off-on or switching the bezel to low/tight, but I don’t recommend you do that on small mass lights.

The Quark X series adds another option to this versatile line. Hopefully the runtime graphs, output/throw tables, and beamshots will help you decide if they are the right models for you.

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Quark X samples provided by 4Sevens 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 September 7, 2011 - selfbuilt (at) sliderule (dot) ca (replace the "at" and "dot" labels with the appropriate symbol for e-mail)
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