January 17, 2011

Lighthound: AW 18650 batteries + UltraFire Charger Review!

Though batteries aren't directly LASER related, I did want to do a review because they're often very much used by laser enthusiasts. Especially CR123 and 18650 style batteries.

I don't really know exactly what kinds of tests to do with batteries, but I'll try and be as descriptive as I usually am when it comes to doing a review.

Let me start with the invoice of what I purchased:

Ordered: 3x AW18650P26 AW 18650 Protected 2600 mAh Rechargeable Lithium Battery @ $15.99/pc

Ordered: 1x Accumulate Ultrafire WF-139 Charger for 14500 / 17500 / 18500 / 18650 / RCR123 3.7 volt Lithium Battery Charger @ $17.99/pc

Product Total: $65.96
Shipping: $13.45

Grand Total: $79.41

These were ordered on December 23rd, shipped on December 24th from Texas, and arrived Monday Jan 17th, 2011 in Nova Scotia, Canada.

There was a messup where I had accidentally ordered a charger, and meant to order 3 batteries with it but they couldn't combine shipping on everything through the invoice. What I did was placed another order with everything I wanted, and in the comments section I requested that the other order be canceled.

They did that, and refunded my money no questions asked on the misplaced order.

So a little about the batteries:

I ordered 3 batteries and the charger. (Obviously based on the invoice)

So here's the battery itself. It's nothing out of the ordinary, 2600mAh. Pretty decent out of the box, though I heard that you potentially need to charge them a few times before they hold a charge fully (seeing as how they're new)

This is the bottom of the box. I know, nothing special again lol

And here's the charger itself. It was bubble wrapped just fine, and in the box it looks like it survived shipping more than adequately.

Proof in the pudding:

Yuppers. Looks like a charger to me :)

So one of the first things I noticed is that I'll need to get power INTO the charger somehow, and I noticed that it accepts a few different inputs.

12V DC - Makes sense.

120V DC - Awesome. Looks easy/compatible enough.

Let me look in the box to see if there's one of those cords in there so I can start charging some batteries...

Got myself a little promotional LED - kind of cool. No power cable yet.

Umm, not on the back here.

Where is that cable?

I guess it doesn't come with one. I didn't know that it didn't... I don't remember reading anywhere important that it doesn't come with a power cable. I guess I assumed... But we all know how assumptions turn out.

Well, since I was feeling like going for a drive anyway.... /sarcasm

I picked up the DC cable I needed from "The Source", formerly known as "Radio shack" here in the great white north.

What? It says AC on it? Better make sure I got the right one:

Okay. Good.

Now back to these batteries:

These batteries are rated 2600 mAh. I remember reading somewhere that not everyone was happy with the 3000mAh, so I saved a few bucks and got these ones instead. They ARE protected, and say so on the battery itself.

The top looks normal:

And the bottom has these little "nipples" on them to help keep contact I suppose. I've seen other batteries have them too so I think it's pretty standard.

Now everyone mentioned to me that these ones are going to be a little longer by about 1.5-2mm, as seen here:

I didn't even notice that it might be a problem until I put them into my laser after giving it a quick little charge.

I measured them right off and they all measured 4.09V, but when I tossed them into the charger, the charger felt as though they could handle more and started charging them right off.

This is how I found out that it wouldn't fit - End cap wouldn't screw all the way down.

Now admittedly, I have a small mod to the end cap itself to bypass the dead switch, which adds another 1.4mm on top of the already added space... When I take the mod out though, it fits perfectly fine.

I've since done another mod that allows the protected cells to fit perfectly.

About the charger itself: The reason I purchased it was because many people have suggested it, and on top of that, I guess it's capable of charging cells independently. I didn't realize that some cheaper chargers don't do this, but it's good to know that it has two separate circuits for charging so you can charge different levels of uncharged cells and let them go.

Additionally, this charger doesn't JUST support 18650's, but also 14500's, 17500's, 18500's and 17670's as well. Oh, and Rechargable CR123's :)

I don't have any of those, but if I ever DID get any, I know the charger can take 'em.

This is a rapid charger, and it's very noticeable, yet the new batteries don't get warm AT ALL which is nice. (Suggests low internal resistance, which also suggests that I can get a higher draw off of these batteries when needed.)

The sliders that contact the negative terminal slide smoothly, and are pretty solid in their rails. It feels solid and worth the 18$ I paid for it.

I would discuss current draw, but I think that's all Dependant on the laser/item you're drawing the current WITH. Overall though, I feel as though these are going to be MORE than sufficient for my needs.

The charger did come with a "guidelines" list of things to be aware of and reads as follows:

Blah blah blah, put batteries in negative battery end to negative terminals. Plug into wall, do not overcharge the batteries beyond the recommended charging time (2-4hrs) otherwise it will shorten the lifespan of the batteries.

The interesting stuff:

"Never put other type battery together with Lithium Battery Charger"
"For initial use, the batteries may require 2-3 cycles to obtain their maximum capacity"

There's more general cautionary notes, though the one I found amusing was:

"Store the charter and batteries in a cool dry place when not in use, This charger is not intended for young children or infant."

Overall, here's my impression:

Shipping took a bit longer than I anticipated from Texas. It was 1 week short of a month, but that being said, that month was mostly during the holidays so I understand. I WAS given a tracking number but updates are... SLOW to update. I'm sure it still shows that the batteries are in Texas.

Also, Customs, blah blah. I will say though I haven't been charged for anything I've gotten laser related from Customs (knock on wood) so I've been lucky. I don't mind waiting if Customs decides not to charge me duties on items.

Lighthound DID mark it as a gift in their defense, and lowered the declared value but only by a few dollars.

The overall quality is great, and I didn't know exactly what to expect but these batteries seem just fine to me. The charger is better quality than other chargers I've had before, and while I didn't like having to go out and buy a DC power cable, it had to be done if I wanted to use this charger. *Shrugs*

Maybe it's an error and was supposed to have one shipped with it but not a biggie. The cable was 10$, and I couldn't be bothered to care enough. Others might be bothered, but I'm chill lol

It does seem to charge FAST, and while it's charging you can see that the red light will hold red and flicker green once every second or two to let you know it's charging. When it's done, the LED will change to a solid green. I haven't charged any batteries to that point, but when I do, I suspect it'll be very close to 4.2 volts if not just a little above.

Worth the money? Yes.
Would I recommend the extra 5$ for faster shipping? Yes, absolutely.

If someone stole my batteries and charger, I would definitely pay the money to get another one.

January 15, 2011

445nm 1.4 Watt Blue Laser Review *Custom Made*

So I don't know how long this review will be, just because I don't have as much stuff available as I'd like to get info; I am working on getting a nice LPM, a second pair of safety goggles, some filters, etc. etc.

That all being said, I'm just going to start the review.

So when I got back into lasers, I decided that I was going to do right and get a range of lasers, and a range of powers. Obviously I needed a powerful blue laser, and after looking around, Rob (Phoenix77) had exactly what I was looking for.

Here's what he sold me:

The case was mine, and I hacked it up with a kitchen knife to fix the laser, so excuse the lack of it being pretty. I'm still working on getting some nice density foam for my case.

Without huge explanations, here are some more pics:

This is a Cree C6 host, and while I don't know the diode, I'm suspecting it's one of the A130's, or possibly an A140. I don't know for certain however, and I refuse to take this thing apart. I don't want to break it somehow.

You can BARELY see the driver on the inside - Again it's a camera phone until I get a nice cam, so I apologize for the lack of quality with these shots.

This is the threading for the tailcap. There is an oring of sorts, and it makes sure that the tailcap stays on nice and tight.

And of course, no review is EVER complete without beamshots:

One of them is a sky shot, the other is into some deep woods in the back of my parents house.

This host feels GREAT - It's rock solid, and you can tell the quality is there.

I can only assume they're Aixiz lenses, but I really can't say. Because I got it used from Phoenix77, and he doesn't remember exactly where he got it, I couldn't say.

About the dot itself - it's obvious it's a line more than a dot even close up. That being said, it's a pretty decent shape - it's not crazy flat looking like the Arctic.

The divergence isn't as good as I'd like though. Compared to my greenie, the beam gets quite large over a short period. I suspect it's just the lens because I can't get it to focus down any more. The other way makes it look like a flashlight, so I can't get it focused to a single point. I'm sure there is a way, but it's good enough for me seeing as how I don't use it a LOT unless I want to burn something. Then, it doesn't need focusing at all.

About the duty cycle: It gets hot FAST. I can't use it for more than 30 seconds or so before the host starts to get quite noticably warm. I haven't left it on after that, just out of being worried that I'll break it somehow... Most of my cycles are pretty short, being only a few seconds at a time.

It also (and understandably so) tears through my 18650's. I used it for a period of MAYBE 25 minutes off and on, and the voltage went down from 4.2V to 3.65 V which is pretty significant. My 200mw greenie takes at least double that length of time for the same output.

Okay, so that all being said, of course I took some videos too :)

The first are some basic burning vids, and the last is a night-time beamshot vidio.

First: Obligatory match-lighting video.

Yes, I was startled by the laser at first - I had the goggles on and couldn't see *ANY* beam so I didn't know exactly where the laser would meet the match so when it did, I pulled back a little.

Just some garbage-bag burning. Nothing fantastic really here...

This is the laser vs the laser case foam... Seems like it's always a good candidate for burning lol

This is the obligatory Laser vs CD spindle. I was holding it but I was moving (holding the cd spindle base and phone) so it didn't burn through as fast as it could have, but I think the fact that it melts almost 2mm plastic is awesome enough:

And finally... Backyard night time beamshots with my brother Steve *who you can't see because my camera sucks at night, which really will show HOW bright the beam was*

The video is a little shaky, and I'm not sure why. I wasn't THAT cold lol

That's all I have for now but if I find more things to add (like when I get a LPM) I will :)

Sky-Lasers 200mw 532nm laser

This is it. This is my FIRST REAL LASER. Sure, I've had cheapies before, but this is the real deal for me. It's a pretty beautiful laser, and I have to say I'm quite impressed with it's power.

I got this used from Blord, who was nice enough to include the LPM Chart from DrLava. (Both are members from www.laserpointerforums.com)

So here's the review:

This came in a box. This box had more than sufficient packaging to make sure that it arrived safely, and the box has a magnetic lid. Not really important but some people like the details :)

This is the basic laser, end cap and dead man's switch (I think that's what it's called anyway)

Yes, this thing is GOLD. I guess it was part of a GB that Blord was in from Sky-Lasers. I remember reading the thread a while ago. Anyway, so Blord got this one and it performs very nicely, and it looks pretty freakin' sweet. I like black and Silver too, but this (to me) looks pretty pimp.

Box and Laser shots. Remember, please be at least 18:

Other bits and pieces...

The End cap:

Inside the laser (Sorry about the blur, my roommates crappy PowerShot)

Annnnd, the output/business end/tip.

This laser DOES have an adjustable focus, a locking ring, and the shutter to protect unintended output.

My 2c about the shutter: There have been several times already where I'd adjust the focus for a little burning action, and I'd accidentally shut the shutter. Not a huge problem, just something I noticed is that the direction you turn the locking ring to tighten against the focus ring are the same direction so you often close the shutter and wonder why there's no output.

About the rings themselves: They're all ROCK solid, very smooth to turn and have enough friction to not worry about accidentally turning when you don't want it to. The same is true for the end cap as well. It turns/slides nicely and is snug enough that I don't fear it falling off/out.

Okay, so a couple of operation shots:

And of course, no review would be complete without some beamshots!

Annnnnd in the dark. There is no smoke/fog, and it's Winter here in Canada Eh? So there's like no extra humidity in the air for the beam to show up extra don't 'cha know? Eh? /Canadian

When I took the pictures, because I don't have a defined routine for doing laser reviews yet, I forgot to take a dot quality shot. I DO have this though:

I know, the surface isn't a flat surface, it's semi-reflective, etc... But I CAN say that the dot itself is fantastic. There's almost 0 beam splash anywhere around the beam, it's really TEM00, and has a very solid color all the way through. It's 'Delicious' lol

Because I don't have a LPM yet... I have to go on the LPM sheet that was provided from DrLava when Blord first bought it.

So it looks like it starts out at basically 200mw and climbs up to a peak of around 280mw. DEFINITELY not bad for my first real big laser.

The behavior is solid as well. When I first turn it on, there's no hesitation. It just... BOOM - green light. There's no dimming, no funky mode hopping... It's not hard to tell that this is a VERY stable and very well built laser. It's such a refreshing change from the junk lasers I buy from DX/FocalPrice/PriceAngels.

I can honestly say I UNDERSTAND why people pay 700-800-900$ for 400mw Greenies that are just rock solid. You get what you pay for and this is an example of an understatement.

I will say that I was honestly surprised about how wide the beam was leaving the aperture. It's much larger than I'm used to with the little lasers. I'm pretty sure it's close to 3mm but it's hard to say without knowing exactly how to measure it properly. That'll come with time and the more lasers I get and review.

Now a couple of things that I'm concerned/confused about. I THINK I saw some IR.

I don't know if this has an IR filter or not. Based on a concern I had the other day, I don't know that it actually does but I would hope that something of this quality would. I can't answer that question though.

What I CAN show though is that when I was taking a video, I snuck some screenshots of what I think is IR.

That color of purple is very recognizable in that I see it as IR when I'm trying to troubleshoot why a laser might not be working... Maybe I'm mistaken but I noticed it and when I post my beamshot video, you might be able to catch a glimpse of it too. I'd be really interested to hear your opinions on it though.

IR Filter or no IR filter?

I HAVE an IR filter I can use, but then I don't have an LPM to test with to verify that it's actually IR. I'll have to do some more research.

And finally, last but not least:

Beamshot vid :)

The person in the background is my roommate. Yes, he was downstairs because I told him to STAY downstairs while I use my laser. He was a good boy lol

Again, no fog or smoke in this one, just my dusty floor. Shows me that I need to vacuum apparently!

Anyway - please feel free to ask questions - I'll do my best to answer, and I'd be happy to do more testing, taking pictures, or basically whatever else you folks ask. :)

Oh, and as a sidenote, the batteries I used on this one were from an old laptop that I found that had 6 18650's in it. They were running 3.9v at the time of the pictures, so I know there's more power that I can get out of it... But for now it's more than bright enough for me.

January 5, 2011

True 50mw Green Laser (PriceAngels) Review

There’s a lot to be said about getting what you pay for, and sometimes you get more than you bargained for. Sometimes not. It’s usually a gamble and big bucks are paid for the extra reliability that comes with anything. People pay more money for Honda vehicles because of their known reliability.

I guess the same could be true for lasers as well. Generally speaking, getting something really high quality with high reliability usually costs in the high hundreds to thousands of dollars.

But once and a while, you find a gem. A resource that yields higher-than-anticipated output.

Well, I’m writing this now with mixed feelings, simply because that’s exactly what I have at this moment in time.

I ordered on Dec.21 two True 50mw Green Lasers, (Found here) and when I placed the order, they were $14.95. At the actual time of writing this review however, they’re $9.95.

Now I will have to preface the body of the review with just a few things:

1 – John is one of the representatives from PriceAngels.com. I don’t know his exact affiliation, however he seems to be an intermediate manager of the workers that do the order picking/shipping. He also went out of his way to order a laser power meter, so he could get general power levels of some of the lasers they carry. He’s also been nice enough to really go through and make sure that people that have a negative experience are taken care of. (At least this has been my experience in the past few months of seeing him on the laserpointerforums.com website.

I’ve also taken the liberty to order 4 IR filters for him so his workers/he can get more accurate outputs of the lasers because these lasers do *NOT* have IR filters on them at all. The outputs that we ARE getting are skewed… Only from a green laser perspective though.

But I digress.

The point that I was trying to get to was that while I currently have mixed feelings, I know John is doing what he can to make sure that I get the product I pay for which is reassuring.


Enough – let’s look at the lasers I got in the mail! Smile



Now, I live in Canada and John’s distribution company is in China. I would typically expect that shipping would/will take usually between 2-3 weeks. I try not to have unrealistic expectations, especially over the holidays.

Well, here’s how this went down. I ordered the lasers on the 21st of December. (2010) They were shipped out on the 23rd. I got them on the 31st.

Yes. They took 10 days from ordering to my house. WOW. I wasn’t expecting that at all!

Anyway, they did get here safely, and the packaging was appropriate.


The white outer casing was haggard from shipping but the black inner cases were perfectly fine. And really, the white outer sleeve wasn’t really necessary, but I’m glad they were tossed in.



Yup. Looks basically new to me. Still in the bubble wrap which is nice – 4 layers of packing to protect the laser – This is more than enough for me though, and again, they made it here safe and sound so I have no worries about it. Shipping was fast and packaged well – works for me Smile



Yup – It’s a pretty standard host/housing for a laser. The max output label reads “Max Output<50mw” which isn’t hard to believe. I figure 40-45 is pretty reasonable, but some of that is IR as I’ll show you a few pictures down.

My initial impressions with these pens though is that they are heavy and solid. The construction on the outside is pleasing, and while there are very minor imperfections, considering I paid 15$ each, I really can’t complain. The same thing at BestBuy would be 60$ easily, if not more.


The inside had this pretty standard foam surrounding the spring, to help it stay centered. Behind it, was a plastic cover that holds the driver in place, and the driver itself. I haven’t dissected the laser yet for a very specific reason, as I’ll get into mentioning below as well.


Inside the cap (these pens are case positive by the way) there were some bumps on the inside. Not pleasing as it’s a show of poor workmanship. Now, that being said… The irony is that only one of the two pens had this “defect” yet, the one with the defect held the batteries in place better than the one that was smooth. Either way, it’s really not affecting the performance or aesthetic of the laser so I have no complaints here.


I have to apologize for the high ISO/Grain in the photo. I’m using a BlackBerry to take the pictures right now because I don’t have a camera, though I’m working on that. Any NICE lasers I review will have many more pictures, and in much higher quality. But for now, this’ll have to do.

About the beam quality – the beam itself is fantastic, but the dot isn’t as much. There’s a LOT of lens flare/splash around the dot. In real life, it doesn’t look QUITE this bad, but it’s still pretty noticeable. After trying to clean the lens, it didn’t make much difference.

So one of the lasers, looking closer at the dot, was in TEM01, and the other in TEM00. The TEM01 laser was a little less powerful but certainly not by much. Then something weird happened with the TEM00 laser.

It started to dim after 14 seconds of on time. VERY consistently.

Here’s a video I posted on youtube so you can see for yourself.

50mw PriceAngel laser dimming after 14 seconds, up until it almost stops lasing at 33 seconds

So, being the inquisitive type, I wanted to try and figure out what the actual problem is as much as I could without taking the laser apart.

Knowing there’s no IR filter, I was curious to see if it was a diode thing or a KTP/YAG crystal thing.

Well, I did something I shouldn’t do – I shot my camera right down the barrel of the laser to see what it looked like (My BlackBerry seems to pick up IR quite well, and if there’s a lot of it, then I can probably safely assume the diode is fine, it’s the crystals being misaligned/overheating or something)

Here’s what I saw.


Lots of IR with very very little green. Something’s fishy here.

Here’s what the dimmed dot looked like in both light and dark settings:



Now what’s interesting to me is that these pics are MUCH brighter looking than they were in person. I’m curious if this is an IR thing? How dim would it look with an IR filter in the way?

Something I can test another time once I get my IR goggles and my 532nm goggles. Baby steps for now though!

So going back and answering questions I might have generated up top there:

I didn’t dissect this laser because I want to give John/PriceAngels the opportunity to make this right. I mean, it’s honestly NOT a huge deal and if nothing could be done *Though there should be something that can be done* then I know how to fix it myself. I can rip it apart, and make it work with a totally different set of crystals, that I KNOW are pretty efficient. On the flip side, I am playing devil’s advocate in that if I didn’t know much about lasers, this is the experience a regular customer would go through and to be as fair as I possibly can… I need to walk through the process.

So all of that being said, John has been amazing so far. I’ve filed a ticket, and I’ve PM’d him in the forums. He said he’s going to take a look into the matter for me. When I created the ticket, I had to upload pictures of the issue, so I uploaded the youtube video to show the exact issue that’s happening. What I’m hoping they don’t say is “That’s normal. You’re turning it on for too long” because it’s definitely not normal. The diode isn’t even barely heating up and the other laser that works… Just works fine. I know it’s falling into TEM01 but it still works and has a very bright beam.

That all being said, here are a few pics of the laser that DOES work just fine Smile



Beamshots for the win!

The exposure is “nighttime” on my BlackBerry, which means I have no idea what ISO/Exposure/F/Stop (if there even is one) it’s set to, but I can say there is *NO* mist/fog/smoke/anything in the air that would enhance the beam, but I would like it to look better. Meh – the bottom one is a very accurate representation of what it does look like though in person. The upper picture isn’t as much though.

(For anyone who is curious, that’s a Kurzweil K2500XS fully loaded sitting by the fireplace. I love my Kurzweil!)

So as it sits right now, I’m waiting for the ticket from PriceAngels to be updated so I know what to expect in terms of a replacement or if they’re going to sent me a fixed/new one or what the deal is. I’ll be sure to blog all updates however as they come in Smile

Conclusion: for 30$, I get two lasers. One works all the time but is TEM01, and the other one has a 15/15 duty cycle. (15 seconds on, 15 seconds off). I’m curious to see what John does, but honestly for 30$ the output looks pretty close to 40-45mw. It’s worth the money to me.

And proof of this: I just ordered 3 more True 50mw greenies from PriceAngels, along with a 200mw 405nm pen laser. The actual output of the 200mw 405nm is around 70mw as being metered by John himself, and for under 30$ for just that, I can’t really complain either. I’m looking forward to getting it hopefully in the next week provided the shipping this month is as fast as last month!


This just came in from the ticket I filed with PriceAngels:


Please return the item to our returning centre,
before you send it, pls take a clear picture of the item for us. or item in the package with its sku,thank you.

**Address excluded**

please put your ticket number on the front of the envelope.
You can send it without package and accessories, but pls use bubble bag or other soft material to pack it in case it was damaged on the way.

Return the item(s) by registered airmail with tracking number; If the registered mail costs more, pls return by standard mail without tracking number.
It will be fixed by the factory, and we will send it back to you asap.
If it can not be fixed, We will send you a replacement once we get the item and confirm it is defective(physical damages and damages caused by incorrect usage excluded)
Sorry for the troubles.

Have a nice day/evening !
Best regards,
PriceAngels Support Team"

So basically, here's the deal.

It'll cost me $14.37 to ship the laser back, wait 10 days for it to get there, wait another 2-3 days for them to presumably find that "there is no problem" and then wait another 10 days for them to ship it back to me.

OR... I can just order a new one for 9.95 and wait 10 days, and take my chances that the new one will work just fine.

What option do you think I'm going to take?

Well, I responded politely letting them know to close the ticket, and I'm just going to fix the one I have. I have some crystals that work just fine and I'm going to put it into a different host. I'll make this one work fantastic without their help and just order a new one from them as a replacement :)

No need to wait all this time for potentially the exact same one back and have it not work or act the same way.

I'll be posting my conversion process to a new host soon though :)