Review: Black Shadow Darth 3 x XM-L T6 NW
Black Shadow Darth
Weight: 350g(Without battery)
Emitter: 3×CREE XM-L U2 LED
Circuit: Digital CC circuit
Mode: Four modes, Low-Mid-High-Strobe
Dimming: Magnetic sensor control system
Material: Aluminum alloy
Lens: Impact-resistant optical lens with AR coating
Reflector: Metal reflector
Head & Tail: Stainless steel bezel ring, tactical tailstanding tailcap
Accessories: Tactical parachute-cord, Spare O-ring, User manual and Warranty card.
|Dimensions:||Head: 48mm | Body: 44.4mm | Tail: 47mm | Length: 138mm|
|Emitter:||Cree XM-L T6 3C NW (x3) |
*Custom install from CNQG.
|Output:||1,450 OTF (Original U2 emitters would have put out much greater)|
|Cells:||18650 button-topped. Protected or unprotected. Not picky on length.|
|Modes:||5 - Standby(off)/Low/Medium/High/Strobe|
|Switching:||Master switch in tail (forward clicky) + magnetic control ring for modes|
|Accessories:||Spare o-ring, lanyard., manual|
|Price Paid:||$62 USD|
I've had to put off this review due to a ridiculously busy schedule but finally made myself get it out. I purchased this light form CNQG as soon as Ric made it known it was available. I purchased it at the brief introductory price of $62. I believe the price then went to $92 after just 2 days due to an error from the manufacturer but has since settled to $80 USD
Here's a brief rundown on my impressions:
- Superb build quality
- Compact form. Just holding it you wouldn't guess it had 3x18650 cells packed inside.
- Comfortable grip
- Machining is crisp and smooth. No sharp edges. Very clean machining and threads.
- Forward-clicky tail switch allows for momentary on in any mode
- Smooth control ring movement with nice "snick" at each mode indent.
- Very useful modes.
- Good thermal management.
- Type3 Ano is evenly applied and the color is great.
- Heavy anode contact ring on driver board will not wear out or scratch easily like that on the DRY triple or Skyray King.
- Tail stands extremely well.
- Smooth stainless steel bezel looks great.
- Excellent lanyard included. Attaches very securely without getting in the way of anything.
- Tail switch has quality feel and good feel to it's action.
- Extremely durable and secure packaging.
- O-rings on lens/bezel and body, while thick and durable, are just a tad too thick than they should be.
- Could be driven harder than it is but it does not overheat or get too hot in use.
- PWM in low mode will be noticeable if you are sensitive to it. There is PWM in medium but it is fairly fast IMO. Fortunately for me I'm not sensitive to it but it may bother some.
- Fine machining on stainless control ring
- Lens is not A/R coated.
This is a high quality light at the high-end of budget price. Compact and easily slipped into a jacket or pants cargo pocket, it's very powerful for it's size. Definitely a flooder and not a thrower (for obvious reasons), the output of my NW version is still compatable with a Trustfire TR-3T6. In it's original XM-L U2 form it would be right there with a Nitecore TM11 at around 2000 OTF lumens. My scored 14500 OTF. Add 10% more for mine being NW and another 13% for the U2 binning and you can tack on 20-25% OTF lumens for the stock Darth. 1800-2000 lumens should be about right for it in it's stock U2 configuration. Even at 1450 lumens in NW form it is a truly satisfying light to use and well worth the price for the outstanding quality you get from it.
On with the pictures and details...
The torch arrived in great condition. The box is very thick and sturdy with the "Darth" name printed on it.
Inside the box we find the folded one sheet manual, a spare o-ring in s small zip-lock baggie, a very nice lanyard and, of course, the Darth itself tucked snugly inside it's cut closed-cell foam padding.
Here is everything laid out...
The head of the light is etched nicely with the Black Shadow logo and the Darth name. The first thing you notice is it's heft and it's compact size. The next thing you notice is the great machining and overall quality feel of the light. My example arrived without a single visible flaw.
The magnetic control ring operates smoothly and allows you to quickly and easily spin to the mode you want with just one hand. Each mode snicks into place with a solid indent but can be spun from one end of it's cycle to the other with a determined flick of your thumb. Each mode is nicely laser etched into the surface of the ano.
Here you can see how nicely the surface and the fins are machined. Everything is crisp without a trace of sharpness. The only machining marks that are visible are in the grip notches of the stainless steel control ring.
The main body is carved from a block of aluminum into 3 main facets. The grip grooves continue the styling of the control ring for one of, if not the most, unified design styling as I've seen on any flashlight. It is truly an attractive pice of equipment and as much eye candy as it is hand candy.
Here you get a real good idea of the quality of the machining and anodization on this torch. It feels very good in the hand!
Here is the unique tailcap. The lanyard slips into the deep groove for a confident attachment and secure feeling. If you choose not to use the included lanyard, there are plenty of holes around the perimeter of the base to attach a clip or split ring. I made the mistake of trying to unscrew the base of the body in order to get into the switch internals. While I am confident that the very end unscrews from the rest of the body, I am also confident that it is glued securely. When I attempted to insert the tips of my needle nose pliers into the holes and unscrew the base, my pliers slipped from the force needed and left a small mark in the finish at the two points they were contacting. I quickly berated myself for marring what was a flawless finish and gave up on removing the tail cap. If you had to make repairs on the switch I am sure a little heat applied to the area would soften any glue or threadlock and allow you to get to the internals. I will wait until it becomes necessary before I try that one again. YMMV.
Here you can better see the lanyard groove.
My example never got hot enough to really need this warning but I suppose if you tail stood the light in a room with no ventilation it would get pretty hot to the touch. Mine got hot on me on extended runs but never to the point where it was uncomfortable to hold.
As you can see, it is really a very compact light for a triple 18650 cell light. I absolutely love the format and execution. Makes the SkyRay King (4-cells) and even the DRY (3 cells in same format) feel enormous in comparison.
Unscrewing the body from the head reveals as much attention to detail as there is on the outside.
A look at the inside of the head reveals a driver that is held in place with screws. Not sure why, but I didn't open this to take a peak inside. I will have to remedy this. The thing that made a huge impression on me is the anode contact ring. It's about 1mm thick and made of brass. It resists wear from the cells scraping across it when the head is tightened or unscrewed. The SkyRay King, in comparison, has an anode contact ring printed onto the PCB like a circuit trace and quickly shows where even after just one tightening and removing of the head with batteries installed. While this leaves the long term durability of the ever popular King's contact ring in serious doubt, the Darth, on the other hand, leaves me feeling confident that it's contact ring will easily outlife any of us.
Here we have a closer look at the beautifully cut threads on the inside of the head.
Here are the wonderfully machined and anodized threads on the body. Ground contact from the batteries is made through the lip of the body contacting the bare metal of the outer driver contact ring. While lockout isn't needed on the Darth due to the switch, if you were to pack the Darth for travel in either a bag or a suitcase you could unscrew the head just a hair and have no worries at all about the switch or mode ring accidentally turning the torch on and overheating while unattended. Peace of mind is worth a little extra and the Darth provides it.
The o-ring on the body is possibly my only complaint about the entire light. While it is thick and provides a great seal from moisture penetrating through the body/head joint, it is overly thick and makes it very hard to twist the pieces while threading them together or taking them apart. When attaching the head to the body you have to engage the o-ring and place pressure on it. Next you have to run your fingernail along the o-ring and press it into the head a little, tight a little more, run your nail around the o-ring to press it further under the head, tighten a little...and so on until the o-ring is safely under the lip of the head. Once it is under you can continue threading the head onto the body until it is fully threaded. While the light did arrive with dry threads, adding lube to the threads and o-ring only helps with this a little as the o-ring is just too thick. Not working it under the head lip with your fingernail runs the very likely risk of pushing the o-ring out of it's groove and rendering it useless. This is something the Black Shadow folks need to address. Fortunately it is only a problem when charging/swapping cells but it can be a PITA when it could also be easily resolved with a slightly thinner o-ring. One more note, the o-ring used on the body is the same as the one used for the lens gasket. With the two locations being very close in size, this means the body o-ring is not as tight as it should be.
The inside of the battery compartment is smoothly machined to the point where it almost looks like it was polished. Very little if any machining grooves that you see in most light, including ones that cost 2-3 times what the Darth costs. There is plenty of room for all cells to work. From unprotected cells up to protected cells as long as 70mm, as long as they are button topped they will fit in the Darth easily.
The stainless steel bezel is also nicely machined and threads easily onto the head of the light. All threads are, again, cleanly cut. I will say that the threads on the bezel are a little loose compared to the other threads on the light but once the bezel is seated it is snug and stays put tightly.
All 3 emitters are perfectly centered. The reflector is clean and free of any defects. The overlapping reflectors use all available space inside the head.
Overall reflector diameter is 41mm
Outer head diamter is 48mm
Body diameter is 44.4mm
The tail diameter is 47mm
Overall length is 138mm
Here you can see the lanyard attached.
The Darth tail stands extremely well due to it's broad, flat base.
Here is the Darth next to my Ganzo G707 for a size comparison.
Here is the Darth next to my Microtech Troodon OTF auto knife. About the same size.
Here I have the Black Shadow Darth next to the SkyRay King. While the Darth is a touch longer, it is also much smaller in diameter and far more convenient to pocket.
I hope you enjoyed the review and pictures. While the Darth could be driven a little harder to satisfy the lumen junkies out there, it is still an extremely bright little torch with great run time and superb build quality. It will be brighter with the U2 CW emitters it originally comes with and will be very close in output to many other far more expensive triples all the while doing so in an even smaller package with fantastic build quality. The price is coming down since it was first released and can be had for $85 shipped from FancyFlashlights.com. I've seen it as low as $70.80 at Manafont.com.