The Oveready BOSS 35…it’s no secret that this is my favorite flashlight. Released back in October 2016, the BOSS set the standard for the custom flashlight market. I still remember saving up, working part-time in high school, for this flashlight. Since then, it has seen me through years of daily use and remains my trusty pocket companion. From dozens of accidental drops onto concrete to pretty much everything a college student can throw at it, my BOSS 35 has seen it all. But I would be lying if I said some part of me wasn’t pining for an upgrade. After all, four years in the rotation is a long time, and a flashlight geek like myself is always on the lookout for something new.
Enter the BOSS 35 FT. It sports a new design and the latest light engine from Lux-RC, the 371 2.0, which promises a bounty of upgrades over the original 371D light engine (the “D” a stand-in for the word “dumb,” by the way). Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to purchase one (did I really need it?) and I spent months toiling over it, waiting for the ideal configuration to show up in Oveready’s online store. My personal BOSS 35 FT, then, sports Nichia 219b LEDs and an amber secondary LED. At the time of this writing, the BOSS 35 FT in aluminum will set you back $473 from Oveready. That’s certainly not chump change and, after three months getting to know the BOSS 35 FT, I’ll finally be taking a look at whether it fulfills the lofty expectations set by its predecessor.
This product was purchased at a discount from Oveready in exchange for review. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own, honest ones to the best of my ability.
The first thing one will notice about the BOSS 35 FT’s design is its new bodily ergonomics. It sports a forward taper, hence “FT,” whereas the original BOSS utilized a reverse taper (“RT”). I had my reservations going into this, and finally being able to hold the BOSS 35 FT, I don’t think these concerns were unfounded. The biggest issue with the FT is that it significantly diminishes one’s ability to cigar-grip the flashlight. The RT’s triad tail cap tapered inwards laterally, thus affording a more secure “lock” on one’s fingers. Not only is this tail cap taper not present on the FT, but it is also less comfortable by virtue of forcing one’s fingers to work around a wider diameter. The benefit of the FT is a 10% decrease in weight (negligible in my opinion) and easier facilitation of the stack-o’-coins grip. Both work equally well for the pencil grip. Again, I need stress this is more a preference of flavor than anything, but if you’re asking me…the original RT is better. And c’mon, whatever happened to the totally awesome, futuristic, rocket ship ethos?
Phew, I had to get that off my chest. From a design aspect, the BOSS 35 FT has everything else in spades. The triad tail cap still facilitates tail standing and there are slight indentations at the bezel so one can tell if the flashlight is on when it’s face-down. You still have your McClicky, forward-clicky switch in there. I was also pleasantly surprised by the new speed clip. While I’ve grown accustomed to the super-tight nature of my original BOSS’s clip (it’s still crazy tight, four years of daily use later), the speed clip is more pocket-friendly. The tension is just right, and the lip is angled in a crescent – some might say it looks like a spoon – which should reduce abrasion on one’s finger. It’s the little details like this that add up.
And speaking of which: those elusive little details; more specifically, build quality. Oveready’s no stranger to this, and thankfully, the BOSS 35 FT does not eschew this trend. This is all coming from someone with very high standards for build quality. And to illustrate just how picky I am, I could only pinpoint one issue with the BOSS 35 FT’s build: clip placement. If you examine the placement of the clip closely – and I’m not sure if this’ll even be visible in a picture – you can see that the clip has been screwed in biased ever-so-slightly to the right. We’re talking by a margin of less than a millimeter here; nonetheless, this is the stuff I keep my eyes peeled for when assessing build quality.
Avid readers will already know my thoughts on 7075-T6 aluminum, the material being used in the BOSS: This is the ideal metal for a flashlight. It has a wonderful strength-to-weight ratio and maintains excellent thermal conductivity. Sure, there’s stuff like titanium (which I’m a sucker for) that are more dense but fall short on thermal conductivity, and stuff like copper/brass which look great and have excellent thermal conductivity but are far too malleable. So again: 7075’s the best metal, at least in my opinion, that can be employed in a flashlight that is actually going to see regular use.
Physical Grade: A-
Those who have read my original BOSS review will know that it sits at a lofty “A” grade for technical performance on my ranking list. No, it certainly wasn’t perfect, but against the competition? It was leaps and bounds ahead. It also worked in–practice, the grounding metric for my reviews, terrifically. In particular, the red secondary LED afforded a new level of convenience for those nighttime bathroom runs. Yes, really.
Now, output and runtime are difficult to nail down with the BOSS. Oveready publishes output at the LED, meaning that the numbers on paper are inflated. Once you take into account the optic and bezel getting in the way, the out-the-front numbers can be considered roughly ~30% less. Furthermore, the Nichia versions of the BOSS do not get as bright as the XPL-HI versions. To the point of the measuring runtime, you also won’t get consistent results because the 371 2.0 automatically adjusts the max output based on the ambient temperature. So if you fan-cool the flashlight, you’ll get higher output and less runtime; if you have the flashlight doused in hot water, you’ll get less output and more runtime. Based on measurements ran by Zak here, I would not expect the BOSS to be efficiency porn on the highest settings, but it should be good for the lower-to-medium outputs. It stands that I don’t care about most of this because, realistically, anything over a few hundred lumens is moot for most EDC scenarios.
Likewise, this is a triple-LED configuration. One should not purchase a BOSS flashlight expecting terrific amounts of throw or a search-and-rescue spotlight; that’s not what the flashlight is intended for. It presents a wide, diffuse hotspot of Hi-CRI goodness that should work ideally for close-to-medium range tasks. And yes, I recommend going for those Nichia 219b/c LEDs unless you absolutely need all the lumens. In the latter instance, go for the XP-L HI version. In all cases, you’ll have access to either a red or amber secondary LED depending on which you purchased. Go for the amber if you want something brighter and go for the red if you want something more subtle. It’s mostly preference, though.
So let’s break down what you’re getting with 371 2.0; there’s quite a bit of it, so do forgive me if this is more so a brief summary. I’ll link the full literature here for your convenience.
One of the biggest limitations of the original 371D is that you were effectively limited to one mode group (with four modes) at a time. You could only reprogram it via the Lux-RC website or if you had a file already downloaded to one of your devices. That still hasn’t changed with the 371 2.0, and while it represents a larger conundrum (wireless programming is cool and all, but you’re screwed in the event that the Lux-RC website ever goes down), you can now program up to four mode groups with the BOSS 35 FT. These mode groups are swappable directly from the flashlight itself and, even better, each now sports room for up to eight modes. That’s a pretty substantial jump over the original light engine if you ask me! There’s a number of other features that have been implemented or ported over as well:
- Motion sensing – there is a force sensor in the light engine that detects when the flashlight has been moved. You can set a timer for either 10 seconds or a minute for which the flashlight will then dim down. Then after another minute and ten minutes respectively, the flashlight will enter “hibernation mode” where it will shift to the red LED exclusively, blinking every three seconds or so. If you move the flashlight, it’ll automatically revert back to the last mode the flashlight was on.
- Double-tap. Finally! This is one of my favorite features of the venerable Dr. Jones H17f driver. But the implementation’s not quite perfect here, at least in my opinion. The 371 2.0 (and original 371D) has a soft-start where it checks the ambient environment’s temperature before deciding output. While it’s extremely quick, I do feel that it can sometimes throw things off when I’m double-tapping. Outside of this, you’re limited to two options with double-tap. One option will automatically default to the last setting you have programmed in the mode group (generally max output), while another will allow you to reverse the order with which you’re going through the modes.
- Bounce; the light engine has a light sensor (also used for the programming) which captures the amount of light that is reflected back. If it exceeds a certain threshold, the flashlight will automatically swap to the red LED. This could prove very useful if you accidentally turn the flashlight on in your pocket (highly unlikely given the triad tail cap) and have max output as the first setting.
- Battery grader. This does a load test of the battery and spits out a score (in blinks) from one to five with five being the best.
- Battery check. This will give you the voltage of the battery. White blinks for the ones digit and red blinks for the decimal. Remember, this is only useful if you a good idea for what the various voltages correspond to in terms of capacity for an 18350 battery!
Objectively, 371 2.0 is more advanced than the original 371D and it maintains everything that made the original great. Is it good enough to “break the scale” and to be the first “A+,” so to speak? I definitely had to give this some consideration. But given that the original wasn’t quite perfect, I think I’ll bump it down to an “A-” and keep the 371D 2.0 at the original’s grade; at the very least it affords a terrific UI that merits no less than top-marks.
Technical Grade: A
Assessment of Value.
When it was first released, the original BOSS was groundbreaking to the extent of which I dubbed it a “modern classic”. I can’t pretend to have kept up with the flashlight world very closely the last couple years, but I can say it’s come a good way, particularly on the budget front. So in this context, I do not think I would qualify the BOSS 35 FT in the same regard. But considering that, to my knowledge, the only other alternative for a secondary LED in custom flashlights remains – oh dear – the Dragon driver, it certainly does put a damper on the extent to which the custom flashlight world has progressed. In this vein, I would hold that the BOSS still sets the benchmark for custom flashlight performance and merits its worth.
★ (Worth The Price)
There you have it. While the BOSS FT’s new design isn’t quite what I would consider ideal, the benefits of the new 317 2.0 light engine are undeniable. Once again, the BOSS FT has set a new standard for custom flashlights. And do note my use of the word “custom flashlights”. You can get this level of performance – all the lumens and runtime – out of a budget flashlight if that’s more your speed. That’s not hard. What is difficult, then, is getting this level of performance with stunning build and features that don’t bog down the flashlight in practice. Once upon a time, custom flashlights were the progenitors of innovation; in my eyes, the BOSS remains a prime example of what a custom torch is still capable of, what a custom torch should be capable of.