Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
|Battery:||Single AA or Single 14500|
|LED Type:||Cree Q3-WC|
- Affordable price
- Good build quality, nice contact on the tailcap
- One of the least expensive Cree LED lights
- Single-mode and 3-mode versions exist with same name
- Single-mode consumes battery too quickly
- Useless crenelations on bezel
- Plastic lens scratches easily
Features / Value: ★★★☆☆
The SmallSun ZY-C41 is hard to fault due to its very affordable $10.55 price. The ZY-C41 is available from many popular and obscure retailers, with the notable exception of Kaidomain. However, the principal detraction of this flashlight lies in the following: The manufacturer made the very poor decision of releasing both a single-mode and a 3-mode version of this light. That in itself would be acceptable or even commendable for the users who prefer a cheaper and simpler single-mode light. However, the two versions are sold with the very same ZY-C41 moniker, rendering it almost impossible to distinguish between the two, including for the stockers in the warehouses. In my case, DealExtreme's supplier apparently confused the two versions, and I received a single-mode light. The light in itself is still pretty nice, but without a low mode it's really not what I wanted. I requested a DealExtreme store credit due to the mixup, and they finally granted me a $3.00 credit. You can see the RMA process transcript here. So I now have a decent single-mode Cree flashlight for $7.55. Could be worse, I guess.
Build Quality: ★★★★☆
The SmallSun ZY-C41 is admittedly a well-made light. The ZY-C41 body style is appearing in the product lineup of almost all the popular and obscure Chinese brands with different emitters and internals, but it appears to be one of the flagship hosts. In my opinion it is not the most attractive light, I'm not sure why. It probably because I prefer designs that are purely cylindrical without anti-roll faces in the middle. I definitely do not like the crenelations (teeth) around the bezel, which aren't very sharp, but they are ugly. And they put ugly shadows in the beam. I like the knurling on the body, and the natural silver aluminum color looks classic. There are a few very fine nicks on the smooth part of the finish, but nothing to mention for the price. My favorite feature on this flashlight is the inside of the tailcap, which features a firm spring-loaded metal post protruding from a rubber backing. The inner tailcap design appears identical to that which our excellent reviewer brted photographed in his Uniquefire S10 review. This is much nicer than the typically cheap appearance of the slightly crooked spring that most flashlights have. Additionally, this light disassembles at the head and the tail with O-rings on both ends; it should be water resistant enough for a brief dunking or a heavy rainstorm. The tailcap switch is NOT glow-in-the-dark as the DealExtreme description claims. But the switch is recessed enough to allow it to tailstand easily while still being accessible to a fat thumb. It is quite a bit easier to click with a thumb than the Akoray K-106 switch, which is quite small and recessed. The threads on the head and the tail are nice and long, reasonably smooth, lubricated, and they have a nice positive "seating" feel on the final thread, a sort of resistance that requires more effort for the final turn, which gives tactical feel so you know you are about to tighten it down. Anyone know the correct term for this thread style? So far I've clicked it on and off many times, let it run for many hours, and unscrewed it many times, and it hasn't flickered on me yet. Pretty nice for the price.
Battery Life: ★★★☆☆
The battery life of the SmallSun ZY-C41 is unnecessarily reduced on my sample because it has only one rather high mode. The DealExtreme product description claims that it has Digital Regulated 600mA circuitry, with acceptable voltage input of 0.9~4.2V, 4.2V max. I have no way of confirming these figures. The light ran strong for about three hours on a very cheap generic AA alkaline, after which it quickly dimmed. Interestingly though, the circuit allows it to run very dimly for more than 12 hours after that. But if it only had a low mode it would probably produce more usable dim light over a longer period of time instead of wasting it all in the initial bright burst. Since it's a Q3 Cree LED, it's not as efficient as the newer Cree models, and this light further complicates that by driving the battery rather hard. I should mention that you would probably get longer results on a good alkaline or rechargeable AA cell. I used an extremely cheap cell because that's what most people use where I live.
Light Output: ★★★★☆
The Cree Q3-WC LED in this flashlight produces good light. The DealExtreme page claims 130 lumens, which is probably a bit exaggerated. The light color is fairly neutral, not too warm and not too blue. It produces an average sized hotspot with a bit of shadow around the hotspot. The aura is fairly floody. With the exception of the shadow around the hotspot the transition is fairly smooth. I've been saying "fairly" a lot here, because the light quality is nothing to rave about, but it's not bad for the price and considerably better than the $4 generic AA lights.
The final average is 3.5, so I have to round up to 4 stars. Considering that my effective price after the DealExtreme refund is $7.55, this light really is better than average. I'm just very disappointed that single and multi-mode versions are floating around on the internet, and it makes it difficult to buy with confidence. I would confidently recommend this as a reliable, affordable AA Cree light if only it had a low mode. If you like single-mode models but wouldn't be upset with a multi-mode, by all means try this light out; the price is right. But if you really want a low mode, the famous budget light lottery is going strong.