Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. That’s right, we’re checking out some lightsabers today that have been sent over to use from Encalife, a company probably better known for its star projectors and telescopes, but now they’re entering the Kyber crystal game it seems.
Replica lightsabers are incredibly popular amongst Star Wars fans, especially amongst cosplayers and convention goers who want to dress up as Jedi Knights and Sith Lords. While many people want exact reproductions of the lightsabers that Obi-Wan and Darth Vader use, others want to create their own force-wielding characters and that’s where companies like Encalife come in.
But how do the Encalife lightsabers stack up against the best lightsabers out there? There is a lot of competition out there already, with companies like Sabertrio and Vader’s Vault offering high-end, high cost sabers, while places like Kyber offer great entry-level options for Star Wars fans. Encalife is clearly aiming more at the latter category with these sabers which retail at $199, but can usually be found for $150.
Encalife lightsabers: Design and assembly
Encalife was kind enough to send us over three of their different lightsaber hilt designs to check out and play around with - black, gray, and red. The black saber is a relatively simple design with indented rings and silver banding adding a bit of flair. There is also a protruding hexagonal design on the bottom of the saber that looks a lot like the end of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber.
The red design is actually mainly black, but with sinister red banding for the accent details. There is far more texture to this saber’s handle, with multiple grooves where your fingers naturally sit when you’re holding it. It has a more intricate design at the top where the blade comes out, with a slanted emitter port that has several slits in it, allowing the lit blade to shine through.
The gray blade is somewhere between the other two in terms of design. It has a gray metal body and silver trim, but shares the slanted emitter port with the red saber, though the cutout design is shaped as an inverted T, rather than the three slits.
All three hilts are made from solid metal and have a suitable heft to them. They feel well made, the finish is clean, and all of the various screw-on sections and connecting parts are well machined. All the sabers look and feel great, although they’re nowhere near as intricately detailed as official lightsabers which might put some people off, especially if you’re after something more elaborate primarily for display.
Assembly is a piece of cake. The saber blade comes separate from the hilt in the box, but this is easily attached via two included screws and an Allen key. The blade can easily be detached afterwards too, so you can wear your saber on your belt without the blade getting in the way.
Encalife lightsabers: Features & performance
Encalife’s website makes a lot of claims about what these lightsabers can do, so we quickly set to work on testing them out - aka we started swinging them around wildly, pretending to be dueling Darth Maul.
These lightsabers use a single button control system, but there are no instructions provided on how to use this. Luckily for you, we've managed to figure everything out so there is a guide for you below.
You turn the saber on by pressing and holding the button. Once turned on, the outside of the button will illuminate and you will hear a noise, at which point you let go of the button and then press it again to ignite the blade. From there, if you press the button and hold it down then the button light flashes, and each number of flashes will take you to a different function.
By default, the lightsaber is in blaster deflect mode. Now, each time you hit the button the saber will flash and make a blaster sound, letting you imitate deflecting blaster bolts. Holding the button down for one flash and then pressing it will activate the “clashing” effect that happens when two lightsabers lock up together - this is great for dynamic shots during cosplay shoots or during choreographed duels.
Two button flashes will let you cycle through the 12 color options available for the blades. It’s nice to see some variety beyond the usual red, blue, and green, and they’re all equally vibrant. There’s even a purple option, so Mace Windu fans won’t be disappointed. The colors of the lightsaber are all super vibrant and bright, so you can use these lightsabers in broad daylight and still clearly see their illumination, and they look phenomenal at night.
The fourth flash will put the saber into standby mode, retracting the blade but not turning it off completely. This means it can be reactivated with a single button press, rather than an extended hold. Whilst in sleep mode you can mess around with the volume controls. Holding the button for one flash will cycle between low volume, high volume, and mute. The loud volume mode is probably too loud, to be honest, though that might be a good thing for the convention crowd who want their sabers to be heard in a hall full of people. The quiet mode is a bit softer, but honestly, it’s still a bit too loud. A third quieter option between quiet and mute would have been nice (you could hack this yourself by putting some tape over the speaker output on the pommel of the saber).
Holding it down for two flashes during standby mode will change the sound profile of the lightsaber. You get a voice line indicating which character’s lightsaber profile you’re selecting - some of these are pretty naff impressions, but the Vader one is so good that I couldn’t tell it wasn’t the real deal. Each saber profile has different sounds for the start-up/shutdown, idle hum, swooshing, and clashing sound effects to help you individualize your lightsaber. It’s a nice touch, allowing you to go for the more crackly, violent sounds of Kylo Ren’s saber or the elegance of someone like Luke or Yoda.
They also have impact detection, flashing and making a noise if you hit them against something with enough force. The reliability of this detection isn’t perfect though, so you want to smack things reasonably hard to make sure the sound goes off.
The whole single-button system is a bit of a pain to be honest with you. You can’t quickly ignite or extinguish the saber which makes using them for choreographed fights awkward - you can’t exactly ask Darth Vader to politely wait while you hold down the on button for three seconds.
The blade itself is just a tube for the light to bounce around in, with the saber handle effectively functioning as a colored flashlight that illuminates the polycarbonate tube to give the lightsaber effect. There are pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side, the blade is easy to detach for when you just want the hilt. There are also no fragile, breakable electronics in the blade that could be damaged by dueling. The downside is that the light is brighter at the base and gets a little fainter towards the tip. We’re actually impressed with how minor this difference is in these sabers to be fair, but it is still noticeable, especially in photographs.
Encalife Lightsabers: Battery life and charging
You'll be delighted to hear that there's no need to buy batteries for these sabers, as they come with rechargeable batteries built-in.. Encalife claims that the lightsabers last for four hours of continuous use on a full charge. We’ll level with you dear reader, we did not spend four hours swinging a lightsaber around to test this claim, but we can say that none of the sabers have needed to be recharged after their initial charge in the two weeks that we’ve had them.
When you do need to recharge them, it’s a relatively simple procedure on two of the three options: the red and black sabers have a charging port on the outside of the hilt - simply use the included USB to charging port cable that comes with the sabers and leave them to charge. The light on the power button pulses when it’s charging and stays solid when fully charged.
Weirdly, the gray saber doesn’t have the same system. Instead, you have to unscrew the bottom of the hilt and then plug in a micro-usb to USB charger. We have no idea why this model is different.
Encalife Lightsabers: Price
We should probably get something out of the way early on - Encalife doesn’t actually make these lightsabers - they’re partnered up with Ciel Tan, a Chinese brand that makes a whole host of lightsabers, typically on AliExpress though you can also find them on Amazon.
Encalife is very up front about this on their website, stating that they’re partnered up with Ciel Tan but honestly, this is overstating things. We assumed that these designs/color combinations would be exclusive to Encalife, but that doesn’t appear to be the case as we found the red saber on Amazon under a different name. We couldn’t find the exact gray or black models anywhere else though, so these two designs might be exclusive to Encalife.
Now, none of this would be an issue if it wasn’t for the price disparity between other Ciel Tan sabers and the ones that Encalife are selling. Encalife is selling all three variants at a standard price of $199.97 on their website, though at time of writing all three are currently reduced to $149.97. By contrast, the same red saber that we found on Amazon is selling for $75.99.
Should you buy an Encalife lightsaber?
If you’re looking for a robust lightsaber prop for cosplaying, photoshoots, or just to swing around the house when you want to feel like a Jedi, then these lightsabers are a great choice. They’re well built, have bright blades and loud sound effects, and they come with loads of features like impact flashes and blaster sounds. They’re not perfect - the designs are a bit plain and the single-button controls are a pain - especially with the complete lack of instructions, but these are irritations, not deal breakers.
However, unless you really want these exact designs, you can find the same style of lightsabers made by the same company, on Amazon for much cheaper. Still, these are good value, good quality sabers and if you see them on offer, then we'd happily recommend them.