Grab Bag Review: Ultrasabers Initiate LE V4 in Guardian Blue

If you’re anything like me, you probably find the prospect of owning realistic-looking lightsaber replicas very appealing. I mean, why else would you be here if that weren’t the case? However, if you do share my mindset, it is also highly likely that you’ve struggled to settle on a particular color and hilt for your LED-driven blade. With an almost endless variety of color and hilt combinations available from a variety of different sabersmiths, the configuration options can be intimidating, especially for someone who simply wants to try out a saber or who doesn’t have the budget to purchase a fully-loaded hilt. Fortunately, the folks at Ultrasabers may have a solution.

Grab Bag sabers from Ultrasabers allow Star Wars fans who are on the fence about LED-powered lightsabers to try the concept with relatively little investment. They don’t feature premium options like sound or flash-on-clash, but for just $55 ($70 with a blade), these randomly-selected sabers seem like great values. I recently picked up two of these offerings and today we will take a look at one of them, the Initiate LE V4.

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The Hilt

The first thing I thought when handling the Initiate V4 was, “this thing looks like it came straight out of The Old Republic.” While original trilogy and even prequel trilogy sabers seem to have a more industrial look and feel, Old Republic era blades (both those featured in KOTOR and SWTOR) often feature more elegant or more eccentric designs. The silver and gold Initiate LE V4 looks like something that might have been found in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant before Darth Malgus sacked the edifice during the Great Galactic War.

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The only real gripe I have regarding the Initiate’s appearance is that, like many Ultrasabers hilts, it is a little on the basic side. Seeing as how this is essentially a $70 saber, it probably isn’t reasonable to expect it to look like a movie prop, but the total lack of additional details or “greeblies” leaves the hilt somewhat boring. The upside of this is that the Initiate is a prime candidate for customization.

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In terms of ergonomics, I consider the Initiate V4 to primarily be a one-handed saber. At 9.875” long, it offers more than enough real estate for two-handed use, but its two chokepoints (the hyperboloid-shaped emitter and a neck just forward of the switch section) are too far forward on the hilt for the second hand to grip. This in no way disqualifies the Initiate from being wielded with both hands, it just means that it isn’t as natural as my Ultrasabers Dark Sentinel for this application.

A look at the Initiate's blade retention screw. Blades only sit about 2" into the hilt.

A look at the Initiate’s blade retention screw. Blades only sit about 2″ into the hilt.

Speaking of the two chokepoints, both sit at 1.2“ in diameter, as opposed to 1.45” for the thicker portions of the hilt. For spinning purposes, the emitter seems like the obvious point of contact, but I actually prefer using the second slim portion forward of the switch for spins as the emitter is close enough to the blade that I sometimes end up touching the rod of imaginary plasma.

The emitter is a great choke point on the Initiate LE V4.

The emitter is a great choke point on the Initiate LE V4.

With a standard Midgrade or Ultraedge Midgrade blade, the Initiate V4’s center of gravity rests around 2.5” forward of the emitter. As a result, the Initiate’s blade doesn’t quite feel weightless, but it is very light. Since I purchased this saber solely for display, I did not choose a Heavy Grade blade.

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A pleasant surprise with this grab bag saber was the inclusion of a silver, non-illuminated anti-vandal switch. Compared to the standard, guarded switch, the AV button is a noticeable upgrade that not only blends in with the styling of the hilt, but is also far less likely to be accidentally pressed.

The anti-vandal switch is an upgrade on most Ultrasabers models. It is a nice feature on a grab bag.

The anti-vandal switch is an upgrade on most Ultrasabers models. It is a nice feature on a grab bag.

Now, when I opened the hilt for the first time, I was surprised to find a substantial amount of hot glue backing the AV switch. While the switch is threaded, Ultrasabers has elected to simply press the part into a non-threaded hole and then hot glue it in place. It isn’t exactly an elegant solution, but it works well enough.

The pommel is knurled and unscrews to reveal the battery pack.

The pommel is knurled and unscrews to reveal the battery pack.

My Initiate arrived with some slight damage near the pommel. This is normal for grab bag sabers.

My Initiate arrived with some slight damage near the pommel. This is normal for grab bag sabers.

Blade & LED

Since I opted for a random color with this grab bag saber, I had no input on LED color. While I frankly didn’t care what color showed up, I am very pleased with the Guardian Blue LED in my Initiate V4. Even as the single diode version (as opposed to the slightly more expensive Tri-Cree option), the saber is surprisingly bright and suits my dark theater room very well. It’s always difficult to capture realistic photos of LED saber blades, but the images below should give readers a good sense of Guardian Blue’s true appearance. If you’re hoping to have movie-like brightness, this saber isn’t going to meet your expectations, but the white core effect of the film sabers isn’t really achievable with current technology.

This is a reasonably close approximation of the Guradian Blue blade's color in person.

This is a reasonably close approximation of the Guardian Blue blade’s color in person. This is with the Ultraedge blade.

The single blue LED Engin 5W diode in the Initiate hilt is powered by four AAA batteries wired to a resistor for current regulation. While I had the LED out of the hilt for inspection, I did notice that the back side and top of the switch shows some burn marks. They appear to have been caused by the soldering iron during assembly an aren’t necessarily the product of bad electronics. Either way, I’ll be watching the area closely.

The LED sits loose in the hilt and is retained by the blade when inserted.

The LED sits loose in the hilt and is retained by the blade when inserted.

Out of the box, the Initiate LE V4 came equipped with a standard 36” Midgrade blade. Because Midgrade blades are made with clear polycarbonate tubing and reflective interior film, they do an excellent job of transmitting the original color of the LED. However, I’ve found that the deep blue color of Ultrasabers’ Guradian Blue does not look quite right with this blade. As the light moves further down the length of the clear polycarbonate, the edge of the color becomes somewhat fuzzy and almost looks like a black light.

I'm not a fan of the fuzzy edges with the Midgrade blade.

I’m not a fan of the fuzzy edges with the Midgrade blade.

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The Midgrade blade's tip is rather obvious, even when lit.

The Midgrade blade’s tip is rather obvious, even when lit.

A closer look at the Midgrade blade's "coring" effect.

A closer look at the Midgrade blade’s “coring” effect.

Since I didn’t care for the look of the Guradian Blue paired with the Midgrade blade, I swapped it for my Dark Sentinel’s Ultraedge Midgrade blade. The frosty white polycarbonate of the Ultraedge looks much nicer on the blue saber, even if it slightly lightens the color. With the Ultraedge, the blue blade looks much more evenly lit and has better defined edges. The Ultraedge blade’s tip is also much less noticeable when lit than the standard Midgrade.

The Ultraedge blade is white when the saber is off.

The Ultraedge blade is white when the saber is off.

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This should give readers a sense of the Ultraedge blade’s overall brightness. In person, the blue is a bit richer.

Regardless of blade opacity, I cannot recommend dueling with Ultrasabers’ Midgrade blades. The company is quite clear that their Heavy Grade offerings are intended for dueling while the Midgrades are for display. The blades I received with the Initiate can rather easily be bent by hand and the inner diffusion film deflects inward when this happens. It isn’t difficult to see that the Midgrade blade’s appearance/performance could be significantly hindered with anything more than light sparring.

Ultrasabers glues the diffusion film inside their blades.

Ultrasabers glues the diffusion film inside their blades.

While we are discussing damage to the blade, it is worth noting that my Initiate’s Midgrade blade does have some noticeable imperfections. Most significant of these is a small dimple in the diffusion film just above the emitter. With the LED illuminated, the issue isn’t very obvious.

My Midgrade blade arrive with a wrinkle in the diffusion film.

My Midgrade blade arrived with a small wrinkle in the diffusion film.

The Verdict

For a saber that cost me around $70 all-in, I am very pleased with the Initiate LE V4. To purchase one in this configuration outright would run closer to $90, so I feel like I did quite well with my first grab bag experience. The saber isn’t perfect and I think Ultrasabers’ hilts could use some work in the aesthetics department, but the pricing is right and the grab bag offerings are a great way for newcomers to try out LED-powered sabers without dropping an inordinate amount of money.

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These sabers look just like the movies on camera, but aren’t quite as bright in person, nor do they have the white core that you see in this photo.

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