Review: Fenix E11
Small, simple and waterproof.
Here’s an interesting excuse for buying a new flashlight: The mosquitoes made me do it!
As you can probably imagine, this story is a bit on the longish side. If you want the cold, hard facts, jump directly to “A long story short” in the bottom of the text.
As some of you may remember, I recently bought a Lumapower EDC LM31 to serve as my around the house and travel flashlight. Although I ended up being pretty happy with my choice, it was not an easy one to make. Fenix E11 was a strong contender. It shares many of the features that make the LM31 a great EDC light, and sells for $10 less. When I decided on the Lumapower, it was mainly because Lumapower shipped for free to Norway, and not because of the qualities of the light itself.
As mentioned, the LM31 served me well, until I managed to accidentally leave it at the cabin this Easter. Not wanting to go back up there in the mosquito season, I just had to buy another light. Curious as I am, I couldn’t let the opportunity to try out the E11 pass me by, so that is what I got.
FFFF: Form factor, fit and finish
The E11 just underwent a major facelift. I do not know if the new version differs from the old one in functionality, but it looks as if the exterior of the light was completely redesigned. The older version had a different tail cap and a rectangular pattern instead of knurling that differed a lot from the rest of the Fenix line. The new E11 features the usual knurling, has a tail cap with tiny lanyard holes, and the familiar flat Fenix logo area on the side of the tube. All in all, it is a lot more Fenixy than the old design. In fact, it looks a bit like an E01 on steroids – which is a good thing.
Of course, there is nothing really new or revolutionary about the E11 design. It is just another take on the age old black, knurled aluminium tube concept. That’s exactly why I like it. Never change a winning team!
Come to think of it, the E11 design could actually do with one or two minor changes. After using it as a nightstand light for a couple of months, I have to admit that there is one major flaw with the entire tube concept: it rolls. This has been a problem with every single flashlight I’ve owned, ever since my very first MiniMag. Granted, my LM31 didn’t roll, but that was because it had a clip. Why can’t anyone in the flashlight industry come up with a hexagonal or octagonal head?
Also, while the new tail cap looks pretty good, it is not perfect. While the clicky button is a bit recessed, it does not sit deep enough to allow the light to tailstand.
Last, but not least, the E11 does not come with a clip. Before I bought the Lumapower LM31, I didn’t see the point in having a pocket clip on a flashlight. Now, I find it a great accessory. The E11 is small enough to fit in the front pocket of rather tight jeans (not that I ever wear those), but it would carry much more comfortably if it had a clip.
The Fenix E11 has one big thing going for it: It is waterproof. Not water resistant, but actually waterproof. It is rated at IPX-8, which means it can be submerged under two meters of water, probably for at least 30 minutes.
The E11 also is a rugged, simple, well built little light. It feels and looks more than solid enough that I would trust it as a backup light for outdoor use, and even for caving or other activities were light is absolutely crucial.
User interface and performance
The E11 features the simplest and most intuitive user interface I have ever come across in a multi mode flashlight. The clicky switch is just for turning the light on and off. To switch between high and low mode, you just twist the head. In the beginning, it felt a little odd to partially unscrew the flashlight head to use the low mode. Given the light’s IPX rating, I doubt that this is a real problem, but it just didn’t feel like a very smart thing to do. On the other hand, the UI works very well in practice. It is nice to be able to change mode without turning the light on and off, and the ability to turn it on and off without cycling through modes is a great plus. Also, it is pretty nice that the light «remembers» which mode it is in. Since the selector is a physical/electrical switch, it will stay in the same mode until you turn the head again.
The E11 has a nice, even beam, and a nice balance between throw and flood. It seems a bit throwier than the LM31, but since that light is still somewhere in the cabin, I have no way of checking that.
According to the Fenix website, the E11 has an output of 35 lumens in low mode and 115 in high. I have no way of measuring the actual output, but these numbers seem just about right for me. Most of the time, I find two modes perfect for every day use. My problem with the E11 is the low mode. It just isn’t low enough. It supposedly gives the light more than four times the runtime it has in high mode – 6 hours as opposed to 1,5. However, I am not going to use this light for long periods as a time, so runtime isn’t really a major issue for me. Output is.
35 lumens seems like a pretty random light level to choose for an EDC light if you ask me. It is a little dim for walking dark trails, corridors, caves and whatnot, or to tell a burglar from a badger at any distance. On the other hand, it is still a bit bright to read comfortably, and it is far too bright for navigating a dark house without ruining your night vision or waking up yourself or others too much. I would much prefer something in the 5-10 lumens range, but even the 13 lumens of my E11 work far better than 35 for these purposes.
I have seen the Fenix E11 marketed as specifically designed for outdoor use. That may well be true. For that purpose, the high «low» mode might not be that much of a problem, and the waterproofing and rugged construction will be great features. Like the LM31, the E11 is a bit small and fidgety to serve as a primary outdoor light, but it would probably be great as a backup light for first responders, cavers, kayakers, canoers, campers, climbers, skiers and anyone else who need a sturdy, reliable light for (ab)use in a wet environment. It also works pretty well as a travel, EDC or general purpose light for anyone who tend to subject their gear to rough use (such as yours truly). However, for this purpose, a pocket clip and a lower low mode would be very useful.
As it is, the Fenix E11 is a good EDC flashlight. If you just look at the specs, it is probably a better light than the Lumapowers. In real life – in my life, at least – the LM31 still works better for every day tasks. If you need a rugged, waterproof light, then the E11 is for you. If not, buy the Lumapower.
A long story short
- Small and lightweight
- Excellent value for money
- Simple, rugged construction
- Great throw/flood balance for most every day use
- Wonderfully simple UI
- No pocket clip
- The low mode is too bright
In one sentence: A small, rugged, waterproof light for outdoor use.