Raw is the latest production from Rob Cheetham, creator of many high quality, innovative and unique lights based in the UK. The tiny nano-light may look innocent enough but switch it on and be prepared to be thoroughly baffled. Specifically, just how on earth can something so tiny put out so much light? The design goal seems to have been simply “the brightest and smallest that is possible”. Pushing the limits of current technology, it is brighter than many “full size” torches thanks to the use of a Luxeon-III LED, yet smaller than some novelty keychain lights thanks to the use of a rechargeable LiIon CR2 battery. Perfect to keep with you for emergencies, or just to wow your friends.
Manufacturer`s Web site- theorb.co.uk
Buy yours from- the manufacturer`s site.
Cost- GB£35 plus £3 postage (international £6) including one battery and plug-in charger. Extra battery £3 each. Blue or green tritium insert £6 extra.
Size- 47mm long (1.85 inch) x 20mm diameter (0.8 inch).
No of LEDs- 1x Luxeon-III.
LED colours avaliable- White, standard. Others avaiable to order.
Body colours/finishes- Raw machined aluminum. Also limited runs in sterling silver and titanium.
Batteries- 1x “RCR2” rechargeable lithium-ion. Regular CR2 lithium cell will work too.
Switch type- Twist head.
Approximate beam half-angle- ~10 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- not yet measured.Packaging.
The Raw arrives in the post contained within Orb`s trademark space-age silver shipping tube. Within, you will find the light with pre-installed RCR2 battery, plug-in “nano charger”, a small packet containing two powerful donut shaped magnets (see later)…….and a torrent of tiny balls! So many balls. Originally intended quite innocently as protective cushioning, they appear as ordinary polystyrene packing filler but are in fact a genetically engineered life form created during the 1980s by government scientists working in a secret underground facility somewhere in the south-west of England. Intended to infiltrate and destroy enemy military installations, they rapidly multiply, spread out and consume everything in their path once released from whatever they happen to be contained in. Although there were a great many produced, they were never actually deployed and their creators thought they had safely neutralised them once the Cold War ended. Following Government cutbacks that led to the closure of that secret research bunker, they were recently sold to local packaging supply companies given the resemblance to polystyrene filler. Which is probably how the folks at Orb innocently got hold of them. Unfortunately, the intense concentrated energy within the Raw seems to partially re-awaken them during transport, turning them into something quite uncontrollable. Take *extreme* care not to let them out, else once free of the protective containment tube, they will spread everywhere around you uncontrollably, almost impossible to catch and re-contain. The miniscule polystyrene orbs will try and take over the world, or at least your home, so beware! Don`t ask me how I know….
Anyways, assuming you do manage to free the contents without being consumed by those evil spheres, you will find the light itsself snugly contained within a clever two-piece tube which can be used to protect and transport the light when not in use. This is a little version of the one used by the original Orb and has mouldings on each half forming a thread – rotate the halves anticlockwise from each other to gain access. It sits very snugly and mine didn`t want to come out without some encouragement. Perhaps the balls scared it?
Recently there has been a lot of development in rechargeable lithium ion battery technology, resulting in a selection of tiny and powerful cells that are just perfect for powering torches. I will admit I do not know too much about these so please bear with me if I get things wrong. Raw owes its diminutive size to the use of a RCR2 or “15266” cell, just over an inch long and a little more than a half inch in diameter, but rated at 3 volts, 300mAh. This is an “unprotected” cell – lithium ion cells need to be treated carefully and can be damaged, or even under some conditions overheat and explode if abused. Some LiIon batteries contain integral electronic protection circuits to look after the cell and ensure nothing untoward happens during charging and discharging, but the RCR2 for the Raw lacks this internal protection. By itsself this is not dangerous, but it does mean you have to treat the little blue cell with some care. Don`t try charging it with anything other than a charger specifically designed for this type of cell, and I wouldn`t recommend using it in anything other than the light it came with, not unless you know a whole lot more about these batteries than I do and can tell what`s safe and what isn`t. Also, take care not to over-discharge it. I would reccommend that when the light begins to dim noticeably, turn off and recharge the cell when you can. Deeply discharging LiIon cells is not good for them, and if left to run right down you might find that it will not charge again at all.
Charging comes courtesy of a positively minute “nano-charger” although alongside the microscopic Raw, it looks quite big. It appears to have been made for the US market and as such has US style flat plug prongs (which fold out from the rear to allow pocket carrying), but thanks to universal voltage switched-mode circuitry inside, it can be used almost worldwide on supplies from 100 – 240 volts at 50 or 60Hz with only an appropriate travel adapter selected to fit. In the UK, a standard electric shaver adapter plug usually works. The miniature charger has a regulated output and keeps the charge rate down to a safe level, but even so, it is still pretty fast. I don`t have the exact figures on hand but reckon it takes only an hour or so at most. Status is indicated by a two colour LED – lights green when powered on with no battery, red to indicate fast charging and goes back to green to tell you charging is complete. There is, however, one small problem. Small though it is, it isn`t small enough as it`s actually made for rechargeable CR123 sized cells. The little blue battery doesn`t come close to making contact with the terminals in the holder. Remember I mentioned some strong little donut shaped magnets being supplied in the package? Here`s what they`re used for – just stick one on each end of the battery and it`ll fit fairly securely between the contacts where it`ll charge nicely. They are *very* strong, so much so that they don`t like to let go easilly so there`s no worry of one falling off during handling. Be careful of course not to let them get near magnetic storage media, spring-wound watches or CRT screens else damage could occur. If you don`t like the idea of tiny magnets then I`m sure there are other things you can use to pack out the space, but they seem like a good idea to me.
Battery life….ahem….well….you have to bear in mind just how incredibly tiny the Raw is, and how disproportionately bright it is….12 minutes! Yes, that`s all. It wasn`t ever meant to be king of run-time, just tiny and powerful. So it`s 12 minutes of screaming bright white that you don`t see coming out of something so small anywhere else, and because it`s rechargeable over and over again, what`s not to like? Well, it`s not regulated and indeed drives the LED directly with not so much as a resistor, but the discharge curve of a LiIon cell is pretty flat so it won`t dim out noticeably till the very end. Need extra run-time, just carry a couple of extra batteries. I`ll probably not conduct a graphed run test as you may have gathered by now from previous reviews (despite endless promises!), but will conduct a few timed tests and report back when I can as to just how long it does run.
The Raw manages to produce so much light by utilising a Luxeon-III emitter that is directly driven. Meaning no electronics to take up space, no resistors to dial down the current, just battery and LED coupled together. It relies on the internal resistance and relatively flat discharge curve of the cell to prevent the LED from frying and keep it bright for most of the short run-time. A limited first run of Raws had U-bin LEDs which are currently quite hard to get hold of and are brighter than the T-bins used in subsequent lights, while taking the same power. Not to say the “normal” ones aren`t more than bright enough as they are. Mine is nice and white too with just a slight pink tint that is only evident when used in the daytime, nothing to worry about. Well, who uses their torch in the daytime anyway….?! Focussing the light is a mildly textured reflector that does a marvelous job of delivering a smooth and very useful beam, not too tight, not too wide but still with plenty of useful spill and decent throw too. A tough high quality mineral glass lens keeps dirt and dust out, but note that there is no o-ring (presumably omitted to further reduce the size) so it won`t keep moisture out.
As you might expect from Orb, the LED, reflector and lens are easilly removable to replace and/or modify as you see fit, it all comes apart very easilly as you can see. Other LED colours and bare boards can be obtained and when the next generation of uber-bright Lux-IIIs become avaliable, it is not difficult to upgrade and help keep your Raw the brightest little thing there is. You do have to watch that the innards of the head do not fall out when getting to the battery, but so long as you`re careful, it isn`t going to happen very often.
Not having much room in there for anything fancy in the way of switches, the old tried and tested twist-head operation has been employed. Simple but effective – tighten to turn on, loosen to turn off. A spring in the bottom of the battery space keeps pressure on the cell to stop it rattling, with a useful by-product. There is just enough play in the threads so if you tighten it until it is *almost* switched on, pressing the tail and head in together will cause it to light momentarily until released, useful for signalling for example. Given the diminutive proportions and smooth raw aluminum finish, it can be quite slippery. Polished to make it shine, even more so. But nevertheless I don`t find it hard to operate, aided by the lack of any o-ring between the halves that would otherwise increase turning friction.
Did I mention that the Raw is small? Very small. *Extremely* small. Just completely tiny. Well, OK, not as tiny as some of those popular coin cell keychain lights, but those aren`t as impossibly bright as the Raw either. For most people I expect it would dissapear in pockets and get lost in the bottom of bags, ready for action whenever you need a bright light that your 5mm LED keychain can`t deliver. Raw is not a keychain light though, not having any obvious attachment points. That groove cut around the rear of the battery compartment half is there for a reason however – it allows a Lanyard to be tied if you`re worried the diminutive torch may get lost.
As the name may suggest, Raw is finished in….raw aluminum. Just a smooth machined finish with a very mild ridged texture giving a bit of grip. While smooth, I find it is not hard to operate – there is no o-ring sealing the two halves so it turns rather easilly. Being untreated it will inevitably pick up scratches and lose its shiny finish, but being untreated also means it can be polished up to bring it back better than new. If you`re adventurous (and have the right contacts) you could also get it anodised or plated if necessary. The choice is yours.
In a word, incredible. In more words: Raw fulfills its apparent design goal of “as small and bright as possible” almost perfectly. When you turn this tiny little thing on for the first time, it`s hard to comprehend just how it can be so bright. The disproportionately powerful beam makes the output of a very popular brand of 3-D-cell aluminum torch (which is an order of magnitude bigger) look truely pathetic, and mine`s even brighter than the original Orb with 3-watt LED module too. Its mildly textured reflector also does a marvellous job of concentrating and smoothing that huge amount of light into a beam I have trouble finding fault with, just the right balance of hotspot and side-spill. Of course with so much power packed in such a small size, it`s bound to get warm. Very warm – the LuxIII LED gives out a fair amount of heat that is conducted through to the body, and subsequently your hand. Set it down burning away on its own and it can be very hot indeed when you go to pick it up again so be careful. It shouldn`t be hot enough to damage the LED or burn your hand but it could take you by surprise if you`re not expecting it.
There has to be a catch to this impressive performance, and of course it is the run-time – it is just not possible to have a long run-time and bright beam in something so small, well not until miniature plutonium fuel cells become more readilly avaliable. That might not be for a little while yet, but at least the RCR2 cell is rechargeable over and over again, and small enough that you could keep one or two on hand for extended periods of use if you so desire.
Talking of things radioactive, Raw has the option of being supplied with a Tritium glow tube installed into a groove in the side of the body. You get a choice of green or blue and while neither are teriffically bright, it`s enough of a glow to help locate your little light in the dark. Plus, it looks great and unlike the main beam, will burn continuously for well over a decade. Note that the photo to the right is a long exposure enhancing the glow (with green Traser Glowrings providing the accent light), it does not appear this bright in reality.
Machined from solid aluminum, Raw`s battery holder body should survive most accidents and a whole lot of abuse. There is no reason why its head section wouldn`t also live to tell the tale following being dropped or thrown in anger at something fairly solid. However given its tiny size (did I mention that already?!) there isn`t a whole lot of cushioning and protection for its insides. No o-ring is present in front of the mineral glass lens cushioning impacts so a blow to the edge of the head could cause that lens to crack. The LED should survive much better however, being set within an aluminum donut that serves as spacer and heatsink, and behind a machined aluminum reflector that`s pretty solid too. Given the fact that it`s an LED, which are inherently tough, I reckon it`ll go on shining even if the lens did crack. And if that happened, it`s very easy to replace by just dropping in a new one – you can purchase replacements from Orb. The same is true of all Raw`s parts – nothing would be difficult to replace in the event of damage occuring.
As mentioned, Raw has a bare (raw?) finish with no anodise or plating protecting the surface. In all honesty, apart from cosmetic purposes, it isn`t really necessary either. The natural layer of oxide that all bare aluminum products have (formed almost instantly on exposure to the air during manufacture) is enough to keep it safe from corrosion unless reguarly exposed to salt water or some cleaning products. If during normal usage it begins to get worn and scratched looking, never fear for it isn`t hard to polish back to looking good as new. Either the old fashioned way with some Brasso and elbow-grease, or use a Dremel with the appropriate tool fitted for quicker results.
The only thing that lets Raw down is the lack of water resistance. Normally that wouldn`t be much of a problem, but Raw lends itsself so easilly to regular everyday carry where it could get exposed to the wet, whether caught in a downpour or you find yourself swimming in a nearby pond while drunk. Its innards, particuarly the LiIon battery, would not thank you for getting them wet, yet the quest for miniaturisation has led to o-rings being omitted. I don`t think it would make it *too* much bigger if they were included, but it would have to grow slightly nonetheless. All is not completely lost though, for you can put to good use the clever little screw-together plastic pod it comes packaged in if you`re worried about getting your light wet. That translucent tube isn`t really waterproof either, but it does offer an extra layer of protection against the wind and rain. Stay out of ponds and it`ll be just fine.