CWF Dragon Driver (in MechForce MechTorch) Review

For the longest time I’ve wanted to try the Dragon driver.  Out of all the lights I’ve ever had, I’ve never managed to snag one that came with a Dragon driver.  But I did recently get the MechForce MechTorch host, (which I covered here), so I went and purchased a Dragon driver with the intention of installing it myself, into this host.  You can see from yesterday’s post that this was successful, so now I have a flashlight with a Dragon driver, for testing!  Read on for more!


Official Specs and Features

Here’s a link to the official product page.

Versions

There’s really just one version of the CWF driver.  It’s available with a button or a spring.  I tested with a button.

Something I also purchased from CWF was a mcpcb with emitters, and secondary emitters of my choice.  Since the Dragon needs a certain setup in order to be utilized fully, I went ahead and bought these from CWF, too, though the mcpcb is available at www.mtnelectronics.com too.

Price

The driver is $18.  The mcpcb with emitters is $23.  Shipping is not included.


Short Review

If you want a light with secondary emitters, the Dragon is certainly not the worst way to get it.  I am happy that there are multiple modes for the secondary emitters, but do wish they were a little lower output.  Programming the driver isn’t all that difficult, either, but to be honest I haven’t found the need.  There are features on this driver that I’m very pleased with!

Long Review

What’s Included

As mentioned above, all parts are separate purchases.  The driver is one purchase, the mcpcb is a separate purchase.

Each item includes a card with the configuration options.

Package and Manual

Each item ships in a plastic baggie, and all my items were also in a bigger baggie.

Build Quality

These seem to be well manufactured drivers.  There are some rough edges on the side (seen at 3 and 9 o’clock in the photo above) but it’s feasible that those could be needed in some lights for proper fitment.  The pads you’ll solder to come more or less pre-tinned, though I did add some to every pad when I built the light.

Power and Runtime

As I’ve said, I build this driver into a MechTorch, and so the runtimes below are for a single 18350 cell.  I used an Efest 800mAh 18350.

Per the product page:

This driver is rated from 3.0 to 4.5 volts so only power with a single 3.7 volt battery.

Ie don’t use this with 2-up 18350 cells, but a single 18650 is fine of course.

As you can see there are some fairly heavy stepdowns, but the light does maintain over 800 lumens for almost 10 minutes.  The host I used probably plays a role in that – it’s fully copper, so heat dissipation was great.

I didn’t find evidence of LVP, but the light switches to such a low output that it’d be impossible to not notice.

PWM

For reference, here’s a baseline shot, with all the room lights off and almost nothing hitting the sensor.

Main emitters (triple) (6 mode setup):

Secondary XP-E Amber emitters (2 modes):

PWM on every mode except the very highest modes for each emitter.  I can’t see the PWM, though, generally speaking…. and if I can’t you almost certainly won’t either.

User Interface and Operation

Again, this is with the MechTorch, which uses a reverse clicky.  But a different light may well have a different kind of switch (ie forward clicky), so your mileage may vary.

Here’s a UI table for the default mode group!  There are 8 mode groups.

State Action Result
Off Click Low Secondary
On Click Off
On Half press Mode advance (Low Secondary, High Secondary, Moonlight, 5* ,15 ,35 ,50 ,100)
On Half press >15x Configuration Mode (indicated by flashes)
On (not “Low Secondary”) Half press >1s Go back one mode
Low Secondary Half press >1s Turbo
“Back” Turbo** Half press >1s Strobe
Strobe Half press >1s Battery Check*** (Uses secondary emitters)
Battery Check Half press >1s Bike Indicator Strobe
Any Reverse Mode Half press Low Secondary

* It’s not stated in the product page but this is very likely an output percentage.
** I say “Back” Turbo because it’s not possible to cycle the modes regularly and then at Turbo to hold the switch for >1s and get to Strobe.
*** Battery check options: 1-8 flashes of secondary emitters on low, with 8 being a full cell. Mine blinks 9x with the cell I have in now, so I guess it’s extra full?

Here’s a list of the mode groups. Basically nothing difficult about them, so no point in a separate table.

1- low secondary,high secondary,ml,5,15,35,50,100
2- low secondary,high secondary,5,15,35,100
3- low secondary,ml,5,15,35,50,100
4- low secondary,5,15,35,100
5- low secondary,high secondary,15,100
6- low secondary,15,100
7- ML,5,15,35,50,100
8- 5,15,35,100

I showed in the table how to reach the configuration mode.  Once in the configuration mode, you must select which thing you wish to change.  If you wish to select a different mode group, for example, do the following:

  1. Turn the light on
  2. Half press >15x and note when the light stops responding
  3. When the light stops responding, stop pressing, and the light will begin flashing
  4. After the first flash (secondary emitters, High), secondary will strobe on low for around a second.  Click to turn the light off, during the low secondary strobe.  
  5. Turn the light back on.  This enters the mode group selection process.
  6. The secondary emitters will begin to flash slowly.  Click to turn the light off after the number of the group you wish to select.  
  7. Light is programmed

The same process is used for any of the other options.  Those options are as follows:

1. Mode Group Select.
2. Memory Toggle.
3. Mode Order Toggle.
4. Temperature Calibration Mode.
5. Reversing Toggle.

Unfortunately past the very obvious actions those options present, not much further explanation is given.  For example, I’m really not sure what “Reversing toggle” is, and because the configuration option to do that is so long, I’m not really inclined to try to figure it out.

But the temp configuration is covered.

When setting the temperature control the light will go from programming to turbo, turn the light off when it reaches the temperature you desire.

My experience is that each option has it’s own notification of which thing has been selected.  For example, if you configure the “Mode order toggle”, the normal mode option (L>H direction) will be indicated by a solid beam immediately after configuration.  Reverse order (H>L direction) will be indicated by strobe immediately after configuration.

I’d love to see much more fleshed out version of what’s what.  There’s no good reason for there not to be a full discussion on the maker’s page of every option available, and how to manipulate it.

Modes and Currents

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Measured Lumens Tailcap Amps
Low Secondary 0.08
High Secondary 1.31
ML ~
5 0.09
15 0.48
35 1.74
50 699 3.60
100 1059 All the Current

LED and Beam

The emitters I chose are Nichia 219c 4000K as the main, with amber XQ-E as the secondary.

These beamshots are just indicative of my specific build and setup.  The MechTorch has an optic installed already, and I haven’t swapped anything else in.  The optic is undefined, but is a clear version.

The amber going through the optic like it does, produces an interesting pattern.

These beamshots are always with the following settings:  f8, ISO100, 0.3s shutter, and manual 5000K exposure.

Amber first, since that’s the usual mode group.

And then all 6 of the other options.  Moonlight, 5, 15, 35, 50, 100.

Tint vs BLF-348 (Killzone 219b version)

I compare everything to the Killzone 219b BLF-348, because it’s inexpensive and has the best tint!

The Big Table

mechforce-USA MechTorch Host
Emitter: Dragon with Nichia 219c
Cell: 18350
Runtime Chargetime N/A
LVP?
Power off Charge Port with no Cell?
Claimed Lumens (lm)
Measured Lumens (at 30s) 1059
Claimed Throw (m)
Throw (Calculated) (m) 129.2
Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s) 256lux @ 4.038m = 4174cd
All my mechforce-USA reviews!

* Standard measurement disclaimer:  I am an amateur flashlight reviewer.  I don’t have $10,000 or even $1,000 worth of testing equipment.  I test output and such in PVC tubes!!  Please consider claims within 10% of what I measure to be perfectly reasonable (accurate, even).

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

Here’s a link to a relevantly filtered page on parametrek.com.  I use that site a lot!

Conclusion

What I like

  • Ability to go backwards from one mode down to a lower mode
  • “Hidden” modes are nice inclusions
  • Plenty of mode groups as options
  • I like that modes can be reversed.  (This really makes it a 16 mode group light.)

What I don’t like

  • PWM (even though it’s not noticeable, I still don’t like it.)
  • Lack of documentation for potential builders (Something I tried to remedy here)
  • Secondary emitters are generally too bright

Notes

  • I bought this Dragon driver with my own money.  I was not paid to write this review.
  • This content originally appeared at zeroair.org.  Please visit there for the best experience!
  • Whether or not I have a coupon for this light, I do have a bunch of coupons!!  Have a look at my spreadsheet for those coupons. It’s possible to subscribe and get notifications when the sheet is edited!!

Author: zeroair

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