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Amutorch DM90 review: thrower flashlight
Amutorch DM90 specifications
|Max. Beam intensity / distance
Amutorch is a brand that I don’t come across very often, but they make some cool lights. 1Lumen has reviewed several Amutorch lights, ranging from neat (and tiny) EDC type lights, aspheric-based throwers and high output lights like the XT45 and DM70. Amutorch is also working on some new interesting lights (zoomable LEP anyone?) for the future. Although Amutorch makes a light to fit just about every purpose, what was missing from their eclectic lineup was a big thrower, and with every major manufacturer making one, Amutorch needed one.
Well, they have one now, and it’s sitting on my desk ready for testing courtesy of Nealsgadgets, so big thanks to Neal for sending it out. The brand-new mega thrower is part of the DM series high output lights, and the DM90 fits this classification very well. It features a 125 mm head, three 21700 cells, promising 2400+ meters of throw and 6000 Lumens from the SBT90.2. All solid specs for big throwers these days. Let’s see how it does though since there’s solid competition in this segment, and DM90 is going up against the Acebeam K75, Thrunite TN42 V2, and the OG Lumintop BLF GT90.
My review light came in a hodgepodge box along with the Nightwatch NS59v1, but final retail versions should come in a regular box. The light was inside a very luxurious velveteen pouch with a drawstring, and some accessories were thrown in with it.
- Amutorch DM90
- Carry bag
- Small container of o-ring grease
- Spare silicone o-ring
- L-head torx wrench for the battery carrier
- Instructions sheet…in Chinese
This is basically everything you need to get going and lighting stuff up a mile away, sans batteries. I don’t know if Amutorch is going to offer a bundle with batteries or not, but if not, you’ll need three identical, matched, flat top 21700s with at least 10 A discharge rating. Why they included a wrench is beyond me, since why would you want to take the carrier apart? A huge issue here is the manual, or lack thereof since it’s basically a piece of printer paper written in Chinese and not translated. Folks, bust out your Google Translator if you want to read the instructions. Although the UI is pretty simple on the surface, that’s unbelievably annoying since I actually enjoy reading the manual, and you’ll find it handy for deciphering the UI and other quirks.
Flashlight in use
The DM90 is a dedicated thrower flashlight for projecting lots of light long distances. Its size and weight really limits it to that role, but if you’ve got forearms like Popeye and biceps like Lou Ferrigno, feel free to lug the DM90 around on a walk or use it to find the Lego Captain Jack Sparrow Minifig you dropped behind the couch. I
tried using it like my Wuben C2 a few times around the house, and nope…not very practical, but way cool. The DM90 has a short stubby battery tube housing the three 21700 batteries. The tube has rectangular texturing which creates a good gripping surface, and the rest of the real estate is taken up by the humongous head. It extends halfway down the length of the light and has lots of heat sinking fins and huge stainless bezel. There’s a detachable aluminum carry handle as well, and it’s attached by a single ¼ inch screw (with a rotating bail to help grip without using a flathead screwdriver) at the front where the battery tube threads into. If the handle’s not your thing, you can omit it, or mount it to a tripod as well. The handle can be rotated 90 degrees by loosening the screw, and I found it easier to carry with the handle, but that limits it to underhand carry. You can overhand it with or without the handle, but it’s cumbersome and front heavy, which made maneuvering it a chore even for my big hands. There’s no mounting points on the tailcap or head for a shoulder strap, but you could probably rig something up using the cutouts in the carry handle. There’s a single e-switch for on/off and mode switching behind the head, and it’s set within a nice stainless steel bezel and I like the solid clicks and good feedback. The switch cover sits only a little higher than the bezel, and the boot is translucent with a pair of aux LEDs underneath for on-state and battery condition. These stay on when the light is activated, but it’s not illuminated when on standby. Tail standing is super stable thanks to the wide, flat battery tube base.
Build Quality, and Warranty
Amutorch makes pretty decent lights for a good price. The Amutorch DM90, being a big thrower with lots of aluminum and an expensive LED, is pretty spendy, but cheaper than competitors at around $230 direct from Amutorch.
The light is milled from 6061-T6 aluminum, and the machining is perfectly adequate, but not the nicest I’ve seen. There’s a ton of heat sinking fins on the head (it needs those) and they were precisely machined. The reflector was tidy, but the top edges had some nicks, and the glass lens had someone’s grubby fingerprints on it out of the box. There were also surface defects in the machining and the anodizing wasn’t the tidiest either. The parts fit together nicely and I didn’t notice any major quality issues. The stainless bezel is very nicely finished as well with minimal defects or tool marks. The edges on the light are also nicely chamfered and I didn’t notice any abrupt edges. The finish is advertised as type III HA hard anodizing, and I’d say it’s more matte than gloss, but not chalkboard or brickish. There’s the aforementioned blemishes in the finish, but nothing too major. At this price point, I’d like to see a more tidy finish and quality control though.
I tried unscrewing the huge bezel, but it wouldn’t budge and I didn’t feel like trying any drastic measures to get it off. However, you do have access to the driver by removing 3 philips screws and removing an aluminum retaining ring. However, the LED wires and switch wires are pretty short, so getting the driver out is another matter.
The springs for the driver and battery carrier are non-magnetic, thick phosphor bronze units for ultra low resistance. The battery tube threads front and rear are very short, only needing 3-¼ turns to seat the tube to the head. They’re rectangular cut and fully anodized (even the forward edges that mate with the body and tailcap), so lockout is possible (just not the usual way). The rear threads were lubricated, but still a bit gritty, and the fronts were dry, so I added some SuperLube. The light is sealed up nicely with no external charge port and o-rings sealing the bezel and both the front and rear of the battery tube. Amutorch gives it a generic IPX8 rating.
Warranty? From Amutorch.com:1 year warranty – AMUTORCH offers free warranty work if the problem is caused by normal usage within 1 year after receipt. Lifetime warranty – For the life of your light, repairs will be made with no labor chargers and as long as parts are available from AMUTORCH. You will be charged for the parts needed to repair your light. Following situations are excluded from warranty–Damage caused by unproper disassemblement, modification and unproper usage is excluded from warranty. Battery is excluded from warranty. If the battery doesn’t work upon receipt, it could be replaced. Accessories come along with flashlight such as lanyards, bag, o-ring, etc. are not covered by the warranty. Not the greatest or most robust, but it will get you down the road.
LED, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector
Like all high-power LED throwers, the DM90 is sporting the only emitter capable of producing 5000+ Lumens and reaching 2400+ meters. I am talking about the venerable Luminus SBT90.2. This emitter has firmly cemented itself as the premier high-power thrower LED, and no other LEDs can match it for intensity and output. This is a very special LED as well and part of Luminus’ specialty white high power LED product line for industrial and architectural lighting. The 3×3 mm LES (9 mm2 light emitting surface) sits on a 10×11 mm asymmetrical die with two rows of 12 bonding wires (24 total) connecting the anode and cathode. It’s also domeless, and the whole die is capped by a metal frame with a tiny AR-coated window on top. The luminance is uniformly distributed and conducive to very high cd/mm2 which makes for high intensity. In a big reflector, this equates to huge throw figures. This LED is 3 volts, and features a low thermal resistance so it pulls huge amounts of current. At full power, it’s not unusual for these to pull more than 60 watts, for a single LED that’s a lot.
Typical of throwers of this magnitude, the reflector is a huge SMO unit with the SBT90.2 LED sitting in a huge white centering gasket at the base. The reflector is topped by an AR-coated mineral glass lens, protected by a substantial and nice-looking crenulated stainless steel bezel. The lens is set about 5 mm below the edge of the bezel, so it would be protected from drops (somewhat). The beam is all thrower, with a tightly focused hotspot and tons of spill. The beam is pretty clean, with a dim corona artifact surrounding the bright hotspot from the centering gasket no doubt. This setup is designed for throw, and it throws a ton.
Dimensions and size comparison
- Length: 220 mm / 8.66 inches
- Head diameter: 125 mm / 4.92 inches
- Body diameter: 50 mm / 1.96 inches
- With 3 Molicel P42A 21700 batteries: 1.14 kg / 2.51 lbs
- Without batteries: 1.0 kg / 2.20 lbs
- Head+handle: 905.9 grams / 1.99 lbs
Throw Flashlight comparison
I compared the DM90 to some other large lights:
Group 1 left to right: Amutorch DM90, WildTrail WT90
Group 2 back row: Amutorch DM90. Front row: Convoy L21B, Acebeam L19, Speras T3R, Acebeam L18
Group 3 left to right: Thorfire C8, Amutorch DM90, Nightwatch NI03 Valkyrie
Group 4 Left to right: Fenix LR80R, Amutorch DM90
Driver & User Interface:
Okay, time to be honest. I originally thought the DM90 was sporting a run-of-the-mill FET driver, but I was wrong, and I’m glad because it has a buck driver hiding in the head. Surprise! I wasn’t expecting that, but the battery configuration necessitates one since the SBT90.2 is a 3 volt emitter and the batteries are arranged in series for 12.6 volts. The voltage must be stepped down to keep from popping the LED. This is a very robust, high output driver and looks to be 46mm in diameter and similar to the Convoy L7s driver, although this one is being driven quite a bit harder. This should give nicely regulated lower modes.
Amutorch could have gone with an enthusiast-centric UI like Anduril or NarsilM v1.3, and while it wouldn’t have been out of place, in this case I’m glad they didn’t, and it’s nice to have an enthusiast light with a simple UI. It’s just 4 modes with a single hidden Strobe. It took some investigating (and Google Translating), but I found there is a smooth ramping function, accessed from on or off by pressing and holding the switch, but it’s…well, it’s a bit quirky and weirdly-implemented. The lack of clear instructions on the user manual made it even more maddening, but I think I got it.
Available modes (Default): Low, Mid, High Turbo, Strobe, with optional, semi-hidden Smooth Ramping
- Single click: Turns on in Stepped Ramp Mode
- Click and hold: Turns on in Smooth Ramp Mode
- Double click: Turbo
- Triple click: Strobe
- Single click In Smooth Ramp Mode: Turns off
- Single click In Stepped Ramp Mode: Changes modes L-M-H-L
- Click and hold In Stepped Ramp Mode: Ramps brightness up. Releasing and pressing and holding again ramps down.
- Double click: Turbo
- Triple click: Strobe
- Memorizes the last used mode
- Double click for Turbo
- Triple click for Strobe
Low voltage warning:
- Yes. The switch LEDs change color based on the battery state. Green is 100%-50%, orange 50% to 20%, and 20% and under the switch LED turns red. There’s no warning besides the switch LEDs, so pay attention to that.
- Yes, electronic lockout accessed by 5 clicks from off. The light will blink in a very low mode and the switch LEDs blink red when the switch is pressed. Repeat to unlock. The light will blink to acknowledge.
Additional info on the UI: Although some might be turned off by the 830 Lumen Low mode, this is a thrower, not a pocket light, and a high low mode is appropriate here. Now the annoyance here is the ramping. While it’s not terrible, it could benefit from some refinement, especially in the ramp speed. It only works when activating the light from off, and the ramping is a bit like driving an old, tired go-cart: You mash the gas and wait for it…wait for it…and then it starts accelerating…slowly. From bottom to top of the ramp takes a whole 5.5 seconds. Anduril takes about 3.4 seconds, and it isn’t very linear. I’d say more logarithmic than exponential like I’m used to seeing. The ramp top and bottom are indicated by a slow double blink. Also, it seems like the ramp mode and stepped mode memories don’t commingle. It will start in whatever mode was last used when you used the smooth ramping, and the same is true for the stepped modes. Starting in a stepped mode will default to the last-used stepped mode, and vice versa with the smooth ramping. I think this could be good or bad, but a nice feature.
Batteries & Charging
Like other high-output throwers, the DM90 uses a battery carrier to house the three 21700 li-ions like the WildTrail WT90. This is a nice upgrade from the other lights in this category like the Lumintop GT90, Acebeam K75, and Astrolux MF04 which are still relying on 18650s which have lower capacity and current handling (and you need more of them). Unlike the WT90, the DM90 batteries are arranged in series, so you get 12.6 volts, not 4.2 volts.
The carrier is pretty simple, and has thin brass contact buttons for the positive terminal, and low resistance, thick phosphor-bronze springs for the negative contacts. The springs are pretty short, and not very springy and tend to collapse even under moderate pressure. The batteries were pretty loose after a couple of runtime tests, so I had to stretch and bend them back up to keep the batteries from falling out of the carrier a couple times. The carrier isn’t polarized, so it doesn’t matter which way you install it, but there’s zero short circuit protection, so don’t put the batteries in the wrong way or it will fry the carrier and possibly your batteries. Since the batteries are in series, the usual rules apply: You must use cells of identical capacity, identical make and model and condition, ideally ones that have always been used together. This helps the light to perform at its peak, and will keep the batteries healthy, as a weak battery could cause premature LVP shut down and reduced output. There’s no onboard charging, so you need a li-ion charger capable of handling 21700s. Not a huge deal since this is an enthusiast light anyway. As of this writing, you may also be able to buy the light with batteries from Nealsgadgets or Amutorch directly.
Lumens are measured using my home made integrating tube made from a 4 inch to 3 inch closet elbow, and two, 3 inch street 90’s with an end cap. I use a Digi-Sense 20250-00 datalogging luxmeter and the tube has been calibrated using many lights of known output. All measurements taken at 30 seconds using fully charged Molicel P42A 21700 batteries. I only measured current for the Turbo mode, since I almost fried the battery carrier doing the current test. I used my clamp meter and a loop of 12 gauge wire to measure off the negative of the carrier to the driver ground, with a 16 gauge jumper wire from the positive terminal of the carrier to the driver.
|Amps at start
Amutorch used 5000 mAh batteries for their output specs, so no surprise mine are a bit higher, except Turbo, which is a bit optimistic. The Turbo current seems a bit low for a SBT90.2, but remember, we’re dealing with 12.6 volts input, not the typical 4.2 volts. It’s still about 80 watts of power to the SBT90.2. I tried using 30Ts, but didn’t see an appreciable difference in output.
I tested the runtimes in the integrating tube using the Digi-Sense 20250-00 datalogging luxmeter. I tested Medium, High, and Turbo modes using fully charged Molicel P42A batteries.
Turbo started a bit under the 6000 Lumen claim, but 5500 is still very good. The output was very nicely regulated throughout the whole runtime. The first step down came after about 3 minutes 30 seconds to High mode, which was expected. From there, the output is fully regulated at around 3000 Lumens until the 44 minute mark when the light shut down for LVP. The batteries measured 9.45 volts, with each around 3.3 volts, but one was slightly low at 2.6 volts. There was some heat, but it heated fairly slowly, from ambient 23 C to 28 C in 10 seconds, up to 42 C by 1 minute, 44.5 C at 5 minutes, and hitting 58.4 C by 30 minutes. A bit hot to hold, but hot by the handle. Amutorch spec’d 1 hour 30 minutes for their runtime with 5000 mAh batteries. The shut down is abrupt, with no visual warning of the impending shut down.
High started at 3250 Lumens, and it was very well regulated the whole runtime, barely dipping below 3000 Lumens the entirety of the run. LVP pulled the plug at 1 hour 10 minutes in. It didn’t heat up very fast at all, and was only too hot to hold after 50 minutes when the tube hit 52 C. The batteries read 9.2 volts. Amutorchs’ runtime spec of 2 hours was with 5000 mAh batteries.
Medium was another very nicely regulated mode. Starting at 1950 Lumens and maintaining better than 1700 Lumens the entire runtime. LVP cutoff happened at 2 hours 30 minutes. Temps never went over 40 C at the head. Very impressive! Amutorch says it should run for 4 hours, but they’re using 5000 mAh batteries.
It’s no secret I love constant current drivers, boost and buck, even linear drivers are nice, and they’re perfect for flashlights since the brightness stays consistent and doesn’t dim as the batteries dump. I’m chuffed to bits that Amutorch put one in the DM90.
Throw was measured using the Uni-T 383S luxmeter at 10 meters outdoors. Readings taken at 30 seconds using fully charged Samsung 30T batteries.
I’m a little down from the Amutorch maximum throw number of 2474 meters, and it hasn’t dethroned the current LED thrower-king Astrolux MF05/Mateminco MT90P, but 2,330 meters is very respectable.
Extra info: Peak beam distance according to ANSI FL1 standards: The calculated value of distance in meters at which the flashlight produces a light intensity of 0.25 lux. (0.25 lux is about the brightness of a full moon shining on an object).
I compared the DM90 to some other long-throw flashlights: WildTrail WT90, Acebeam L19, Acebeam L18, Wuben A1, Convoy L21B, Speras T3R.
The tower is 950 meters away.
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by Nealsgadgets. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.
- Great performance and throw
- Decent value
- Nicely regulated buck driver
- Tripod mount and detachable carry handle
- Takes 3x21700s
- Simple stepped and smooth ramping UI
- Batteries fell out of the carrier
- Some finish defects
- Smooth ramping isn’t great
- Chinese-only user manual
Explanation on star ratings:
1: Avoid: my phone flashlight would be a better choice – 2: Poor: significant defect or issues; almost unusable – 3: Average: some defects or issues; but still usable 4: Good: recommended (minor issues) – 5: Great: highly recommended
4 stars: ★★★★
Amutorch is a relatively unknown brand to me, but after spending a few weeks with the DM90, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that they sure make a nice light! Big throwers fall into a particular nexus amongst flashlight enthusiasts, and it’s nice to see Amutorch breaking into that. Although this one wasn’t boasting the quality or output of an Acebeam K75, Thrunite TN42 V2, or Lumintop GT90, it more than makes up for those with decent performance, lower price, and fully regulated runtimes from the buck driver. I appreciate things like that from a flashlight manufacturer, anything that makes a flashlight more useful or user-friendly are pluses in my book.
Overall, this is a nice in-between for someone shopping for a big SBT90.2 thrower who wants 21700 compatibility and a bit more reach than a WT90 or TN42 V2. Despite the quirks, I liked the option of smooth or stepped or ramping UI, I liked the detachable carry handle and tripod-friendly mount. There’s also plenty of heat sinking for extended runs at high output as well. All good stuff for a light of this type. Now, I am not a fan of the wonky smooth ramping, and if Amutorch could fix that, the UI would be excellent. I didn’t care for the abrupt LVP shut down either, and the carrier needs stronger springs. My light had some surface defects in the finish and machining as well, and that’s a bit unacceptable on a $220+ flashlight (Amutorch is actually forthright about the defects on their site). The other issue is the manual, or lack thereof. Amutorch, can non-Chinese-speaking flashaholics get a manual too? Although the DM90 doesn’t perform to the same spec as the GT90 or the K75, it gets close, and costs quite a bit less, so I still give it my recommendation. 4 stars for the DM90.