Review: Balder BD-2 (Pic heavy, beamshots)

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:
Single 18650:
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.


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.


I made the following measurements with my DMM on an 18650:

2.18a high

0.60a med

0.08a low

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

Ceiling Bounce

Xeno E03 14500

Xtar R01

Balder BD-2 high

BD-2 Med

BD-2 Low

Outdoor shots, the baby tree in the foreground is 30 ft, the larger tree behind it is 60 ft.


Xtar R01

Xeno E03 14500

BD-2 High

BD-2 Med

BD-2 Low


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.

Very nice review ....

and very useful photos...thanks SirJohn.

Interesting development going on with new better quality manufacturers coming out of China.

Thank you Sir John. Very nice review indeed. I think Balder will lose a great deal of the XML market in their lineup if they dont get with the program and swap out those OP refelctors for smooth ones ASAP. Why they chose OP in the first place leaves me scratching my head. Perhaps they came across several defunct ones at a cheap price they couldnt pass up. Have you contacted them about this? Its also to bad they arent driven a lot harder in high mode as all of their competition is. To go that far with a nice host and come up so short with the driver makes me wonder if you're going to yank that sucker apart and swap in your own driver. The host has a much welcome fresh new appearence to it and looks like the CNC guys actually made some effort into putting their machines to work. Bravo!

Impressive photography on your review! Very well done, thanks a lot! Frontpage'd and Sticky'd.

Nice review and pics, seems to me that the Balder had a bigger hot spot then the rest of the lights used which is nice. They can always have the option to have them come with smooth reflectors also or make it an accessory.

The more I use this light, the more I think I underestimated the lumens at 550 OTF. This light has some serious punch for its size. I hope someone who actually has a lightbox/IS eventually gets one and tests it.

Purchased 1 pc of BD-2 neutral white. Will do a write-up and compare against the RRT-2 XM-L in toughness/solidness/output. (I think the BD-2 might win!)

how does it compare to Ultrafire C8??

Well i guess both are pretty nice flashlights in their own right!

yes.. you are right...:)

btw, blader has such a good design.. very nice...

I want to add my impressions to SirJohn's excellent review after using my BD-2 for the better part of the last month, in case anyone else is interested in buying this flashlight. 2100 also added a nice follow up review a few weeks after Sir John's.

Bought from: SBFlashlights
Price Paid: $53.19 [List $55.99 less 5% CPF discount, shipping $.01]
Ordered: 12-27-2011 (Late at Night)
Received: 12-30-2011 (Fast Shipping!)

Also available from:
Outdoor Store - $49.95
Tactical HID - $55.99 (+ Several other retailers at this price point, including, CNQuality Goods, TorchPoint and EDC+)

Included with Light: Hard Plastic Package, Black Aluminum and SS Bezel, Spare O-Rings and User Manual.

A few Pics (Sorry - crappy iPhone pics only):

Comparison with other torches for size comparison (L-R):

SSC P7, Balder BD-2, Knight Rider P-Rocket, N-Light ST50, Yezl Z1, UniqueFire 3900, Solarforce M8

Appearance & Feel
Right out of the box, this is a good looking light, with unique style elements that make it stand out from other flashlights. Kudos to Balder for coming up with something different, not just a clone in an endless series of clones. While smaller than the C8, it is heavier and has a more solid feel to it. Similar size and weight compared to the P-Rocket and ST50. Fit and finish are flawless, slightly more matte compared to my Fenix L2D, but not a single nick or ding anywhere on the light. I guess that hard plastic box is good for something. Balder lettering is nice, but surprisingly, no model number on the other side, just a blank face plate. I chose to use the Stainless Bezel, as it blings up the light and the color compliments the aluminum heatsink on the body. Tactile feel is great - fits my hand perfectly and has a good grip. I love the unique machining around the heatsink, makes this light really stand out in a crowd. Tail stands well. Switch is very firm, on par with my Fenix and other good lights.

I like the 3 mode option, but also like the elegant way Balder has hidden the Strobe/SOS modes if I ever choose to use them. I wish other FL manufacturers would consider this method of hiding those irritating strobe modes. High, Medium and Low are well spaced. High is a very useful 500+ lumens, so it's fine for me as a bike light, Medium at 120 lumens is perfect for walking and Low at 20 lumens would be good as a room lighter in candle mode with the top off, but a little too bright for reading. While it has an OP reflector, it actually throws pretty well because of the reflector depth. Beam pattern has a nice hot spot, but there is a nice smooth transition to flood - really perfect as a get me home light mounted on a bike handlebar. No artifacts or rings either. Unlike the review copy above (XM-L U2), mine has a T6 emitter and the tint is a cool white, which I prefer since my night vision isn't what it used to be.

A few notes on the User Manual. Apparently they listened to SirJohn and updated a few things prior to releasing this for sale. They have reduced the claimed runtime on High from 2 hours down to 1.5.[I still think this is a bit over-rated; 1:15 on High is about the maximum you can expect using high capacity cells]. It also has a section on how to access the Hidden Mode patterns. And there is a Warning at the bottom (Not mentioned here or in 2100's follow up review: "Please do not use cheap protected 18650 battery that do not allow the current over 2A". More on that now.

Output/Tail Cap Measurements
Using freshly charged Callie's Kustoms 3100mAh:

High - 2.14a
Medium - .56a
Low - .06a

Using freshly charged AsuCell and UltraFire 3000mAh:

High - 1.67 / 1.43a
Medium - .57 / .62a
Low - .06 / .07a

Using freshly charged Xtar 2600mAh:

High - 2.20a
Medium - .57a
Low - .06a

This light will not operate on High setting with low quality cells. On High with either UF or AC cells, the light starts to dim and goes into a beacon mode cycling from High to Low every 5 seconds or so. As most of my 18650 cells are the UltraFires, this limits the use as a bike light until I get some more quality cells (TF 3000s on order), since I have dedicated my good quality balanced CKs and Xtars for use in my 2x18650 UF 3900 and SF M8 torches. This has been a valuable "budget" lesson for me. When I first started with Li-Ion flashlights, I ordered the UF 3000 because I figured it had to be more powerful than 2000, 2400, 2600, etc. (That and the red color reminded me of the 3 Mustangs I have owned in the past). I have since researched a lot and am following recommendations I have read here on BLF and on CPF. Cost be damned, nothing but good quality batteries from reputable sellers in the future for me.

Overall Rating 4.5/5
I am thoroughly impressed with this light, but will agree with SirJohn's few nitpicks: A lower Low setting would be nice and I hope they offer a Smooth reflector option in the future. On the plus side, this is my favorite light in terms of design/styling and it oozes such high quality for a reasonable price. I give it a definite recommend.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for adding the comments Betweenrides. This really is my favorite light right now. It feels so solid in hand and my sample really has the best feeling clicky switch of any light that I have had. Mine never has any flaky behavior either. Overall, one of most confidence inspiring lights I own and just a great all purpose light. Yeah, its more expensive than the usual DX/KD lights, but it feels so nice, it seems worth it to me.

You're welcome, SirJohn and I agree it was worth the cost. Even if expensive by usual comparison to C8 clones (of which I've had a few), it is cheap in comparison to some of the uber-expensive name brand lights which it competes with in quality. I'm curious though, have you seen the low current regulation on other lights? I'm kinda new to this, so it is a surprise to me. I thought there was something wrong when it first happened. Although on my UF 3900 triple XM-L, the light will dim down to medium after the batteries reach a certain depletion level.

I only have ever used Xtar and Hi-max cells and generally try not to to run them down too far, so have not experienced the low power beacon. Yes, it is not unusual on the better regulated lights for it to give you a low battery warning, although I don't know of another one that uses a cycling beacon to tell you.