Astrolux A03

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Astrolux A03 Review: EDC Flashlight

Astrolux A03 specifications

Brand/modelAstrolux A03
LEDSFS80
Lumens800 lm
Beam intensity2200 cd / 93m
Battery config.AA or 14500
MaterialAluminum
Modes4
BlinkiesStrobe, SOS, Slow strobe (beacon)
ReflectorLOP (light orange peel)
WaterproofIPX67
Review dateDecember 2021

Introduction:

Astrolux should need no introduction now, as we’ve reviewed around 20 of their lights, from the tiny A02 to the massive MF05. Today I’m reviewing the small Astrolux A03 flashlight, which you can guess by the naming that it’s closer to the A02 than the MF05.

The Astrolux A03 piqued my interest due to its use of the new SFS80 LED. These seem to have an unknown manufacturer, likely the same as the SFN55.2 in the Nightwatch NI03 that Nick reviewed.

The box the A03 comes in states the manufacturer: Dongguan Tongming Photoelectric Technology Co. A bit of Googling shows that this is the same company as Mateminco, who make many lights for Astrolux. Mateminco also sells the light directly, as the Mateminco CSF05.

I have the black Astrolux A03 for review but Banggood also sells one with a camouflage style. There’s a certain irony about a hard to find camouflaged tool that’s used to help see things

Package quality.

The Astrolux A03 arrived in a small plastic box with Astrolux branding and the specs stuck on. Inside the box is cut foam to keep the light safe in transit.

Included with the Astrolux A03 you get:

  • Astrolux A03
  • Lanyard
  • 2 spare o-rings
  • Pocket clip

There’s no separate paper manual but the bottom of the box covers all you should need. The plastic box is worth keeping as it will just fit 4 21700 cells.

Flashlight in use

The A03 takes standard AA batteries or 14500 sized cells, so is about the same size as most AA flashlights. It’s noticeably smaller and lighter than 18650 EDC flashlights.

There’s a single switch on the side. This is an e-switch with a rubber cover. It sticks out very slightly, so it could get activated in a pocket. In fact, you can rest the light on its side on a flat surface and activate the switch by pressing down on the light. I’d recommend a quarter turn of the tail cap to lock the light if the switch could get knocked.

The detachable clip is 2-way, so you can have the A03 in your pocket pointing up or down. The clip pulls off too easily for my liking. It’ll hold on to a pocket well enough but I wouldn’t trust it to stay attached if knocked. It also rotates around the light easily. I found this meant the switch wasn’t exactly opposite the clip where I left it after carrying it for a bit, making the switch harder to find.

The clip does stop the light rolling and even without the clip the light only wobbles, rather than rolling off a table.

The A03 will tail stand fine as the tail cap is flat, aside from the small hole for the lanyard to attach to.

Build Quality, and Warranty

The build quality of the A03 feels good but is nothing amazing to shout about. 

Both sets of threads are triangle cut, are well lubed and have O-rings to keep water out. The threads are anodised too – along with the rest of the light – so you can disconnect the battery with a quarter turn of the tail cap.

The body of the light has fine radial knurling for grip. It’s not an especially grippy light but you’re unlikely to drop it.

There’s no clear warranty information but it should be covered by Banggood’s standard 180 day warranty for tools.

LED, Lens, Bezel, and Reflector

The Astrolux A03 sports the SFS80 LED. This is our first flashlight review with this LED and there’s not much info about them online. In fact the top Google result for SFS80 LED is currently my BLF post attempting to find more details about it.

Various sources have said the SFS80 can output up to 2000 lumens for a short time. This LED is underpowered in the A03, which is only rated to 800 lumens.

In terms of how throwy the LED is, extrapolating some manufacturer specs on a few lights places it as more throwy than the SST40 and XHP35 HI but less throwy than the SFT40 or any of the high intensity Osram emitters. This is because the LED is 3535 size with a slightly smaller emitting surface.

Banggood only sells the A03 with a 6500K LED (the one I have) but Mateminco gives both cool white 6500K and warm white 4000K versions.

The light actually looks more neutral white than 6500K though. Let’s see what the Opple Light Master thinks:

  • CCT: 5407K (cool)
  • CRI: 66.8 Ra (fairly low)
  • DUV: +0.0055 (slight green tint)

This was on the lowest mode. The CCT jumps up to around 5800K on the highest mode. This means the light is still cool white but much closer to neutral than expected. The positive DUV isn’t great but the light doesn’t look too green at all to me.

Aside from the LED, the A03 has a light orange peel reflector sitting behind a glass lens. This produces a defined hotspot with very slight artifacts when shining on a white wall, similar to a quad or triple. The beam doesn’t look perfect but it’s definitely reasonable.

All in all, the LED and light output from the SFS80 is good. It’s no beauty like the 219B but there’s no terrible “CREE rainbow” or obtrusive flower petal artifacts.

Going by the specs of 800 lumens and 2200 cd, the beam profile would work out to be 2.75 cd/lm. That would mean the light is very floody, when in fact it’s a well balanced light for EDC, around 8 cd/lm. Perhaps the specs are wrong…

Dimensions and size comparison

  • Length: 8.56 cm / 3.37 inches
  • Head diameter:   1.99 cm / 0.78 inches
  • Body diameter: 1.86 cm / 0.73 inches

Weight: 

  • Without cell: 42 grams / 1.5 oz
  • With 14500 cell: 65 grams / 2.3 oz
  • With NiMh cell: 72 grams / 2.5 oz

Flashlight comparison

Size compared to other EDC flashlights

Driver & User Interface:

The Astrolux A03 uses a “hold for off” UI. These aren’t my favorite but some people prefer them. The A03 has a few quirks though, as a normal click always goes to moon mode but hold from off has mode memory. This is the opposite UI of many lights and reminds me of Zebralights programmable UIs. This isn’t bad, just different and something to be aware of if you have a few lights you switch between.

Another odd thing with the UI is that very quick clicks are not recognised at all. 90% of the time a normal click will be fine but the odd click doesn’t do anything. This isn’t intermittent either – I can get the light to ignore clicks consistently by consciously clicking very fast.

The blinky modes are a bit too easy to get to for my liking: it’s quicker to get to SOS than to get to High most of the time.

Available modes: Moon, Low, Med, High, Strobe, SOS, Beacon (called slow strobe)

From OFF:

  • Click: Moon (no mode memory)
  • Press and Hold: on (mode memory, only for Low, Med, High – not Moon)
  • Double click: strobe
  • 3 clicks: SOS
  • 4 clicks: High (same as double clicking from strobe)

From ON:

  • Press and Hold: off
  • 1 click: change normal modes (moon, low, med, high)
  • Double click: Strobe
  • 3 clicks: SOS

From Strobe:

  • Press and Hold: off
  • 1 click: change strobe modes (strobe, SOS, beacon)

Mode memory:

  • Yes but only if you hold the switch

Shortcuts:

  • To Moon: 1 click
  • To Strobe: 2 clicks
  • To SOS: 3 clicks
  • To High: 4 clicks

Strobe/blinkies

  • Strobe, SOS, beacon

Low voltage warning:

  • No warning but the light will turn off to protect cells.

Lock-out mode: 

  • None

PWM

  • Yes, though unnoticeable by eye

Batteries & Charging

The Astrolux A03 doesn’t come with batteries but it can accept standard AA ones or 14500 li-ion cells. Li-ion is needed for maximum output.

I used a 51.4mm button top 14500 cell, which worked fine. Flat top cells should make contact with the positive terminal OK but I don’t have any flat tops to be sure. You can use disposable alkaline batteries at a pinch but if you don’t want to use a li-ion cell then rechargeable NiMH batteries like Eneloops are best.

Low voltage protection kicks in fien for both battery chemistry: 2.72V for li-ion (a bit low) and 1.15V for NiMH.

Performance

Lux meter: All lux and lumen measurements are from my home made integrating sphere, calibrated with a S2+ measured by budgetlightforum member Maukka. Measurements are done with a UNI-T UT383S lux meter and Adafruit TSL2591 connected to a Raspberry Pi (using RuTiTe by bmengineer). Expect them to be within +/-10%.

DMM: Current readings were taken with a Precision Gold PG10B DMM for low currents and a Mustool X1 clamp meter for high currents.

I tested the light with a standard 1.2V 1900mAh Eneloop NiMH and an Ampsplus 1000mAh li-ion, rated up to 10A.

Lumen measurements (for each mode)

14500

ModeAmps at startSpecsLumens @turn onLumens @30 secLumens @ 10 min
Moon23mA999
Low125mA556969
Med0.73A250266265264
High1.86A800725695 lm457

AA Eneloop 

ModeAmps at startSpecsLumens @turn onLumens @30 secLumens @ 10 min
Moon49mA44
Low250mA5454
Med1.69A183183182
High1.79A435420 lm292

Parasitic drain:

  • 20µA

Runtime graph

It may look like a 2 year old drew some lines on paper but I assure you that these graphs are real! On the graphs you can see High and Med for both AA and 14500 cells. High with either cell as a sudden step down, like you’d expect from turbo, though it doesn’t drop all the way to the Medium level. Medium with both cells doesn’t have a big drop.

The lines for the AA modes show constant output for most of the run time, followed by a sudden drop and tail off, where the boost driver can’t get enough current from the low voltage.

The lines for the 14500 modes start to drop very slowly as the cell empties, then appears to wake up and go all over the place. This weirdness happens at around the same output as the AA modes, so it’s possible that the boost driver is kicking in a bit.

The 14500 cell on High starts at over 700 lm then drops to about 450 lm in a couple of minutes. It then lasts about an hour, dropping down to 300 lm by the end. Medium with the 14500 starts at 266 lm, dropping to around 175 lm over 2 and a bit hours. The light gets a bit warm with the 14500 but not too hot.

The AA Eneloop hit 435 lumens then dropped to about 300 lm after a couple of minutes. It held this for a bit over half an hour before dropping suddenly. AA on Medium starts at 183 lm and holds it steady for almost an hour and a half.

Because of the way the driver works on Medium, there’s a few minutes in the graph where the AA gives slightly more output than the 14500.

With both High and Medium, the 14500 gives around 50% more usable run time than the Eneloop, whilst also hitting higher peak numbers.

The box says low lasts 5 hours on 14500 and moon lasts 25 hours. I didn’t test them but these numbers look about right based on the current measurements.

Throw numbers: 

Throw was measured at 5m at 30s, using the 14500 cell.

ModeSpecsCandela measuredMetersYards
Low6775257
Medium2647103113
High2200 cd / 93m6587162178

That’s right, the candela was about 3 times what Astrolux specified, giving almost twice the throw distance. My measurements match up with the cd per lumen I’d expect from the beam profile, so I’m pretty confident the specs are wrong.

Beamshots

The building is 6m away. Photos were taken with a Pixel 6 Pro, set to 1/12s shutter speed and ISO 400, F1.85. 

  • Astrolux A03 (14500 Lithium-Ion): Moon, Low, Med, High
  • Lumintop GT Nano
  • Lumintop Gift G1
  • Thorfire TK05
  • Cheap AA zoomie

Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by Banggood. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.

Final Verdict

Pros

  1. Takes both AA and 14500 cells
  2. Great output on AA
  3. SFS80 LED seems good
  4. Good beam profile

Cons

  1. UI occasionally misses a button click
  2. UI takes some getting used to
  3. No electronic lock out
  4. Clip is a bit loose

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

Reviewer Dave
Author: Dave

3.5 stars: ★★★⋆

Astrolux has taken a risk with the SFS80 LED and I think it’s paid off. Whilst this LED isn’t as high CRI as a Nichia, it certainly looks nicer than some CREE LEDs, whilst providing good output and plenty of throw for its size, and great output on AA.

The clip is loose but this is easy to remedy by squeezing it with some pliers.

The only real issues with this are due to the button and user interface. The UI isn’t particularly bad but it’s more weird than it should be and as an EDC light is missing out on electronic lockout. I’d have liked to see a lower moon mode too.

The build quality is good, with nothing to be concerned about. The dual battery chemistry is a big plus too. 

If you don’t mind getting used to the UI then overall I’d recommend the Astrolux A03.
Summary: The Astrolux is a good EDC flashlight but not perfect. I like the SFS80 LED but the light is let down by the odd user interface

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