Author Topic: TheOutdoorsPlus.com (TOP) Palmstar 4*XP-G2 Rechargeable Flashlight  (Read 1549 times)

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Offline JohnnyMac

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TheOutdoorsPlus.com (TOP) PalmStar 4*XP-G2 Rechargeable Flashlight

* This light was provided in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of theoutdoorsplus.com

When TheOutdoorsPlus.com approached me about reviewing their new brand of lights I was intrigued.  The PalmStar was a good looking light.  They are relative new comers to selling lights and when they decided to create their own brand of unique lights they went with quality first.  Their new models are made by Niwalker lights and it is readily seen once you have the PalmStar in hand.  Machining and anodizing are great.  The design, with a couple of exceptions, is well thought out and executed.  The UI is fairly unique which is a hard thing to accomplish these days.  Output is, at least on my sample, less than claimed but still better than most. 

I would say that the Palmstar's direct competition is the MecArmy PT18.  Both are USB rechargeable, quad XP-G2 lights, with 1000 lumens output.  While the PT18 sells for around $60 USD, the PalmStar sells for just under $50.  Unfortunately I don't have any of the MecArmy lights so the only light I have that is even close for comparison is my Astrolux S41.  The S41 is out of the Palmstar's league in output but the PalmStar holds up quite well considering.  Let's take a look at TOP's (theoutdoorsplus.com) marketing copy for the PalmStar before we get into the performance of it with my testing.

PRODUCT INFORMATION FROM MANUFACTURER

Features
LED: 4pcs CREE XPG2
The maximum output: 1300lumens
Material: Magnesium aluminum 6061
Switch: Side switch
Finishing: Type III Hard anodizing
Beam distance: 282meters
Luminous intensity: 20000lux
Shock proof: 1.5meters
Water resistant: IPX-8
Size: 108mm*24.5mm*33mm
Weight: 115g (without battery)


Technical specifications
Light output / runtime
Mode 1 : 40 lumens / 14hrs
Mode 2 : 100 lumens / 6.3hrs
Mode 3 : 500 lumens / 95min
Mode 4 : 830 lumens / 78min
Mode 5 : 1300 lumens / 75min
User Interface
Turn the light ON/OFF by the side switch. Once you release the switch, the light comes on constant mode.
When the light is on, single click the switch within one second to cycle through all the modes, mode memory remembers the last mode used.
When in stand by(light off), press-hold the switch for momentary max output.
When in stand by, double click the switch for instant strobe.
Double click from on to access the hidden modes.
Double click for SOS. another double click-for beacon mode Single click the switch gets you back to off. Note there is no mode memory for hidden modes
Lock-out mode is accessed by twisting the light body.
Mode 5 (max output) steps down to mode 4 when thermal protection kick in to prevent over heating.

Charging:
Unscrew the light body then insert the Micro USB cable into the charging hole and connected to the power supply equipment, the indicator turns red while charging. Charging time is about 4.5 hours, the indicator will turn green when charging is complete.

PERFORMANCE AND UI

Output, at least on my sample, is a bit less than advertised unless the advertised output is measured at the emitter like Armytek does with their lights instead of out the front (OTF).

The driver is current controlled in all modes and there is no visible PWM at any time.  Tint from the cold white XP-G2 emitters is what one would expect and some will love it, others will hate it.  In person it seems a pretty pure white in the higher output levels but in lower modes a purplish tint seems to effect the beam, at least when white-wall hunting.  I think this is due in part to both the purple AR coating and the current control.

As you can see, output is less than claimed by roughly 25%.  Throw is a lot less than claimed.  Given the tight little hot spot on the PalmStar's beam I was surprised by the lesser than claimed throw.  I measured from 9 meters (my standard testing distance) and from 2 meters but from 2m the measurement was even less.  This proves that the farther away from the light source lux is measured, the more accurate your results will be due to reflector focus and beam collimation.

Ideally, as I said above in the introduction, a MecArmy PT18 would be the ideal comparison flashlight.  Size, output, recharge ability and build quality are super close.  Unfortunately I don't have a PT16/18 to compare with the PalmStar so my Astrolux S41 (Manker E14) with it's quad Nichia 219B LEDs will have to do.  It's not a fair comparison as the driver in the S41 is a FET based driver that provides as much current as the LEDs can take.  Surprisingly the PalmStar holds it's own, especially indoors with a ceiling bounce.

^  This photo shows the beam artifacts from the overlapping reflector cups.  Outdoors the artifacts aren't noticeable.

^  Here is the S41 from the same distance of about 1m.

^  The S41 appears brighter by itself until you shine them side-by-side from about 2m distance.  The focused spot of the PalmStar overwhelms the floody beam of the S41.  The tint difference is obvious due to the high-CRI output of the Nichia LEDs in the S41.  The PalmStar uses CW (cold white) Cree XP-G2 emitters but thanks to ease of removing the MCPCB, the LEDs can be swapped if you are comfortable reflowing emitters.

^  The animated gif above shows just how close in output the PalmStar is to the more powerful S41.  Both pics were taken a minute apart with the same camera settings in an otherwise dark dining room.  Brightness appears about identical except for the slight difference in tint.

^  The garage door in the pic is about 33m away.  This gif above demonstrates each of the 5 output levels of the PalmStar.

^ Above is a comparison between the TOP PalmStar and the Astrolux S41.  Due to the focused beam of the PalmStar most of the light is on the door and very little on the building behind my garage and across the street.  In person there is a bit more spill than is visible in the photo.  The broad flood of the S41 is apparent.

USER INTERFACE

The single button UI is unique among any flashlights I've used before.  The PalmStar has mode memory, single-click On or Off, momentary access to Turbo, and 3 hidden flashy modes.  The UI is simple to use and easy to figure out but more than most relies on timing.  Changing modes must be done within the first 2 seconds of turning on the PalmStar and after each subsequent change of modes.  If 2 seconds go by without clicking the button any click after that will turn Off the light.  Instead of retyping the UI instructions I'll just repaste the directions given by TOP (theoutdoorsplus.com):

User Interfacebr /> Turn the light ON/OFF by the side switch. Once you release the switch, the light comes on constant mode.
When the light is on, single click the switch within one second to cycle through all the modes, mode memory remembers the last mode used.
When in stand by(light off), press-hold the switch for momentary max output.
When in stand by, double click the switch for instant strobe.
Double click from on to access the hidden modes.
Double click for SOS. another double click-for beacon mode Single click the switch gets you back to off. Note there is no mode memory for hidden modes
Lock-out mode is accessed by twisting the light body.
Mode 5 (max output) steps down to mode 4 when thermal protection kick in to prevent over heating.

My comments regarding step-down from Turbo (mode 5)...  When the light is turned on when cool to Turbo from anywhere but momentary it consistently step downed to High (mode 4) in exactly 30 seconds.  After that, Turbo can be re-enabled by a quick click to turn off then a click to turn back on in high and a second click to reenter Turbo (mode 5).  It all takes no time at all to hit the quick clicks needed.  If the light is already hot, or still hot from being in Turbo, this is when the thermal control kicks in and limits the amount of time the PalmStar will stay in Turbo.  Could be a couple of seconds, could be much longer but after that once it hits it's preset thermal limit it will cut back down to High mode (mode 5).

Once the light has been on in any given mode for more than 1 second, to change the mode again you need just turn it off with a quick click then turn it back on in the mode you were in before you can change to another output level.  Mode changes must be done quickly before the 1 second press timer kicks in.  It's really not as bad as it may sound but it still kind of sucks and could be MUCH better.  I'd like to see a long press to turn it off and mode changes be done at any time with a single click.  It's good to be different sometimes but not at the expense of ease of use.

^  Part of the user interface is the ergonomics and the PalmStar really succeeds here.  The electronic switch is firm with a good tactile feel when clicked and falls perfectly under the thumb when held.  In spite of the small size of the button, it's actually easy to locate by feel.  The compact size feels great in the hand and that diamond plate style knurling...wow!  This is the grippiest flashlight I've ever held.  Amazing!

^  The PalmStar is easy to charge thanks to it's hidden USB port.  Unlike most rechargeable torches, the PalmStar has it's Micro-USB port in the threads of the light where the O-ring seals and protects perfectly against water or dust ingress.  No flimsy rubber port covers like the other lights use that come loose, tear off, or leak easily.  The red and green LEDs behind the white plastic cover show charging status at a glance.  Charging terminates once a voltage of 4.16V is reached.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

 

^  The PalmStar arrived in a plain, well designed, corrugated box.  The light is securely fixed in the box with a compartment for accessories along one long side.

^  Accompanying the PalmStar inside the accessory compartment is a well made holster, quality lanyard with lobster clip, spare O-ring, and simple, but detailed user pamphlet.

^  Here is a scan of the user pamphlet with all specs on the PalmStar, UI instructions, and charging details.  Pretty much all you need to know about this well made little light.

^  The lanyard is very well made and fully adjustable.

^  The included holster fits the PalmStar perfectly.  Construction is sturdy but simple.

Now on to the good stuff...

^  The PalmStar is a great looking little light with a very clean design.  The simple, small, single switch is located perfectly on the head of the light.  The metal button is unobtrusive but to find by feel due to it's location on the only flat machined on the head.  No fins grace the head but it still manages heat well.  The PalmStar gets warm quickly on it's highest mode but keeps from getting too hot thanks to the combination of timed and thermal step down in output.

^  All branding on the light is clean, solid, and crisp.  Anodizing is fantastic throughout.

^  Unlike most compact quads these days, the PalmStar uses a machined aluminum reflector instead of the usual TIR optics.  Due to the overlapping reflector cups there is the accompanying "lotus blossom" effect (my term) in the whitewall beam profile.  The benefit is a tight hotspot in the beam.

^  The battery tube is machined with a diamond plate type pattern.  It is ridiculously grippy!  I was amazed when I first held it in my hand./p>

^^  The tail cap has standard type knurling for grip when removing it to install/remove the cell.  Two large lanyard cutouts in the tail bezel allow easy direct attachment of clips, installation of split-rings, or direct installation of lanyard cord/Paracord.  Chamfered openings prevent early wear and cutting through of lanyard cordage.

^  Wide, flat base provides solid tail standing for candle mode.  The Palmstar's serial number is engraved on the flat of the tail cap.

^  Charging circuit is contained in the battery tube of the light while driver and UI switch are located in the head of the light.  To charge the PalmStar simply remove the head and plug in the Micro-USB cable.  The cell is only accessible from the tail of the battery tube.

^  The head of the PalmStar is crazy sturdy.  Driver PCB seems thick and the anode (+) contact for the cell is a solid brass button that makes solid contact with the matching button on the battery tube.

^  All threads throughout the light are square cut and thick.  Threads on the battery tube are unanodized and look a bit rough but rotate very smoothly.  The anode contact button on the front of the battery tube is spring loaded.  TOP claims that the light can be mechanically locked out by unscrewing the head but doing so takes it past the O-ring and the head could easily unthread itself the rest of the way and come off.  I'm not sure why they didn't anodized the threads for perfect lockout.  Hopefully this will be corrected in an updated version./p>

^  The tail cap threads and threading at the back of the battery tube are also unanodized.  A raised button machined into the tail of the light provides contact for battery cathode (-).

^  A look inside the battery tube reveals a spring for anode contact.

^^  One complaint I have with the PalmStar (aside from the lack of anodized threads) is the short length of the battery tube.  Machining on the PalmStar is phenomenal and without a cell installed all the main body joints fit seamlessly and flawlessly.  The person in charge of the design needs a spanking for designing the tube for cells no longer than 65mm so that even an unprotected flat-topped Samsung 25R leaves the tail cap short 1mm from closing properly.  I recommended to TOP (theoutdoorsplus) that they redesign with at least 2-3mm more length in the battery tube so that the tail cap can seat perfectly flush as it should have been designed to do.  Even a button topped 30Q technically fits but with an over 2mm gap while still having the O-ring sealing the joint properly.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER design a tube for exact fit with a specific cell unless you are going to include that cell with the light.  If you put a spring as a cell contact then clearly you were planning on cells of varying length to be used.  Make the tube long enough to at least accommodate cells 68mm long.  This is especially true when a light is so well machined that the seems would otherwise have been invisible to the naked eye.

^  Having looked at the outside of the light, let's have a look inside...at least part of the way.  Removing the unglued bezel from the head of the PalmStar gives us easy access to the innards.  Inside  and easily accessible are the lens, lens O-ring, reflector, single MCPCB with 4*XP-G2 emitters, and four individual LED centering rings.

^  Threads on the head and bezel are the same as the rest of the light except these are properly anodized.  Like the other threads, they come pre-greased and the O-rings fit super tight and snug./p>

^  The reflector is machined from aluminum billet and fits perfectly.

^  The MCPCB is secured to the emitter shelf with two screws.  Thermal paste is used to seal the contact between MCPCB and head.

Another suggestion I made to TOP was to change the centering rings used.  Not only are they very thick, but the lips used to center themselves in the reflector are way too tall and thick.  They actually interfere with the outer edges of the beam and block a little of the light.  Soldering is well done.  Wires to the emitters seem a little too thin as well.  Granted, with only 1000 lumens of output, the thickness is probably acceptable for the current being used to drive the LEDs.  This light has some serious modding potential and with a proper driver could push the quad XP-G2 LEDs to 2000 lumens easily.  Still, it is overall very well thought out and the build quality and anodizing are fantastic.

COMPARISONS

^  Aside from head diameter, the PalmStar isn't much bigger than the Olight S20 in length.  On the edge of pocketable, at least in pants pockets, it's compact size disappears in cargo pockets or in a jacket pocket.  When worn on the included holster, it does make for compact EDC belt light.

 

CONCLUSION

The PalmStar certainly isn't a perfect light.  I haven't found any yet that are but it does a lot of things right and only needs some slight changes to be great.  What would I change and what do I really like?  Here is a list to wrap things up.

Changes:

  • Battery tube needs to be 2-3mm longer so the tail cap can be fully screwed down for perfect, flush fit of tail cap.  Any cell longer than 65mm leaves a corresponding gap between battery tube and tail cap.
  • All threads need to be anodized, at least the threads where the battery tube joins the head.  This would allow for mechanical lockout.  TOP claims ability to be locked out by "twisting the light body" but in reality the head must be unscrewed past the point where the O-ring grips the head before the circuit is broken.  At this point just a little more "twist and the head falls off, or a little more twist tighter and the circuit is closed again before the O-ring slows it down.  Fortunately, thanks to the small, recessed switch button and it's location the chances of accidental activation is very unlikely.  Any long term storage without use just remove the cell.
  • I don't care for the 2 second timer in button presses before mode changes stop and the power gets turned off.  It would have been much better with no other change than removing the 2 second timer and making "Off" a long press of the button.  With any EDC light I'd like to see a Moon low added into the mix as well.

Likes:

  • Finish and machining quality are amazing.  You can tell that this is made by the same factory that makes Niwalker.  Anodizing is fantastic hard ano.
  • Super compact size and nice reflectored head instead of the growing trend for TIR optics on multi-LED lights this small.
  • That knurling!
  • Easy USB recharging and waterproof port design.
  • Nice holster
  • Good output levels with lots of room for modding.
  • Very competitive price with comparable flashlights.
  • Great light for flashlight noobs that want to get into Li-Ion lights with no muss, fuss, or chargers needed.

It's not a perfect light but it's still pretty good.  Lots of great qualities.  Works well, feels great in the hand, and high quality construction.  For an entry model from a new manufacturer it's a pretty impressive torch and worthy of your consideration.  I can't wait to see the updated version or their next EDC model.  TOP's future looks like it could be pretty bright.

« Last Edit: November 21, 2016, 05:08:09 AM by JohnnyMac »

Offline robo819

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Re: TheOutdoorsPlus.com (TOP) Palmstar 4*XP-G2 Rechargeable Flashlight
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2016, 02:22:06 AM »
Thanks for another very detailed review JM.

Looks like a nice little light overall and I am sure they will start making the little imperfections better as time goes on. This is a great first light though for any company just starting out with a new design , as it looks from your review.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2016, 02:23:57 AM by robo819 »