Saturday, May 23, 2015

Thorfire VG-10 (1x18650)(XM-L2) Review

This is my second review on a flashlight made by Thorfire.
I know,many of you(me too) don't link a name containing the widely used word "fire"(except surefire,of course) with something high quality.
But lets leave the name aside and take a look at the physical specifics and lighting potential of this reasonably low priced flashlight.
Price: $26 for the flashlight,or $36 with a battery and charger.
 Thorfire is currently offering 6% discount on this flashlight. Use code PXKZUYTZ

I was very pleased with the Thorfire PF01&PF02,in terms of design,but not as a performance of the electronics.
Lets see how the bigger,powered by 18650 battery VG-10 light performs.

People that are new to my reviews may find my pictures way too special for the reviewed flashlight.
I don't do this kind of pictures with any advertising purpose,or any other reason.
Just,this is the way I like to photograph and really enjoy to do it.I hope you too enjoy watching the pictures.

Relatively compact in size for a 18650 flashlight,compared to other popular flashlights.
The VG-10 is made of visibly thicker aluminum and does have much more mass to handle all the heat coming from the LED.
Weight with a 18650 battery.
Thorfire VG10 185 gr
Olight R20 132 gr
Olight S30 120 gr
ThruNite TN12 130 gr
XTAR B20 173 gr

Quite comfortable for holding in hand. There's no any knurling or any other grooves to help for good grip.
However,the grip is quite good,thanks to the flat sides and mostly to the grip ring,which is not very wide,but does a great job.
Talking for the grip ring,it is made of metal.Well machined,without sharp edges.
Even though,it looks a bit small,it does provide good stability in hand,without sticking out too much and catching/scratching everything around it(does not make the flashlight hard to carry).

A picture of the user manual.
(The halo around the letters is due to the Flickr image compression method and does not exist in the actual pictures taken by me).
(Click on the picture to see it full size)

Black anodizing,with very nice matte finish. The overall machine work is great,yet still there are things that could be done better.
I will show them a little below in the review.
In terms of practical design,again we see a good job done.Clean form,smooth machining.
Does not look cheap,at all and most importantly,does have good design for good heat transfer.
There are 5 deep cooling fins,with the purpose to carry out the heat,directly from the LED.
This must allow good performance at highest light output and less light drop due to overheating.

A few words about the pocket clip.As you can see,it is quite well attached,in reverse position.
This position is preferable by some people. I personally didn't find it convenient.
Especially with the grip ring attached,it's almost impossible to use the clip.
A little tweaking the position of the grip ring may help for better access to the clip.
Anyway,the clip seems sturdy and is quite stiff for secure attaching.

The front of the head is protected with a thick stainless steel bezel. It is well machined-has no sharp edges.
The bezel is screwed tightly,without any gap.

Aluminum reflector with a smooth reflective surface.
Cree XM-L2 LED,quite well centered.
As can be seen on the pictures,the reflector and the glass are not clean.There are several particles dropped around.
Good news is the glass lens,which has anti-reflective coating for optimal light transmittance.

The tail of the TG-10 is clean.Very well machined edges,nothing sharp.
I had very bad feeling while testing the XTAR B20 with its very sharp tail edges,so I really appreciate the smooth form of the Thorfire VG10.

The switch is forward clicky. Allows momentary ON activation.
It's easy to access and doesn't require to hold the flashlight in particular position.
Standard 14mm diameter switch cap.

There is a periphery around the switch that allows the VG10 to tail-stand acceptably well,but not very stable.
The switch is a little bit higher than the surrounding periphery.
In many cases will not be possible to tail-stand.However,I think it is still a good option,although it's unstable.

Here are the imperfections on the finish that I mentioned earlier.
There are dozen of small dots,seems like made with a spike.I have no idea what have caused this spots.
Some people will find unacceptable a finish like this. So consider it before buying,if you prefer items with a perfectly clean finish.
Of course,in the dark,these spots don't matter.

Thorfire VG10 can be bought in set with a Thorfire branded 18650 battery and a Li-Ion charger.
The battery has a protection circuit,very well wrapped,without excessive bumps.
Actually the battery is really worth it,because of its core.It is actually a Samsung ICR18650 30B.
This battery has maximum voltage of 4,35V. If charged with a regular 4,2V charger,the battery will deliver less than 3000mAh.
Many of the standard 4,2V chargers(I have a few) charge up to 4,25V and even 4,27V,which is actually overcharging and may reduce the battery lifetime.
This battery can be used even with the most overcharging chargers,without reaching the top voltage limit.

Here is the flashlight disassembled on its three main parts. The build quality is on top level(I don't overrate it).
Thick aluminum alloy body. Rectangular cut threads at the tail and the head-anodized.
I have seen much lower build quality with plastic parts used,in a 5 times more expensive flashlight.
Here,everything is made of thick metal and designed to last.

Retaining ring made of brass.Good,wide springs at both ends.

The pill is also made of brass and does contact a wide,clean surface of the battery tube.

The tail threads are very clean and well greased.

User interface
The switch in the VG-10 is a forward clicky switch,which requires mode selecting while the light is OFF.
If the light is turned ON,to change the mode,you have to restart the light by fully pressing the switch,or selecting the needed mode with a half press,
before starting the light.

There is a mode memory for the last used mode. The light should be ON for ~2 seconds,then the driver saves the last used mode for the next time when you start the light.

Four brightness modes High -Mid -Low -Moonlight -in this sequence.
No Strobe,SOS,or other flashing modes.

The thing I didn't like in the Thorfire PF01/02,was the really low frequency PWM used for adjusting the brightness levels.
The output of the reviewed here Thorfire VG-10 is also controlled by PWM.
There is a big difference,though. The PWM is with a frequency of 3.88 KHz.
This is a quite high number.Very hard to detect it in normal use and not so distracting even if you illuminate a spinning cooling fan.

But,as usual there is a "but". The driver produces high frequency noise(3,88 KHz). Sometimes on some modes very noticeable,sometimes not so.
The PWM is detectable only on Mid,Low and Moonlight mode,but I can hear the high frequency sound on all modes and most loudly on Mid mode.
In a silent room,this sound may be very distracting.
I don't know what exactly causes this sound on my sample-may need tightening the driver or gluing it to prevent any possible high frequency vibrations...
In any case,have it in mind,if you have sensitive hearing.

PWM graphs on Mid,Low and Moonlight mode.

I tested how long the light can be used with a single 18650 battery.
I did two tests-first with the Thorfire 3000 mAh(Samsung cell) battery from the set,second with a Keeppower 3100 mAh(Panasonic cell).

The Thorfire VG-10 does not show any step down to a lower output.
This means,the output will be constant as long as the battery can deliver constant power.
Decreasing the voltage leads to a lower output.

With the Thorfire 3000 battery,the initial output was about 15% less than the output with the Keeppower 3100.
Please note,that the Thorfire battery was absolutely new and this may affected its performance.

On the left is the Lumen output in percentage. At the bottom is the time in minutes.

My lumen measurements -
(battery Keeppower 3100)
High mode 645 Lm
Mid mode 233 Lm
Low mode 23 Lm
Moonlight- I can't measure it correctly with my current setup.

Good performance for a single cell flashlight with a buck driver.

The light from the VG10 is normal cool white,without greenish or bluish tint.
The beam is typical for a light focused by a smooth reflector. Clearly defined hotspot and spill.
There are some artifacts,but in normal use,not on a white wall,the beam is quite good and fully meets my expectations.

The beamshots below were made with a beam profile comparison purpose(not brightness comparison).
Not all of the flashlights are on their max/turbo mode.

1 meter, 1/20sec

5 meters, 1/6sec

This is the packaging.

Honestly,I was very impressed to see all those spare parts and accessories in the box.
Lanyard, 3 Spare O-rings,Spare switch cap,Spare forward clicky switch and even a Spare glass lens.

A good holster is also included.

Here is the charger that comes together with the VG10. Kindly provided two adapters for use in Europe.
Yes,they look/are quite cheap,brittle and I may end up using the better ones I have,but still,
I appreciate the fact that the charger comes with all needed,ready for use.

A maximum charge current of 1Amp. This will ensure quick charging.
The terminating voltage is 4.21V,which is just the right.
Because of the high charging current,I recommend keeping the charger at cool place,while charging,
because at 1A,the battery gets noticeably hot.
After testing the Thorfire VG-10 and comparing it with many other flashlights I've tested in the past,my impressions are somehow mixed.
The design,build quality and finish are excellent for the price of the VG10. Build quality is on par with much higher priced flashlights.
Quite comfortable in use,fits excellent in my hand. The output is not that impressive,but I found it pretty reasonable.
The output is well balanced for a compact flashlight,allowing a consistent runtime graph,with no step down and without excessive overheating.
Four well spaced modes,including ultralow mode,without annoying flickering.
My only critique is regarding the PWM noise/sound. On my sample,the noise on Mid mode will force me,not to use this mode,at all.
This is the only thing that makes me somehow disappointed of the Thorfire VG-10.

Hope you find the review helpful.
Feel free to send me any questions and comments.

The VG-10 was provided by Thorfire for test and review.