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PGL-III-C 400mW

RA_pierce

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I acquired a brand new PGL-III-C 532 400mW.
It was purchased through Glenn's (scopeguy20) CNI group buy.

Updated Re-Review here: http://laserpointerforums.com/f52/400mw-pgl-iii-c-updated-re-review-new-photo-video-44458.html

First, I would like to make it known (not that we all don't already know) that Glenn is a great guy. It is a pleasure to communicate with him and he makes a great effort to ensure satisfaction to those participating in his GBs.

The laser:

I paced around the house all day... The wait was unbearable...
And a little after noon the doorbell rang. I ran to the door, signed for my package, and proceeded to unwrap it.
It was packed well (5 layers of bubble wrap) in a large box.

Once the laser was free, I inspected it. The body was flawless.
My first impression was that it was heavier and larger than I expected... this is a good thing in my opinion. The black anodized surface is smooth, the shutter opens with the perfect amount of resistance, and the threads are smooth, not squeaky or rough.

It was time to play with it. I was excited after weeks of waiting...
I inserted a fully charged Sanyo 18650 battery, replaced the tail-cap, inserted and turned the key, inserted the audio jack thing, opened the shutter... and turned on my Laserbee I.
I took aim at the sensor on the thermopile and pressed the PGL's blue button (he switch is of high quality).
I waited...
No output...
5 seconds later I was shocked by an enormous flood of green light.
The color was beautiful (I hadn't seen a green beam since the death of my DX200 module).
I watched the output climb... fluctuate... climb... bounce back an forth a little more...
The rated minimum output power of this laser is 400mW.
To my surprise and horror, this unit did not test anywhere near the specified output...
Rather, this chunk o' metal missed the mark by 245mW...
But this is by no means a bad thing.
Here are some pictures of my first power test with this laser:

Ten seconds after power up


30 seconds after power up


45 seconds after power up


60 seconds after power up


As I was playing with the laser some more and admiring the bright-as-hell beam, I noticed that the spot wasn't that bright... this was strange as the laser was pointed at a light tan colored sheet hanging on the door. I turned off the laser to find out what the problem was and immediately realized what had happened to the beam. It burned a hole clean through 2 layers of the sheet which was charred black and smoldering at the burned area. This sheet was 7 feet from the laser and not even a dark color. I realized I needed a beam stop... so I spray-painted a slab of stone tile flat black and let it dry.
Beam dump:


Here are some more pictures- the review will continue...

Size comparison: Pen laser, 18650 battery, mini GI Joe action figure.










Appearance, design, functionality:
This laser is big and heavy. In my opinion, this is a good thing. The black anodized aluminum gives it scratch resistance and a nice look. The size also is good... It looks dangerous and impressive even before it powers up. I love all the safety features. They also contribute to the "dangerous" look. The threads are smooth, and there are no defects.
The LED indicator light is not overwhelming and is just bright enough to be noticeable in daylight. The switch is firm, but easy to depress. Nothing rattles or shakes, other than the key, which is a little wobbly.
While this laser is very large compared to a pen or flashlight pointer, it is not over-sized or too heavy to "wield" comfortably.
The battery will last about an hour on a full charge.

Beam characteristics and power:
The beam is well centered with the body of the laser, which I like very much. The power readings have already been provided (it's a shame, though, that I can't get the data logging on my LBI to work) but this laser always peaks above 500mW.
It burns very well, as you would expect, and is extremely bright. Goggles are a must for close range experimentation. The beam at night is simply marvelous. It is by far the brightest laser I have ever seen.
Divergence is good at less than 1.2mRad. I haven't measured exactly, but in comparison to a 1.2mRad sized target across the yard the beam is about 10% smaller. (Divergence was measured at ~0.8mRad).
The laser operates in TEM00 but as it warms up, the mode switches to something like TEM01. To be honest, I expected this from such a small, high powered unit. It doesn't get too messy, and the dot does not separate or bounce off the aperture, so for now it is not a big problem. The instability is caused by heat, so as long as it stays cool it works like a champ. Even after the mode switch the burning power and brightness is the same. The weather here is quite hot ~90 during the day and ~80 at night so once it cools off it will be much better. Once the warranty expires I will turn down the current a bit. ~450mW and a stable beam would be better than a 600+mW peak in my opinion.
Other than this heat-induced mode switch, the beam is perfect.

Pros and Cons:
Pros:
GREAT price
Great build quality
Portable
Safety features
Looks good
Good divergence
High battery capacity
POWERFUL
It's green!

Cons:
Duty cycle
Unstable beam with thermal build up (although all portables require duty cycles so It's not a real con)





More pictures:
The hill is about 0.9 miles from where I am standing. My camera is just a point-&-shoot Sony Cybershot 8Mp. No exposure tricks were used.
You can see that the beam is visible even when it is still light outside.
(clickable thumbnails)



Bottom Line:
I am very happy with this laser. As stated earlier, the only problem is the mode switch when it gets warm. I understand that it is difficult to build such a powerful laser into such as "small" body.
I may send it back before the warranty expires if the problem gets worse, but as of now it's perfect when it's cool.
This laser is impressive and powerful. I look forward to showing this off to my friends.

Video coming soon!
 
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ZRTMWA

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Wow, great review. That was really overspec. Am I allowed to ask how much it was with the group buy? What kind of power meter is that? Thanks.
 

RA_pierce

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Wow, great review. That was really overspec. Am I allowed to ask how much it was with the group buy?
Thanks
I paid $722 with PP fees and shipping to me.
I think it was $680 without.

Laserbee I :p
 
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ElektroFreak

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As stated earlier, the only problem is the mode switch when it gets hot. I understand that it is difficult to build such a powerful laser into such as "small" body.
I may send it back before the warranty expires if the problem gets worse, but as of now it's perfect when it's cool.

Mode hopping when above or below the laser's optimum temperature is not a defect. If you send it back, you will get another unit that does the same thing. Most handheld lasers (including that one) are not temperature stabilized. A duty-cycle is REQUIRED, and the time on should not be long enough to allow the unit to get hot. There are very few handheld lasers that you can just leave on all the time and expect it to remain cool and not mode-hop (there are a couple of large high-powered handhelds that are TEC cooled, but even then I wouldn't necessarily recommend leaving them on for hours.) If you want a DPSS laser that you can leave on indefinitely without worrying about mode-hopping and temperature, buy a lab-style laser. That's what they're made for. DPSS lasers are inherently unstable and that's just the way it is. If you want perfectly stable operation, DPSS is not the way to go. You could wait until green diodes become available if you're needing perfect stability.
 
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RA_pierce

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Mode hopping when above or below the laser's optimum temperature is not a defect. If you send it back, you will get another unit that does the same thing. Most handheld lasers (including that one) are not temperature stabilized. A duty-cycle is REQUIRED, and the time on should not be long enough to allow the unit to get hot. There are very few handheld lasers that you can just leave on all the time and expect it to remain cool and not mode-hop (there are a couple of large high-powered handhelds that are TEC cooled, but even then I wouldn't necessarily recommend leaving them on for hours.) If you want a DPSS laser that you can leave on indefinitely without worrying about mode-hopping and temperature, buy a lab-style laser. That's what they're made for. DPSS lasers are inherently unstable and that's just the way it is. If you want perfectly stable operation, DPSS is not the way to go. You could wait until green diodes become available if you're needing perfect stability.
Thanks for the info.
I realize this, and that is why I am not really bothered by it. It is a minor annoyance but something I can live with.
I do obey the duty cycle strictly. :)
Perhaps I should rephrase... I never let it get "hot" but it does get warm quickly in >85 degree ambient temp.
 

Prototype

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Wow, that's incredible. I'd be afraid to use that thing.

Edit: 60th Post, yay
 

lasersbee

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Hey RA_....
Wow... talk about over-spec... that is one nice new green toy...:drool:

BTW.. why can't you get the Data Logging to work with your
LaserBee I...?? PM me if you need...


Jerry
 

yobresal

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Wow! that sounds like one hell of a laser you got there. Nice review.
 

ElektroFreak

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I did forget to add that this is an excellent and very comprehensive review. Good work!
 

RA_pierce

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Thanks for the kind comments guys. :)

Laserbee: I'll PM you later about the LBI. I think it might just be my USB adapter.
 

Don't Laze Me Bro

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Grrr i oardered in the same GB from Glenn and my PGL 300 peaked at 573mW!!!!!!!!!
then died the next day.... now i have to wait longer!!!
:( but Glenn being well Glenn made it good and the laser is at CNI being fixed as we speak!!! he lent me a few lasers as a kind jesture... a led shoppe 50 and a 135mW blu ray!!!
 

Traveller

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Wow, this is absolutely a fantastic review :gj::kewlpics::topic:

RA_Pierce, sorry for the belated accolades; when you wrote the review, I was only concentrating on local DIY LPFer goodies but these fantastic GBs from Glenn have finally gotten my attention... :p Thanks for taking the time & effort to produce such a useful review (and I know how much time it really does take... ;)) Oh and yes, I have also seen your update - nice touch to review the laser after time in the field, particularly the power output :beer:



p.s. @all, no, I won't apologize for reviving an "old" thread; reviews of this quality on products that are still sold are never old :D
 

davidgdg

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Very interesting review and it shows that paying for quality is often cheaper than paying cheap. I paid US$ 550 for a 500mw DX that only puts out about 400mw. So in terms of dollars per mw, your unit is comparably priced and far higher quality.
 

Traveller

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I paid $722 with PP fees and shipping to me.
I think it was $680 without.
I paid US$ 550 for a 500mw DX that only puts out about 400mw.
Including shipping costs we have:

$720/550 (avg) = $1.31/mW
$600/400 (avg?) = $1.5/mW

Looks like you are correct, however... not all CNI GB 400mW PGLs put out that much on average. If I look at a few reviews / posts, I think the average is closer to 450mW, which is of course still great for a 400mW-speced laser, but the $/mW ratio changes a bit to $1.6/mW.

The (other) key question is of course the build quality. To answer that, I'll have to re-read your review, but it's clear that Pierce is pleased with his version :) and normally I would be a bit reserved about buying a $550 unit from DX or any of it's similar budget competitiors... :whistle:
 




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