Review: Balder HD-1 Review Redux (beamshots) Updated 9/7/12!

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SirJohn
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Review: Balder HD-1 Review Redux (beamshots) Updated 9/7/12!

Balder recently sent a new head for the Balder HD-1 that I previously reviewed here: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/11460

The new head is for the XM-L U2 production version of the light so I am updating my observations. For additional info and pictures, please see the previous review. Update 9/7/12: As a result of my previous observations in regards to a few flaws in the sample head, I just received from Balder a completely new production version of the HD-1 that has a slightly revised circuit. The new circuit does not change functionality or performance, but fixes issues the light had with 14500. Once again, I applaud Balder for taking the complaints seriously and working quickly to resolve the problem and help any customers affected. I am not going to do yet another full review of the light given the identical performance but will update portions of this review to reflect observations for the full updated production version of the light.

 

 

FEATURES

To briefly summarize from the earlier review, the Balder uses a piston interface allowing it to be rather small for a 1xaa style light. Balder really hit the mark on aesthetic appeal, yet it is still very functional. The big difference in the XM-L production light and the XP-E preproduction sample is the modes of the interface. The XM-L version ups the modes from two to three, providing a H-M-L sequence. Like the preproduction version there is no memory so it will always turn on in High mode. The other big change is the off mode. Rather than pressing to cycle through High-Low-Off, the XM-L continues to cycle through H-M-L endlessly. To turn off you press and hold the piston button in for about three seconds. Similarly, the light still turns on by pressing and holding for two seconds like the XP-E preproduction model. This operation cycle worked without flaw on Nimh, alkaline, and lithium primaries, however, it did not function correctly on 14500, which I will get to shortly (see edit notes). The fact that it always comes on in high is not the favorite for many people. When using a 14500 it ends up being a bit too much light to come on as the first mode, although it’s not too bad of a feature when running on Nimh. If you are a stickler about night vision, this is just not a light to use. That is of course, a personal preference for the consumer. I am still not a huge fan of having to press and hold for two seconds to get the light to turn on, however given how little pressure you need to use on the button it does prevent accidental turn on which otherwise would have been a potential issue with this light. Update 9/7/12: I need to add as this is not addressed previously that the full production version now comes with a very brief user manual that also doubles as the labeling for the packaging. A clever thought and design that works and saves packaging.  This is a nice change from previous Balder products I have received where the packaging basically had no labeling. Balder also includes some spare o-rings, which is very much appreciated.

 

 

BUILD QUALITY

Balder only sent me a new head to use with the existing body of the preproduction model. As such my previous observations on exterior build quality are unchanged. I do really like the way this light feels in hand and it just looks like a high quality product. The LED emitter on the new XM-L head is well centered and like the XP-E everything is put together well without any ugly dirt or messy solder to be seen. With regular AA batteries, everything worked as designed just like the original XP-E version. However, as I alluded to, 14500 is a completely different issue. I mentioned in the old review that protected 14500 simply don’t fit and with only a head change, that doesn’t change. Some people who have gotten production versions are at least able to get them in and completely close the body so they at least turn on, but on my earlier version the protected 14500 is simply too big to screw the body completely together. I recently bought some flat top unprotected IMR’s so unlike in my XP-E review, I can now test using 14500. In general, there should be no problem with fit if using unprotected 14500s and its possible that my pre-production version of the body is slightly shorter than normal production and that could be part of the problem. However, be prepared that some brands of protected 14500 will not fit.

_(EDIT: Balder has informed me that it appears the next issue when using 14500 is not widespread and limited to only a small part of the production. They will gladly work with anyone who receives a light that has this issue. They are awaiting a returned sample of a light with this problem so that they can figure out what may be causing it and prevent it in the future)._Strangely, when using 14500, the light refuses to turn off all the time. I will depress the button for a few seconds and it just cycles to the next level rather than turning off. It does turn off sometimes, but it is highly unreliable. I also experienced situations where once I got the light turned off, it wouldn’t turn on again. At first I thought it was some type of contact issue, but after taking everything apart and cleaning it and testing it again with Nimhs and alkalines, it became clear that there is some issue with the circuit when using 14500. I also observed behavior where it would switch on with single tap on the button rather than the press and hold for two seconds. This once resulted in a very hot light in my pocket from accidental turn on. With the heat this light generates on 14500, it does not take long to notice. Update 9/7/12: I am happy to say that Balder's redesign of the circuit is successful at addressing this issue. It is now fully and reliably functional on 14500. On and off functioned without issue with all mode changes happening as specified. I should also add that the full production version does seem to have a tad more space for battery so more brands of protected 14500 seem to fit. I still had some trouble with Trustfire flames, though. If I tightened the light all the way after inserting the flames, the fit is too tight to allow the light to work properly. The light would turn on in high as I tightened it, but then there is not enough clearance to allow the piston any movement to be able to change mode or turn off. However, I found that if you unscrew the body slightly, that allows enough room and the light works completely. In other words, as long as you don't mind the light not being tightened down all the way, you should be able to get all 14500s to work in the light as designed. You don't have to unscrew the body a lot so you don't need to worry about losing the integrity of the seal should you be concerned about moisture or debris.

 

LIGHT OUTPUT

Like the XP-E pre-production version, the XM-L version puts out a smooth, even beam. The tint is a very nice white that I would describe on the cool side of neutral. No odd green or blue coloration with my sample. As expected, the light is quite floody. The corona is much more contained than the relative wall of light put out by a light like the Xtar WK21. Profile is somewhat similar to the Xeno E03 but the hotspot on the HD-1 is notably wider. PWM is used to regulate output and it is visible with fast moving objects on low mode, but not bothersome to my eyes. Overall output on 14500 is about the same as the Xeno and the Xtar WK21 on high, seeming to fall in that usual 450-500 lumen range. Where the HD-1 would have the advantage on 14500 over the Xeno is that it preserves a real low mode. On nimh, the HD-1 is clearly brighter than the Xeno and claims the title of brightest light I own for 1xaa nimh. I’d estimate at least 180 lumens. Medium mode seems to run at about 55% of high and I find that is too close to high mode for spacing, but on the other hand, if you need good brightness and still extend battery life somewhat, maybe this isn’t so bad. DMM readings were as follows:

 

Nimh:                    2.18a     1.24a     0.15a

Lithium EA91      2.04a     1.15a     0.15a

14500 IMR           2.12a     1.07a     .10a

 

A problem with the HD-1 is heat. Somewhat unsurprisingly, that small body just can’t keep up with the big XM-L. The body was getting fairly warm when just running on nimh. With a 14500 on high, it is an instant hand warmer, becoming uncomfortable in just a couple of minutes. Because of that, you would not want to run on high except in short bursts if you are using a 14500.

Left to Right: Xtar WK25B XP-E, Balder HD-1 XM-L, Xeno E03 XM-L

Outdoor Beamshots

Control

Xtar WK25B Nimh

Xeno E03 Nimh

Balder HD-1 Nimh

 

Xtar WK21 16340

Xeno E03 14500

Balder HD-1 14500 High

HD-1 14500 Medium

HD-1 14500 Low

Just for kicks I also took a shot of the HD2010 as I hadn’t taken one before. It’s still the King.

Ceiling Bounce

Xtar Wk25B Nimh

Xeno E03 Nimh

HD-1 Nimh

Xtar WK21 16340

E03 14500

HD-1 14500

HD-1 Medium 14500

 

OVERALL

This is a tough one as the light is suffering from a flawed circuit. Hopefully, Balder can figure it out and fix it. (Balder has informed me they are investigating and will take care of this.) Even still, given the high heat and the problem with at least some protected 14500s not fitting correctly, this may not be a good light for people who use 14500 as their primary power source. This is unfortunate as Balder is marketing its 14500 compatibility strongly. However, as a Nimh light, I can definitely recommend it. It’s small size, great output, good looks, and lack of flashing modes make the HD-1 a great 1xaa nimh light. When running nimh, the UI and operation were virtually flawless, which only made the issues with 14500 more puzzling (Again, Balder assures me that they are correcting this and it may only affect a small number of lights). If you are one that will run this on Nimh/alkaline/lithium primary and only occasionally pop in a 14500 to show off, this can be a good choice. Given Balder’s willingness to fix the circuit flaw I will not count this against them and will give this light a strong 4/5 overall as a 1xAA light. As a 1×14500, I will score a 3.5/5 with extra reductions because of the high heat and that some protected 14500 will not fit. Update 9/7/12 Balder has successfully fixed the issue with the faulty circuit as they promised. In addition, while some 14500 are still a tight fit, with the updated production version I received, simply loosening the body slightly allowed full functionality with all 14500s I tried. The problem with high heat is not going to go away as that is a fundamental issue with the design. However, given Balder's efforts to correct problems, I am more willing to recommend this light for 14500 use than I was previously. In fact, I am going to add this light to my EDC rotation for a while. The real low on 14500 and smaller size vs the E03 is a big deal for me. I rate this as a worthy competitor to the E03, each with their own strengths and weaknesses but equal in their overall quality and rating and superior to the Xtar WK26. Which to choose would depend on your specific needs and wants.

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:06
SashiX
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Great review, Sir Big Smile
To me, brightness is almost identical to Xeno. Would be great to see regulation test some day Smile Nice light, btw (a little bit pricey though)

SirJohn
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Balder responded to my review fairy quickly. I feel the need to point out that in my experience, Balder customer service has proven to be very good to the flashlight community. I have added this note to my review that it appears that the Circuit issue is not widespread and they will work with anyone that gets a light with this problem. They are also waiting for a sample light with this problem to be returned to them so that they can figure out the source. Thank you Balder!

cabfrank
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thank you. this one might be a must have.

nofearek9
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the xeno e03 you had in the test is the T6 or the U2 version?

SirJohn
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My E03 has the T6.

Also, I just head from Martin at Balder that they figured out the problem with the circuit that was causing the on/off problem on 14500 and they have a solution. Again, Balder has stepped up. Unlike most of the budget manufacturers, and even some higher end companies, they took the problem seriously and genuinely worked to solve it, and fast. Balder continues to impress me.

SirJohn
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I have now updated the review to reflect the revised production version that Balder sent me. I am really happy with how Balder has responded to criticism and worked to fix problems. I know its unfortunate that these weren’t fixed before the light had initial production, but Balder is a young company and is learning and I know in the tech world, just about every product ships with a whole bunch of bugs that aren’t fixed. Balder’s reponse was excellent so I give them the benefit of the doubt.

MountainKing
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Is balder not the company which stole 4sevens designs?

Never ever forget and forgive. Niwal**er new kid on the block trying to act tough.
http://budgetlightforum.com/node/24847
Do not support this brand.

DINODIRECT – SCAM COMPANY. DO NOT BUY
http://budgetlightforum.com/node/11324?page=2#comment-254983

flash.light
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SirJohn wrote:
I have now updated the review to reflect the revised production version that Balder sent me. I am really happy with how Balder has responded to criticism and worked to fix problems. snip

SirJohn: now that some of the kinks have been worked out, what would be a reliable source to ensure reception of the latest production model? There must be a whole bunch of “problematic“units in the supply channels, huh?

TIA

SirJohn
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I am not sure how Balder has approached this with their distributors. I know they have helped any individuals that have gotten lights with problems. I can send their rep, Martin, an e-mail and ask I guess, but he does not work weekends so it will be a couple of days before I get a response. You could always ask the specific seller if they have gotten the fixed version.

1div0
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SirJohn, thank you for the update to your earlier review.

sb56637
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Excellent review and photography! Thanks so much for your time. Frontpage’d and Sticky’d.

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

charlestt
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I have the production version of this light (xml version) and i’m having the same trouble with the trustfire flames, it’s really a pain to get it to turn off again.

Has anyone had any success with different brand 14500 cells ?

Charles

 

 

 

 http://i776.photobucket.com/albums/yy41/charlestt225/Sig/A1200023-1.jpg" width="159" he

mkett39
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charlestt wrote:
I have the production version of this light (xml version) and i’m having the same trouble with the trustfire flames, it’s really a pain to get it to turn off again.

Has anyone had any success with different brand 14500 cells ?

Charles

Just got this guy for Christmas (late) and started having problems. 14500’s protected are long… my orbtronics just wont work period,way too long. The Eagletacs are perfect as they are just barely longer than standard AA and protected.
took dang thing apart and it would not stay on and sometimes not come on. spring looked odd so I pulled it out and slig it back down using battery to guide it and “TA DA” it works fine now. This is surely one finicky light.

Ouchyfoot
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See “My Balder HD-1 Has A Poltergeist”
http://budgetlightforum.com/node/15638

mkett39
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Ouchyfoot wrote:
See “My Balder HD-1 Has A Poltergeist” http://budgetlightforum.com/node/15638

read that earlier.. I did find out that with the “O” ring on the piston end it will not work but works fine without Shocked so no “O” ring for mine..doesn’t seem it does much any way.