The flashlight industry moves fast. If you want to keep selling, you have to stay current. FOURSEVENS does exactly that, bringing the latest advancements to their most popular lights.
Meat and potatoes
At this time, Cree’s XM-L2 LED is the top of the proverbial heap when it comes to the world of portable lighting. Many companies are rushing to include these tiny powerhouses in their existing model lines. The FOURSEVENS Quark series is by this point, one of the most widely recognized and renowned lights in the flashlight industry, at least when looking at the primarily online quality illumination tool market. The fact that they have chosen to include XM-L2s here should come as no surprise to anyone.
On the surface, these lights are largely unchanged since their initial inception in 2009. These specific models are almost direct translations from the Quark X series that came out with the advent of the original XM-L in 2011. Just as then, the premium XM-L2 models are only available on the higher capacity, 2-cell models, this time boasting their newer alphabet soup style nomenclature.
My review models consist of the QT2L-X (an updated Quark X 123²) and the QP2A-X (formerly known as the Quark X AA²). Just as before, my view of these lights has only continued to grow with their maturity. They follow a tried and true formula of success that relies on quality of experience far more than “Sooper Cool New Innovation!!!!”.
Both of these models are available in either the Quark Pro (QP…) or Quark Tactical (QT…) variants. My biggest caution is to make sure you know which one you want before buying. Despite their vast similarities in stats and appearance, these two lines are very little like each other when it comes to actual usage. They both cover pretty extreme ends of the operational spectrum and most people are going to like either one or the other, not both.
The Quark Tactical is summarily a somewhat programmable 2 mode light. There are 8 possible outputs that can be chosen for the two easy access modes. One each with the head either fully tightened or slightly loosened. There are 5 constant output levels available, ranging from a miniscule moon mode (0.2 lumens for the 3V -2A models and 1 lumen for the 6V -2L models) up through searingly impressive Turbo (360 or 600 lumens, respectively). Also included are 3 flashy, disco modes. The standard strobe and SOS functions, plus the more useful (in my opinion) beacon mode that flashes bright once every ~8 seconds.
The programming method sounds complex when explained, but in reality is rather simple. Four quick successive tighten-loosen cycles ending up on the mode that you would like to reprogram will start the programming cycle. From there simply wait until the notification flashes and cycle the power at the tailcap until you reach the mode you would like memorized. Once there, wait a few seconds and the light will flash the notification blinks again and you’re good to go.
The Quark Pro models are a more familiar 2-line setup where modes are grouped in what is considered the most likely useful scenarios. This style of UI has remained largely unchanged since the early days of LED flashlights when Fenix was one of the only major players on the field. There is good reason for this however, it is familiar, and people understand it relatively quickly. Having a light with predictable startup (no mode memory) and quick access to a wide variety of output modes without adjusting your grip at all is very comfortable. Similarly to the Quark Tactical lights, head tightness determines which line you are using, but this time the outputs are all easily available. Having the head loose starts you off in moon mode and cycles low through high with the SOS and beacon modes on the tail end of the circuit simply by quickly turning the light off and back on (usually through a half press of the reverse clickly switch). Tightening the head gives quick access to the more urgent use modes of Turbo and strobe.
Fit and finish of the Quarks are as predictable as always. Thick, uniform black anodizing covers the light from head to tail with nary a misstep. The sides are covered with thick bands of FOURSEVENS well practiced knurling. Grippy without being abrasive. As usual, the barrels of the lights are completely reversible allowing for the removable pocket clip to be oriented either direction. As I noticed with the XP-G2 versions, there seems to be a larger emphasis on brand badging that originated during the transition from 4Sevens to FOURSEVENS, but on the larger 2 cell lights, it is not intrusive in the least.
With lights that are as familiar and favorite as these, I really have little to say to improve them. They are following very specific plans and are genuinely capable lights within their specific design paths. They don’t try to be anything they can’t achieve and as such, little needs to be suggested. A few reminders can be mentioned however.
XM-L2 boasts as much as a 20% gain in efficiency over the old XM-L. The odd problem is, when you are dealing with lights this bright, 20% is very hard to actually detect. I actually had a hard time determining which was which when holding my old Quark X models up next to these new versions. This doesn’t mean the efficiency gains aren’t there, but just that they are more difficult to see than you might hope. I trust that what doesn’t show up in output will manifest itself over time in battery life.
When it comes to programming the Quark Tactical models, easy doesn’t mean quick. Just because there are 8 modes available doesn’t mean you should view this as an 8 mode light. Like I said, this is really a 2 mode light that happens to have access to whatever presets you might need. Don’t expect that you will be doing much reprogramming on the fly with this, because human nature generally finds it easier to deal with a light source that is a little off from perfect, rather than put up the effort required to change it.
Some people get annoyed with the Quark Pro models for precisely the opposite reason. These lights are set up to start at the extreme ends of the output spectrum. You either have full power with the head tight, or just enough to barely see with dark adapted vision in the middle of the night. Often times you will have to take the extra couple of flicks of your thumb to get it up to a viable middle ground before you can call the light useful. It is incredibly much easier to do than with the Quark Tactical models, but it also has to be done literally every time you turn the light on.
None of these are truly bad points about any of these lights, but they are definitely cautions to potential buyers. Make certain the model you are getting meets your specific needs or you will be unhappy with your light. Few people find themselves in my camp where I can appreciate these two drastically different user interfaces for their benefits in different situations. I genuinely enjoy having access to both types, just for different purposes.
The Quark series is a very mature line of lights with an avid and well deserved following. These are almost always one of the first lights I recommend to a potential new recruit into the world of modern portable illumination because of their impeccable quality and versatility. The extra gains of the XM-L2 are just that much extra sweetness added to the mix.
Provided for review by the kind folks at FOURSEVENS.