Review: Lumintop/TLF/BLF FW3A

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Narmattaru
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Review: Lumintop/TLF/BLF FW3A

I think that many BLF members are aware of the release of this little forum product. and list on “i`m gonna buy it” is really long.

Neal from Nealgadget offered it to me for review. You can buy FW3A from him, there is a 20% discount code NDFW3A

and you also can add some luxury to this flashlight with glowing gasket, check it here

2019_06_upd
Neal added SST20 4000K 90CRI and FW3C copper body to store as options
the same code RUFW3A

What is FW3A? For those who still do not know – this is an extremely compact 1×18650 flashlight. F is of “Fritz15”, a guy from TLF, who stands beside this flashlight.

specs
Emitter: Three LEDs on a copper DTP MCPCB e.g.
Cree XP-L HI 3D(NW 5000K) and Cree XP-L HI 7A(WW 3300K) LED
Cree XP-L HI 1A(CW 6500K)
Optic: Standard TIR Carclo 10511 (matte)
Lens: Glass with anti-reflective coating
Flux: ~2800 lm (XP-L Hi)
Intensity: ~12 500 cd ANSI throw ~223 m (XP-L Hi)
Firmware: The FW3A uses free software called Anduril,
distributed under the terms of the GPL v3. Code is available from
http://tiny.cc/TKAnduril
User interfaces: [1] By default the FW3A is set to use SMOOTH RAMPING.
Instant access to TURBO mode is also provided.
[2] A more conventional STEPPED RAMPING UI is available if you
like discrete modes level. You can choose how many steps you want.
[3] MOMENTARY mode is useful for signaling purposes or rapidly/briefly
lighting up targets. To exit this mode, physically disconnect power
[4] MUGGLE mode uses a reduced output.
[5] It has an electronic LOCKOUT for safety, but acts also as momentary
low light.Other functions: Battery check, sunset, beacon,
tactical strobe, party strobe, bike flasher, candlelight, lightning storm
Battery: One flat-top or button-top 18650 cell. An unprotected cell is recommended.
Max. length 66 mm. Cell is not included.
Driver: FET+7+1 driver. Low parasitic drain while OFF
Body: Aluminum with hard-coat anodizing
Switch: Electronic tail switch
Ingress rating: Equivalent to IPX7
Weight: Approximately 53 g without cells
Size: 25.5 mm O head x 92.5 mm length._

I borrowed that data below from this nice (as usuallu) review of the Maukka. The review is extremely detailed, but I still tried to highlight something of the overlooked, in particular, some runtime charts and give idea of performance by offering you lots of photos in lots of modes.

PACKAGE AND APPEARANCE

Lumintop again, as for some other BLF flashlights, produced this one. So package is kept in Lumintop modest style. Nevertheless, package is accurate and doesnt leave impression of something cheap, no feeling of noname basement factory product.

So, the flashlight is packed in a beige cardboard box, which is still wearing a “cover”.

Inside there is a complete set in white foam rubber: the flashlight itself, large sheet of manual, o-rings. Optionally, you can order another 30Q battery.


The appearance of a flashlight matches the package. It is quite modest, I would say austere. But at the same time, looking at the flashlight, you immediately understand that this is not some kind of noname odd thing. For me, this appearance leaves a clear feeling of limited forum release. So , i believe that process of design was guided mainly by the functionality, and the appearance does not play such an important role.

But, of course, the FW3A cannot be called an ugly flashlight. It is not beautiful, but not ugly. I think you understand the difference.


Here it is, from all sides.

 
Perhaps the most important characteristic of the exterior of a flashlight is its size. It would be very appropriate to compare it with DQG 18650 tiny, but alas … Anyway, the flashlight is extremely compact. For almost 5 years, to this point, my pocket flashlight has been XTAR WK 31, 14500 powered – really not impressive by modern standards of brightness. So, the FW3A, being a 18650 flashlight, is entirely comparable in size with it! For complete clarity, here’s a comparison with well-known all standards.

I think that if someone did not think about it before, now he will understand what this means, in the matter of the stated brightness. I mean what this ration brightness\size leads to…

Well, now more detailed.

The flashlight is controlled by the tail button, of course not the usual simple one, like in Convoy. The round mid sized metal button lies in a small recess, it does not bulge out. It is quite convenient, with a perceptible click.


It is really easy to disassemble it.




Technically, you can also remove the clip. But! Here is an important point. It is recommended (there is even a special paper with a reminder) not to twist the tailcap, but to unscrew the head. All for maximum contact. Although, it is possible to twist the taicap relatively easily, due to tenacious knurling

Thought the body itself is smooth, but for it`s clip and small dimensions the grip is quite reliable.


The spring in the tail is thick enough. It is bordered with a slip ring for an additional sleeve (the fact of the presence of which surprised me here, I am used to seeing such in tactical flashlights)

The threads on the tail are small, excellent lubricated. Machinizing, although is not a masterpiece of complexity, but is neat.

And, mentioned above, this inner sleeve to pass signal from button.

In general, the whole flashlight is divided into three parts.

Like tailcap, the head can be twisted easily enough again due to grippy knurling.
.

Threads here are larger than at tail, and the lubricant is graphite.

Due to its compact size, it is worthwhile to reasonably approach the strength of the head twisting. I would not risk and would not use protected button top batteries, so as not to push the driver into the head, it can crack.

By the way, my copy of the flashlight differs in the color of the driver from the one that came to the review to Maukka.

The wide bezel twists without problems, exposing insides. There is some kind of carclo optics. I have never dealt with it, so I will not even try to determine which one it is, I will limit myself here to photographs and measurements. If you know – pls write in comments.

By the way, currently only XPL-Hi is available.

Appearance of this tripple looks, of course, attractive.



and still. you can make it look even better , installing glowing gasket. check it here

And finally – a full X-ray of the insides. Supposedly, everything inside should look like at this pic. Although, judging by what I see, there are still differences: pic shows contact plate, while, in reality, there is a spring at head.

UI

the same Sauron’s enemy – flexible Anduril.
UI, given the fact that it is carried out with one button – very flexible. In principle, if you are interested in this model, then I will not tell you anything new about UI…

I liked that here switching between these two types of modes is very simple, in three clicks, like having some light in lock-in mode,

full manual is here

PEFRORMANCE

Suppose, there should be other LEDs available, i got trio of XPL-HI 5500K.

CT suits me, on the whole. I- understand that the refusal of 4000k NW here is conscious, due to lower energy efficiency.- The flashlight, as is, already gets rapidly heated as hell , and with a NW the thermal cutoff threshold would be at quite high temperatures to compensate this. Although maybe I’m wrong (i was, see comment of Toykeeper).

Here is my boring beamshot, Maukka has everything in the review as detailed as possible. Is that I will give a comparison with S2 + 4×7135 XM-L2 6500K so that you can evaluate in which mode (I mean stepped ramp with default settings) FW3A corresponds to it. I noticed that there is no turbo here, but it was to late to reshoot pics, there were too many rainy days last weeks to wait for next clear evening. anyway, 7\7 mode (ceiling in ramping mode) is really close to it.

No visible PWM shimmering

Voltage cutoff is somewhere 2.9v. in general, the flashlight, approaching this level, works in a VERY dim mode. So you can discharge to zero only if you forget to turn off the flashlight or intentionally do it when you need some light more.

And here is the interesting. Heating and thermoregulation. The flashlight, I repeat, is comparable in size to the AA \ 14500 flashlight. And the output of them differs dramatically. So it’s clear how much can generate FW3A … And it does generate. Anduril allows you to calibrate the temperature sensor (in my case it was configured correctly) and set the thermoregulation threshold above the default level of 45 degrees. So, it seems like a 45 degrees is too low, right?

In fact, in the same 7th mode (there are seven of them by default in stepped ramp), it heats up until you can harldy hold it with your bare hand! Yes, and the 6th mode is not really pleasant enough, but at least you can keep it.

So, It is necessary to adequately evaluate the maximum brightness (both ceiling and turbo), Because it warms the body so quickly that the stepdown happens quickly and it becomes painful to hold.

Usually, I use a 14,500 flashlight in a mode no more than 300 lum – that is enough for me for most of common situations. And due to the same dimensions, I perceive the FW3A as the same 14500 flashlight good with a stock of additional runtime, not the additional brightness . On the same 300-500 lum this flashlight will be both stabilized and long-playing. If you need something brighter, I would look at some other larger flashlight which can sustain brighter modes.


I am quite satisfied with the spacing of modes. 7 levels of brightness here cover almost all usual needs.

Oh yeah, here (bravo!) FET + 7+1! I somehow got used to the fact that all these narsil or-andurili are bad in terms of the minimum threshold for full stabilization, the brightness there is far from a flat line on the graph. That`s why i`d pick simpler UI with flat runtime to flexible ui with its zigzags slow descending.

FW3A is so much better in matter of stabilization! Here is my measurements. Everyhting is cool, i dont only understand how 7th mode works almost as long as 6th mode. I measured each of them like 3 times (actually i did like 25 tests, overall)- the result is the same. Used 30Q.

In general, in real use, I would not rise above 5-6 mode. Believe, that` is enough.

Maukka, having the ability to more accurately measure the output of the flashlight, draw attention to the maximum brightness, which may difffer due to a lot of factors. Since turbo works for a really short time (due to heating drops it down), this can be neglected.

Well, here are my outdoor pics. What can I say, there is a stunning turbo brightness, but de facto it’s for 5 seconds, just quickly look around.
though in some situation even 5 sec of turbo will seriously help you out.

In fact, i consider something suitable for use to be around 400-500 lumens. And this is quite good, this brightness quite, quite suits me. For the walk around light that is enough.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

If you understand exactly what you are buying, then there will be no surprises and you will like the flashlight. For me, the fast threshold for triggering the stepdown was not a (unpleasant) surprise like the small size of the flashlight (pleasant). Somehow alive last one turned out to be less than expected.

With such modest size , real useful brightness of FW3A more than suited me. As well as thought of and flexible UI.

I would not use ramping mode since it will be difficult for me to pick the brightness where the flashlight will not be excessively hot (if you didnt set ceiling at lower level). In the case of the default stepped ramp, this problem does not exist, and I know that there is mostly no need to climb above 5-6 modes.

So , If you need an extremely compact 18650 flashlight, then here it is. Bright, convenient and useful. I seriously think that FW3a will replace my WK41, because being the same compact it has significantly longer runtime at the same 300-400 lumens level + i have decent celing\turbo here for urgent needs.

"How to choose flashlight, Main things in simple words":http://budgetlightforum.com/node/68418

Edited by: Narmattaru on 06/13/2019 - 06:00
Boro
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Very nice review, thank you !
Henk4U2
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This sums it all up in quite some detail. Very nice review of a very nice light.
A light that is not conceived and slapped together in one rainy afternoon.
A light that I start admiring more and more whilst using it more and more.

IMHO it has one weak side: the size makes it vulnerable for deviations in manufacturing tolerances.
For the rest: it is perfect as it is. Don’t change it a bit (eh…. maybe an SS bezel?).

Does anybody know a way to add this gem to the standard equipment of the Avengers?
This could very well be the only flashlight that does not compromise Scarlett Johansson’s outfit.

You are a flashaholic if you are forced to come out of the closet, to make room for more flashlights.

M3CSL
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Thanks for the review. It is good to read reviews even though many are reviewing the same product, the views are always individual and varying slightly.

I like this light.

Convoy S2+ 219b triple, Astrolux FT02, Maglite 3D, Solarforce L2t

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Just a few minor corrections…

Quote:
in other models there was access to the turbo from mode set, and here it is only from ramping mode.

There is no “mode set”. It has a smooth ramp and a stepped ramp. Both styles provide access to turbo, using a double click while the light is on.

Quote:
I understand that the refusal of 4000k NW here is conscious, due to lower energy efficiency.

This is false. 4000K was not refused, it just is not in stock yet. It was delayed because the plan is to use SST-20 4000K 95CRI, and those have been difficult to get.

Quote:
FET + 7!

FET+7+1

Quote:
I would not use ramping mode since it will be difficult to pick the brightness where the flashlight will not be excessively hot

There is a reference blink in the smooth ramp, every time it passes the edge of a power channel. When it goes from 1×7135 to 8×7135, there is a blink. When it goes from 8×7135 to FET, there is a blink. This helps give the user an idea where they are on the ramp. The entire bottom half of the ramp should run cold enough that no thermal regulation is needed.

Quote:



For what it’s worth, the light is designed for a cigar grip. It works in the two other styles shown here, but those are not what it was built for.

Narmattaru
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well, that is not a minor , definetely. -)

just checked flashlight. really, i missed that facts that you noticed. will fix it in review.

thanx.

"How to choose flashlight, Main things in simple words":http://budgetlightforum.com/node/68418

gregor
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Very nice.
Thank you

Narmattaru
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Neal added SST20 4000K 90CRI and FW3C copper body to store as options
the same code RUFW3A

"How to choose flashlight, Main things in simple words":http://budgetlightforum.com/node/68418

AnhTran
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Tempted to get this, but i already have a few D4. What is the advantage of this light over the D4?

Narmattaru
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as i decided not to buy D4, i cannot give you answer

"How to choose flashlight, Main things in simple words":http://budgetlightforum.com/node/68418

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I think the eswitch in the tail makes this light unique. It is not something you see very often and if you prefer tail switches without losing all the functionality of an e-switch, this would be a great light.

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It is really a toss up. I alternate between the two. Now that the D4 is offered Anduril , it comes down to the switch.

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AnhTran wrote:
Tempted to get this, but i already have a few D4. What is the advantage of this light over the D4?

i think fw3a is smaller
plus andruil
prettier
doesn;t have that square 4-led head, the head is nicely round

maybe it is cheaper?

made by lumintop, who makes the d4?

wle

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Interestingly enough I can't get the same runtime as you got. 

Last time I wasted about 4 hours of waiting for the runtime test to finish.I waited till after midnight, couldnt stay awake any longer,  so I stopped it and went to bed. 

Now giving it a second shot, and I'm already at 7 hours (started in Max output, not Turbo) and it dropped to about 20% quickly, and now is still running... But today I want to go to bed on time :D..  LOL. 

Man.. when is this thing going to run out of juice! I'm at 400 minutes now.

edit: I'm at about 450 minutes and it finally starts to drop...pff. that is more than 7 hours of waiting... 

klrman
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ChibiM wrote:

Interestingly enough I can't get the same runtime as you got. 

Last time I wasted about 4 hours of waiting for the runtime test to finish.I waited till after midnight, couldnt stay awake any longer,  so I stopped it and went to bed. 

Now giving it a second shot, and I'm already at 7 hours (started in Max output, not Turbo) and it dropped to about 20% quickly, and now is still running... But today I want to go to bed on time :D..  LOL. 

Man.. when is this thing going to run out of juice! I'm at 400 minutes now.

edit: I'm at about 450 minutes and it finally starts to drop...pff. that is more than 7 hours of waiting... 

 

450 minutes at 400 lumens?

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No klrman, 

that would have been my dream Wink 

It's only at about 160 lumens... 

FoxAdriano
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Hi, I finally decided to buy the Lumintop FW3A. But I don’t know which one and I’d like to ask some questions:
1) Which are the differences between 3 CREE XP-L HI and SST-20 version?
2) Is the SST-20 version newer than 3 CREE XP-L HI version? I can’t understand if it’s already on the market. If it is so, how many months is it newer?
3) If I use turbo for few seconds, is SST-20 less powerful about lumens?
4) I’m really undecided whic model to buy, which do you recommend between 3 CREE XP-L HI and SST-20 version? Which of both do you like more?
5) If you suggest me to buy the Luminus SST-20, where can I buy it in Europe?
Thank you very much to clear my ideas.

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FoxAdriano wrote:
Hi, I finally decided to buy the Lumintop FW3A. But I don’t know which one and I’d like to ask some questions: 1) Which are the differences between 3 CREE XP-L HI and SST-20 version? 2) Is the SST-20 version newer than 3 CREE XP-L HI version? I can’t understand if it’s already on the market. If it is so, how many months is it newer? 3) If I use turbo for few seconds, is SST-20 less powerful about lumens? 4) I’m really undecided whic model to buy, which do you recommend between 3 CREE XP-L HI and SST-20 version? Which of both do you like more? 5) If you suggest me to buy the Luminus SST-20, where can I buy it in Europe? Thank you very much to clear my ideas.

Hi FoxAdriano!

The main difference between xpl hi and sst20 is in tint, CRI and output.
If you want maximum output, I would get the xpl hi 1D (cool) or 3A (neutral).
If you want CRI, with a neutral (4000k) tint, I would choose SST 20. CRI refers to the similarity between the led spectrum and a true white (black body) emision. Better CRI will yield better colour distinguishing ability (although there is debate in the forum, some people just prefer some leds with lower cri if they have more desirable tints, it is a matter of tastes). This advantage comes with the tradeoff of a lower output, not because the led is older or outdated, but because of the different phosphors needed for a more uniform spectrum. Note that in practice, the 1600 lumens of the SST 20 will be very similar to the 2800 of the neutral xpl hi, because you perceive the light logarithmically.
Xpl hi 7a is warm white, like a warm light bulb, and will have a lower output than the neutral, and a CRI arround 80 (I think).
I have the 7a myself because I like the warm tint as I think it is more gentle for my eyes at night, but it is just preference.
I think that you cannot buy the FW3A from Europe, I bought it from Neal (nealsgadgets), with the forum code, and shipping was fast, although for some people it wasn’t.
I hope I help you choosing the right one.

FoxAdriano
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I’m sorry but I don’t understand your acronysms. I read on the FW3A specifications “Cree XP-L HI 3D(NW 5000K)” and it is a neutal white, I don’t see “3A” on any specifications.
Could you explain better please?

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FoxAdriano wrote:
I’m sorry but I don’t understand your acronysms. I reand on the FW3A specifications “Cree XP-L HI 3D(NW 5000K)” and it is a neutal white, I don’t see “3A” on any specifications. Could you explain better please?

Maybe you should just read the forum and discover things like different emitters tint etc. There are great threads about these subjects. Just use the search bar for “fw3a” “tint” “tint chart” “cri”.
Have fun reading and learning!

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Probably a typo, these are the choices

Emitters: 3 x LEDS on Copper DTP MCPCB Cree XP-L HI 1A (Cool White 6500K) Cree XP-L HI 7A (Warm White 3300K) Cree XP-L HI 3D (Neutral White 5000K) Luminous SST-20 (Neutral White 4000K 95+ CRI) Nichia 219C (Neutral White 4000K 90+ CRI)

If you want lumens then get the Cree (2800 lumens on turbo) but the colors will be white and washed out, SST-20 (1600 lumens on turbo) will be warmer tint and yellow but the color will be more true/better. I don’t have any experience with Nichia so I can’t say anything, but it’ll probably be the same as SST-20 warmer tint. No the SST-20 isn’t newer just different LEDs. Also the SST-20 will run hotter than the Cree so less turbo time, but you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

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FoxAdriano
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Ok, but why there is the nomenclature Luminous SST-20 (Neutral White 4000K 95+ CRI)? I know it is no neutral but enough red. Please, what does it mean Nichia 219C (Neutral White 4000K 90+ CRI)? Is it more neutral than Luminous SST-20?
Thank you.

atobe
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It’s who makes the LEDs and what they call it. Why is this car called Toyota Camry and why is that one called Honda Civic.

You’re going to have to search and look at different beamshots of each LEDs output and determine which one you like for yourself.

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FoxAdriano
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atobe wrote:
You’re going to have to search and look at different beamshots of each LEDs output and determine which one you like for yourself.

Sure, but I don’t know where searching. I did a try on youtube but it is hard to find all the beam colours.

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Hi FoxAdriano
Sorry if I was too technical, I am used to this terms and do it without thinking.
Basically it’s the following:
Maximum intensity: XPL-Hi 1A for cool white (white that tends to the blue side of white) or XPL-Hi 3D for neutral (white that should be not too blue, not too yellow)
For best colours, but less light(1600 vs 2800 lumens), you can choose SST-20 4000k or nichia 219. Those are neutral white 4000k (also not too yellow, not too blue, but a little bit to the yellow side). The nichia will have a wider beam, but will have less reach. SST 20 will have a narrower beam and reach further.
For a warm white beam (like a light bulb, white that tends to yellow), choose XPL-Hi 7A.
I think that now it is a bit more clear. I myself would choose SST 20 4000k if I were you unless you know you want cool or warm white. You will try a high CRI light, and know its benefits by trying it (high CRI just means in real world that colours will be easier to distinguish, a “better quality” light)
I hope It is now more clear to you. If you browse the forum you will encounter those terms very frequently.
P.D: The 3D or 3A is a typo, the second letter is just a reference to the specific bin (the exact “tone” of the white), but in general, for the XPL-Hi that we are refering to here, if it starts in 1 it is cool white, if it starts in 3 is neutral, and if it starts in 7 it is warm. Numbers in between mean colour temperatures in between.

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Basically, pick a color temperature from 3300K (warm white / yellow) to 6500K (cold white / blue). That’s the most important and most visible factor. It comes in four CCTs:

  • ~3300K: XP-L HI 7A
  • ~4000K: SST-20 or 219C
  • ~5000K: XP-L HI 3D
  • ~6500K: XP-L HI 1A

If there’s only one LED choice at that color temperature, you’re done. Otherwise, dive a little deeper.

The 4000K option has two LED choices — SST-20 or 219C. The SST-20 is a little more throwy, and the 219C is a little more floody. Unfortunately though, I’ve tried both in this light, and they both have a green tint at most brightness levels. Yuck. That’s highly dependent on your individual perception though, and many people are fine with it.

My favorite is XP-L HI 3D. If you have no idea what you want, it’s a good default choice. It’s a good all-around performer, and almost nobody hates 5000K. All the other options are more specialized and involve significant tradeoffs.