Nitecore "Tiny Monster" TM11 2000 lumen torch reviewThis review torch was very generously donated for a charity raffle at the LSECCA pub meet by Antony at www.flashaholics.co.uk with a request that I do a review of it here first. A huge thank you to Antony for his generosity; if you want to purchase one (or any other torches and ancillary items) I can strongly recommend his services. (I have no relationship or links with Antony, I am just a longstanding very happy customer).
Update 28-10-2011: I was so impressed with this torch I purchased one for myself after failing to win this one in the charity raffle. It now takes pride of place in my torch collection, and I will be supplementing this initial review with a video review and a long term test review which will be added to this thread when done. I have purchased four "Jetbeam" branded 2300mah 18650 cells made by Sysmax - after all why not use the manufacturer's own cells - and will be running my personal TM11 on them.
For the purpose of this review the torch is running on 8 x CR123 batteries. Unfortunately I don't have 4 x 18650 cells to hand to test it on 18650s as I've misplaced a couple of 18650 cells that I put to one side for charging and now cannot find (and they were AW ones too )
As a one sentence summary - "How small? How bright? Wow!"
To put it in very simple terms, Nitecore have pulled off something special with this torch by shoehorning 3 of the latest CREE XM-L LEDS pushing out 2000 lumens on max, control circuitry, a very clever switching system and batteries into something smaller than a can of coke.
The manual and warranty card
The body of the torch fits nicely in the hand (although if you have small hands you might find it a bit fat) with your thumb falling nicely onto the power button, the surround of which nicely flashes red to let you find it at night. (it also has a very clever trick up its sleeve which I'll get to).
The power button is NOT a clicky switch like we're used to on torches, instead it's more like a camera shutter button. The only thing "out of the box" on first impressions that I wasn't sure whether or not I liked is the switching mechanism and how it handles momentary on, constant on and brightness switching.... I'll get onto that later in the review.
Torch in holster, in hand. Very nice quality holster - good materials and stitching with a solidly sewn on D-Ring at the back and a velcro down strip / belt loop to make it easy to get onto your belt.
Torch in hand... yes, I do have big hands, but seriously, I'm shocked how small this torch is!
Yes, that's a UKPK for scale! - 2000 lumens out of something this small!
Needless to say, cramming 3 really powerful LEDS into such a compact torch is going to potentially have problems with heat, but Jetbeam have built thermal management into it to throttle back the power and dim the LEDS from max output if it detects too much heat so that it won't fry the LEDS.
Bad photo of the emitters in the bottom of their reflectors, this was the third try! They are all perfectly centred in their reflectors, and while I initially thought that due to the shallow reflectors this would be "all flood" when turned on, I was proved very wrong! This torch "throws" very well as well (see the beamshots below)
Head removed from body showing the 8 x CR123 cells loaded in parallel.
Please note that in order to preserve the 8 x CR123 cells that were provided (so they can go to the winner of the charity raffle with a decent amount of use left in them!), I won't be doing extended runtime tests or heat buildup tests by running it on Turbo for a long period. The torch will only be run long enough to get the beamshots for this review and to assess its functionality.
Build quality is excellent with good anodising (HAIII), nice knurling without being too aggressive and very nice detailing. The threads for the body to head connection are not gritty or rough, and came lubricated with what looks like sillicone lubricant for them and the single o-ring - very nice!. The lanyard hole is in the side of the tailcap so does not interfere with you tail standing the torch if you want to.
You get a wrist lanyard and a spare O-ring for the torch body in the box, along with a mysterious short length of strong cord. There is no tail-clicky, the only switch is the clever one on the head - AT LAST a torch that you can hold "normally" and not have to use a "tactical grip" to have access to the power switch!
Update: I finally figured out what the short length off thin but very strong cord that was included in the bag with the o-ring and lanyard is for... Nitecore provide it so you can easily install the lanyard through the lanyard hole on the side of the tailcap! Just loop it through the lanyard, poke both ends of the thin cord through the lanyard hole and pull. Now that's what I call a thoughtful touch by Nitecore!
Now for the bit that I initially didn't like, but which I then finally "got the hang of" (thanks Am!) - the very clever switch.
The switch handles both momentary and constant-on activation of the torch, plus mode selection, and is surrounded by a translucent ring that flashes red to let you know where the torch is at night and which also lets you know (apparently to within .1V) what your battery voltage is when the torch is in "lockout" mode or when you first insert the batteries. What I didn't like is that there is no click to the switch, and no "half stop" to let you know you've pressed far enough for the non-turbo modes. This meant I had problems initially using it "out of the box" as I was only able to reliably activate Turbo mode...
The Torch has 4 brightness levels, each with either constant-on or momentary activation. The "daily modes" are Low - 200 lumens, Medium - 500 lumens and High - 1100 lumens. Then there's Turbo - 2000 glorious lumens! (Nitecore and their sister company Jetbeam measure the lumens using the ANSI standard tests, so thats "out the front" lumens, not measured at the emmitter. This beast is BRIGHT).
To turn the torch on in one of it's "daily" modes - Low, Medium or High, you have to partially depress the switch. If you partially depress it and let go within 1 second or less, the torch turns on and stays on in the last mode you used. With it turned on, to toggle through the modes you just lightly press and release the switch again to cycle through low, medium and high. To Turn it off, depress the switch fully down (a non-full press will just cycle to the next mode). To activate the torch momentarily, in the last "daily" mode you used, lightly press the switch, and hold it for 1 second or more. The light will come on and then go off when you let go of the button.
The same applies for Turbo mode - fully depress the switch and let go within 1 second or less for constant on, for momentary you fully depress it and hold it for 1 second or more and when you let go the torch goes off.
To turn the torch off (to standby mode) with the torch on, fully depress the switch and let go within 1 second and the torch will go off, but will draw a small current from the cells in order to retain the mode selected memory, and the red ring round the switch will blink once every 3 seconds so you can find the torch at night.
To enter lockout mode from the torch being on, fully depress the power switch and hold it down for more than one second. This will turn off the torch and lock-out the switch to prevent accidental activation, plus (according to the manual) reduce the drain on the batteries to "almost nothing" while still retaining the last used mode.
To unlock from lockout, press the power switch 3 times within 1 second.
Sounds simple-ish? Well... until you twig that "partially depress" the power switch actually means "press it VERY lightly so that you are only just pushing it down" you'll find it very hard to activate momentary mode in anything other than Turbo mode - instead you'll turn it constantly on in the "daily" mode and then just cycle through the brightness settings! But after a moment of swearing, Am tried it and discovered the "very light pressure needed" trick.
Once you get used to the switching mechanism it's remarkably intuitive and works very well, although I haven't tried it wearing gloves.
The voltmeter thing I mentioned? Now that is clever!
When you first insert the batteries, or when you put the torch in lockout mode, the red ring LED around the power switch flashes to show you (to within 0.1V apparently) what voltage is left in your battery pack... For example, when you have 4 x fully charged 18650 cells in the torch (totalling 4.2V because the torch runs them in parallel) the red ring will quickly blink 4 times, then pause for one second, then blink twice! Very cool feature.
One thing I would say from a flashaholic standpoint - don't mix & match batteries in this! Only use 4 x 18650s from the same manufacturer with the same capacity, or always only re-fill it with 8 x new CR123s likewise from same manufacturer - never mix new and partly used CR123s in this torch! With the 18650s it's probably best to charge them all in a 4-bay charger at the same time, and then quickly check the end voltages are the same once they've charged up using a voltmeter just to be extra certain.
And now the beamshots!
All photos taken at f1.7, ISO 100, 2 second exposure, camera mounted on tripod. No retouching, no editing, just resized.
Control shot - close range "target"
Torch on Low
Torch on Medium
Torch on High
Torch on Turbo
Control shot - long range down the street
Torch on Low
Torch on Medium
Torch on High
Torch on Turbo
Excellent side spill and surprisingly (considering the shallow reflectors) very very good throw!
Do I want one of these torches? Yes (update, and I now have one!)
That said, looking at the beamshots, running it on Max at 1100 lumens would be more than enough light for pretty much any uses I think, with Turbo reserved for brief bursts of "I need LOTS of light now!"
(And just to balance my review, here's ShortNCuddlyAm's view from a non-flashaholic's standpoint "Meh. It's too big to go in a coat pocket and still get your hand in, too chunky to hold comfortably and why would you want something that bright anyway?".)
Results of a runtime test on Turbo using 4 x 18650 cells for power, and as a result a test of the thermal cutout can be found below.This article was originally published in forum thread: Nitecore "Tiny Monster" TM11 2000 lumen torch review started by TallNHairyDave View original post
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