Nitecore EC30

The Product

Nitecore sent over their EC30 for me to review. This is their newest 18650 light, and is a successor to the Concept 1. It’s a flashlight form factor single 18650 flashlight with an XHP35 HD in a smooth reflector, an indicating metal side switch, screwed in pocket clip, magnetic tail, and an interesting UI.


Spoiler

There’s a lot I really like about this light. The form factor is splendidly compact, something that I can’t say about some other Nitecore lights. The XHP35 LED used here is one of my favorites, and I think it’s a great choice for this light, giving it a very balanced beam. The light feels good in the hand, the switch has a great click to it (and excellent indicating function), and I give bonus points to any light with a magnetic tail switch.
One minor issue I have with this light is that using the clip leaves about 3 cm sticking out above the pocket. The one major issue I have with this light is that the UI is unlike any I have used before, and really won’t be for everyone. If you do like the UI, I think you will love this light.

Size

The light measures 112.6 mm long, with a diameter of 25.4 mm at its thickest point (where the switch is located, near the head), and 21.3 mm at its thinnest (just below the body taper). As I’ve said above, this is a great compact build for a light of this cell type.

Build

The head of the light has a smooth bezel with the serial number etched into it. This holds the glass window in place over the smooth reflector.
Below the reflector, the light widens slightly to accommodate the clip, which is screwed onto the light with two hex screws. There’s a “Hot” warning label above the clip. 90° away from the clip is the metal switch. There’s a small green indicating LED on the switch, and the portion of the light housing the switch is raised slightly, which helps locate it by feel. Next to the switch, and not quite directly opposite the clip, there’s more etching showing the brand, model name, and some regulatory markings.
Below the switch, the body tapers slightly. This is part of what makes the light feel so great in the hand, and it reminds me a bit of images I have seen of HDS lights or the FW3A prototypes (images only - I have not held either of those in person). After the taper, there’s a smooth section, then some flat diamond knurling for the rest of the cell tube. The flat end means the light has no issue tailstanding.

The tail cap is perfectly flat on the end, with the same knurling around the sides as the rest of the body. Inside the tail end, the cap is held in place with fine, square cut, anodized threads. The negative cell contact is a single large gold-colored spring, with the magnet held beneath it.

The cell tube is also detachable from the head on my sample, which reveals similar square cut anodized threads. The diameter here is larger, so the cell tube is not reversible. Inside the head of the light, there’s a plastic disc covering the back of the driver with a small brass button that acts as the positive contact for the cell.

What’s Included

The sample I received was not in production packaging, which I thank Nitecore for - but a quick check of the product page indicates the light will be packaged with a lanyard, a spare o-ring, a clip, and a holster.

Ergonomics and Retention

I’ve said it already, but I’m really happy with the ergonomics of this light. It’s small enough that it can slip into a pocket, but large enough that it isn’t awkward to hold. Note that the knurling is very flat and doesn’t add too much grip, so it may not be as easy to hold with gloves or in wet environments.

The light comes with a clip screwed on for head-up carry, which is not reversible. The clip looks great, and slides onto a pocket great, but it’s a bit too shallow for my preference. I do like that it’s oriented at an angle from the button, instead of across from it, to decrease the likelihood of accidental button presses. The clip also has a separate hole in it that could be used as a lanyard attachment point (the only place to attach a lanyard on this light).
The tailcap hosts a powerful magnet that has no issue holding the light horizontally. The website indicates this light will ship with a holster, but I do not have one and therefore can not comment on it. Based on other Nitecore holsters I have, I would assume the quality is reasonably good.

Modes and Interface

The modes on this light cover all the basics, and have a lot of features I love to see - batt check with proper voltage output, hidden strobes, shortcuts to low and turbo, and even momentary turbo while using the light, which is quite rare on a single switch setup. The actions used to reach these modes are, in most case, completely different from every light I have used in the past. Here’s how that works:
From off
  • A single tap of the switch flashes out the cell voltage with the indicating LED 
  • Double-tapping the switch turns the light on in the lowest mode 
  • Triple-tapping the switch turns the light on either in turbo or strobe (configurable) 
  • Holding the switch turns the light on in the memorized mode, and continuing to hold cycles through brightnesses. Once you get the level you want, release the switch and the current level becomes memorized for the next use of the light. 
From on, in any mode
  • Holding the switch serves as momentary turbo 
  • A single tap turns off the light 
Two things about this UI that I could not get used to were the lack of ability to change modes once the light is on, and the fact that on and off are different actions. I will note that I think some people might like that you can momentarily activate turbo for those ‘look at that’ moments, without needing to double tap the switch.

Light Quality and Beam

I’ve long been a fan of the XHP35. It has some tint shift, like most Cree emitters with domes, and it isn’t high CRI, but I think it’s a reasonable choice for this light, and I like that Nitecore seems to be using it in place of the XP-L HD as their new default emitter. It puts out a lot of light, like most of the XHP class emitters, but the beam coloration isn’t as bad as the larger XHP50 or XHP70 LEDs. It’s also a smaller emitter, so the beam isn’t too floody. The only Cree emitters I have experience with that I like more than the XHP35 HD are the XHP35 Hi and the XP-L Hi, and both of those emitters are unique for being domeless.
In this particular light, a cool white XHP35 is placed in a smooth reflector. This gives the beam decent reach, without making it too spotty for close up use. I’m a fan.

Power and Runtime

This light is designed to run on a single 18650 cell, but can also be powered with two CR123 cells. The protected Nitecore cell I used for testing just barely fit in the tube, but it’s longer than most. I also tried an unprotected flat top cell in the light, and it had no issues making contact.
It's noticeable that both turbo and high have very similar step downs, although the thermal management with the turbo run mean that the output is actually lower than the high output after a minute or so. Once the light settles around 30%, it stays there for most of the cell life.

Summary

Pros:

  • Great output for the size 
  • Excellent build and form factor 
  • Magnetic tailcap 
  • Indicating metal switch 
  • Even though I don’t like the UI on this light, I do like momentary turbo 

Cons:

  • I’m not a fan of the UI or the clip

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