Monday, April 4, 2011

Inova T1 & X5 Series LED Tactical Flashlight Review - What to look for in a quality tactical light

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Inova T1 & X5 Series LED Tactical Flashlight Review
What to look for in a quality tactical light

T1There are about a thousand brands of "tactical flashlights" available however there there is much that separates the backyard toys from a flashlight that you would feel confident staking your life on when equipment abuse is high and you only have once chance at enlightening your situation.  Everyone in my opinion needs a quality tactical light.  Sight is after all our primary survival tool and without being able to see what the hell is going on, it's tough to be able to react.

If you are not hip on what has happened in flashlight technology in the last 10 years then.. let me enlighten you. The new bread of high performance LED flashlight outperform the largest 2 foot long 4+ cell Kypton bulbed Maglites everyone is familiar with in every respect and are so small they can fit in your back pocket.  A good light is not cheap and start in the $50+ range.

When you look at premium weapon/tac lights in an affordable range a couple names come to mind including Surefire, Streamlight, and Inova. Blackhawk and others have super premium higher strength more feature rich lights as well, however I have yet to find a quantifiable performance difference between a $200 flashlight and one less than half that price such as the Inova X3 and T1 lights I am reviewing here. Features most premium flashlight brands integrate is what makes them preferred for hard use mission critical environments.

Features I look for in a real flashlight are:
  • LED light "bulb" diodes - LED lights are virtually indestructible compared to bulb based lights and can take huge amounts of impact and not fail.  Additionally they typically burn exponentially longer, are virtually replacement free and then of course they provide the brightest whitest light of any bulb.
  • Thick machined billet aluminum body - Extruded bodies are nowhere near as strong. Another option are the new High strength  polymer bodies which are tauted to be as strong as aluminum.
  • Electronically controlled LED and power control. - These flashlights run longer and can also feature various functions including momentary on, click on/off, strobe, and low output options all via one button.
  • Precision machined aluminum reflector - High output LEDs do generate a lot of heat and if the reflector is not aluminum it will meat with long run times.
  • Dual side coated anti-reflective coating makes the light brighter.
  • Waterproof construction keeps the light running even during wet times.
  • CR123A Battery Power - These lithium batteries power all sorts of tactical equipment and deliver more power longer than nearly any other battery and have a near indefinite shelf life.
Inova X5
X5Inova was the first flashlight manufacturer to utilize LED technology in flashlights with the introduction of the X5, a pioneering legend among flashlights. The machining is stunning and the flashlight is still in the Inova line up. Someone thought it was so sexy it is in a modern art museum.    Many years ago I purchased a X5 flashlights simply because it was the most compact high output flashlight ever featuring high 56 lumen output runtime for up to 10 hours and was rated to handle over 3000lb crush force. I still have mine today and am only on my third battery swap.  This light is specifically designed as a flood task light to provide a very long run time with output that rivals large multi-cell flashlights in a indestructible package.  Because of it's flood light pattern and run time I use it as a ambient and general purpose light. If you are looking for long distance midnight critter spotlight when letting the dog out this is not the flashlight, however as a general purpose light for anything else including figuring out what that bump in the night was it is excellent value and best buy and the battery life is nothing short of stunning. Suggested Retail $36.99 

Inova T1 Series Flashlight
T1The Inova T1 series is a huge value in the flashlight market designed as a a cutting edge super premium spot flood light.  It has a intense refocused spot light with a gentle flood light at the edges.  The run time is about 5 hours on high output setting which is still very long however what you trade off in less run time is over twice the output of the original X5 flashlight  to a stunning 120 Lumen output for 5 hours.

The new T1 version offers high/low/strobe/ and light lockout settings and a 120 lumen output.  On the low setting for ambient light, this flashlight can an amazing 38 hours at a 16 lumen output.  The advantage is that you get two flashlights in one.  Blinding and I do mean blinding light, low output map reading light, and a tactical disorienting strobe for defensive use.


Inova also makes several tactical lights starting with the small 2-cell CR123 powered T1 to the big T5 3 cell flashlight with a 200 lumen output.  I choose the Inova T1 because of its small single profile (one size from reflector to end cap) which still offers full power output and runtime.  I carry the light constantly and wanted something which would ride well in my back pocket or jacket pocket and the single profile makes it more comfortable to carry. If you can spare the extra dollars, the T1 is one of the best buys for a super premium flashlight abailable for defense, military, and just to see what is in your purse. Suggest Retail $67.99

Final Thoughts
In the realm of premium flashlights there are certainly brighter lights however there is always a direct relationship between high output and length of run-time.  For me the power and size the Inova X3 and T1 pack into an affordable tactical light makes me believe this is a light everyone can afford.

References
http://www.inovalight.com/
http://www.surefire.com







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