So first off Cree is one of the top producers of LEDs in the world along with Acuity, Eaton, GE, Philips, Osram, and Nichia. Not all of these make LEDs for flashlights.
XM-L is one of the Cree's High Lumen Output, High Efficacy lines of LEDs with a 5-mm x 5-mm footprint. Cree shows up lots on our most powerful lights guide. We have another article about Cree instead of about LEDs here.
The T6, U4, S2 is the binning of the LEDs. What this means is that as they are producing the LEDs as each one is finished it is tested for minimum luminous flux at 700 mA (lm) and maximum luminous flux at 700 mA (lm) based on the outcomes they are put into different groups. These groups run from S2 to U4 as follows.
148 – 156 lm
156 – 164 lm
164 – 172 lm
172 – 182 lm
182 – 200 lm
200 – 220 lm
220 – 240 lm
240 – 260 lm
260 – 280 lm
280 – 300 lm
300 – 320 lm
320 – 340 lm
340 – 360 lm
Also within these the company produces all of these with different CRI color specifications and are separated in Cool White, Neutral White and Warm White.
There is not anything particularly good or bad because of grouping or color it is just up to personal preference. If you are looking for something with a warmer tint usually it will be between the S3 and T4 groups with the lower being able to get lower color temperature. Part of the reason they are in the lower bins is that the warmer color produced needs more power to create higher lumens.
Once you get up to the T6 range and above you are in the cool white area of the color temperatures.
With all of that said Cree has also released a XM-L2 that is the second generation of the XM-L. Most current flashlights are using the XM-L2.
This can get confusing since some manufacturers are actually naming their lights after the name of the Cree LED and the bin luminous flux group. In fact one of the most searched for flashlights on the internet is the Ultrafire XML-T6 which really does not even tell you much aside from the type of LED in the flashlight. Also some flashlights even have the name Cree on the side of them even though I am pretty sure Cree does not produce their own flashlights.
We will now go over a couple flashlights that have the Cree XM-L LEDs from really budget options to more expensive options. Really the LED itself is one of the cheaper parts of the flashlight. What makes a flashlight great is the quality of the other electronics, durability and the balance of that with price.
The Cree XM-L T6 Flashlight Throwdown
If you do a search on google or amazon for Cree XM-L T6 Flashlight you will find a bunch of flashlights that look like this… Lots and Lots… Basically all of these flashlights are the same flashlight so if you really want one of these then I would recommend going for whatever is cheapest. These are the lights that usually are connected with the scam flashlights that are on the TV telling you that this is the best Navy Seal flashlight that you will evern find… Blah, Blah, Blah… You will find these lights priced from 2 for under $20 to MSRP of $200 with a special 75% off limited time special and you can buy it now in the next 3 hours for only the first 100 callers for $50. In reality these light can be found wholesale for 3-4 bucks in large quantities. I am not saying that this is a bad flashlight ut just know what you are paying for. And, even at $10 a light you can probably find one that is more well made. I will not put any specs for these lights since I do not recommend them and really they will all probably not be very close what is stated.
Well that is it… if you really want a XM-L T6 then follow the link above and maybe look for other lights on Amazon that also have that…
The reason I cut that short is like I said above, most current lights are using the XM-L2 which can also be had in the same group numbers. Lets take a look at some XM-L2 Flashlights…
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This is one of our favorite EDC lights out right now. The way that Olight handles tiny, durable, rechargeable, affordable is a pretty good mix. This little light can put out 1000 lumens and is not much bigger than a chap-stick. This light comes with a Cree XM-L2 CW with a color temperature of 6500K and 70 CRI. This light is also available in a couple other types of metal so you can get the look that you are going for.
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The Skillhunt is a great budget 18650 headlamp. It is easily rechargeable and even though Skillhunt is not quite as known as other big flashlight producers they have been around for a long time and they make great value lights. We really like these right angle lights for both EDC or for headlamps. This light puts out 1200 lumens. It comes with 4 different modes and can quickly go to the both the lowest brightness level or the brightest level. These shortcuts are really convenient. The XM-L2 in this light is in the U4 grouping so it is putting out lots of lumens per amount of power.
Final Thoughts for Cree XM-L LEDs T6 and Other Lights
The Cree XM-L T6 is not the lights that we would go for right now… Simply because the Cree XM-L2 is the newer generation of LEDs in that family from Cree. But, there are a bunch of nice lights that are using the Cree XM-L2.
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