Review: Niteye EYE30 (3 x XM-L U2 | 2/4 18650's)

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Review: Niteye EYE30 (3 x XM-L U2 | 2/4 18650's)


Niteye is an OEM mfg for other flashlight companies and recently introduced their own light, the EYE-30. While it's a solidly built light overall with amazing output, the sample I received suffers from an Achilles Heel. Read on to see why...


MFG SPECS
MSRP: $295 USD (non-SS ring, SS ring = $299 USD)
- 3 x Cree XM-L U2 LED
- Battery: 4x/2x 18650's
- Magnetic Ring switch/dimmer
- Constant current curcuit / constant brightness
- Working voltage range: 6 - 12.6V
- WeightL 396g (excluding batteries)
- Dimesion: 145mm (D) x 6mm (L)




PACKAGING

The EYE-30 arrived in a neat aluminum box with foam cushioning:




Additional accessories included were:
- handle
- car charger
- holster

There has been mention that some people received a spare o-ring but mine didn't come with it. The manual was emailed to me as PDF, which I'll try to repost as pics later.



DESIGN & FEATURES
It'd be natural for one to draw comparisons between the EYE-30 and other 3 x XM-L's lights, however, it implements its three X-ML's differently than those on the TM11 or RRT-3. While all three XM-L's are housed in a single solid triangular head, each LED feature its own smooth reflector:


The SS bezels secure double-sided AR coated lens that I measured to be 3mm thick!


Each of the three XM-L's were well centered:

Unlike the Klarus XT20 I recently tested, they do not seem to be aimed to allow beam convergence, however, I didn't really notice any unusual beam pattern/shape as a result of this configuratoin. All two or three beams (depending on level) will nicely converge into a single unified beam w/sufficient distance from wall/object being shone at.

Just aft of the trio of XM-L's and at each "corner" of the EYE-30 are cooling fins that should do an OK job of cooling the light, however I don't feel that the thermal transfer path from the LED's to the fins are optimal (more on this later):

The EYE-30's entire finish features a texture pattern akin to concrete.

The head features three flat sides that are adorned by a specific functionality on each. One bears the charging/battery indicator:


Another bears the charging port:

The port has a rubber cover plugged into it that must be removed in order to plug in the charger. While there is a polarity indicator symbol, the positive/negative indicators are missing (center tip is positive).

Last but not least, the mount for the handle features prominently on the last flat side and normally has a screw "plug" which must be removed in order to attach the handle:

Incidentally, the "Princess Leia" motif is not merely just for aestheics but rather serves to keep the handle aligned via the matching pattern on the handle side. There is however a very slight amount of play even with the screw tightened all the way. Not an issue for me but might be for ODC types...

The handle itself is comprised of three "parts" - anodized screw, washer, handle:

The screw has a gap between the head and the tip of the screw that is without thread and needs to be threaded into the handle first. I felt this was a good feature since it helps keep the screw on the handle and reduces the likelihood of it being lost.

Subjectively, the over-sized body colored screw offers a nice contrast to the Al one and really adds to the overall aesthetics:


The control ring (amongst other design elements on the EYE-30) bears an uncanny resemblance to another well regarded manufactuer that first featured it. I don't know if they manufacturer lights for them or not. The tolerances are very tight w/nearly no gap between the ring and the body head on either end. Incidentally, the circumference of the control ring protrudes just a tad bit past the flat edge thus not allowing it lay perfectly flat and causing a little wobble.

The head is finished off with a smooth section featuring no design elements.

The body of the EYE-30 is canister like and potentially a single solid piece w/an Al end cap:

It features three "sides" that have a rectangular texture pattern with the middle empty to allow for laser engraving in which case one of the three features the mfg logo and web addy, the other bears the model and misc text and the last is not engraved.

While the EYE-30 is rechargeable, it is achieved solely through the dedicated charging port. The reason why I emphasize this is that while the base of the light features a conductive (at least around the edges) Al "cap", the center is plastic? and non-conductive unlike the V60C:


Unscrewing the body from the head, one will find square-cut threads that were amply greased"

The "base" of the head does not feature a spring (nor is it required given the battery carrier set up but more on that later).

There is a huge spring at the base of the body which can be removed for whatever reason:


The battery carrier was designed w/room to spare; the width between the cathode legs measure 20mm and there are what look to be robust springs that measure 12.2mm uncompressed and 2.9mm compressed:


This should allow accomodation of cells of various lengths and diameter:

Given there is a little room for play involved, one needs to "center" the batteries so that they do not obstruct ingress when inserting the carrier into the tube.

The carrier is wired so that the anode/cathode are redundant on either end allowing it to be inserted without regard for polarity (the batteries themselves however still need to be inserted in the correct polarity):

Both ends are identical as per above; there is a central "floating" brass anode plate and the exterior rim carries the cathode path.

The "legs" of the carrier not only provide structural support but the four outer legs carry the cathode path and the single center leg carries the anode path. The carrier is wired in 2S2P and thus puts out a total of 8.4V from either 2x or 4x 18650's (thus doubling the capacity of the paired cells w/the latter configuration). Side B wires 2 cells in series (2S) and Side A wires the two pairs of cells in parallel (2P):


To elaborate, here's a pic indicating how it's wired:


This also allows the light to run on just two cells (see runtime section for further details), in which case given there isn't enough weight to compress the spring at the bottom of the tube, it'll cause the carrier to tilt and care must be taken to not catch the rim between the head and tube when threading the body on:

L: carrier w/2 x 18650's | R: carrier fully loaded w/4 x 18650's

There are little anode tips on the carrier which allow the use of flat-tops, however, one needs to be careful during battery removal so as not to catch the heat shrink on it:


The light was supplied with a holster (more to come...)


SIZE

From L to R: RediLast 18650 | Niteye EYE-30 | Sunwayman V60C | FoxFury Rook CheckMate | ThruNite TN11 | Klarus XT20

The light is definitely one chunky mutha and even more so than the V60C as can be seen above. The main diameter of the tube measures 47.5mm (1.87") but flares out to 51.4mm (2.02") at the base and 61.8mm (2.43") at the widest point of the head:


While I don't have any problems with the size, those w/physical ailments with their hands/wrists might (so definitely something to consider before purchasing) in which case, the handle might prove useful:


The size alone isn't the real story here but rather the full weight; the battery carrier alone w/4x 18650's loaded weighs 8.79oz (249.3g) and the rest of the EYE-30 w/the handle mounted weighs 12.86oz (364.5g) for a combined total of 21.65oz (613.77g). To draw a comparison, that is just shy of two 12oz soda cans' weight!



FIT & FINISH
The overall construction of the light is excellent (considering that they manufacturer for other companies, I would've expected no less). The anodized finish on my smaple was flawless and evenly matched between head, body and handle:

Flash intentionally used to highlight any mismatches in anodizing but none were found.

I didn't notice any anodizing missing between the crevices in the texture:


All engravings were nice and sharp:


I did however note what looks to be excessive glue applied to hold the end cap in place:


The charging port also looks to be glued in place:

Its durability may be of concern over the long run especially given the temeratures this light is able to achieve. There's also the matter that this light is rated to IPX-8 and I have doubts this port is water tight (especially w/the rubber plug removed).

The control ring clicks nicely between each detent (except at each extreme end where there are none) and the tube threads into the head nice and smoothly. Overall, a very well made light.

So what then is the Achilles Heel I mentioned in the intro? Well, it has to do with the control ring seizing on the very first run time test I conducted. While I didn't monitor the temp of that run, a fan was used and based on subsequent runs, the temp shouldn't have been above 120F on these runs. The first time the head seized up, I was able to unseize it w/my bare hands but with tremendous force. On the runtime test w/out fan, the ring sezied again and this time I had to use a rubber strap wrench to free it.

I decided to take the head apart to investigate what might be causing this:

There are three torx screws (T7) holding the base plate in place.

There are two circuit boards sandwiched and connected via jumper prongs. The boards look to be proprietary to Niteye and specifically designed for this light:

The charging circuit is incorporated into one of these boards.

With the base board out of the way, we now get to the smaller of the two:

All the connections in the head come to this board; 3 x B/R LED wires, 1 x B/R charging wire, 1 x R/W/G/Y/B charging/battery level indicator.

I found it interesting that the LED's were not wired directly to a board. I believe this helps the circuitry stay cooler given the limited thermal transfer via the wires:


As can be seen, the LED's sit directly on the head which should theoretically allow excellent heat transfer to the fins:

However, the location where the LED sits is roughly towards the final fin (side closest to the control ring).

In the end and despite all this, I wasn't able to access the control ring mechanism to remove it thus I wasn't able to get to the root of the issue. Regardless, I do believe it's temperature related and I feel that if there were more mass creating a better thermal path to the fins, it would help enhance the light's ability to shed heat and maintain optimal output and potentially prevent the ring seizure from happening. Initial feedback from manufacturer is that the issue is limited to my sample but I plan on re-escalating the issue especially since it happened again.



UI
The light is operated w/the magnetic control ring of which there are 6 positions as follows (the Strobe/Beacon/BC feature are shared in one position):


With the head of the EYE-30 pointed away from you, one turn CCW from "Off" will activate the Strobe. Each subsequest Off -> 1 turn CCW will cycle through the Beacon, BC and Strobe sequentially. The last used mode is not memorized so you can't say program the position for battery check and be able to always access only just that feature.

However, I did note that if the strobe is activated for longer than 5 seconds and then shut off the light and wait at least 2 seconds, 1 turn CCW will activate the strobe again.

Starting from "Off":
- 1 turn CW will activate Low mode which is achieved by illuminating a single LED
- 2 turns CW will activate Medium mode and illuminate two LED's
- 3 turns CW will activate High mode and three LED's on reduced output
- 4 turns CW will activate Turbo mode and three LED's on Max output

When cycling from Low to High, the next adjacent LED CCW will turn on sequentially. One novelty I noted is that if you turn the light to Low and then shut it off and then turn it back on to Low again, the next adjacent LED CCW will light up so that it cycles through the LED's in CCW fashion. I'll include this in my upcoming video review but this set of photos should give you an idea of the LED cycling:





RUNTIME (4 cells)
The relevant battery stats are provided above each runtime graph along with:

- Voltage of the battery at the start and end of the test
- Current draw as taken right before the test (to come)
- Actual runtime until the battery cut out (first in HR and then in M so for Turbo read this as 2.2 Hrs OR 130 Min)
- Also captured the temperature: ambient, the head at start and the max it reached (in which case a fan was used for Turbo & High)



First off, while the light uses 4 cells, it runs 2 in parallel so the battery carrier only shows 8.4V. The light is also able to run on just 2 cells inserted but given I haven't measured the current draw yet, I didn't run it in this manner for long.

Niteye is using ANSI FL1 standards and has quoted 2hrs on Turbo, however I'm not sure what capacity batteries were used to achieve this. I was able to achieve 2.2hrs on CK 3100's. I did note that after about 21min, the light dropped roughly 20% in output. I finally stopped testing at nearly 3hrs when the data logger reached its limit. The light output at this point was still very usable.

Also, while the light never exceeded 106F, I did notice that the control ring sezied up after testing. It took a LOT of force before I was finally able to loosen it. While the overall build of the light is quite good, this particular incident was not confidence inspiring. I'll need to keep an eye on thi
s on subsequent runs.

I have escalated my observations and the issue to the manufacturer and will post an update when I hear back from them.

NEW 1/9/12: Just wrapped up runtime on High and again was able to exceed mfg claims (w/caveat that mfg. has not replied yet on what capacity batteries were used to achieve claims). The temp never went over 96.5 and the control ring didn't seize this time around.

EDIT 1/15: I took the temp reading after 10 min and again a bit after step-down so didn't capture peak temp since max reached w/2 cells testing (below) was 115.4F. Will reconduct testing on 4 cells w/temp graph.

EDIT 1/16: I retested runtime on Turbo w/4 cells and monitored temp as well. Max reached was 114.1F but what was interesting was that the temp started to climb again towards the tail end of the run. Regardless it still didn't climb higher than the max reached shortly after step down. Also happy to report that I didn't reencounter the ring seizure issue.

EDIT 1/20: I conducted runtime on Turbo w/4 cells without the aid of a fan this time (at least initially - I turned on the fan shortly after step down and as can be seen in the chart, there was a corresponding uptick in output) and can confirm the step down is purely timed and not related to temp (unless the threshold was established above 162F!). While the light survived this run without any blinking/flickering, it did however suffer a seized control ring again and I had to use a rubber wrench to get it loose this time. Here's a pic of the temp shortly after step down:




Axis: X = Time in Min and Y = Relative Output

The results on High were as with Turbo, I was able to exceed stated claims but yet again, w/the caveat that I don't know what batteries were used by Niteye.


RUNTIME (2 cells)



Given this light can operate on 2 cells, I've conducted testing different brands of batteries on Turbo. To allay my concerns w/the control ring seizing, I also logged the temp via a Fluke 289 w/the sensor wedged in the middle fin. As can be seen above, the temp never got above 118F (47.8C). I didn't experience any issues w/the control ring seizing up on any of these runs but will redo the 4cell test w/temp monitoring later. Where the temp (dotted line) took a nose dive, that's when I stopped monitoring and not becuase of some insane drop in temperature.

I've confirmed w/the mfg that the EYE-30 will indeed step-down (roughly 20%) in output on Turbo shortly after 20 min to prevent it from overheating. Interestingly enough, the 2 x AW IMR's never made it that far thus you don't see that step-down in the graph above. I like the fact that they've incorporated this flexibility into the EYE-30 so that one can run the light on full brightness w/just 2 cells in a pinch (albeit w/reduced runtime).


INDOOR SHOTS
Turbo


High


Med


Low


For details of the shots and comparo vs. many other lights, check here.

CHARGING


Given I don't have a PSU or AC to 12V DC converter, I asked Niteye what the input parameters were and they replied that input voltage is from 10-20V DC and supply a minimum of 1A (positive core). Despite having accumulated a mass of adapters over the years, I couldn't find one that met this criteria AND had a plug that fit so I wound up using an old HP laptop adapter (18.5V / 3.5A) and wired up the EYE30 and have completed the charging of 4 cells (in which case the total voltage is in parentheses). I marked each cell just to see how 2S2P charging would affect balance. I'll update the graph when I wrap up charging of 2 cells.

Overall it looks like the EYE30's built-in charger is using a CC/CV algo, however, there is this weird little 10mA jump that keeps happening in repeated cycles (as evidenced by the zigzags). The current will start off roughly at just over 1A (500mA to each pair) and then upon termination, it'll apply a very low 11mA charge, HOWEVER, the draw from the LED charging indicator is roughly 22mA for a net yield of -11mA. What this means is that the indicator will actually draw a minute amount of energy upon termination of charge. To put things in perspective, using an avg. 2600mAh battery (and leaving self-discharge out of the pic) divided by the net draw (11mA) would mean that it will deplete the battery in roughly 10 days.

I believe the charger will reinitiate once battery voltage drops below a certain level but I don't know what that threshold is. However, this is just speculation on my part thus far since I didn't continue monitoring much after termination. Speaking of battery level, the charging indicator started off w/2 bars but for some reason, the intervalometer on my camera didn't work (stopped after just 5 shots) so I didn't capture the progression in order to do a correlation w/voltage level. I'll look to do that as well as monitor the voltage/current draw situation when I graph charging of 2 cells in the future.

I did test whether charging would reinitiate upon power loss/resumption (ie: unplugging the charger & plugging it back in) but it didn't so that's a very good sign. Based upon that and the charging algo/termination current, I feel it's a very competent charger that should fill up 4 fully depleted cells (w/3100mAh capacity) in just over 7hrs. Provided quality protected cells are used, I feel it's reasonably safe and gentle enough even with 2 cell charging. Best thing about it is that it's integrated into the light so you'll never forget it when traveling. The only thing you'll need to pick up for charging at home is either an AC to 12VDC converter (with min. of 1A) or an adapter/PSU that meets the aforementioned specs.


INITIAL CONCLUSION
Overall, I feel this light offers decent value for the money. It sits about dead-center in terms of MSRP between the two lights it will most likely be cross shopped against (TM11, RRT-3). While it's more expensive than the TM11, it does offer internal charging circuit and ability to charge directly off a 12V source (albeit in 2S2P). It also includes the handle which is extra on the RRT-3. Where it does outshine both (pun fully intended) given its unique battery arrangement is in runtime. Despite the step down it can still maintain roughly 1500+ lumens for just over two hours on quality 3100 mAh 18650's.

My biggest problem with this light remains the control ring seizing issue (at least on my sample). I feel it's caused by heat albeit I'm not sure exactly how since I wasn't able to remove the ring.

However, here is what I suspect is happening; as the EYE-30 heats up, the body and ring (which are Al) start expanding. Perhaps the tolerances between the ring and body are so tight that the expansion causes the seizing against the steel ball that serves as the click you feel/hear on each detent. The maximum temp that I measured was actually between the final fin and the control ring thus reinforcing my initial belief that thermal transfer is not optimized to transfer heat evenly to all the fins


Here I'm confirming the temp w/an IR thermometer during runtime testing w/out a fan and shortly before step down. However, the temp difference between this location and the middle of the fins where the DMM temp probe is slotted was only roughly 2-5 degrees F difference.

I have already escalated this issue to Niteye but given the Chinese New Year holiday, won't be hearing back from them for another week or so. Until this issue is sorted, I can't fully give this light a full thumbs up.

There are also potential concerns re: the lack of track record for Niteye, however, as they've cited, they have been producing lights for other well known companies for a while so they should have the expertise. Also uncertain is how their customer service will rank.



GALLERY






Cheers,
Tim

Disclosure: EYE-30 provided by Niteye for review.

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:21
turboBB
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Hi all,

This was actually posted on a different forum but I'm in the process of porting them over so please bear with me and the external links. Also, I've checked in with the mfg again and they haven't been able to replicate the issue using my test method. I also checked with a retailer here stateside and they too confirmed they didn't encounter the issue so as such, it looks like I just got a bum unit. I gotta say, save for this one issue on mine, the light does exhibit outstanding build quality.

I'm also in the process of getting a PSU so I can hook it up to the auto charger to graph the charging algo. I'll post then when I get around to it.

Hope you've found the review informative.

Cheers,
Tim

2100
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Thanks for the review and welcome to the forum Tim!

turboBB
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Thx 2100! 

So Niteye got back to me with their testing in which they hit 75C (167F!) and didn't have any issues:
Image

harry25175 also mentioned he didn't encounter any issues and while it's a small sample size, I'm hopeful the issue is limited to just my sample.

harry25175
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i didnt encounter any issues on my eye30 yet. mine is the Stainless Steel Ring model

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Man, I thought I was into flashlights . . . then I read a review like this . . .

Did you take all of the photos?

 

impressedFoy

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WOW Thanks!! 

Noctigon Meteor M43 

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i was really impressed by the photos.....

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Terrific review.. superb photographs.

Great effort, turboBB Laughing

 

Lights out! That's when things get interesting...

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Thx guys!

@writesamazinglyentertainingandhumorousreviewstooFoy - Thx! and yes, photography is another hobby of mine (but in particular macros) - humbledturboBB Embarassed

 

 

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Charging graphing in progress...

The charging current starts off at about 1A and then slowly tapers down to about 970mA. 33min into the charge now and according to FlukeView Forms the avg. has been 962mA.

I also measured current draw of freshly charged bats and took the avg. reading after 15 seconds and got the following:

EDIT: Chart above is wrong, the last two are measured in A and NOT mA.

Will post the charging graph later today.

Cheers,
Tim

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OK, charging summary now posted. Overall, a very decent charger and provided quality protected cells are used, should be reasonably safe.

Cheers,
Tim     

cyberdemon8
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First post here. Love the review turboBB! really looking to pull the trigger on the Eye-30. Smile Just wanted to ask if you ever did a measurement on the parasitic drain on the Eye-30 when it’s turned off? The current draw you mentioned in the review is only for the led charging indicator while it is being charged right? (I would think that the magnetic control ring is electronic hence there’ll be a stanby drain while it is off?) Thanks!!

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Thx and welcome to BLF!

Yes that's right, the draw was only during charging.  I thought I had measured standby current but will have to check.  Will post that when I find it.

Also, not sure if you're aware but Niteye now has a new EYE40 with 4 x XM-L's.

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I just measured the standby current and it's 71.45µA (.07145mA) which is absolutely trivial. To put this into perspective, utilizing standard 2600mAh batteries and leaving the self-discharge out of the pic, it would equate to 4.15yrs on standby (2600/.07145 = 36389hrs/24 = 1516days/365 = 4.15yrs). Regardless though, as an extra safety precaution, I always lock out my lights when not in use and I'd recommend the same to anyone.

Hope that helps.

Cheers,
Tim

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I hope you have fun here, cyberdemon8!

Best0270

cyberdemon