Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com

Rechargeable Twin Beam Cordless Spotlight
By Dean Bielanowski

When is a torch not a torch? When it's a 3,000,000 candle power spotlight... that's when! Yes folks, this could be the biggest step up in the basic torch stakes since the transition from the candle to the light globe. Ok, ok, so no big deal, spotlights have been around for ages and anyone who has ever lived on a farm would have used many over the years, as would have campers, security personnel, the list goes on.

As Global Machinery Company (GMC) expand their range to beyond just woodworking tools, so comes the new lines of products for the specialist and home users. The VEC158-AU is new to the market (Jan 06) and in our effort to test as many newly released products as possible on Net-Reviews.com and OnlineToolReviews.com, we thought we would grab one and take a closer look.

I've seen the light!
Let me start by saying that I own a basic handheld torch (or flashlight if you prefer to call them that), you know, the type that takes those bulky brick batteries with the terminals on top, as well as a cheap rechargeable spotlight (500,000 candle power) that is almost dead after only perhaps 50 recharge cycles (it was real cheap and nasty!).

So when I opened up the VEC158-AU, I was initially surprised at its size. This is a pretty big torch... err spotlight. It ships in a plastic molded carry case that actually has a nice rubber overmold carry handle that is comfortable to hold. The case is not a lot bigger than the spotlight itself so it doesn't take up excess room in storage, and is small enough to take anywhere.

Weighing in at 3.4kgs, the VEC158-AU is a fairly heavy handheld tool. It is pretty well balanced in the hand, but there is a little front-bias that you have to counteract, and after time this can get tiresome holding the spotlight. Thankfully the unit comes with an in-built carry handle extending over the top of the tool so you can support the weight with two hands instead of one, greatly easing the load on your arm and wrist. This handle has a contoured rubber grip for additional comfort.

The VEC158-AU can deliver light with the capacity of 3,000,000 candles. Now, its hard to imagine how bright this is if you have not used these types of spotlights before, and its even harder to describe. Let's just say it is powerful enough to spot targets easily up to 100 meters away, and then some. I guess it depends how good your eyes are also. It's much, much more powerful than your standard home flashlight, and quite a bit more powerful than my other 500,000 candle power spotlight, six times more powerful to be exact (specification-wise at least). Take this out at night and you will have no trouble spotting whatever you need to find in the dark. I was pretty impressed with the power, but then again, I'm coming from something that was only 1/6 as powerful, so it would of course be even more impressive. GMC are retailing other spotlights as part of the new line-up as well. There is a second 3,000,000 power spotlight (with less features) and two 1,000,000 candle power "spottys", which of course would not be as powerful, but with lower price tags. Consult their website for more information on these.

The light intensity is adjustable. There is no adjustment wheel as such. You adjust intensity by turning off one of the two quartz halogen bulbs that the spotlight uses as its light provider. As you can see from the photos to the right, the spotlight employs two halogen bulbs located next to each other. These are 12v 100w Type H-3 bulbs. You should be able to source replacements from any good hardware, lighting or camping store without too much trouble if you need replacements. Carrying a spare set is always a good outdoor if you are planning a long trip away from civilization. At the rear of the spotlight head casing is the control to switch between single or dual bulb operation. Obviously, lighting up both bulbs provides more light, using a single bulb would give you roughly half as much light. The control switch has a third setting, and this is the "Area" light setting. When this is engaged, two additional bulbs, one located on each edge of the spotlight's front face light up providing a low intensity light source that is useful for close quarters work. These can remain on without using the trigger, whereas the main quartz halogen bulbs are only lit when the user holds the trigger in, and cease to function once the trigger has been released, so it is not possible to have full spotlight power continuously with hands free operation, you have to hold the trigger in constantly. This is where the Area lights take over if you need a constant hands free light source, but their range is limited to only about 10 meters of useful light from the emitting source. The area lights emit more of a bluey-white light, like that given off by a fluorescent tube light, whereas your main high power halogen bulbs emit the familiar yellow cast light. The trigger has a small flip up cover to prevent accidental or unwanted use by children, but accidental starting of a spotlight will not cut off a limb or cause any major personal injury, unless you are foolish enough to stare straight into the beams close up for any length of time.

Taking a look at the back end of the unit, we see the three-position light selector switch as discussed above. The flip up round rubber cover is where the spotlight's charger plugs in. The VEC158-AU carries 2 x 6v, 6Ah sealed lead acid batteries in its base that power the spotlight. These are maintenance-free batteries, the only maintenance needed is to recharge them when they go flat. They provide enough power for 40 minutes of continuous twin beam (full power) spotting. This is continuous run time, which means 40 minutes of illuminated use. This amounts to many hours of intermittent use out in the field or around the house/farm etc. If you use only the two small area lights for close-proximity illumination, the batteries will run these for around 20 hours. They use very little battery power in use. A full recharge will take about 4-6 hours. Our first recharge took closer to six hours. Also on the back of the unit is the outlet for the 12v DC car charging connection. This connection lead is provided and allows you to hook it into your car's cigarette lighter socket and charge the spotlight from your car battery. Of course, your car battery should be in good condition first. The last thing you want is a recharged spotlight but a flat car battery! But it offers that extra recharging option should you not be able to source a mains electricity supply (which you cannot often do when out on safari).

Another interesting addition is found on the base of the handle at the front. Under the flip cap is a 12v DC outlet. This allows you to run 12v DC appliances using the spotlight's batteries as the power source. There is a maximum current limit of 5 Amps for the connected device, but this is handy to power a number of portable tools like inflators, other battery chargers (for some mobile phones for example) and any other number of devices that can run off 12v DC power supplies. I thought the addition of this was very innovative and would be extremely useful if you have other 12v DC devices.

Moving to the base of the spotlight now... This is where the batteries are located, and they are encased so they are not readily accessible without a bit of screwdriver work. They do not need to be though, unless you want to change them out at the end of their service life (consult a specialist battery technician to do this). On the rear of the base is another handy feature. It is a battery status checker with a 4-LED light display. Simply push in the "Push For Status" button and the LED lights illuminate to show how much charge is remaining in the batteries. If 4 LED lights illuminate, the battery is fully charged, or close to fully charged. If only 1 lights up then it is close to being fully discharged. It provides a quick and easy way of determining battery status. I believe all cordless devices employing battery power should have something similar to check battery status, they are so useful and help eliminate getting caught out with a flat battery you thought was full before you left!

That's about it for the description of the VEC158-AU's features. I will mention the included color manual which describes all the functions with text and images, as well as maintenance and safety notes, all of which you will abide by of course, right? If you said no, then I have a frown on my face... safety first. Just because it is a spotlight and not a table saw doesn't mean it is totally safe to use with a careless mindset!

It's hard to offer any kind of quantitative analysis with this tool. I can only offer my opinion and here it is. The unit costs AUD$129.95 in Australia. This makes for an expensive torch. But a torch it isn't. It's a spotlight, a cordless one at that, and one which delivers a very powerful beam of light. Good quality 1,000,000 candle power cordless spotlights can cost up to $100 or more. Having a 3,000,000 candle power spotty with the added extra features like the Area light function and the 12v DC outlet function and battery status checker makes for a complete spotlight tool. I feel it's well worth the $129.95 price tag. It seems well made with quality components and just feels really solid, not cheap and flimsy. If you have a regular need for a good spotlight, are a regular camper or suffer frequent blackouts during summer storm seasons (like me), having one of these spotlights around is very handy indeed. If the budget doesn't stretch that far, you could try the lower-powered models also offered by GMC.

Overall, I'd give this unit 8 out of 10 (if I had to rate it on a scale). If there was a way to lock the trigger on temporarily, I'd give it 8.5 or 9. It can sometimes be a pain to hold the trigger in for any length of time, but otherwise, it's a good, high-powered unit that is feature rich, and priced reasonably well.

For more information on GMC tools and products, head on over to their website at www.gmcompany.com

GMC VEC158-AU Photos
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The GMC VEC158-AU Spotlight

It comes in its own plastic molded carry case for storage or transportation.

Supplied are a standard power supply to recharge the battery, as well as a 12v car attachment for charging on the go.

Twin Beams offer up to 3,000,000 candle power output! Note on of the area light bulbs located on the side of the torch to the right in this picture.

The integrated handle relieves some strain on your trigger hand.

Connections are shown here for the standard and car chargers, as well as the option to switch between single or twin beam light strength.

The battery status indicator...
Very handy!

The integrated 12v DC outlet can even power other "tools" or appliances that have a DC car connection available for them!

Lower powered area lights are a handy addition.

3,000,000 candle power!