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!
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 !
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 :)