Clearwater "Andie" LED Flashlight Review
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Extremely powerful for its size, the Clearwater LED flashlight throws a focused beam of white light that is simply amazing, especially considering it has only a single LED.
Somehow during our correspondence regarding the Clearwater "Glenda" LED driving lights we reviewed recently, Clearwater mentioned that they also manufacture an LED flashlight.
They asked if I'd like to see one, and of course I jumped on the opportunity!
In the back of my mind though, I was thinking it would be some kind of low-rent flashlight with a Clearwater label stuck on it, perhaps designed as a trinket to hand out to customers on Sadie Hawkins Day or something.
The size of the box that arrived a few days later was my first clue that this was going to be something very different than your average LED flashlight. After all, whoever heard of a flashlight coming in a presentation case?
I opened the box and my instant reaction was...wow, this thing is serious! And it comes with a recharger?
I pulled the beautiful CNC-machined, PVD coated instrument out of the box, hit the switch on the back without thinking about where the business end was pointing and it nearly vaporized The Burn, who was sitting across from me on the couch.
He actually screamed and jumped, and both of us were shocked. Sorry about that Burn, but who knew?
The Clearwater "Andie" LED flashlight (each Clearwater product is named for one of their employees) has to be the most powerful hand-held flashlight I've ever used, LED or not. And to think it has only a single LED and a single battery...well, that makes it even more remarkable.
UPDATE: The Clearwater "Andie" LED flashlight has been updated with an 800 Lumen version (review)!
But what an LED! Clearwater uses the emitter type Seoul Semiconductor Z-Power P7 LED (more info), claimed to have the "world's highest brightness", according to the company, for a single LED when it's driven at its maximum output of 900 lumens.
Clearwater drives this one at a lower 700 lumens, which is still way up there and close to the claimed 742 lumens of something like the Neofab Legion II, claimed to be this week's "World's Brightest Single LED Flashlight".
There are a lot of claims in this business, and LED technology improves by the hour, but I'll tell you this: we've been reviewing LED lights for nearly 10 years and there has been huge, huge progress made in that time.
Not too long ago, LEDs were the wimps of the lighting world, and now we have something like this hand-held nuclear fusion device by Clearwater and the Clearwater LED driving lights that I have to run at 20% power during the day for fear of lighting matches in kitchen drawers as I ride by!
The Clearwater LED flashlight at $99.99 is clearly (sorry!) a better value than the (gulp!) $179.99 Neofab, which, as I understand it, doesn't include batteries or a charger. The Clearwater Andie uses a single lithium-ion battery and it also comes with a spare and a wall charger with a fold-out electric plug. So one battery can be charged while the other battery is being used.
Now I'm just an old 'n' crusty flashlight user, not an Idiot Savant of Handheld Lighting Devices, so before you ask, the answer is no -- I have not run the Clearwater Andie flashlight through the lab and I haven't compared it with sixteen other flashlights to rate the Voltage-to-input-current efficiency ratios.
All I know is that when I fire this baby up, it's bright. And you absolutely, positively do not want to be looking down the barrel when that button is pushed.
The Clearwater LED flashlight is a solid-feeling piece, CNC-machined from an aluminum tube and PVD coated (or anodized, but it looks like PVD to me).
It weighs 194 grams (6-7/8 oz.) and it's 159 mm long and 42 mm wide at the head (6-1/4" x 1-5/8").
The body feels well balanced in the hand and it has a machine-knurled grip surface in the center. The "rings" at the front of the flashlight act as a heat sink; in fact, the entire aluminum flashlight body is a heat sink for the powerful P7 LED.
The P7 requires a modulated and filtered power source and the heat sink, so there are obviously some "computer on a chip" internals in the flashlight that keep a steady flow of power going to stoke the fires. The lithium ion batteries are the 18650 type, which have their own circuitry to prevent overcharging and to shut down when the Voltage drops below 2.5V (or over 4.5V when charging).
This type of battery is claimed to have over 500 charging cycles. The flashlight takes about 3.7 Volts and Clearwater says they will power the flashlight for about 1.5 hours at full chat and around 3 hours in the low-power mode.
The two modes are accessed by the soft push button at the rear end of the Andie flashlight. The button glows in the dark, as we discovered and you can see that in the video below. Push the button once for full power; push it again for about half-power and once more turns it off.
I like a push button or switch much better than the two-handed "twist the head" flashlights, and I can hold the Clearwater Andie flashlight with one hand while operating the push button with my thumb.
The battery is inserted at the rear by unscrewing the fine-threaded end cap, which also includes a wrist strap. Just the feel of those threads as the end cap comes off tells you that this is a quality piece. The wall thickness of the tubing is very hefty also and I daresay the Andie must be nearly indestructible.
The head of the flashlight is round, which is my only complaint -- I'd rather it was hexagonally shaped or had some flats milled in to keep it from rolling when placed on a flat surface.
I'm assuming it's waterproof but Clearwater says it's "water resistant". It has an O-ring in the base but I'm not sure how much pressure the clear lens cover or the rubber push button could withstand. Suffice it to say that it should definitely be no problem in a rainstorm.
Just for kicks, we compared the Clearwater Andie LED flashlight to two other LED flashlights reviewed on webBikeWorld: the Gordon LED flashlight sold by Harbor Freight and the tiny Fenix E01 LED flashlight that I carry on my key ring.
Of course, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison (or maybe even a fruit to nuts comparison) but it at least illustrates the amount of light each flashlight puts out.
In the video below, we set up a couple of helmets about 8 feet away and turned out the studio lights while keeping the aperture and focus settings constant on the video camera, and you can see the results for yourself.
Here's a quick look also in a four-across photo; it shows the Clearwater LED flashlight at full power on the left, then the Clearwater at half power, then the Gordon and finally the tiny Fenix.
The photo above was taken with the camera in manual mode (which is used for almost all webBikeWorld photos) to ensure that the aperture (f8.0) and exposure (can't remember; I think 0.5 seconds) was the same. There was an amazing 11 exposure value (EV) difference in the camera's light meter from the Clearwater on the left down to the Fenix on the right.
Although the Fenix looks like it barely illuminates anything in the photo above, it's not as bad as all that. We had to set an exposure range that wouldn't blow out the Clearwater photo on the left, while still allowing some type of relative comparison for the Fenix on the right.
The range of 11 EVs between these three flashlights is so great that to get the Clearwater photo on the left to work without overexposing the image, it makes the Fenix look pretty wimpy.
Which it is, in comparison, but it at least illuminates the area enough so you can see that you're about to walk off the end of the pier. But the bottom line here is that the Clearwater has almost as much power as one of our huge studio lights or the flash on the digital camera.
The Clearwater LED flashlight is a very well made powerhouse. Clearwater sells a lot of these to Police and Emergency workers and the price is actually very reasonable if you're familiar with professional-style working flashlights.
The high-quality construction and the addition of the two batteries and the charger are a real plus. A powerful flashlight makes a big difference and there are many uses for the Clearwater LED flashlight for use on a motorcycle at night, in the garage when working on the bike or for use around the house.
This one's a definite winner and highly recommended. And stay tuned -- Clearwater says they have more LED lights in the works, one with four times the power of the Andie! Let's hope they include welding goggles with that one!
|wBW Review: Clearwater LED Flashlight|
|Manufacturer: Clearwater Lights||List Price: $75.00|
|Colors: Black||Made In: Taiwan|
|Review Date: December 2009|
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