Old 12-03-2010, 10:07 AM #1
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Exclamation WL Spyder III Arctic G2- Full review and videos!


Abstract:

A controversial laser, three weeks, and a fair bit of testing. Now I present you the results of these three weeks of mucking around, burning, testing and my terrible photography. 4000 words later, you'd be wishing I offered my reviews in video only form.

Contents (click to go to):
______

1. Background
2. Manufacturer specifications
3. Shipping and Packaging
4. Overview
5. Included package
- a. Goggles
- b. Lenspen
- c. Battery and Charger

6. In use
7. Performance
8. Beam specifications and visibility
9. Thermal effects/other effects
10. The Lens Kit
11. Summary and conclusion
______


Disclaimer:

This laser was supplied as a review sample, and may have been hand-picked for the purpose of this review. As a result the reviewed product and/or service may differ from a retail product and/or service.

Safety Warning:


This is a Class IV laser device. It is capable of causing permanent eye damage through both direct exposure (such as an accidental reflection) and indirect exposure (staring at the dot on a reflective surface), as well as causing severe burns to both human skin and other objects.

With this laser there are no second chances- even a split-second reflection can cause permanent retinal burns. If it can light a match, what can it do to your retina?

Always use personal protective equipment(such as goggles) when using this laser, and ensure that all bystanders have appropriate protective equipment. Take proper precautions when terminating the beam (use a beamstop such as a black, non-reflective tile) to ensure stray beams do not cause any fires.

Directing this laser at an aircraft or vehicle is also a felony in many countries. Not only is this punishable by jail time, it also endangers the lives of people both in the vehicle and outside of the vehicle.

Coherent has an excellent laser safety video regarding the safe handling of Class IIIb and IV laser light. This can be found here



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Old 12-03-2010, 10:08 AM #2
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

1. Background

The discovery of the 445nm blue diodes in widely-available multimedia projectors caused quite a stir in the laser hobbyist community earlier this year, and brought with it quite a fair bit of LPF-bashing and a few companies attempting to build portables around this new (and extremely powerful) diode.

Wicked Lasers was one of the first companies to jump on it, and their Spyder III Arctic (simply referred to as the Arctic from this point onwards) drew quite a bit of attention from the mass media. Many were quick to order this new 'lightsabre', and the initial production was plagued by constant delays (the original launch
date was missed by 3 monnths) and quality control issues (an above-average failure rate, bad finishing, thermal grease smeared over lenses, lenses coming loose). Many members were left disappointed, and many more cancelled their orders, instead ordering from other companies.

Not long after the G1s were shipped, Wicked began shipping the G2 Arctics. These had many changes, including a simplified internal layout, a tighter lens, a more durable finish and the well-known SmartSwitch. Although the G2 was not plagued with the issues that the G1 experienced, many were nonetheless reluctant to order from Wicked after the issues they'd experienced.

Determined to turn things around and to fix their image, Wicked has organised for a handful of experienced, knowledgable forumers and myself to recieve review samples of their latest Arctic G2, and so this review begins.

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Old 12-03-2010, 10:08 AM #3
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

2. Manufacturer supplied specifications

These are the specifications for this laser, as supplied by the manufacturer.


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Old 12-03-2010, 10:08 AM #4
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

3. Shipping and packaging

The laser was shipped from Hong Kong by EMS Express International, and delivered by the local postal system. Shipping was also extremely fast, most of us recieved our review units 9 days after the member organising had sent our addresses to WL.

Each component had it's individual packaging. The laser and lenspen was in one box, along with all documentation, the charger and battery in another and the goggles in their own hard case.



This was then wrapped in a layer of bubble wrap and slipped into a silver plastic bag, which was heat-sealed. All relavent documentation, customs declarations, and Form #2877 were enclosed in a zip-lock bag on the exterior of the package.

Upon closer inspection there was some minor tearing along one side of the bag, however, it did not compromise the structural integrity of the bag in any way.

Upon cutting open the plastic, the first item to slide out of the bag was the goggles. The goggles came with their own hard case, along with a cleaning cloth.



The charger arrived in a white cardboard box. The battery was wrapped in plastic and fitted snugly in the charger.

The laser itself arrived in the signature WL black box, with silver lettering. The cardboard hinge that held the lid to the box was almost completely detached when it arrived; it wouldn't have made for a good first impression.



The laser itself was held in the box with foam, along with the lenses. The laser arrived fully assembled, with the high-powered lens attached.



The lenses arrived clean, and free of scratches. All lenses had a small sticker denoting the lens's respective functions, except the galaxy lens.

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Old 12-03-2010, 10:10 AM #5
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

4. Overview

First thing- the laser's a lot bigger than the pictures make it look. Despite measuring 23cm/9 inches long with a lens, it still remains incredibly comfortable to hold, even for someone with relatively small hands. The flat sides and raised section where the SmartSwitch is positioned make it very comfortable to hold and operate in one hand.



Unlike the G1, this laser has a much flatter finish which does not scratch as easily. However, there were minor imperfections in some parts of the finish- not enough to warrant a refinish, but large enough to be noticable. The WL and Arctic logo are not stencilled on, instead, they are engraved straight into the body.



You can see that the paint on the SmartSwitch has begun to come off after a period of normal use.



The laser breaks into three parts: the tailcap, the body, and the lens. The tailcap thread is extremely smooth, and is lubricated. The lens thread, however, is not as smooth as the tailcap thread, and often requires a few attempts before the thread 'catches' and screws on. I suspect with a bit of use this will wear down and the lens thread will smoothen out.



At this point, a minor nitpick- I would have preferred if the SmartSwitch was located closer to the battery indicator LEDs, or at least have the SmartSwitch LED blink in sync with the battery indicator LEDs while entering the code.



The tailcap has the interlock pin required for FDA compliance, however, said pin is stuck firmly inside the tailcap and is not removable without considerable force. I believe this was a fix for the loose interlock pins in the G1 Arctics, however, the pin is too tight and is almost useless as a result.

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Old 12-03-2010, 10:10 AM #6
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

5. Included Package

The included package arrived in individual packaging in the same satchel, there was no larger box that held everything (as is with other WL products). The extended lens kit gets it's own subsection later on, there's too much to cover. This section covers the three accessories that were part of the review package- the goggles, battery/charger and lenspen.

a. Goggles.

There were quite a few complaints about the goggles that shipped with the G1, with most being described as grossly overrated and ineffective. Unfortunately, nothing has changed with these goggles, and they offered nowhere near the amount of protection required (estimated at OD1). Leakage at both 445nm and 532nm are both well into Class IIIb territory. Unlike higher-quality goggles, the plastic does not melt, but instead chars when hit by a focused Arctic.

I have a pair of $6 goggles which almost completely attenuate the Arctic's beam (leaving nothing but a faint purplish spot more akin to 405nm), and which do not char (melting instead) when placed in the focal point. I do not have an LPM, but here are pictures of the Arctic against the beamstop.

Perhaps what's worse is the number of people out there who will be depending on the supplied goggles for protection against the Arctic's beam. It'd be easy for a beginner to assume that the goggles are offering enough protection (despite the light leakage). As a result, it is possible that these goggles may well be a safety risk, with users expecting adequate protection not offered by these goggles.

Although it may be obvious for experienced laserists that the goggles are not up to the standard required, it may not be so apparant to many beginners who know next to nothing about lasers (the target market of Wicked, it appears). The end result? You have a bunch of people who know nothing about lasers or laser safety, working with a Class IV device with inadequate eye protection.

The verdict? The goggles are here to deliver the verdict:



On the upside, the hard case had a rather nice look, and would fit other goggles too, if you chose to keep it. The cleaning cloth is not lint-free either, and is unsuitable for cleaning fragile optics.


b. Lenspen

One of the pleasent surprises in the package was the included lenspen. Being smaller than most commercial lenspens, it can easily fit into smaller spaces (commonly found on laser lenses).



The brush tip is retractable, and this helps keep the tip dust-free and clean when not in use.



The other end is impregnated with a 'non-liquid cleaning agent', which removes oils and stains from lenses without the use of a liquid. I have no idea what the substance or how it works, but I do know it does work. The agent is replenished by replacing the cap and twisting it 180 degrees.



Thumbs up for the lenspen. If you haven't got one, go get one!


c. Batteries and Charger

The batteries and charger arrived together, in the same box. Both arrived in bubble wrap, well protected, with no scratches or visible damage.



The supplied battery is an unprotected green cell with generic markings. Although green 18650 cells supplied by WL have [link]exploded in the past, this cell is not the same generic 1350mAh cell. This cell is made by Samsung, and online sources quote a capcity upwards of 2000mAh, and runtime tests (both in the Arctic and in my C1) shows this as more or less accurate.



The charger is a generic single-cell charger, supplied by most retailers including Rayfoss. The plug is the standard US/Hong Kong plug, and the charger has automatic switching capability for 110/220V cross-compatibility. Although this is enough to keep most customers happy(being in the US), nation-specific adapters depending on the shipping destination would have been a nice touch. It's a habit for smaller retailers such as Rayfoss, and it doesn't cost too much extra too.

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Old 12-03-2010, 10:12 AM #7
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

6. In Use

Here's where the fun begins- actually playing with the laser itself. This section is basically a braindump of my first impressions with this laser. Think it's a long read? Simply watch the video at the end of this section.

When you first pick up the laser, you'll notice it feels extremely solid and well-built. The laser weighs enough to feel solid, but remains extremely comfortable to hold. Unlike other portables (especially DIY units with large heads and heatsinks), it is very well balanced weight-wise, even with the battery.

To insert a battery, simply unscrew the tailcap and insert a 18650 negative-first. The tailcap screws down all the way with a non-protected cell, and there is 1mm or so of clearance between the body and the tailcap when using a protected cell. Attempting to screw the tailcap any further may cause damage to the laser and the protection PCB on the cell.



There is an interlock pin on the tailcap, however, for most purposes, it is for aesthetics only. As I mentioned earlier, it took a fair bit of prying with a screwdriver before it finally came loose, and took considerable force to re-insert. For most people, the better option would be to leave the interlock in the laser at all times. However, this does defeat the purpose of having the interlock pin.

The clicky switch on the tailcap is the main power switch. Turning it on does not activate the laser, it simply supplies power to the SmartSwitch circuitry. You then have to enter the code before you can continue.

The tail clicky is only a main power switch, with no other use. A keylock would have been a better idea, both in terms of functionality and safety.

The SmartSwitch is remarkably simple to use- to turn the laser on, the sequence is three short clicks followed by two long clicks. Simple enough to remember, yet complicated enough that most people won't get it through trial and error. To switch between pulsed and CW, just tap the switch. To switch between power modes, simply hold the switch for a second.



Although it may seem complicated (and indeed, that was what one of the other reviewers thought, and what I thought at first), it only takes a few goes before you can remember the sequence. Once you remember the sequence, turning the laser on in under 5 seconds is easily doable- you don't even need to think about the combination.

The laser starts in low power mode (for safety reasons) and in pulsed mode. From that point onwards, what you do with it is up to you. Just remember to be safe.

Simply hold the SmartSwitch to turn the laser off. The laser can also be switched off from the tailcap. When the laser is switched off, the combination must be re-entered before the laser begins emitting again.



The battery indicator LEDs work in conjunction with the SmartSwitch. When the code is not entered, one LED will blink. After the code has been successfully entered, all three LEDs will flash three times, before emission beings. After emission starts, the LEDs display battery capacity.

Here's a short video of everything I just said:


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Old 12-03-2010, 10:12 AM #8
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

7. Performance

Firstly, the all-important power graph. These tests were conducted with the supplied high-power lens, and on a calibrated LaserBee meter (one of the original meters). I would have liked a more accurate meter with data logging, but unfortunately this was the only meter I had access to at the time.

All readings are logged manually at 5 second intervals for a duration of two minutes.

Low Power Mode:

Peak: 154
Average: 146.67




High Power Mode:

Peak: 689
Average: 662.5




Last but not least, the current draw measurements. This was tested using the supplied green Samsung 18650 cell, while fully charged.

0.03A Idle
0.37A Low
1.13A High

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Old 12-03-2010, 10:13 AM #9
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

8. Beam Specifications and Visibility

Although 445nm brought cheap blue to the masses, and at incredibly high powers too (with diodes pushing the 2W barrier), the diodes themselves are plagued by horrible beam specifications. Unlike the well-known red and Blu-ray diodes, 445nm diodes do not run single-mode. Instead, they have a significantly larger emitter, and multiple transverse modes are allowed to run in this emitter. The end result is a highly astigmatic beam that is extremely difficult to collimate without the correct optics.

These beams have two different axes to them- the fast axis, and the slow axis. As their name suggests, the fast axis diverges more rapidly than the slow axis. As a result, there are two divergence measurements given- one for the fast axis, and one for the slow axis.

People are often confused by the two axes, especially at the point where the beam leaves the aperture. Contrary to what you may think, the wider axis is actually the slow axis, while the fast axis is usually needle-thin. The axes have differing focal points, and as a result, collimate differently, with one axis diverging more than the other. This explains why the beam profile appears rotated 90 degrees when viewed at a distance. Here are three photos illustrating this- one taken at 10cm, another at the transition point (around 1.25m), and one at 3m.







Divergence measurement was taken at 3 meters; a non-reflective heatsink was used as a beamstop.

At aperture- Fast Axis: 2mm, Slow Axis: 5mm

At 3m- Fast Axis: 7mm, Slow Axis: 3.5mm

Divergence on FA: 1.67mRad (to 2 sig. figs)
Divergence on SA: -0.5mRad (to 2 sig. figs)

Not too bad for a 445nm, especially considering the fact some DIY builds have up to 5mRad on the fast axis. Although not on-par with the 1.5mRad value given on the Wicked website, it still falls reasonably close.

Wondering what happened with the negative divergence? Turns out that this laser isn't focused properly- there should not be a negative divergence value for the slow axis. This indicates that there is a beam waist somewhere along the beam. Another set of measurements taken at 10m showed that the slow axis had expanded to 11mm, which translates to a divergence of 1.1mRad (on par with red and violet single-mode diodes). This may have been intentionally done as it may have provided the best divergence for the fast axis, while not compromising the divergence on the slow axis.

Approaching 800mW, you would have expected that beam visibility would be solid- and it is. Although far away from the peak of the visible spectrum, 445nm, being at the shorter end of the visible spectrum, is affected by Rayleigh scattering much more than green, and is also closer to the peak of blue sensitivity in the human eye. These factors, coupled with the fact that the peak of the visible spectrum shifts towards the blue in darkness, allow 445nm to rival 532nm in terms of visibility in the right conditions.

On low mode (150mW), it is of equal brightness to a 30mW green laser, both in terms of spot and beam visibility.







It takes the full 680mW before the Arctic can finally overpower my 30mW green module.





The beam is extremely visible when viewed in person, even when in a lit environment. Compared to 660nm (which is roughly equivalent from the other end of the spectrum), it is significantly more visible. My only red laser decided to go LED yesterday, so unfortunately, there's no comparison shots. Speaking of the red laser, it's the same one with the mode-hopping issues, and I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did.

However, the beam is visibly divergent, even at shorter ranges. Unlike a green (or even red) laser, the beam can be seen to appear to converge (at the point where both axes are equal) and diverge rapidly from that point.

A quick note here regarding relative visibility and color blending. Although a 30mW green may appear to be significantly brighter than the Arctic on low, the Arctic will completely overpower the green as soon as they are mixed.



And blended... As you can see, the green has disappeared completely.



Because 445nm is near the peak of blue perception in human eyes, the 445nm appears significantly more 'blue'. As a result, 1:1 ratios can be used when mixing green and 445nm- although the blue will be significantly less visible, they will balance out when mixed.

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Old 12-03-2010, 10:13 AM #10
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

9. Thermals and Fluorescence

At this power level, you'd expect quite a fair bit of burning power. This laser will burn just about everything- literally. Due to the short wavelength, it is more readily absorbed by a wide variety of materials, even white materials such as paper and card. Wavelength makes a big difference- it can be a struggle to get a 2W IR to start burning a piece of paper- but even on Low mode, the Arctic makes easy work of it.

The short wavelength also means that many common substances will fluorece when irradiated. Although highlighter dye is the only substance I have, I have tried to find some other substances which will fluoresce when irradiated.

Instead of boring you further, I have made a compilation video the Arctic burning various items that can be found around the house, and inducing fluroscence in yellow dye.



A heatproof surface was placed under the focal point at all times. An aluminium non-reflective beamdump was also used to terminate the beam. Although the diffuse beam could be theoretically allowed to terminate on a diffuse surface, a beamdump was used to avoid stray reflections. Protective eyewear was worn at all times while the laser was emitting.

Last edited by goninanbl00d; 12-04-2010 at 01:34 AM.
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Old 12-03-2010, 10:13 AM #11
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

10. The Lens Kit

One of the things that make the whole Spyder III family stand out (when compared with other portables on the market) is the interchangable lens set (often supplied as an accessory). Unlike other portables (which often require complicated adapters to mount any lenses), the Spyder III lenses can simply be screwed onto the front of the laser.

The lens kit itself is composed of:

·Training lens (20% natural density filter)
·Line lens (line generating optic)
·Cross lens (cross generating optic)
·Galaxy lens ('starfield' diffraction grating)
·Burning lens (convex lens with short focal point)
·Flashlight lens (concave lens)
·Floodlight lens (concave lens with more curvature than Flashlight lens)

Normally, only the training and burning lenses are supplied, however, in the extended lens kit all lenses are included.

In any case, it'd be better to show you what each lens does. All photos are taken on low power (running CW), against a card backdrop at 1 meter.

High Power Lens (glass window):



Training lens:



Line lens:



Cross lens:



Galaxy lens:



Burning lens:

[Photo went missing. Will instead attach a beamshot photo of the focal point later.]

Flashlight lens:



Floodlight lens:



The flash didn't go off, hence why the photo looks a little weird.

Last edited by goninanbl00d; 12-03-2010 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 12-03-2010, 10:42 AM #12
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

11. Summary and Conclusion

So, you've survived the long read that was this review. At this point in time, I could throw more text at you, but instead, the summary comes in the form of a table.



And the obligatory star ratings:

Shipping/Handling:
Appearence:
Performance:
Beam Specs(relative*):
Thermals:
Visibility:

Overall:

*Relative beam specs as compared to 445nm lasers (including DIY builds) of similar powers without correctional optics.

The Arctic isn't a terrible laser, especially with the improvements made in the G2 version. Although there's better options on the market when it comes to 445nm (or should I say 447nm) portables, not to mention all the DIY builds on the market, the Arctic still isn't a bad choice.

The SmartSwitch and easily-interchangable lens set make it extremely attractive for beginners who understand the inherent safety risks with a Class IV portable, yet still want a conveinent, all-in-one laser that does everything. Compared to the other options out there, (which can be lacking in features), the Arctic is extremely easy to use. Even the SmartSwitch is simple- simple enough to be easily remembered, while complex enough to lock strangers and unwanted people out. Although it isn't focusable, the interchangable lenses makes burning easy- with no need to adjust the lenses for optimal divergence afterwards. I'd happily recommend the Arctic to someone who wants a portable that does everything.

However, it certainly isn't without it's faults. Although marketed as a 1W laser, it comes nowhere near this, with my unit averaging 680mW stable and after warming up. Others have had better luck with their units (with some averaging 800mW), however, this is still nowhere near the rated power output. The highest power recorded from an Arctic, 908mW, was acheived with the help of vapour phase change cooling, which isn't fesible as a long-term solution. Compared to other 445nm portables, which often put out more than 1W consistantly, it will put people off the Arctic, especially where advertised as a 1W portable.

There's also minor nitpicks, such as the paint coming off the SmartSwitch, or the beam waist in the slow axis. Safety-wise, a keyswitch in the tailcap would have been a better idea, however, the tail switch is the only way to switch off the laser immediately (the SmartSwitch must be held in order to stop emission).

Perhaps the most worrying part is the included 'laser safety goggles'. These goggles are grossly inadequate, unable to provide the level of attenuation required to protect from an accidental direct exposure. Combined with the fact that this laser is targeted at beginners (who may know nothing about lasers and laser safety), this makes for a very dangerous situation where beginners think they are adequately protected, when in fact they are not. Proper included safety equipment is a must.

Although it may be hard not to target the mass media (where may simply see it as a lightsabre-esq toy and not as a Class IV portable laser that's capable of inflicting harm), this practice needs to stop, before an accident occurs. Many people aren't aware of the damage that can be caused, and many do not know anything about laser safety or proper safety procedures. In other words- it's more or less an accident waiting to happen, and it's only a matter of time.

The bottom line? At least Wicked is trying. It may be hard not to judge them over what has happened in the past, but at the very least they seem to be making a sincere effort. There are still some critical issues, but these should be well on their way to being resolved now that there is a user representative on this forum. If these issues were fixed, the Arctic would become the portable of choice for those looking for a do-it-all 445nm. However, for users that know what they're doing (and don't need all the features), I'd still recommend something else. (starts with an 'S', ends with 'partan' :P)

I'd also like to thank WL and a certain member amongst us for organising for these Arctics to be sent out, and giving us a chance to review them. He does not wish to be named, but nonetheless, a hearty thanks from all of us who recieved Arctics.

Last edited by goninanbl00d; 12-03-2010 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 12-03-2010, 06:17 PM #13
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic- Full review and videos!

I read your review over on PL.. this is a very in depth and thorough review.. I like that. Nicely done!

The thing I like the most about the G2 Arctics over just about every other 445nm option, regardless of power or manufacturer, is the smart switch. IMO each and every class IV portable laser should be required to have a similar feature. The idea that there are class IV portables that could be sitting out on a table where they could be grabbed up by a child / irresponsible adult and fired up with just a click of a switch has always made me shudder. This feature in and of itself is why the Arctic is the only portable class IV laser that I would feel comfortable recommending or giving to a family member / friend.
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Old 12-04-2010, 10:47 AM #14
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic G2- Full review and videos!

When did you get your Arctic. I got mine laser week and it came with the Sanyo Red 18650 battery.

Also you say in your video when using protected cells the laser tail cap doesn't screw in all. On mine it does.

Iam wondering if i got a newer type model if your Arctic is older then mine and you dint just get it.

I confused.

By the way Nice Review.

I also did a Review Yesterday on mine. Here:

http://laserpointerforums.com/f52/re...eos-58522.html
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Old 12-04-2010, 11:15 AM #15
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic G2- Full review and videos!

I got my Arctic 3 weeks after it was 'ordered'.

I use UltraFire protected cells in mine, they use a much larger protection PCB than the AW cells.

I would probably have been able to screw the cell all the way down, but I stopped when I heard the cell making an angry scraping noise so I stoppped; lest I damage the cell/PCB.
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Old 12-04-2010, 11:58 AM #16
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Default Re: WL Spyder III Arctic G2- Full review and videos!

really nice review! +

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