Review: Balder SE-1 (Pic heavy, Beamshots)

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SirJohn
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Review: Balder SE-1 (Pic heavy, Beamshots)

Balder SE-1 1xAA Flashlight

 

The SE-1 is young flashlight company Balder’s newest light. I was recently shipped a review sample of this light and I thank Balder and their representative, Martin, for making this review possible. This is their second offering in the 1xaa form factor. Their first offering was the BD-1 which sells for around $45. The SE-1 is meant to be a more budget offering and retails for around $30. As such it puts itself head to head with the Xeno E03 for the budget market. How does this latest model compare, read on to find out.

 

FEATURES 4/5

Like its brother the BD-1, the SE-1 comes with a forward clicky and three modes sequenced H-M-L. It lacks any sort of flashing modes for those that are bothered by such things. Modes are switched by half pressing the tailswitch. This is always an unusual arrangement when coupled with a forward clicky as once you have fully depressed the light to turn on, it requires you to then turn off the light to go to the next mode. You have to select the mode first before fully depressing the switch. The forward clicky advantage is a momentary on function, however, the multi-mode switch means that the forward clicky becomes nearly useless for signaling. The light does not have memory mode so it always comes on in high.

 

The light ships in Balder’s usual unlabeled, small plastic box. As the pictures show, the light does come with a nice clip. Other accessories are very limited, including only a couple of orings and a tailswitch boot. This is typical for a light in this price range so I do not find any fault by this. I was surprised to see that there was no manual or any product literature for that matter included in the package, however, this is an early production model so may not be representative of all of them.

 

The light comes equipped with an XP-E R3 emitter. The sample I was given represents the cool white version of the light. Apparently, a neutral emitter is available and Balder mentions that it is possible to upgrade this light with an XP-G or XM-L emitter as well, but I have not seen any retailer offering the emitter upgrades as of this moment.  It is able to handle either a regular AA or 14500 li-ion cell, which is a plus. The reflector is a lightly textured orange peel that is fairly deep for a 1xaa light. No doubt this contributes to the slightly longer than average length of the light. With the listed dimensions, you would think this light would be a little porky for a 1xaa, however, in hand, this light is quite lightweight and does not feel bulky at all. The ITP C7 and SA1 are noticeably larger and heavier in comparison. No doubt the narrower middle section of the design helps in this matter.

 

 

BUILD QUALITY 4.5/5

Definitely a strength of this light is the quality of construction at this price level. Like most of Balder’s designs, the design of the SE-1 is slightly more complicated than the standard black tube with some knurling. Despite this, all the parts match up perfectly with no obvious machining gaffes. The type III anodizing is even and nicely done in the typical matte. There is knurling on the head and tail pieces and it again is perfect. It borders on the side of aggressive, but to me it hits just the right medium between being too shallow and too aggressive and definitely gives decent grip. It is a little odd that there is no labeling or lettering to be found anywhere on the body. I would think Balder would at least want to put their brand name on it, but it may be that my review sample was an early production run and later runs may have some labeling. If you want a discreet light, this would be a good choice. Discreet without the design being overly boring looking. Threads are all buttery smooth and fit together perfectly every time. The tailswitch is overly firm and yet still has a slight squishiness as if there is a tad too much travel to get the switch to activate. Definitely not my favorite tailswitch, although nowhere near the worst. The clip is quite hefty and solid and fits very tightly to the light. No wiggle at all so very well done. However, it is so firm on the light that I did manage to chip the anodizing on the light in the process of removing and putting the clip back on the light so do be careful should you wish to remove it. You will see the chips in the pictures just above the clip. I guess I should have taken pictures first before playing with it. I did see some irregularities in the metal of the clip so that is one very minor construction flaw I found.

 

The emitter is perfectly centered and all parts and soldering seem clean. There is no spring on the head of the light, but there is one on the tail end, held in place by a plastic retaining ring. Reverse polarity protection is handled by the insertion of a thin plastic ring at the head of the light. On my review sample, I was easily able to remove it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUTPUT 3.5/5

If you need a 1xaa with throw, this light will be a great choice. The combination of the XP-E with a fairly deep reflector makes for a fairly tight hotspot. While there is still some spill, if you are looking for an EDC that is going to give a nice flood for close-up work, this is not the light for you. This is really the big difference between this light and the Xeno E03. The Xeno gives you a very floody beam. The SE-1 gives you a tight, clearly defined hotspot in a small package. It is definitely among the best in throw in the 1xaa class. However, while not bad by any stretch, it does have a slight ringyness to the beam quality.

DMM readings
Nimh
2.30a High, 0.77a Medium, 0.04a Low
NiZn
2.40a High, 0.80a Medium, 0.03a Low
14500
1.45a High, 0.45a Medium, 0.02a Low 

Using only an XP-E, on 14500, it does not have nearly the overall output of the Xeno. I do not have the equipment to give an exact measurement but based on lights that have been measured previously in my collection, I would estimate output on high to be in the 250 lumen range. This is impressive for an XP-E, but is accomplished by overdriving the little emitter. The downside will be shortened emitter life. Like the Xeno, the light heats up very quickly on high, so when using a 14500, it should only be on high for short periods. Based on the DMM measurements, at 1.45a on high with a 14500, you will only get about a half hour of battery life, while medium will give at least a solid hour and a half. On Nimh, figure about an hour on high and 3.5 hours on Medium. While I did not take pics of the light using NiZn, the SE-1 seems to really like them. NiZn are notoriously flaky but if you have some to use, this may be a great light to use them with. Output is very noticeably improved over the Nimh without overheating the light the way the 14500 does.

 

An advantage this light has over the Xeno is the fact that the low and medium modes still work correctly when using a 14500. This light still has a true, usable low of only 2-3 lumens on 14500. A good achievement at this price level. I do wish that the medium was slightly lower on 14500. I would estimate that it runs at about 100 lumens, about what the light runs on high using a nimh. The medium mode on nimh is quite good at somewhere around 30-35 lumens and again the low mode is a true low on nimh at a similar brightness to the 14500. However, it accomplishes these nice lower modes though the use of PWM. Unfortunately, it is visible on both low and medium modes although you do need reasonable quick motion to see it. Depending on what you are using the light for, this may or may not be an issue. For my uses, I had no issues, but if you are particularly sensitive to PWM, it may be a problem. From my experience with Balder’s BD-2, I know Balder can accomplish modes with PWM that is not visible to the naked eye. I encourage Balder to work on increasing the frequency of the PWM to make it less noticeable without giving up the nice low modes of this light.

Beamshots - ITP C7, Balder SE-1, Xeno E03 all on nimh

 

 

 

Beamshots - ITP C7, Balder SE-1, Xeno E03 all on 14500

 

 

 

Ceiling Bounce

 

C7 14500

 

Fenix LD20 Q5 Nimh

 

SE-1 14500 High

 

Xeno E03 14500

 

SE-1 14500 Med

 

 

SE-1 14500 Low

 

Outdoor Beamshots - 60 ft to the large tree and 30 ft to the baby tree in the foreground.

ITP C7 14500

 

LD20 Q5 Nimh

 

Xeno E03 14500

 

SE-1 14500 High

 

SE-1 Nimh High

 

SE-1 14500 Med

 

SE-1 14500 Low

 

OVERALL 4/5 

A nice light. The build quality for this price point is excellent. It feels rock solid and there was no flakiness in operation at any time. I am a little concerned about it overdriving the XP-E when on high when using a 14500 and I believe that Balder needs to clean up the PWM a little. Those are both correctable issues so as Balder continues to advance as a company, they hopefully will address those issues in the future. Having said that, I enjoyed using this light and it definitely has found a home in my edc rotation. I rate this to be about at the same level as the Xeno E03 but fulfilling a slightly different need. If the Xeno is too floody for you and you really need a light that comes with a stock clip, this may be the alternative you have been waiting for. I can definitely recommend it. I should also add that some retailers are retailing it as low as $20 at the moment so at that price it is a fantastic bargain.

 

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:06
JohnnyMac
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Very nice, thorough review! Great pics.

draganta
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very nice review...

hope all se-1 would be the same source so all spec is standard...Foot in mouth

weiser
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Great review! Thanks!

 

I still can't help myself reading reviews even after I've already purchased it, haha. Normally I try to stay away just in case something is wrong and thus lose my excitement while it's still in delivery.

old4570
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Very nice review !   

 Always remember , the easiest thing in the world to do , is to expel hot air from your lungs and through some vocal chords ..
The resulting sound may , or may not be worth listening too ….

 

a1penguin
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Nice review.  The Balder looks like a very well built light, but the beam pattern is a bit ringed.

I like the ceiling bounce photos.  The Xeno looks like a really nice light and the blue is a great color.  Hmmm.  I don't need another flashlight Smile

fishinfool
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Very nice review!

 

Don wrote:

"But as I said long ago, you are more likely to be killed by a dead fish dropped by a seagull in the Sahara Desert than by a lithium ion

sb56637
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Very nice review SirJohn, thanks very much! Looks like a quality built product. Looks a tad bit too long compared to the other 1xAA clicky lights. I like the clip very much.

Again, thanks for the review! Frontpage'd and Sticky'd.

Budget Light Forum ...where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

alfreddajero
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Nice and detailed indeed......how warm does the light get when using a 14500 cell.

With Darkness, there will always be Light.

 

 

SirJohn
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I haven't run it longer than a minute as it got pretty warm in that short period of time. It doesn't get too hot to hold like some SS lights do. It's pretty comparable to the Xeno with how fast it heats up. Definitely a hand warmer.

alfreddajero
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Cool thanks for the quick reply......a good nimh  would keep the heat issue down.

With Darkness, there will always be Light.

 

 

SashiX
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Great review, Sir Beer And nice light Big Smile Will put it on my "Wanted" lists :bigsmile:

gen1.3_
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Great review! IMO it is not in the same league as the Xeno E03 XML

The machining isn't great, threads look rough and not cut well. Tailcap looks very cheaply made. Anodized threads would have been a plus. Just my 2 cents.

weiser
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gen1.3_ wrote:

Great review! IMO it is not in the same league as the Xeno E03 XML

The machining isn't great, threads look rough and not cut well. Tailcap looks very cheaply made. Anodized threads would have been a plus. Just my 2 cents.

 

But I think they have their own respective leagues in which they cater to. Disregard the silly choice of emitter for the Balder and you actually have a more usable light. You have an included clip and the low is MUCH more usable. The Xeno is more of a pocket rocket. They could have just made it two modes since the low is way too bright. The very bright high is definitely a plus though. Since I was able to get the SE-1 for $20 I might make it my first AA mod attempt after I get some use out of it. I might just get too impatient and try it before then Smile 

SashiX
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Sir, can you do a small runtime<>lumens test? Wondered if it has regulation. Thanks in advance Wink

 

BTW: which SA1 do you have? R2 or R5 version? 

how2
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SashiX wrote:

Sir, can you do a small runtime<>lumens test? Wondered if it has regulation. Thanks in advance Wink

 

BTW: which SA1 do you have? R2 or R5 version? 

There is only one version of the XPE that is the R3 version. Unless you mean the XM-L version that's a T6. The XPG R5 is not out.

how2
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The XML version is out for $23 including shipping.