A trustworthy flashlight is one of the cornerstones of every EDC gear loadout. Whether you're navigating through dark rooms in a power outage, illuminating a target with your weapon drawn, or simply trying to see what you're doing during some handyman work around the house, the uses for a reliable light source are endless. And as we've said many times before, that tiny LED on your cell phone might be better than nothing, but it's certainly not up to most critical low-light tasks.
We carry a flashlight every day, generally in our left-hand pocket opposite the folding knife on our right. We've gone through quite a few over the years, and identified some that are great and others that are downright awful. When Fenix recently announced the release of its new UC35 V2.0, we jumped at the chance to find out where it falls on this spectrum. Read on for our thoughts after using and carrying this light.
As you might guess by the name, the UC35 V2.0 is an updated 2018 version of the older original UC35 (released in 2014). Although there are some similarities between these versions, the 2.0 is essentially a complete redesign from the ground-up, rather than an incremental revision. Fenix looked at the category this light occupies, and went back to the drawing board to improve it.
For reference, here's a quick comparison between the original UC35 and the UC35 V2.0:
|UC35 V2.0 (2018)
|USB-rechargeable 3,200 mAh 18650
|USB-rechargeable 3,500 mAh 18650
|Tail cap switch, silicone rubber mode button
|Tail cap switch, stainless steel mode button
|5.9 inches long, 1 inch diameter
|5.5 inches long, 1 inch diameter
So essentially, the V2.0 light is smaller, brighter, has a longer maximum runtime, and longer beam throw. This is a result of the new CREE XP-L HI V3 LED that replaced the older CREE XM-L2, as well as a slightly increased battery capacity. Pricing has remained the same, with an MSRP of $120 and street price around $90.
The 40-lumen difference in maximum output between these two lights may not seem substantial, but the high/medium/low modes are more evenly-spaced and the minimum output is down to 1 lumen. This makes for improved versatility when you're not using the light at full-blast.
Another noteworthy change to the UC35 V2.0 is the modification to its side mode selector button. We'll talk more about the light's control scheme later in this review, but the side button on this light is a copper-colored stainless steel rather than squishy silicone rubber. It also features a new charge indicator LED that displays the charge level each time the flashlight is turned on.
The flashlight's anodized aluminum body appears similar to its predecessor, but now offers more aggressive knurling on the body and tail cap. This makes it easier to firmly grip the light.
Unboxing the UC35 V2.0 revealed the light and a few accessories. Fenix includes an 18650 lithium-ion battery, which can be charged via a micro-USB port hidden behind a rubber cover on the light's bezel. A belt holster and pocket lanyard are also included, though we don't see ourselves using these items.
The light's controls will be familiar to anyone who has used a Fenix flashlight in the past. The tail cap switch turns the light on and off in either constant-on or momentary mode, and has a firm springy click action. While the light is on, the stainless side button cycles through five modes 1,000-lumen Turbo, 350-lumen High, 150-lumen Medium, 50-lumen Low, and 1-lumen Moonlight. Pressing and holding the mode selector for one second activates a full-power strobe mode.
Having used previous Fenix lights with the older silicone rubber side button, we can say that the metal button is a substantial improvement. Activation is a positive click rather than a spongy push.
This two-button control scheme is more complex than single-switch designs by competitors, but it also makes it easy to change modes in situations where you might not have the dexterity to repeatedly tap a tail cap switch. When holding the light in a one-handed overhand grip with a thumb on the tail cap, the pinky finger can be used to press the mode selector. The light will maintain the last-selected mode between uses.
The beam pattern consists of a dense central spotlight that's rated for a maximum effective distance of more than 850 feet, surrounded by a wide gradient halo of light. We found it to be reasonably versatile, but it definitely favors medium-range to long-range use. This is a light we'd grab for night hikes or other outdoor activities, but we'd prefer something more diffuse for close-range room clearing or map reading. Light color appears neutral verging on cool white — no complaints there.
Like most rechargeable flashlights, the UC35 V2.0 has a charge indicator LED inside the mode button that displays red when it's charging and green when it's full. Normal charge time for an empty battery is about 3.5 hours. However, Fenix also programmed this LED as a “boot-up battery level indicator” so each time you turn on the light, you'll know how much charge remains. The indications are as follows:
It's worth mentioning that this light can use a pair of CR123A batteries instead of the 18650, but these batteries can't be recharged and will not display battery life remaining.
The aluminum body feels hefty and solid, and is long enough to use as an impact weapon if the situation calls for it. The body has plenty of texture for grip, but the lens sits pretty close to the edge of the bezel, so we'd be a little concerned about cracking it with a direct impact. However, the light is rated as impact-resistant for drops up to 1 meter and IPX-8 waterproof to 2-meter immersion.
The pocket clip is removable but is attached firmly enough that it won't pop off accidentally. Flat spots machined into the body make it easier to draw the light without shredding your pocket hem on the knurled surface.
There's no question that the V2.0 is an improvement on its 2014 predecessor, considering its numerous upgrades and smaller size. With a street price under $100 and a rechargeable battery that'll save you money on replacements, its value also stacks up well against competitive brands. We're still not in love with the two-button control scheme, but this comes down to personal preference — it's still easy to use one-handed and functions reliably.
Overall, the Fenix UC35 V2.0 is a strong performer, and one that has made it into our preferred EDC flashlight rotation. For more info, go to Fenixlight.com.