Anyone who has been into lasers for any length of time knows how expensive they can be. That also means that they know how valuable it can be to find a great deal on a laser for a decent price.
Well, enter in the China market. Cheaply priced lasers, but unfortunately cheap quality as well. Sometimes you strike it good; you’ll get a great deal on something and it’ll last a long time. Sometimes you’ll strike out and you end up with a paperweight, unless of course you paid for a paperweight in which case there’s a possibility it won’t hold down paper very well either.
Well, this is my review of the LP142B <200 mw Green laser pointer from http://www.focalprice.com/ for 54.01$ with free shipping.
My package came in on the 22nd of December. I ordered it on the 9th of December, and it was likely shipped on the 10th, so really 12 days isn’t TOO bad for air shipping from China. I’ve ordered other things that have taken over a month to get here, so that’s certainly not unreasonable, especially with the holidays being right on our tails.
Talking about the packaging just really quickly;
The laser came in a box that has a magnetic lip on it, which is perfect for keeping the laser box closed, sticking the empty box to the fridge, or just having a magnet nearby. The insides were lined with a grey foam, and the charger was independently wrapped, Nothing seemed to get hurt, and the packaging overall wasn’t too badly broken or beat up, so it made it here in several pieces, the way it was designed to.
The charger itself is a 1.2 350mA/3.7 300mA charger designed for 18650 series of LiIon batteries. It’s very simple, has clear indicators of what terminals are positive and which ones are negative, and has a LED to indicate whether the battery is charging or not. I don’t know which is which, but Red would suggest to me that the battery is charging, while the Green suggests that it’s finished charging. I don’t know though honestly… But that’s my assumption for the time being.
The laser packaging came with 4 components on the inside:
- 18650 Battery (UltraFire)
- Key lock for the tailcap
- Tailcap (Attached in this picture)
- Laser host/assembly
The build quality seems pretty decent – the tailcap squeaks a little bit when you’re putting it on, but really that’s nothing that a little jig-a-loo won’t fix right up. The focal adjustment is pretty solid, but once it’s focused, it’s a little loose and won’t stay in place. Ideally there should be a little resistance but it’s not bad enough to actually complain about it at all. The key has a very solid click to it, which is nice because it’s not hard to tell if it’s on or off, and the key can be removed once put into a position (On/Off)
**Sorry about that second pic there – turns out my thumb is a little bigger than I thought**
You can see that the laser is 532nm, and the output is <200mw. I don’t have an LPM (though I do plan on getting one shortly after Christmas) but I can totally guarantee that this is not even CLOSE to 200mw. In fact, right now it’s 0mw but I’ll explain below.
Talking about the battery that was included:
This is an UltraFire LC 18650 2400mAh battery. I really don’t know a whole lot about LiIon when it comes to these styles of batteries, but I *think* it’s a protected battery. UltraFire seems to be reasonable in the world of batteries, though I would prefer to get maybe a 3000mAh battery in the future for a little longer running time. There’s not too much to add right now, other than when I plug it into the charger, the light is green which would normally lead me to believe that either the battery is charged fully or broken. Because I’m don’t have my digital multimeter with me, I’m going to have to see where the voltage is sitting when I get home. I’ll update the blog accordingly though when I get more data.
The tailcap seems pretty sturdy and has a good snug fit with the host body. It’s not loose, doesn’t rattle and feels pretty solid as well. There’s not loss of connection with the power at all, and generally seems to be a decent host. The barrel shot shows that there’s a foam of sorts around the driver, and the only part you can see is the spring itself.
The unit is case positive, so the negative end slides in “bum first” and the unit has no issue closing properly, despite being, what I think, is a protected battery.
Keep in mind, this is taken with my BlackBerry smartphone, so for not being an actual camera, it’s pretty good. This shot is the focal unit removed (the larger part of the head of the host itself.) From a build perspective, again it seems pretty solid. There are little dings/metal scrapes along the outer edge of the threading, but it’s not exactly a big deal. Again, considering the source, it’s not bad at all really.
This is a look at the focus/YAG assembly. No, there is no IR filter, but the diode seems to be pretty securely fit against the host which = good heat dissipation. The alignment seems to be acceptable, in that there are no “comets” on the beam – the beam does come out pretty much in the middle of the output of the host itself.
Yes, I do practice laser safety – this is the closest I’ll get to looking down the laser tube, but you’ll notice the battery is sitting in the background… I am scared to death of these things (Let’s say I have a healthy respect for the fact that a LOT of permanent damage can be done to my retina, and I’m extremely weary of that)
The output or “business end” of the unit has a sliding cover which is well oiled and slides very easily. It stays in place as well when it comes to putting it in the open or closed positions which is very nice because the last thing you want is an accidental blast of light in your eye.
This is showing the LED/Button – You’ll notice that there’s a little bit of blue near the button – it’s really hardly noticeable, and I figure it’s from the manufacturing process. The LED isn’t overwhelmingly bright either which is perfect, because the last thing you want in a dim room is a blinding light making it so you can’t see the laser itself.
Finally: Beam/Dot shots:
This shot was taken from 2 feet away, and you can see the output is pretty bright. Again, I don’t have an LPM so I couldn’t give an accurate output level, but I can promise that it’s not 200mw. Not even close. Just eyeballing it, best guess, maybe 40-50mw but the battery hasn’t been charged fully either.
I didn’t have a chance to get actual beamshots though, and this is the reason:
The laser stopped working.
Yes – it stopped working. I’ve had it maybe an hour, and 30 min of that were in the car going from the post office to where I work.
Here’s what happens: I press the button. The LED comes on, but there’s no output at all. Not even IR output, just nothing. The more I investigate though, I found out that when I press the button, the laser flashes once very quickly a small blast of IR, and then nothing at all. I suspect a dead battery – the LED comes on because the power draw for that is so minimal and probably runs off of a different circuit. The diode itself is likely a 1W 808nm pump diode (At best, if I’m lucky) and because the draw is so much more power, it’s simply not got enough juice to even run the diode itself yet the LED still lights up.
So I have to go home, haul out the digital multimeter, and HOPE that the charge didn’t drop below a certain amount. If it did, the battery will be useless. If it’s a full battery, then I have to investigate other possible issues… I’m REALLY hoping I just need to charge the battery though. I don’t want to have to ship this back to focalprice and have them ship me another. It would cost less I imagine just to buy another one instead.
For the time being, before I add any updates, I would rate this laser a solid:
But we’ll see how I update my score after I find out the battery status. Ideally I’d like to post more beam shots and divergence values, as well as burning tests.
More to come…
UPDATE!!! (Dec.24th, 2010)
After having tested the battery and the diode, the driver and the crystals, here's what I've found out:
The driver itself that controls the diode is DEAD. It's not putting out power the way it's designed to. It's almost as if when they made it, they turned the pot up too high to try and get as much output out of it as possible, and it stopped working. The battery is fine, the crystals are fine.
This is super disappointing.
I really was hoping for something that would have something that I could use on my vacation, but it seems that I shouldn't have expected anything more than cheap junk really.
This really is an example of "you get what you pay for".
Needless to say I have filed a request with Paypal, and hope to get my money back, OR a replacement. Either way, I would enjoy having something that I could review with confidence and have it continue to work but for the meantime, I would recommend that you STAY AWAY from www.focalprice.com.
Go somewhere like www.PriceAngels.com instead, where they actually measure the REAL output of their lasers, and someone there cares enough to make sure you have a working product.
I'll keep updating as things go, hopefully I'll have a working laser soon, but if not I would like my money back to spend on other laser goodies.