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Old 08-07-2010, 12:14 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Hi Everyone,

This is my first review on here so go easy on me.

Like many of you I did have an order in for an Arctic which would have been my first purchase from Wicked Lasers but I decided to cancel it after the constant delays
and changes the company kept making, but you already know that so I won't bore you any longer.

Onto the review.


Ordering and Shipping

I placed my order for the Dragon Laser 1W Spartan on the day it was posted on their website (21/07/2010) at a cost of $239.99USD. Shipping cost $45USD and I got a discount of $14.40USD
with my Gold membership. I was quite excited to see Dragon Lasers offering a Laser at this wavelength as it offers an alternative product to Wicked Laser's Arctic.
My order was then shipped out in the first batch on Monday (2/8/2010) using EMS from Changchun in China. It took just 3 days to reach the UK, a day to clear customs and I was able to collect it today (Saturday) from my local depot.
I was very pleased with how quick the shipping was.



The laser, as usual from Dragon Lasers, arrived very well packed in a sturdy corrugated cardboard box inside an anti-static bag wrapped up in bubble-wrap. The box had no sign of damage or forced entry by those nice people at customs. Given how quick the shipping was I'd have been very surprised if it was opened.

The 1W Spartan 447nm



If you ordered a Spartan from Dragon Lasers before you are probably familiar with the design but there are two versions of it available now for the purpose of the review I will call them the old design and the new design. There are some very slight differences between the two. The old design has a removable front cap the new design does not which means the standard Dragon Lasers beam expander will not work on this new design of Lasers. According to their Facebook page Dragon Lasers are working on a new beam expander that will fit a variety of Lasers. The
other difference is that the new design is slightly longer in length compared to the old one.


The laser feels very nice in the hand not too heavy but not too light and has knurling on the outside for extra grip.


Spartan 1W 447nm Top (new design)
Spartan 473nm Bottom (old design)


Another thing I have noticed is and I can't say this for certain as I am not 100% is that the Spartan lasers that use diodes rather than DPSS take two CR123A batteries where as the DPSS Lasers will take a single 18650 Li-Ion.


What's also interesting while we're on the subject of batteries is that there are two types of CR123A. The standard Lithium non-rechargeables and the re-chargeable Li-Ions. Because of the differing chemistries, these batteries produce different voltages. I found that running on standard non-rechargeable CR123As will not give sufficient power to the laser causing it to be "under-spec". To get the most out of this laser you need to run Li-Ions in it. This is true with the Spartan Violet 405nm 80mW I have too.

As you would expect the positive ends of the batteries face the tail cap (outwards) when installing them, then its simply a case of donning your safety glasses, tightening the tail cap and pressing the clicky switch on the tail cap.

What do you get?



1W of nice 447nm Laser Light

These pictures were not taken in the dark the room was fully lit with natural light at the time, the camera has tried to compensate for the amount of light this laser puts out. The pictures were taken in clear air no smoke or smoke from burning objects was present at the time.


473nm 30mW Spartan Dot (left) along side the 1Watt 447nm Spartan dot (right)

Unfortunately I don't have a tape measure to hand so I can't give you actual divergence at this point but I can give you some rough figures with the laser about 20 foot away the line is about an inch long and about 3/16th of an inch thick. I tried to get a picture of this with the camera on my iphone through the safety glasses but it still ends up blooming the line making it bigger than it actually is. I will try to get access to a better camera to show this more clearly. As Dragon Lasers say the 1W 447nm does not have correction optics in it, where as the 400mW I believe has and produces a circular beam similar to the PGL-III-Cs.

As mentioned in my other post in the 445nm section I metered this on my Laserbee meter. It initially peaked at 1050mW sorry the 1150mW was a miss-type but I have had 1111mW out of it with fresh batteries and a cool diode but due to me losing the data logger cable and software (D'oh) and the fact the laser "Overflows" the meter I can not get you guys a graph. ( I am very sorry for this ) But I can tell you that after 60 seconds of operation this host does get warm down the whole length which is good because that means the heat sinking is working well but due to the limited surface area of the host I am a little worried it may not dissipate the heat as quickly as I would like. This is partly shown in the power readings I obtained from the meter over the course of 2 minutes. The laser will gradually reduce in power
over the course of 2 minutes to about 600mW where it will sit. As people have said before, these diodes do show to be temperature dependant. I have noticed with the A/C on in the room this gradual decline in power will be less than it would be in an above room temperature room. (if that makes sense?) But I think it would be wrong to blame all of this on heat as I think my CR123A maplin specials are not upto the job all that well. I shall have to invest in a set of quality re-chargeable CR123A Li-Ions and re-do the power test.

Burning

This laser at close range will make short work of anything. When taking the earlier shots up against the white wall there was the distinct smell of burning it had singed the white paint on the wall luckily enough there was no visible damage. Just the distinct smell of burning. It will even burn through the clear plastic wrapping you can see wrapped loosely around the wooden 2x4 in the picture below. Black plastic, dark wood, leather etc will be smoking almost instantly. I will have to see if this is powerful enough to light a candle as I have always wanted a laser capable of doing that but I think it maybe just short of been able to do that.

Conclusions

Whilst it is still very early days I LOVE this laser. I am extremely happy with this purchase given its price point. Do I have anything bad to say about it? Not at all so far.

If I was been overly picky I would say my only very minor concern is with the hosts ability to dissipate the heat in order to keep the power output of the laser consistent. But unless you opt for the big CNI PGL-III-C 447nm with the cooling fins I think temperature control on this size of host with the power involved is always going to be hard without some form of active cooling.

But the fact this laser is:
Portable
Small
Sturdy
Uses rechargeable batteries
Has good divergence as far as I'm concerned
Has a peak output of 1111mW
Reasonably priced

far, far, far outweighs this small issue.

I hope to get some good outdoor night shots of it in the coming meteor shower (checking for planes of course) I will edit this post accordingly. I will also add to this post to confirm the battery life from the two 650mah CR123A Li-Ions powering this Laser as well as anything else I discover about this new Laser.

I have several other Dragon Laser lasers that I can review at some point if interested as well as an Optotronics 425mW 532nm RPL. I will be happy to add anything else to this review that you may feel is missing and am happy to answer your questions on this.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Laser Light

EDIT:

I can confirm the drop in this recorded power is down the the CR123A batteries I am using and not the heat. They just dont seem upto the current this laser needs. I will attempt to locate some better CR123A batteries and re-test. Sorry for this.

Update:

The batteries I was using were suspect, standard non-rechargeables (that are fully charged and not almost flat like the ones I had!) have solved all my issues. There are now no cons for me with this laser. See post #17 for more information below.

Update:

I have been able to provide a crude graph at 30 second intervals to show the output power of this laser over time. See post #22 for more information.



Update:

After doing some research into CR123 rechargeable cells I have discovered that 3.7V Li-ION cells are not suited for use in this laser.
DO NOT USE 3.7 LI-ION CR123 CELLS IN THIS LASER, YOU WILL DAMAGE IT See post #26 for more information.

BIG UPDATE:
Ok everyone as promised all my batteries turned up today and I was able to commence testing. I had the following CR123 cells which I was able to test:

Energizer Lithium Photo Primary CR123A cell
Panasonic Lithium Power Primary CR123A cell
Tenergy 3.7V 900mah Li-Ion voltage regulated to 3.0v rechargeable CR123A cell
Tenergy 3.2V 750mah LiFePo4 (Lithium Iron phosphate) (safe chemistry - unregulated) rechargeable CR123A cell


Batteries from left to right, Tenergy 3.2V, Energizer 3v Lithium, Panasonic 3V Lithium, Tenergy 3.7-->3.0V Li-Ion

As you can see there is quite a choice of CR123A cells and I didnt even mention the two Li-Ion cells at 3.7V (4.2V when fully charged) that I got. These will not feature in this battery review as they are too high a recommended voltage for this laser. While I was able to use them in my "out of waranty" Spartan 80mW 405nm laser with no ill effects I strongly recommend against it as they will reduce the life of the components on the driver.

Ok in this review I shall rate the batteries and review them as I go along starting with the lowest rated to the highest rated and will try to give a little background information on each cell that I have learnt while doing my research.

#4 - Tenergy 3.7V 900mah Li-Ion voltage regulated to 3.0v rechargeable CR123A cell
DONT EVEN BOTHER, pretty much sums these cells up. These cells are rechargeable Li-Ion cells the Li-Ion chemistry in CR123A cells is naturally 4.2V when fully charged
and gives 3.7V as its operating voltage. As a result of this, two of these batteries will give 8.4V which is above the 6V this laser is designed to run at. So the clever people who make these
types of battery stick a diode regulator in them in order to reduce the working voltage down from 3.7V to 3.0V. You will only see 3.7V on your voltmeter as the regulation only works when underload. It takes approximately 12ms for the regulation to kick in which makes these cells incompatibile with incandescent lights as they can flash the bulb in that time. With regards to using them with LED lights/lasers it comes down to how tolerable the driver is.

As far as using these cells in other purpose low current draining devices as a replacement to primary CR123A cells they are fine. Trouble is the Spartan 1W laser is consuming at best guess
1.050amps. This is a very high current drain even for the standard primary CR123A cells. The voltage regulators on this cell have a very hard time at that current drain regulating the voltage from 3.6V down to 3.0V and in doing so generate an exceedingly high amount of heat. This is the same problem I had with the Maplin batteries I had to begin with (making these the same type). This heat is dangerous, so much so I think I burnt myself slightly removing these batteries from the laser. The host and copper heatsinking already has a big job keeping the diode cool with the heat generated the last thing it needs is the batteries generating heat too.

Can I recommend these batteries for this laser? NO ABSOLUTELY NOT. - Don't even bother they are not worth risking your laser over.

#3 - Panasonic Lithium Power Primary CR123A cell
These cells are non-rechargeable Lithiums that can be found in any electronics shop or supermarket and are generally cheap when brought in bulk. These cells will just about provide sufficient power to this laser. There are however two concerns. Firstly they will only provide sufficient power untill they reach a 75% charge (15-20minutes) and secondly the power they do provide tends to be unstable. You can see anything upto a 100mW change in power using these cells. Once they discharge past the 75% charge the laser will settle down and run at a stable power of about 650mW-700mW which is still pretty high. It will continue running at this power until the batteries go flat at a run time of approximately 40 minutes.

Can I recommend these batteries for this laser? Yes and no while they wont provide enough power to run your laser at a solid 1W they are cheap and safe to run. The choice is yours
just keep in mind you wont be running at 1W for very long. I suppose an upside to this would be that running at 650-700mW you are prolonging the life of the diode in this laser.

#2 - Energizer Lithium Photo Primary CR123A cell
When you look at the specs on this battery they are identical to that of the Panasonic batteries but I have found that the Energizers are a little more truthful to that spec.
These cells do a good job of powering this laser. These are the batteries that were in the laser to provide the power graph you can see above. You do get an initial dip in power as the laser
warms up and the batteries settle down but it isn't a massive dip. After that these cells will comfortably run this laser at over 1W for 10 minutes straight. While the cells are being discharged they remain cool. They are good cells! After this 10-15 minute period the voltage begins to drop and you see your output power go with it. Again you will see power levels of 650mW-700mW before this battery runs out entirely in 30-40 minutes. These cells are a little more expensive than the Panasonics and its easy to see why. I have always said "You get what you pay for." and its true (usually).

Can I recommend these batteries for this laser? Yes.

#1 - Tenergy 3.2V 750mah LiFePo4 (Lithium Iron phosphate) (safe chemistry - unregulated) rechargeable CR123A cell
This battery is the star of the show. I can't tell you how happy I am I found this battery. First a little background information.
The LiFePo4 battery is a new generation of lithium battery that has been out on the market since 2006 I believe. The chemistry in this battery generally runs at 3.2V underload, they come off the charger at a maximum voltage of 3.7V. This new chemistry also makes this battery safer than the standard Li-Ion cells allowing you to charge them unsupervised (I wouldn't encourage this however). It also gives them a much longer lifetime over their Li-Ion equivalent with 1000 charge cycles. Due to this new "safe" chemistry the cells are unregulated and are the exact same dimensions as a standard CR123A cell. The ones I have are 750mah in capacity. Hopefully as technology progresses we shall see bigger capacities of this battery available.

These batteries are still new and only reach their potential after 4-5 charging cycles. Despite that they were able to power this laser at 1030mW-1050mW consistently for 20 minutes until they went flat and required recharging. These batteries gave the best power stability overall, even better than that of the standard Lithiums and also gave the longest runtime at 1W+. All the time these cells are discharging they remain cool to the touch. Charging this cell takes roughly 2.5hours or 5 hours if you are charging two on the same charger. Two batteries and a charger can be found in a kit for under 20 ($30USD). While I can't speak for all applications this battery certainly works the best in this laser for me.

Can I recommend this battery? YES DEFINITELY, it performs the best out of the lot I have tested.

Final Update:
I have had this laser for just over a week now and it still performs just as well as the day I got it. Total runtime on the diode is now 4 hours and it runs just as bright.
I have included a new graph for the output power of this laser only this time its with the new LiFePo4 batteries and power measurements are taken at 15 second intervals instead of 30 second intervals. I also reset the max reading on the meter for when it displayed OVERFLOW to obtain a more accurate power reading for those times.



Total runtime on a full charge with these batteries is 20 minutes exactly.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review

Last edited by LaserLight; 08-16-2010 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 08-07-2010, 12:37 PM   #2
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Nice Review of your DL Spartan...

Could you take a picture of the Beam Profile on a distant
wall through safely goggles to see the actual Beam
Profile cleared...

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Old 08-07-2010, 12:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Hi Jerry,

I'll do my best to get my hands on a better camera that can show the beam dots through the safety glasses without bloom. Once I have them I'll add them to this thread.
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Old 08-07-2010, 12:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

There should be no Bloom if the Camera looks through the
Goggles... I've done this a number of times with my >1000mW
445nm Labby...

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Old 08-07-2010, 01:17 PM   #5
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Great performance per $!!!
Can u do me a favor and stop the time it take until it gets warm?

Thank you for the review
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:25 PM   #6
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Hi Jerry,

These were the best I could do with a better camera as you can see I am certainly no photographer.




Again these were taken at approximately 20 feet.
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:30 PM   #7
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Those are Perfect.... that's all I wanted to know...
It is the same Beam profile as the Jay and Larry
405-G1 Lenses I used in my Labby...
Thanks...

Jerry
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:32 PM   #8
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

No problem, sorry it wasn't bloom as such, I am lacking in a tripod and my hands arent steady enough with the camera which was causing the dot to blur. I went and borrowed a steadyshot camera to snap those with.
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Quote:
Originally Posted by LaserLight View Post
No problem, sorry it wasn't bloom as such, I am lacking in a tripod and my hands arent steady enough with the camera which was causing the dot to blur. I went and borrowed a steadyshot camera to snap those with.
And now it is time for my heatsinking question above
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473nm >> Optotronics RPL-B peak@112mW
515nm >> Skylasers HL peak@41mW
532nm >> Novalasers Alpha HP peak@284mW
589nm >> CNI PGL-III-A peak@89mW
635nm >> MXDL by DTR peak@38mW
642nm >> Saillaser peak@23mW
660nm >> CR2 by lazeerer peak@524mW
685nm >> MXDL by lazereer peak@42mW

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Old 08-07-2010, 01:52 PM   #10
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Sorry DJNY,

I didnt forget you. Basically I've got battery issues. It seems the batteries I have at the moment are cheap and not upto providing the power this laser needs. Following prototype's suggestion in the other thread I have some tenergy 900mahs on order.

I will do this test as soon as I get the batteries this Laser requires as I believe the ones I have at the moment will "fudge" the results.
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Old 08-07-2010, 02:22 PM   #11
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Looks good. It's a lot quicker then the arctic to turn up. Might get myself one
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Old 08-07-2010, 03:54 PM   #12
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Is it focusable ?
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Old 08-07-2010, 04:18 PM   #13
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

My Spartan 1w I arrived on Monday, I have a desire to try and compare it with my green laser 550mw
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Old 08-07-2010, 04:25 PM   #14
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Quote:
Originally Posted by User24h View Post
My Spartan 1w I arrived on Monday, I have a desire to try and compare it with my green laser 550mw
This Thread is for the OP's Review of his Spartan...

It would be courteous if you could open a Thread for your
own Spartan tests and Review...


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Old 08-07-2010, 05:05 PM   #15
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

awesome review !!! better choice than the arctic 4sure....
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Old 08-07-2010, 05:09 PM   #16
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Can you make a video?

Try to light a match from 4 meters!
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Old 08-07-2010, 07:49 PM   #17
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrSid View Post
Is it focusable ?
Hi Dr Sid,

Unfortunately no it is not focusable. I am hoping Dragon Lasers will bring out a compatible beam expander to fit this laser which will enable us to be able to do this. In the mean time I am using a magnifying lens to good effect.

I have some more positive news on the batteries. I was right!

I went out and brought some brand new non-rechargeable CR123s (Standard Lithium Piles)
I have metered this laser for 10 minutes now and the readings go like this.

A peak of 1080mW within the first few seconds then a dip to about 700mW in about 1:00min to 1:30min. Then a gradual recovery in the next 4-5 minutes to 1030mW-1050mW where this laser will comfortably sit for the rest of the 10minute period and beyond. I am still gently breaking this laser in and don't want to run it for more than 10minutes at the moment. This has totally made my day as I have no concerns at all with this laser now

This Laser is a real CR123 battery muncher, you chuck the best CR123s you can find at it to which it replies "That was lovely, your going to need some more of them!" I will get a battery runtime into the review at some point.

This heating issue is also resolved and the laser runs a lot cooler now and in answer to DJNY it takes about 4minutes to get warm to the touch now, I will get you an actual time tomorrow.

It turns out the batteries I was running are re-chargeable CR123s which are Li-Ion that run at 3.7volts but have a regulator on them to force them down to 3volt to match standard CR123 Lithiums that aren't rechargeable which this laser is designed to run on.

Well at the current this laser draws it was frying the re-chargeable batteries I was using. They couldn't keep up with the current demand and simply generated a lot of heat and starved the driver of voltage and current causing the power to be less than what it should be. I have now binned these batteries in favour of the non-rechargeable CR123s which run fine in this laser.

I now have to find some suitable rechargeable CR123s that can handle the current drain as this thing is going to cost me a bomb in non-rechargeable CR123s.

The first type I will be testing are the Tenergy 900mah CR123s which should be here Tuesday.

Stay Tuned

Laser Light

Last edited by LaserLight; 08-10-2010 at 06:24 AM.
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:23 PM   #18
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

I'll be buying one next week because of this awesome review! Thanks for taking the time to type about it.
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:31 PM   #19
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Great review!!!

Looking forward to your update on battery findings.


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Old 08-07-2010, 11:44 PM   #20
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan



Looks like a really cool laser, I kind of like the simplistic host as well.
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:15 AM   #21
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Awesome review LaserLight thank you very much.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:52 AM   #22
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for your kind words.

First of all

@ DJNY I finally manged to time how long it takes the body of the spartan to get warm at 3 minutes 30seconds it is warm to the touch around where the diode and driver sit. Then at 6 minutes the whole length of the host is warm to the touch. Hope this helps.

I have also managed to get a crude graph together. I ran a stopwatch and took the power readings off my meter at 30second intervals to produce it. This graph can be seen in the first post.

A note: The laser overflowed the meter between 4minutes to 5minutes 30seconds so the output power between these times was over 1050mW but under the peak of 1084mW. For the purpose of the graph I put the power at these times at its lowest possible (1050mW).

Please see the table I used to create this graph below:

0:30-1084mW
1:00-950mW
1:30-907mW
2:00-969mW
2:30-1013mW
3:00-1041mW
3:30-1050mW
4:00-OVERFLOW
4:30-OVERFLOW
5:00-OVERFLOW
5:30-OVERFLOW
6:00-1050mW
6:30-1050mW
7:00-1043mW
7:30-1039mW
8:00-1033mW
8:30-1031mW
9:00-1042mW
9:30-1034mW
10:00-1028mW

Batteries will not sustain this high output after 15-20minutes, I have found it varies and this is with the standard non-rechargeable CR123s. After this time the batteries can only support an output power of 600-750mW depending on how flat they are. Putting new batteries in after this while the laser is still warm results in an instant return to the power levels you can see in the graph.

This laser really likes eating through these batteries.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:55 AM   #23
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

That initial dip in power and then recovery is really interesting. I wonder if that's an initial heating in the diode before the heat dissipates out through the heatsink. A 10 minute duty cycle is kind of nuts for a laser of this power, but looks like they can do it.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:18 AM   #24
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Quote:
Originally Posted by aryntha View Post
That initial dip in power and then recovery is really interesting. I wonder if that's an initial heating in the diode before the heat dissipates out through the heatsink. A 10 minute duty cycle is kind of nuts for a laser of this power, but looks like they can do it.
It is odd, but I cant help but wonder if its something to do with the batteries given my previous issues with CR123 cells that weren't up to the job. I wonder if its because they are adapting to the high curent drain and then stabilise? I think the CR123s I have are right on the limit of being able to supply sufficient power.

As I say I have some Tenergys on order and have also seen that AW offer a safe chemistry CR123 cell that sustains a high discharge of 4.4amps! So they are next on my list to try if the Tenergys aren't upto the job.

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Old 08-09-2010, 11:46 PM   #25
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Default Re: Dragon Lasers 1W Spartan

Hi LaserLight,

Do you know if rechargeable Li Ion 3.7v RCR123A batteries are ok for use in the Spartan? Or does it have to be 3.0v?

I have the 400mw Spartan on it's way to me and don't want to fry the electronics or diode. All I have on hand are 3.7v rechargeables.

Thanks
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