As long as there has been the Internet there has been a forum for discussions of “best ever.” Recently, LeBron James did a pretty convincing job of closing out the debate on who is the best ever in the NBA. I would concede that rules changes have made eras pretty incomparable (dunks were banned, there was no 3 point line, goaltending became a foul), but insofar as we can quantify performance (and in games with a definition of winning, you can always quantify performance), LeBron has a solid case. Him overtaking Kareem for the all time points leader only drew attention to the fact that he has been the best basketball player to ever play since about 2019. The Jordan fanboys could still point to Kareem and obfusicate the issue. But now with championships with three teams, a sizable lead in advanced metrics compared to other players, and the points lead, the debate, if it was still alive, is over. Interestingly LeBron is also the greatest GOAT of the big four US sports—he is 20.59% better than second place MJ compared to Brady over Breese (15.03%), Ruth over Johnson (9.99%), and Gretzky over Bourque (3%). All Hail the King.
Didn’t expect a sports segue did you?
But is there a flashlight King? Is there a best EDC light ever made—a GOAT EDC torch? The BOSS 35 is pretty darn powerful, well made, and well designed, but its battery format makes it biggish. The Muyshondt Aeon Mk. 3 is smaller, but not as bright. Is there one light that you could give to an enthusiast and have them be wholly satisfied (with the understanding that emitters come and go?)? If there is, the CWF Micro Acardian might be it. Its slim, easy to use, well made, and staggeringly bright. It does a lot really, really well. Its pretty unquestionably great. But it is the best?
Here is the product page. The CWF Micro Arcadian costs $490. There are no written reviews. Here is a video review. There are a ton of different materials and finishes. They available sporadically at various sites.
Finally, here is my review sample:
Quick Review Summary: So nearly perfect its frustrating.
Ordering and Warranty Notes: I bought this light directly from Charles Wiggins himself (he is the CW in CWF…I’ll leave you to speculate about what the “F” stands for). It was shipped fast and arrived less than five days later. About three months in, it just shut down. I don’t know if it got lost in a hidden mode or what, but nothing I did, including a full factory mode reset, fixed the problem. I sent it to Charles, he fixed it, and sent back my original light. I have had and used the light for about six months since with no problems whatsoever. The mode menu here is not complicated, so I have no idea what happened. It could be that I just locked out the light, but that is not possible according to the manual. Whatever it was, it hasn’t happened since. This is a reason to have a button-press free factory reset feature. It also makes me think that the video-only mode menu access feature on the BOSS is ideal. More on this in UI.
Dead simple with an elongated hourglass clip, this is a nice light that does a lot very well. The clicky is responsive and fast and the overall slim build allows the light to be tucked into a pocket and then ignored for the rest of the day until you need it. Getting this much light out of such a small and easy to carry package is quite nice.
Fit and Finish: 2
Charles Wiggins is an excellent machinist. The Micro Arcadian is slim and smooth with no stray machining marks. The pieces of the body tube mate together well and without any wiggle. The threads are easy to start and the pieces tighten and loosen without problem. The Emitter is dead center. The entire body tube and clip are finished beautifully.
While the slick body tube doesn’t seem to have a good grip, its actually fine, even in gloves. I wouldn’t where wool gloves with this light, but in leather gloves its fine. This is in part because of the elongated hour glass shape and because the pocket clip works well at providing a little bit of a hand hold.
This is the place where flashlight enthusiasts will really get excited. The 1xAAA format is so nice as it disappears in the pocket, but with 650 lumens on the high end you won’t have a problem lighting up whatever you need. This light, like the best 1xAAA lights, really does give you the best of both worlds—compact carry and tons of photons. Over the years, I have come to heavily prefer this battery format over all others. My favorite lights are generally the 1xAAA format. I think the Laulima Hoku is one of the best, if not THE best light for EDC out there, given that the Aeon Mk. 3’s output is now well below par. These lights are so great because the provide plenty of grip but don’t cause pocket bulges like a CR123a. Of the lights in this format I have carried this is one of the very best.
650 lumens on high and a small match light on low make this a great light in terms of output. I really wish the UI was different, that can’t change (I mean that—when I sent the light in for warranty work I asked Charles to wipe it and install a simple L-M-H output). This reminds me again that output is not the end all, be all. If lumens are equal to HRc you get the point—people don’t pick knives based on HRc (or I should say “smart people don’t”).
While the light gets hot on high pretty quickly (this is the one flaw with a small torch—heat dissipation is very difficult), it can run on low forever. I have stopped measuring runtimes because they are just absurd now and unlike with the OTF turbo highs, they are absurd in a good way. Modern lights can go for days on low, especially if that low is moonlight low. The more relevant issue now is how long can they go on high without becoming skin-searing hot. Here, the Micro Arcadian does decently well.
Beam Type: 2
I was surprised at the beam pattern here. It wasn’t the normal floody mess, but instead a very tight hotspot with almost no spill at all. Compared to something like the oLight Baton, this thing looks like a laser beam. CWF definitely commits in one direction and the result is a very good torch in terms of throw. Given the low output it works decent up close too. Maybe this is an ideal compromise in terms of beam type—tight hotspot no flood and let the low modes do the up close work.
Beam Quality: 2
At this price range the beam better be nice and, thankfully, it is. There is not a smidge of artifacting, no holes, and the centered emitter results in a beautiful circular beam. The color is nice, too, though I opted for the higher CRI emitter, so that should not be surprise. Its not quite as good as some of the new emitters (519s), but it is as good as my beloved Nicha 219b.
User-swappable modes are like moveable shelves—they seem like a feature, but they are a flaw. With moveable shelves you have to find those stupid little pins or brackets and if you don’t have all four the shelf is less useful. Furthermore, especially with the min-brackets aligning them so the shelf is flat is not terribly easy to do. And, of course, once you find the height you want, you never move them again. I have built multiple pieces of furniture with both moveable and unmoveable shelves and I have never had someone complain about the unmoveable shelves. If you space them correctly and give strong visual cues in your design people figure out where to put stuff that is the right size for the given shelf pretty quickly. Similarly, this light shows the potential flaw with user-swappable modes. With only one button and one indicator, you can get lost pretty easily. I have no idea how I locked out the light forever, but I did. Set the output sequence smartly (moonlight, low, medium, and high), give it mode memory, and your done. You allow the user to start at any output they want and you avoid the hassle of complex multi-click menus. The Haiku did it and it has worked well for me for 13 years. This light only had one issue with being locked out, but I have never had such an issue with my Aeon, Hoku, BOSS 35, Prometheus Delta, Focusworks F2, Frelux Synergy 1, or the aforementioned Haiku. High end lights have fixed this problem and the fact that it lingers for the Micro Arcadian shows that there is still some refinement that could be done.
Hands Free: 1
Despite looking like it can, this light can’t tailstand. More frustrating—its so close, like a quarter inch more of a titanium shroud around the button and the light could tailstand. This is a design flaw for sure. Fully shrouded clickies aren’t a problem. Lots of lights do this and there is no issue with accessing the button. To have a light LOOK like it can do this, but not be able to is, really bummer, especially when the rest of the light is so good.
Fidget Factor: Moderate
Its a clicky. There is something to do here.
Fett Effect: Moderate
Satin Ti is not exactly 15V, but it will show so quite a bit of wear over time as you can see here. Natural stonewash, here I come.
The price here isn’t crazy, but $479 is a lot to spend on a flashlight when you can get a pretty decent 1xAAA light like the Reylight Mini Pineapple for $80.
Overall Score: 18 of 20
This light is so agonizingly close to perfect. With two small changes, one to the UI and one to the tailcap, this would an absolutely perfect torch, no doubt about it. As it is, the Micro Arcadian is still a very good torch. It found time in my pocket regularly and I was never disappointed when I had to use it. It is bright, compact, easy to carry, and easy to use. The light is clean and the beam is lush. It does so many things so right that these two small flaws just drive me crazy. I want this light to be better because its perfect form is so tantalizingly close. Alas, this isn’t the GOAT EDC. That title still probably goes to the Hoku. Its glorious.
There is a lot of competition out there in the high end light market but no light is more similar than the Laulima Hoku and its just better. A long, long time ago when I used to play Magic the Gathering, there was a term used when comparing cards called “openly comparable.” It meant that two things were identical in every way, but one was just better. That is the way it is with the Micro Arcadian and the Hoku. Same battery format, similar output, both with excellent beams, but one can tailstand and doesn’t have a needlessly complex UI and the other is this light. Given how close they are in design, the better one seems substantially better even if it is only incrementally nicer. Add to that you can score a Hoku for less than this light and it is hard to conclude that this light is better. I am okay with twisties so the base (and smaller) Hoku doesn’t bother me, but you can find Hokus with clickies as well. This isn’t to say that the Micro Arcadian is bad, its just that the Hoku is the same light without the two flaws. I also find the machining on the Hoku a little better, with smoother buttery threads.
Oddly the most direct competitor is the aforementioned Reylight Mini Pineapple. That is a damn good light for the price and though it doesn’t belch out 650 lumens, it is still plenty bright and $400 cheaper. The Surefire Titan Plus is a really excellent light, even now, eight years later and it too is $400 cheaper. I really like the much dimmer Ti Beta from Prometheus Lights, but it is dim enough that the Micro Arcadian’s output is a real step up. The unfortunately named Chicro from Cloud Defensive is another 1xAAA clicky and it has USB-C charging built-in. Like the Reylight it is not meaningfully dimmer and it is also cheaper. It lacks a bolt on clip, so that is a drawback. There are a bunch of 1xAAA production lights that peak around 130 lumens and so I am not going to bother making the comp here. Of those the EagTac D25AAA is much smaller and way, way cheaper and probably my favorite.
Reylight Mini Pineapple (aluminum)
Surefire Titan Plus
Cloud Defensive Chicro