Astrolux S43S review (4x 219C, 18350/18650)

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maukka
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Astrolux S43S review (4x 219C, 18350/18650)

Disclaimer: The Astrolux S43S was provided for testing by Banggood.com free of charge

Tracking purhcase page: banggood.com
Non-tracking: https://www.banggood.com/Astrolux-S43S-Portable-EDC-18350-18650-LED-Flas...

Note: this light is from an early batch and might not be identical to the final version. For example, the front bezel is crenelated in the light available for purchase.

The Astrolux S43S conforms to the popular hotrod quad recipe. The $40 price at the time of writing is competitive.

Main features:
-4x LEDs (Nichia 219C or Cree XP-G3)
-Compatible with 18650 and 18350 batteries
-Integrated USB charging (Micro-USB connector)
-1×7135+FET direct drive driver with NarsilM ramping firmware
-Electronic side switch with backlight
-Heavy copper head for effective heatsinking
-Tripod socket / skull breaker in the tail

If you’re here only for the numbers, here they are:

Note: since the light is direct driven on turbo, the output depends on the internal resistance of the battery used. Samsung 30Q was used in all of the tests. Expect at least 10% higher maximum output with a Sony VTC5A and 15% lower with an Aspire 18350.

Measured dimensions and weight
Length: 88.3/121.4 mm (18350/18650)
Head width: 30.3 mm
Handle width: 24.0 mm
Weight: 138/153 grams plus 25/47 grams for a 18350/18650 battery

Box and contents

The light comes packaged in a hard cardboard box bundled with:
Lanyard
Pocket clip
Two spare o-rings
User manual https://i.imgur.com/1ah2rXs.jpg

Physical appearance

The light is a bit front heavy with its large copper head. Even though the switch is not recessed, it doesn’t activate by accident when resting against a level surface.


Removable attack hammer.


Compared to the S41S, the S43S has a lot more copper.


There was some dirt on two emitters in the review sample, which was evident even when looking at the head. Most of the dirt came off easily enough with a cotton swab and a fingernail.

User interface

The S43S is operated via an electronic side switch. It uses Tom E’s NarsilM.

The UI is way too advanced to be described in its entirety here, but here are some major features:
-Ramping output selection, hold switch to adjust brightness
-Instant one click on/off
-Shortcuts to moon (long click from off) and max output (double click from off or on)
-Several configurable mode sets with discrete output levels
-In mode config it’s possible to advance (single click) and reverse modes (long click)
-Adjustable temperature limits or timed stepdowns

For more information check out the NarsilM reference manual, the manual for the BLF Q8 or the cheat sheet. If you ever need a manual for any of the popular UI’s, check CRX’s firmware manual thread.

The UI is intuitive even if you’re not familiar with all the aspects of NarsilM. Give the light to someone and they’ll figure it out immediately. You don’t necessarily need to delve into the configuration menu (hold switch for 8 sec) at all. Only thing I would do is to adjust the temperature limit for your particular sample, as I suspect that it doesn’t come calibrated from the factory.

Integrated charger

The 18350/18650 battery can be charged via a Micro-USB connector. Charging a 3000mAh Samsung 30Q takes about 5 hours, a 1100mAh Aspire 18350 about 2.

The charger draws 0.74A from the USB power supply at most. The slow rate is understandable, since the light can be used with lower capacity 18350s. The charger uses a less efficient linear type of circuit and throws off the extra voltage from the 5V USB line. Almost 25% of the energy is wasted, so it’s not the perfect solution for a prepper style of situation when relying on solar or power banks for power.

Charging a 3000mAh Samsung 30Q 18650

Charging a 1100mAh Aspire 18350

Size comparison

Next to other quad emitter lights. The Wuben and Acebeam use 21700 batteries.

With the 18350 battery tube, the S43S is about the size of an Emisar D4 with an 18650

Beamshot comparison

The Astrolux S43S has a little lower output than the Emisar D4, but has a clearly wider beam with a bit less throw. It is however, significantly brighter than the S42. The 21700 light Wuben TO50R has a more even and large hotspot with less wideangle spill with throw to the S43S. The Acebeam EC65 is clearly the most powerful out of the group.









Beam and tint

With regard to tint, the beam is very even. There’s some artifacts at the edges, which may be because the optic might not sit perfectly on the LEDs. This was the case with the Astrolux S42 as well. It’s not noticeable in actual use though. I haven’t seen this with lights using Carclo optics.

Some modes between the 7135 and FET get a bit greenish in tint, but low modes and turbo are very nice. Color temperature stays between 4700 and 4800K on all of the modes.

Spectral data and color rendering

For spectral information and CRI calculations I use an X-rite i1Pro spectrophotometer with HCFR, Babelcolor CT&A and ArgyllCMS spotread for the graphs and data. For runtime tests I use spotread with a custom script and an i1Display Pro because it doesn’t require calibration every 30 minutes like the i1Pro.

Explanation of abbreviations

If you have an hour to spare, I recommend watching this presentation on IES TM-30-15 which also shines light into color rendering in general.

CRI data on turbo measured from the hotspot

CRI data at the top of the ramp

CRI data on 1×7135 (89 lumens)

CRI data on low (3 lumens)

Output and runtimes

The output drops very rapidly when the temperature limit is exceeded. The temperature control is fairly simple, and while there is no oscillations, the light doesn’t ramp back up after cooling down either. It feels backwards that turbo permanently steps down to a level lower than can be retained otherwise. This is usually the price to pay with hotrods, to protect the light and the user. High modes can be of course activated manually after the stepdown has occurred.

Output is not regulated above the 89 lumen 7135 level.

Comparison on ~100 lumen level, 1×7135 mode on the S54S, ROT66 and D4. Test done with just a single 18650.

Just like the preceding Astrolux S42, the total system efficacy is low at 63 lumens per watt at best. The Fireflies ROT66 with its notoriously inefficient 219B SW45k emitters and 7135 linear regulator is 25% better. Above the 7135 when the S43S starts to PWM the FET, it’s even worse. In addition the light doesn’t regulate output above the 89 lumens, but rather follows the battery voltage curve.

The 1+FET driver is tried and tested, but naturally lacks on efficiency department. On the other hand, you can’t really get a better and more efficient buck/boost drivers at this price point. With those it’s possible to double the runtime at similar output levels without sacrificing any quality in light.

Whether the problem lies in the driver or the optics, remains to be investigated.

Standby drain

There’s some parasitic drain on the batteries when the light is switched off. This is understandable due to the electronic soft switch and especially its backlight. The drain is not very high though.

Standby current: 106 µA

It would take about three years to drain a 3000 mAh battery.

Low voltage protection

Low voltage protection at 2.9 V

The S43S will drop output and blink the light as the battery voltage drops until the voltage drops below 2.9 where the light shuts off.

When the battery gets critically low, the light blinks:
Click for video: https://i.imgur.com/ZgdhLud.mp4

Flicker

There is no visible flicker, but PWM is used on modes other than 1×7135 and full FET (turbo).

I measure the flicker optically from the LED with a Thorlabs DET36A/M photodetector and an oscilloscope.

Flicker frequency: 15.6 kHz below 1×7135, 31.2 kHz above 1×7135
Snob index: 0% (not visible)

Flicker measurement on moonlight

Low (3 lumens)

Mode 3 (between 1×7135 and FET)

Turbo (full FET)

Brightness is varied using PWM on every brightness setting except for two modes where either one 7135 current regulator or the FET are fully active. The 7135 mode can only be reliably activated when using the preset modes sets. With moon activated (default), the PWM free mode is the 3rd mode with the 5th being full FET turbo.

PWM frequency is either 15.6 kHz below 1×7135 level (89 lumens) and 31.2 kHz when the FET activates above that. The 7135 is always active so on turbo the light PWMs between the FET and the 7135. Flicker is not visible to the naked eye on any mode.

Temperature

My testing was done indoors in 23°C ambient temperature.

The S43S gets very hot very fast which is expected. At the top of the ramp (1270 lumens) the light got too hot to hold from the copper part before it stepped down. You can adjust the temperature limit from the configuration mode. Default is 55°C, but as the calibration varies, this is different for every light. In reality, mine was probably higher than 55°C.

On the 1×7135 level the light will be hand holdable indefinitely. It didn’t feel very warm on the 265 lumen mode I also did a runtime test on. You don’t have to raise the output much though for it to become uncomfortable. Lot’s of energy is turned into heat.

Verdict

The Astrolux S43S isn’t an original design, at least with regards to its innards. It is based on a well known driver type and firmware and utilizes one of the most popular emitters as of now (219C, XP-G3). The massive copper head is attractive, even if the shape might divide opinions. It is also bigger and heavier than the previous S4xS series of lights, which means better heat sinking, but also more front heavyness. I wish it had some knurling on the 18650 tube, but it can take the tube+tail from the S42, which is textured and also shaves 3.5mm off the length.

The biggest letdown is the low efficiency. That is partly due to the linear+FET driver design, but something else is taking a toll on it too as it’s clearly less efficient than the competitors with similar electrical design. But for short bursts, it does put out a lot of light.

The beam has some artifacts that aren’t noticeable in actual use. The optics doesn’t sit perfectly on the LEDs, but at least it’s not crushing them. They can’t be easily changed as the S43S is not using the popular Carclo brand of optics. The tint consistent throughout the beam and neutral on most modes. It still doesn’t achieve the rosy beauty of some 219Bs, but can be altered using filters, since nothing is glued on the light.

Even if it’s nothing revolutionary, it’s a huge step up from the S42 and there’s not a lot to complain. It’s a pretty object putting out pretty light with a good user interface for a good price! If you need USB charging, it has that covered as well.

+Good tint
+NarsilM ramping firmware is easy to use
+USB charging
+Copper, yum
+Lots of light when needed
-Inefficient design
-Slippery 18650 tube
-Long and heavy for an 18650 light

Edited by: maukka on 11/04/2018 - 12:13
varbos
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Thanks for review, very thorough and honest. It convinced me to cancel pre-order.

Muto
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Thanks for the honest and very through review.

I wanted to like this flashlight. Thought the black version was hideous but with the copper head it was not as obnoxious.
Anyway, the fact that the thing Blows it’s Wad within 2 minutes and ends up at 90 lumens and this is with the 18650 not the shorty 18350 makes this a one trick pony.
Even on the much lower “top of ramp” at 3 minutes it’s limp.

No can do.
Thanks for saving me money.
Keith

What’s with all these Bright Flashlights Boy?
Are you Drunk or HIGH on somethin’ Son??
No Officer, I am not Drunk, I am however High, High on LUMENS! HAHA-HAHA-HAH

The Reaper is the hardest working man in the business, never takes a day off!
Enjoy this day like it’s your last, because it just may be.

Xoroxronis
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Thanks.
I wonder why only 89 lm at 7135? Even if Banggood uses the lowest bin (D220), that seems low.
Maybe there is a problem somewhere. I have all the bins to quads with the same driver type (1×7135+FET) and the lumens at 7135 are always around (D220-105lm, D240-120lm, D260-130lm).

Mine shipped today. I will check when arrived and report back.

maukka
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Xoroxronis wrote:
I wonder why only 89 lm at 7135?

Me too. There is a problem somewhere.

toddcshoe
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Talked me out of purchasing one. Thank you Maukka. Another great review.

nokoff
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I have the 219C S43 all aluminum version and I’m waiting anxiously for my S43S Copper which is somewhere betweeen China Post Logistics and Long Island.

My S43 has perfectly set and clean quad emitters. I don’t mind that it’s a proprietary optic. I feel the beam is great as it is IMO. I gotta wonder what the point of proceeding with the review is when you have a pre-production version and the first thing you notice is wonky optics and dirty emitters. The production version has been in the hands of others now for weeks and reviewed so how does this help? Did you ask them if they still wanted you to post it knowing that pre-prod versions maybe had these issues? Curious.

Thank you for your review! As always the charts are amazing! I’m going to disagree on a couple points. The whole long and slippery 18650 tube and heavy copper head thing that people have been saying since this torch was first posted. I mean, this is the third version of this torch, can we just agree the copper is heavier than the aluminum and move on and not list it as negative or positive. We’ve been asking for more copper since 2010 and I’ll take even more if they give it. About the length, the S43 can handle my Acebeam protected 18650 where the S42 tube doesn’t have a chance with anything but unprotected cells. I get what maukka is doing but it’s not apples to apples. Two of those can run an 18350 too including the S43S; you’ll lose it in your pocket it’s so small with that tube.

I like to personally compare this field of torch to a P60. Yes I know they’re drop-ins, but until recently it’s what we had to buy and I have no desire to go back. My point is we’re still carrying the P60 mentality every time it’s said this is slippery, however I’d like to see some knurling too, in this case yea it’s slippery and needs some knurling. It mattered more with a P60 size; unless you have tiny hands it’s impossible not to grab the S43 by the tube and tail, and unless you just had bacon, it’s not too bad but it is.

I had owned an EC65 and I passed it off first chance I got. It was much less bright than my S42 and than yours looks by a lot. We’re also comparing a $27 S43S to a $130 EC65 here, though the Acebeam is waaaay overpriced. Yes this comparison includes both length and output because they’re both mentioned in the review and you’re paying for both by a huge margin on the EC65. I’m not even gonna start on the feature list like poor UIs any other down sides with the others since maukka didn’t, but the list could be rather long including no moonlight, poor mode spacing, green beam, no protected cells and no RVP, bad parasitic drain, price….and so on.

Nokoff..still Made in China

maukka
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I wasn’t told this was a pre-production light, just that the factory messed up with the bezel. But of course I can’t know if something else has changed since. I’m getting the S43 soon as well and will update this post for any possible changes when I’ve tested that.

edit: if a company sends a light to a reviewer, I expect it to be at least at the level of quality the consumer can expect. Unless it’s DOA or dies before I’ve completed all the tests, I’ll publish the review.

BlueSwordM
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Yeah. Is it possible for him to have gotten a pre-production unit?

He also got a smooth bezel, while the production unit doesn’t have one.

maukka
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I’ve edited the conclusion part of my review to better reflect my feelings. While my original verdict might have seemed negative, it’s not a bad light by any stretch. I’m especially happy about the level of improvement from the S42.

Still, it’s an inefficient 7135+FET with some icing (charging, NarsilM, copper) on top, which is of course perfectly fine for its low price.

zak.wilson
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maukka wrote:
edit: if a company sends a light to a reviewer, I expect it to be at least at the level of quality the consumer can expect. Unless it’s DOA or dies before I’ve completed all the tests, I’ll publish the review.

I once published a review where the light died before completing the testing. The manufacturer did not get back to me within two weeks after I reported that it died.

“Cons: doesn’t work”

Ceilingbounce – flashlight testing and runtime graphs for Android

SKV89
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Thanks for another excellent review. Despite some unfortunate shortcomimgs, it is alot better than the S41 and S42 that I have, which costed more. I like how they beefed up the copper for better heatsinking. I wish the efficiency was higher but at this pricepoint, cant really expect that.

Tom6
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What ti mean exactly less efficient maukka?In which era?My english didnt help me.Thanks

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varbos wrote:
Thanks for review, very thorough and honest. It convinced me to cancel pre-order.

what in particular made you cancel?

never fear shadows…it means a light shines nearby

maukka
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Got a production sample of the Astrolux S43. Its tint is practically identical to the S43S reviewed here (CCT 100K higher and duv about 0.0010 points greener). Output on turbo is about 5% lower. 7135 output (90 lumens) and efficacy are also similar to the S43S, so there is no real change in performance.

While the S43S does have the awesome copper head, I do like the light construction of the S43.

Here is the first 1.5 minutes on turbo comparing the two. I used fresh new 30Q batteries, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable to the original review, which was done with cells cycled many times. These new ones have a lower internal resistance which explains the higher lumens on a FET light.

Also, since it’s not possible to adjust the stepdown temperature accurately in NarsilM, these are just with factory defaults.

gehrmo
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Great beamshots the second location is perfect to show the difference between these lights.

nokoff
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Thanks for following up maukka. 50 second of turbo is a good reason to go Copper, I didn’t expect that long.

Bill got 3300 lumens and flashaholics reported in the same area and others were mentioned to be around 2500 at turn on. I don’t see anyone mentioned ANSI. What accounts for those differences do you know? Must be more than battery.

Nokoff..still Made in China

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Two things, or perhaps 3:

1. Difference in LED bins. There can be as much as a 7% brightness difference between bins.

2. Spring compression/battery size. It can make a huge improvement in conductivity, especially since these are copper alloy springs. If a coil touches another one, there will be a non negligible compression bypass, meaning resistance will be lowered, and current will be upped. A button top can help with this due to the additionnal height.

3. Most importantly, maukka has a ANSI calibrated light setup. Most of us don’t, like flashaholics.

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nokoff wrote:
What accounts for those differences do you know?

A lot of people have uncalibrated light measurement devices without a proper shape for accurate integration. Their results are still useful, but can be off by quite a bit. The amount of inaccuracy in most cases is unknown.

Flashaholics is known to report significantly higher numbers than reality, and uses a very odd measurement device so the readings can’t be scaled down by a consistent ratio to get accurate numbers.

Maukka has a calibrated integrating sphere, and reports some of the most accurate numbers available. When in doubt, trust maukka’s numbers.

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aginthelaw wrote:

what in particular made you cancel?

I want a light with good thermal throttling.

My Emisar D4 is retarded – if I set the thermal limit so that it behaves well (neither gets too hot nor steps down excessively) in the medium lumen range then it burns my fingers if I accidentally ramp too high.
If I set the thermal sufficiently limit low so that turbo can be safely used, then the light behaves too conservatively the medium lumen range – stepping down too fast and too much.

I was hoping that due to:
a) the large(ish) mass of copper (and generally a light that seems way bigger than it needs to)
b) user-configurable ceiling (remove the possibility of accidentally going too high)
c) the fact that its 2018 and thermal throttling should improve over time due to lessons learned etc

that S43S would be right for me. But according to review, it is not. It gets hot enough to burn, then steps down to 95 lumen and never steps back up. Basically the worst of both worlds, somehow even worse than the D4.

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uff..after the turbo limit it never goes back to the maximum? there are no circles?it can be used for maximum just once?

EDC- Jetbeam E40R,Astrolux S43S,Amutorch AX3,AX2

Headlamp-Thrunite th30

varbos
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vresto wrote:
uff..after the turbo limit it never goes back to the maximum? there are no circles?it can be used for maximum just once?

You can see the behaviour here:
https://i.imgur.com/zA5LUr7.png
From turbo it takes 50s to step down. Some people are saying this is great – for me this is very bad if it reaches burning temperatures during this period (which he reports it does).
From there it goes down rapidly, eventually settling at 95 lumen (after 2 min) and never goes back up.
From top of ramp it fares not much better, eventually settling on 95 lumen after 3 min.

Of course you can manually go back up (to turbo) but for me this is beside the point.

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okok.thanks)

EDC- Jetbeam E40R,Astrolux S43S,Amutorch AX3,AX2

Headlamp-Thrunite th30

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As varbos said, turbo is always available, it’s just direct drive so the output depends on the battery voltage under load. With a 30Q at 50% state of charge, it’s about 1600 lumens.

With high discharge batteries, the S43 and S43S will actually shut down from overheating. This happens shorty after they’ve stepped down to the ~95 lumen level.

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varbos wrote:
My Emisar D4 is retarded – if I set the thermal limit so that it behaves well (neither gets too hot nor steps down excessively) in the medium lumen range then it burns my fingers if I accidentally ramp too high.

What firmware is this in your D4? If stock try Anduril, it has a lot updates regarding thermal management.

varbos
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g_damian wrote:

What firmware is this in your D4? If stock try Anduril, it has a lot updates regarding thermal management.


I have been planning to try it someday. I think putting a ramp ceiling would help a lot. The problem currently is that towards the top of the ramp it is just too capable of rapidly generating huge amounts of thermal energy. So I need to configure a very low thermal limit…which then kicks in prematurely during normal mid-ramp usage.
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varbos wrote:
g_damian wrote:
What firmware is this in your D4? If stock try Anduril, it has a lot updates regarding thermal management.
I have been planning to try it someday. I think putting a ramp ceiling would help a lot. The problem currently is that towards the top of the ramp it is just too capable of rapidly generating huge amounts of thermal energy. So I need to configure a very low thermal limit...which then kicks in prematurely during normal mid-ramp usage.

Thermal mgt has never been a top priority for me, as many of you may know. Of course it's really about the amps&volts (i.e. watts/power), causing the heat problems. Two things that don't go together: EDC size pocket burning power and true thermal regulation control. Zebra claims a true PID, so in theory if they do it well, should be wayyy better thermally controlled. Dr Jones also developed a pretty good PID based algorithm for thermal control, but not sure if it's used in a high powered driver (high performance FET). Of course Zebra and Dr Jones are commercially selling lights and drivers/firmware, very much unlike me.

I'm sure Anduril would do better, but not sure how well in this particular light, and again, depends on what you want for max output vs. max temp, how automated/manual you want the control to be, etc. If Anduril still is using the built-in Attiny85 temp sensor, it's got some major limitations. For the S43S, copper makes a great heat absorber, taking the heat away from the LEDs, but that's also part of the problem with copper - the heat is retained and held longer.

 

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Oh boy, I think I see why the S43S is so inefficient. Measure the lumens of the stock S43S setup on the 0.35 amp mode (from mode sets), max 7135, then remove the black bezel and lens, and re-measure lumens - it's ok, the plastic optics stays in place. Mine (219C version) goes from 102 lumens to about 132 lumens -- that's a 30% jump!!

Yikes! Then compare a D4 to the S43S head from head view, here's the differences:

  • D4 is wider overall
  • S43S LEDs are closer to each other
  • S43S optics have a wider cup then the D4's
  • The D4's optic cups are all inside the bezel, no clipping, while the S43S's cups are all clipped off, covered by the bezel's edge

Besides the above, would Astrolux use better optics and AR lens than Hank would? No I don't think so. Hank's optics are Carclo optics, high efficiency, what optic does Astrolux use? It's a non-standard size, they don't say, so who knows. Needless to say, I'm sure there's additional loses coming from the lens and optics. But the big drop is from the optics being overlapped by the bezel and partially blocking the cups.

Unfortunately since the optics are a smaller diameter than standard quads, there's no easy way to mod/upgrade the S43S, least I know of. If the height would work out, might be better using a triple board and optics - this should at least clear the bezel.

cry Well, the copper is at least purty cool, mostly - mine has some nasty discoloration on the top edge above the switch by the bezel frown.

 

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That also means the potential lumen numbers are off by 30%!

Maybe the 2600 lumen numbers weren’t so inaccurate after all.

Jerommel
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Some cheaper AR coatings cause losses too.

Q

Tom E
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S43S optic is 1.70 mm thick while the Carclo is 0.89 mm thick. S43S has 2 thin posts that easily break (yes, I broke one trying to remove it), Carclo has 4 thick posts (never broke one). I dunno why I spend the money on these quad Astrolux's - I got a dead S42 in pieces, and now this one. The cheap price combined with shiny copper I guess, too tempting.

Well, went ahead and ordered the 18650 tubes and replacement optics... Ugh, for losing roughly 25% in output for no good reason at all, except a poor optics/bezel design. Maybe I can strip the ano off the bezel, dremel/sand down the bezel to remove the lip and epoxy down the optics, while tossing the lens altogether.

 

Well, I hope someone somewhere can tell Banggood/Astrolux their optic/bezel arrangement used in their S42, and now the latest S43S is greatly lacking. I guess they never got the message on the S42 before.

 

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