This is a pre-release preview of the first flashlight from the new FLEX Candles company. A new division of FastTech.com, FLEX candles is their entry into manufacturing their own line of flashlights. The first light, the “Asgard” uses an existing host to showcase their new technology. What is that new technology that sets FLEXcandles apart from the competition? It is the ability to program and customise the torches output on the fly and to do it wirelessly via Bluetooth\ using your Android device and a custom app they have created themselves. With the new FLEX torches, the user can have his light with exactly the modes he wants and in any number and order. THe FLEXcandles app can store a number of different profiles for any situation the user feels the need for.
Here is a list of features as advertized by FLEXcandles:
- The world’s first Bluetooth-enabled programmable high powered LED flashlight
- Program your flashlight the way you want it. Make it single-mode, 3 modes, or even 30 modes.
- No messy cord to bring around and lose. No connection port to rust and break. Everything is wireless.
- Preset and store multiple profiles on your favorite smart device and wirelessly upload a profile to your Asgards in seconds
- Setup “morse code” modes without prior morse code knowledge
- Comes with preset modes. Usable out of the box.
- Free complimentary Android and Windows configuration app
- 1052 lumens at 100% output mode
- 8mA non-PWM moonlight
- Non-PWM at 12.5% output intervals, 125KHz PWM at other levels
- LED driven by eight 380mA AMC7135 drivers
There will be changes made that are different from those stated on their site. These changes have been made per my recommendation to them and should greatly improve an already excellent offering:
- Ability to enable or disable mode memory.
- BT mode has now been hidden at my recommendation. In our samples, BT mode is right between the last and first modes in the profile mode order. As I found it very annoying to encounter the unprogrammed blinking mode each time one cycles through the modes in the torch to get to another mode (say from medium mode back to low). It has been already changed in the firmware to be hidden and accessible by half pressing the switch (reverse clicky) about 5-7 seconds after entering any mode. You will be able to cycle through the modes without seeing the blinking BT mode.
- Moonlight mode lowered to around 1 or 2mA since the current 5mA (not 8mA as originally advertised) was, IMO, far too bright. PWM has been lowered to 31.25KHz in order to make this possible. 31.25KHz is still insanely high for PWM and will still result in completely unnoticable PWM with zero visable flicker.
- Low voltage cutoff will be lowered to 2.75 to avoid early cutoff when using lower quality cells that can cause premature low-voltage stepdown.
- All PWM modes will now work as I found a few modes that did not function correctly using the original firmware settings.
- Ramping modes will not be available in the Asgard but will be available in their second release, the “Beowulf”.
My Asgard arrived yesterday in a padded envelope along with another light I had ordered. The head of the Asgard prerelease sample was wrapped in bubble sheet.
Here we see the “FLEXcandles” logo and website URL laser etched onto the side of the light’s battery tube. The etching is clean and evenly etched into the torch.
On the opposite side we see the “Asgard” model name and the light’s serial number.
If the Asgard’s body is looking familiar to you you’re not imagining things. For FLEXcandles’ first release they chose to focus on the technology inside the light mroe than designing an entirely new torch. They chose the Small Sun ZY-T08 as the host because of of it’s solid, yet affordable design and excellent performance potential.
In addition to the Asgard’s 2*18650 parallel cell arrangement, they will be releasing optional battery tubes/bodies so you can also have the choice of running a single 26650 cell or 2*16340 cells. Barring and further production delays these should be avilable as early as a few weeks. They don’t want to release them before they are ready though so hang tight and they will arrive once they are right.
Aside from the laser etching on the body and, of course, the internals, the Asgard is identical to the ZY-T08. To many of us who already own a ZY-T08 this is a good thing. it’s one hell of a performer with superb throw for a budget minded light. Properly driven and dedomed examples have hit over 130kcd for throw. Massive potential here, folks!
Keeping in mind that these are prerelease samples and much was done at the very last minute to get them out to us reviewers in a timely fashion, I was still more than a little disheartened to find the reflector in mine severely fingered up and smeared with grease and finger oils. Fine scratches were also all over the inside due to a half-@ssed attempt from the tech assembling my light to wipe some of it off.
After taking pics of the damage and mess, I cleaned the reflector with warm water and mild soap. The result is below. Not too bad considering the horrible shape it had been in. Jasmine has informed Teemu, Foy and me that they will be sending us new reflectors for our lights along with updated driver programmed with some firmware updates based on the feedback I’d given them about things I saw in the light and it’s programming. Please don’t expect production examples to look like our beta samples.
It turns out that they were waiting on the centering ring for the reflectors to arrive before they shipped the lights out to us. When they came in the tech disassembled the light to install the centering ring and fingered up the reflectors badly. He (or she) needs a kick in his or her respective @ss and a lesson on keeping one’s greasy, lunch eating fingers off the inside of the reflectors. They were shipped out without any last minute inspection and Jasmine was mortified and very embarrassed to see what her team sent out in her absence that day. To her credit, she actually encouraged us to show what we received, warts and all, but promises they will not happen in production examples.
With the reflector removed you can see the “external” BT antenna in the head of the Asgard. The other end of the antenna wire is attached to the driver directly. The antenna is sandwiched between the head and reflector.
With the pill removed we can see the very large pill containing the heart of FLEXcandles new technology.
Pumping out the actual photons is a Cree XM-L2 1C emitter on a 25mm MCPCB. There is thermal grease under the MCPCB. The pill itself threads into the head from behind and has lots of threading for great thermal transfer away from the pill and into the head.
With the press-fit battery contact board separated from the back of the pill we can see the driver. You will notice the special thermal foam holding the driver firmly in place to both help manage any heat produced but to also cushion the driver from any impact or vibration damage.
here we see the actual driver that works all the magic. output is provided by 8 AMC7135 chips producing 380mA each to the XM-L2 emitter. The side you see here has 7 of the chips. The eighth is on the other side.
A look at the opposite side reveals the 8th 7135 chip along with the MCU and the Bluetooth antenna. THe grey wire is the wire to the thermosensor. Red & black go directly to the LED.
The only cosmetic difference between the Asgard and the ZY-T08 host it borrows, aside from the etching, is the green GITD switch boot on the Asgard. The first thing I noticed about the Asgard is that the machining is much better than that of my original T08. In the pic below you can see the stainless steel tailcaps compared. Notice the cleanly machined and polished tail of the Asgard compared to the one of the T08. The T08’s tail is covered in machining swirls from when it was milled out of the SS billet.
The main body/batterytube on the T08 was always an example of budget minded machining. Swirl marks and milling grooves can be seen in the T08 but are almost non-existent in the Asgard. While there are a few very hard to see milling marks in the Asgard, the T08 body has many easily seen milling marks. I had difficulty getting a pic that really showed the marks in both but those below still give a good idea of the difference in them and show that the Asgard is better made than the T08.
Another difference is in the anodizing. The anodizing on both is clean and evenly applied but on the original T08 is a bit shinier than that on the Asgard. While still on the shiny side, the Asgard is definitely less glossy and more of a satin finish.
With the hardware looked at, let’s take a look at the FLEXcandles programming app. Available only for Android devices at the moment, it does allow for very easy programming on the fly. This is still a beta version I have and again, FLEXcandles has already made changes to it based on my input and observations. THe updated version will be available in a day or two and as soon as I get it I will update this preview with added info on it. For now let’s take a closer look at what it does have.
Once you have paired the software with your FLEXcandle light, the MAC address of the torch will show at the top of the app in the status window. As other FLEXcandle lights are paired, you can choose which torch you want to program by hitting the drop-down arrow next to the MAC address. To connect with the flashlight simply press the “Connect” button.
If your flashlight is not in programming mode you will get the error below. For those of you who mentioned the possibility of flashlight-jacking, never fear. it is impossible to hijack a FLEXcandlelight wirelessly. The light must be in a special pairing mode which can only be done by the torch owner via the physical tail switch. When not in pairing mode it is impossible to connect to the light from any app.
Pressing the “Bluetooth settings” button in the app will take you to your BT settings in Android. After setting the torch in BT mode byclicking through the modes to get to it, the torch will flash 3 times repeatedly with a pause in between the 3 blinks. It will remainn in this programming mode until you switch out of it. Searching for available devices to pair with in your Android device will show the torch. To pair with it you will be asked to enter the PIN for the light. Enter “1234” and the light will pair with your device. Once paired you will see it listed in your “Paired Devices” listing as seen below.
Switching back to the FLEXcandles app, you will now see the serial number of the driver lsited at the botom of the app along with the battery voltage of the torch and it’s temperature. You can switch between Farenheit and Celcius by touching the temperature reading in the app.
Slide the screen to the left or click on “Modes” in the blue bar at the top to go to the modes screen.
Once there you will see a list of the Profiles you have created. here we see one I created called “single mode thrower”. To switch between other profiles you’ve created, touch the drop-down arrow to the right of the profile name showing.
Let’s create a new mode profile, shall we? Begin by clicking the menu button on your Android device. It will bring up the menu at the bottom of the screen as seen below.
Click on “New Profile” and you will see the screen below. The first thing you are asked is to give the profile a name. Press just above the blue line and the keyboard will come up. Type in the profile name. I named mine “program sample” (not very imaginative but sue me). Once the name is entered press the “Create” button.
You will see your new profile shown in the modes screen. The next thing to do is add a mode to your new profile. Press on “New Mode” in the top-right corner.
The “Mode Steps” screen comes up. Type in a name for your mode, or not, your chouce. I named mine with the cheeky moniker of “mode 1”. 😉
Once named, click the “Add Step” button.
You will now be able to choose both output level and the length of time it is lit. By default the mode and time is set to 100% and “forever”.
Sliding the upper bar to the right of 100% will set the light from it’s lowest output. All selections to the right of 100% use PWM. The PWM in production samples will be a very fast 31.28 KHz. Right now the lowest mode is 5mA but at my request it is being lowered further to about 1mA or so. At 5mA the output is still very bright IMO and needed to be much lower They have reprogrammed the app to go even lower and now, to Jasmine’s eyes, moon mode is visually only 30% of the output at 5mA and should be quite acceptable now. Moving it further to the right will increase the output level a notch at a time up to 9.4% (263mA PWM).
Moving the lower slider bar to the right will decrease the amount of time the light is displayed. If you wish for the light to blink for something like SOS, add a step for each blink you want to show. I believe you can add 5 or 6 morse code characters per mode.
Movinng the top slider to the left of 100% will decrease output in non-PWM outputs in 12.5% increments. In this example I set it to 50% output for 1.5 seconds.
Once you have as few or as many steps you desire in a particular mode, click the “Save” button at the top of the screen.
You will be returned to the profile screen with the current prifile and modes contained. To add additional modes repeat the steps above.
Once you are ready, make sure the torch is in program mode and press the “Send Profile to Asgard” button at the bottom. If all is good your light will have its new profile in a second or less.
If the program fails to write to the torch you will see the write failure message below. To correct this, take the light out of program mode and then back in. Reconnect with the app then try the “Send to asgard” button once again. it should work fine now.
Here is another profile I had sent to my Asgard.
And another just for fun. The light can only store one profile at a time but switching between them is very easy.
A quick preliminary test of my Asgardin my IS reveals 720 OTF lumens at 100% output. By comparison, my original production run ZY-T08 only does 635 OTF lumens. I will take some Lux and throw figures tomorrow
Meanwhile here is a beamshot. it’s raining out and my house is surrounded by street lights. For those who wonder why I don’t do many outdoor beamshots, this might help you understand. 😉
This concludes my preview for the time being until I get a couple kinks worked out on my end with the light. I am working with Fasttech to determine if a particular issue I’m having is a common issue or a unique issue pertaining to my sample only. I will update as I get more info.
My thoughts about the light and technology as a whole…
The best part of this new FLEX technology is the ability to get exactly the modes you want. The biggest complaint among the flashlight communities is the inability to find a light with the exact perfect modes to suit out individual tastes. Some love flashy modes like strobe and SOS while others simply abhor them. Some like mode memory while others don’t, Some prefer a light to start in low mode while other prefer to start in high mode. Some like a light to start in low mode when used indoors but prefer starting in high mode when outdoors. One person might like only one or two modes while another wants to have over a dozen at their finger tips.
With the FLEX technology it is ridiculously easy to get exactly what you want in mode and memory programming. If you like the host and the LED, the modes suddenly become the easiest thing to satisfy your wants in a good torch. That said, once the novelty of programming your light wears off and the light is setup exactly how you want it, the odds are likely to rarely use the programability for a long time, if ever. Is it worth the extra cost for this ability? Unless you like useless blinky modes found in your average 5-mode torch and love the too bright lows and horrible spacing of most offerings, it is well worth the extra cost to get a light with the exact mode configuration you want. I know people who spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars searching for the perfect light that works exactly how they want it. Now they can stop looking.
Is the Asgard the perfect light for everyone? No. In spite of the robust programming it still sits inside a host that may or may not offer what the buyer wants. Some might want a compact and floody light they can stuff into their pants pocket. Others might like multi-emitter monsters that can light up a football field from 200 yards. So what can a person do? Why, they can wait for the next models to be released from FLEX Candles, of course. Rumor has it there are at least 2 more models in the works and they will have original hosts designed by and especially for FLEX Candles. The next will likely be a compact EDC model and the third just might be a multi-emitter monster. After that, who knows?
In the mean time, the Asgard will have a few accessories available in a few weeks including the previously mentioned body tubes to accommodate a single 26650 cell or another for just 2*16340/CR123A cells. Versatility really is the name of the game here and I am thrilled to have been a part of the release of such a revolutionary technology in a market that has become stale.
Long live the Asgard! Long live FLEX!!