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Fenix PD20 "Subcompact" Flashlight Review

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    Feb 21, 2008
    Austin, TX

    • Cree Premium (Q5) 7090 XR-E LED with lifespan of 50,000 hours
    • 2 modes with 6 types of output:
    General Mode: 9 lumens (35hrs) - > 47 lumens (6.5hrs) -> 94 lumens (2.6hrs) - > SOS
    Turbo Mode: 180 lumens (1hrs) ->Strobe
    • Uses one 3V CR123A battery (Lithium)
    • 83mm (Length) x 21.5mm (Diameter)
    • Made of durable T6 aircraft-grade aluminum
    • Hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
    • 1.37oz (39g) weight (without battery)
    • Waterproof to IPX-8 Standard
    • Push-button tail cap switch
    • Comes with nylon/velcro holster, lanyard, two spare o-rings and an extra rubber switch boot
    •Price range typically ~$60-70 USD

    To be short and to the point, the thing that strikes most people when first seeing the PD20 is it's small size, insanely bright output and relatively long beam throw. For it's size, this is an incredibly impressive light, and perfect if you are looking for something to pocket carry or conveniently and easily store in a small space. Before, you pretty much had to compromise between size and output. With the PD20 you can have your cake and eat it too. ;) That being said, lets delve into the details a bit more.

    Battery Life and Light Output

    First off, as noted above, the light only runs off a single CR123A, so it is very compact in size. You can also use rechargeable RCR123A batteries as well, and although those are fairly expensive, they will eventually pay for themselves in the end for obvious reasons. As noted from the specs listed above, the Fenix PD20 has 6 total types of output with varying battery life ranges. The light features two different modes, "Turbo Mode", and "General Mode". Turbo mode allows for the brightest output and also allows for a strobe feature. General mode allows for 3 different brightness settings as well as a SOS mode. Now, while it may seem attractive to some to go with as bright an output as possible for any situation, there are many times where this may not be the best idea. That's where a multi function light like this really shines. I've found that in General mode, the lowest output level (9 lumens) is sufficient for many uses such as working on or looking inside a computer case, searching for dropped car keys at night, looking inside your engine bay at dusk to find the source of that incessant whining noise, etc etc. ;) Basically, even in the lower 9 lumen mode, there is still enough output to take care of many simple tasks like that. Both the 47 lumen and 94 lumen modes offer considerably increased light output obviously, and they would work even better for those same situations. Another benefit of the 47/94 lumen modes is, not only are they brighter but, they also provide a wider beam pattern so they will give you a bit wider field of view. I would say that for 95-98% of most uses, the 47/94 lumen modes offer more than enough output to get the job done. It is nice to have these 3 options though as there are many situations where it may be necessary to step the output down to cut down on glare. The 180 lumen output in Turbo mode is incredibly bright. I have yet to see another flashlight of such a similarly compact size put out anywhere near this level of output. While I'm sure there is something out there that isn't too far off in output and size, it would most likely be a high dollar light from a company like Surefire, Streamlight, etc. Basically meaning you'd have to pay $100-200+ to find a similar light output in this size. The Fenix PD20 is typically only $60-70, so needless to say it is a bargain.

    Mode Selection

    So how do we select all these different modes you say? It's actually really simple. With the light "head"/bezel turned all the way clockwise until it stops, the light is in turbo mode. In turbo mode you have two choices. There is the high output mode (180 lumens), which is the first selected when you click the tail cap. The second mode is the strobe mode, and it is selected by lightly pressing the button, although not enough to fully "click" it. It takes very little effort, and is easily learned after only a couple of tries. If you rotate the bezel roughly 1/8th" or so counter-clockwise, the light immediately switches into general mode. In general mode, the very first click of the tail cap turns on the 9 lumen mode. Now, to select between the other 3 modes is the same as in Turbo mode, meaning you don't have to fully press and "click" the tail cap, you just have to lightly press it and release. The second mode is 47 lumen, third is 94 lumen, and the last is the SOS mode (which is pretty self explanatory). I will be doing a video shortly that will better demonstrate all of these various modes. Believe me, it may sound complicated but, after only playing with one for about 30 seconds, you will already get the hang of it as it is not hard at all.

    General and Specific Purpose Roles

    The very first specific purpose role I would point out that the PD20 works great for is as a carry light. It is compact, lightweight, of rugged construction, has great light output, features a strobe mode (could be useful in the right situation), and is overall well suited to the task. 180 lumens, plus a strobe feature could come in very handy in many self defense type of situations where you may need to identify or disorient a threat. Due to the very compact size, it would probably prove to be a bit awkward in some of the conventional two handed weapon holds with a handheld flashlight such as the Chapman Technique and Ayoob Technique. Usually techniques like that seem to work best with a slightly longer flashlight. It could be done, though it would take a little bit of practice to build up some muscle memory on exactly what would work for an individual's specific handgun. With one-handed weapon techniques, such as the FBI Technique or Neck Index Technique, this would work just fine of course as the size of the flashlight really doesn't matter much. The tried and true old school Harries Technique would work just fine as well, though when done properly with good isometric tension, it can get extremely fatiguing.

    Due to the compact size, the PD20 would also be a great light to have around in the purse, center console or glove box of your vehicle, in a bug out bag/range bag, etc etc. It's a bit hard to list all the general purpose roles this little light could fill because they are nearly limitless. It's bright as heck, small, lightweight, inexpensive........what else could you ask for! ;)

    Flashlight Comparison

    I thought I would go ahead and create a small chart comparing the Fenix PD20 to 3 different similar sized lights from Surefire to give everyone a better idea of the performance bargain the PD20 offers:


    As you can see from the chart, the Fenix PD20 puts out drastically higher output compared to all 3 of those Surefire lights, and it gets comparable or better battery life in most cases. In addition, it is also quite a bit lighter, less expensive in cost, and a decent amount smaller in size than all but the T1A Titan (which has an over 300% higher price tag!). The PD20 is also ~1200% brighter than the only comparable sized, comparable priced Surefire, the E1E Executive Elite. The PD20 also has over double the light output than even the more expensive E1B backup and considerably more expensive T1A Titan. The Fenix PD20 is a bargain to say the least.

    In conclusion, I'd just like to thank Fernando at TX Tactical Source for turning me on to these Fenix flashlights. I've been very impressed with this PD20, and will definitely end up owning many other Fenix flashlights after the good experience I've had with this one. If you are looking for an extremely compact, lightweight, high output, cost effective flashlight, then the Fenix PD20 should be at the top of your short list of lights to buy.
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