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Fenix HM70R review
Fenix HM70R specs
|Brand & Model||Fenix HM70R|
|Flashlight category||T-Type Headlamp|
|LED||Luminus SST40, Cree XP-G2, 2835 SMD LEDs|
|Max. output||1600 lumens max|
|Max. beam distance||186 meters max|
|Max. beam intensity||8667 cd max|
|Onboard charging||Onboard USB type C|
|Review publication date||March 2023|
When I think of premium-quality illumination products for professional use, there’s a handful of manufacturers that come to mind. Fenix is one of them, and with an extensive network of brick and mortar stores and online presence with no less than two merchant outlets, they have a lot of reach. Moreover, they’ve been making lights like that for a while now, and have gained a good deal of street cred, so they know a thing or two about what makes a good flashlight (or headlamp). Speaking of headlamps, Fenix has those too, and a pretty expansive product line to boot. Need a motion-activated lightweight headlamp? The WR25 might fit the bill. Need 3000 Lumens? The HP30R V2 has that. Fenix has a headlamp for everything, and they’re well-made items designed for casual or professional use cases. Today I’ll be taking a look at one of the higher-end headlamps, the Fenix HM70R. This is the 21700 size version of the 18650 size HM60R. This is a T-type headlamp with a single 21700 cell, onboard charging, spot, flood, and red LED functionality. All pretty typical stuff and what I expect in a professional-grade headlamp. Let’s see if the headlamp embodies everything I love about their flashlights.
The HM70R comes in a pretty straightforward (and shiny) box that would be equally at home on a retail rack or hiding away in a warehouse. It’s not paper, but made from thin plastic this time, but everything else is typical Fenix, with the orange and black color themes. The box front has a rectangular window that you can see the front of the headlamp through. I don’t mind the plastic box; it’s sturdier than paper, wouldn’t get soggy if left outside, and looks better. Here’s what you get:
- Fenix HM70R headlamp
- Fenix ARB-L21-5000 21700 battery
- Spare o-ring
- USB type C cable
- Headband (attached)
- Warranty card
This is everything you need to get going, even if you’ve never owned a headlamp or a 21700 battery. All good stuff from Fenix. You also don’t need a battery charger thanks to the onboard charging as any 5-volt output wall wart will suffice.
Flashlight in use
The HM70R is a general purpose headlamp, and thanks to the triple LED option, it’s very versatile and adaptable. This is a T-type headlamp with centrally mounted LEDs, and I think this is a superior design for dedicated headlamps. Right angle headlamps are cool and have their place, but in my opinion, those are more dual-purpose lights and can do duty as a handheld light or headlamp. I prefer the T-type. They have better weight distribution and I think they balance on the head a bit better. Plus the light is broadcasted directly in front of the user, instead of skewed off to one side.
The large 21700 size battery lends itself to longer runtimes and higher output, and while I think 18650 size headlamps strike the best balance of output, runtime, size, and weight, I give mad props to Fenix because despite the larger battery, they’ve kept it relatively compact and lightweight. The headband is very nice, and adds a third top strap for extra stability to keep the band from slipping down. The band is removable for cleaning or replacement, and has the Fenix logo done in reflective elements on the side for visibility at night, and the front and sides of the headband has grippy rubber bands for extra slip prevention. The band is easily adjusted as well, and although it’s not as wide or soft as the one of the Cyansky HS6R, it’s still very good and comfortable to use.
The band mounts to a sturdy plastic holder that the headlamp mounts to. It’s a similar design to the popular D10 style of headlamp, but this one captures the headlamp so it wouldn’t fall out. While it seems like the mount can be partially disassembled to liberate the headlamp, I don’t think Fenix would advocate for that. The headlamp body can rotate 180 degrees up or down, and the body has ridges that interface with a tab on the backside of the mount that functions like a detent to hold the headlamp in position.
The 21700 battery compartment makes up a large part of the body of the headlamp, with the LEDs up front mounted in what looks like a removable housing held on with Torx fasteners. The 3 LEDs make this a very versatile headlamp, with a main spot LED for max output and throw, a flood LED for, well, flood, and two red LEDs for low-light use and preserving your night vision. The charge interface and switch occupy the right side and the battery access cap on the left side. The charging is accessed by unscrewing a collar that, once fully opened, exposes the USB type C charge port. I like this design a lot since it’s much more durable than a rubber cover and offers superior ingress protection. There’s a single LED indicator located on the switch boot for on and charge state as well. For switching, just like the cheap D10 clones out there, the HM70R has a single e-switch occupying the same real estate as the charge port. It’s a large, grippy rubber boot with a snappy e-switch underneath. This switch is super easy to find and manipulate even with gloved hands and by feel.
Build Quality and Warranty
Fenix lights are very high quality and set the benchmark pretty high in the flashlight world. Professional-use lights require tight quality control and Fenix delivers here. We all know quality isn’t cheap, and the HM70R definitely isn’t a budget headlamp with the street price of around $120 US. For that money, you could buy 4 Boruit D10 headlamps and have money to spare for LED swaps. All the parts fit together perfectly with no obvious gaps or misaligned parts. The headlamp body is precisely milled from 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum. The front of the headlamp housing the LEDs is attached to the battery tube via four T5 Torx fasteners and yes, they were begging me to remove them, but I didn’t. The machining is perfect with no sharp or abrupt edges anywhere. The finish is advertised as type III HA, and it’s more glossy than matte finish, but it’s perfectly done.
One potential weak link is the absence of a driver spring, which instead has a flat contact with an interference bar for reverse polarity protection. The tailcap has a single spring and it’s decently thick and gold plated for low resistance. I’d have liked to see dual springs here on a working-class light since they prevent connection breaks under shock loading and protect the driver from damage. The battery access cover is o-ring sealed, bit II didn’t see any o-rings sealing the charge port cover. I think the charge port itself is waterproof? Logic would agree since Fenix rates the HM70R to 2 meters for impact resistance and IP68 for water and dust resistance, so no worries about getting caught in the rain with the HM70R.
For the warranty, it’s commensurate with the competition and one of the more robust in the industry. Take it away Fenix: Open Air Brands LLC, dba Fenix Lighting US, guarantees all Fenix products purchased from retailers to be made of first-class materials and therefore provides a lifetime warranty against any defects in material and workmanship. Excluded from warranty coverage is any damage to the exterior deemed reasonable wear and tear such as scratches and/or fading of color. In addition, the warranty does not apply to damage caused by abnormal or unreasonable use of any of the components. This includes use of unapproved batteries in Fenix products (see user manuals). This warranty is in place of all other warranties, including warranty of fitness for a particular purpose and warranty of merchantability and excludes any liability for incidental or consequential damages. If your Fenix product has a manufacturer’s defect covered by our warranty, we will either repair or replace it, at our option, without charge. Most damaged Fenix products not covered by the warranty can still be repaired. If repair costs and handling charges apply, you will be notified prior to any service.
LED, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector
The HM70R utilizes 3 LEDs: A main LED, a flood LED, and two red LEDs. Fenix is open about the LED make and model, so that’s nice, and here we have the Luminus SST40 for the main LED, the Cree XP-G2 HE handles the flood, and a pair of 2835 SMD LEDs handle the red light function. Even though it exists in the shadow of the SFT-40-W these days, the SST40 is still a good high output LED. It’s a 5050 size LED with a low vF, good efficiency, and can handle about 8 amps if direct-driven with good output (albeit a bit green).
The Cree XP-G2 HE (high efficacy) is the newest version of Cree’s aging XP-G2 lineup. It’s an XP-size 3535 LED, and the HE version adds a lower thermal resistance 3° C/W, better current handling, and better efficiency. Whereas the SST40 is cool white, the XP-G2 HE is a more neutral tint with high-ish CRI. The red LEDs are simple SMD units.
The flood and red LEDs are housed under their own TIR lens while the main LED sits in a lightly textured reflector. The XP-G2 sits under a unique frosted honeycomb type TIR that really blows the light into a nice flood pattern with decent distance. The SST40 makes good use of that reflector, and produces a nearly perfect headlamp beam with lots of spill that evenly blends to the very diffuse hotspot. The red LEDs actually have decent distance, but are useful for up close also. While the TIR lenses aren’t protected, the reflector sits beneath an AR coated lens.
As mentioned, the SST40 is cool white, and the XP-G2 is more neutral, and the Opple Lightmaster concurs, with the main LED coming in at 5648K and 62 CRI Ra, and the XP-G2 coming in at 4947K and 91 CIR Ra. Duv is 0.0113 and 0.0002 respectively. As expected, the SST40 is a bit green/blue per the Duv, but it doesn’t look bad in person.
The LEDs are very nicely paired with the optics and reflector here. The SST40 in the crumpled reflector gives a lot of spill with a very huge diffuse hotspot that’s pretty even. It’s a bit like a TIR but with more side illumination. The red LED has good distance as well and is great for up-close work. The Cree XP-G2 behind the honeycomb TIR gives a ton of dispersed, even light and the neutral high CRI tint is very pleasant, and I almost found myself using it more than the spot LED! Overall, the HM70R gets an A+++ in this respect. A very well-rounded, highly versatile beam combination.
Dimensions and its competition
|Length||94.5 mm||3.72 in|
|Head diameter||51 mm||2.0 in|
|Body diameter||46 mm||1.8 in|
Dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter, and to the nearest tenth of an Inch.
|Fenix HM70R||Weight in grams||Weight in oz|
|Without battery:||131 g||4.6 oz|
|With battery||204 g||7.2 oz|
Weight is rounded to the nearest gram, and to the nearest tenth of an Oz. Overall, this is pretty light all things considered, but still heavier than an 18650 size headlamp. The Cyansky HS6R I tested weighed in at 162 grams with the battery.
Flashlight size comparison with its competition:
Compared to some of the best headlamps
Group 1 left to right: Fenix HM70R, Fireflies PL47 G2 2021,
Group 2 left to right: Fenix HM70R, Cyansky HS6R
Group 3 left to right: Fenix HM70R, Boruit D10
Group 4 left to right: Fenix HM70R, BioLite 800 Pro
Fenix HM70R UI: User Interface and Driver
The driver is going to be a current regulated buck driver. These drivers are superior to direct drive or linear drivers because they can maintain fully regulated output for much longer at higher outputs than a direct drive configuration since the output to the LED does not decrease as the battery drains. For the UI, the three LEDs are controlled by one switch and each LED has its own mode sets. The main LED mode set is called General Mode, the flood LED and red LEDs fall under the Functional Mode.
Switch between UI modes
To switch between the lighting modes, from on, press and hold the switch for about 1 second. The light turns off and then turns back on in the next function. If in General Mode, it switches to Functional Mode. In Functional Mode, it switches back to General Mode. This is a pretty seamless way to manage multiple lighting modes, but it’s not without some drawbacks. More on that later.
Available modes for General Mode:
- Low, Medium, High, Turbo
Available modes for Functional Mode:
- Medium, High (for the flood LED), continuous and flashing (for the red LEDs)
Available blinky modes:
- Flashing Red (under Functional Mode)
- Click and hold switch: Turns on in General Mode
- Click and hold switch for more than 3 seconds: Activates lockout
- Double click switch: Turns on in Functional Mode
- Single click switch: Changes modes in the selected function
- Press and hold switch: Turns off
- Last mode memory, but only in General Mode. The light will not remember Functional Mode if used last. Turbo is General Mode is not memorized (starts in High instead)
- Double-click from off to access Functional Mode
Low voltage warning:
- The LED indicator shows battery state during operation: Solid green LED 100% to 85%, flashing green LED 85% – 50%, solid red LED 50% – 25%, flashing red LED 25% – 1%
- Flashing/Beacon for the red LED lighting mode
- Manual lockout by unscrewing the battery access cap ⅛ turn or electronic lockout activated by pressing and holding the switch for 3 seconds. The red LED will blink to confirm, and will blink if the switch is pressed. Repeat to unlock.
- None visible
Additional/summary info on the UI: I’m a big fan of dual switch headlamps with multiple lighting modes, and it’s difficult to implement a single switch UI that cohesively and practically accesses and switches modes for each lighting mode group, but Fenix has pulled it off (to a point). The modes are well-spaced in each lighting mode set, and although there’s no low moonlight, there’s the red LED function that works to preserve your night vision. I like how they used just two lighting levels for the flood LED, since it’s fewer modes to cycle through, and I like how Turbo is included in the General Mode set by default. I especially like that Functional Mode can be accessed from off with a double click.
The only gripe I have is you don’t get mode memory for the Functional Mode. It’s only available in General Mode. That’s kind of a drag since I think the High setting on the Functional Mode is pretty useful, the beam is nice, and the tint is nice with the higher CRI. Also, for low-light uses, it would be super annoying to click into the Low mode for the main LED in the dark. The red LED is a much better choice. LVP is present here, and the LED indicator is supposed to only be available when using the Fenix supplied battery, but I am sure LVP is built into the driver. You also can’t activate the spot and flood lighting modes simultaneously, which isn’t a huge deal, but would be nice. No mention of ATR here, but there are timed step downs.
Fenix HM70R Charging and batteries
The HM70R uses a single 21700 lithium ion cell, and Fenix includes their 5000 mAh protected button top ARB-L21-5000 21700 cell with the light. This is the mainstream, go-to battery type for high output flashlights, and while there’s more 18650 size headlamps, we don’t see many headlamps fielding this cell. It’s much higher capacity than a 18650, sporting up to 30% more capacity than the highest capacity 18650s and they can handle much higher current loading for longer. The tradeoff is increased size and weight, but compared to the 18650 size Cyansky HS6R, it’s not too much of a size and weight deficit, and worth the extra runtime.
If you want to use an 18650 with the HM70R, you can, and Fenix sells the ALF-18 for that. Like some other Fenix flashlights, you can use your own batteries in the HM70R so long as they are button tops. The driver has an interference bar on the side of the positive contact for reverse polarity protection, and that necessitates the use of button-top batteries. I tried an Acebeam protected 21700 with USB charging and that one fit, as did a button top Samsung 50G. Flat tops did not work. There’s USB type C onboard charging present as well. Charge current is advertised at 2 amps, so it should charge the battery in about 3 hours. My Ruideng AT35 USB tester showed 1.63 amps and 5.1 volts on a mostly depleted battery.
Lumen measurements (for each mode)
Lumens are measured in my 50 cm integrating sphere with a Digi-Sense 20250-00 data logging luxmeter. The sphere has been calibrated with a Convoy S2+ measured to 260 Lumens and the figures are within 10% of actual. I used the included ARB-L21-5000 21700 and tested Medium, High, and Turbo modes. Amps were measured with my Thsinde B18+ multimeter with 14 gauge wires directly in the meter, and FY19 clamp meter for current over 3 amps. Amp readings taken at 30 seconds.
|General Mode||Amps||Specs||@turn on||@30 sec||@10 minutes|
|Low||54.15 mA||30||39.3 lm||39.3 lm||–|
|Med||222 mA||150||136 lm||136 lm||138 lm|
|High||900 mA||500||480 lm||480 lm||480 lm|
|Turbo||4.8 A||1600||1513 lm||1439 lm||677 lm|
|Functional Mode||Amps||Specs||@turn on||@ 30 sec||@10 minutes|
|Medium Neutral||230.8 mA||70||97 lm||97 lm||–|
|High Neutral||592 mA||400||455 lm||455 lm||431 lm|
|Red||45.4 mA||5||14.7 lm||14.7 lm||–|
The output specs scale nicely with Fenix’s figures, and this is what I’ve come to expect from them. Their lights and headlamps have all performed very close to specs. The flood LED output along with the red mode are coming in a bit high though.
- 12.7 µA
Battery Life: Runtime graphs
Lumens are measured in my 50 cm integrating sphere with a Digi-Sense 20250-00 data logging luxmeter. The sphere has been calibrated with a Convoy S2+ measured to 260 Lumens and the figures are within 10% of actual. I used the included Fenix ARB-L21-5000 21700 and tested General Modes Medium, High, and Turbo mode, and Functional Mode Neutral High.
|General Mode||Specified runtime||Measured runtime ANSI||Time till shut off|
|High||6h||5h 20m||7h 56m|
|Turbo||4h||3h 44m||4h 38m|
|High Neutral||8h||6h 18m||8h 6m|
Once again, we’re seeing some very good regulated output in the runtimes with the HM70R thanks to the excellent electronics. The driver is well-matched to the voltage and output characteristics of the SST40 and XP-G2 HE LEDs. Overall pretty impressive. There wasn’t much heat being generated even on Turbo, and everything was well managed. From ambient 20 C, on Turbo the body hit 46 C by 60 minutes, and never went over 40 C on High. Not much drama during the runs either, and towards the end, there were visual LVP warnings after the last step down in each mode. I ended up stopping the Medium mode test partially because I forgot it would go for 30 hours! It was still chugging along at about 20 Lumens by the 20 hour mark, so I have no doubt it would have gone the distance for the ANSI runtime. The light was still usable after the runtimes, even on Turbo, albeit at lower output so you’d still have enough light output on the ‘limp home’ brightness to get by until you swapped batteries or recharged. The battery read 2.9 volts after each test.
About ANSI FL1 standards: The runtime is measured until the light drops to 10% of its initial output (30 seconds after turning on). This does not mean that the flashlight is not usable anymore. The last column shows how long the light actually works till it shuts off. If there is a + symbol, it means that the test was stopped at that particular point, but the light was actually still running. This happens on certain occasions, with certain drivers, firmware, or batteries.
Peak beam intensity and beam distance measurements
Beam distances are measured using a Uni-T UT383S luxmeter measured indoors at 5 meters using the included fully charged ARB-L21-5000 21700. Measurements taken at 30 seconds.
|General Mode||Specs||Candela measured||Meters||Yards|
|Turbo||8667 cd||9200 cd||192||210|
|Functional Mode||Specs||Candela Measured||Meters||Yards|
These are decent numbers, and in line with Fenix’s figures for beam distance. This is about what I expect from a headlamp of this type, and it’s more than enough distance for just about every task. I did not get a reading from the red LEDs at 5 meters.
About peak beam intensity: 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). The columns ‘Meters’ and ‘Yards’ use rounded numbers.
I compared the HM70R to some other headlamps. Photos taken with my Samsung Note 8. The outdoor 40 meter shots with the camera set to 0.3s ISO 200 and 5000K WB. The indoor shots are taken at 1/15s and 100 ISO with 5000K WB.
Beamshots of the following headlamps compared:
- Slonik D10
- BioLite 800 Pro
- Cyansky HS6R (flood, spot, flood+spot)
- Cyansky HS3R
- Fireflies PL47G2 2021
- Fireflies PL47G2-Mu (mule)
- Brinyte HL18
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by Fenix Lighting US. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.
- Awesome build quality
- Excellent regulated output and runtime
- Simple UI
- Onboard USB type C charging
- 3 lighting modes with a high CRI NW option
- Comfortable to wear
- Non-proprietary 21700 battery
- Can’t activate flood and spot lighting modes simultaneously
- No mode memory for the flood mode
Explanation on star ratings:
1: Avoid: a match 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
5 stars: ★★★★★
There’s tons of headlamps to choose from, and lots of manufacturers make one in all shapes and output levels. You can go on the cheap and pick up a generic ‘D10’ headlamp, or cast your spending inhibitions to the four winds and go all out with something like the Fenix HM70R. The Fenix HM70R occupies a special corner of the headlamp market, namely that it’s sporting a 21700 size battery. While you’ll do fine with the 18650 (as Gabriel found with this light’s smaller counterpart HM60R), if you want the longest runtimes at the best sustained outputs, you really can’t get that with a single 18650. You need multiple 18650s at a size and weight deficit for the kind of output I saw with the HM70R.
All the usual Fenix features I’ve come to expect are here, like the excellent electronics, simple UI, and the very high quality construction. There’s also the detail items like the reflective strips on the headband and silicone non-slip strips on the inside of the headband. It’s also comfortable for extended use, and is easy to adjust. The third strap on the headband also makes it very stable during use. There’s not much to nitpick on with this one, but if I had to, I’d like to see a dual-switch setup here. It’s more of a personal preference, but I think multiple lighting modes really benefit from dual switches, and while not a deal-breaker in any way shape or form, I miss being able to do the flood and spot lighting modes simultaneously like on the Cyansky HS6R. Mode memory for the flood LEDs would also be nice.
So, the HM70R is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Fenix. While you can get a very nice headlamp for under $40 these days, this is a professional-grade tool that would be right at home in a variety of scenarios or uses, on the farm, in the shop, in the field, or at home. It will be guaranteed reliable and durable if it got wet or dropped down a muddy hole. You can’t go wrong with the HM70R. 5 stars.