Review: Sofirn SP10A Best value AA/14500 for everyday carry?

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k-wong
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Review: Sofirn SP10A Best value AA/14500 for everyday carry?

Today I’m reviewing the AA sized SP10A provided by Sofirn for the purpose of testing and review.

I’m a big fan of AA flashlights in general as it is a universal battery format, great for gifting, and my ideal size for pocket carry. So I was intrigued how this Sofirn offering stacks up to other popular AA lights in its price range.

At first glance it looks like a shrunken down version of its larger 18650 brother, the Sofirn SP32, retaining most of its proportions in an AA sized format. It houses an improved AA/14500 driver from it’s AA predecessors, the SF10 and SF12. Instead of a rear clicky it has a side switch with similar attributes to the Fenix PD32 in terms of styling and its metal e-switch.

Manufacturer Specs

Batteries accepted: AA, NiMH, 14500
LED: XP-G2 S4 5350-5700k (neutral white)
Output [14500]: 10lm low, 89lm medium, 500lm high, 500lm strobe
Output [AA Alkaline]: 5lm low, 50lm medium, 270lm high, 270lm strobe
Runtime [14500]: 43hr 20min low, 4hr 40min medium, 50min high
Runtime (AA Alkaline): 73hr low, 8hr 7min medium, 1hr 24min high
Distance: 80m
Intensity: 3500cd
Impact Resistance: 1 meter
Water Resistance: IP68
Measurements: 20mm width x 88mm length
Weight: 42g
Working Voltage 0.9-4.2 Volts
Reflector: orange peel

Product link (non-affiliated, $13 at time of review): https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Presell-Sofirn-New-SP10A-Mini-P...

Because my sample comes from the first production batch, the inner diameter of the tube is only 14.2-14.3mm which means it will only accept unprotected 14500s and some AA batteries. All the alkaline AA’s I’ve tested fit but not all NiMH fit. Eneloop, unprotected 14500 Windyfire and unprotected 14500 purple eFest will FIT. Ladda NiMH, Eneloop PRO, and protected 14500 Xtar will NOT FIT. So please note that if you receive an item from the first batch this may be an issue.

Contents & Build

Similar to other Sofirn products, the SP10A comes with black anodization of decent quality. It’s slightly slippery but the knurling and clip help with that. I do wish it had a grippier matte finish like the black Convoys but it’s not a huge issue. The threads could use some extra lubrication, but they are square cut with anodized threads for manual lockout, avoiding accidental activation and parasitic drain.

Up front, the SP10A uses a neutral white XP-G2 with orange peel reflector, no AR coating on the lens, and produces some decent throw for its size. It’s definitely more “throwy” than the UT01 and Mi7, but less throwy than the Jet-1 MK and SF12 (both of which use a smooth reflector).

Size comparison with other AA flashlights and common lights


(left to right) Convoy C8, Convoy S2+, Sipik SK68, Meco Q5, Sofirn SF12, Sofirn SP10A, Utorch UT01, Jetbeam Jet-I MK, Klarus Mi7 ti, AA alkaline

It’s relatively small in size and aesthetically pleasing with the side button being it’s best attribute.

The design and machining of the metal e-switch looks like something you would find on more expensive lights. The clicking action is solid and quiet especially compared to rear clickies, but it does have a slight jiggle when shaken. Although the button protrudes from the body you’ll need to press it past flush to register a click so there’s not much of an issue with accidental presses. The button is quite small and can be difficult to find in the dark, however lining up the clip with the button eliminates that inconvenience.

The pocket clip is not deep carry but it is firm and works well. At the tail end, the design is similar to the Utorch UT01 with a keychain/lanyard hole and no magnet.

Driver & Output

I wasn’t expecting much with this driver as I already have the similar Sofirn SF12, which has some terrible PWM at low and medium modes. That’s not the case with the SP10A; there is no visible PWM (from my eyes) on any mode whether you’re using a AA, NiMH or 14500.

Additionally, the boost driver on the older SF12 using AA was also not very impressive and maxes out around 150 lumens. For the SP10A, that’s been improved to 270 rated lumens but it looks even brighter than that (sorry, I don’t have the equipment to measure that). The difference between NiMH and 14500 is noticeable but not significant, so if your preference is to use NiMH, than I wouldn’t hesitate to do that for the longer run times without missing much output. There’s also a 3 minute step-down using 14500s.

I wasn’t able to open up the retaining ring to the driver so I couldn’t get pics of that. It may have been glued or just got stuck somehow which is unfortunate as I was planning to change drivers. I’ll be swapping emitters as I do prefer Nichia LEDs, especially for smaller lights.

User Interface

The UI is a bit of mixed bag which is the reason for my urge to replace the driver. It does have mode memory but performing On/Off requires a 0.5 second hold, which I don’t prefer. Yes it helps with accidental activation but I don’t think it’s needed due to the recessed design of the button. Ideally, it would be a single click for on and a shorter 0.25 second hold for off in this particular light.

After turning on, a single click cycles between low-med-high modes. A double click from any mode (including off) will take you into a variable strobe mode. There is no additional SOS or bike flasher modes. The output levels are well spaced but it’s missing a sub lumen moonlight mode which, for me, is essential as a bedside or camping light since a 5 lumen low mode is too bright for night adjusted vision.

Beamshots

These moldy rooftop shots are the best I could do on my smartphone but I hope they’re somewhat representative. It was a pretty foggy night so that doesn’t help either.

Control

Jet-I MK [AA]

SF12 [AA]

UT01 [AA]

SP10A [AA]

SP10A [14500]

Comparisons

Jetbeam’s Jet-I MK is a BLF favorite because it has a usable/simple UI, it’s well built, bright, and cheap without feeling cheap. The SP10A offers similar characteristics with a few differences. It’s using a side switch which is more ergonomic and doesn’t require the use of 2 hands to operate. Yeah, you can operate the Jetbeam with one hand but it’s awkward and not a smooth action.

The SP10A also wins with no visible PWM and a higher output on regular AA/NiMH batteries, however the max output on the Jetbeam with a 14500 looks to be brighter. I do like the smooth reflector found on the Jet-I MK as it directs its lumens to punch through distances more forcefully. But despite the more impressive output on14500, the winner in this comparison goes to the SP10A for its ease of use, better AA output (which is my own preference to use) and a better looking design.

The light most similar to the SP10A in terms of design, format, price, etc. is probably the Utorch UT01. It does go for $16 to $24 USD so it’s not a direct comparison to the $13 SP10A but it’s close enough. The UI includes a decent moonlight mode, programmable brightness on all levels, and you don’t have to hold the button to turn it on. This is makes the UT01 my go to light for the bedside as I can turn it on in an instant (always on moonlight) without blinding myself in the middle of the night or to check on my child.

The UT01 also has a brighter max output using either AA or 14500, though it can be frustrating that the turbo, high and even medium modes often look the same as the voltage drops so you end up clicking several times with no output change. The beam is floodier than the SP10A (as seen in the night shots) so it’s more appropriate for indoor or household use. Unfortunately, UT01’s pocket clip design requires you to adjust and readjust to fit your jeans so this aspect discourages me from using it as an everyday carry. The SP10A, on the other hand, has a solid clip that’s easy and quick to use without much fiddling around.

Overall, I’d rate the UT01 over the SP10A due to its higher output and more advanced user interface.

Final Thoughts

I can appreciate most aspects of Sofirn’s SP10A; its solid looks, size, quality e-switch button, and high (no PWM) output using AA/NiMH check most of the boxes for me. However, holding for 0.5 seconds to turn on is not my preference. The lack of moonlight mode also makes it less versatile but if you’re OK with the user interface and don’t need moonlight, it becomes a great flashlight especially for the $13 price tag. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as an everyday carry over any other AA flashlight at the moment.

Edited by: k-wong on 09/14/2017 - 01:20
MascaratumB
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Nice review k-wong and useful critical points too!!
I’ve was looking for reviews of this light and SF14 in order to perceive how the lights behave, to decide if I’d buy them or not.
You practically answered my questions without having to place them Wink

The lack of Moonlight mode and eventually the side switch operation would be my major concerns, and they’re confirmed.
Excellent to know that it doesn’t have PWM (or if it has, it’s not so noticeable) and that it throws well!

I have the SP32 and the SF10, so I know the quality Sofirn offers, but I guess this one needed to go a bit further in some options…

Thanks again for the information! Thumbs Up

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Reviews : Amutorch S3 - XPG3-S3 /  AM S3 vs Neal 219c  /  Amutorch AM30 - XHP70.2 / Nitefox UT20 / Sofirn SF14 & SP10A 

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Persechini
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Nice review!

How is the quality of the machining? I found it to be only passable with the SF10 and bad even for the price in the SF12. If the build quality is no longer an issue (which seems not to be the case, as an AA flashlight doesn’t fit many AA batteries) it would definitely be worth the price.

I would be nice if the driver was easy to remove, specially if it they are still using 17mm drivers

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My collectionConvoy: C8 Clear / S2+ Clear / S2+ / S2+ UV / S6 ― Nitecore: Tube / Thumb / Concept 1 / HC30 / Tip ― Trustfire: Z2 ― Sofirn: SF10 / SF12

k-wong
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It’s about the same as the SF12 (I don’t have the SF10), which I don’t see much issue with except for the threads needing more lubrication and the rear clicky is a little squishy. I much prefer the side button on the SP10A, it just feels very solid in your hands and natural to use.

I’ve been carrying it in my jeans for the past few days for daily tasks and once I got use to holding the switch for on/off, it was not as annoying as it originally was…so I’m OK with it, but I do prefer the instant gratification of a single click for ON. It’s not a deal breaker as I thought it was going to be. Coupled with a low chance of accidental activation and a solid clip that’s dependable/won’t slip around, it’s I’d say it’s my preferred choice right now to carry on me daily. I can’t say the same for the Jet-I MK, UT01, Mi7, SF12, E10R, SK68, or any 13640/18350 lights I own,..so for the price, I might just get some more (and install some Nichias of course..).

New production batch should fix the battery size issue and as I mentioned about the driver, it may have just been my luck that I wasn’t able to open it so I’m curious to see if others have the same issue.

k-wong
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Regarding driver replacement, I don’t think it’s 17mm but even if it were, you would lose AA/NiMH compatibility which I wouldn’t sacrifice. It’s more likely a 15mm size and there doesn’t seem to be any good 14500/AA boost drivers available to the public aside from Reylight’s Pineapple drivers but he’s sold out (and it’s not an e-switch). Hopefully Sofirn is able to improve the UI with updated firmware in the near future.

Persechini
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I ask if it’s removable because then with access to the top side it might be programmable. That possibility would make it much more interesting.

If the machining is like the SF12, than it’s quite bad in my opinion. The SF12 also fit my batteries very tightly, and with repeated use the edges would easily rip the battery sleeves

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My collectionConvoy: C8 Clear / S2+ Clear / S2+ / S2+ UV / S6 ― Nitecore: Tube / Thumb / Concept 1 / HC30 / Tip ― Trustfire: Z2 ― Sofirn: SF10 / SF12

k-wong
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My version of the SF12 fits batteries fine including the ones that don’t fit the SP10A. It’s either due to some variances in manufacturing or you’re using different batteries?

Persechini
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My fattest 14500 is a keepower, if I put it on top of the tube and let it slide by gravity, this is what happens:

(SF10 with no A tube on the left, SF12 tube on the right)

The batteries slide down on the SF10, albeit still a bit tight. On the SF12 you have to jam it in, to the point that the tailcap spring won’t be strong enough to push it to make contact with the driver it you didn’t push it all the way by hand, and you’ll damage the sleeve a bit every time because of the rough edge, which is not good on protected batteries

In my Tree

My collectionConvoy: C8 Clear / S2+ Clear / S2+ / S2+ UV / S6 ― Nitecore: Tube / Thumb / Concept 1 / HC30 / Tip ― Trustfire: Z2 ― Sofirn: SF10 / SF12

Tracy Wan---Sofirn
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Hello,

Yes. There is one defective in the first batch of SP10A——a 14500 battery with protection board, could get stuck when install it, but all AA Alkaline or nimh batteries are compatible. The second batch made improvement. The tube was widened from 14.5mm to 14.6mm +0.1, which will be more compatible for all batteries.

Moreover, the key-chain hole was improved in order to avoid scratching.

Thanks for all of your suggested words.

Have a good time in BLF

Tracy

phsinvent
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The Sp10a is a very nice light for the price. Great side button and in hand feel. The output is pretty good with aa and nimh which makes it a nice gift light. The aa/nimh output is a lot better than the older sofirn aa size lights. A lower resistance spring or copper bypass can increase the output a little

Zorzi
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I see there is now a new version called SP10B. In a quick look, it seems the differences are a slightly higher output with 14500 and now 5 modes total, with the inclusion of a moonlight mode. That looks very promising!!