Review: Xenide 20W HID Flashlight

Don't you hate it when you get lost in Alaskan outback at night, miles away from civilization, with nary a flame to guide you? I know, it sucks right? Well not for long. The next time you head out, pack an AE Light Xenide flashlight - actually, it's a personal searchlight. The Xenide is a rugged high intensity discharge portable flashlight similar to what search and rescue types use in the field.

AE Light Xenide HID Flashlight

Crafted from lightweight and sturdy aluminum, the Xenide weighs only 1.9 pounds but pumps out ~1200 Lumens of light from its metal halide (xenon + halide = xenide) HID bulb. As with all HID lights, current from the power source (a 2600mAh rechargeable li-ion battery) runs through a ballast to boost the output, similar to a power inverter in a car which lets you plugin 120V devices. The only difference being that HID bulbs take several thousand volts to crank over. As such, the entire unit is engineered to be well sealed as you don't want thousands of volts short-circuiting and burning up or potentially shocking you. The Xenide is also water proof to about 2 meters for a short while.

Charging the Xenide takes several hours but the expected runtime is about 90 minutes, although AE Light sells an extended battery. I had set out to test this but the Xenide turned itself off after 15 minutes. Apparently I was experiencing cycling, which Wikipedia describes as the following:

At the end of life, many types of high-intensity discharge lamps exhibit a phenomenon known as cycling. These lamps can be started at a relatively low voltage but as they heat up during operation, the internal gas pressure within the arc tube rises and more and more voltage is required to maintain the arc discharge. As a lamp gets older, the maintaining voltage for the arc eventually rises to exceed the voltage provided by the electrical ballast. As the lamp heats to this point, the arc fails and the lamp goes out. Eventually, with the arc extinguished, the lamp cools down again, the gas pressure in the arc tube is reduced, and the ballast can once again cause the arc to strike.

The evaluation Xenide unit I have been testing has been sent around from reviewer to reviewer so I have been told that it is probably time to change out the HID bulb.

AE Light Xenide HID Flashlight

The Xenide comes in its own case with a charger and optional car charger. There are also add-on filters such as a light diffuser and various colors for differing purposes. For example, a green filter is designated for traffic control, night vision and hunting uses while a blue filter is oriented towards forensics uses.

AE Light Xenide HID Flashlight
Xenide and light diffuser filter.

You can probably already tell that the Xenide is no ordinary flashlight and doesn't carry an ordinary price tag. The 20 Watt version here is placed in between AE Light's 15 and 25 Watt Xenide models. The 20 Watt version goes for a minimum advertised price of 395 USD while the 25 Watt version runs 435 USD. That's just the flashlight, charger and essentials. Larger batteries, filters, charging bases and so on are optional extras.

Unlike the Elite 150+ green laser I reviewed, the Xenide actually has real uses. I asked AE Light owner Marc Allsman what type of people typically buy his high-powered flashlights and the Xenide, here was his reply:

The lights are used by a variety of customers including law enforcement, search & rescue, border patrol, firemen, campers, boaters, pilots & ground crews, and just plain folks who want a powerful light.

That last part rings true with me. Having a ridiculously powerful light around the house is quite fun and, um.. will prove useful in emergencies, yeah. In fact, such is the case with many people as the Xenide was recently chosen as a top ten gadget for 2007 by CNN Money. I jokingly told a few friends that live in datacenters to pick up a Xenide for sorting through ethernet nests and server farms.

What You've Been Waiting For.. Night Shots

AE Light Xenide HID Flashlight
AE Light Xenide HID Flashlight

Powering up the AE Xenide HID Personal Searchlight from Paul on Vimeo.
Xenide booting up. It takes a while for the beam to reach maximum output.

Ultimate Holiday Gift for Geeks

If you're looking for a gift for that geek that has everything, nothing says happy holidays like an overpowered flashlight. And unlike that laser, there are real uses for the Xenide and a much smaller chance of going blind. I actually think it would be nice to have a Xenide around the house - it definitely beats the 1 Watt LED Maglight I have now.

Verdict: If you love showing off exotic gadgets to friends and explaining the technology behind it to them, the Xenide is for you.

Do you have any uses the Xenide could fulfill?