Budget EDC-size 18650 light comparison/mini-review

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keltex78's picture
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Location: Texas
Budget EDC-size 18650 light comparison/mini-review

In keeping with the Budget aspect of the BLF, I'm posting my impressions regarding a few ultra-budget priced EDC-size lights, especially regarding mod/host potential.

  1. The inexpensive $5.23 MXDL 505 from FastTech - https://www.fasttech.com/p/1928400
  2. The very inexpensive $2.99 (now $3.99) light discussed here - http://budgetlightforum.com/node/35398

...As compared to the budget-friendly C20 host I initially reviewed here: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/19686

From left-to-right, along with some common lights for size comparison:

  1. My Favorite P60 host, Ultrafire 504b
  2. The FastTech C20 host
  3. My TrustFire F20
  4. Unprotected 18650 cell
  5. UltraFire 602C host
  6. eBay $2.99 UltraFire
  7. MXDL 505

First: the eBay UltraFire:

Listed as a Cree Q5, with 1200 lumens, I received a light that was cosmetically different than the eBay listing showed. The light I received looked like a scaled-up 18650 version of very nice 602c host, but the similarity is only cosmetic. The light has a drop-in pill with a threaded retaining ring, plastic reflector and lens, and an o-ring slightly too small for the head.

Both the tailcap and head are o-ring sealed. Threads on the body and head are smooth enough, are lubed from the factory. There is a positive contact spring so flat-top cells can be used. Driver is next-mode memory. The emitter appears to be an XP-C (?)

...and performance is poor. The beam is tight courtesy of the small emitter and SMO reflector, but I'll be replacing the emitter with something more appropriate soon.

The tailcap is threaded, so it can be disassembled and the switch can be replaced or salvaged. The tailcap is only drilled with a single lanyard hole, so mounting a pocket clip, which I feel is essential for an EDC light, would require additional work. The light does have a XP-sized centering ring that is slightly too tall, but with a little sanding down, would work very well.


Second: the MXDL 505

I really like the aesthetics and grippy checkering of this host. The bezel is aluminum, and must be removed to extract the reflector and pill via the head of the light as the body is a single piece. This light also has the plastic lens and reflector combo, with the same XP centering ring as above. The emitter on this light is an XP-E, but is the coolest, most-blue emitter of any of my lights. I'll probably de-dome it for kicks... (this picture shows an XP-G emitter, I've already removed the factory emitter):

Unfortunately, this light has two shortcomings, one being a hollow pill, and the second is the press-fit switch assembly. The pill, while hollow, has a decent lip for the emitter to sit on, and is a thread-fit into the body. As received, the light lacked a contact spring on the postive driver connection. With the driver slightly recessed, this meant a no-go with flat-top cells. Again, the driver is next-mode-memory. The tailcap on this light is recessed which allows it to tailstand. The tailcap does not have an o-ring, nor is there a groove machined to accept one. The edges are sharply-cut and would benefit by some work to smooth them out. The anodization on this host is poor, and it scratches easily. Threads on this light are poor, dry, and off-center, so only one side is square; they engage well enough though, so they are functional.

Although I like the checkering and aesthetics of this host, it is obviously very low quality, so I would not recommend it. It shares some visual stylings of the Convoy S3 host which is much better reviewed. The Convoy is over twice the cost, but appears to be a much better host.

Both of these lights will likely end up being modded slightly... I'll probably go with 3 or 4x 7135 driver (Nanjg 101AK?) and an XP-G or G2 emitter. Of course, just for kicks because I have parts in my kit. I should be able to use these to experiment with some of the TIR optics I have on hand. I don't count on using these as EDCs though due to the difficulties in mounting a pocket clip and general poor quality.

An update on my C20 host however:

In my original review, I mentioned the limited benefit to having an EDC-sized light as they were too big for pocket carry, and a P60 host was just as convenient in a belt sheath. Since then, I've purchased the FastTech pocket clip, which is a perfect fit for this host, and now find myself carrying this light more often. Although my F20 is still my daytime EDC, the earlier nights have me going to the higher-capacity, brighter, longer-runtime host. Clipping on a pocket makes this light so much easier to carry than simply dropping it into a pocket. I've modded this light with the 45-degree TIR optic from FastTech, and find that I love the floody smooth beam. I've ordered the 60-degree optic to compare. If you don't want to spend the extra couple of bucks on a Convoy S2, this is a good option. The only downside is the smooth sides on this host give poor grip, however, the pocket clip helps with this. I have a Convoy S2 in transit to me now, and I'm looking forward to see how they compare. If it works out as well as I like, I suspect that it my dethrone my F20 as my primary EDC.

Some links of interest here - (Non-Affiliate, all prices without discount if applicable)



Keepin’ the “B” in BLF

Don wrote:
It sounds like the XM LEDs won’t really be suitable for flashlight use. Pity…

Edited by: keltex78 on 11/21/2014 - 16:11
MRsDNF's picture
Last seen: 2 months 2 days ago
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Location: A light beam away from the missus in the land of Aus.

Thanks for the reviews. It takes a bit of effort to take time to write about a $2.00 item.Smile


djozz quotes, "it came with chinese lettering that is chinese to me".

                      "My man mousehole needs one too"

old4570 said "I'm not an expert , so don't suffer from any such technical restrictions".

Old-Lumens. Highly admired and cherished member of Budget Light Forum. 11.5.2011 - 20.12.16. RIP.


WarHawk-AVG's picture
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Thanks for the reviews!

Pulsar13's picture
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Thanks, nice reviews. That $3 light can also be viewed as a bunch of cheap spareparts – really good deal Smile
Kodachrome40's picture
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I like your approach to this. It isn’t always about how much things cost. It’s about usefulness and utility. When it’s dark I hardly care how much a light costs. I want it to work.

Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
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Location: northern california

It goes along with the B in BLF also. Thanks for your work.

akoposilester's picture
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Thanks for the review and effort to compile these budget 18650 fls.

FL Newbie

Last seen: 1 day 18 hours ago
Joined: 12/18/2013 - 18:52
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Thanks for the reviews. So the $2.99 from eBay is not good. Mine has not arrived yet.

keltex78's picture
Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
Joined: 03/18/2011 - 10:15
Posts: 3705
Location: Texas

I spent my Sunday afternoon cleaning my work space and modding the MXDL host yesterday.

Mostly just for fun, with the end result of getting much more useable light...

After tearing the light down, I dug through my my Box O' Parts and found an unused XT-E emitter I had purchased previously and never used. I reflowed the emitter onto the 16mm board that came with this light, and applied the pencil-mod to the next-mode-memory driver capacitor. On re-assembly, I discovered that the cheap FT XM-L TIR optics fit this host perfectly, with the holder intact, so I rebuilt the light using this 15-degree optic: https://www.fasttech.com/products/1574902.

The factory driver shows a draw of ~900mA at the tailcap, which I think is suitable given the poor heatsinking of the host. I just Fujiked the PCB onto the retaining ring as I didn't have any JB weld or other better options on hand.

The 15-degree optic focuses the beam nicely making a useable amount of light from the limited power of this host. Both the hotspot and flood are wider than with the factory reflector, and the light is much brighter thanks to the better emitter. Some warmth is noted after the light is powered on; as the pill threads directly into the main body tube, heat is quickly transferred through the entire tube though, and the light never gets 'hot'. The light always starts on high now, which is a good option for this light.

Overall, the light is much more useable now than via the factory configuration.

I'm not certain if it's an oddity of the XT-E, but the beam has a definite "phosphor yellow" spot in the very center of the hotspot that can bee seen against a white wall. I noted the same yellow dot using both the factory reflector, and the aftermarket TIR optic. Not noticable in normal outdoor use though.

Keepin’ the “B” in BLF

Don wrote:
It sounds like the XM LEDs won’t really be suitable for flashlight use. Pity…