Powertac Hero 960 Lumen Rechargeable LED Flashlight
* Flashlight provided for review courtesy of Powertac
“The Powertac Hero is a multi-functional LED flashlight with the latest technology. It is the HERO that will save the moment whether you need a bright light or charging your smart phones. It can be charged by plugging into any USB port or smart phone charger. It is the ultimate flashlight and the ultimate mobile charger, ideal for professionals on the go.”
The above paragraph is right from their product information copy. It describes pretty accurately why the Hero is named “hero”. It’s a light that can be charged from any USB port at home or in your car so it’s always ready with light when you need it. Out and about with a dying phone battery? The Hero can be used as a portable power supply for your phone or any device that derives it’s power form a USB input. Most lights that do both are focused more on being a portable power charger than as a flashlight. The Hero is a rock solid light that runs on an included, and decent, 26650 cell, with great mode spacing form a 1 lumen Low mode all the way to a maximum output of a claimed 960 lumens and 450 meters of throw distance. Does it live up to those output specs? We’ll find out near the end of this review when I go over my tested output specs. In the meantime, here is further copy from Powertac’s website describing the features built into the hero flashlight…
A Little About Powertac…
Powertac is a United States company and all of their lights come with a lifetime warranty. While the headquarters are in Raleigh, North Carolina, all their flashlights are designed here but I believe they are manufactured in China. Powertac lights carry a premium price what for your money you do get a lifetime warranty, service here in the United States, and a premium quality flashlight based on the 3 samples I have received for review.
Powertac actually has a YouTube channel (“OfficialPowerTac“) and they provide an instructional video on how to perform basic repairs and testing on not only Powertac lights, but any LED flashlight in general. If the instructions don’t resolve your issue they invite you to contact their Service department in Raleigh, NC. I’ve actually met Bam, the guy in the repair video, around a year ago at a police trade show in Philadelphia where I was very impressed with their products.
When I received the Powertac Hero, the first thing that caught my eye was the nice full-color heavy cardboard box with hinged lid and magnetic closure.
^ Inside the box is a dense foam insert cradling the Hero (inside it’s holster) and it’s accessories.
^ Inside is a clear, well written set of instructions on how to use your Hero flashlight/portable power supply.
^ The included holster is the nicest standard holster I’ve seen come with any flashlight ever. It’s actually a molded hard-shell holster that fits like a glove and latches securely. The heavy nylon fabric that covers the entire exterior of the holster is extremely heavy and durable. The belt loop is designed to be inserted on the belt before belting or, using the Velcro flaps, mounted after the fact just as securely.
^ The Hero is controlled via a single electronic switch made of translucent white silicon and is backlit with an RBG LED for various status information. All threads are anodized and the hero can be mechanically locked out for zero parasitic draw from the electronic switch circuitry.
My sample did arrive with one single cosmetic imperfection and that was a small nick in the bezel visible in the picture above.
^ All laser etching on the logo and model are clean and precise. The font used for the model name is a bit generic and lends an unfortunate generic feel to the Hero. Fortunately that generic feel only lasts until you pick it up and hold it.
^ The reflector is SMO and while very clean and smooth, makes just a tad ringy beam spill. The The XM-L2 LED is CW in tint and is perfectly centered.
^ The tail cap is lipped to allow tail standing with a full sized 550 paracord lanyard attached. All threads are fully anodized, very smoothly machined, triangular, and prelubed.
^^ All O-rings are heavy duty and thick to provide a very tight seal.
^ Connection to the tail cap is provided with a strong, stainless steel spring which is easily removed and replaced without any tools.
^ A look at the threads that connect to the head of the Hero. Again, they are properly lubed, extremely smooth, and the O-rings are super tight for proper seal. The knurling on the Hero is spectacular. Each knurl is diamond shaped and super grippy while not being overly aggressive or rough. Excellent for use with gloved hands.
^ The driver PCB is smooth and component free except for a stainless steel spring. While secure, I would like to see more soldering at the spring base to ensure no shock or wear will break connection in hard use. As it is the two soldering points feel like spot welds.
^^ The ribbed ring at the base of the head is a sleeve that covers the USB ports.
^With the bezel removed the LED MCPCB is exposed revealing very good solder joints. I wasn’t able to figure out how to disassemble the pill but I can see that there is thermal compound under the MCPCB and that it is secured to the pill with screws. The wires are on the thin side but should work fine with the stock current that drives the LED.
^ ^ The lens is AR coated and very clear. Fingerprints cover mine at the time of the picture but it was clean before I got my hands on it. 😉
^ The SMO reflector is machined aluminum and threads into the deep bezel form the back. The lens and O-ring are secured by the tightening of the reflector. The narrow lip around the emitter opening in the reflector fits snugly and does away with the need for an insulating ring.
^ Sliding down the ribbed sleeve at the base of the head reveals two USB ports. On one side is a Micro-USB port for charging the Hero, and on the other side is a standard USB port that is used for charging other portable devices.
^ The ports maintain waterproofness via two snug O-rings that seal tightly against both ends of the port ring.
^^ The Hero comes with a standard USB to Micro-USB cable about 1m in length. It can be used for both charging of the light itself and for charging of most smart phones and other devices that use a Micro-USB port.
^ When in use as a portable charger, the switch is lit red to indicate the charging circuit is engaged.
^^ When recharging the Hero itself via USB, the switch light turns blue to indicate that the flashlight is charging. While charging, the switch light will flash blue. Once the light turns solid the charge is complete.
^ The switch light also has a green light but I have no clue what it means or how I even got it to light. There is nothing in the documentation regarding a “green” function and I haven’t been able to replicate it on purpose. I did have the sense to photograph it while it was on.
^^ Connecting a device to the Hero will not automatically engage the charger circuit as you can see by the picture above.
^ A press and hold of the power switch on the Hero will initiate charger mode and the light will turn red. You can see that my phone is now charging off of the Hero.
^^ Interestingly enough, even if you press the power switch and turn off the red indicator light, the unit will continue to charge your device until you unplug it. Once unplugged charging circuit will not engage again until you press and hold the switch, turning the indicator light red.
^ The included cell claims a 4500mAh capacity. Testing internal resistance reveals fairly low resistance of 30mR indicating that this is a pretty decent quality cell. My KK 26650 cells have an internal resistance of 32mR.
OUTPUT and USAGE:
The UI of the hero is extremely simple. A quick click engages the memorized mode. Pressing and holding the switch will cycle through the 5 output modes in order of lower to higher followed by strobe, then back to lowest and so on. Releasing the switch button will hold the light at the output level selected at the time and memorize that mode. A quick click will turn off the light. Turning it on will return you to the last used mode. The pause at each level is about 1 second resulting in a fairly long cycle process to scroll through all 5 modes.
One of the problems I have with this UI are that the strobe mode is not hidden. This means that you have to cycle through it to get from the highest output level back to moon low. Another issue is it also means that there is no quick access to strobe in an emergency as well as no quick access to high output from any other mode but medium.
My second problem with the Hero is that is has visible PWM in all modes but Medium and High. More noticeable in the lower modes but I will say that it is on the fast side of visible but if you are extremely sensitive to PWM it may bother you. I do feel that for a light in this price range PWM is really an unacceptable thing. I’ve said it plenty of times in the past but increasing PWM speed to non-visible speeds costs nothing for a manufacturer and can mean the difference between an irritating light and a perfect light. There really is no excuse EVER for visible PWM. Along with the PWM is a faintly audible buzz in all modes but High. Mind you, this is a pet peeve of mine that has developed over the last couple of years and while not a total deal breaker, it is definitely a burr under my saddle and is something so simply avoided that even a $10 flashlight should never have visible PWM, let alone one costing $100, $200, or even $300. I’m not singling out Powertac here. This applies to ALL you manufacturers who don’t take the time to make your PWM frequencies at least 2000kHz or more. You all know who you are!
Anyway, back to the output…
I measure OTF lumens to ANSI standard using my calibrated Integrated Sphere. Lux measurements were taken from 3 meters and converted to 1 meter.
Tail cap readings on the Hero were difficult due to it being an electronic switch. I tried several times and each time the results were consistent but far too low for the output. It’s not the first light that I’ve tried to measure tail cap readings and didn’t have much luck with but it is what it is and here are the results I got. Just don’t take any stock in the tail amperage readings. The OTF readings are spot on though. 😉
^ The picture above was taken in broad daylight and is aimed at the ceiling of my front porch. It does a pretty good job of showing just how bright the hero is and how defined the center hot spot is.
^ Using a Fluorescent White Balance setting on my camera allows you to see all the individual spill levels or rings in the spill of the Hero.
^ Using various exposure values shows more subtleties in the beam pattern.
^ Beam slice of the Hero’s output. You can see the source of the purple spill edges in this overexposed photo.
PROS & CONS
- Good packaging
- Includes a good quality 26650 cell
- Great output
- Superb build quality and design.
- Moon low
- Can be used as an external power supply for mobile devices
- Hard alloy with excellent machining
- Fantastic knurling
- Smooth, anodized threads throughout
- Ability to tail stand solidly
- Excellent holster
- Last mode memory
- Mechanical lockout
- Faint but visible PWM
- Slightly audible PWM hum from driver in all modes except High
- Strobe mode is not hidden
- UI is slow and has no quick access to High or Moon
The Hero is a great, high quality, high performance light that can also double as a portable power supply. Able to be recharged via USB it’s a perfect light for those who need a light they can grab and go, such as LEO, Emergency Responders. It’s also the perfect light for campers and hikers who need a great flashlight as well as a way to charge cell phones and other devices in case of emergency. The Hero eliminates the need to carry two heavy devices by combining both into one versatile light. Add in the decent 26650 cell and one of the nicest holsters I’ve seen and it’s a real winner.
I can live with the small negatives such as faintly visible PWM and the slow UI. It’s extremely high build quality, great performance and versatility, combined with it’s lifetime warranty makes it a highly recommendable light for someone who needs a single device that serves more than one purpose. The fact that it has everything needed in order to operate it makes it a perfect light for someone just getting into lights of this caliber. While pricey for those on a tight budget, it’s a great light for those who can afford it. Consider it “Mac Approved”!