(Review) Wuben A21 Apollo

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Tahts-a-dats-ago
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(Review) Wuben A21 Apollo

I received the Wuben A21 Apollo from Skyben.trade for evaluation purposes. I’d like thank Skyben.trade for the opportunity.

Skyben.trade Amazon Store

Wuben website

A21 Apollo Owner’s Manual

If first impressions matter, and they typically do, then be prepared to be amazed when you open the Amazon box and see the Wuben A21 package inside. The flashlight (and included items) are neatly packaged in what could be considered a presentation box. The graphics are eye-catching, really well done, and nearly all of the pertinent information can be found on the outer sides of the Wuben box.

Inside the flashlight itself is nestled in a semi-hard foam to protect it from the rough handling that is the norm in the package delivery business. You’ll also find the warranty card, an owner’s manual, spare O-rings, a lanyard, a holster, and a plastic “tube” that is used to hold an 18650 battery (in case you wish to run the A21 on one 18650 battery). A battery is included as well – a 4800 mAh 21700 battery.

Wuben put a lot of thought into the A21 and it shows. This is a complete kit, with attention paid to all of the little details. For example – the holster has an elastic battery carrier for a spare battery, and the lanyard comes with a soft-metal “needle” wire to make it a simple task to thread the lanyard into its slot on the tail cap of the A21.

The price?

$149.00

To many flashlight enthusiasts $149.00 is on the lower end of the spectrum for a really high quality flashlight. To the average person things are a bit different though, and the question of worth will surely be asked.

Is it worth the price?

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

That’s the short answer, but I’m going to give my thoughts on the A21 anyway. I do have a few nit-picks though and I’ll go over them as I cover my thoughts on Wuben’s A21 flashlight.

To my eyes the A21 is among the most beautifully designed flashlights. It has a certain look to it that I find very appealing. The craftsmanship is impeccable – from the design to the build and the finish; every detail was planned and executed with precision. The results are an outstanding product.

Wuben lists the measurements at 135.5 mm in length and 42 mm diameter: roughly 5.5 inches in length, and 1.6 inches in diameter. It is a more compact light than I had expected, but still a bit much for EDC pocket carry (mostly due to the diameter of the head). It will easily fit in most coat pockets though, and does come with a nice holster. Were the light intended to be a pocket-able EDC light I would say Wuben missed the mark, but that is not the use that this light was designed for. It is an absolute joy in the hand – filling yet compact at the same time (the body is just slightly larger in diameter than a quarter). Grip is excellent; thanks to the deep grooves in the switch area of the head and the smaller grooves on the body.

The switch is located on the side of the flashlight and is a bit proud of the surrounding platform that it resides upon. The switch cover seems to be plastic and has a noticeable “W” on the face. Surrounding the switch is a stainless steel bezel. The switch has a good feel to it and it is easily found even in pitch dark conditions. Feedback is very good, with a barely audible “click” when pressed and released.

Aside from turning the flashlight on and off; the switch also changes modes, locks/unlocks the light, indicates battery status, and charging status. Upon turning the flashlight on, the switch flashes a blue light to show the battery status – at least it is supposed to. Mine doesn’t; in fact the blue light doesn’t seem to work at all on my sample. The switch also glows blue (when charging) to show that the battery is fully charged. Again – my sample does not. My sample does glow red while charging, but shows no light at all when fully charged.

I have no doubt that Skyben.trade would have promptly sent me a different A21 if I had bothered to mention the issue. But I didn’t – simply because it really doesn’t matter to me. It is such a minor thing – and it doesn’t affect the performance (of the light) in the slightest – that I didn’t bother mentioning it to Skyben.trade (or Wuben). Put simply: the blue light isn’t working on my sample and I couldn’t care less about that minor issue. All I’m actually missing is the ability to tell when the battery status is above 30% as the red light will come on when the battery is at 29% or less.

Opposite the switch is the type C USB port. This allows the A21 to charge much faster (about twice as fast) and a regular 2.0 macro port can charge. It also allows for the USB cord to be plugged in without having to figure out which side of the plug is the larger (the type C plug is an oval, so it plugs in with either side of the plug being up). Wuben claims the included battery (21700) will charge in 3 hours; I think it charges a bit quicker than that, but will go with their 3 hour claim. The battery life (21700 battery) is very good: I’ve used the A21 quite frequently and have charged it only once since the initial charge. This is my first experience with the 21700 battery and I am very impressed with it. I think we’ll soon see a lot more flashlights with this battery. The plug cover is rubber; it fits snugly into the reception hole and helps maintain the A21’s waterproof rating of IP68 (two meters) while also keeping dust/dirt out of the port.

The tail cap screws on/off with ease, and features heavy double springs inside the cap. The threads are square cut and well lubricated as received. The A21 tail-stands exceptionally well. The tube does not unscrew from the head (undoubtedly glued). Inside the tube (on the head) is a contact point for the positive end of the battery (no springs). The A21 is reverse polarity protected – so inserting the battery incorrectly won’t damage your flashlight.

Just behind the head is a yellowish-green ring – presumably made of plastic (because it is too hard to be rubber). I believe the ring is for aesthetic purposes only, as I cannot find a function for it. I must admit that it does look nice. The clip (included) is attached shortly behind the head; it is arranged in a head-up carry and is stout without being a nail-breaker. I don’t have much use for the clip – other than arranging it as a means of helping me more quickly locate the switch in dark conditions – since it isn’t reversible and I’m not a fan of head-up pocket carry.

The head of the A21 is quite wide (about 1.6 inches) for the size of the flashlight – wider than the reflector is deep by (roughly) half an inch. The aluminum reflector is coated with an orange peel finish that does an excellent job of dispersing the outputting light in an even manner. The Cree XHP70.2 led looks huge sitting in the center of the reflector. The lens is toughened glass, and scratch resistant. Wuben claims that it allows up to 99% light transmittance – given the quality of the beam, I believe it. The bezel seems to be glued – I couldn’t unscrew it by hand anyway and I don’t have the proper tool to unscrew the bezel without marring it. The bezel is stainless steel and slightly crenelated.

The User Interface is simple and straight-forward, but there are a couple of things that the owner’s manual got wrong, or just failed to mention.

On is a matter of clicking the switch. Pressing and holding the switch turns the light off. Once the flashlight is on, clicking the switch changes the regular modes of the A21 (moon, low, medium, high, turbo, and back to low). The A21 has mode memory for the regular modes.

From the off position, double clicking the switch puts the A21 into a ramping mode (Wuben calls it “Continuous Output”). With the ramping option the A21 turns on in an output that seems just a bit higher than moon mode; holding the switch down ramps the output up, and then back down once you’ve hit the turbo output. There seems to be a bit of a flash when the light hits either extreme (moon mode or turbo mode) and is ready to ramp the other way. Release the switch when the wanted output is attained. Click the switch to turn the flashlight off. There is no memory mode in the ramping option.

The ramping option works fairly well – especially going up – but it is pretty quick so you have to be ready to release the switch when you’ve reached the wanted output. It seems to take a bit before it will ramp back down though, but once it does it ramps down just as quick as it ramps up. There doesn’t appear to be a way to reverse the ramping prior to reaching one extreme or the other. I’ve tried several times and just can’t get the light to change the ramping direction without going to the extreme (and the manual doesn’t list a way to do so). Generally I’m a big fan of ramping, but I prefer the regular modes on the A21 (they’re really well done in my opinion, and it is easier to find the desired output).

With the flashlight on, double clicking the switch puts the light into strobe mode. Double click the switch again to put the light into the SOS mode (the manual says to single click, but that puts the light back to the last used regular mode). Press and hold the switch to shut the light off.

There are two ways to get instant turbo – from the off position press and hold the switch until the light comes on (it will come on in turbo mode). Release the switch immediately and the light turns off; hold it for a bit over 1 second and the light stays on (in turbo mode). With the flashlight on, triple click the switch to go into turbo mode. Click the switch to go back to moon mode. Pressing and holding the switch turns the light off. When turned back on (regular modes) the flashlight will come on in the mode last used (before the shortcut to turbo mode was used). There does not appear to be instant access to the moon mode (the manual does not mention anything about it and I couldn’t make it happen)(going into the ramping option is somewhat close, but it is a higher output than moon mode).

Locking the light out is achieved from the off position; just triple click the switch and the light will flash to let you know lockout has been implemented. Triple click again to unlock the flashlight.

The beam of the A21 is definitely slanted to the flood side of things. It will still reach out for a decent distance (Wuben rates the maximum distance at 222 meters – so figure on a usable distance of roughly half that) thanks, in large part, to an incredible 4200 lumens of output (when in turbo mode). It is bright; I mean ridiculously bright considering the rather small size of the A21 and the fact that this power is coming out of one battery. Run times are more than respectable too – Wuben claims 2 hours (or more) on turbo. I haven’t measured that myself, but my guess is that the claim is accurate given the amount of time I’ve used the A21 prior to recharging the battery.

I find the beam itself to be quite remarkable: covering a very wide area exceptionally well, yet providing decent distance coverage at the same time. There is a hot-spot in the center of the beam; actually it is a large hot-spot that diminishes in intensity but still provides excellent output all the way to the very outside of the beam. I think most people will find that this flood-slanted mix is the best beam for all but a few very selective tasks; it really does a fantastic job of lighting up a large area.

Light temperature is cool white, but not a cold white. The flashlight will get quite warm when turbo mode is used for more than a minute or two – but I haven’t experienced the light getting really hot. The A21 does have temperature regulation built in, but I haven’t noticed the output being reduced in my use and I have had it in turbo mode for a couple minutes at a time.

Despite a few minor quibbles/issues (blue led in switch not working, errors in the manual, clip being of little use to me) I can’t really begin to describe how much I love this flashlight. The output is incredible, the build quality is fantastic, the beam is wonderful, the UI is simple and easy to use, the size is my version of perfection, etc.. It all comes together to make a truly amazing flashlight; I think Wuben nailed it.

klrman
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Nice review thanks! Really like the heavy duty springs in the tail cap.   I'm surprised it can hold turbo for about two hours.  I wonder if that is a misprint or if it can really do that?  4200 lumens of heat is hard to burn off on that small light. They must have a really heavy heat sink. 

Tahts-a-dats-ago
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klrman wrote:

Nice review thanks! Really like the heavy duty springs in the tail cap.   I’m surprised it can hold turbo for about two hours.  I wonder if that is a misprint or if it can really do that?  4200 lumens of heat is hard to burn off on that small light. They must have a really heavy heat sink. 

I suspect it is a misprint and the 2 hour claim is a few minutes of turbo with the rest of the 2 hours being a reduced output. I have had it in turbo mode for a couple minutes and it did not step down. The head got pretty warm, but not hot enough to cause discomfort.

klrman
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If 2 hours was even close to being true, I was ready to empty my wallet and get one.  I thought there may be a remote possibility of 2 hours because of the steep price.   This light is not cheap! 

ChibiM
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Did you also measure the throw? 

Somehow my throw numbers are double the amount of the manufacturer! 

saypat
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me want!