A lot of this review comes from my original review on Candlepowerforums. I have adapted the original for the purpose of review on this site.
Lux-RC Labs is based out of Russia and run by a single individual named Serge Dolgov. Serge handles the electronics of Team Oveready’s flashlights (such as the awesome BOSS 35) and is the creator of the venerable 371D light engine. What might be lesser known, however, is that Serge manufacturers his own flashlights unilaterally of Oveready. Prior to the introduction of the Minion R1, Serge’s products were limited to the FL33 and a few other exclusive flashlights. I recall visiting Serge’s website a few years ago and being blown away by the cost and exclusivity of such lights.
What sets the Minion apart from Serge’s previous products is the manner by which they are sold, as well as the availability. The Minion R1 represents – in my opinion – Serge’s gambit into the market that characterizes the custom flashlight world today; waves of “drops” in which lights are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Serge’s flashlights are sold exclusively from the Lux-RC website. Each time, Serge has a set amount of certain LEDs, secondary LEDS, and other options available for purchase.
There is a myriad of options with this flashlight. Here’s a breakdown of the options:
TIR or Mule. TIR uses the standard Carclo optic. From the TIR alone, you have your choice of narrow clear or narrow frosted. The Mule has no optic and exposes the bare LEDs. The TIR works better if you intend to use the light in a more general-use capacity, good for short to medium-range tasks. The mule has no defined hotspot and is best for close-range tasks.
Sapphire/UCL Glass. This is a new option that Serge introduced in the first 2018 run, I believe. Pretty self-explanatory stuff. Sapphire ranks at a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is the third-hardest mineral in the world. The UCL glass is, well, UCL glass. The Sapphire option adds on about $150 at the time of this review. Normally, it’d be a no-brainer to go with the UCL glass. As Henry of HDS Systems himself has said, sapphire offers little to no benefit over UCL. With the Minion, however, the glass is entirely exposed similar to some watch faces. Because the glass is not recessed, as in many other flashlights, sapphire DOES have an advantage over UCL. There have been a few reports of the UCL in Minion’s breaking upon impact, although they are few. Whether the upgrade is worth ~$150 is at an owner’s discretion.
Red/Amber/Yellow-Green Secondary LED. Red and amber both have their advantages and disadvantages. They are outlined here courtesy of Oveready. The Yellow-Green secondary is a new option to the first 2018 run.
XP-L HI 4000K/XP-L MDC 4200K/219C 4000K/XP-L2 5000K. These are the primary LED options at the time of this review. The brightest is the XP-L2 (2500 lumens at the LED), but I believe that it is exclusive to the Mule version because the LEDs are incompatible with the Carclo optic of the TIR. XPL-HI (1900 lumens at the LED) is the second brightest and is available in both mule and TIR. XPL-MDC (70% of HI’s output) is the third brightest and has a smoother beam and transition than the XPL-HI. Nichia 219C has the best color rendition (CRI) of them all, albeit with the least output.
Leather Necklace w/ Holder or “Naked”. The Minion has a magnetic tailcap that can connect to a holder for keychain/necklace carry. I highly recommend purchasing the holder; the Minion loses much of its utility “naked”. Whether or not the holder is worth the $60 upcharge is debatable, but it’s definitely a must.
At the time of this review, Serge is also offering a wrist-mount kit for the Minion R1 that can be purchased for an additional $400. I’m not sure exactly what it entails, but the upcharge is significant. You can also opt to 3D print a wrist-mount with an STL 3D file available on the site.
The options I chose to go with were TIR, XP-L MDC, amber secondary, and UCL. I also purchased the necklace holder. I chose the TIR because I’ve had mule flashlights before and they simply weren’t my cup of tea. If possible, I would’ve preferred 219c, but unfortunately they were not an option with the TIR in this run. After briefly consulting Serge, I made the decision to go with the MDC for the better beam profile. I only chose amber because my BOSS 35 already has the red secondary and I wanted something different (lol). UCL because I’m a broke student who doesn’t want to pay the $150 upcharge.
This is what arrived out of the packaging:
Very nice and professional. The box may not be as nice as Muyshondt’s or some other customs, but the environment sure appreciates it. The packaging seems similar to Zebralights? Very eco-friendly, I like it.
This is what was inside when I opened the box:
Serge includes a very nice bi-fold card with general instructions and some specifications. I think the card is recycled plastic.
Here is everything else that is included (minus the Mini-Griptillian). Leather lanyard, magnetic holder, the light itself:
Here is a size comparison to a few of my other lights:
As is seen, the Minion is truly tiny! I knew it would be small, but lining it up with other “small” lights really puts things into perspective. Keep in mind that the Minion is powered by an 18350 battery, so it’s not much bigger than the battery on its own! On the topic of batteries, the type of battery definitely makes a difference with this light. Because of the insane tolerances, using a button top is ill-advised. With some longer button tops, the light doesn’t twist far enough to close off the O-ring sufficiently, thus leaving a “gap” as well. I would highly recommend using a flat top, as such. I’ve had good luck with the Keeppower 750 mAh. The Efest 700 mAh is the perfect fit on mine, though, and allows for the light to turn on when it is fully twisted with zero gap. I will also note that the Keeppower 1200 fits. Battery fitment was an issue on the first run of Minions, but it seems that Serge has improved on the design of this run.
Here is the Minion in programming mode. As you can see, the secondary LED takes a much less-bright output to indicate it’s ready:
Actually programming the light:
In terms of longevity, the Minion is made to last. The fit and finish are superb, as is the build-quality. An issue with previous runs of the light was that the contact would wear down over time or chew up the battery This has been remedied with a new (brass?) button. I think stainless steel, overall, was the right choice of material. The next best metal would be titanium I think, but that would have been far too cost-prohibitive for production. I considered aluminum, but it simply isn’t as strong as the stainless steel. The benefits of aluminum would be better heat conductivity and weight. That being said, I don’t think the Minion is too heavy although you definitely feel its presence (which can be reassuring in its own way). I know that Serge has released a few, limited Minions in ceramic which is quite cool. In the event that the light does break, though, Serge has you covered with a life-time guarantee. Of course sending it back is a real hassle…
Going on a little more about durability and overall longevity. The Minion has an IP68 dust/ingression rating. This is one of the highest ratings possible (I think? It might be the second. I *think* IP69 is a thing). I asked Serge and he confirmed that the Minion is fully waterproof to 10 meters. I did submerge the Minion in a glass of water for half-an-hour with zero issues. I will also confess to having worn the Minion in the shower hehe. Despite the issues that can arise from the hotter temps (pressure and steam), I’ve experienced no issues and could not find any evidence of moisture getting past the o-ring. Serge has also mentioned several times that he uses watch technology to get the UCL on seamlessly. I can’t attest to the actual effectiveness, but it sure looks nice and and my watches have never had an issue being submerged.
Currently my settings on the light are set to Amber secondary, 0.6%, 3%, and 55%. I will confess to have never had a practical need for the highest setting yet, but there’s little doubt that it’s impressive. Most of my use with the Minion is on the second and third setting. The light has never heated up on Amber or 0.6%, but I could feel heat after an extended period of time with the 3%.
Let’s talk more about actual use. Maybe it’s just me, but the Minion really comes in handy when I wake up in the middle of the night and gotta use the toilet. I don’t use the locator beacon; I think it’s silly and obtrusive. Because I don’t use the locator beacon, it might explain why its easier for me to keep it on when I sleep: it’s much easier to find. I’ve switched out the metal chain I was initially using with the leather cord. It took about five minutes to set it up when I actually watched a video online on how to tie the knot LOL. The leather cord with the knot is a lot more versatile in my opinion. It allows you to adjust how high or low the Minion rests; in general, I like to wear it higher. When I run though, I like to wear it lower. Having the Minion bang against your chest every step is NOT fun.
Here’s a picture of how I normally wear it:
I definitely would not wear it over my shirt. I think it would look ridiculous and would defeat the purpose of carrying it. I have a neck knife and like to reach under my shirt to deploy it. In such a respect, the way Serge implemented a magnet in the Minion’s design is ingenious. I simply reach under my shirt and *wallah* I have the Minion in my hand. Unlike with the neck knife, I don’t even have to look to put the Minion back, the magnet snaps it right back.
Some other considerations of importance. While the weight of the Minion is pretty manageable, I wish it was a little less heavy sometimes. If Serge made a smaller version similar to the Minion with a smaller battery – like 10280 or 10180 – it’d be crazy cool. Granted there are trade-offs, like less output and capacity, but I do find myself wishing that the Minion were a tiny bit less obtrusive at times. Another way I like to use the light is to just turn it on and let it hang outside my shirt. Easy, hands-free illumination. However, this is the one type of use where I can see the advantage of the mule. 120 degrees would disperse the light a lot more effectively in this scenario. That being said, if you plan to use the Minion stand-alone without the lanyard attachment, I think it makes more sense to go with the TIR.
Time will tell how the Minion holds up, but as it stands, the Minion is definitely a keeper/grail in my eyes. I don’t foresee myself selling it anytime soon.
Let’s talk some concluding thoughts. I think that in it’s totality, the Minion is a home-run for Serge and Lux-RC. It represents some legit innovation, something that has been lacking as of late in the custom world. Even if its another triple, is there another triple this small and bright? The Minion currently holds the record for the most lumens to size ratio. In the flashlight world, lights seem to keep getting bigger and brighter. The Minion is the antithesis if there ever was one. I also think it’s pretty impressive that Serge has been able to pump out as many of these Minions as he has. Similar to how Oveready has kept BOSS production up, I think it’ll be interesting to see if Serge is able to do the same. In terms of the design choice, I think he made the right choice to go with a niche category. To my knowledge this is the only 18350 “neck light”. The only other comparable lights in this category are lights like the Mecharmy Illuminex, which the Minion absolutely tramples. I think Gyorgy Kemene’s Omicron is the only real other custom in this category. I have a good mind to pick one of his Omicrons up too, if funds allow! In essence, from both a business perspective and a product perspective, I think that Serge has done an excellent job with the Minion.
While this was indeed a very cool flashlight, I ultimately found it simply too big for neck or keychain carry. Without the magnetic piece (a $60 add-on) the flashlight lacks much application in real-use. It is without a doubt very well-built, but is most characterized as a curiosity piece.