Review and safety evaluation: Olight H2R (1x18650 right-angle/headlamp XHP50, 2150lm)

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zak.wilson
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Review and safety evaluation: Olight H2R (1x18650 right-angle/headlamp XHP50, 2150lm)

This Olight H2R was provided by Illumn for review. Use coupon code "BLFUSER" for a discount on most flashlights at illumn.com.

This review originally appeared on reddit and was automatically reformatted for BLF using Pandoc. Please forgive and/or point out any formatting errors.

Some extra pictures are in the album: http://imgur.com/a/OQDgy

Safety evaluation

I requested a sample of this light to evaluate safety concerns with the charging system. I’m including an overall review that largely ignores the safety concerns as well, but it’s somewhat abbreviated relative to my usual.

The H2R uses a charging system that connects a proprietary battery directly to contacts on the tailcap, to which a magnetic charger can be attached. This connection is live whenever a proprietary Olight battery is installed, creating a potential for short circuits across the external contacts. To make matters worse, there’s a magnet in the tailcap that can attract conductive objects. I made several videos demonstrating just how much power can come out of the tailcap:

My biggest concern when the H2R came out was that the battery appeared to be unprotected, creating the potential for a dead short and a battery explosion that would make the H2R into a pipe bomb. I’m happy to report that there is effective protection against this scenario. The tailcap contains a positive thermal coefficient thermistor that limits current to around 400mA after a less than a second of short circuit. The battery itself also has a PTC thermistor between the positive contact and the extra negative charging contact. Finally, Olight claims there’s over-current protection at 27A. The H2R is not a pipe bomb.

The H2R, and the rest of Olight’s magnetic charging line is, however a fire hazard. Contact between the tailcap and many kinds of conductive object will produce sparks with the potential to ignite flammable gasses and vapors. Very flammable conductors, such as steel wool and some kinds of metal shavings and dust will ignite on contact, and the magnet in the tailcap will attract many such objects. The only ways to mitigate the risk are to use a third-party battery, cover the contacts or modify the tailcap to permanently disable charging.

The battery itself is also very easy to short, with contacts that are exposed and close together. Olight recommends against using this battery in a third-party charger, though I have done it without any sparks. Such a short will reduce current after a moment, but the initial current is enough to weld a staple to the contacts. The magnetic charger, however supplies only about 70mA when not connected to the light and would not ignite steel wool.

Shorting the battery with a staple

Perhaps I’m growing old and conservative, but I don’t think flashlights and headlamps should ignite objects on contact. Ever. Several other companies have managed to design magnetic charging systems that aren’t incendiary, and most of those don’t require proprietary batteries. The output and efficiency of the H2R are world-class, so it’s evident that Olight has competent engineers who could come up with a charging system that’s both safe and convenient, but they’ve chosen a lazy solution instead. It’s particularly egregious in that onboard charging is a feature that’s especially attractive to beginners and casual users who don’t know a lot about battery safety. Flashlight geeks who are aware of the risks are usually just as happy to buy lights without it.

I don’t believe anybody should buy an H2R, but for those who already have one, or who want one anyway because it’s the brightest 1×18650 right-angle light on the market, here are some options for mitigating the risk:

  • Use a third-party battery. Most protected batteries will trip, but an unprotected button top is safe to use. There may be a little battery rattle, as it’s designed for a long battery.
  • Add an insulator to the extra contact on the included battery.
  • Tape over the charging contacts on the outside of the tailcap.
  • Remove the internal charging contacts from the tailcap (see modifications section).

I’ve been informed Olight has started distributing warning labels for the H2R telling users the tailcap can be a source of ignition and recommending against use around metal dust or explosive atmospheres. This is good advice. It would be better if they redesigned the tailcap to never supply current to the outside of the light; a diode would do the trick, even if it might slightly reduce the charging termination voltage and therefore battery capacity. Even better would be for future models to use a charging system that doesn’t require a proprietary battery.

Quick Review

The Olight H2R is the brightest 1×18650 right-angle light or headlamp on the market using a Cree XHP50 emitter and honeycomb TIR to produce an advertised 2300 (cool white) or 2150 (neutral white) lumens. I actually measured over 2500. They’re not padding the numbers here: it rivals the output of custom, hot-rod FET triples and is visibly brighter than its closest competition, the Armytek Wizard Pro… for about 45 seconds.

http://imgur.com/hTUogXO.jpg

Unsustainable burst modes can be useful in flashlights, but the next mode down from 2500 lumens is 600. Even with human perception of brightness being highly non-linear, that’s a huge gap. The thermal stepdown from max is slightly higher, but still a large gap. I think Olight was trying to keep the UI simple and avoid adding too many modes, but a light with a range of 1 to 2500 lumens probably needs more than 5 modes. Aside from having a lower maximum mode, the Wizard Pro has a second, lower turbo mode at 900 lumens and thermal regulation that throttles more intelligently rather than simply chopping output to 50%.

The headband uses an interesting combination of magnet and silicone strap. The magnet makes installation easier by attracting the steel in the battery, but isn’t enough to hold the light in place securely. Unfortunately, it does not work well with the pocket clip installed and removal of the clip is recommended in the manual. It’s also not very comfortable for me. It looks rounded and padded, but it creates a hotspot on my forehead that the Wizard’s headband does not and feels much heavier than the Wizard. This may be subjective, and some people may find the headband more comfortable than I did. In reality, it’s only 13g heavier (174g with battery and headband vs 161g), but it feels like a lot more on my head. It’s quite comfortable in a pocket though and does make a good EDC light once adequately protected from short circuits.

Waterproofing was flawless in my testing, however there is no glass lens over the plastic TIR, which I see as a significant durability concern. Plastic scratches easily, and the angled, press-fit bezel of the H2R is likely quite difficult to remove and replace. The Wizard has a lens. The budget-oriented Astrolux S41 has a lens. The severely flawed Astrolux S42 has a lens. The $90 Olight H2R does not have a lens.

Aside from the safety issues, the H2R isn’t a bad light. It has a decent user interface, extremely high output and a really nice, ever so slightly rosy 5000K tint that reminds me of the MT-G2. It’s easily the nicest tint I’ve seen on an XHP series emitter. In a vaccuum, the H2R would be a decent buy, but used back to back with the Wizard Pro, it really didn’t measure up. I’m told Illumn will have the Wizard Pro V3 in stock soon.

  • + Best-in-class output
  • + Best-in-class efficiency
  • + Beautiful tint
  • + Bonus emergency fire starter
  • - Might burn your house down
  • - Proprietary battery
  • - Bad PWM on moonlight
  • - No sustainable higher modes
  • - Crude thermal regulation
  • - Mode memory only remembers the three lowest modes after 10 minutes
  • - Moonlight only accessable from off

Details and technical analysis

Accessories

The Olight H2R ships with:

  • Proprietary Olight battery
  • Magnetic charger
  • Headband
  • Pocket clip
  • Spare foam for the headband
  • Manual

Modes and user interface

State Action Result
Off Short-press Last-used (see below)
Off Long-press Moonlight
Any Double-click Turbo
Any Triple-click SOS
On Short-press Off
On Long-press Cycle l/m/h
Off Longer-press Lockout
Lockout Longer-press Moonlight

Mode memory only retains turbo and high for 10 minutes. I can see the reasoning for turbo, but high is only 600 lumens and is likely to be the mode a user wants to use repeatedly in a lot of situations. All mode and power changes on the H2R use ramping, which is just slow enough to be distracting, especially when turning off.

Moonlight uses very slow PWM, and sensitive users will notice it.

Beamshots:

Output and runtime

All tests performed with the included Olight 3000 mAh proprietary battery unless otherwise noted. This battery is based on the Samsung 30Q. Advertised runtime assumes a thermal stepdown, but I performed the test immersed in water to prevent any stepdowns.

Mode Advertised Lumens Estimated Lumens FL1 throw Graph Advertised Runtime Time to 80% Time to 50% Time to 10%
Moonlight 1 lumens throw graph 45 days - - -
Low 27 30 16 graph 50h - - -
Medium 140 210 42 graph 10h - - -
High 550 742 79 graph 150 min 141 min 141 min 141 min
Turbo 2150 2500 145 graph 110m 18 min 24 min 24 min

Behavior with other batteries on max output was inconsistent, and I don’t think Olight did much to test that scenario as it’s very unlikely anyone would cool an H2R enough for it to matter in real-world use. With fan cooling, it did attempt to step back to full output once before quickly dropping to 60%. A regulation program with some smaller steps would improve usability here; this feels like a first attempt by somebody who didn’t bother to look at how anybody else does it.

Battery and charging

The included battery is a Samsung 30Q with a protection PCB and extra contacts. There is low-voltage protection at 2.55V. Olight claims there is over-current protection at 27A, but I don’t have a way to accurately measure that. There is, additionally a secondary form of over-current protection on the charging contacts (see safety section). The magnetic charger takes about 5 hours.

Modification potential

I’ve decided to start including modifications in reviews. Some people just can’t leave well enough alone, and I’m one of them.

It’s probably possible to change the emitter in the H2R, but doing so would certainly mar the bezel and might turn out difficult. The included emitter is very nice, and I did not attempt it.

I did, however disassemble and modify the tailcap to disable the charging system, as I believe it to be unsafe and I will be giving away this light to a redditor. The tailcap retaining ring is very tight and I couldn’t loosen it with my snap ring pliers. This modified saw blade modified into a suitable wrench made it much easier.

I removed the ring contact and desoldered the thermistor and spring from the board, then added a brass button to make flat-tops work reliably. An H2 without the R is a safe and useful light. Perhaps Olight should offer them this way.

Ceilingbounce – flashlight testing and runtime graphs for Android