Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: HexBright - FLEX Programable light

I'm really excited to be bringing this one to you. This is another Kickstarter project that I backed ages ago, (Launched: May 21, 2011Funding successful : Jul 19, 2011) that finally arrived about a month ago. 

That's a long time, you might say. It was. However, creator Christian Carlberg made it up to me and all the other backers with his constant step-by-step updates, keeping us up to date with every design iteration, testing run and exchange of parts. The included videos of the whole process kept the faith, and my interest the whole, long, wait.

When it finally arrived, I was as thrilled as could be. This is the HexBright FLEX, open-source programmable, rugged, high-performance light. (Here, stacked up against my Surefire 6PX)

Christian pitched the HexBright as "a stylish, rugged, high-power compact light you can use as-is or reprogram however you want using open-source code." and yes, it is all those things!

 

The Flex has a max light output of 500 lumens thanks to the
CREE XM-L U2 LED super bright LED light source that sits at the pointy end behind the TIR Lens. The lens is made from PMMA, optical grade acrylic.

What does that give me? According to the Kickstarter page, and the Hexbright site, that means you have a High Mode output of 500 Lumens for 1 hour, a Medium Mode output of 175 Lumens for 8 hours or a Low Mode, 50 Lumens for 30 hours. Five HUNDRED Lumens. The Surefire 6Px is listed with a 200L output, and the 5-11 ATAC A1has a 103 Lumen output rating.

For those interested in color temperature, the FLEX sits at  5380K - which apparently is "just shy of daylight". Thanks to all that circuitry, you also have regulated light output, the light stays constant and has a 1.6amp max output, thanks to the USB rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, which is apparently 3.7 VDC 2400 mAh, 4.8 Amp Protected). All that circuitry however, isn't just for power-metering, it also houses the programability of the unit.


The HexBright Flex comes shipped with default program modes of high (500 LM), medium (350 LM), low (200 LM), and blinky. but by plugging the FLEX into a computer via the micro-USB port, and then loading code with Arduino software. (You need to do some downloads first, both the USB drivers, the Arduino application and then the Arduino code files for whatever programs you want to run.

Part of the fun about this light is that versatility. As well as the press button at the tail-cap, the circuit board also has a temperature sensor, which can be used to monitor the lights heat for emergency shut-off due to overheating, but also can be used to report ambient temperature (reporting through flashes of the tail-button LED's). It also features a accelerometer which enables rotation and tap based signals to be used to govern the light (ie, rotate to dim or brighten, or tap to change settings, or message)

The inner housing rotates out via heavy set threads at the -tip- of the light, rather than the tail, which was a cool addition, and seals up with a well-seated o-ring gasket at the tail end. Accessing the USB port can be achieved by simply unscrewing the tail cap enough to expose it. It also means I can charge it via my solar chargers.
 



The body of the FLEX was machined from solid hexagonal aircraft-grade aluminium bar stock. both the tailcap, and the internal carrier body with its threaded end are made of the same stock, giving you a rock-solid construction. The tailcap button is a translucent rubber, also fully sealed, allows you to see the green and red status lights (charging, and mode-changing).

 
 At 145mm by 34mm, and weighing in at 215 g  (5.7" long by 1.3" , 7.6 oz) this is big for a pocket torch, but all that body houses the electronics, AND acts as a heat sink for the mighty CREE XM-L U2 LED. The knurled tailcap end is ever so slightly raised above the hexagonal sides of the main body, so the FLEX doesn't sit quite as flat as i'd have liked, but the meaty finger groves and that hexagonal body make it an ergonomic dream to wield or stuff a pocket with. A couple of narrow lanyard holes in the tailcap give you a carry-loop option.

Here's me doing a bit of an indoor test and comparison with my Surefire and ATAC A1, turning a cave into day.

Outside, the limitations of my iPhone to capture good night footage don't do the FLEX justice, but all the same, 500 Lumen is nothing to be scoffed at. I'm not sure if my car-headlights are this bright (bigger, yes, but as bright? I'm not sure).

Once I connected my FLEX to a PC, and messed around with the Arduino programs I found online, I settled with LOW-MED-HIGH, hold for flashy, hold and tap for strobe, and using the accelerometer, "go to sleep after 20 seconds of inactivity/wake on movement" for that "find your light in the dark tent" option. 
Going LOW-MED-HIGH at the tap of the button means I dont dazzle myself unnecessarily, or give my self away too badly if I am being careful about light discipline.  



Here's the comparison shots of the LOW-MED-HIGH settings indoors.




The HexBright FLEX is an awesome piece of engineering, I was really pleased to have received mine, even after the deliciously long wait, thanks to Christian's awesome updates and cute videos. This is definitely going into my EDC load, and my main concern is learn how to code new programs for it!


Non-US enquiries,  contact Christian directly at christian@hexbright.com

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