Review: TrustFire R5-A3 XP-G R5 1xAA 3-mode

TrustFire R5-A3

Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★★★


Battery: Single AA or 14500
Switch: GITD Reverse Clicky
Modes: Hi - Low - Strobe (w/ mode memory)
LED Type: Cree XP-G R5
Lens: Coated Glass
Tailstands: Yes
Price Payed: $18.30


  • XP-G R5 emitter produces beautifully smooth, incredibly bright beam
  • Excellent build quality
  • Tailstands perfectly with recessed glow-in-the-dark tailswitch
  • Pocket clip to which a spare lanyard can be attached


  • Terrible runtime on low
  • Ridiculously bright low-mode
  • Rather expensive
  • Very tight battery fit

Features / Value: ★★★☆☆

The TrustFire R5-A3 is a new model that was just recently released in May of 2010. I ordered the R5-A3 immediately after its release, and received it within a month, which is about normal for DealExtreme. To my knowledge it is the first 1xAA model that DealExtreme has offered with the modern Cree XP-G R5 emitter, which is the principal attraction of the R5-A3. As of this writing, the DealExtreme product description incorrectly lists the emitter as an XP-E R5, which experts tell me is a non-existent combination. I can confirm that mine is fearfully bright with an Eneloop, and the emitter corresponds with pictures of the XP-G. Apart from the emitter, the R5-A3 is nice, but doesn't have many other distinguishing features. I was happy to see that the R5-A3 has a recessed tailswitch, which allows it to tailstand. However, I would not expect this feature to be found on all samples, as our BLF user Don received an R5-A3 with a tailswitch that protrudes slightly from the end, preventing it from tailstanding well. The tailswitch also glows in the dark, which I personally find very useful. And it also has a glow in the dark O-ring between the lens and the bezel, which produces a fascinating afterglow effect that can also be used to locate the light in the dark after recently shutting it off and setting it down. The R5-A3 uses a metal clip in lieu of a lanyard. I find this feature to offer the best of both worlds, as I can clip the light onto my clothes or tie a spare lanyard onto the clip and carry it that way. DealExtreme claims that this light features a coated glass lens and aluminum reflector, which I have no reason to doubt. The R5-A3 offers three light modes with functional mode memory that needs a bit less than 2 seconds to kick in. These are all nice features, and I am thrilled to see the appearance of the XP-G R5 in an affordable 1xAA format, but for the price of $18.30 I would really like to see a bit more. This light would be a real killer if it had an extremely low moonlight mode and a programmable output system similar to the Akoray K-106. Or, they could lower the price a bit to about $15 and I would give it 4-stars for the ratio of features to price. As it stands, I am giving it only 3-stars for the Features / Value criterion.

Build Quality: ★★★★★

Build quality is excellent on my sample of the TrustFire R5-A3. It should be mentioned that DealExtreme has a reputation for shipping the first batch of a new product with excellent build quality but later allowing the quality to go downhill. But at least the one I have in my hands is a very nice piece of work, with high quality materials and a nice solid feel. The light only disassembles in one place-- the tail. The threads there are exceptionally fine and silky smooth and well lubricated. I am most impressed by this exquisite tailcap. Happily, I did not have to clean the light and have not had any contact problems or flickering or unwanted mode changing due to jostling. One feature that contributes to the good contact could also be considered by some to be a negative point; the R5-A3 has very thick sidewalls and therefore a considerably constricted inner diameter. Thus, the battery chamber just barely admits a new, smooth Eneloop with an extreme minimum of clearance, to such a degree that, upon dropping in the battery head down, it actually rides softly down the chamber on a cushion of expelled air and almost creates a vacuum. While I am excited to find such precision machining on a budget light, realistically it doesn't seem possible that an $18.30 light could have such high tolerances so as to maintain this precision on every sample, thus resulting in jammed or even vacuum-locked batteries for some owners. It would probably be a good idea to lubricate the inner chamber with some very fine lubricant, and make sure that it is not viscous, or the problem would be exacerbated even more. I also wonder if the the battery will sometimes get hot and expand, thereby press-fitting itself into the chamber. Apart from this curiosity, the TrustFire R5-A3 is a handsome light with black finish, nice moderate knurling in its midsection, and a red ring immediately above the tailcap. I could do without the crenelations around the bezel, but at least they're not too severe. The lens arrived unscratched, and the black coat of paint is quite uniform. I detected a single minuscule spot of something on the reflector, which does not in any way affect performance, and there are a couple of very fine traces in a few parts of the outer body. The pocket clip is sturdy enough, but a few degrees transversal relative to the long axis of the body. Again, this does not affect performance in any way. The white painted label on a milled flat says TrustFire® R5-A3. Closer to the head around the diameter it says CAUTION: HOT SURFACE which curiously reminds me of the warning on a metal coffee brewing machine. Incidentally, it doesn't get very hot, probably thanks to its high-quality aluminum reflector. Due to the O-rings in the tail and in the head, it should be very water-resistant. Unlike many other budget lights, the emitter does not produce any irritating whining frequency. I really have no legitimate complaint about the quality of the R5-A3, I just hope they maintain it like this throughout all of its production runs.

Battery Life: ☆☆☆☆

Here is where the TrustFire R5-A3 falls on its face. Runtime on low is awful. I should preface this by saying that, in terms of efficiency, the R5-A3's modern, efficient, XP-G R5 emitter produces a lot of light with very little power. But, although it really is a very efficient device, the R5-A3 squanders its efficient advantage on senselessly high light output. While I applaud any design that gives the maximum amount of light from its configuration, I generally need far less than the maximum. I enjoy a blindingly bright flashlight as much as the next guy, but I rarely need such brightness for more than 60 seconds at a time, and more frequently I require a very low setting for long periods of general night work. Yet, TrustFire has inexplicably designed the R5-A3 with a low mode that belies its name. The low mode is barely distinguishable visually from the high mode. Even during daylight hours, with the light about 10cm away from a white wall on "low" it irritates my admittedly sensitive eyes to look directly at the hotspot. And naturally, with that kind of output on "low", the battery life is correspondingly pathetic. I must admit that the combination of a high-quality Eneloop with this light's regulation circuitry produces admirably flat, steady output-- but only for about two hours on "low". At 2:10 the light output suddenly fell off a cliff, and at 2:30 it is no longer usable. The R5-A3 consumes batteries like a rocket that burns as much fuel as the available air permits. Thenceforth, both the rocket and the TrustFire R5-A3 will leave its user in the dark. So, runtime fanatics, look elsewhere. Complete failure on this criterion.

Light Output: ★★★★★

I bought the TrustFire R5-A3 for the modern Cree XP-G R5 emitter, and it didn't disappoint me in the least. The beam is blindingly bright and exceptionally smooth. Most of the older Cree emitters showed characteristic rings in the aura, but it appears that the XP-G has solved this problem. The beam is very pleasing to the eyes with an intense hotspot that smoothly transitions out the edges of the aura with no noticeable shadows or rings. The color is pleasingly neutral. And the brightness is truly marvelous, and even more so being that I am only using a 1.2V NiMH Eneloop. With a 14500 LiON battery, our user Don confirms that it is indeed fearsomely bright. In fact I think I could probably use the strobe mode to repel or befuddle an unarmed assailant at night, especially of the canine variety. It appears that the R5-A3 produces a reasonable amount of flood, which surprises me owing to the fact that it has a smooth reflector, which normally throws more than it floods. Most light aficionados would probably be more than thrilled with the light quality and lumen output of the R5-A3, and it undoubtedly rivals its peers that cost 5 to 20 times as much.

Summary: ★★★★

Well, the ratings for the TrustFire R5-A3 in the above four criteria have been all over the charts, ranging from stellar build quality and light output, to abysmal runtime. The overall average comes out to 3.5-stars, so I have to round up to a 4-star overall rating. But for me, the TrustFire R5-A3 is not a practical or useful light. Unfortunately it has been a disappointment for me due to its lack of a reasonable, practical low mode. But for light fanatics who simply want a compact, modern, 14500-compatible pocket-rocket, the TrustFire R5-A3 is undoubtedly an outstanding buy and should garner its manufacturer Trustfire some well-earned admiration.

Do you own the TrustFire R5-A3? If so, please give it your own star rating below!

Great review Mr. Admin........Good thing that you got some HQ nimh cells, free lumens.

Nice review! That is worrisome about how tight the barrel is. I imagine some 14500's wouldn't fit. And if they did expand due to heat and you can't remove the head, it wouldn't be easy to get the battery out. Some of the multi-mode drivers I have gotten seem to have closer High and Low on NiMH cells than li-ion cells, but I think Don noticed the same thing, with too high of a Low. I love the brightness and beam quality of my XP-G lights.

Thanks for the great review. Mine is showing a status of "ready" with dx, so I'm hopeful that it will be mailed soon. I noticed a few comments on the dx forum that others were having trouble with the tight battery fitment. If mine is as such, I plan to hollow out the inside of the battery compartment to make more room.

Thanks for reading brted! So do you think the beautifully smooth beam is due to the XP-G rather than to the reflector or some other features of this light? Would you expect most other XP-G lights to have a similar beam?

Another issue with this light... According to this DX thread, the R5-A3 is at least temporarily out of stock. I wonder if they are just in between production runs or if this is the end?

This really is a "hot rod" light. Not entirely practical, but a lot of light. I'd not bother unless it is going to be used exclusively on 14500s.

A bit on the expensive side for what it is, though it is nicely made. Battery tube could do with 0.1-0.2mm reamed out of it. There is no access to the battery at the LED end so if a battery does get stuck it will be interesting getting it out. It simply doesn't make sense to use alkalines in this light and the low needs to be about 25% of what it is. It'd be nice if version 2 had 100% 20% and 5% with no flashing mode. Or as Mr. Admin says, with the K106 programmable driver modified for the current involved on high.

Exactly. I prefer my Toyota Camry of a Trustfire F20 for EDC. Or my Suzuki Swift of a 1xAA Powerlight.

My guess/hope? (although I don't think I'll actually be getting one) is it's just temporary. DX and/or the manufacturer buy/produce a trial run, if they sell out fast without major complaints & returns they buy/produce more.

If so it will be interesting to see if they maintain the quality this time around.

Or the heavily modified motorcycle I used to play with - turning circle? Well it was light enough to pick up and point in the right direction.

Riding position that only made sense at about 30mph more than the thing's top speed when the wind resistance held you up and it didn't feel like doing pressups on your thumbs. Loads of fun, but not the device of choice for actually going anywhere. The bus was better for that.

The light isn't quite in that league for unusability, it's been clipped inside my jacket pocket at work (a mostly brightly lit hospital) and nobody has yet commented on how bright the thing is - but then they are used to my lights being rather brighter than most. My one's inability to tailstand is a problem where it is most likely to get used in our storage cupboard under the stairs. Usually you need both hands free in there to shift stuff out of the way to get to what you need.

Luck of the draw. Too bad about that, I really do like lights that tailstand. It sounds like the whole tailcap module is a bit abnormal on yours.

This makes a lot of sense to me and would explain why some lights pretty much disappear the day they get announced on the new arrivals page. It might also explain the prices as the manufacturers test the market to see what it'll bear. It wouldn't surprise me if some models are a result of DX/KD test marketing for them then the maker makes it a bit different so as to be a new model and sells it at a different price. Which might explain the Ultrafire C3 stainless steel, the first ones were excellent though a bit hot running, the later ones weren't but were probably more profitable.

Just production tolerances I'd guess. I think the switch boot is the guilty party. It only takes a fraction of a millimetre - once I figure out how to get it out, it'll tailstand. The boot is probably too big but I have quite a few 14mm boots I can stick in there till I get one that works properly and takes up the excessive travel in the switch. The Solarforce forward clicky i bought has the same problem. Maybe some more dismantling this weekend - the weather forecast isn't good anyway.

The brightness of this rocket would do well in an indoor situation it would seem......or for short term use outside when one is not carrying a bigger light.

Or with a backpack full of spare cells. Actually the high is too bright for a lot of indoors stuff - and the low is still a whole heap of light. Great fun though. For lighting up the cupboard under the stairs - I'll get a pic - it is great if it'd only tailstand though a blob of Blu-Tak should sort that out

You can always make a small flashlight stand for the light......something small that you can carry around with you.

The infamous cupboard under the stairs. It is about 3 metres long and at its highest point about 3 metres high. There is good reason for that sign on the wall/roof - I have the scars on my head to prove it.

With the lights stuck to the wall behind me. It is probably illuminating my back very well.



I can do similar shots for other lights if this approach interests anyone - obviously this is as total output rather than hotspot measurement. Here's the light in front of me. Obviously the exposure is different.



As you can see, not a lot of difference between high and low in these two pics - while the exposures aren't the same this does capture the visual differences between the two levels quite well, i.e., it isn't really visible.

Hey Don, do you think my Eneloops are functioning correctly? I did another runtime test with a freshly charged Eneloop, and it held very steady until about 2:10, and at 2:21 it was as bright visually as the K-106 on Low. By 2:30 the glow is hardly noticeable. It seems that yours lasts quite a bit longer.

Yes i would say also depends on the driver. With time and more use your Eneloops will get better and better, so for the first few uses you might get short runtime.

You might be right Al. In fact, I am now convinced these are NOT just cheap knockoffs... I just started a runtime test with a cheap BTY 2700 mAh NiMH that came with my charger, and it's about done for already at 1:14. A full hour more with the Eneloop!