Today I’m reviewing the AA sized SP10A provided by Sofirn for the purpose of testing and review.
I’m a big fan of AA flashlights in general as it is a universal battery format, great for gifting, and my ideal size for pocket carry. So I was intrigued how this Sofirn offering stacks up to other popular AA lights in its price range.
At first glance it looks like a shrunken down version of its larger 18650 brother, the Sofirn SP32, retaining most of its proportions in an AA sized format. It houses an improved AA/14500 driver from it’s AA predecessors, the SF10 and SF12. Instead of a rear clicky it has a side switch with similar attributes to the Fenix PD32 in terms of styling and its metal e-switch.
Batteries accepted: AA, NiMH, 14500
LED: XP-G2 S4 5350-5700k (neutral white)
Output : 10lm low, 89lm medium, 500lm high, 500lm strobe
Output [AA Alkaline]: 5lm low, 50lm medium, 270lm high, 270lm strobe
Runtime : 43hr 20min low, 4hr 40min medium, 50min high
Runtime (AA Alkaline): 73hr low, 8hr 7min medium, 1hr 24min high
Impact Resistance: 1 meter
Water Resistance: IP68
Measurements: 20mm width x 88mm length
Working Voltage 0.9-4.2 Volts
Reflector: orange peel
Product link (non-affiliated, $13 at time of review): Page Not Found - Aliexpress.com
Because my sample comes from the first production batch, the inner diameter of the tube is only 14.2-14.3mm which means it will only accept unprotected 14500s and some AA batteries. All the alkaline AA’s I’ve tested fit but not all NiMH fit. Eneloop, unprotected 14500 Windyfire and unprotected 14500 purple eFest will FIT. Ladda NiMH, Eneloop PRO, and protected 14500 Xtar will NOT FIT. So please note that if you receive an item from the first batch this may be an issue.
Contents & Build
Similar to other Sofirn products, the SP10A comes with black anodization of decent quality. It’s slightly slippery but the knurling and clip help with that. I do wish it had a grippier matte finish like the black Convoys but it’s not a huge issue. The threads could use some extra lubrication, but they are square cut with anodized threads for manual lockout, avoiding accidental activation and parasitic drain.
Up front, the SP10A uses a neutral white XP-G2 with orange peel reflector, no AR coating on the lens, and produces some decent throw for its size. It’s definitely more “throwy” than the UT01 and Mi7, but less throwy than the Jet-1 MK and SF12 (both of which use a smooth reflector).
Size comparison with other AA flashlights and common lights
(left to right) Convoy C8, Convoy S2+, Sipik SK68, Meco Q5, Sofirn SF12, Sofirn SP10A, Utorch UT01, Jetbeam Jet-I MK, Klarus Mi7 ti, AA alkaline
It’s relatively small in size and aesthetically pleasing with the side button being it’s best attribute.
The design and machining of the metal e-switch looks like something you would find on more expensive lights. The clicking action is solid and quiet especially compared to rear clickies, but it does have a slight jiggle when shaken. Although the button protrudes from the body you’ll need to press it past flush to register a click so there’s not much of an issue with accidental presses. The button is quite small and can be difficult to find in the dark, however lining up the clip with the button eliminates that inconvenience.
The pocket clip is not deep carry but it is firm and works well. At the tail end, the design is similar to the Utorch UT01 with a keychain/lanyard hole and no magnet.
Driver & Output
I wasn’t expecting much with this driver as I already have the similar Sofirn SF12, which has some terrible PWM at low and medium modes. That’s not the case with the SP10A; there is no visible PWM (from my eyes) on any mode whether you’re using a AA, NiMH or 14500.
Additionally, the boost driver on the older SF12 using AA was also not very impressive and maxes out around 150 lumens. For the SP10A, that’s been improved to 270 rated lumens but it looks even brighter than that (sorry, I don’t have the equipment to measure that). The difference between NiMH and 14500 is noticeable but not significant, so if your preference is to use NiMH, than I wouldn’t hesitate to do that for the longer run times without missing much output. There’s also a 3 minute step-down using 14500s.
I wasn’t able to open up the retaining ring to the driver so I couldn’t get pics of that. It may have been glued or just got stuck somehow which is unfortunate as I was planning to change drivers. I’ll be swapping emitters as I do prefer Nichia LEDs, especially for smaller lights.
The UI is a bit of mixed bag which is the reason for my urge to replace the driver. It does have mode memory but performing On/Off requires a 0.5 second hold, which I don’t prefer. Yes it helps with accidental activation but I don’t think it’s needed due to the recessed design of the button. Ideally, it would be a single click for on and a shorter 0.25 second hold for off in this particular light.
After turning on, a single click cycles between low-med-high modes. A double click from any mode (including off) will take you into a variable strobe mode. There is no additional SOS or bike flasher modes. The output levels are well spaced but it’s missing a sub lumen moonlight mode which, for me, is essential as a bedside or camping light since a 5 lumen low mode is too bright for night adjusted vision.
These moldy rooftop shots are the best I could do on my smartphone but I hope they’re somewhat representative. It was a pretty foggy night so that doesn’t help either.
Jet-I MK [AA]
Jetbeam’s Jet-I MK is a BLF favorite because it has a usable/simple UI, it’s well built, bright, and cheap without feeling cheap. The SP10A offers similar characteristics with a few differences. It’s using a side switch which is more ergonomic and doesn’t require the use of 2 hands to operate. Yeah, you can operate the Jetbeam with one hand but it’s awkward and not a smooth action.
The SP10A also wins with no visible PWM and a higher output on regular AA/NiMH batteries, however the max output on the Jetbeam with a 14500 looks to be brighter. I do like the smooth reflector found on the Jet-I MK as it directs its lumens to punch through distances more forcefully. But despite the more impressive output on14500, the winner in this comparison goes to the SP10A for its ease of use, better AA output (which is my own preference to use) and a better looking design.
The light most similar to the SP10A in terms of design, format, price, etc. is probably the Utorch UT01. It does go for $16 to $24 USD so it’s not a direct comparison to the $13 SP10A but it’s close enough. The UI includes a decent moonlight mode, programmable brightness on all levels, and you don’t have to hold the button to turn it on. This is makes the UT01 my go to light for the bedside as I can turn it on in an instant (always on moonlight) without blinding myself in the middle of the night or to check on my child.
The UT01 also has a brighter max output using either AA or 14500, though it can be frustrating that the turbo, high and even medium modes often look the same as the voltage drops so you end up clicking several times with no output change. The beam is floodier than the SP10A (as seen in the night shots) so it’s more appropriate for indoor or household use. Unfortunately, UT01’s pocket clip design requires you to adjust and readjust to fit your jeans so this aspect discourages me from using it as an everyday carry. The SP10A, on the other hand, has a solid clip that’s easy and quick to use without much fiddling around.
Overall, I’d rate the UT01 over the SP10A due to its higher output and more advanced user interface.
I can appreciate most aspects of Sofirn’s SP10A; its solid looks, size, quality e-switch button, and high (no PWM) output using AA/NiMH check most of the boxes for me. However, holding for 0.5 seconds to turn on is not my preference. The lack of moonlight mode also makes it less versatile but if you’re OK with the user interface and don’t need moonlight, it becomes a great flashlight especially for the $13 price tag. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as an everyday carry over any other AA flashlight at the moment.