Keychain lights come in so many flavors, though they all seem to follow the same basic form factor. In this highly coveted field, is there really any room for advancement?
Meat and Potatoes
For years beyond recall, the venerable keychain light has found its niche as an AAA powered light with a standard twisty interface. The Maglite Solitaire was likely the most well recognized player in this field for many an age, however in recent history this position has been occupied by the more durable and lasting Fenix E01. Some manufacturers have supplanted the micro-incandescent or common 5mm LED with a larger, more powerful LED and cranked up the output (and consequentially, the cost) by a large margin. FOURSEVENS (formerly 4Sevens) has just introduced a new player to the market however that tries to stay within that much lower cost range, but take the light and your expectations to a new plane.
The Preon 0 bears the same namesake as its slightly larger Preon 1 and 2 cousins, but it is far from the same basic light, reissued. Using a combination of Stainless steel (for looks and strength), simplistic aspirations, and ultracompact construction, FOURSEVENS has managed to shrink an AAA powered light to proportions that are hardly to be believed. This lilliputian light is fully half an inch smaller than the already impressive E01. Honestly, the more I look at it and compare it to the size of the cell running the show, the more I suspect that David Chow consulted with the makers of the TARDIS before designing it. Trying to justify all the necessary components included in this light against the size of the finished product always leaves me scratching my head.
Passing over the 5mm LED generally found in this size, FOURSEVENS has specifically chosen not to include the latest and greatest LED on the market, opting rather for the slightly older Cree XP-E which provides a majority of the same low end efficiency at a fraction of the size and cost. This LED is not sitting, as you would expect, behind a reflector, but instead the P0 has more of a light “director” that doesn’t actually focus the light, but rather just hems it in, keeping it headed in a generally forward direction. This is really an interesting piece, because it is not a polished metal, or anything shiny for that matter. Rather it is made of GITD material that captures the errant light from the LED and stores it for slow release after the the torch has been turned off. It really makes for a nice quality locator, and manages to glow for most of the night after a short use. This setup makes for the widest, floodiest, smoothest beam I have yet encountered in any light. There is nothing even resembling a hotspot anywhere to be found, but a simple and even diffuse spread of light from one edge to the other. In effect this is nothing but a bare LED, even though it is better protected than that.
The UI of the Preon 0 is nearly as simple as it comes. It is a simple twisty interface with only 2 modes. When first activated it comes on in a nice fractional lumen moon mode (roughly a quarter lumen). Even with the broad swath this beam illuminates, it is still a very surprisingly useful quantity of light. Simply cycling the power brings up the output to a 25 lumen “high”. This still-low output is surprisingly bright in a dark environment, and really makes for a useful light. It’s not going to win any throw contests against any other light on the market, but for short range tasks, it can’t be beat.
Fit and finish of the P0 not only lives up to, but in some ways exceeds what I have seen so far from FOURSEVENS. There is absolutely no thread play to be found in this tiny torch. In past twisty lights from this company this has been an issue with some concern about mode skipping as a result. Thus far I haven’t yet ended up at an unintended output, even once. All the edges feel appropriately finished, and both the high polished and the satin finished sections appear flawless. They have even included a small neodymium magnet in the tail of this light as an added bonus, allowing you to quickly mount the light to any ferric surface. This wasn’t addressing any kind of need in the community, but rather a fantastic little extra showing that FOURSEVENS is going the extra mile for its customers.
With one of this lights biggest selling features being that is has to be about the smallest light possible for this power source, the choice to use SS as the body material seems to be more than simply aesthetics. I can’t really see Al being capable of being machined this impossibly thin and yet maintaining any modicum of strength. In spite of this higher tensile selection, the P0 feels like it may yet be prone to some fragility. I (being the key flipper that I am) have already begun a series of unintentional drop tests on it and it is starting to show in the form of minor dings and scrapes. I don’t know what the long term durability will be for a light like this. I suspect that it will be amply capable enough for the everyday tasks that are likely to be thrown at it, but I’m not certain it will be able to withstand quite the level of torture tests that some lights in this category endure.
The FOURSEVENS Preon 0 SS is truly a work of art. I am honestly incredibly geeked out about it, and for someone who has access to this many lights, I think that’s saying something. Just don’t try to mold it into a different class of lighting, because it will fail spectacularly. Do one thing, and do it well. That’s always a winning concept in my book.
Provided for review by the kind folks at FOURSEVENS.