Turbospyder (old type)

TurboSpyder, retail $--.-- (http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/turbospyder/index.html)
Last updated 10-01-00

TurboSpyder LED Light

The TurboSpyder is an odd little LED flashlight. Packaged in a pager-style case, this model has 4 white LEDs across the front, an "on/off" button, and a "turbo" button.
Push the "on/off" button once, and you've got light. Push it again, and you don't have light. The turbo button is there to give an extra "boost" to the light output.

The TurboSpyder requires three "AA" cells, and a tiny "OO" Phillips screwdriver so you can install them.

When you receive this light, you will need to install the batteries - more on this later. Once done, the light is very easy to use: you simply push one button to turn it on and off again as needed. The light is reasonably bright for an LED flashlight, and the batteries should last at least a while as long as you don't abuse the Turbo mode too much.
This light produces a bright, fairly even bluish-white glow, characteristic of many white LED lights available today. It will easily illuminate a large room at night. If you need more however, push & hold down the Turbo button, and the intensity nearly doubles. The light also gets a more bluish tint, not unlike those mercury vapor streelight bulbs you probably see all the time. The beam has a fairly wide dispersion, so it will illuminate a fairly large area at once; this kind of beam pattern is also very well suited to walking at night, since it lights up the area right in front of you, and to a lesser extent, the areas off to the sides.

opened for surgery
Insides of the Spyder. Note the pop cans.

One thing I noticed almost immediately is the very amateurish, very homemade appearance this light has. When opened up, you will find things like cut-up Diet Coke cans, copper weatherstripping, little pieces of double-stick foam, and a lot of cut-out or burned-out areas inside where they had to make modifications to the case (in this instance, an empty Sears garage door opener) to fit their design in. The buttons are also drilled out unevenly and with slightly oversized holes. One of the two switches has its actuator cut off because it was too tall. There are five holes in the front of the case, but only four LEDs. The fifth hole is covered with a piece of pop can.

The circuit board is the only professional looking thing about this light. The turbo feature is deceptively simple: a pushbutton shorts out the ballast resistor and feeds the full battery power to the LED array. That's why you're only supposed to use it for brief intervals.

I don't know about you, but I was expecting to see something a little more professional when the TurboSpyder showed up on my doorstep.
It is entirely possible that this is a PROTOTYPE, rather than a production model. If this isn't the case though, these people should think about hiring better design staff.
Although it is VERY GOOD for being homemade, this isn't something I want to see in a production model I'd actually purchase.

To change the batteries in this light, you will need one of those tiny "00" jeweler's screwdrivers. The case is fastened with two of these screws, plus it has some little tits on the inside edges you will have to carefully pry loose.

Once you have it opened, insert three "AA" cells; following the polarity (marked on the copper traces with a pen!) and then close er back up.
What could be simpler? (cough, sputter, sound of toilet flushing in the background)

Battery life testing is currently underway; however I might just meter the thing and make a guesstimate based on those readings.
The website claims battery life measured in weeks, however I suspect that the brightest light will only be had in the first few tens of hours; then slowly dimming to a soft glow for the remainder of the battery life.

This is one light you probably will want to keep inside the house. It isn't water or weather resistant, isn't field-servicable, and will probably crack if it hits the ground the wrong way while loaded up with the three "AA" cells it uses. I don't dare drop this sample, as it must be returned, preferably intact.

The plastic case they chose was meant to be used with a single "AA" cell, and could probably survive a drop to the floor then; but when loaded up with three "AA" cells, the intertial problems might begin to surface. At the very least, a good drop might jar the batteries loose, so you would have to open the light and fix them before it'll work right.

Also, the battery "springs" are made of foam & soft copper, so you'll eventually have to monkey around with this light to keep it working once the foam compresses and the copper begins to corrode or fatigue.
And if the handwritten battery polarity markings wear off and you end up putting the batteries in wrong, you can kiss four expensive LEDs goodbye.

Finally, if you abuse the Turbo mode, especially with fresh batteries, you can overheat and blow the LEDs. You should not use Turbo for more than a few seconds at a time, and allow time for the LEDs to cool a bit between uses.
(For your information, the maker recommends using this high-intensity burst mode for no more than 30 seconds at a time - personally I would't use turbo mode much beyond ten seconds a pop).

The website shows this light surviving some pretty good abuse, including a trip through a paint shaker and some simulated drop tests, but I don't know if it's a prototype or homemade thing like this, or a more well-constructed production model. However, this does not show an actual drop test, where the light free-falls (or is thrown) to a hard surface. Instead, the light is strapped to an anvil, and the anvil is dropped. This will not produce damage to the case like a free fall would; nor would it jar the batteries loose like might happen if the light hits the floor upside-down or head-first.

Having bashed this light as badly as I did however, it does have its merits. It is plenty bright to mill around the house at night with, and has a nice wide beam suitable for both walking around and reading. An accessory you can purchase allows you to clip it onto the bill of a cap, offering hands-free usage if you need that in a light. (An emergency automobile repair at night comes to mind here).
It also stands by itself on its side, giving it some use as a hands-free reading light. It feels nice in the hand, and slips into just about any pocket or purse (although it can turn itself on without your knowing about it).
beam lowbeam high
Turbo Spyder's beam. (Left) Normal. (Right) Turbo

The batteries are relatively cheap and can be found anywhere, but remember that screwdriver. Unlike another light that uses these screws, you cannot get away with using a pocket knife or steak knife in an emergency here, as the screws are deeply countersunk (inset) into their itty bitty holes.

Having four LEDs, this light is brighter than most single LED lights available. Keep one in the flashlight drawer, glovebox, or in the first-aid kit, and you should be fine in an emergency. But this probably isn't the light you want to take camping. Because sooner or later, it's gonna hit the dirt, someone's gonna stomp on it, or it will fall in the water.

Update 10-01-00. According to the website, the TurboSpyder has undergone a major upgrade. The new model has 10 white LEDs encapsulated in ceramic inside an aluminum billet. The batteries are wedged in place with a plastic spacer, making the light more rugged. The switch placement has also changed slightly, giving the light a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. Claimed brightness is approximately 3x that of the original TurboSpyder, and there is the possibility of a waterproof or water resistant model on the way.
The manufacturer admitted the flashlight's case is still a weak point, however they are working to improve that as well.
One more thing... you should note that Nichia's newer white LEDs can handle higher continuous currents than models made in the past, so the turbo mode doesn't endanger them nearly as much as it may have in the original TurboSpyder.

If a unit becomes available for testing, it will be given a completely seperate document because I believe it is different enough from the original to allow that.

Easy to operate, burst-mode, decent brightness for indoors, commonly available batteries.
Not durable, cheaply constructed, burst mode can blow the LEDs if abused.

    PRODUCT TYPE: Pager style handheld flashlight
    LAMP TYPE: LED, 5mm, white
    No. OF LAMPS: 4
    BEAM TYPE: Central hotspot with soft fall-off
    SWITCH TYPE: Pushbutton on/off, momentary pushbutton turbo
    BEZEL: None
    BATTERY: 3 AA cells
    ACCESSORIES: Unknown
    WARRANTY: Unknown

    Zero Stars - Piss on it!!

If I am to try this light again, you'll have to buy me two of them: one for me and the other for the guy holding the gun to my head.

TurboSpyder LED Light * http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/turbospyder/index.html

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