August 9th, 2014
Credit: Dave Wise
What seems to be missing from thus far every single light I have reviewed that was actually somewhat common on many lights shortly before the recent flashlight renaissance? Why, adjustable focus, of course.
Meat and Potatoes
First and foremost, let me apologize. I carried this light every day for weeks on end to try and guarantee I gave it a fair shake. During that time I spent days at work, nights and weekends purely at home, and even camping for more than a week at a time. I definitely put an appropriate effort into reviewing it, but for some reason I managed to get distracted from actually taking pictures of the light. This has led to an unfortunate situation as now when the time comes, my torch has wandered off to locales unknown before it’s illustrious photo shoot. I knew this day would come eventually. I knew at some point I would end up with a review that does not include the necessary photographic evidence. Because of this, I have in the interim grabbed a few of the stock photos of the P2AAA from Nextorch directly. I promise you however that once the light once again makes an appearance, I will substitute my own shots.
Quite honestly, adjustable focus is one feature of the old D cell lights that I genuinely did not miss in the least. I always found the beams from these monstrosities to be filled with artifacts to the point of unusability. When I first got a chance to try out the P2AAA, I didn’t hold out too much hope for an LED to provide too much improvement over the status quo of the old incandescent bulbs. The fault lies in the reflector system, not the bulb. When you move the light source out of the focal point of a parabolic reflector, you no longer have a carefully constructed beam pattern, but rather a haphazard alignment that’s lucky to achieve viability.
Saving my beam usability statements for a few moments, the remainder of the light has some definite pros and cons. Construction of the P2AAA seems moderately decent. The anodizing is uniform and appears thick. The glow-in-the-dark tailcap switch actually manages to prove useful, and has one of the nicer reverse clicky operations I’ve felt. I personally carried it in a hand-me-down holster, pilfered temporarily from another light in my collection, but the belt clip does appear to be durable enough to withstand the rigors of daily use for a while. There is a little wobble where the head connects to the body, but for the most part the P2AAA is fairly well constructed.
The Duo-Switch is, I believe, a Nextorch exclusive design that works an awesome little bit of magic with the UI. When the light is off, the switch only functions as a standard momentary forward clicky. There is no advancement through the modes, and thereby excellent predictability of output. Once the light has been latched on, it functions more like a reverse clicky allowing half-presses to cycle the modes. This is quite literally the best of both worlds. Add to that the solid tactile feedback of the switch and this is easily my favorite Nextorch innovation as of late.
Built to the size of a middle to large duty light, you would expect the P2AAA to run the industry mainstay of a pair of CR123A cells, or possibly a powerhouse 18650, that is unless you adroitly assumed the repeating character in its name was significant. Yes, this belt-carry light runs on AAA cells. A trio of these tiny energy tidbits are housed in the barrel of the torch within a slightly better constructed variant of the adapters found in the cheapest of imported lights. I was somewhat surprised at the length of time I managed to squeeze usable light from these, but I know it could easily be better. For a larger, more powerful light like this, a larger cell would have been a much better choice. Even the simple AA cells contain 2-3 times as much capacity over AAAs, a pair of those would increase capacity dramatically. A single 18650 would offer even more significant gains.
The very focus of this light’s design is, in fact, focus. The flashlight market over the last number of years has granted very few exceptions to the rule that all lights should have a single fixed focus. Most of the options I have seen (though not tested) actually use multiple lensing to accomplish any focus magic. The P2AAA however relies entirely on old school reflector technology. A simple twist of the head of the torch removes the Cree XM-L from the focal point of the parabolic reflector and ushers it forward toward the window. Eventually, this process reverses bringing the LED back into optimum position. In my opinion, this really only provides 2 decent beam shapes. Perfectly in focus allows for a relatively tight beam, with a gradual transition to the bright spill. The polar opposite position is also quite useful being almost entirely unfocused. There is really nothing except the bare LED providing a perfectly smooth and uniform wall of light in a generally forward direction. The problems come at nearly every point between the two. Essentially, the spot and transitional corona separate out from the center of the beam leaving a giant donut of bright light, with the relatively dimmer bare-emitter-spillbeam filling the center. This shape of beam is entirely useless. A simple, fixed-focus torch with an available diffuser would perform both usable options perfectly, without the added complexity of the focus mechanism.
While my initial impressions of the P2AAA were definitely negative, I did end up being surprised at it’s usability. The AAA’s lasted significantly longer than I expected, and the pure flood option at low lumen levels was incredibly beneficial when tent camping with small children for more than a week on end. That being said, I doubt I will be reaching for this light in preference to others in the long run. There are a number of things that could be better implemented.
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