Monday, May 21, 2012

Nitecore Tiny Monster TM11 Review, Video, Runtimes, Beamshots

Hello guys, We will provide you Nitecore Tiny Monster TM11 Review, Video, Runtimes, Beamshots today

Nitecore Tiny Monster TM11 Preview:

Manufacturer Specifications:

  • LED: Three CREE XM-L LEDs

  • Four Ouput Levels:

  • Turbo: 2000 Lumens for 1h15m

  • High: 1100 Lumens for 3h

  • Medium: 550 Lumens for 7h30m

  • Low: 200 Lumens for 18h

  • Integrated Thermal protection circuit prevents overheating

  • Uses either 4 x 18650s or 8 x CR123 Batteries

  • Can run off of 1 x 18650 or 2 x CR123A in emergency situations

  • Exceptionally long runtimes using 4×18650 Li-ion Batteries

  • Patented Single Button two-stage switch offers versatile functionality

  • Patented Integrated power indicator displays remaining battery power

  • Power indicator secondary function displays battery voltage (Accurate to 0.1V)

  • Coated mineral glass lens resists scratches

  • Aluminum reflector ensures a smooth and powerful beam

  • Stainless steel retaining ring protects the core components from damage

  • Constructed from aircraft grade aluminum alloy

  • HA III Military grade hard anodized

  • IPX-8 Waterproof to 2m

  • Impact Resistant to 1.5m

  • Dimensions

  • Length: 135mm

  • Head Diameter: 60 mm

  • Tube Diameter: 50mm

  • Weight: 336g (without battery)

  • Accessories: Quality holster, Lanyard, Spare O-ring

  • MSRP: ~$260

  • Packaging is a cardboard box with built-in packaging foam. Inside is the light, belt holster, extra o-ring, simple wrist lanyard, and manual. The wrist lanyard seems to need some user assembly, but I'm not sure how you open the plastic base to insert/thread the attachment wire. (UPDATE: you don't - it is just a guide wire to thread the thicker lanyard through - scroll down to the first few responses for user pics).

    From left to right: Redilast Protected 18650; Nitcore TM11; 4Sevens X10 Maelstrom, S18 Maelstrom, Olight SR92. 

    All dimensions are given with no batteries installed:

    Nitecore TM11: Weight: 342.6g (476g with 8xCR123A), Length 135.3mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm 
    4Sevens S18: Weight: 700g (800g with 6xCR123A), Length: 233mm, Width (bezel) 63.0mm, (tailcap) 25.6mm
    4Sevens X10: Weight: 156.9g (245.7g with 1x26650), Length: 135.5mm, Width (bezel): 46.0mm
    Olight SR90l
    Olight SR92: Weight: 1.15 kg (with battery pack), Length: 271mm, Width (bezel): 98mm 

    Here is a potentially better scale reference: 

    The TM11 is definitely the most compact 3xXM-L light I've tested to date. 

    Anodizing is a flat black, and seems in excellent shape on all my samples. There is some knurling on the head and body, of reasonable aggressiveness. Overall grip is certainly decent.

    Labels are rather extensive – in additional to the usual maker and model information, you also have a 5-point series of warnings about the light (in a very tiny, but legible, font). 

    Light has a stainless steel bezel ring, slightly scalloped. The light can tailstand. 

    The TM11 uses a two-stage (two-pressure) electronic switch, located near the head. There is also a clear ring around the switch that hides a red LED light – the ring glows to indicate battery status, voltage, and standby modes. Scroll down for an explanation of the interface. 

    Battery handle is quite compact, and easily houses 4x18650 or 8xCR123A. The battery compartments are molded right into the aluminum, with a common negative terminal contact plate. You don't need to fill all the wells for the light to work, but should expect lower runtime (and Turbo mode is not recommended on anything but the full complement of cells). Again, scroll down for more info.

    Screw threads are anodized for lock-out. 

    Note the later shipping samples have a slightly different looking contact plate in the head, with a bit of a shiny silver material exposed near the negative contact ring (i.e. the blue background doesn't fully cover the board).

    UPDATE January 19, 2012: There has been a lot of confusion about which types of 18650s will fit and work in this light. I have expanded my comments in the Potential Issues section of the review, but basically it is somewhat hit-or-miss with individual samples and the newer high-capacity 3100mAh cells (due to the greater length of these cells). For example, my 4GREER 3100mAh cells (based on the Panasonic NCR18650 and 69.0mm in height) worked in one TM11 sample and not another. As a result of the tolerances of individual batches, you may have difficulty getting the light to work with anything outside the 67-69mm height range. Also, true flat-top cells (where the platic wrapping is higher than the contact button, as on many of the higher capacity AW cells) will definitely not work in the light.

    User Interface

    The TM11 uses an innovative two-stage electronic switch in the head. For Max output, press firmly and hold for momentary, or press firmly and release quickly for locked-on Max. 

    For the Lo/Med/Hi modes, only half-press the switch (again, hold for momentary, release quickly for locked-on). Light will come on in the memorized lower output mode. To switch modes when locked-on, simply half-press and quickly release the switch again. The light will advance to the next output, in repeating sequence of Lo – Med – Hi.

    The light has memory, and will retain the last lower output used.

    Timings and pressure needed take a little getting used, but eventually you should be able to navigate through the modes reliably. Note that when in momentary Lo/Med/Hi, you can press further for momentary Max.

    The light will read-out the voltage of the cells when you first connect the head, by a series of red flashes around the on-off switch. The voltage reading seems a bit high on all the TM11 samples I was set (i.e. 18650s that read 4.2V on my DMM typically read out as 4.4V on the TM11s).

    After the initial voltage read-out, the light will then flash once every three seconds (when off), to let you know you are in standby mode. When on, the indicator will also flash red as the batteries begin to drain, at increasing frequency. Note the indicator only comes on as the batteries are nearing exhaustion (and the light is about to fall out of regulation).

    A "hidden" strobe mode can be accessed by two rapid full presses of the switch from On. Turn off or double-click again to return to constant output modes.

    For a more detailed examination of the build and user interface, please see my video overview: 

    Video was recorded in 720p, but YouTube defaults to 360p. Once the video is running, you can click on the 360p icon in the lower right-hand corner, and select the higher 480p to 720p options, or even run full-screen. 


    There is no sign of PWM at any output level – I believe the light is actually current-controlled as claimed.  

    I did however detect some high frequency noise on the Lo/Med/Hi levels, on all three samples I was sent. It does not seem to be PWM, as there is no evidence of a varying pulse width or duty cycle across output levels.

    Note that this 3.9 kHz noise is not visible to the naked eye – the beam appears perfectly still, with no signs of flicker. There was no sign of this noise on Turbo.

    Strobe is a true oscillating strobe, that continually changes its frequency. Here is an overview taken at at long time series (8 secs):

    The overall "average" frequency is somewhere around 9-10 Hz. But this is misleading, as the strobe actually varies considerably from pulse to pulse, as shown over the shorter time series below:

    In my testing, the time between pulses varied anywhere from ~60 msecs to ~250 msecs (i.e. from ~17 Hz to ~4 Hz).

    I am starting to see this pattern on a number JetBeam and Nitecore lights. It is indeed very disorienting.

    Standby drain and Lock-out

    Due to the electronic switch design, the TM11 is always drawing a small current when the light is fully connected. I measured this current as 450uA (although it would periodically spike every couple of seconds to just under 2mA for a fraction of a second). 

    Going with an "average" current of 0.5mA, and assuming four times 2600mAh capacity batteries, that would give you 2 years and 4.5 months before four fully charged batteries would be completely drained (given the parallel cell arrangement). Not bad, but I still always recommend you store lights physically locked out by loosening the head.

    Note the light also has a "lock-out" mode, similar to the Olight SR-series (although the timings are different). With the light on, press the switch all the way down (as if you were turning off), but press and hold for over 1 sec. To re-activate the light, you need to press the switch three times quickly (within 1 sec). Nitecore claims the standby current is lower in this "locked-out" mode, but I can't directly measure it to confirm.


    The TM11 uses three Cool White XM-L emitters, each well-centered in their own reflector well (although the wells do overlap slightly). Reflector is quite shallow overall, so I would expect more of a floody beam.

    And now, what you have all been waiting for.  All lights are on their respective max battery sources (4xAW protected 18650 for the TM11), about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences. 

    Overall output is clearly remarkably bright on the TM11 - talk about a wall of light!  There are some minor artefacts in the TM11 hotspot and beam at this ridiculously close range, but these are not issues in real life. Spillbeam width is remarkably wide, thanks to the shallow reflector. 

    To better illustrate the spillbeam, here is my famed "integrating carpet": 

    As you can see, there is a virtually a 180-degree arc of light coming out the TM11, although most of the light comes out in a ~120-degree arc.

    "2000-lumen" Turbo mode:

    "1200-lumen" Hi mode: (to compare to some lower output lights)

    The outdoor shots don't really do the TM11 justice – it has an incredibly bright spillbeam, just not much as much dedicated throw as typical.  Check out the spill on the side of the images and in the immediate foreground to get a better feel for just how much light the TM11 puts out. But as you can tell from my earlier carpet shot, the TM11 really puts out a much wider wall-of-light than the camera can capture in ths positioning.

    Testing Method: 

    All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

    Throw/Output Summary Chart:

    Effective November 2010, I have revised my summary tables to match with the current ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see for a description of the terms used in these tables.

    The Nitecore TM11 is the brightest LED-based light in my collection at the moment. Output is slightly higher than my Olight SR92.  However, as expected, it also has the lowest throw of any of my multiple-XM-L or SST-90-based high output lights.

    I would say Nitecore's ANSI FL-1 specs for output and throw are extremely accurate on Turbo – they perfectly match my testing results and estimates.  My Lo/Med/Hi lumen estimates are slightly higher than the reported specs, but relative relationships hold.

    Output/Runtime Comparison:

    But first: a comparison and explanation of the various batches of TM11s I have tested.

    The first shipping batch of TM11s suffered a few circuit issues – most noticeably "flickering" on Turbo. This was actually the rapid dropping down to lower output levels, or turning off completely, for fractions of a second. You can see this "flickering" effect on the initial sample Nitecore sent me (visible between ~100-130 seconds):

    But a second issue was the rapid "cycling" between Turbo and Hi once the thermal sensor cut-in (around ~205 secs in the run above). I suspected this was due to an overly low degree of separation between set points of the thermal sensor (i.e. once the light drops down to the lower output level, temperature should also drop slightly, potentially causing a return to the Turbo level if the set point trigger is too close). 

    I also suspected this oscillation was exacerbated by the external cooling fan setup that I use. So to test this theory, I tried turning the cooling fan off for a period of time (between ~275 secs and ~480 secs in the run above). As you can see, once the fan is off, the light begins spending more time in the Hi mode (and less in the Turbo mode), and soon stays in the Hi mode for an extended period. Turning the fan back on caused it to again rapidly cycle back and forth between Hi and Turbo. 

    Here is a 25 sec blow-up of the period when it was cycling the most rapidly, shortly after turning off the fan:

    Again, the above is the most rapid period of cycling, without cooling applied. As you can tell from the earlier trace, this cycling slows down and extinguishes (i.e. stays at the Hi output level) within a couple of minutes – as long as no external cooling is applied.

    The "flickering" issue earlier in the run is a much greater concern, and far more noticeable. Nitecore sent me a second sample with a revised circuit to test, as shown below: 

    This is exactly what you would want to see - no flickering, and a proper sustained step-down. 

    Unfortunately, this sample quickly suffered from an issue that has been observed on some of the early batches of TM11s - failure of one of the emitters (i.e. one became permanently dimmed to "moonlight" levels of output). Nitecore has identified this problem as a soldering issue on some of the initially produced lights. They report having since revised their processes, and no longer expect this to be an issue. 

    A third sample was thus sent to me, where both the flickering and emitter burn-out issues were resolved. Unfortunately, like the original sample, this third sample has a relatively low degree of separation between thermal sensor set points – and thus tends to cycle back-and-forth under a cooling fan once the step-down to Hi occurs. 

    Here is a quick run on the final sample - without cooling - to allow me to measure the surface temperature of the head with a thermal probe. I manually turned the light off after 15 mins, to also observe the cool down period.

    Note the thermal probe was placed in-between the upper-most set of fins (i.e. roughly half-way between the switch and the bezel ring). Maximum external temperature leveled off around 59 degrees C. Temperature drops off fairly rapidly once the light is turned off.

    As you can see, even without cooling, it takes several minutes for the thermal cycling to abate - but the light does eventually stabilize at the lower Hi output level. 

    Long story short, it seems there remains a fair degree of variability form one sample to the next in how wide of a gap there is between the temperature set points needed to trigger the mode level switch. Thus, on Turbo, you could see a stable step-down to Hi (even under cooling, as in sample #2), or have several minutes of cycling before stabilizing at the Hi output level (even without cooling, as in sample #3).

    Since sample #3 is the final, fully-functioning sample that I received, all comparison runtimes below are based on this model. However, as I do all my extended runtimes under cooling, expect to see continued oscillations on the Turbo runtimes.

    Note that runtimes on Turbo would likely have been slightly longer, if this sample hadn't repeatedly cycled back-and-forth from Turbo to Hi. Your experience may thus be slightly different, depending on the temperature set point range of your individual sample (again, see explanation above). 

    When taking into account the lower capacity 18650 cells used here, Nitcore's ANSI FL-1 runtime values see very believable. If anything, they seem to be slightly under-estimating the runtime and/or output (especially on Lo). 

    Potential Issues

    The circuit on the initial production run had issues with "flickering" (i.e. shutting off briefly) on Turbo output. Currently shipping versions have a revised circuit that fixes this issue. 

    Some of the initial production runs may have had emitter soldering issues, leading to rapid emitter failure. Nitecore believes they have resolved this issue going forward.

    The temperature set point range used to trigger a mode switch can vary, and may cause the light to jump back and forth between Hi and Turbo – exacerbated in my runtimes by the external cooling fan I use. Should be less of an issue in practice, but you may still experience this effect on some lights, at least initially.

    Light gets hot quickly (e.g. without cooling, my final sample reached 50 degrees C surface temp in 4.5 mins). I recommend you do not tailstand the light on Turbo or Hi for extended periods (or take great caution before picking it up again if you do!). Best to constantly hand-hold the light when in use, or limit yourself to the Lo/Med when using as a candle.

    Unprotected 18650 cells - and extremely long (high-capacity) protected 18650 cells - may not activate in the light. For example, my unprotected AW IMR-18600 cells (65.1mm height) would not activate in the light, even with a magnet spacer to raise the height to 66.0mm. Most my raised-top protected cells, from my AW protected 2200mAh (67.4mm height) to my Redilast 2900mAh cells (68.9mm height), worked fine. However, my unusually long button-top 4GREER 2400mAh cells (69.2mm height) were too tall and would not let the head screw down all the way. My 4GREER 3100mAh cells (69.0mm) worked in one TM11 sample, but not another. Basically, 67-69mm seems to be the height tolerance range for the light, and should safely cover most primaries and button protected 18650s out there. True flat-top cells (where the positive contact plate is recessed below the level of the wrapping) will definitely not work in this light.

    The two-stage pressure switch takes a little getting used to (i.e. there is light touch difference between half-press and full-press).

    Due to the electronic switch, the light has a stand-by current when fully connected. But this current is fairly low, and there are options for an electronic as well as physical lock-out.

    Grip elements are reasonable, but people with smaller hands may find the light awkward to hold for extended periods.

    Preliminary Observations

    Despite some initial circuit and soldering issues, the currently shipping TM11 lights live up to their "tiny monster" name - this is undoubtedly the highest level of output I've seen in a light this size to date.  

    I am happy to report that the manufacturer specifications for output, throw and runtime all seem very accurate in my testing. Overall efficiency is excellent, with very impressive runtimes on the Lo/Med/Hi levels especially (given their output levels).  

    Regulation is similarly excellent, and the thermal sensor-driven step-down on Turbo is a sensible precaution in a light this size. Note that the repeated "cycling" pattern between Hi and Turbo shown in my runtimes is partially an artefact of the externally-supplied cooling I use during my testing. In regular hand-held use, the light should either stably maintain the Hi level immediately after stepping down, or do so after a few minutes of cycling.

    This inter-sample variability in the thermal set point range for triggering mode switching is the major nagging issue with the light, now that the more serious on/off "flickering" and emitter failures have been addressed. Hopefully Nitecore can standardize this soon.

    UPDATE NOV 22, 2011: I've had some correspondence back and forth with Nitecore's engineers, and they agree that a possible source of the oscillations is an overly narrow temperature range over which the temperature sensor responds. They are going to try lowering the temperature set point at which the light returns to Turbo output, to see if that resolves the issue. 

    The build feels solid and robust, and I found handling to be good. However, those with smaller hands may find it a bit awkward to carry for extended periods. I suppose you could practice by walking around holding a can of soup for a while first. 

    I like the interface and the design of the electronic switch, although it does take a bit of practice to get the pressure and timings just right (especially if you want to use momentary modes). I am glad to see they have kept the standby current to an acceptably low level, and have provided a variety of lock-out options. 

    The light has considerable battery flexibility by running the four wells in parallel – you can thus run the light in 1x, 2x, 3x, or 4x 18650 configurations (or 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x CR123A). Although I haven't tested it here, I recommend you don't try to run Turbo on anything less than the full 4x/8x complement of cells (or Hi on anything less than 3x/6x). Although in a pinch, I'm sure you could get by with an IMR-18650 or two (if you had ones that were long enough to activate the light – my AW IMR-18650 are too short, even with a magnet spacer). 

    I am sure this light will garner a lot of attention, given its tiny size and incredible output. Long-term stability is unknown, but Nitecore seems to be diligent in working through the initial issues identified on the first production runs. I've certainly found it a fun light to play with - looking forward to hearing the experiences of other members here. 

    UPDATE December 12, 2011: It was reported in another thread that the diffuser from the Eagletac M3C4 screws down and fits the TM11 exactly. I just attempted this, and can confirm it works.  

    UPDATE January 19, 2012: I've expanded my comments on the length compatibility of 18650 cells. Note that many of the new 3100mAh cells may not activate in this light, depending on their exact height and the tolerances of your individual sample. I recommend you make sure your cells are between 67-69mm, to ensure reliable contact.

    UPDATE April 19, 2012: To clarify, all three of my review samples were received in October-November of 2011. The first version (batch code V1.10) experienced flickering issues on Turbo. The second (batch code V1.11) experienced an emitter failure. The third was also batch code V1.11, but apparently with improved emitter soldering. Subsequent to the completion of this review, I understood Nitecore was going to adjust to lower return set point for the thermal sensor, to try and reduce the variability in the hysterisis function noted in my review samples (i.e., the oscillations between Hi and Turbo). I presume this change was made to later V1.11 lights, but have no specific knowledge. Recently, a V1.12 has appeared on the market, which seems to have a circuit change causing the red LED ring around the on-switch to light up continuously when the light is on. But there may have been other circuit changes introduced over time, including throughout the V1.11 batch run.

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