In the world of “tactical” flashlights, it’s hard to beat the simple, robust and reliable design of Surefire lights. However, the quality you get from a Surefire comes with a steep price tag that many of us find hard to justify. In this review, we will take a look at the value-priced Techlite Lumen Master LED that I recently purchased at Costco. I will compare it side-by-side with one of my favorite Surefire lights, the E2D Executive Defender.
CRITICAL UPDATES POSTED: This post refers to the first generation Lumen Master with the translucent tail switch. Techlite has made major updates in their 2nd Gen lights. You can read all about the new lights here.
At first glance, the Techlite has many similarities in appearance compared to the E2D. However, they are two very different devices. First of all the Surefire above is not using an LED, but instead relies on an incandescent bulb to generate it’s 60 lumen output. Surefire also offers an LED version of the E2D for about $40 extra. The Techlite uses a CREE LED to produce the claimed 160 lumen beam. The difference in perceived luminosity however, is not as extreme as you would think. The Surefire produces a very bright and focused spot beam with very little flood lighting effects. Though it is not an adjustable beam, the incandescent light is crisp, white and defined, making it an excellent blinding device in the dark. The Techlite on the other hand, produces more of a blue colored light that is partitioned with a spot beam and a flood beam. It is also adjustable so you can fine-tune your spot light diameter. Having more flood lighting makes Techlite very useful for utility purposes such as camping or performing repairs. Both lights are plenty bright to cause temporary blindness in an assailant’s vision on a dark night.
The next major difference is their size. The Techlite is significantly larger in all dimensions. However, it is not nearly as robust as the Surefire. The Surefire body, lens, and bezel are thicker than the Techlite. This gives the Surefire more of a feeling of durability without any added bulk. This is something to consider if you plan on carrying the light on a daily basis.
If we look at the activation switches of the two light’s, we see even more differences. The Surefire uses a simple but reliable switch with momentary on/off, and constant on/off capabilities. The Techlite has several additional options built into the switch. One click gives you a low intensity beam that draws less power for extended battery life. Two clicks give you a high intensity beam for full power lighting. And, three clicks give you a strobe effect that can be used to disorient an attacker, or function as a distress beacon in an emergency. It also has momentary on/off like the Surefire. However, I’d like to note that the momentary on/off function on the Techlite is not instantaneous. There is about a 1-second delay, which can be a problem when seconds count. I believe that this multifunction switch can be counterproductive in a “tactical” situation where simplicity seems to work best.
The next major difference is what powers these lights. The Surefire runs on a pair of lithium 123A batteries, and the Techlite uses three AAA’s. The 123A batteries are more expensive, they drain faster with the incandescent bulb (75 min burn time), and the E2D light lacks “constant drain” technology. This means that the light will become less bright as the batteries are used up.
The Techlite Lumen Master LED has “constant drain” technology, meaning that the light output is regulated until the batteries reach a critical low point of drainage at which it just stops working. The Lumen Master battery life is not bad, but not great. You may get an hour or more of continuous use at best. Nonetheless, AAA batteries are cheap, and readily available virtually everywhere. Also, it should be noted that the activation switch does drain the batteries even when the light is off. So, if you leave it sitting for a long time with batteries inside, it will be dead when you get to it. The Surfire does not suffer from this issue.
Another feature the Techlite offers is the low battery indicator. When the batteries reach 20% capacity, a small red LED turns on in the translucent activation switch to let you know it’s time for a swap. Unfortunately, there is one critical problem with the Techlite low battery indicator. When the battery power reaches the critical 20% level and the low battery indicator turns on, the “constant drain” regulator makes it so that the flashlight will not turn on anymore. This happens without warning, leaving you (in an unpredictable instant) without a working light. I believe that the low battery indicator should turn on before the battery fails. This is a major weakness in any “tactical” situation. What is the point of having a low battery indicator if it does not warn you ahead of time?
The final diagnosis…
As I mentioned before, it is hard to beat a Surefire when it comes to durability, reliability, and simplicity… three things that I believe are essential in a “tactical” situation. However, it can be hard to justify spending $100-$150 on a flashlight unless it also doubles as a light saber. The Techlite Lumen Master costs about 1/20 the price of the E2D LED version, but you get what you pay for. My first Lumen Master failed after less than two months of very light use around the house, and the switch tends to be finicky and unreliable; hardly desirable in a defensive “tactical” light. The E2D on the other hand, has been working flawlessly for several years now despite being thoroughly abused.
Both lights are water resistant. Both come with a body attachment; the E2D has an integrated clip, and the Techlight comes with a lanyard. Both are made of high grade aluminum, and both have strike bezel’s on their cap and tail ends.
As much as I like the Techlite and the value it offers, I am not a big fan of the activation switch, or much less the lack of reliability. And, the bulk of the Lumen Master is a bit taxing on my limited pocket space. The Techlite is more complex, less robust, experiences instantaneous battery failures, and suffers a delay in the momentary on/off switch. Regardless of this, I do plan on buying another two pack from Costco because they are a decent value for a utility light. I will put one in my vehicles, my motorcycle, and my tool box… and plan on keeping the battery insert out during storage.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Techlite as a viable alternative to a high-end “tactical” light such as the E2D. It just does not contain the right balance of functional elements that I prefer in a life or death situation. Despite the fact that the Techlite is not a perfect “tactical” lighting solution, it is still pretty useful for such a low price.