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Wuben A1 review: high power flashlight test
Wuben A1 specifications (updated January 2023)
|Max. Lumens||20,000 lm|
|Max. Beam intensity / distance (old)||1,000,000 cd (2000m)|
|Updated January 2023||1,563,000 cd (2500m)|
|Battery config.||8*21700 battery pack|
|Review date||May 2022|
Wuben A1 introduction:
Before I went down the rabbit hole into flashlight wonderland, a flashlight was a plastic thing with a bulb and some batteries that helped me see in the dark (and chase away the boogie man and make sure nothing was hiding in the closet). Well, things have changed since then, and now flashlights have gotten pretty advanced with things like microprocessor controlled drivers, advanced firmware, exotic materials,and high power LEDs, all run by batteries from electric cars. Although a lot has changed,I felt like a plateau had been reached with technology…until now.
In February, one of the big names in flashlights, Wuben, decided to build a flashlight the likes of which the industry hasn’t seen before and called it the Wuben A1. Although none of this tech is new, the way it’s packaged and implemented is pretty amazing. Here’s the short list: Four Luminus SBT90.2 LEDs, 20,000 Lumens, 1 Mcd, eight 21700 batteries, PD power bank, Bluetooth remote, and a 151 mm head; nearly 7 lbs of ultra-bright, ultra-long-throwing awesomeness. Oh, and the price? Read on for that, but it’s as big as the light. There’s not much competition in this segment with only Lumintop’s GT94X posting similar output and throw figures, but that’s an enthusiast light. In the professional-use realm, only Fenix’s 18,000 Lumen LR80R comes close (I do have one of those for testing!). Let’s see if the A1 is the pinnacle of flashlight tech and the holy grail, so to speak, of the flashlight hierarchy.
A flagship light should come in a flagship package with excellent presentation, and the A1 didn’t disappoint. No paperboard or plain-jane boxes here. The light comes in a really nice, high quality locking hard case, and it’s properly rugged. The lid has a rubber gasket seal to keep water and crud out, and there’s a spot for a padlock to keep it closed. The hinges seem pretty sturdy as well, and those are usually a weak point on cases like these. It has dual locking latches, foldable handle, and there’s a ¼ inch threaded insert in the front for something (maybe attaching things?). Inside, the A1 and the accessories are neatly arranged in precisely-cut microcell foam. It’s all very well laid out and nothing was hidden or jammed in there at random. Here’s what you get:
- Wuben A1
- Shoulder harness
- Spare o-rings
- Carry handle (attached)
- Spare handle nuts
- Charging adapter
- 4 outlet adapter plugs
- Multilingual manual
- Warranty card
I was expecting all the goodies to get up and going, and they’re all here in a pretty decent amount of kit. The massive battery pack makes up the handle of the light, and it was unscrewed slightly to prevent discharging during storage. The user manual is written in tons of languages to cover pretty much the entirety of the flashlight-consuming world. Overall, a very nice assortment of accessories, but why Wuben left out a cheap USB type C cable on a flagship light is beyond me because it really needs one. C’mon Wuben.
Flashlight in use
The A1 is part of Wuben’s A-series lights, which are their high power, high output product line, and the A1 was designed with a specific mission: This is a working light designed to project huge amounts of light to extreme distances. Wuben even advertises it can be used from a helicopter. Hmmm. First responders, search and rescue personnel, inspectors, and ranchers with large amounts of property would find the A1 a useful tool for illuminating large areas at long distances.
Due to the sheer size and weight (over 2.5 kg, about 7 lbs), the A1 isn’t practical for much else other than impressing your friends (or annoying your neighbors). Handling-wise, the light is properly huge, and that creates some obvious challenges. The battery is made of eight 21700 cells arranged in a 4S4P configuration, like the Imalent MS18, so it’s pretty fat and has pretty aggressive grooves and channels milled in, with reeding on the points that really add a lot of grip if you need to handle the light by the body. They look exactly like the ones on the Wuben C2, albeit super-sized. The super-sized tailcap is captured by a rubber holder that doubles as a gasket (it’s also able to be completely removed by dislodging the rubber seal). It unscrews to access the charging and power bank input/output. It has reeding on the periphery for easy gripping, but the mounts for the shoulder harness kind of get in the way. Tail standing is plausible, but I don’t recommend it because it’s really unstable.
For ease of handling, there’s a detachable carry handle held on with two, 5mm hex cap head bolts, and the handle has a nice grippy silicone rubber cover. Wuben can also design and manufacture other handle or mounting solutions for the A1 on request, so there’s a lot of configurability here, a nod to the working nature of this light. The head and tailcap have numerous mounting points for the included shoulder harness. The harness has two quick release clips that mount to the attachment points around the circumference of the head and tailcap. I gave up trying to figure out how it works, but there’s tons of options for attaching it for over-the-shoulder or behind the back, or port carry (out front). The harness is nicely padded, has tons of adjustability with a non-slip grip under the pad. No surprise, I found handling the A1 by the body pretty cumbersome. The balance is front biased and although it’s not terrible, the sheer weight and bulk made handling a chore. I’m pretty strong and have big hands, but I found that the A1 is a handful, and although it’s possible to carry it by the body, it’s best handled by the carry handle.
There’s a pair of e-switches: One has the typical on/off symbol for on-off, and the other has the familiar ‘W’ symbol and is for mode and function switching. The on/off switch has a LED backlight for on state and battery status, and it stays on for 5 seconds after start up. In typical Wuben fashion, it breathes when on standby (this can be disabled). These are simple e-switches and feel good. Nice and clicky with good feedback, and would work with gloved hands.
Wuben A1 remote control
An interesting (read: genius) feature of the A1 is the remote control. You heard me right, the A1 has a Bluetooth remote control. The antenna is a protruding nub on the side of the body near the head, and the remote fits into a slot in the handle for stowing. This is a fantastic idea for a light like this because the switches on the light are on the underside of the light, so it’s tough to use the switches one-handed when utilizing the carry handle. Thanks to the remote, you can control the light from the handle. Plus, if you use the A1 for area lighting, you can turn it on and off (and change modes) remotely.
The remote looks a bit like a downsized TV remote with two buttons that mirror the two buttons (and functionality) on the flashlight. The remote has a nice soft-touch rubber body and the on-off switch has an LED backlight that shows on state and battery state. The buttons are nice and clicky with good feedback and stick out enough for gloved hands to easily manipulate. It has its own USB type C charging port on the underside (but not protected, so I don’t know how water proof it is) as well (but no USB cable). Wuben says it works out to 10 meters (over 30 feet), so it’s probably Bluetooth enabled. I tested it at 5 meters, and it has no problem at that distance. It’s also able to control multiple A1s with the same remote when properly paired.
Build Quality, and Warranty
Let’s address the elephant in the room. These search and rescue lights aren’t cheap to begin with, and it’s true all the A1’s technology and power is going to be expensive. So how much will the A1 set you back? It retails out at Wuben’s site for $988 (the reason this is a catch and release review). To put that in perspective, a GT94X is around $640 (without batteries), and 3 times as expensive as a GT90. Yep, it’s expensive, and will be relegated to those who really need a light like this (or have fun money to burn).
Price notwithstanding, the A1’s build quality is absolutely top-notch like all my Wuben lights. The light is milled from (lots) of 6061-T6 aluminum and the machining is excellent with no tool marks or machine marks or blemishes of any kind. That’s saying a lot on a large light involving lots of machining. The text on the light is sharp and well done, but the contrast could be better. There’s a ton of thermal mass here, with super thick heatsink fins behind the head, but I suspect it will still get hot quick.
The carry handle has great fit-up with the body and doesn’t wobble when tightened. There’s no sharp edges where there shouldn’t be any, no gaps or misaligned parts either. It even passed the maracas test. The finish is type III HA, and it’s a nice matte gray color that should be very durable. There were a few blemishes on the light when I got it, but very minor. Every part is heavy duty as well. The back of the driver has a huge, 1 mm thick gold plated spring on the positive contact, and the driver is held in by a retaining ring secured by 4 phillips screws filled with epoxy to keep screwdrivers out. The battery pack has a massive brass ring for the negative contact and a brass button for the positive interface.
The threads on the front of the battery tube that interface with the head, and the rear threads for the tailcap/charge port cover are rectangular cut and seem a bit fine for this application. Due to the weight of the battery (over 1 kg), you need to be careful screwing it on to the head (which takes 6 full turns) or it might cross thread. That’s not an issue for the rear threads though. The threads are anodized so you can manually lock the light out, and nicely lubed, which made them so smmoootthhh and very premium feeling. There’s a single o-ring sealing the front, and the rear is sealed by a thick rubber gasket. Wuben gives the A1 an IP68 rating, which is important for a working light like this since it has to be able to operate in all weather conditions. Wuben rates the A1 for 2 meters of submersion for 60 minutes, which is pretty incredible.
Wuben’s is one of the best. If you register the product, they’ll repair the light for free in the first year. From their website: 30 days money back guarantee: Within 30 days from the date of purchase, if the product has quality problems, customers can request full refund. 30 days replacement: Within 30 days from the date of purchase, if the product has quality problems, customers can request free replacement.1 year warranty: Within 1 year from the date of purchase, if the product has quality problems, WUBEN will offer free repair. Battery warranty: WUBEN offers a 1-year warranty for the rechargeable batteries but other included accessories are not covered by the warranty. 5 Years product warranty: Within 5 years from the date of purchase, if the product (for battery-removable flashlights, accessories excluded) has quality problems, WUBEN will offer free repair for WUBEN registered customers(Support-Product registration). Lifetime maintenance: From the date of purchase, if the product has problem after 1 year, WUBEN will offer paid repair for WUBEN registered customers.
LEDs, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector
The firepower the A1 claims requires some serious LEDs, and the A1 certainly has that covered. It’s sporting not one, but four Luminus SBT90.2 LEDs. This emitter is part of Luminus’ special white LED line designed for architectural and industrial lighting applications. It runs on 3 volts, unlike most large high power emitters, so you can run it on parallel cells without a boost driver. The 3×3 mm LES (9 mm2 light emitting surface) sits on a 10×11 mm asymmetrical substrate with two rows of 12 bonding wires (24 total) connecting the anode and cathode. It’s also domeless, and the LES 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. This LED also features a low thermal resistance so it pulls huge amounts of current. The sweet spot for output is around 24 amps.
The LEDs are sitting behind a humongous quad SMO reflector 136mm wide, and it’s flawless, with no blemishes, dust, or fingerprints. The bezel is an equally huge sandblasted stainless steel unit. The machining is super-tidy and it’s crenulated. The dual AR coated toughened mineral glass lens is properly thick and set pretty far back to protect it from damage. The lens coating isn’t intrusive either, and doesn’t add chromatic aberrations to the beam.
The beam is epic and mostly tuned for throw, but has a huge amount of side illumination…more than any of my lights that claim to be flooders. At about 3 meters, the hotspot is very intense and pretty large. The beam is also pretty clean all things considered, but there are some visible artifacts which can’t be helped due to the design of the reflector. The SBT90.2s, although green at low currents, turn pure white at higher power.
The Opple Lightmaster Pro shows these coming in at 5616K with an RA of 62.8. Duv on Level 5 is 0.0090, still a bit on the green end of the spectrum.
Dimensions and size comparison
- Length: 318 mm / 12.52 inches
- Head diameter: 151 mm / 5.94 inches
- Body diameter: 65 mm / 2.55 inches
- Reflector diameter 136 mm / 5.35 inches
- Total weight (battery+head and handle): 2875 grams / 101.38 oz, 2.87 kg. / 6.32 lbs.
I compared the A1 to some other large lights. The grip pattern on the battery tube parallels the Wuben C2 and D1:
Group 2 left to right: Wuben A1, Thorfire C8
Group 3 left to right: Wuben A1, Wuben C2, Wuben D1
Group 4: Wuben A1, Fenix LR80R
Driver & User Interface:
I can’t comment on the driver exactly since it’s sealed in the head, but it’s 55 mm in diameter, and no, this isn’t an off-the-shelf part. In keeping with the use-case of this light, it’s probably sporting a constant-current buck driver with FET channel for Turbo since the input voltage is 16.8 volts (4S) and the LEDs are 3 volts. This should afford nicely regulated runtimes in lower modes, and all-out battery gulping blinding output on Turbo.
A professional-use light demands a simple UI, and Wuben’s UIs are some of my favorite in that respect. No Anduril, no NarsilM, no proprietary nonsense with multiple mode set groups, no calibration, nada. It’s one click on, one click off for the on/off switch and the ‘W’ function switch controls mode switching and other functions.
- Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 4, Turbo, Strobe, S.O.S.
- Single click on/off switch: Turns on in last mode
- Press and hold function switch: Momentary Turbo (continuing to hold and releasing will lock in Turbo)
- Quad click function or on/off switch 4 times activates the lockout
- Single click on/off switch: Turns off
- Click function switch: Changes modes L1-L2-L3-L4-L5-L1
- Press and hold function switch: Turbo
- Press and hold on/off switch: Strobe
- Yes, last mode memory. Strobes and Turbo are not memorized.
- Pressing and holding the on/off switch from on or off activates Strobe. Single clicking the function switch again in Strobe switches to the S.O.S mode, and clicking again goes back to Strobe. Clicking the on/off switch reverts to the previous (non-blinky) mode.
- Momentary Turbo is accessible from off or on by pressing and holding the function switch
- Clicking the on/off switch 3 times will enable/disable the breathing standby switch LED (on the flashlight)
Low voltage warning:
The switch LED shows battery state when idle and during operation:
- Solid blue 85% or more
- flashing blue 85%-34%
- solid red 34%-17%
- flashing red 15%-1%.
The light will step down gradually and shut off for LVP.
- Variable Strobe and S.O.S
- Yes, electronic lockout can be engaged by clicking the function or on/off switch 4 times from off. Repeat to unlock. Manual lockout is also possible by unscrewing the battery 1/4 turn.
- None, and not visible by camera
Additional info on the UI: Once again, a simple, but effective UI from Wuben, and one entirely appropriate for a light of this type. There’s no calibrating needed, no user-set modes to fiddle with either, and no ramping. Click it on, click it off, click the function button to change modes. I really like the momentary Turbo feature as well, which can be extremely useful for these use-case lights (when you need turbo, you really need Turbo). Anyone can master the A1 UI with minimal training, and it’s intuitive as well with no press and hold to turn on or off. Moreover, the blinkies and Turbo aren’t part of the regular modes so you won’t accidentally switch into them. The mode spacing is great as well. Wuben says there’s automatic thermal control, and I hope so since this thing will get crazy hot quick (spoiler alert: it does). The remote controls the UI in the same way as the switches on the flashlight, which is awesome and super handy since you can control the light from the handle.
Batteries & Charging
Large professional-use lights usually don’t use loose, individual lithium ion cells, and the A1 is no exception. Like the Imalent MS-series lights, the A1 features a substantial battery pack. This battery features a 4S2P arrangement of eight 21700 batteries on board for 16.8 volts when fully charged. According to Wuben, the pack is made up of their own ABD4800 21700 batteries, for a total capacity of 8400 mAh at 14.4V. It has all the requisite safety features, including a BMS protection board and PTC for over and undercharge/temperature protection, overcurrent protection, and LVP cutoff. I’ve tested the Wuben ABD4800 in the C2 and it’s a great, high capacity battery similar to the Panasonic NCR21700T. With 4 of these in series and 2 in parallel, it should supply the nearly 300 watts of power the A1 needs on Turbo (albeit briefly).
Under the tailcap is the charging input jack, battery level LED indicators, and power bank output and controls. Instead of a USB type C input, there’s a standard 2.1 x 5.5 mm barrel jack input that works with the included dual-voltage (120/220) 12 volt 3 amp power supply. The charging is good for 36 watts, so it should charge the battery in about 5 hours. I think a USB PD input would be a better choice for quicker charging, but the barrel jack and the relatively standard 12 volt, 3 amp input guarantees good adaptability with existing power supplies, and would probably work with lower-current 12 volt input power supplies (like a solar source with 12 volt converter). The included power supply has a neat socketed adapter that you can affix to different adapters. There’s one for the USA, UK, EU, and Australia. The adapters are well-secured and captured, and released by pressing a button. There’s 6 LED indicators that show charging or discharging status (if using the power bank).
The power bank uses a standard USB type A output and works with most of the quick-charge protocols including QC2.0, QC3.0, Huawei FCP, Samsung AFC, PD2.0, DCP, Samsung BC1.2, and Apple (protocol not specified). This should cover charge voltage 3v, 9v, 12v up to 24 watts. I tested it on the Lumintop D3 that charges at QC2.0, and it started charging at 8.9 volts and 1.26 amps. It did quick-charge my Samsung Note 8 at QC2.0, and a QC power bank I have at 12 volts and 100 mA, so I’m sure it will charge a variety of devices. With 8400 mAh (at 14.4V) on board, you should be able to charge several cell phones, flashlights, run a camera battery charger, Walkie-Talkie battery charger, GPS charger, etc. Anything with a USB input up to 24 watts. Very nice!
Wuben A1 Performance test
Wuben A1 lumen measurements
Oh boy…the A1’s humongous head is too huge for my sphere and integrating tube, so I built another integrating device out of a styrofoam cooler. I use a Digi-Sense 20250-00 datalogging luxmeter, and the integrating device was calibrated using many lights of known output, including a Maukka calibrated Convoy S2+. Consider these to be accurate within 10% of actual (hey, it’s tough calibrating a cooler). All measurements taken at 30 seconds using the fully charged battery pack. No amp measurements this time since the current path is pretty sealed and I can’t mess with this light since I’m giving it back!
|Mode||Specs||Lumens @turn on||Lumens @30 sec||Lumens @10 minutes|
|Turbo||20,000 lm||20,748||17,157 lm||5,719 lm|
Runtime graph: battery life
I tested the runtimes in the integrating device using the Digi-Sense 20250-00 datalogging luxmeter. I tested Level 4, Level 5, and Turbo modes using the fully charged battery pack.
Turbo held better than 10,000 Lumens for almost 2 minutes, and better than 5,000 Lumens for almost an hour. The step down is timed at 2 minutes on the nose. Even with all the thermal mass, ambient 25 C to 102 C took just 30 seconds, but that was as hot as it got, as the output ramped down, from 90 C to 85 C by 60 seconds, settling at 66-67 C by 30 minutes in, but that’s why it has a carry handle. It was cool enough at the body to hold with bare hands though. Total runtime was 2 hours. Wuben says it should run for 2 hours, 2 minutes, so pretty spot on.
Level 5 was more of the same consistency and sustainability, maintaining the 12,000 Lumens for nearly 3 minutes, and better than 10,000 for almost 5. Heat was never an issue, only rising to 61.4 C at 3 minutes in, and again, the light is hand holdable for the entire runtime. The step down is timed like Turbo, and it happened at 5 minutes in. The total runtime was 2 hours 23 minutes, a bit down from the 2 hours 35 minutes advertised.
Level 4 started at 4000 Lumens and predictably held better than 3000 Lumens for 2 hours straight. The light didn’t heat up hardly any, only rising 20 C above the 21.8 ambient by 60 minutes in. The output is super steady as well, and maintained better than 2000 Lumens for almost 3 hours. The light shut off at 4 hours 41 minutes after dropping the output very low for the last 30 minutes of the test.
What’d we learn here? Well, you need a lot of batteries and thermal mass to tame four SBT90.2s, and the Wuben A1 has both. Moreover, the driver is decently regulated, there’s plenty of batteries behind it, and the thermal regulation is perfectly configured to the light’s purpose. Yah, it got hot on Turbo, but it was well regulated with no wild drops or see-saw adjustments in brightness to keep things good. Overall, this is fantastic performance from the big A1. Very impressive! Check out Marco’s test of the Lumintop GT94X to see the difference Lumintop GT94X Performance
Throw numbers: peak beam intensity
Throw was measured using the Uni-T 383S luxmeter at 10 meters outdoors. Readings taken at 30 seconds using the fully charged battery pack..
|Turbo||1,563,000 cd||1,492,000 cd||2,443 m||2,672 yd(1.51 miles)|
Edit by Marco: January 2023: Wuben has updated the specifications to 1,560,000 cd and 2500 meters from 1,000,000 cd and 2,000 meters. I measured mine at 1,520,000 cd after 30 seconds, and it was over 1,600,000 at turn-on!
2443 meters is incredible, and that’s at 30 seconds. This is high-end LEP territory, folks…with 20,000 Lumens. The light still had a lot to give in terms of thermals, so I have no doubt this would sustain 2000 meters of throw up to about 50 seconds. Imagine 4 BLF GT90’s all at once and you pretty much have an A1. Even the L5 mode is over 1800 meters at 30 seconds. Super impressive.
$1000 flashlight Wuben A1 video
Wuben A1 Beamshots
I tested the Wuben A1 alongside the Fenix LR80R, Thrunite TN50, Nightwatch NS59v1, Nightwatch NI03 Valkyrie, Astrolux EC03. These lights all produce over 5000 Lumens.
The fence is about 40 m away. You can see the differences in beam profiles between the different lights. For reference, the trees in the background aren’t usually visible with the other flashlights I’ve tested here, but the A1 (and Fenix LR80R) easily light them up. The closer trees are about 300 meters distant.
The tower is about 950 meters away. I tested the A1 against some other long-throw flashlights including the Amutorch DM90, WildTrail WT90, Acebeam L19, Acebeam L18, Convoy L21B, and Speras T3R, and Fenix LR80R. We can see the A1 easily lights it up just as good as the ultra-long throw DM90, with 4 times the Lumen output.
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me by Wuben to review and pass on to the next reviewer. I received compensation for it. I have not been holding back on problems or defects.
- Fantastic quality, fit and finish
- Incredible throw
- Excellent, well balanced beam
- Sustains high output
- Nicely regulated driver
- Effective dual-switch UI
- Wireless remote control
- Flexible charging with QC power bank
- Crazy expensive
- No USB cable on a $1000 light?
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
4.5 stars: ★★★★⋆
The flashlight wars have heated up recently, with each manufacturer progressively rolling out brighter, farther throwing lights. Imalent, Lumintop, Haikelite, Mateminco/Astrolux have the market cornered for high-output, long throw LED flashlights, until the Wuben A1 stormed into the room and said, “Hold my beer.”
Wuben threw down the gauntlet with the A1, and although this is a working light first, and not very practical as a general purpose light, it’s super-cool. Hey, if I had money to throw away, I’d get one. During my brief tenure with the A1, I found that it has the typical Wuben quality I’ve come to expect, and although all that performance is mighty expensive, to put it in perspective, the only other flashlight out there capable of 20,000 Lumens and 2,000 m of throw is the Lumintop GT94X, and that’s an enthusiast light that can’t match the A1 in sustainable performance. If Lumintop had done their light the right way, it would be the Wuben A1. Although none of the A1’s tech is new or revolutionary, the way it’s packaged is. This is the first remote controlled flashlight I’ve ever encountered, and the remote is properly implemented and works great. It’s the first flashlight that can reliably manage four SBT90.2s with good runtime, and although it didn’t do 2 Mcd, it beat Wubens throw specs. There’s also added usefulness in the power bank function, and the UI is about perfect for a light like this. Wuben did a great job designing the A1, and it’s even adaptable, with the flexible charging option and the ability to customize it to fit a specific purpose. For the rating, I’m giving it 4.5 stars. Why’d I knock off ½ star? It’s pretty expensive for what it is, and to not include a $1 USB cable with a $1000 light is a major drag, Wuben. Just saying. Bottom line, if you’re looking for a light like this, get the A1 before it’s sold out or discontinued. It really does stand alone in the high output, long-throw flashlight hierarchy (for now at least).