Balder BD-2 XM-L U2 Review
Martin at Balder graciously chose me to review the BD-2 and sent me a review sample. Balder is a very new flashlight company. The BD line is apparently their first attempt at marketing to the global consumer market. The entire line was just introduced in the last couple of weeks. The BD-2 18650 powered light you see here is currently available at cnqualitygoods for $56. They are still pursuing other retail channels and hopefully a US based retailer will pick these up. I typically collect mostly budget oriented lights. At $56 the BD-2 undercuts most of the established name brand lights of this type which typically sell at around $80-$100 so the pricing is right up my alley. Direct competitors price wise would seem to be the Olight i6 and the upcoming Jetbeam BC25, which are simplistic two mode XM-L lights.
Published manufacturer specs are:
1. Dimension: Head diameter 35mm, Tail diameter 26mm, length 140mm
2. Cree XML U2 LED
3. Lumen and runtime:
Maximum output of 500 lumens for 2 hours
Minimum output of 20 lumens for 90 hours
4. Material: Aircraft Aluminum Alloy T6061
5. Weight: 110g (without battery)
6. Water proof to IPX-8 standard
7. Battery: single 18650 battery
1. Replacement Stainless steel strike bezel
2.Hollow out design
3. Mil-Spec Type III Hard Anodized finish.
4. Made from Aluminum alloy, really strong.
5. Water proof to IPX-8 standard.
6. Precision Aluminum reflector (Orange Peel)
7. Simple operation. High-Medium-Low. No SOS and strobe modes
8. Tail standing
9. Prominent runtime
10. Anti-reverse protection and low voltage protection circuit
The BD-2 came in a non-descript plastic box with two o-rings, the manual, and an extra, smooth aluminum bezel. That’s right, it actually ships with two bezel choices. The stock bezel is stainless steel with shallow crenelations which can be removed and replaced with a matching black, smooth aluminum bezel. I preferred the stock stainless bezel. It adds a little bling and the crenellation is shallow enough not to be obnoxious, however that means it also is not really useful to be an attack bezel, should you need such a thing. The stainless steel will provide some protection to the head should you drop it though and the bezel is shallow enough not to cut down the light output to any noticeable degree. The manual is brief and limited, without any mention of warranty or instructions for the hidden modes (more on that in a moment). It’s surprising that it lacks the obligatory cheap lanyard and holster, but not a big deal given that most of the time they are pretty low quality. I wonder as Balder expands their retailing if they will come up with a color paperboard sleave for the plastic box as right now they are no identifying marks as to what it is on the packaging.
Standard battery is 18650. From what I understand, the BD-2 will also operate on 2xcr123a and 2x16340, but I have not tested these as of yet. The primary interface consists of a simple H-M-L with no flashing modes. Mode changing is controlled by the ubiquitous half press of the tailswitch. The switch is a reverse clicky so it is not set up for tactical use. There is also memory mode that seems to take effect at around 3-4 seconds. There is also a surprising, hidden second set of modes. When in low mode, the light will blink once after five seconds. If you then turn the light off and on again, you will enter this second set of modes. Balder makes no mention of this on any of their literature. This second set consists of H-M-L-Strobe-SOS. The H-M-L modes seem identical to the first set of modes. The SOS and strobe modes are both on the fast side. Actually, it may be the fastest SOS of any light I own. I actually like the feature of the hidden modes. Though I would seldom ever use them in day-to-day, it’s nice to know the flashing modes are there should the need ever arise and with them being hidden, I don’t need to deal with cycling through them in regular operation.
As already mentioned, the light uses a Cree XM-L U2 emitter. The reflector is orange peel. It is very slightly wider than a P60 reflector but also noticeably deeper. It is definitely on the deep side given the diameter. The body lacks any knurling and instead provides an assorted collection of rings and slots for texturing. In operation, it still provides nice grip and it gives it a nice change in appearance over the usual knurled look. The scalloped tail end provides plenty of surface area for tailstanding and it does so easily and stably. The tail end of the battery tube is also anodized which does allow lock-out.
BUILD QUALITY 4.5/5
The BD-2 is very well-built for the price. The anodizing is absolutely outstanding without a flaw anywhere in sight. It seems quite thick. The finish is definitely comparable to the Fenix lights I have. If anything the anodizing is thicker than my Fenixes. It is a matte black, more matte than any other light I have, but also not as deep of a black. All those various slots and grooves in the design would tend to lead to machining errors, but again the machining is flawless. The brand lettering is also well applied.
The tactile feel of the tail clicky is fantastic but decidedly firm. Frequently, you feel a little squish from the rubber boot as you push a clicky and that is completely absent in this light. Most of the threads are pretty well done, though they were light on the lube. There was one exception which brings me to my nitpicks. The threads where the pill screws into the head were bone dry and also not nearly as smooth. It made me worry slightly about cross threading. It did take away slightly from the rest of the light, however, in normal use you would seldom ever unscrew the light at that joint. Only other thing I noticed was that there were some sharp edges on the stainless steel around the crenelations, but that is sort of the point. Pockets beware.
The pill is aluminum and is fairly hefty. The emitter is well centered. Everything appears well put together. There are no noticeable solder blobs or other imperfections. The flat, backside of the reflector does seem a little dirty. There are spring loaded plugs for both the positive and negative terminals which is very nice.
LIGHT OUTPUT 5/5
I made the following measurements with my DMM on an 18650:
As you can see, the modes are very well spaced. The high draw is very nice for this size of light. Because of the heat, you wouldn’t want the high to be much higher if you want the light to last any length of time. The light does heat up quite quickly on high, but does not get overly hot. Balder does use PWM but even on low, it was fast enough not to be noticeable to my eyes. Shining on a ceiling fan also did not indicate any noticeable strobing. Based on the measurements, you can estimate run time as a little over an hour on high, about 4 hours on medium, and about 30 hours on low. This is far short of what Balder claims, but still reasonable for the class. I do not have light meter or IS to test actual output but based on comparisons with lights that I own that have been tested, I would estimate in the range of 20 lumens OTF on low and 550 lumens OTF on high, which does correspond to Balder’s claims.
Balder makes no claim on the emitter tint which usually means cool white. The tint on my sample fell between my two other XM-L lights, the Xeno E03 and the Xtar R01, both of which are reportedly cool white, though my sample of the R01 definitely approaches neutral. This makes it reasonable as I didn’t find any objectionable colors creeping in.
The smallish OP reflector means that this light is on the floodier side of the spectrum. However, as the beamshots indicate, with the reflector being on the deeper side for its size, the spill beam is definitely tightened. With the amount of output of the emitter, it still provides quite a bit of throw. I did see some light on buildings roughly 200 meters away, though probably not the most usable at that distance. To my eyes it seemed to slightly outthrow the slightly larger reflectored Xtar R01.
Left to Right, Xeno E03 14500, Balder BD-2, Xtar R01
Xeno E03 14500
Balder BD-2 high
Outdoor shots, the baby tree in the foreground is 30 ft, the larger tree behind it is 60 ft.
Xeno E03 14500
Given its price, this is a very good light. I like the appearance, the build quality is mostly good and the output is also nice. However, like almost all other lights, it is not perfect so a perfect score would not be appropriate. Some things that I would like to see would be a neutral emitter option and the option of a smooth reflector. Finally, a lower low would be nice. Perhaps Balder is concerned about visible PWM if they go lower with whatever driver set-up they are using, however, I would still like to see it. With the second set of hidden modes, perhaps the low mode in that mode set could be reduced to 1 lumen or less to create the ultra low/moonlight mode that would really put this light over the top.