Review: Taotronics ThorLite TT-TF03

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JohnnyMac
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Review: Taotronics ThorLite TT-TF03

Taotronics ThorLite TT-TF03

INTRODUCTION

I was contacted by Taotronics and asked if I would care to do a review of a couple of their lights.  After taking a peek at their site (Taotronics.com) I noticed that their lights looked extremely familiar (Balder lights) and was curious if they were a rebrand.  I've also heard rumors that Balder was going out of business so, having always heard good things about Balder flashlights but never having the pleasure of trying one, I decided to take Taotronics up on their offer.  I'm glad I did.  Read on to see why.

YAYS

Macnhining is impeccable!  All body components, inside and out, are machined to very high standards, even in places that will never see the light of day in normal use.
Beautiful military grade HAIII anodization evenly applied.  Great feel and matte finish.  Very durable.
Smooth output and good throw.
Super deep reflector
Well driven at 3A
Trememndous thermal management.  Gets warm but not hot on high.  Majority of mass in the head and tons of surface areamakes a huge difference.
Tight, properly sized o-rings throughout the light.
Waterproof.  Really.  Mfg claims IPX-8 (2 meters for 30 minutes) and I believe it.
Great switch feel, sturdy switch boot.
Tail stands well.

NAYS

Slightly outdated omponents.  An upgrade from it's original XM-L U2 to a new XM-L2 U2 would work wonders in this light!
OP reflector hampers already good throw from being outstanding throw.

QUICK & DIRTY

With an XM-L2 U2 emitter the manufacturer's claim of 900 lumens might be closer.  In reality I got 629 lumens OTF with it's XM-L U2 after 30 seconds on high.  Build quality rivals the best known makers.  With a simple upgrade of the emitter to an XM-L2 U2 it could be a great light to rival more recent competitors.  At the asking price of roughly $99 it is a very pricey light for it's performance compared to other lights in it's size class but at the same time it surpasses the performance of some brands costing far more.  It all depends on what budget you are shopping with.  If you do decide to go with the TT-TF03 then you will get an incredibly well made, high quality light to rival any other.

Features:
•Super •Bright Cree XM-L U2 LED up to 900 lumens.
•Deep reflector with strong beam shot to 260 meters.
•Powered by either 2 x 18650 or 4 x CR123 battery cells.
•Six lighting modes for wide range of applications.
•Tail standing / Candle mode. 
•Full orange peel reflector with flawless wide beam.
•Premium Type
hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish.
•Automatic memory function, remember last used setting.
•IPX-8 Waterproof (underwater up to 2 meters /30minutes).
•Anti-reverse protection and low voltage protection circuit.
•Power efficient and longer lasting.

 
Manufacturer Specifications:

Characteristics

Specification

Material

Aircraft Aluminum alloy T6061

Dimension

252mm(L) x60mm(D)

Weight

400g (exclude battery)

Color

Black

LED

Cree XM-L U2

Battery Type

2 x 18650 battery or 4 x CR123 battery

Reflector

Orange peel

Switch

Reverse switch in tail cap

Beam shot Intensity

260m

Waterproof

IPX-8

My Additional Specifications:

Lens (diameter * height)52.47mm * 2mm
Reflector (OD * ID * depth)52mm * 50mm * 50.6mm
MCPCB diameter16mm (will take 20mm without isolator)
Driver diameter30mm
Battery tube I.D.18.9mm
Switch PCB diameter20mm
Switch Boot diameter12mm
Tail standsYes
Accessories includedHolster, Lanyard, 2 O-rings, Spare Switch Boot, Manual

PERFORMANCE

Overall performance is extremely good.  While the HOP finish on the reflector does reduce maximum throw distance, I still measured 41.6kcd @ 1m for a throw distance of 406 meters.  This far exceeds the manufacturer's claim of only 260 meters.  Inversely, the lumen output I measured in my Integrated Sphere after 30 second on high was, at 629 OTF lumens, far less than the manufacturers claim of 900 lumens on high.  Their number may be correct if they are measuring lumens at the emitter right at turn on but in the real world it is just 629 OTF. 

With it's 6-mode, two group driver, the user has the choice of having 6 modes (H/M/L plus Strobe/Strobe beacon/ SOS) or just 3 modes (H/M/L).  To change mode grouping, just put the light into low mode and wait 5 seconds for a single quick flash.  Cut power immediately after the flash and when it comes back on it will be in the other mode group.  Modes are nicely spaced at 100%/30%/5%.  Strobe is a constant fast strobe and beacon mode is a second of strobe, a second of nothing, a second of strobe, etc.  SOS mode is a true SOS with a good 5 second pause between each "SOS" transmission.

I fully trust it's waterproof IPX-8 rating.  I would not hesitate to take this light anywhere is might get wet and would actually feel safe swimming with it.

Easy tailstanding and capable of true candle mode with the head removed, it'd be great for emergency lighting use in low mode providing at least 68 hours of 30 lumen runtime with 2800mAh cells.

Manufacturer Output & Runtime Firgures

When using 2x 18650

 

high

medium

low

Output

900 lumens

272 lumens

20 lumens

Runtime

2 hours

7 hours

100 hours


My Output Measurements:

ModeOTF LumensTail AmpsRuntime with 280mAh cells
High - 100%6291.5A (3A total)1.86 hours
Medium - 30%2110.290A (0.580A total)9.5 hours
Low - 5%300.041A (0.082A total) 68 hours

 

Lux @ 1m41,600
Throw Distance406m

 

A CLOSER LOOK

The ThorLite TT-TF03 arrived in it's own branded trademark case that all Balder/Taotronics flashlights come in.  I really like this form of packaging as it is durable, protective, and original.,  As with all my reviews, clicking any image in the review will open the pic in full resolution in a new window or tab.

Inside the novel case we find the TT-TF03 inside it's custom holster, a very nice high quality lanyard with lobster claw latch, a small bag containing 2 spare o-rings, a spare switch boot, a small neodymium magnet to use flat toped cells in series, and a very nice owners manual.

With the torch out of it's holster we can now take a peek at the operating end of the light.  The first thing one notices is the heavy orange on the reflector.  While it does make for an exceptionally smooth beam, it does reduce the maximum throw distance.  I do wish they had used an SMO reflector in it.  Even still it throws a respectable 400+ meters.

The second thing you notice is how damned deep the reflector is.  I can only imagine how fantastic this would throw if it has an XP-G2 driven at the stock 3A the driver provides.

The mahcining on this light really is flawless.  Not one nick or scrape in the finish.  No sharp edges anywhere on any of the surfaces.  Everything is deburred and as close to perfect as I've seen on any light.  Throughout the pics, any spots you see on the light are dust particles that seem to magically appear when you take macro shots.  Annoys the hell out of me but not much I can do.

Fins and cutouts covering the head really do manage the heat well.  Everything is smooth edged and wonderful on the eyes.  Some might find it a little on the busy side but it all serves a purpose and that is to ensure you can run this light on high until the batteries die without ever worrying about the light overheating.

The bead-blasted looking silver ring on the pill can be removed for a solid black finish for thise who love the tactical look more than a spot of bling.  The Taotronics logo is tastefully etched with a nice gray finish.

The entire head is very long.  The only semblance of balance in the hand is due to the multiple cell arrangement.  It could actually use a third cell in series to fully balance what is a front heavy light.

All etching on the light is crisp and consistent.  The now standard "Caution: Hot Surface" label is small and reasonably tateful and unobtrusive on this light.  It is also not really needed.  With all the mass and surface area on the TT-TF03 heat is never an issue.  One could overdrive the hell out of this light without worrying about frying internal components due to heat.

The section with the silver sleeve is actually the pill.  You can see how clean the threads are.  The o-ring (all o-rings on the light in fact) seals snugly and perfectly to seal all joppints from water and moisture ingress.

The emitter sits under a nylon centering ring and insulator.  The MCPCB is mounted directly onto the one piece pill.  It is quite solid and heavy.

Here you can see what the pill looks like without the silver sleeve.  You can also see that without the head threaded onto the pill the light would make one heck of a great candle in a power outage.

The pill threads into the main part of teh head.

With the bezel and reflector removed we can see inside the head where the machining and finish are just as nice as the outside of the light.  Most manufacturers take shortcuts in areas like this by machining quickly, leaving fine grooves.  The TT-TF03 has none of these and the machining is done with great care thoughout all areas.

Fully anodized threading throughout.  All threads are cut deeply and cleanly.  They are also arrived fully lubricated.  All threaded areas are sealed with thick o-rings.

The o-ring on the lens sits between the glass lens and the front of the bezel.

Here you can see the full threading in the lightly crenelated bezel along with the o-ring groove in the front.

Now we can see the reflector.  The hole in the base of the reflector sits snugly around the base of the dome of the emitter.  If neither were absolutely perfrectly centered the emiter would be dedomed as soon as you started threading the pill into the head.  Fortunately there are no such worries due to the exactling tolerances.  My only regret is the HOP surface. It would really be an incredible thrower if it was SMO.

The reflector is extremely deep as well.  It is also machined with the same high quality as the rest of the light.  Standing next to the reflector of my HD2010, you can see not only how deep the reflector of the ThorLite is compared to the HD2010, you can also see the lack of machining rings on the outer surface compared to the lesser quality HD2010.

The backside of the pill has a protective threaded ring that contains the cell positive contact bushings and protects the back of the driver board.  Here we can see the ring, the nylon insulator busing, the outer brass bushing/plunger, and the inner contact bushing and contact spring.

The rear of the driver PCB

Moving down to the battery tube we see the same immaculate machining.  There are two flats on the battery tube, one of which has the Taotronics logo etched cleanly and deeply into it's surface.

instead of the usual knurling, the THorLite has ribs engraved into the body to aid in grip.  They work very well at providing grip while keeping a clean look and non aggressive surface.

Threading on the main body where it threads into the pill is unanodized for ground contact.  The threads are cut with the same deep, clean, deburred and smooth feel.  A heavy o-ring seals the connection.

The joint is heavily walled for great strength and further heat absorbtion away from the pill and into the handle.

Unanodized threads at the tail end as well.

A closer look at the tail cap while mounted.  Crenelations in the tail allow for easy finger/thumb access of the switch while still allowing for stable tail standing in candle mode.

Large lanyard hole in crenelation for a split ring or lanyard latch.

Inner switch assembly.  Negative contact is the same as that up front in the pill.

Plenty of room to accomodate protected cells.  The cells here are unprotected Sanyo cells.

Tailstanding rather nicely.

Here are some comparison shots  of the TT-TF03 between the Small Sun ZY-T13 and Ultrafire HD2010..

The reflector is roughly the same as the other two except it is far deeper and, of course, HOP instead of SMO.

Waterproof?  You bet!  While I had nothing handy to submerge it 2 meters deep, I did have it fully submerged for 90 minutes with absolutely zero moisture penetrating its seals.

90 minutes later and still going strong.  Not a drop of water inside of it.

This picture is taken at a distance of exactly 1 meter form the wall.  The overall spill os about 1 meter wide.  The hotspot is far smaller than I could get it to photograph.  The intense center you see is actually mostly corona.  In person you can see the actuall center spot is only less than 3 inches wide.

Here I've turned down the exposure to try and capture the hotspot better.  I've only partly succeeded.

Finally some outdfoor beam shots taken at 50m distance to the target.

 

CONCLUSION:

I have to give the light a 4 of 5 stars.  It's relatively high price is only somewhat counterbalanced by it's fabulous construction and overall quality.  The HOP reflecotr takes away somewhat as well.  Given an XM-L2 U2 emitter and an SMO reflector it would get 5 stars from me. Just like in the picture below, by my dead reconning I have to say it is "Mac Approved", expecially if it is within your budget.  I've seen far more expensive lights not half as well made or overall performing as the ThorLite TT-TF03. Wink

 

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/20/2013 - 14:25
troisanh
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Nice review and good quality light….thanks.

jacktheclipper
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Nice .

Cool

Heather
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Thank you Johnny. Great review! Nice pictures.

Heather
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Hi All,
TaoTronics have arranged an Amazon promotion code for all BLF friends.
Just enter code FLF10VGD at checkout, customer can get 10% discount for every TaoTronics ThorLite tactical flashlight.
Amazon link for TaoTronics ThorLite flashlights:
TT-TF01: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AXSTLFE
TT-TF02: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AXVNOHM
TT-TF03: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AW6XJ1Y

oRAirwolf
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Thanks for the review! Honestly, at this point, manufacturers shouldn’t try selling new flashlights with XM-L’s in them. These are enthusiast grade flashlights and selling last generation emitters is somewhat foolish if you ask me.

RaceR86
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As always. Nice review Johnny!

I like the flashlight photo shoot “location” you used in this review.
It was nice to see some outdoor comparison beamshots too, very useful. Smile

Just to nitpick on a great review, see if you can use the exact same location for the both/all outdoor shots next time. Looks like camera moved a little between the shots, and that made it a bit harder to compare wideness of spill and hotspot despite the nice mouse-over.

BLF LED database – collaboration spreadsheet and latest news about where to buy LEDs
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sb56637
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Thanks a lot for the review! Frontpage’d and Sticky’d.

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realista
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thank you for the review ! .. but they should upgrade the led to a better one

SawMaster
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On the machining, an apprentice under the great firearms designer J.M. Browning noticed his mentor carefully polishing the back of a gunlock and said “Why are you bothering with that? The owner will never know what’s back there!” to which Browning replied “But I know what’s back there.”

It’s a sign of caring deeply to find such surfaces so well done when there is no real need to do so. If they bother to put so much effort into what doesn’t matter they will do likewise with what does matter. Too bad they’re behind the times with the emitter and no SMO option, perhaps a GB of that design would “show them the light”?

Phil

The Miller
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Nice review
That tailstand looks like a tumbling in the waiting

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nice post

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mattlward
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This screams for an XHP with the OP reflector.

EDC rotation:
Convoy S2+, 6*7135, XM-L2 3D, 10 degree TIR, PilotDog lighted tailcap.
Convoy S2+, H17F, XM-L2 4C, lighted tailcap
Zebralight SC52w-L2
Olight S1A
Olight S1R