The Fenix PD20 is the latest iteration of the Fenix line of 1xCR123A based lights. This pocketable form factor seems to be rapidly becoming a staple of many brands packing a powerful torch into a very small size.
Meat and Potatoes
To call the PD20 a new model would be slightly overstating the facts. It really is much more of a series of evolutionary updates from the venerable P2D. As such it behaves as much the same light with some key changes that are, in my opinion, generally improvements.
The PD20 still sports the same user interface as it’s predecessor; featuring both the head-loosened General Use mode (low-medium-high-SOS) and the head-tightened Turbo mode (Max power-Strobe) with all of the varying levels a mere half click of the tailcap away. This user interface allows quick access to both minimum and maximum power while tucking the other modes in relatively easy to get to locations, yet still out of the way.
The Q5 binned Cree XR-E LEDs that were considered premium options on the previous model are now the standard emitter. This boasts an output of 180 lumens on Max and is really an impressive amount of light for an unit this size. It is noticeably brighter than many lights in it’s class. Unfortunately, as Fenix merely swaps out the emitter for more efficient versions, not only does the Max brightness increase, but the Minimum as well.
Fenix has addressed a couple of my pet peeves from the P2D in this model. There is now physical anti-reverse polarity protection preventing you from frying the light by putting a CR123A cell in backwards. Also, they have removed the bright flash of light when starting the light in the low mode. Another apparent new standard is the choice of a textured reflector rather than the former smooth one. This renders the beam that much more even and inviting than previous. Definitely a welcome addition.
The remainder of the changes seem to exist in the body shape and aesthetics. Fenix has definitely shown their increased knowledge of milling and machine work. The light has been given anti-roll function, slight crenelations to the bezel, better knurling on the tail, and a slightly more exposed tailcap switch. To my overly critical eye, these changes, though welcome in theory, tend to give the light a little bit of a patchwork appearance in practice. I’m not certain I like the overall outcome. However where a light should look it’s best is not in your hand or on a table, but in the dark shining on your intended illumination target. Also since aesthetics are purely opinion based, I am sure that there are those who truly love the new design over the sleeker look of models past.
One area I am not at all fond of for this light is the switch. I can understand selecting a reverse clicky switch for this style of UI so I will not fault it there, however this particular model seems to be incredibly touchy about when it is being pressed. An extremely casual brush against it will often trigger it to the next mode and intending to change modes can accidentally switch it all the way off. I would personally like to see something with a little more resistance used for this light.
Also focusing on the tailcap, I must draw attention to the scallops around the switch that I assume are there to offer slightly better access to the still recessed button. The idea is to give your thumb more purchase while retaining the ability to tailstand. In my opinion this is a mistake. All that is really being accomplished is limiting tailstanding stability and not really affording an access premium to the lights operation. This isn’t as much trouble in a short light such as this as it is with other longer lights that use the same technique. I still believe that this is one area that should be all or nothing. Either give us a full base to stand on, or grant us tactical access to the switch. Don’t mix and match. It doesn’t work.
My final critique is for a light with this many modes, it doesn’t seem right to not have a genuine low mode that is more compatible with fully adjusted night vision. As Fenix introduced the higher efficiency LEDs they should also have re-programed their lights to reduce the low to more extreme levels. This would even further increase the runtime as well as give the light a more broad spectrum usefulness to tackle any situation.
Even with a few minor annoyances, this light has packed a voluminous quantity of usefulness into a very pocketable size. With the outstanding efficiency of a Q5 bin Cree, Fenix has provided a very adept and efficient product at a reasonable price. An excellent choice for those times when space is at a premium, but quantity of light cannot be compromised.