Review: Ultrafire M2 XR-E Q5 1xAA 6-mode
Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Battery: 1xAA (probably 14500 too) Switch: Reverse Clicky (non GITD) Modes: High - Med - Lo - Strobe - Blink - Erratic LED Type: Cree XR-E Q5 Lens: Coated Glass Reflector: Light Orange Peel Tailstands: Yes Price Payed: Sample for review (normally $15.00) Date Ordered: 14 / Sep / 2010 From: Manafont.com
- Practical, tailstandable design with clip
- Perfect mode memory
- No flickering, reliable, good overall quality
- Bright high mode
- Three worthless modes
- Wrong O-ring
- Minor paint flaws
Features / Value: ★★★★☆
The Ultrafire M2 is yet another variation of the timeless Akoray K-106 design. I have seen this Ultrafire M2 variation on a few lesser known Chinese retailers for a rather high price. It finally caught my eye when Manafont.com started offering it last month for the much more reasonable price of $15. At this point a brief disclaimer would not be amiss: This flashlight was kindly sent to me by Manafont.com expressly for review purposes. Even so, I'll try to be objective with this review. Now that I have tested this flashlight, I would probably buy the Ultrafire M2 myself for $15.00, as it represents a very good tradeoff between the $13 multi-mode lights that occasionally have quality problems, and the $19 lights that offer better features and quality. Many are familiar with the original Akoray K-106 on DX that is sold for $19.13. Most buy it in hopes of receiving the 3-mode programmable version, but instead receive the advertised 6-mode version. I am almost 100% certain that this Ultrafire is a re-branded version of that 6-mode light. As such, it offers good quality and some nice features for $4.13 less than the DX version. First of all, the design is apparently made to be tailstandable, which is a major selling point. Second, my sample is one of only three lights I own that has perfect mode memory. A deliberate click-off, click-on cycle consistently maintains the same mode no matter how quickly I click. Very well done, Ultrafire! This is a very rare find. Apart from this, I wish that the Ultrafire M2 would eliminate the three flashing modes, or at the very least maintain the fast strobe and remove the other two. The fast strobe could conceivably be used to befuddle an assailant, but I can find no use in the other two flashing modes. One of them is a paused "dit-dit..........dit-dit" pattern, and the other one is a sort of drunkenly erratic slow, "O,S,O,S,O,S" pattern. At any rate, the nice mode memory considerably reduces the annoyance of these flashing modes. Additionally, I happen to be a fan of the rather gimmicky but fascinating glow-in-the-dark switch boot and bezel O-rings of many Trustfire lights, and I wish that the M2 would include them instead of the boring black O-rings found on my sample. In summary, I would say that the Ultrafire M2 is a good balanced alternative to the multi-mode lights in the $13 - $19 price range. If they reduced the price to about $13, I would probably give the M2 a full 5-stars. As it is, it gets a strong 4-star rating in this category.
Build Quality: ★★★★☆
In general, build quality is fundamentally very good on my Ultrafire M2 sample, but not quite as stellar as a few other lights I own. For me, the most important thing is that the light be reliable out of the box without having to clean it or tighten the switch and emitter modules. This was one of my main complaints with the $13.06 Trustfire F20 flashlight. Fortunately, the M2 worked out of the box with no flickering or unwanted mode changes from shakes or knocks. The switch feels reliable. The nice long threads on the head were very well lubricated with oil and feel quite smooth. The inside of the lens and reflector is free of manufacturing smut. They even put a tiny plastic sleeve on the crook of the clip so that it doesn't scratch the body. However, there are a few small, niggling flaws that prevent me from giving it a full 5-star rating for quality. First of all, the O-ring between the body and head sections was slightly too big and stretchy. As I started to tighten down the last few turns of the head, the O-ring would start to squeeze itself out and interfere with the two mating diameters. I tried to be careful and poke it back it with my fingernail, but it got worse with more use. So I scavenged a slightly smaller O-ring from a cheapo light, and the problem is solved. But I'd prefer to not have to do this. And there should be two O-rings there between the head and the body, as the Akoray K-106 and the Trustfire F20 have. Another very minor quality concern is the paint on the smooth non-knurled part of the head. It looks sort of like a car that has been painted and then rained upon before the paint dries completely, which is probably approximately what happened in the factory. It's not too exaggerated, but my eyes notice it, and it's not quite as nice as other lights that I own. Apart from these annoyances, I like the M2. Its color is basically the same drab charcoal as the original Akoray K-106 and not the silvery olive tinged color of the Trustfire F20. The knurling is slightly less pronounced on the M2 compared to the Akoray; I think I prefer the Akoray's knurling a bit more. The single narrow patterned circumferential band on the head is different from the Akoray and Trustfire. The latter two have a knurl pattern that matches the main body pattern, whereas the Ultrafire M2 has a simple parallel hatch pattern. The diameter of the M2 is approximately 1mm larger than the Akoray / Trustfire. The Manafont measurements show the outer diameter to be 21.5mm, while the Akoray K-106 is 20.5mm. Amazingly, this 1mm difference is noticeable to a trained eye. I'm also happy that the light does not emit any noticeable whining noise as my Trustfire F20 does. So in summary, I'm happy to report that the M2 is a fundamentally reliable light with good overall quality. Hopefully other samples won't have the O-ring and paint issues. I confidently give it 4-stars.
Battery Life: ★★★☆☆
Battery life with the low mode on the Ultrafire M2 is good but not class leading. I would expect a multi-mode light in the $13 - $19 price range to give usable light on low mode with a good NiMH battery for about 20 - 24 hours. However, the low mode of the M2 is somewhat noticeably brighter than the low mode of the Trustfire F20, which hurts battery life a bit. My sample managed a respectable 14 hours on my best Eneloop. Still, the M2 impresses with its excellent, flat regulation. Probably at least 13 of the 14 hours of runtime passed by without any appreciable change in light output. The output basically just falls off a cliff toward the very end, followed by deathbed twitches of weak flashing. I would suspect that the overall efficiency of the M2's LED and driver is about the same as the Akoray or Trustfire, it just wastes a bit too much light on low mode. So in summary, the M2 doesn't excel in this ultra-important category of battery life, but it does much better than several other one-shot pocket rockets that I own. 3-stars in this category.
Light Output: ★★★★★
After careful thought and comparison with other lights, I finally gave the M2 a 5-star rating for Light Output. The light color and beam pattern is almost identical to my Akoray K-106 3-mode. That is to say, the beam pattern is has a noticeable hotspot that briefly transitions to a dim band, followed by a wider and fairly bright band surrounded by two wide outer bands of slightly different intensity. This description makes it sound worse than it really is- the beam pattern can't compete with the likes of the incredibly smooth, uniform beams from the Trustfire R5-A3 or Uniquefire AA-S1, but the beam is nowhere near as ugly as the Tank007 TK-566-5. As for the color of the beam, the term "fruity" keeps coming to mind. It is neither bluish nor yellowish, but it also isn't stark white, and it doesn't have the my favorite buttery yellow color that the Uniquefire AA-S1 exhibits. It could be that it has a slightly pink element to it. Again, it's identical to the beam color of the Akoray K-106 3-mode. It's a pretty nice color overall, it won't distract you and it gives decent detail at night. I would have given the M2 only 4-stars for the beam alone, but I also factored in its brightness level, which is excellent, even with a 1.2V cheap NiMH. Visually it appears to be right up there with the brightest of my lights- the Trustfire R5-A3, the Uniquefire AA-S1, and the Tank007 TK-566-5. Furthermore, I'm almost sure that this light will work with a 14500 battery, unlike the cheaper Trustfire F20 that tends to be damaged by a 14500. With a 14500, the M2 will probably be fearsomely bright. So although the Ultrafire M2 doesn't quite attain the highest standard of light set by the Trustfire R5-A3 and the Uniquefire AA-S1, it is nevertheless much better than many other lights in this price range. It just barely gets 5-stars in this category.
Overall, the Ultrafire M2 is a strong contender in the $13 - $19 price range. It offers better quality than the $13 lights for only $2 more, and it has uniquely functional mode memory and excellent brightness on high. It averages out to a solid 4-star rating. Congratulations to Ultrafire and Manafont for offering this competitive package.
Do you own the Ultrafire M2? Please give it your own rating below!