Light Type: High Intensity Discharge
Light Class: Outdoor / Specialty
So, you’re looking for a photonic cannon, are you? Look no further. The AE Light PL14 produces an amazing amount of light from a HID bulb, power regulating ballast, and Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, all stored in a body about the same length and about 1½ times the diameter of a 3-D Mag. Frankly, I am stunned by the output of this light.
Body: The body of the PL14 is black anodized aluminum with rubber caps on the tail and bezel for some impact protection. The aluminum body has grooves along the length of the central body tube and circular steps milled into the head. There are two rubberized rings on the body – one at each end of the body tube. These rubberized areas have metal split-rings connected for the attachment of the shoulder strap.
Bezel/Head: For those of you unfamiliar with HID (High Intensity Discharge) bulbs, these are the bulbs found in new high-end car headlights which produce a very white light. We’re not talking about those bluish-green crappy lights that you see in those ridiculous looking “tricked out” Honda Civics with ground effect kits and spoilers the size of airplane wings. Those are just cheap regular bulbs with a blue coating. We’re talking about the headlights found in Mercedes, BMW and Lexus automobiles.
High Intensity Discharge bulbs work by firing an arc between two contacts. This arc incandesces (causes to glow) the gasses inside the bulb between the contacts. The result is an intense bluish-white light.
In the PL14 the HID bulb is found in a metal reflector behind a glass lens. Surrounding the head is a rubber bezel cover to help protect the light from impacts. If you look carefully in the bezel (the picture below is too small to see it) you will see a wire that runs from the bottom of the bulb up to the top. This is the ignition wire for the bulb and caution should be used when opening the light to avoid damage to the wire and the bulb.
Output: The white light produced by the HID is a high color temperature white and produces good color rendition weighted slightly toward the blue end of the spectrum. The light is bluish white and is very intense. Color temperature is advertised as about 7000K (sunlight is 6500K, incandescent bulbs are about 3500K). The beam’s central spot is pre-focused to about 4 deg , resulting in an excellent spotting light for distance work. There is sufficient spillbeam to light up the area around the user without any problem at all.
I did notice that if you wiggle the light around or point it face down the light changes color. This is due to condensed substances in the bulb entering the path of the arc. Generally when held horizontal the light was a bluish white, but when held vertically face down the light turned slightly orange.
Yes, yes, I know… You want to see outdoors shots. Well it’ll have to wait a little bit. I’ll see what I can whip up sometime soon.
Runtime Plot: Well, there’s a ballast for you – great regulation until it flickers a tiny bit and then – blip – it goes out. Considering the size and weight of the unit, over 1.5 hours of runtime is absolutely fantastic.
Switch: The switch on the PL14 is a little strange. See that wide black ring of plastic with the OFF-ON label on it between the two rubber sections?
That black plastic ring is what turns – not the rubber section above or below it. Twist it about 1/8 turn to activate the light and don’t point it at your face! The light comes on instantly but takes about 6 seconds to warm up to full output. For the first cold-start you should leave the light on for about 1 minute at a minimum to vaporize all the condensate inside the bulb. Once it’s warmed up you can turn it on and off as needed.
Seals / Water Resistance: The PL14 is designed to accept some water spray, but is not a dive light and is not designed for extremely wet environments. Technically, it has an IP54 rating which means it is protected from the intrusion of dust and sprayed water from all directions, with limited ingress resulting. High voltage ballasts and lithium ion batteries don’t play nice with water, so use appropriate caution. A little water should be OK, but large quantities of water should be avoided.
Upon opening the light I found O-rings throughout, so I really don’t think there should be any problems in this area at all. The O-rings were very dry when I opened the light, so you may want to check them. The manual states that you should lubricate the seals with a “low mineral petroleum jelly”.
After use in wet conditions, disassemble per the instructions and make sure water did not get in. If wet inside, let it dry before using again.
Ergonomics: It is large in diameter, but it’s not awkward to hold since it is not all that heavy. It has two split rings on the side that attach to a shoulder strap for carrying, or you can put the strap over your shoulder and let it hang against your side while pointed forward to give your arm a little break. The switch is not textured at all, but the plastic ring has a slight grippyness to it which is hard to describe.
Batteries: An internal Lithium Ion rechargeable cell powers the light. The cell in turn powers a ballast which is like a big step-up transformer. This is needed to get the voltage up to the range which will fire the bulb – around 15KV. Both the bulb and the ballast are USER REPLACEABLE! This is a big boon to the system. If one or the other fails, you can replace them yourself, but be sure to follow the instructions to the letter! We’re talking about a lot of stored energy in there!
Interesting fact, the Lithium Ion battery weighs 6.4 oz. An alkaline D cell weighs 5.1 oz.
When the battery is dead, just plug it in for about two hours. The Security Quality LED on the charger turns from red to green when the battery is done charging. It is important to keep an eye on it, though. When the Security Quality LED turns green you should disconnect the charger, otherwise the battery’s internal protection circuitry may disable the battery to prevent overcharge. If this happens, there is a procedure in the instructions to get the battery out of this condition so it’s not a really big deal, just a little inconvenient.
The charger connector on the light is hidden behind a rubber cover on the tail end of the light.
Accessories: An amber lens cap is available for the PL14, as well as a few other optional accessories. The shoulder strap is included.
What I Liked: Water resistant, Very bright, Very nice color temperature, Fantastic runtime for its weight and size, Easy to use and operate, Rechargeable.
What I Didn’t Like: Nothing
Picky Little Things: Remember – a cold start requires a 1 minute on-time to keep the bulb in best operating condition. Light changes tint color when moved around. O-rings appear to require lubrication.
Conclusions: The AE Light PL14 is a very nice light. Overall build quality is very good. Runtime is really good, with 1½ hours+ of super bright, long range, pure white output from a light that only weighs about 2 oz. more than a 3-D Maglight. The quantity of light produced is stunning and the range is really surprising. The literature states “Not a Flashlight, a Personal Search Light™”, and I couldn’t agree more.
By the way… Need even more light? The PL14, 14 Watt HID has a BIG BROTHER – the PL24, 24W HID. Yikes!