I have liked flashlights all my life. I love reading the detailed specs driven reviews that many people post. This is not one of them. I work in a factory. I use my light every day and this review is based more on real life usage scenarios than white wall hunting. I don’t have the equipment to test output directly but I do have impressions based on comparisons.
My first impressions with the Pila GL2 are merely of it’s robust utilitarian nature. This is not intended for every day carry in a business suit with a silk tie, but rather on the job or on the street as a worklight. It is truly heavy duty. It still falls into the same category where all other 2×123 lights are but it has a heft that makes it feel like it is designed to be genuinely used, rather than to decorate a shelf somewhere. This light seems to be ideally belonging to both people like me that just need to light up a dark corner in a machine and to professionals such as law enforcement officers or security officers. Many “Security Conscious” people will find this light to be ideal as well to carry along on trips or during night-time outings.
The Cree module (which is the main subject of review) is a no-frills utilitarian piece of work as well. It performs admirably with little flair. Along with the body design as a worklight, the emitter module fits that category also. Instead of giving the user multiple options and a complicated User Interface, Pila has gone with the much more simplistic option of merely providing the user with an on/off switch and balancing the output to what they felt was the most useful brightness for a work situation, paired with a superb runtime.
Meat and Potatoes
The Pila Cree module is set to 120 lumens and is supposed to eek 6 hours off from a pair of CR123A batteries. The official branded Pila 600P batteries also work (they are, as a most basic comparison, 18650’s) giving the module an input range of 3.7-9 volts (for 3×123 use in the GL3). It is interesting to note that this module is designed to work as well with the Codex2 and Codex3 modules, so there must be some quailty circuitry there that isn’t used for mere direct operation models like mine.
I do not have the ability to measure output directly, but comparing the beam to several other lights I have access to, 120 lumens makes sense. This has a hotspot very similar in brightness to the Surefire P60 lamp assembly, but where this light really shines (pun intended) is it’s spill beam. The spill beam in most Cree beam shots that I have seen has always been brighter than most other types of lights. I think this has to do with the unique emission pattern of the Cree LED. The Pila is no exception. It has an immensely bright spillbeam that truly makes this light useful. I work in a bindery so I am usually making use of this light at short distances in a brightly lit room. I need to see into the corners and crevices of my machines to be able to make repairs on the generally shadowed portions. Is it purely a floodlight? No way! The hotspot is quite focused allowing for a decent throw, but I find it so much more useful than that. As an added bonus the beam is flawless. The transition from spot to spill is incredibly smooth and the beam is devoid of artifacts thanks to the heavy orange peel reflector.
I haven’t done runtime tests because I do not have equipment to test light output. My testing has been far more on the order of real world use rather than pure turn it on and start the stopwatch. I am not entirely certain however that it meets the 6 hour claims, but it definitely runs a sight longer than any other 123 light I have ever used. I use my lights all the time and I still got a couple of weeks out of it.
I do not believe that anything is perfect. If I take that view then it means there is no room for improvement. With the Pila GL2, the biggest room for improvement comes from the switch. Mine has the standard tactical clicky switch. This is a true momentary clicky that we all know and love. I take some issue with the specifics, however. I think that it is a little too recessed for comfort without being at all capable of a tailstand. Combine that with an action that is a little too…mushy and you have a switch that leaves a little to be desired. The switch seems a tad stiff and doesn’t have a lot of tactile feedback. It is something that doesn’t interfere with operation in any way but I think that it could be better. Honestly, the best switch I have felt came with a sub-$20 polymer xenon light (Brinkmann Maxfire LX). A Pila representative told me that the switch was recessed like that to make accidental activation less likely, and it does help in that respect, but I prefer a more solid action.
The anodizing on this light is a type-II+ anodizing. It appears to be a nice thick looking matte black. I do not have much personal experience anodizing so I can’t compare how well it holds up to other lights. It does seem to be starting to wear though around the hard edges and corners as I continue to use it daily. I don’t exactly baby it however so I don’t know if this means anything or not.
This light is ideal, as I stated previously, in a daily work carry environment. I am quite glad to have it in my day to day routine. It is excellent for illuminating everything from dark corners to a dark forest. I find co-workers reaching for it over their own company issued Surefire G2 Xenon lights because of the quality (and quantity!) of light it gives off. It is also fantastically capable of lighting your way around in a dark environment. The spill beam really comes in handy there because it gives you such a wide field of view. However, be warned. If you are using it for nocturnal navigation around the house (checking on the thermostat, locking a door…) you will wash out your vision unless you get creative with your techniques. I generally shine it on the ceiling behind my back! This light is more than adequate that way. That being said, it is always the first thing I reach for to investigate things that go bump in the night. Overall I genuinely like my GL2. It has turned out to be one of the best and most versatile lights I have ever used.
Edit: The Cree module I have tested here is one of the first run modules that came out soon after the Cree XR-E LED was released. I do not know the bin code. Since then however Pila has released two subsequent modules that utilize either a P4 for 180 Lumens or a Q5 for 225 Lumens rather than the 120 Lumen model that I have. Both of these new models are fully compatible with the Codex Module as well. The future is looking bright for certain now.