Coast LED Lenser Mini Tac Torch
Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
|LED Type:||5MM Nichia GS|
- Forward clicky!
- Low price
- Near ridiculously good battery life
- Excellent build quality
- Ugly, ringy beam
- Doesn't tailstand
- Price only valid for Canada and US
Features / Value: ★★★★☆
Time for a new review! This one is a little bit different from my last two reviews in that instead of a super-high-tech pocket rocket/hand burner/signal light, I'm looking at a very basic, well built, low-output torch, but one that's got a few very cool tricks up it's sleeve. For those of us in Canada and the US, this light is available for the cost of shipping ($3.50) from coastportland.com from the front page. Outside of those two countries, you'll probably pay close to $10 for the light, but that's not a bad deal for what you get either.
The torch I'm examining today is the Coast LED Lenser Mini Tac Torch. There's been something like a half-dozen different versions of this light, but the latest (and I think the best) version is the one I'm looking at. It's rated at 8 lumens for 18 hours off of an alkaline battery, and as such seems to be aiming squarely at the Fenix E01. Same build, same LED, similar output and battery life numbers. This is a picture of the packaging for the current version:
Not my picture, unfortunately. The light really doesn't come with much, just the light and a crappy alkaline battery, not even a split ring for the tailcap, but it's at least enough to get you started (and who doesn't have split rings laying around these days?). The feature set is otherwise pretty nice - HA-II level anodized aluminium, "premium" Nichia GS 5MM led, forward (!) clicky, and a two-step driver similar to Fenix's.
One thing to note is that this light is on the large side for AAA keychain lights, as it has both a clicky switch and springs at the head AND tail for impact resistance. Here it is compared to my current keychain light, the Mr Lite KC-05
Quick picture of the back of the light as well, showing the forward clicky.
Design / Build Quality: ★★★★☆
I would overall rate the design and build quality of the light as very, very good with only a few minor niggles. The light has both a removable head and tailcap, and both have very thick washers. They came well lubricated, and the thread themselves were very clean and well-cut. Both the head and tailcap sections have springs in them to prevent breakage from impact. The clicky switch is a forward clicky that protrudes slightly, but kind of lacks texturing that would help find it in the dark.
As can also seen from the above pictures, there's also some diamond-pattern knurling over most of the body and it does give very good grip.
The one strange thing about this light (and something that it shares with the Fenix E01) is that the Mini Tac does not use a lens. Instead, it uses a smooth reflector for light control, and LED itself is sealed for weather resistance in to the head via silicone rubber. This is a perfectly reasonable solution, and I'd be happy enough to use this light in the rain - just no swimming.
There are a couple of minor niggles in the design that kind of detract from a perfect rating, though. First, the light doesn't tailstand. Normally I wouldn't place a huge amount of importance on this fact but this particular torch would make a great long-term emergency light in case of power outages (I'll get to that in a bit), and tailstanding would be a really useful feature. Secondly, the anodizing isn't great, and a week on my keychain left a lot of noticeable bare spots on the body.
Battery Life: ★★★★★
Battery life is where the light absolutely shines. Heck, if I could give it more than 5 stars I would. Since my crappy multimeter no longer wants to give readings, I had to test battery life the old-fashioned way - I just put a fresh Duracell AAA alkaline in the body and left it on.
Result? 21+ hours of usable light.
What was that again?
That's right, 21+ hours of usable light. I started this light at midnight two days ago, and when I woke up at 8AM, it was still going strong. At around ~9:30, it shifted in to a not-quite-moonlight mode of a couple of lumens, which is similar to the Fenix E01. The light then kept going until about 9:15PM at night in moonlight mode, until it finally became too weak to use. Taking out the battery and letting it rest for 20 minutes gave me about another 15 minutes of a usable moonlight mode until the battery was utterly dead. If you take a look at the packaging again, Coast actually rates this flashlight at 18 hours of light, meaning the usable battery life was *better* than stated. This was a pleasant surprise. My thought right now is if you stuck an Energizer Lithium primary in to this light, it would make a fantastic long-term "emergency" or power outtage torch.
Light Output: ★★★☆☆
The light output, on the other hand, is a weakness. Not so much the lumens output (which I understand is a necessity for the battery life), but rather the beam pattern. To put it mildly, it's ugly. REALLY ugly. The light uses a reflector with no lens for light output and it creates a lot of artifacts in the beam, and these are noticeable at close range. It can be distracting, but you'll probably get used to it pretty quick if you were using it reading or as an emergency light.
As to tint, well, I lucked out and got a pretty neutral colour beam but there's a reason why Nichia is said to have a "tint lottery" - who knows what you'll end up with.
Coast doesn't really market this light as a competitor to the Fenix E01, but in reality it pretty well is - same body styling, same LED, similar battery life and output. I also think it competes pretty well - you give up the smaller size and better anodizing of the Fenix and gain a forward clicky switch and better knurling. Not a bad trade off, I think. If Coast redesigned this light to somehow tailstand, I'd easily rate it 5 stars.