Heliotek HTE-1A review

Heliotek Inc is one of those companies that unfortunately hasn't reached critical mass, but among people who keep one ear to the ground of the flashlight world, they have a definite following.  I can't imagine that this post is going to be the deciding factor in them getting the recognition they deserve - (smirk) even though it is read by literally dozens of people - but i'll at least sleep well knowing that i've done my part.  This is written from the standpoint that you're somewhat familiar with the previous model (HTE-1 v2). Since that won't be the case for many people, i've linked to a few reviews of it.

http://www.heliotekinc.com/  ...  (still) not updated, but they'll ship the 1A if you order the HTE-1

I happened to e-mail Heliotek when they were in the process of deciding which LED to go with, so i had known the new version was coming before it hit the street and had been chomping at the bit.  You can't *use* the HTE-1 and not appreciate the thought that went into it, so i was rather amped to have everything i know and love and twice as much light.  At the same time though, different is different, so there wasn't any guarantee of a complete lack of "that's a shame..."

So now that i'm all preambled out, i guess i should finally get around to the actual review part of the review.  The short answer is that i like it.  A lot.  Not twice as much as the HTE-1 v2 since a torch is more than its output - what a concept, eh? - but LED technology has been marching right along.  Now granted, not everyone will have a use for a dive-rated, severe weather torch with solid reach and on-board diffuser that exudes quality and is able to toss 75lm out the front for no less than six hours while floating, but what if you find that you do?

As the name implies, the HTE-1A isn't a significant departure from the previous incarnation design-wise.  It's still driving an LED at 1.2watts and directing that through a reflector that would demand respect if it wasn't so humble.  That being said, don't think there aren't several changes, it's just that most of them don't jump out and bite you.

The one that drove the new version is not surprisingly ye olde LED.  While the Luxeon-I in the HTE-1 performed with much aplomb in the country, ambient light - more specifically, the decreased contrast that ambient light brings to the table - took the edge off.  The 1A sports a Cree XR-E (Q5 brightness, WG color bin).  The HTE-1 performed fantastically for its time, but with the new LED, it's really come into its own.

The fact that Heliotek gives minimum out-the-front lumens instead of the amount that is theoretically being produced at the emitter deserves commendation. (OTF lumens are always less due to heat, reflector/optic, and window losses.)  No matter how you slice it, 75lumens is a good amount of light, but what's really impressive about the Heliotek is that it could do that for seven hours while being shorter than a 2C Maglite and a little thicker than a 2AA MiniMag at the "body" end without giving up the throw of the D-cell one you used that was impressive for about an hour.

Following the "if it ain't broke" line of thought, it's shipped the same way it's always been, right down to the little baggie to keep the extra set of lithium AAs dry when they sit in the little holster-pocket.  The first thing i did - to satisfy the little kid in me - was check out the serial number and Cree.  I'm not sure what i was expecting with the latter, but it looked like a Cree on a pedestal set inside a fantastically deep reflector.  Consider it the smooth bore of the parabolic world.  That done, i popped in two cells and made sure that the laser spot is still there.  In spades. In fact, it's a little larger: 4in (10cm) at 7ft (213cm) instead of 3in.  Woo-hoo!

A quick side note for those who have a previous model...  Comparing them, the HTE-1A's inner surround - what i call the corona - is noticeably smaller.  At 7ft my previous one measures 28in (71cm) wide; the current measures 22in (56cm).  We can thank the confluence between the XR-E's different-from-Luxeon distribution pattern and Heliotek's desire to keep the focused spot for this.  Since the spill of the current is brighter than the corona of the previous, i expect time will prove this little more than "notable", but like i said, different is different.  The spill width is unchanged at 56in (142cm).

Another change previous owners will notice is the end cap.  It now has a little notch opposite the lanyard cut-out.  This isn't its purpose, but you can use it to make fishing the lanyard lock-pin out a snap.  The bigger alteration though is that for some unknown reason the current version is marshmallow that they painted black.  Gotcha!  It's really GE Lexan resin, same as the front.  They've chosen to lock it down with the main lanyard slot opposite the switch.  I've used the HTE-1's rotation feature (albeit more along the lines of "because it's there" than "because it really mattered"), so i was disappointed to see it gone, but there was a complaint by someone who used one on a ship about the end cap pulling off.  I have no idea how that was managed, but i'm generally not one to argue against making something even more bullet-proof.

I actually like the looks, but regardless, it feels good in the hand, with the {momentary/constant}{on/off} switch still having the ever so solid-sounding clicks on the constant-on/off side.  Unlike every other torch company out there (as far as i know), Heliotek uses Santoprene on the battery case, which seems not unlike what Monadnock uses on their Super Grip batons.  For those who aren't familiar, trust me: it's good stuff.  The weight clocks in at 6.4oz (181g) loaded with the clip and lanyard.  It's not the smallest torch around, but, maybe due to the balance point, it feels lighter in hand than i expected.  For comparison, a loaded 2D Mag-lite is a bit over 24oz (680g) and a loaded 6D is 51oz (1446g).

It throws just as well in the real world as the indoor pictures suggest, but my giving a number for the throw wouldn't do it justice, because it's the shape of the beam that makes it so impressive.  It not only has that tight hot spot, but a corona which is bright enough to be useful even at distance, and for mid-range stuff, the spill is easily bright enough that you don't have to "search" for what you're looking at.  Something i didn't notice at first is that there's a secondary spill.  It won't win any awards, but it's bright enough to be useful, and i'm sure it contributes when the diffuser is being used.  Speaking of the diffuser, its beam is very similar to that of the Pierce M10w, and since that's the torch i always have in my pocket when i'm at home, that's rather high praise coming from me.  Multiple-level "throw" torches are good for not blinding you, but are a less-than-ideal compromise.

Heliotek tests all their circuit cards for efficiency prior to installation.  Definitely not something i was expecting.  Additionally, each torch is given a 15-minute (900s) random frequency vibration test and a water submersion test equivalent to over 200ft (61m).  And just to complete the package, their customer service is top notch.  (smirk)  Just don't expect to reach them on a Friday during the summer.

I'll add the pictures once i get a chance to figure out how to have blogger format them the way i want...