Review: Olight S1 MINI [EDC Flashlight]

Introduction

For a long time I’ve had a love-hate relationship with CR123A sized LED flashlights. Over the years I’ve owned some fantastic lights in this form factor, like the V11R, SRT3, Spark SP3, and iTP SC1. Overall I’d consider this the best size light for EDC use, with a few caveats. Living in a cabin in the the woods for a year, I quickly discovered that CR123 sized lights aren’t the best for EDC, because of the short run times. So, for very rural areas I think 18650 based lights are the best for EDC. Also, living in the city, the shorter run times aren’t ideal for doing work in the dark.

But for the day to day use most people would need an EDC flashight for, I still think that CR123A style lights are superior. Especially now that most of the lights on the market offer USB recharging. In the past I would only recommend this style light to a more tech savvy user. I wouldn’t ask someone like my mom to use a dedicated charger, so I would always recommend 2xAAA style lights to those folks. It’s still good to have some AA and AAA lights because the batteries are so common, but USB is literally everywhere, and I know many non-tech-savvy people who carry USB power packs on them, and have USB chargers in their car. So I think USB changed everything for this style of light, and it’s back to being my favorite style light for personal use and recommending to friends and family.

Olight S1 Mini - Product Link

USB charging isn’t a new concept for flashlights. But they’ve finally gotten to the point where I actually like, and maybe even prefer this method of charging. I wasn’t a big fan of the early attempts by manufacturers to tack-on this functionality. I especially didn’t like Olight’s charging base, because I may not be charging the light at home, and I don’t want to carry around a clunky charging base. But the flashlight companies are finally starting to get this right, and I really like Olight’s magnet charging base since it’s so compact. What they’ve done with this new model is to move the charging circuit into the battery itself, which is an interesting design.

This review is for an Olight S1 MINI, sent to me for review by Olight.

Product Description

This is Olight’s latest compact CR123 sized EDC style flashlight, with an included RCR123 battery that has a built-in USB port. It’s about a half inch shorter than the already-tiny S1 Baton, though with less output than its larger cousin.

The S1 Mini shares many of the same features with its S1 Baton cousin, like a magnetic base, TIR style lens, and electronic switch. My review sample is the cool white (CW) version with a Cree XML-2 LED emitter in it.

Olight S1 Mini - With EDC Friends

 

Olight S1 Mini - With Other CR123A Sized Flashlights

 

Olight S1 Mini - Olight Family

 

Official Specs (From Olight)

 

SPECIFICATIONS

LIGHT SOURCE:
Cree XM-L2 CW (S1 MINI)
Cree XP-G3 CW 90 CRI (S1 MINI HCRI)
BODY MATERIAL:
6061-T6 aluminum alloy (main body) 
Stainless Steel (bezel/side switch,clamping ring, pocket clip)
BATTERY SOURCE : 650mAh RCR123A (included)
WATERPROOF:IPX8 (underwater 2 meters)
IMPACT RESISTANCE (m) :1.5 meters

OUTPUT(S1 MINI HCRI)90 CRI

MODE 1 (Turbo): 450 ~250 lm –1 min+55 min
MODE 2 (High): 250lm–60 min
MODE 3 (Medium): 50 lm—6 hr
MODE 4 (Low): 12 lm– 30 hr
MODE 5 (Moon): 0.5 lm—15 d
  • Max Beam Intensity (cd):1800
  • Max Beam Distance (m):85

Initial Impressions

Wow, this thing is tiny! It’s about a half inch shorter than my S1 Baton. One of the reasons I stopped carrying CR123 sized lights is because they were a little bulky considering their shorter run times. The larger 18650 lights are also getting compact. But having so much light in the size of my thumb is fantastic for day to day use, even if it’s only for a short period of time. The S1 Baton was one of the first lights where it was compact enough for me to carry, but still had all the features I want. And this new S1 Mini makes the Baton look bulky!

The battery with a USB port built into the battery itself is a neat feature. Even my brother (who knows a lot about flashlights) said “whoa that is a cool feature!” But I’ve had mixed feelings about this design. Everyone is doing it, and I realize it allows the manufacturers to build smaller lights, but it just seems like having the charging circuit built into the light is ultimately more useful. I still have a huge collection of RCR123A, 16340 and lithium hybrid batteries. Also, batteries have  limited lifetime, where a charger theoretically lasts forever. But everyone else is doing it, and having the charger in the battery means that I can easily recharge my older lights if I use this style of battery.

Olight S1 Mini - In Box 1

 

Olight S1 Mini - In Box 2

 

Olight S1 Mini - In Box 3

 

Olight S1 Mini - With S1 Baton and H1R

 

 

 

Electronic switches have really evolved over time. It’s my favorite flashlight feature because of durability. But the first electronic switches were awful. Earlier models would come on in your pocket and had other problems, and all the manufacturers were slow to get this technology right. A couple years ago I gave many of my electronic switch lights away, including a couple Olights.

And then at some point all these companies started getting it right. And the user interfaces have been evolving alongside the switch. It’s taken a long time to get to the point where I can take a new light out of the box and not think about all the things I hate about the switch design, and that moment finally came with this S1 Mini! The switch on the Mini is flatter, but also larger, with an even better feel than previous generations.

The output is fantastic! The Mini has a smaller rated output than the Baton, so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like the output. But just going by my eyeballs, it seems to be about the same as the Baton, which leads me to believe the Baton was slightly overrated and the Mini is slightly underrated. Either way that was my big concern with the Mini. I don’t care how small it is if it doesn’t have the output I need, and the Mini does!

The magnet on the Mini seems less powerful than the Baton, but that’s fine. It’s strong enough to sit next to the Baton on my range hood. I would say it’s barely strong enough, but it’s strong enough. The cap on the Mini is much smaller than the cap on the Baton, so it makes sense that’s where some of the bulk went.

Overall this S1 Mini gave me a definite favorable first impression.

Build Quality

The build quality on this sample Mini is good overall. I’ve been complaining about the anodizing on Olight’s EDC models for years, and I’m finally starting to see an improvement. The anodizing on the body is a little better, but the accent anodizing on the blue trim seems a little worse. I care more about the anodizing on the body because of nicks and scratches, so it’s an improvement.

The machining is also a small step up. The knurling on their EDC models always seemed kind of cheap looking to me, and the texturing on this Mini is definitely better machined and also more appealing. Though I think the texturing should be more aggressive.

The machining on the cap isn’t as good as it could be. It wasn’t an issue with the magnetic charger because honestly I’m not going to be taking the battery out very often. The threads are high quality overall and square cut, but the cap on my Mini seems a little fussy. This is more pronounced with larger batteries, but still, the threads don’t seem quite deep enough.

In past reviews I’ve complained about the contacts on the cap looking a little cheap, and the Mini’s cap seems to be an improvement. Probably because the cap no longer contains the charger. Clearly Olight seems to be experimenting with their cap designs.

One upside to having the charger inside the battery is that it makes the cap less complex, which means less points of failure. so I’d say this new model is slightly more durable and reliable. Especially since I swapped out the included battery for a regular 16340, which is higher capacity.

The Mini has acrylic optics like many of their products, which I have mixed feelings about. I generally prefer glass because glass has better optical qualities, but the newer TIR style reflector designs mostly take away that concern. Also a couple months ago I was helping someone fix their car using one of their headlamps off the headband and attached to the car with the magnet. I went to take it off the car and I fumbled it and sent it flying through the air, and of course it landed reflector-down on a rock, nicking the reflector. So I like the durability of the acrylic lenses, but glass would make the output even more ridiculous than it already is.

The o-ring seems a little small. I won’t say it’s too small because it seems to be functional. I’ve spent lots of time using the Mini in the rain and so far, so good.

I really like seeing some of these improvements to the quality, even if they are just incremental.

Fit & Finish

Overall, very good. Only a couple small gripes that prevent me from calling this thing perfect. The anodizing on the body is improved and more inline with what a $50 flashlight should be, but blue the anodizing on the accent rings looks kind of washed out. All of my newer Olights have these blue accents, and some of them look crisper than others. I think they should just leave them un-anodized, or make them black, which I think would be a good look.

The logo and stenciling isn’t quite as crisp as it could be. But the light is so tiny that the stenciling is also tiny, so it doesn’t take away from the effect of a good finish.

But a couple minor gripes aside, the fit and finish on my review sample is outstanding. Better knurling, better anodizing, better switch with a better feel–bravo! This thing is sleek looking. Part of it is the smooth cap. I love their magnetic charger system, but having electrical contacts on the outside of the light takes something away from the finish.

Machining and anodizing, check. The anodizing is uniform and there’s no nicks or tool marks. There’s also no weird gaps in the accent rings or bezel.

Optics, check. The LED is machine centered as part of its TIR design, and it’s very well implemented. There’s no aberrations in the lens or nicks–it’s completely uniform.

The threads are good and the anodizing on the threads are good, but the cap feels a little gritty. Seems like maybe they put the o-ring grease on the cap instead of the o-ring, because the o-ring isn’t greased but the cap is.

Switch, check. This model has a rubberized electronic switch which sits on a little square platform, making it easy to find by feel. The rubberizing is well done and the switch overall has a really good feel. It feels like the switch has a tiny bit more travel than previous models, but that’s probably a good thing to prevent it from turning on in your pocket, which this light hasn’t done to me yet.

So, I’m super impressed with the optics and the switch especially.

Modes

The S1 Mini has 6 total modes: the standard low, medium, and high, with the other modes, moonlight, turbo, and strobe tucked away. The light is turned on and off with a single click on the button, and you hold down on the button to cycle between low, medium, and high.

Moonlight mode is accessed by pressing and holding the button when the light is off. You can access turbo from any mode with a double click of the button, and the strobe mode is accessed with a triple click. I’m not a big fan of “disco modes” but at least it’s tucked out of the way.

The mode spacing is pretty good for an EDC style light.

 

Pocket Clip

I don’t really like snap-on type pocket clips, but Olight has gotten much better about making their clips fit tighter. I’ve lost a few lights from the clip coming off, but the one on my S1 Baton has done pretty good. For my S1 Mini, I just took the clip off, and I carry the light loose in my pocket. Without the clip, the light seems even smaller!

 

 

Charging System

Unlike the clip-on magnetic base charging of their other models, the Mini has a USB port built into the battery itself. Moving the charging circuit into the battery and shortening the reflector allow them to shave quite a bit of size off their already-tiny Baton series.

The battery also has built-in LEDs to show you the charging status: red for charging, and green when it’s done charging. The charge circuit is fairly conservative, but that’s OK because the capacity is small. It’s easy to use, and something even your grandma can figure out.

 

Output

The output on the Mini is phenomenal for the size of the light. It gets a little warm on turbo mode, but nothing concerning. The circuitry will automatically kick the light down to high before it gets too warm. I noticed that the light stays in turbo mode much longer with a regular 16340 cell in it.

Tint

The tint on this light is passable. The sides of the beam have a little bit of sickly green tint, but it’s more noticeable in the photos than it is in every day use. It seems like they’ve been playing with the optics to shrink the size of the light.

Usability

Being really clumsy makes me a good tester for durability. If it doesn’t survive being dropped, then it doesn’t survive with me. Especially the lights with the magnetic bases, like this Mini. I like to keep them attached to the side of my range hood in the kitchen, but that means I bump them off while I’m cooking. A couple times my S1 Baton has even landed in the burner while it’s lit, and I scramble to turn the burner off before the light melts or explodes!

Durability, check This Mini has been knocked off the range hood, been dropped in the rain, and it’s even seen a 20 foot drop off a ladder while I was helping my brother build a shed. And being cylinder shape, it likes to roll out of my hoodie pocket.

 

Output, check. This model has a more shallow reflector than its cousin the Baton, which makes it more floody. But flood is what you want from a light this size, so good output plus pure flood makes this thing a beast. It’s not so much the output that makes this light so versatile. It’s not that much more than my trusty V11R which is almost 5 years old. But this light is smaller than V11R body with the bezel removed. One of the things that make the V11R so awesome is because it’s a tank. That’s also the reason I never carry it. So, having this kind of output from something so tiny is a game changer in my opinion.

The run time could be better but I tend to run it on turbo. Putting in a larger capacity 16340 (which barely fits!) makes this less of an issue, and more inline with the performance I’m used to with the S1 Baton.

From a day to day usability standpoint, this is a fantastic little flashlight and already my primary every day carry. I wish the magnet was a little stronger, and I wish the knurling was a little more aggressive, but that’s about all I can find wrong with it.

Conclusions

In my opinion, Olight has a winner with this S1 Mini. They aren’t the only company making this style of light, but it seems like they are the one leading the way in this space, especially with their switch and optics designs.

This is pretty close to my ideal EDC flashlight. I didn’t think half an inch would be such a big difference for how it carries, but it is. Having the charger built into the battery seems like kind of a mixed bag though. It’s perfect for your aunt, who can use her phone charger to charge her flashlight battery. For someone like me, it shaves off an already small battery capacity. For me it’s an acceptable trade-off using a better battery I have to throw on the charger, and it’s probably a non issue for most people

All things considered, this is usually the first flashlight to go in my pocket, and everyone who sees it is instantly jealous. Right now this one lives on the range hood next to the Baton and H2R headlamp.

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