Nitecore battery charger blinking. Tint & CRI

Review, Teardown: Nitecore HC60 1000lm USB Rechargeable Headlamp

After I wrote my review of the Nitecore MH10, I decided to ask Nitecore (nicely) if they would like me to review their other products, as they had a reviewer’s section on their site. To my surprise, they were happy to send me a product to be reviewed under the Review Challenge terms.

The product in question is their recently released HC60, a light-weight 1000lm Cree XM-L2 (U2) based headlamp with USB recharging capability and included 3400mAh protected 18650 Li-Ion cell. I was quite impressed with its on-paper specs – a headlamp that uses the same LED as used in the MH10 offering 1000lm is going to be really bright. It’s definitely something that can come in handy, because when you’re busy working away on something in the dark, you can’t always spare a hand to hold and aim a flashlight. over, the flashlight beam angle might be too narrow to effectively light your workpiece at close range.

So lets take a look at the whole package, how it performed under testing, and what’s “under the hood”.

Unboxing

The unit came directly from Nitecore and is packaged in a retail cardboard box with hanging tag in their recognizable yellow-and-black colour scheme. The front shows an image of the product, and some key features including its 1000lm output, included 3400mAh battery, and USB recharging feature. The rear has a short blurb describing the unit and its 100-degree beam angle, multi-function power button and compatibility with 18650 and CR123 batteries. The unit is backed by Nitecore’s 5-year warranty promise.

The side of the box summarizes some features and potential applications in pictorial form. The maximum run-time is 680 hours, using the ultra-low 1 lumen mode, which isn’t the most useful figure for consumers. The maximum distance and intensity is lower than those quoted for the MH10 due to the wider beam angle – you really want a headlamp to light most of your field of view. The unit claims to be waterproof to 1 meter, but this is a label – removing the label seems to show the unit was formerly claimed to be 2 meter water resistant.

Inside the box, a moulded clear plastic tray holds all of the items. From the top, we can see the included strap, main body of the headlamp with battery pre-installed, and the ergonomically shaped curved holder.

On the underside of the tray, there is a USB cable provided for charging with a velcro tie, a catalogue of Nitecore products, a warranty card and a one-page leaflet with English on one side and Chinese on the other. There is also a zip-lock plastic bag with replacement end-cap gaskets, body gasket and power button cover. It’s good to see these accessories included, as they can wear out over time and be problematic to source.

The cable itself uses two 24AWG conductors for carrying the charge current. This is a pretty average thickness of wire, but is sufficient considering the charge current (see later in the performance testing section for more details).

nitecore, battery, charger, blinking

The body of the unit is sort of “pipe” shaped with a middle protrusion, and two screw-on end caps. The brand and model number are engraved into the body on the top side, with the serial number engraved underneath. The front face is a black plastic cover attached to the body by four T6 torx screws. One multi-function power button is to the left side, with a translucent button that also reveals a blue LED that indicates battery voltage by blinking the volts, pausing, then blinking the 1/10ths of a volt when the battery is inserted. The LED is also used to indicate charging condition – blinking while charging, fast blinking in case of problem with the battery, and steady for full charge.

The multi-function button can be used to:

  • Directly access ultra-low (short press from off)
  • Access the last-used mode memorized (medium press 1s from off)
  • Directly access turbo (long press 1s from off)
  • Turn off (long press from on)
  • Access special modes (double-click from off)
  • Cycle between brightnesses of ultra-low, low, medium, high and turbo OR modes of strobe, SOS and locator beacon (short press when on)

As a result, all the modes and dimming can be accessed with a single button and a few presses. This is distinctly different from the way the button operates on the MH10 which has one less brightness mode, requires press-and-hold to change brightnesses, short press for off, and no direct access to turbo. If you use both, this can be a little confusing to memorize.

The main output LED and lens assembly is to the right, and its’ quite impressive that the whole assembly is as “slim” as it is – it doesn’t protrude as far as I would have expected. The front cover appears to be a coated glass with some anti-reflection properties, and the reflector inside is very smooth and shiny, although it seems to have a larger hole at the base. The LED was just slightly off-centre in mounting, but not enough to affect the beam noticeably – the yellow phosphor of the LED can be seen to fill the reflector above.

The endcap that carries the Nitecore branding is used to open the battery compartment, whereas the other end-cap marked with the USB symbol reveals the charging port in the threads.

Performance Testing

Subjective Opinions and Experiences

From using the unit a few times over the past weeks, I’d have to say that the HC60 is quite impressive. It’s relatively light, especially considering the brightness of output available, and the curved support is comfortable and applies pressure evenly over a wider area. The strap itself is not irritating, although because it’s only 1″ wide, there have been occasional cases where it needed adjustment as it was riding up my head. A wider strap may have helped. The over-head Band had a habit of undoing its rear clip if you over-tightened it due to the design of the clip with a cut in it to facilitate easy assembly. A little bit of electrical tape around the “cut” helped secure the strap for good. The branding was not a major issue for me, although a more “discreet” branding might be more attractive.

The design of the holder itself is quite effective. The holder allows for the pipe-shaped light to be rotated fully through 180 degrees, more than enough adjustment in case of looking down at close-up work, or straight ahead into the distance. It is very snug and secure, and doesn’t move on its own.

The body of the torch does get quite warm when operating in the higher modes, and this is expected. However, when wearing it on your head, very little of this heat is transferred to your head, making it comfortable even at its highest turbo setting where “hand-holding” the body of the unit is difficult due to the ~50 degrees C temperature.

The beam was wider than the torch, as expected, and covered most of the field of vision although not into the peripheral. At the higher brightness settings, it could be feasible to film short to moderate distances using a smartphone camera in hand. The beam had a bright spot in the middle, but it wasn’t too much brighter than the reflector-based surrounding annulus of beam which can be credited to the design of the reflector. According to my camera, the colour temperature was pretty much 5000K exactly. From what I can tell, the 1000lm rating is pretty much on the dot, as it will do quite a decent job of lighting up my room at night with no other light sources.

The battery level indicator feature is a little “forgotten” in this unit, as the only way to check it involves removing and re-inserting the battery, making it rather difficult to effectively use. I suppose that’s not as big a deal if you top it up via USB after each use, or use a set of cells with an external charger.

Waterproof Testing

Update: Nitecore has contacted me to confirm that the unit is rated at IPX7 for 1m depth, 30 minutes immersion only, and as a result, the below testing does not match the description exactly due to reduced depth and increased duration.

As the unit was “given” for review purposes, I had much less qualms about potentially destroying it. As a result, I decided to put the body of the unit through a potentially gruelling test – namely, a test of its 1m waterproof claim.

To test it, I placed it under about 15cm of water (1.5L) in an IKEA clear plastic storage container. I then reached in, and switched it to turbo mode and left it to run down underwater. This also allowed me to verify the ATR system actually worked (see next section). After about 2.5 hours, the unit was retrieved.

Unfortunately, the unit didn’t quite pass with flying colours. It was found that a small amount of water had entered and condensed on the inside of the front glass. The amount of water that entered was small, and replacing the battery with another 18650 and running it for a short time on turbo evaporated all the moisture away.

It seems that the water had entered in the seal between the glass and the plastic body, but it was such a small amount that it did not harm the unit at all. Checking the seals at the end of the torch revealed no water had entered the USB port or battery compartment.

In light of this, I think the 1m waterproof rating is a little optimistic because of the design of the front glass window seal, but even then, it is sufficiently waterproof for regular head-torch uses – e.g. getting caught in a small rain-storm is unlikely to cause the unit to fail.

Run-Time Testing

The unit claims listed in the manual and on the website are reproduced to the left. Compared to the achieved run-times, the results are all over the place.

In the case of Turbo, 1 h is claimed and 2h 58m is achieved. This is because the ATR system was active, and reduced the drive current to the LED under room temperature conditions without movement to keep the temperature in the “safe” operating zone. When High is selected, it seems either ATR is less aggressive or inactive, as a result, the claim of 2h 30m is matched with a 2h 32m operation recorded.

Quick Overview (Manufacturer Specifications)

  • Body Material: Black HAIII Aluminium
  • LED: XM-L2 U2 bin (High CRI and RED LED are not mentioned)
  • Battery Format: 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A / 2 x RCR123A ONLY
  • Output Runtime (with Nitecore NL1834 18650 3400mAh / 2 x CR123A 1700mAh battery):
  • Moonlight – (1 lumen – 800h / 400h)
  • Low – (80 lumens – 16h / 10h)
  • Mid – (280 lumens – 4h 45min / 2h 45min)
  • High – (550 lumens – 2h 45min / 1h 30min)
  • Turbo – (1000 lumens – 1h / 45min)
  • Auxiliary White Light [High CRI] – (26 lumens – 25h / 24h)
  • RED Light – (11 lumens – 20h / 15h)
  • RED Caution Light – (11 lumens – 32h / 24h)
  • 1Nitecore NL1834 18650 3400mAh battery
  • 1Micro-USB Cable
  • 1Headband with removable top strap
  • 2Spare O-rings

UI for this light is good for Every Day Carry (EDC) as it is relatively straightforward to use after the initial learning curve.

Switching ON and OFF is done by the electronic switch on the right side of the light, so no momentary activation is possible.

The electronic switch is a dual stage style that is similar to what is found on most cameras whereby a 1/2 Press and 1 Click would result in different LEDs activating.

  • 1/2 Press – Positioning mode (dim blinking BLUE light) is activated; 1/2 Press again to deactivate Positioning mode. Switching ON and OFF the light will deactivate Beacon mode as well.
  • 1/2 Press HOLD (~1 sec) – Direct access to Auxiliary White Light (High CRI).
  • 1 Click – Light will switch ON the main LED (XM-L2) to last used mode (last mode memory).
  • 2 Click – Direct access to TURBO.
  • HOLD (~1 sec) – Direct access to RED Light.

From ON (Auxiliary White Light [High CRI]):

  • 1/2 Press OR 1 Click – Light will switch OFF.
  • 2 Click – Light will switch ON the main LED (XM-L2) to last used mode (last mode memory) – the Auxiliary White Light [High CRI] will switch OFF.
  • HOLD – Direct access to STROBE; 1/2 Press to mode change (light cycles through STROBE, SOS BEACON) 1 Click to switch OFF the light.
  • 1/2 Press – 1/2 Press to mode change (light cycles through RED Light RED Caution Light [blinking RED light]).
  • 1 Click – Light will switch OFF.
  • 2 Click – Light will switch ON the main LED (XM-L2) to last used mode (last mode memory) – the RED light will switch OFF.
  • HOLD (~1 sec) – Direct access to STROBE; 1/2 Press to mode change (light cycles through STROBE, SOS BEACON) 1 Click to switch OFF the light.
  • 1/2 Press – 1/2 Press to mode change (light cycles through MOONLIGHT, LOW, MID, HIGH TURBO).
  • 1 Click – Light will switch OFF.
  • HOLD (~1 sec) – Direct access to STROBE; 1/2 Press to mode change (light cycles through STROBE, SOS BEACON) 1 Click to switch OFF the light.

Form Factor

For flashlights that are intended to use on a daily basis (EDC) and for possibly a long period of time, form factor is extremely important.

This light fits a medium sized hand easily. For headlamps, there isn’t many ways of holding it but rather it would be more of test of comfort whilst it’s on your head. The Nitecore-branded headband held the light sturdily even when doing more vigorous activity (e.g. jogging/running), at no time did the light feel like it was about to fall off. The curvature of the headlamp’s head mounts and cushion from the headband ensures that it does not leave any marks on one’s forehead after prolonged usage.

While using the light without the headband, the light is able to stand perfectly on its left (opposite side of the electronic switch).

Charging Process

With the provided Micro-USB Cable, the battery was charging at 0.49A. A faster charging rate of ~1A would have cut down charging times substantially (approximately half) and still be within the safe limits of charging the included 3400mAh 18650 battery.

The light is unable to operate on any modes when charging.

The blinking (~1.5 sec interval) BLUE indicator depicts charging in progress and BLUE indicator lit (non-blinking) depicts charging has completed.

Beam Style/Beamshots

For this light, the spill, corona and hotspot is somewhat predictable due to the fairly shallow Smooth Reflector. But due to the main LED used, the beam is still sufficiently “throwy” for recognising items in the near to mid-range distance.

This light’s Auxiliary White Light (High CRI) and RED light are placed behind a frosted honeycomb-style diffuser lens which provide a soft and artifact-free beam profile for up-close to near range distance usage.

The above beam profiles are a rough interpretation of what is seen when white wall hunting.

The main beam has a rather distinct hotspot with some slight corona and a rather wide usable (almost circular) spill. It also helps that the XM-L2 led is perfectly centred in this sample. There is a slight ring in the main beam when whitewall hunting but is not visible in real world usage.

nitecore, battery, charger, blinking

The Auxiliary White Light (High CRI) and RED light have the same beam profile – wide and even flood-type style with a 100 degree beam angle. There is no rings or beam artifacts when whitewall hunting.

All of the beamshots taken below are done so with the following camera settings (MOONLIGHT: 2.5, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, LOW: 0.5, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, MID, HIGH TURBO: 1/4, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, Auxiliary White Light (High CRI) RED light: 0.6, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB). Some pictures have been adjusted slightly to depict as close as to what is seen in real life. The distance of the light from the door is 4.6m.

Control shot:

MOONLIGHT (1 lumen):

LOW (80 lumens):

MID (280 lumens):

HIGH (550 lumens):

TURBO (1000 lumens):

Auxiliary White Light [High CRI] – (26 lumens):

RED Light – (11 lumens)

Technology

The NB5000, NB10000, NB20000, as the model name clearly indicates, offers 5000 mAh, 10,000 mAh, 20,000 mAh. These are pretty standard capacities that are offered throughout the market. Aside from size and weight, the biggest differentiators would mostly come down to the technology supported by the ports available.

Hopping on the USB-C train a few years ago, I have since tunnel-visioned onto only USB-C products, struggling to resist a new iPhone till Apple comes to their senses. Nitecore has fully come onboard the USB-C revolution with their latest rechargeable flashlights adopting the same. The NB series is no different. Each comes with both USB-C and USB-A ports, with the NB20000 having two of each.

I designed a thing.

I found a 100 year old company that would create these heirloom quality canisters for me. They are handmade and will keep your tea leaves, coffee beans or anything that you need dry for years to come.

You can charge the charger from any of the USB-C ports. You can charge devices from any of the USB-A or C ports with the exception of one input-only port on the NB20000.

The ports on Nitecore support two types of fast-charging specification: Power Delivery (PD) and Quick Charge (QC). Any battery that can supply a current of more than 9W (5V 1.8A) can be considered fast charging, but that does not mean it complies with QC or PD standards.

QC is a protocol by Qualcomm, while PD is from the USB-IF standards. Both of which are very popular charging standards. There are five versions of QC released so far.

The speed of charging is no longer limited by your chargers but the device. For mobile phones, there is a limit to how much power it can take it. Here are some examples of maximum power input

The max output for the NB5000 and NB10000 is 18W, while the NB20000 can output up to a whopping 45W. If you absolutely need your latest iPhone to charge at the maximum possible speed, then the NB20000 is the only one that can (over)do this. However, the 18W output of both the NB5000 and NB10000 will be sufficient for most phones.

For devices that don’t require such speeds, each charger comes with a low power output mode that can reduce the amount of power.

All three models of the NB series are certified for UN38.3. This certification exists because lithium batteries within these devices are classified as Class 9 dangerous goods. As such, they have to meet this requirement for safe transportation. Shipping companies will not accept batteries without this certification for shipping through land, air, or sea.

Material

Carbon fiber is highly resistant to puncture, abrasion, corrosion (rust), and impact. But, the most probable reason for Nitecore to choose it is the light weight. It’s lighter than steel (by about 90%) and even aluminum and titanium.

All three chargers are rated at IPX5. IP, short for “ingress protection,” is a waterproof rating where the first digit is resistance against solids, like dust, and the second digit is waterproofness. X in IPX5 doesn’t actually mean zero protection against solids, but it’s just that Nitecore has not undergone testing for it. The 5 means that it has protection against light pressure of water.

Usage

The Nitecore NB series are portable charger upgrades that I never thought I needed. Although lighter is always better, I’ve never really chosen products because of the weight. But now that I’ve used the NB chargers extensively, I can feel the weight savings. While the difference might be too subtle to notice when it’s in your bag, taking it out of your bag will allow you to experience the full benefits of the ultralight chargers.

The NB5000 was the perfect size and capacity for quick runs around the neighborhood. The NB20000 was ideal for travel where power access was less certain. The NB10000 was the perfect capacity to head out with for an entire day or even two if I missed the last train. The NB10000 is my default which is why it has a permanent place alongside my laptop accessories in my Aer Slim Pouch.

There are power indicators on the chargers. The NB5000 and NB10000 have the indicator built into the button. There is a total of three blue dots that indicates the power. These blue dots light up half the button, which was confusing at first as it looked like I hadn’t charged fully if you didn’t know there were only three dots.

On the NB20000, five blue dots below the button indicates power, and they light up when you push the button, plug in to charge a device, or charge the charger itself.

I assume that the power indicator lights are baked into the button on the NB5000 and NB10000 to keep it slim but this was a mistake. It can be hard to make out the number of lit dots unless you look closely. The button would refract the light, making it impossible to determine the number of dots lit up at an angle.

Even though they are from the series, there are subtle operational differences to accommodate the different needs with different capacities. If you long-press the button on the NB5000 and NB10000, a white light appears within the button and turns into a low power output mode. If you long-press on the NB20000, it will turn the power off. Instead, you need to double-press the button to turn on low power output mode and single-press to turn it off. I am not sure why they didn’t keep it consistent it’s not really a deal-breaker for me since I rarely use the low power output mode.

With more ports on the NB20000, there are additional usability issues such as not being able to charge it with a USB-C to USB-C cable on the port that is labeled “INPUT.” A USB-C to USB-C charger can charge the device through the port that is labeled “IN/OUT” because of the PD specification. However, a USB-A to USB-C cable is needed for the non-PD INPUT port.

Update: 2 Months of Use

I’ve noticed there are times when I stop charging the NB20000 and the charging indicator stays lit up and flashing. The only way I could turn it off was to charge it again.

Another thing I noticed is that the charging indicators light up and stay that way when I plug in a cable, even if I am not charging anything. I do this to keep my Satechi USB-C to Lightning Cable together with the charger at all times. While it does take up a negligible amount of power and doesn’t affect the functionality, I find it a little irritating to see it light up every time I look into my bag.

Update: 6 months of Use

On my trip to Sendai, the NB20000 finally acted out. It stays lit up and flashing and wouldn’t let me charge. It seems that it might short circuit and think that you are charging it even when you are not.

You have to make sure that the lights on the charger are off when you pull out the cable.

Update: NB10000 Gen 2 review

You will barely feel any practical differences between the two. The dimensions and weight are identical.

The major improvement is the battery status indicator; now in four dots rather than in-built into the button, which was frustrating to use.

The most obvious aesthetical difference is the yellow color around the ports, unnecessary in my opinion, but I know many will appreciate it. This is a deal breaker for me who has an obsession with keeping all my accessories black.

Conclusion

I have little doubt that the NB series of portable chargers from Nitecore are some of the best USB-C chargers available now. If you are an ultralight enthusiast, these are probably the lightest ones you can get for the capacity.

There are minuscule usability improvements I would like to see but all of them are far from being any kind of a dealbreaker. These are solid chargers that will work in any digital nomad’s tech pack.

Flashlight in use

The more and more I use 21700-based flashlights, the more I’m convinced that it’s about the perfect size (at least for my hands) in terms of grip-ability. Most 18650 lights, while friendly, can almost be too slender, while 26650 lights are generally pretty chunky. That is to say, I feel like the Nitecore P20iX is a very comfortable size. The body is pretty smooth overall, but has plenty of rings and cutouts and such and provide good traction.

There are flat spots around the head in a hexagon pattern that keeps the light from rolling around. The power switch on the tailcap (a forward clicky) protrudes generously. This makes it easy to activate, but of course means there’s no tailstanding. There’s a second switch in the tailcap that sits flush, referred to as the STROBE READY mode select button.

The Nitecore NTH20 Tactical Holster is included. It’s designed to fit on various belt sizes between 1 ¼” to 2 ¼” as well as being compatible with the MOLLE system. The holster feels nice and sturdy and seems to function very well, allowing quick and easy removal of the flashlight. The other included accessories are a bit more lackluster. The clip holds on firmly enough, but the bend radius that clamps against the flashlight appears to be suitable for a considerably thinner light and so it doesn’t clip on cleanly. The included lanyard is pretty standard, but I can’t figure out where to put it unless you cinch it down to the clip. This arrangement seems unusual to me, but installing the lanyard on the clip is exactly what Nitecore had in mind.

In addition to the included accessories, Nitecore offers several other products that are compatible with the P20iX, such as the:

  • NTR10 Tactical Ring Pro
  • TSL10i Signal Light
  • RSW2i USB-C Remote Switch
  • Multiple gun mounts
  • Multiple diffusers

Build Quality, and Warranty

Nitecore is very consistent when it comes to design, materials, and overall build. Outside of a few exceptions, you know that you’re going to get top-notch HAIII anodized aluminum (in black of course, is there anything else?) and a solid construction. The P20iX falls right in line with this and feels very rugged. The finish is excellent, and installing and removing the clip left no marks. The threads are nice and smooth. Even the USB-C port cover is designed to seal tightly and sits flush with the light, it doesn’t get in the way or get caught up or anything. Nitecore has given it an impact resistance rating of 2 meters. The attention to detail is great.

As far as warranty goes, Nitecore has your back with three levels of guarantee:

  • Exchange and DOA/defective products locally within 15 days of purchase
  • Defective / malfunctioning products will be repaired free of charge for 60 months
  • Beyond 60 months, Nitecore will cover the cost of the labor and the end user is responsible for the cost of the parts
nitecore, battery, charger, blinking

LED, Lens, Bezel, and Reflector

Many multi-emitter LED lights I see (especially small-medium ones) use TIR optics. Not so with the P20iX; it utilizes a smooth clover-leaf shaped reflector. Like many of their reflectors, Nitecores describes them as using “Precision Digital Optics Technology (PDOT)”. I can’t say exactly what that means for this light, but Nitecore says it means they pay close attention to the design of their reflectors. And I tend to agree that they produce a very usable beam.

Perfectly situated in the center of each opening is a Cree XP-L2 V6 LED. That “V6” is the output bin, meaning these are some of the brightest XP-L2’s available. Nitecore hasn’t stated a particular CCT for this light, but unless otherwise specified they generally use 6000K – 6500K LEDs. While that may not be everyone’s favorite CCT, it lines up with the general consensus for preferred temperature of their target market: law enforcement, patrol workers, search and rescue, etc.

This isn’t a secret, but the XP-L2 is one of Cree’s new “flip-chip” LEDs. These are very efficient, but are infamous for their tint shift (different colors visible in different areas of the beam). There’s no miracle going on here, I certainly see the cool white hotspot, surrounded by a greenish corona. It’s pretty okay outside, but it doesn’t look great on white walls. While there is somewhat of a hotspot, the 4 LEDs in their tiny reflector provide a very wide (floody) beam.

The LEDs and reflector are protected by a sheet of AR-coated glass. That arrangement is housed beneath a strike bezel, which is a bit unique. Instead of relying on highly aggressive crenulations to form the strike bezel, Nitecore has embedded beads of high strength silicon nitride ceramics in a mildly crenulated bezel. The result of that is you’ve got a business-end that should have no trouble safely breaking glass, but is also smooth enough that it’s not going to tear up your

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