Review: Fandyfire PAdME 3xAA XM-L U2 Flashlight

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sb56637
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Review: Fandyfire PAdME 3xAA XM-L U2 Flashlight

Fandyfire PAdME

Reviewer's Overall Rating:  ★★★ ☆☆

 

Summary:

Battery:  3xAA or 3x14500
Switch:  Reverse clicky in tail / Rotary ring near head
Modes:  Low - Mid - High - Strobe
LED Type:  Single XM-L U2 (Cool White)
Lens:  Glass
Tailstands: Yes 
Price @ 14/May/13: $61.54
From: LightsCastle.com
Date Ordered:  15/April/2013

This light was kindly provided for review by LightsCastle.com

Pros:

  • Uses regular AA batteries
  • Works great with only 1 charged battery
  • Nice simple UI with magnetic control ring for brightness control
  • True off mode with no parasitic drain
  • Modern XM-L U2 emitter
  • Tailstands
  • Attractive styling

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Could be brighter given the triple cells
  • Control ring binds when head over-tightened
  • Too easy to unscrew the head and rip out the driver
  • Needs a moonlight mode
  • No warm bin available
  • Unlubricated threads
  • No glow in the dark tailswitch or markings

Introduction

The Fandyfire PAdME is a somewhat obscure model that uses my personal favorite battery format regular AA batteries that are commonly available all over the world at almost any store. The Fandyfire brand, name not withstanding, is essentially a generic moniker that seems to share designs with the "Blackshadow" brand, among others. I immediately admired the attractive styling and laughed at the "Fandyfire PAdME" name, so I requested a unit for review from LightsCastle.com to see what this light is all about. This model is in a fairly unique category of lights that use multiple AA batteries in a parallel array configuration, specifically three batteries in the case of the PAdME. It can also use 14500 Li-Ion cells if desired. The closest competitor of the PAdME is probably the Nitecore EA4, which uses four AA cells and is not compatible with Li-Ion cells. So this is a review of the PAdME on its own merits, but I will occasionally compare it with the Nitecore EA4W, which I also own.

 

Features / Value:  ★★★ ☆☆

I'll be honest— the PAdME is too expensive. The $61.54 price at LightsCastle is within a few dollars of the price at all of the other sites where I compared prices. So even for a modern light with nice features like the PAdME, it's starting to get out of my personal price range. This is especially true given the competition, such as the Nitecore EA4, which is a high quality name brand flashlight that can be purchased online from Hong Kong for considerably less than $61.54. However, the PAdME does have some unique redeeming features that still make it attractive. The best feature is the brightness control ring, which according to other websites uses magnetic control, at least on the apparently identical Blackshadow version. Compared to the complex mode operations of the electronic "soft" switch in the Nitecore EA4, the PAdME's control ring is clearly superior. It should be noted that it also has a reverse clicky in the tail. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I first tried this light, I though I had received a dud, because I turned the control ring from "Off" to the other settings, and didn't get any light out of it. Finally after a bit of assembling and disassembling I discovered the tail switch. :8)

So there are two "Off" settings. I guess this provides a very secure lockout method so it doesn't turn on in a backpack or a pocket, albeit a bit redundant. The tail switch is not glow in the dark (GITD), which is a feature for some but an omission in my opinion. I would also like to have seen GITD markings for the brightness level labels and the brightness ring indicator arrow. Apart from the switches, the PAdME sports a modern XM-L U2 emitter. The lens is supposedly glass and nothing suggests to the contrary. The reflector is smooth, which improves throw. 

The beam color is fine as far as cool white bins go, but I would have personally preferred a warmer bin like the Nitecore EA4W has. The rest of the light is fairly standard. The mechanical/magnetic brightness control obviously perfectly remembers the last mode as long as it stays in the same position. So the light can be turned off with the tail switch and then turned back on in the same mode. The strobe mode is available as the last mode on the control ring. Apart from that, it comes with a nice long lanyard with two adjusters. I have no idea how it's supposed to be attached correctly, so I put it around the circumferencial groove just above the tail and made a simple knot.

The PAdME came in a nice, umm, PAdded red cardboard two piece box. So for Features and Value, the Fandyfire PAdME would get 5 stars for the fairly rare multiple AA parellel battery configuration with a (magnetic?) control ring and an XM-L U2 emitter, but I'm giving it 3 stars for this criterion because of the high price.

 

Design / Build Quality:  ★★★ ☆☆ 

The Fandyfire PAdME has good overall build quality with a few design flaws. The outer surface of the body is flawless, with no chips or scratches or burrs. The reflector is clean and the emitter is well centered. There are some rough edges around the edge of the lens that don't look too good, but they don't affect the beam at all. There are also some ugly machining marks at the top of the inner battery chambers, but they don't affect functionality at all.

I really like the slightly fat but relatively short multiple parallel AA format. And the overall styling of the PAdME looks fantastic to my eye, clean and elegant. The PAdME is about 1 centimeter taller than the Nitecore EA4W, probably because of its clicky switch in the tail. The diameter is about the same. Thanks to the mechanical switch in the tail, "Off" is truly off, and does not slowly drain the battery, unlike the electronic "soft" switch of the Nitecore EA4. The tail switch feels like any other budget clicky switch, and is recessed just barely enough to not protrude beyond the tail of the flashlight body. Therefore, by a narrow margin, the light tailstands perfectly. The threads in the PAdME are smooth and long-winded, but they arrived from the factory dry as a desert bone. Even with some lubricant they require a lot of effort to turn.

The circuitry scheme of the PAdME is apparently quite different from the EA4 in one important sense: the PAdME works perfectly well when only one of its three batteries are charged. I inserted one charged Eneloop with two completely dead trickle de-charged NiMH batteries, and was surprised to see that it lit up perfectly well. In fact it appeared to be equally bright with one charged cell as with three charged cells. The EA4, on the other hand, requires four out of four batteries to be charged. So the PAdME appears to use its three cells in a parallel circuit design, as opposed to the series configuration of the EA4. The obvious advantage of the parallel circuit is that it can be used with just one charged cell in a pinch, and with three charged cells it should offer triple the runtime of a single cell. On the other hand, it could be argued that it is more practical to use a smaller single cell flashlight and carry multiple spare batteries in a pocket to achieve the same brightness and runtime as a triple cell unit. Now, the two more serious design issues occur in the head. A 4 centimeter section of the head unscrews from the body just above the control ring. First of all, when I unscrewed the head, I was expecting to find a contact plate in the 4 centimeter section and access to the battery chambers in the tail end. Instead, I nearly yanked apart the wires that connect the driver to the emitter.

Although this does provide easy modding access to the driver and circuitry, it's far too easy for an ignorant owner like myself to unknowingly unscrew the head and destroy the wiring. I would much rather prefer the driver and the wiring to be enclosed in the head section with dimples in the contact plate to unscrew it and access the driver if needed. Additionally, when the head section is tightened down with what I would consider to be a normal amount of torque, it somehow causes the brightness control ring to bind, permitting it to ratchet in one direction but not the other. So I had to ever so slightly loosen the head to change brightness, which makes it feel slightly cheap. Finally, the other half of the body unscrews about 1 centimeter below the brightness ring, and it requires a lot of effort to tighten it down all the way to the fully seated position that is necessary for proper contact. Therefore I have a hard time gripping the head in the 1 centimeter section of the head that doesn't move. If I grab the head and try to turn the body, the head turns because its threads are looser than the tail half. But if I grab the 1 centimeter area below the brightness ring, I usually end up rotating the ring, and I don't want to put too much force on it. These are some fairly annoying design flaws with the PAdME that results in a 3 out of 5 star rating for the Design and Build Quality category.

 

Battery Life:  ★★★ ☆☆

I did a battery runtime test on the low setting with three fully charged Eneloops. After about 15 hours there was a noticeable drop-off in brightness, and it shut off about 5½ hours later, for a total runtime of almost 21 hours. This is good, but not spectacular, especially given the triple parallel battery circuitry. I have quite a few single AA lights that can run for 20 to 24 hours on low, and several that can run for 4 or 5 times that on a single cell. The reason for this is that the low mode on the PAdME is still not low enough. The brightness is reasonable for a "low" setting, but an additional "moonlight" mode of less than 1 lumen would probably result in much longer runtime. However, it should be noted that if the brightness control ring really is magnetic, runtimes will be less than an equivalent flashlight with a traditional mode interface. This is due to the fact that any magnetic control system uses a considerable current overhead that significantly eats into runtime. So the PAdME gets 3 out of 5 stars for Battery Life.

 

Light Output:  ★★★ ☆☆ 

As mentioned previously, the PAdME has a modern XM-L U2 emitter that is capable of outputting close to 1000 lumens if hard driven. The product page claims 860 lumens at 2000 mA. In reality, though, maximum brightness falls short of that claim. I don't have equipment to measure lumens, but I compared the PAdME to the Nitecore EA4W, which third parties have measured around 850 lumens. The PAdME with three alkaline or NiMH cells is quite bright, but significantly dimmer than the EA4W on four of the same cells. I would say that its brightness to the naked eye is somewhat greater than a Sunwayman V10R-U2 on high. The PAdME with three 14500 Li-Ion cells becomes noticeably brighter but still not as bright as the EA4W still running on NiMH cells. So the series circuit design of the EA4 really takes maximum advantage of its common cells. The PAdME makes a decent showing of brightness compared to most AA flashlights, but simply can't compete with the insane brightness of the EA4. Additionally, as mentioned previously, the EA4W comes with a warm bin that does a beautiful job of bringing out the depth and true color of objects, whereas the cool white U2 bin of the PAdME makes things look more pale and stark. As far as beam quality, the PAdME does pretty well. It has a clearly defined and well concentrated hotspot with lots of spill. Apart from a slight four-leaf clover figure surrounding the hotspot, there are no artifacts or rings in the beam profile. By comparison, the EA4 has a slightly larger and slightly less concentrated hotspot, with a slightly smaller overall beam profile diameter. So all in all, the Fandyfire PAdME puts out a respectable amount of light using common cells, but is no match for its less expensive competition. It also gets 3 out of 5 stars for this criterion.

 

Summary:  ★★★ ☆☆ 

In summary, I really like the PAdME for its extremely attractive styling, simple and intuitive user interface, and its use of common batteries, or even just one battery in a pinch. The overall build quality is good, and the brightness is pretty good. However, the relatively high price and the annoying design flaws in the body sections should be taken into account when comparing it with other options in the same class. Overall, the Fandyfire PAdME gets a respectable solid 3-star overall rating. Thanks again to LightsCastle.com for the opportunity to review this light.

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Edited by: sb56637 on 09/02/2017 - 11:43
MRsDNF
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Thanks for the review SB. Another alternate could be the Rook. Whats unique with this light though is the rotating ring for light changes. Its good that there is getting a few different multi AA lights on the market.

 

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".

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Thanks for the review. This light and also the Rook would be attractive if only Nitecore did not make that fantastic EA4.

In general, the budget light factories do a very decent job in making nice flashlights, but fall short in designing drivers that allow the use of NiMh-batteries. I have seen many times when a top brand comes out with a nice new light that runs on NiMh or alkaline batteries (they do know how important that is!), the budget factories make a version that uses Li-ions. I really think that they do not have the ability or will to make a decent driver for NiMh, and Li-ion is the easy way out. I also suspect that the internal market of China is different from the 'Western' world in that there is a wide acceptance and availability of Li-ion batteries (and less concern about the risks), but I have never been in China to find out.

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How cute… a mini-darth. Silly Thanks for the great review Mr. Admin! Hopefully the manufacturers will read here and make corrections to later production runs.

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Nice job, Sb!  Great to see you back in the saddle once again.

I have to agree with you about the Padme for the most part (mainly about output) except that I own a Black Shadow version and it seems to be a little better in the body area.  My head does not come apart as yours does.  I believe mine is glued and it only separates where it should - at the battery tube/head junction.  I also have zero machining flaws in my example.

My one and only complaint (actually there are two) about a light that could have been exceptional is it's disappointing output.  BlackShadow only claims 400 lumens on NiMH cells and 500 on 14500 cells.  Even those are off on my example (about 400 on 14500 cells and 300 on NiMH).  The other is a lack of a moonlight mode.

I have spoken with the Black Shadow rep and she tells me that for this year they are not bringing in any new lights but instead plan to improve the ones they have based on the feedback they have gotten fro us.  This means moonlight modes and higher maximum output on the Terminator, Darth and Padme.  It also means anodized threads and the ability to lockout power on the Rook and Queen models in addition to the other improvements.  I for one hope they do exactly that.

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Thanks for the review!!

Great work! Smile

*FMI* i got 4 i/o sh
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JohnnyMac wrote:
I have spoken with the Black Shadow rep and she tells me that for this year they are not bringing in any new lights but instead plan to improve the ones they have based on the feedback they have gotten fro us.  This means moonlight modes and higher maximum output on the Terminator, Darth and Padme.  It also means anodized threads and the ability to lockout power on the Rook and Queen models in addition to the other improvements.  I for one hope they do exactly that.

+1

I’ve been on the fence with the BS Padme and Darth since they came out. Those improvements, and NW availability, would probably sway me.

I like copper

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Haterade wrote:
JohnnyMac wrote:
I have spoken with the Black Shadow rep and she tells me that for this year they are not bringing in any new lights but instead plan to improve the ones they have based on the feedback they have gotten fro us.  This means moonlight modes and higher maximum output on the Terminator, Darth and Padme.  It also means anodized threads and the ability to lockout power on the Rook and Queen models in addition to the other improvements.  I for one hope they do exactly that.

 

+1 I've been on the fence with the BS Padme and Darth since they came out. Those improvements, and NW availability, would probably sway me.
I still wouldn't hesitate to get a Darth.  The only folks I've heard that don't love it are ones that don't own one.  I love mine.  Shame it doesn't see a lot of use but none of my larger lights do.
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Was about ready to… but your comments make me think better to wait. Can you estimate a rough timeline for these revisions to be released? (Completely understand if you are not able.)

A super-low moon mode, a slightly higher high, and better spacing in between (35% medium?) would make this good light a really great one. Gotta have NW too.
Smile

I like copper

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Haterade wrote:
Was about ready to... but your comments make me think better to wait. Can you estimate a rough timeline for these revisions to be released? (Completely understand if you are not able.) A super-low moon mode, a slightly higher high, and better spacing in between (35% medium?) would make this good light a really great one. Gotta have NW too. :)
I have absolutely no idea when updated models will be released.  If I did I'd tell you.
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Nice review, SB !

I would be all over one of these with a moonlight mode.

http://wardogsmakingithome.org/index.html

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Haterade
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JohnnyMac wrote:
I have absolutely no idea when updated models will be released.  If I did I’d tell you.

Fair enough brother.

Thought you were going to give the old press conference line “I have no further details, but if I did I would not tell you”.
Silly

I like copper

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Hi everyone, thanks for the comments! And thanks Johnny for the update from Blackshadow, I will definitely keep and eye on future models. As you said, it really is a nice light, despite its defects.

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Cool

What I do

 

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I have the twin big brother , the Darth. and I just love it and the pandme would be perfect for the local volunteer firefighters except for the price that’s what kills the deal.

Lj

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Thanks for the review. She is a beauty.

-Sean

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Great review sb! I like this model, but I agree in one area for sure; it’s too expensive. The Rook is a lot cheaper, and I do not think the ring control is worth the extra coin.
The colour and finish are really nice though.

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