Curiosity got the better of me when an email landed in my inbox asking if I wanted to review a new head-torch – the Sunix Ultra-Bright 120 Lumens (sold by XC Source in the UK). Since I reviewed it back in 2011, the Petzl Tikkina 2 has been my head-torch of choice, but with an impressive list of bells and whistles for a similar price tag the Sunix sounded interesting.
[Disclosure – the torch was provided by XC Source for me to give my own personal opinions on them and they have no influence on these personal views and no editorial control.]
Firstly, this product’s origins are pretty confusing – mine is branded as Sunix sold by XC Source, but you can also get the same torch branded as ShuoFang sold by Sunix. It is probably safe to say it is an import from the far east (although CE-certified, so it meets European regulations). Secondly, I am not convinced the ‘black’ torch I was sent is the latest model – it certainly has different colourings to the current ‘black’ model, so details in this review may be slightly incorrect.
As I unpacked the box, I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed with the look and feel of the torch – it is quite chunky and hefty, with harsh plasty edges. The product is described as ‘lightweight and compact’, but at 200g – this torch is far from lightweight!
On the positive, the torch is durable. It is water-resistant to IPX 6 rating (the one below ‘protection from complete water submersion up to 1m deep for 30 minutes’), so it should cope with use in the rain (and it comes with a fully-waterproof storage pouch), it works to temperatures as low as -30°C and it comes with a lifetime warranty.
The elastic head strap is fairly stiff vertically (where horizontal is the dimension around your head!). This has no effect on comfort but, in combination with the fairly loose tightening plastic bits (what are they called?!), it did mean that the strap loosened every time I took it off. It was exceedingly frustrating having to readjust it every time!
That frustration was nothing however compared to how annoying I found the odd discolouration of the main spotlight beam. Granted the beam is very bright – 120 lumens which can apparently shine up to 130 metres, but at close range there is a very obvious inner circle of very bright light which have a blueish tinge. Infuriating! (the photo below is an unedited photo taken on my tablet of the head torch shining against a black garage door – the blue circle is clearly visible)
The torch has four different modes – spotlight (with the aforementioned blue tinge), floodlight, red light and strobe. Switching between modes is done via combinations of short and long presses on the single button (which incidentally is easier to press with my slightly ineffective hands than the Tikkina 2’s button) – it sounds more complicated than it actually is, although I ended up only really using spotlight and floodlight.
It is possible to reduce the brightness on both these modes although, as your chosen brightness level is not stored and it is fairly fiddly to get the right setting (after a long press the brightness quickly fades to nothing and you have to release at the chosen point), this quickly became a redundant feature. This is a shame as I found it next to impossible to avoid blinding anyone I talked to whilst the torch was on my head – whatever the mode or angle the torch was set at.
The torch is powered by a rechargeable 1800mAh lithium battery. It is claimed that the battery has a run-time of up to 230 hours, although the small print reveals this is at such a low brightness level you may as well rely on moonlight to see! Irrespective, I am yet to recharge it after light use for a month followed by three consecutive camps.
I was initially in two minds about a torch that charges via USB however, considering I am already carrying gadgetary with the same charging requirements (the torch has a micro-USB charging socket), it does not really add to my power issues. Assuming charge time is as quick as the marketing blurb implies (I have not charged yet remember!), then it just means another cup of coffee in the cafe waiting for it to charge!
The final nail
The final nail in the coffin came when I took the dog out for a night time walk. Each step I took was accompanied by an audible plastic ‘click’ from the torch – quiet but when repeated step after step after step against your skull it was maddening. After a mile I wanted to throw the damn thing in the hedge!
The Sunix Ultra-Bright 120 Lumens head torch, whilst it is definitely bright, otherwise has too many problems to be a suitable head torch for hiking and camping.