Looking to some like it would feel completely at home on a SciFi movie set, the TK45 by fan favorite Fenix is an attention grabber to say the least. However, can its performance stack up against its “extreme” appearance?
Meat and Potatoes
Claiming visual inspiration from the notable invention of Dr. Richard Gatling, the TK45 is Fenix’ latest entry into the super high powered flashlight category that is becoming increasingly popular as of late. Though the trebling of LEDs to increase output is something that has been done before, I have not yet seen another light that affords each LED its own dedicated head/bezel.
The only time this triad of LEDs are lit individually is in the lowest output setting. Interesting to note, every time you power cycle the light at this level, the next bezel in line lights up to evenly distribute the wear and tear on the LEDs so that one does not experience undue amounts of use. At this 8 lumen level it shows that each of these three perfectly centered XP-G emitters projects a beautifully flawless beam with a well distributed corona in spite of using normally hazardous smooth reflectors. When combined in triplicate in every other output setting, these emissions blend together even further to create a stunningly smooth slightly wider beam, bathing the area in relatively even illumination. There is still a defined hotspot in the center of the beam, but the surrounding spread tapers off nicely providing very useful light. The output of the TK45 is claimed to be 760 lumens on Max output, but I really can’t comment entirely about comparative brightness since my testing sample was only outfitted with R4 bin LEDs instead of the R5’s that will be in the final production units.
Switching for the TK45 is accomplished via a pair of side mounted momentary electronic switches dubbed by Fenix the “Sidewinder Switch”. Simply put, the right button is the power switch for the light and the left cycles brightness levels from low to high with a mode memory locking in your last used output. For those who are thus concerned, there is a small bevvy of blinkey modes, including the obligatory strobe, SOS, and a signal of some sort. These outputs are accessible by switching mode groups with a simple double click of the power button. Thankfully these are tucked away in such a way as to not hinder normal use in any fashion. Using this type of switch is very appealing to me since it gives the TK45 a very professional, solid feel. The lack of a momentary option is countered by the near silent, low-effort required by these buttons.
Fenix’ machinework appears top notch with the TK45, though it does appear to be rather thin-walled all the way around. I wouldn’t count on this light to be quite as durable as some that I have seen, but used as more of a casual light this is still more than adequate. The unique ridges in the knurled portion give the light tremendous grip. Combined with the familiar-feeling size of the light, the whole package is very comfortable to use.
The TK45 definitely offers a boost in accessibility by utilizing one of the most common portable power sources on the planet, the venerable AA cell. The immense power requirements however apparently necessitated 8 of them wired in series to be able to feed these LEDs with enough juice to run. There is definitely the concern here about having enough equally charged cells on hand to safely run this light. More than that, however, from a day to day use standpoint, the biggest concern is the brittle feeling battery magazine that loosely holds these cells in position to channel their energy into the proper contacts. The battery rattle on this torch is so pronounced that at times I feel like I am playing maraca in a mariachi band. I am concerned that one solid drop will snap some portion of the magazine, crippling this light until an adequate replacement can be obtained.
Though I do believe the switching mechanism to be high quality and the interface to be well thought out, I would like to see a little more differentiation, both visual and tactile, between the power and output selection switches. These two buttons are absolutely identical with no markings at all to distinguish between them. I really would suggest slight changes to the buttons themselves to make their intended function more obvious.
The TK45 is an extremely unique take on powerful, portable illumination. Bright, easy to use, and comfortable to hold, this flashlight provides a good user experience. Aesthetically, you either love it or hate it, but in my opinion, points are always given for originality. This torch gets my nod of approval.