Triple XM-L lights have become commonplace, which a testament to the strengths of this formula. NITECORE’s TM11 was an early adopter of this format and has been around for a little while now. With minor improvements being implemented along the way, the TM11 is still standing tall (metaphorically only as it is very small – tiny even) and showing that it is one of the strongest performers in this class with a measured 2457 ANSI Lumens!
NITECORE’s unassuming packaging belies how good the tiny monster that lurks within will prove itself to be.
With its reputation and the manufacturers claims to live up to, can this small light, no bigger than a can of soft-drink, really be that good? In the hand it seems far too compact to do so.
With no cells in it, the TM11 feels solid but not over engineered, and with four 18650s loaded (the heavier of the power sources) it suddenly feels full of potential as the compact package is now quite weighty.
Click it onto turbo, and if you haven’t yet experienced a 2000lm triple XM-L light first hand, expect jaw dropping to ensue. Even if you have, the very compactness of the TM11 and amount of power on tap should still bring a smile to any lumen junkie.
What is in the box:
The large box is plain cardboard with a printed label on the card. No frills, but neat.
Inside is a closed cell foam liner holding the TM11 firmly and providing excellent protection. The TM11 is supplied fitted into its quality holster and includes a spare o-ring, lanyard and instructions.
The TM11 out of the box
Taking a closer look and looking inside:
Multi-emitter lights combine the LEDs and reflectors in different ways. The TM11 has a single reflector, in a single housing, but this reflector is made up of three shallow overlapping reflectors.
The lens has an anti-reflective coating and is held in place with a stainless crenelated bezel.
The tail has nice detailing which appears to be a cosmetic feature, serving no practical function I can determine.
The TM11 has plenty of crisply executed knurling around the head and body of the light. The battery tube has four panels cut into the battery tube to give very positive grip and each panel has text etched into it. Here the model name is shown
A second panel
Looking into the business end shows the shallow merged reflectors forming a compound reflector. In the spaces between the individual reflectors have black panels with ‘NITECORE’, a nice detail.
Heat-sinking fins are relatively sparse considering the TM11’ s output, but precisely machined. The warning is laser etched.
Opening up the TM11, the contacts in the head are substantial looking, with raised rings for the positive (inner ring) and negative connections. As the battery tube is screwed into place, the positive contact will drag around on the ring, so it will be interesting to see how this holds up in the long term. Though the gold plating may come off, it looks like the raised ring is metal, so should prove durable.
Photographing the threads of the battery tube proved a little difficult as they are reasonably fine and the diameter of the tube meant the camera lens kept hitting the tube. The threads are a trapezoid form and fully anodised.
Looking into the battery tube (on the left focusing at the negative contact at the bottom of the tube) shows the flat plate spring contact used for the negative cell terminals, and focusing higher up shows the machined cell separators and central support pin meaning a single 18650 or 2 CR123s can be used if necessary.
Detail of the heat sink fins.
The TM11 name etched into the tail.
Comprising of a hole drilled through the base of the battery tube, the TM11 has a lanyard fixing point.
The bezel has small indents, probably for a matching tool used to screw it into place.
To give an idea of size, there are two AW IMR 18650 cells next to the TM11. Remember these are unprotected, so around 4mm shorter than a typical protected cell.
The supplied holster is very well made and fits the TM11 well. The front flap is held in place with Velcro.
There are three possible fixing choices, a metal D-loop, a fixed belt loop and a Velcro belt loop.
Modes and User Interface:
One of the TM11’s special features is its power switch. The single switch has two stages, just like most camera shutter buttons where you half press to focus. Surrounding the button is an illuminated ring which is used to give the user information.
Excessively close-up view of the aforementioned button!
The TM11 has two main ‘modes’, Turbo, and ‘Daily’. Turbo is exactly what it says – Maximum output. ‘Daily’ is a set of three output levels with low, medium and high.
Half pressing the button gives access to the ‘Daily’ mode. If you release the button within one second, it will stay on. If you keep the button held down, for more than one second you use the momentary function and as soon as you let go, the light will switch off. In momentary mode you cannot change output level. If you entered constant output, further half presses change the output level cycling through low medium, high, low etc. To switch off from constant output, briefly fully press the button and let go.
Turbo is accessed by fully pressing the button. Just like the ‘Daily’ mode, you can use a momentary output or constant output, and just as before, fully press the button again to switch off.
When the TM11 is on, double clicking the button fully accesses Strobe.
The TM11 has two types of ‘off’ mode, ‘standby’ and ‘lock-out’. In standby mode, the illuminated ring flashes every three seconds to help you locate it in the dark. This is the normal condition. To enter ‘lock-out’, with the TM11 on in any mode, press the button fully for more than 1s. The TM11 will flash once then go off. To exit ‘lockout’ a rapid triple click of the button switches it on.
The illuminated ring around the switch also serves to provide information to the user:
-When you first screw the battery tube into the TM11’s head, the ring will flash to indicate the battery voltage. First it flashes the whole volts, then the 0.1V, so if the batteries are at 4.2V, the TM11 will give four flashes a brief pause then two more.
-Flashing every three seconds while the light is off indicates the light is in standby.
-When entering lockout mode, the battery voltage display is shown just as described above.
-With the TM11 on any output level, the ring will remain illuminated.
-When the battery voltage is getting low, and the TM11 is switched on, the ring will start to flash. (This flashing appears to get quicker the lower the battery voltage, but this is a subjective observation)
Batteries and output:
The TM11 is very versatile in the power options. CR123s (not RCR123s) and 18650s can be used.
Fully loaded the TM11 takes either 4 x 18650, or 8 x CR123, but if necessary, you can use 3, 2 or 1 18650s and 6, 4 or 2 CR123s. Of course if using the lower number of cells you need to be careful about using the higher outputs, as these may over-drain the cells, but you have the flexibility.
18650s must be button top as flat top cells won’t make contact reliably and one or more cells may not be providing power. Also due to the design of the contact spring, you actually need the extra length of a protected 18650 to make contact. The longest protected cells I have used are the Xtar 3100mAh ones, which were actually a bit of a tight fit lengthwise.
Like many lights, the TM11 has a parasitic drain due to its electronic switch (rather than a physical switch that cuts the circuit). On standby the current draw is 0.4mA and on lockout this drops to 80uA (or 0.08mA), and for 3100mAh cells this equates to 3.5 years on standby or 17.5 years on lockout!
To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. The sensor is a photo-diode restricted to visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not register). This was chosen as our eyes can only use the visible wavelengths of light so this is generally the only useful output. The integrating sphere was calibrated using 12 different reference sources and taking an average of the factor used to convert the measured voltage output to Lumens. Output figures are quoted as ANSI lumens where the measurement is made 30s after turning on the specified output level. Initial figures when first switching on are always higher, but all quoted measurements are ANSI.
Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.
The TM11 on test…
For the Turbo runtime graph a cooling fan was used. In this set-up, the maximum temperature the head reached was 50C
NITECORE TM11 I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency (Hz) Turbo using 8xSYSMAX CR123 2457 N/A Turbo using 4 x 18650 2447 N/A High 1295 N/A Medium 627 4000 Low 242 3840
The Strobe is a two-tone strobe alternating between 12 and 6.6Hz
Loaded up with Xtar 18650 3100mAh cells, the TM11 has the following output curve on Turbo
This gives an amazing 1 hour at over 2000lm, then a further 36 minute with over 1000lm and another 30 minutes before the output drops to 200lm. Following this there was a further 40 minutes of usable light. This is a light you can rely on not to leave you in the dark and gives a fantastic performance on continuous maximum output.
When the batteries get very low the LEDs just dim gradually. I got bored waiting for a complete shut off and here used an exposure of 1/3200s to capture the LEDs in detail.
In The Lab
In an attempt to quantify the actual beam profile I developed the following test. There are probably many flaws in my method, but it is simple and easy to carry out and seems to provide a good enough comparison.
The method used was to support the light 1m off the floor and 1m from a wall, with a tape measure on the wall. The zero of the scale is placed in the centre of the hotspot and a lux meter is then positioned at points along the scale, with the measurements recorded. Beam shots are often taken with the light shining on a flat white wall, so this method is simply measuring the actual intensity across the beam on a flat surface, not the spherical light emission.
The results are then plotted on a graph.
For the best throw you want to see a sharp peak with less of the distracting spill. For the best flood light the trace should be pretty flat.
The TM11 beam profile is shown here compared to the Fenix TK41 as this is a well-known high performance light.
The TM11 has a very strong peak, however it also has a wide hotspot and smooth transition into a nice bright spill area.
Taking this a little further, I calculated an approximate factor to apply to the lux measurements, as each measurement gets further from the centre of the beam, it corresponds to a larger area onto which the light is falling. It seems to me that this should also be taken into consideration, so I applied these area corrections and came up with this odd looking graph.
The key quantity here is the area under the graph line. This should correspond to the total light output.
This shows just how much light the TM11 outputs, and it overwhelms the already impressive TK41 especially the spill and outer spill. The TM11 is also a flood monster.
The previous beam profile graphs, show the TM11 as having not only a strong hotspot so having good range, but also having masses of spill light. The compound reflector and multiple emitters mean the outer edge of the spill beam is a little messy, but this can’t be helped.
To give a comparison of the TM11’s powerful beam, here I’m comparing it to the Fenix TK41 as this is a known top performer.
The following image shows the direct comparison of both lights with exactly the same exposure.
If that doesn’t make you want one, nothing will!
What it is really like to use…
Using the two-stage switch initially took a bit of getting used to, but it did become just as natural as using the two-stage switch of a camera shutter button. For such a simple user interface the TM11 manages a great flexibility of control.
It is an unfortunate consequence of having a light such as this, that you quickly get accustomed to the massive output and it becomes ‘normal’. Other lights just seem to pale into insignificance once this Tiny Monster has made itself at home in your hand.
The large diameter of the light means anyone with small hands may find it a bit tiring to use for a long time, but with average or larger hands should find it comfortable enough.
High output + small size = HOT…….and the TM11 can get pretty hot. Used outside and held in the hand (as your hand is one of the best heat sinks) the TM11 should not get worryingly hot, but if you pop it onto a table, tail-standing it on Turbo to light up a room, it will get VERY hot.
The locator flashes are reassuring and have not been disturbing when the TM11 is sitting on the bedside table. Being able to stop these with the ultra-low drain lockout mode is great for longer term storage, and being able to run of just a single 18650, or 2 x CR123 is great as a backup option.
It is a little heavy for regular belt carry, unless you need a 2000lm light every day, but this is because of how much battery and output power if packed into such a small space.
The TM11 may have been around for a little while now, but for massive output, small size, quality and versatility, it continues to impress and is a very strong contender for making your wallet lighter.
Test sample kindly sent along to the CPF UK meet in June, to then be reviewed, by NITECORE.