The Nuwai 2 Stage 2x123A Luxeon III (TM-301X-3) (hereafter referred to as the X-3, for obvious reasons), is a small, powerful flashlight powered by two CR123A lithium batteries. It has two illumination levels, a low setting for finding your way around without making a fuss, and a high beam roughly ten times as bright that is sort of like, “Holy S—!”

The X-3 has been called the “poor man’s Streamlight,” implying that it plays in the same league as that line of fine tactical flashlights.

First Impressions:

The X-3 arrived in a nice package, nothing to write home about but attractive enough to gift-wrap. It contained the flashlight, two CR123A 3v. lithium cells, and a lightweight nylon case with flap and belt loop. The case will do a good job of protecting the light’s finish, but I would be leery of using it for anything other than casual carry.

The flashlight itself is a pleasing satin black, adequately non-reflective without looking drab. The anodized finish seems to be Type II, similar to a MiniMag but not as shiny. It will undoubtedly develop “character” over time if treated roughly.

The torch has a comfortable heft. Heavy raised checkering and various cuts on the surface provide a grip that I can’t imagine would ever get very slippery. There’s a sturdy metal clip, suitable for securing the light in a pocket or to the bill of a baseball cap. It also helps to keep the light from rolling.

The aluminum rim surrounding the orange-peel reflector protrudes about .25 in. (0.6 cm.) above the polycarbonate lens. The edge is scalloped, which allows you to see if the light’s turned on should you leave it standing business end down. The rim and scalloping could be used for some non-lethal control measures, but the overall length of the unit is too short for Kubotan® and similar techniques. It’s long enough for me to use as a yawara, but I have small hands for my size. Most men would find it didn’t protrude enough. It has a good form factor for the various handgun techniques.

The end cap, which contains the clickie switch, screws up against an O-ring that should provide decent water resistance. No extra O-ring is provided, nor is a replacement boot for the switch, but what do you want for under forty bucks? There is a tiny bit of battery rattle if you shake the heck out of the light. The contact on the lamp assembly is gold-plated.

The switch is a reverse clickie: it clicks on with a good positive snap, and then a lighter pressure on the switch will flash the light off. This isn’t ideal for signaling, but makes it almost impossible to flash the light accidentally or have it switch on from random pressure while packed in luggage. Unfortunately, from a tactical perspective, the two stage switch goes to the low setting first. On the other hand, it is probably the best arrangement for all around use.

The neoprene boot protrudes about 1 mm. beyond the otherwise flat housing of the end cap. This makes it tricky to use the X-3 as a candle, although it will balance unsteadily if positioned with care. Apart from that, and the lack of a lanyard attachment point, there is little that I can find to complain about in terms of design.

In use:

This review is about the real world, and that’s how I tested the X-3 — on dark, dark country roads and in the North Florida woods, where you need good, reliable light. I also used it around the house with all the lights off, as you would in the event of a power outage.

It performed extremely well. The low setting is adequate for most navigation, and at that output the batteries are said to last for about 18-20 hours of continuous use. The high setting (about 2 hrs. at full brightness, then diminishing for quite some time) is more light than you really need for most situations.

On high, the X-3 lights the woods well out to about 100 feet (33 m.) in pitch darkness, despite the reflection problems caused by surfaces at varying distances in a woodland environment. Holding it out the car window on a dark road, I felt quite comfortable using it to drive by at about 30 mph, as the contrast of the light-surfaced road made it discernible out to about 150 feet (46 m.). I don’t recommend this, mind you, but it is possible in a pinch.

Indoors, the high setting is really superfluous unless you want to use the torch in “candle mode.” Setting it on its base and bouncing the light off the ceiling gave a pleasant twilight effect on low, and lit a 15 x 20 ft. (4.6 x 6 m.) room well enough for just about any purpose except reading when on high.

CR123As are available online for about a buck and a half apiece (lower, for some off-brands). Apart from the relatively expensive batteries, this is a good, all-purpose flashlight. The long runtime on low makes the X-3 practical for everyday use, and the tremendous output on high makes it ideal for camping, hiking, or for stowing in the car for tire changes and other road emergencies. Lithium batteries handle heat and cold well, and have a 10-year shelf life at room temperature, making them ideal for that application. If you’re in the market for a small, ultra-powerful flashlight, the Nuwai TM-301X-3 is a good choice, and at a much lower price than comparable “tactical” flashlights.

The flashlight for this review was provided by Gary Lee of EliteLED.com. Apart from the light itself, I was not compensated.

[tags]flashlight, LED, emergency lighting[/tags]