Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Fenix TK21 - Product Review

I have quite a few of the Fenix torch products, including two TK11's, two LD01's and two more E01's.

The E01's are for the kids.  They are simple to use, run off a single AAA battery, and can stand the rough treatment that a child is capable of subjecting any device to by default.  While they're more expensive than a toy or supermarket torch, I only have to buy one for each kid because they don't break.

The LD01's are part of my Every Day Carry (EDC) equipment.  I have two sets of keys and I have an LD01 on each.  They are used several times each day and never fail me.

The TK11's are used for security around the house; those "bump in the night" situations where you try to convince the wife it was only a possum, but you still have to go out and look anyway.  They are incredibly bright and would blind any possum or intruder and render them useless if looking at the torch.

Recently after putting one of the TK11's on my shotgun, then one night hearing two of my tyres being slashed while the car was parked on the street (which is another story on its own), I searched for the second TK11 but couldn't find it.  The survival rule "Two is one and one is none" applied that night, and I then decided to get a second torch to replace the one on the shotgun.

Aside from one of the TK11's having intermittent problems with the light flickering, they have continued to impress me, therefore I decided to buy either another one or a newer upgraded TK15.

That's when I discovered the TK21, an upgraded model of the TK11 and TK15 which uses the same 18650 battery.  It can also be powered with two CR123A batteries, but I don't bother with them as the 18650 format is much better.

The best price I could find was a Hong Kong supplier on eBay for $85, which is the same price I had bought the TK11's for.

When it arrived my first impression was the head of the torch was bigger then the TK11.  The unit came with a pouch, but I had difficulty closing the flap on the pouch due to the TK21's size.  It looks like while the torch has been upgraded which resulted in an increase in size, the pouch is still the same for the TK11.  It works, but only barely.

A significant improvement in design has led to the twisting of the torch head to change brightness levels being removed.  The head is now fixed.  A small silver button is now used to change between up to four brightness levels, and you can hold the button down to change to strobe mode, an incredibly disorienting mode perfect for intruders or attackers in the middle of the night.

Activation of the torch remains the same, by a rubber button at the end of the torch tube.  I intuitively thought that the new silver button may have been used for quick activation of the torch, but when pressing the button if the torch is off, nothing happens.  This is an improvement that could be performed on the next TK2x model; the silver button should be used as a momentary "on" feature.

The brightness of the TK21 is rated at an eye-melting 449 lumens.  The next thing I did was grab the TK11 to compare it's 285 lumen output on a wall inside the house.

I was very surprised to find the TK11 was twice as bright in the centre spot than the TK21; it should have been the other way around.  So I swapped the batteries thinking one wasn't at full charge, only to find the same result.  Even though the TK21 is rated at almost twice the lumen output, the centre spot is not as bright as the much older TK11.

A field test was required next, and that's where I discovered a possible reason for the higher output rating.  While the TK21 isn't as bight in the middle, the wider field is much brighter than the TK11.  I was hoping that a brighter centre spot could have been used on the shotgun, but I now see the TK21 is the perfect torch for security duties around the house.  There's no hiding from the centre spot or the wider field brightness.

Inside the house the torch has replaced some of the duties of the miniature LD01.  One of the best practical uses of the LD01 was middle-of-the-night nappy changes where the brightness can be set really low so as not to blind anyone or wake the rest of the house.  It's also good for those 2am toilet stops too.

The TK21 can be set at four different output settings using the silver side button, right down to a battery-sipping 4 lumens.  This is great for those night-time activities that require a bit more discretion.  I can now use the one torch for everything, although it's way to big for EDC.

I'm a bit disappointed at the advertising for this model, which states "powerful focussed light with longer throwing beam".  Longer than what???  If you are comparing it's grandfather the TK11 that's not true at all.  And unless you are buying older stock for the TK11 and TK15's on eBay, those models are no longer produced so you'll get stuck with the TK21 even if you want a brighter beam.  There are other TKxx models that may have a brighter centre, but they are going to be bigger and cost more as well.

Is this torch an improvement over the older models?  Yes and no.  The brighter wide-field is definitely an improvement and would help in security situations, but the centre spot brightness has been sacrificed to achieve this.  I'd be curious to see what independent lumen ratings come up with for this model.

Don't get me wrong though, I am extremely happy with this torch.  It feels more solid and reliable than the TK11, and the new side button gets a big thumbs up.

I'd recommend this torch to anyone interested in personal security or portable lighting round the home.

The new torch is now located next to the front door; I'm not going to be caught flat footed next time someone wants to mess with my car.


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