Author Topic: Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition Cree MT-G2 2*18650 Tactical light  (Read 7501 times)

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Offline JohnnyMac

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Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition Cree MT-G2 2*18650 Tactical light
« on: August 24, 2014, 06:48:22 AM »
FENIX TK35 Ultimate Edition








 
 Features ofFenix TK35UE:
  Cree MT-G2 LED with a lifespan of50,000 hours
Uses four 3V CR123A batteries (Lithium) or two 18650 rechargeablebatteries (Li-ion)
Output mode / Runtime:
 Turbo 1800 lumens 1h  30min
 High 750 lumens 4h  
 Mid 250 lumens 13h  30min
 Low 25 lumens 150h  
 Strobe 1800 lumens    
 SOS 250 lumens     Dimensions and Weight:
 Length 6.49" 165mm  
 Diameter 1.73" 44mm  
 HeadDiameter 2.03" 52mm  
 Weight 9.35oz 265gm (excluding batteries) Digitally-regulated output,maintains constant brightness
Reverse polarity protection, to prevent damage from improper batteryinstallation
Dual-button switch in tail cap for convenient operation
Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum
Premium Type-3 hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
Included accessories: holster, lanyard and spare o-ring

To see my final thoughts and opinions in summary just scroll to the bottom of the review if you want to skip the details and pictures.  In the mean time let's have a closer look at the light... 





The packaging includes the TK35UE light, a holster, braided lanyard, spare O-ring, warranty card and user manual.



The user manual was in Chinese only and pretty much useless to an English only user like myself.  Fortunately everything about the TK35 is pretty self explanatory.
*English version ofTK35 User manual

 

The holster that Fenix provides with the TK35 series is pretty much useless. It holds the light just fine but it's a real PITA to use and offers zero lens protection like a standard top-flap design would provide.  The back and top-strap are pretty heavy duty but the lower pouch for the base of the light is pretty thin nylon in comparison to the rest of it.  Why is it a PITA to use? Because the top-strap design requires two hands to remove and insert the light - especially to insert the light.  It's just plain stupid and it sucks.  Stick it in your jacket pocket or make your own holster with a standard top-flap.  Toss this one in the bin.

 

The included lanyard is the opposite of the holster.  It's looks great and works well enough although it's not adjustable to tighten to your wrist. A lesser lanyard than other lights of similar price class.  The braiding is a nice change of pace and at least looks great.



Physically the TK35UE is identical in appearance to it's sibling, the TK35,aside from the engraving.



The tail cap on the new TK35UE is machined from aluminum instead of the older plastic tail cap of the previous versions.



The look of the TK35 series lights is iconic and functional.  One of the most easily recognized flashlights in the industry.



The one-piece head has three grooves machined into it creating 3 fins in the main pill area.

 

  The simple ribbed "knurling" in the battery tube provide comfortable and secure grip.

Two switches control all functions.  The larger switch is a main power switch and is a forward clicky design that provides momentary on.
The smaller button controls mode selection.



The threading came pre-lubed with ample silicon lube.  The fully anodized threads are well machined and have decent tolerance without much slop in them  but they are anything but smooth.  They felt like Fenix used silicate grit in the lubricating gel.  They have an extremely gritty feel to them and not the buttery smooth feel I expect in higher quality lights.  Even after a thorough cleaning and lube they still feel like there is a fine grit.  My guess is it is the anodizing that imparts the gritty feeling.  The O-ring seals snugly inside the head and feels like it should be water resistant.



All inner components of the head are inserted and removed from the rear of the head.  There is no removable bezel in the TK35 series.  The only visible part of the back of the head is a contact plate for the current to run the Cree MT-G2 emitter.  There is no driver in the head.  This is merely a mounting surface for the contacts to the brains of the TK35UE in the battery cartridge.  I wasn't able to remove the pill as it is locked in hard and I believe it to be glued in with thermal epoxy or Loctite.



With the cartridge removed from the main body tube you can see the switch pins under the power and mode buttons.  There are no springs in here. You can also see the notch in the sidewall at 9:00 position.  This ensures the cartridge can only be inserted one way.

The battery carrier is made entirely of plastic aside from a few metal hardware bits.  The front face of the battery cartridge contains the anode contact (center)and cathode ring (outer).  In the pic above you can see the alignment bump in the outer surface of the cartridge.  This ensures it only inserts one way so the switches interface with the buttons correctly.  While sturdy enough for hard use I find it to rattle excessively.  It gives the Fenix,IMO, a feeling of cheapness that contradicts it's high price tag.



With the driver so easily accessed by removing just 4 screws, performing resistor mods to increase output should be really easy for those inclined.



With the driver in the front of the battery carrier it's only fitting that the switches are in the rear of it.

The TK35 can take 2*18650 cells or 4*CR123 primaries in series.  Molded symbols in the battery tubes show which direction to insert the cells.  One problem I have with it is the springs could have more movement on them and be larger.  While the cartridge as is will accommodate the longest of protected cells, use of unprotected cells of the the designed for length of 65mm fit very loosely in the holder with very little tension on the cells.  I have slowly moved the majority of my cells to unprotected IMR 18650 cells and am disappointed at how they barely put any tension on the thin carrier springs. The springs used should definitely be longer as well as stiffer.

 

4 Phillip head screws hold the tail cap in place on the end of the battery tube.  The O-ring around the base of the top cap seats inside the channel in the base of the battery tube.



A metal plate secures the switch button internals. The switch button posts only mate up one way so if you do disassemble the switch buttons for any reason make sure you reassemble it in the right orientation because the battery cartridge only inserts one way.



The plate holds in button internals and secures the O-ring that seals the switch to the battery tube.



Each plastic switch button post is held in with a machined aluminum bushing The rubber switch boots seat onto lip machined into the bushings.



Here are all the components in the tail cap.  Unfortunately the plastic pins in the switch button rattle excessively and give the TK35 series a cheap feeling.  The battery cartridge also rattles quite a bit further adding to a cheap feeling which is very unfortunate as it's not a cheap light.

Output Specifics

I measure OTF lumens using a calibrated Integrating Sphere.  highest output is measured using the ANSI standard of 30 seconds run time.  Lux is measured form a distance of 8.89 meters and calculated back to 1 meter. The longer measuring distance allows for reflector focus and gives a more accurate reading than those taken between 1 to 3 meters.  Lux output is also measured to ANSI standards which is 30 seconds run time and distance is calculated to 0.25 lux.



Airflow makes a huge difference in the cooling of the TK35UE in Turbo mode. I took my output vs temp testing in my dining room with the AC running and some airflow.  It didn't get anywhere near as hot as one night I had it outside on a warm summer night with little to no airflow.  It is a good thing that airflow, as well as ambient temperature, makes such a difference in a light this small with not much mass to it.





The nice big emitter at the base of the TK35UE's reflector is what makes this light special.  The Cree MT-G2 emitter is known for its massive output and gorgeous tint. In the smaller reflector of the TK35UE this means lots of smooth floody light, especially with the nice MOP finish of the reflector.



Four very utilitarian and useful main modes plus the usual hidden Fenix rapid strobe and slow SOS grace the TK35UE.  Output ranges from 27.5 lumen low toa 1733 lumen high.  I am disappointed this light, with it's all-purpose design, doesn't have a moon low.  It's a good low for those who don't like moon lows but those of us who use nice low moon modes as much as we do high modes (sometimes more) it is a negative for this light. Fenix utilizes a cycling strobe for more effective disorientation.  It will cycle between rapid and slower strobes.  Not as effective as a truly random strobe utilized by some other high end flashlight manufacturers but more effective than a constant single cycle strobe.  SOS mode is a proper SOS(SOS SOS SOS...), not the usual SOSOSOS as seen in some lesser lights.  It is a very slow SOS though and takes roughly 14 seconds to complete each SOS cycle.

With the addition of the MT-G2 emitter in the Ultimate Edition, the TK35UE becomes more than just the good tactical light the TK35 was.  It also becomes a great camping and hiking light with great run time for its size. I would have like to see the addition of a locator beacon added to the secondary modes.

User Interface
Primary Modes:
The larger of the two buttons is a mechanical forward-clicky power button. It allows for momentary on function for signally or quick, silent bursts of light.  The momentary output depends on the last mode used on the light. When turning on the light in full or momentary use it will always come on the last of the 4 main modes you used.  If you turned off the light while using strobe or SOS modes it will always return to the last used main mode when turned back on.

The smaller of the two buttons is an electronic soft switch with a firm but audible click.  This button controls your mode selection In normal use clicking it will move you through the modes in order from lowest to highest starting with the next higher mode from the one you are currently in.  To move from medium low back to low you must cycle through medium high then to high and then into low.

Secondary Modes:
Rapid Strobe:  With the TK35UE on in any primary mode,press and hold the Mode selection button for 1 second to engage.  To disengage rapid strobe click the Mode selection button to return to the last used primary mode.  You could also simply hit the main poser button to disengage rapid strobe

SOS:  To engage SOS mode while in on in any other(including rapid strobe) press and hold the mode selection button for 3 seconds. If  engaged while in a primary mode please be ready for it to engage strobe after 1 second and for rapid strobe to remain on for an additional 2 seconds before SOS will come on.  To disengage SOS mode click the Mode selection button to return to the last used Primary mode.

Output in Real Life Use
It's high mode output of 1733 OTF lumens (measured in my calibrated Illumination Sphere) is a tad lower than the Fenix's claimed output of 1800 OTFlumens.  This is within an acceptable 5% which can allow for variations in emitter tolerances as well as environment and measuring devices.  Is 1733-1800 lumens a lot of lumens for an MT-G2 light? Not really.  Only the SWM 7G10 and Solarforce S2200 have MT-G2 emitters with such low output. Almost all other MT-G2 lights I know put out 2400 or more lumens.  A hard driven XM-L2 can provide 1650 OTF lumens but it will be working super hard to accomplish this creating tons of heat and sucking the juice from your batteries like a fat kid drinking root beer.

This leaves me with the opinion that a light this size is properly driven. The light gets hot.  Real hot!  After 5 minutes of running outside while sitting by the fire pit the TK35UE got uncomfortably hot in the head. Could this light be jacked up to make over 3500 OTF lumens?  Hell yes it could but would I want it that bright with the amount of heat that would be produced and with unusable run times?  I don't think so.  Who am I kidding??  Hell yes I would but then I'm a lunatic for lumens with the philosophy that medium and low modes exist for cooling down after a minute at stupid bright output levels. 

Do I blame Fenix for not doing such a thing with the TK35UE?  Hell no. They did the right thing for the sake of compromise in run time and warranty claims.  Idiots like me can always bump up output later should we desire. This is a light designed to run reliably for years and 1800 lumens for a single emitter light is nothing to sneeze at while providing great run time on two high capacity cells.



The TK35UE will tail stand but barely due to the overly tall power switch button.  I've no idea why they didn't make the button the same height as the mode button so that the light can tail stand flat stable. I know it is to easily differentiate between the power and mode buttons using touch but the increased width and smooth versus textured surfaces would have been enough to accomplish the same thing while allowing stable tail standing.

In the other photo you can see the TK35UE alongside my only other MT-G2 light(at this time), the ThruNite TN35.  It's not really a fair comparison aside from the fact that the TN35 can be had for the same price when on sale as the TK35UE generally sells for.  Aside from the smaller, more pocketable size,there is no contest between the two.




The TN35 has a far tighter, more concentrated, and brighter hot spot due to it's larger reflector.  The brighter spill is due to its higher output. The TN35 also doesn't get as hot as the TK35UE due to it's greater mass and surface area.  To be honest and to be as fair as possible to the TK35UE,you can't easily stuff the TN35 in your jacket pocket.  It's just not as compact and tidy as the TK35UE although the overall feel and build quality of the ThruNite far surpasses the Fenix and its gritty threads, and rattling plastic cell carrier and switches.







CONCLUSION

PROS
  • The usual Fenix quality (more or less)
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Good run time
  • That gorgeous MT-G2 tint and output
  • Perfectly centered LED
  • Great output increase over the standard TK35 especially considering it's size and mass
  • Great satin finished hard anodizing
  • Nice laser etching
  • Proven and well loved design the TK35 series is known for.
  • Large hot spot and smooth spill
  • Unique braided lanyard
  • Can be easily modded for increased output.
  • Tail cap is now machined aluminum instead of the plastic in older TK35 models.
CONS
  • One of the lowest output of the available MT-G2 lights
  • Excessive cell carrier and switch rattle gives it a cheap feeling.
  • Unnecessarily tall power button makes tail standing just barely possible and very unstable.
  • Horrible holster design.
  • Non-replaceable head bezel
  • Gritty feeling threads
  • Non-adjustable lanyard
If you are in the market for a very compact and bright light and a fan if Fenix lights then you should look into this light.  Fenix TK35 junkies will love this light!  It all comes down to how much you love Fenix lights and in particular the ergonomics of the TK35 series. 

If you are not a die hard Fenix fan and are looking for a bright, reliable torch with good run time there are other options out there for far less money.  If you are looking to own a good MT-G2 based light and size is not a concern then you are better of looking at lights like the TN35. The Eagletac SX25L3 is far smaller, has 1000 more lumens out the front, and can be had for $130. There is also the Olight SR Mini with triple XM-L2 and a much smaller size and 2700 lumens.

With just a touch of hesitation I say the TK35 Ultimate Edition is "Mac Approved".  While the Fenix TK35UE is a good light, and a fun light, it's just not a $159 light.  There are several other MT-G2 lights in this price range or less that might make my first choice.  This feels more like a$90-$100 light to me.  It can be easily modded for more output if you are handy with a soldering iron.  If you can find it for $100 or less then you might want to pick it up if you have no other MT-G2 lights.  If you are already a Fenix fan and, in particular, a fan of the TK35 series then you will definitely want to get your hands on one of these.

Special thanks to Banggood.com for providing this light for review.

Offline MRsDNF

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Re: Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition Cree MT-G2 2*18650 Tactical light
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2014, 08:04:06 AM »
Thanks for the review JM. Its an interesting light. Maybe the lower output is due to only running two batteries giving it a longer run time than if it was driven harder? I wonder if there will be a generic version out like the XML version.
When the big picture is to big, look for a point you can start at and build from there.

Offline jacktheclipper

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Re: Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition Cree MT-G2 2*18650 Tactical light
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2014, 04:26:37 PM »
Great review Johnny !

« Last Edit: August 24, 2014, 04:27:19 PM by jacktheclipper »

Offline JohnnyMac

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Re: Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition Cree MT-G2 2*18650 Tactical light
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2014, 06:29:24 PM »
Thanks for the review JM. Its an interesting light. Maybe the lower output is due to only running two batteries giving it a longer run time than if it was driven harder? I wonder if there will be a generic version out like the XML version.
Thanks, Steve. 

Yeah, I was thinking the same about the output and like I said int he review, I think it really is a good compromise between run time, heat produced, and output.  At a time where XM-L2 lights are slamming out 1650 lumens OTF 1750 lumens doesn't seem like much on the surface but when you think that the MT-G2 is only using 3A to make almost 1800 lumens and that an XM-L at over 1600 OTF is pulling 6.5A or more, efficiency does seem much better using an MT-G2 at these levels. 

On the other hand let's think about watts used, not amps, and see if it really is that much more efficient.  An XM-L2 at those levels has a forward voltage demand at about 4v IIRC so 4v*6.5A=26 watts.  An MT-G2 running at 6v and drawing 3A is using only 18 watts and generating more light and far less heat.  So yeah, the MT-G2 really is a far more efficient LED.  It's no wonder it's your favorite emitter at this point in time! :)

I was also thinking the same about clones of this showing up with the MT-G2.  This is my first and probably last TK35 owned but I do have a couple of TK35 clones and honestly, the difference in built quality is so minor it's almost laughable.  The clones can tail stand since the power button is not as tall as the Fenix version and nearly everything is interchangeable. The threads on the clone are far smoother but not quite as tight with the tolerances.  To me the difference in price between a real one and a clone is so vast that I just can't see paying $150 for the Fenix.  If clones of this light do come out then it's something I suggest every flashlight enthusiast get.

Offline JohnnyMac

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Re: Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition Cree MT-G2 2*18650 Tactical light
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2014, 06:31:13 PM »
Great review Johnny !


Thanks, Jack!  Great to see you active.  How is everything going for you these days?

I love that picture!  Fairly Odd Parents is a great cartoon. :P