Warning: pic heavy, as usual.
The Nitecore EA8 "Caveman" is the next step up from the EA4 "Pioneer" that I reviewed recently. Supporting 8x standard AA batteries, the EA8 has marginally more output – but much greater throw – than its petite 4xAA little sister.
Let's see how it compares to other recent lights in this multi-AA battery class.
Manufacturer Reported Specifications:
(note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results).
- Utilizes a CREE XM-L U2 LED
- Output: Turbo: 900 Lumens, High: 590 Lumens, Mid: 180 Lumens, Low: 50 lumens, Micro: 2 lumens
- Runtime: Turbo: 2hr, High: 3hr 45min, Mid: 14hr, Low: 60hr, Micro: 800hr (based on 8x 1.2V 2400mAh AA)
- Integrated "Precision Digital Optics Technology" provides extreme reflector performance
- Boasts a peak beam intensity of 60,000cd and a throw distance of up to 490 meters
- Innovative single button two-stage switch offers a user-friendly interface (patented)
- Eight rapidly switchable brightness modes to select from
- High efficiency circuit board provides up to 800 hours runtime
- Integrated power indicator light displays remaining battery power (patented)
- Power indicator’s secondary function displays battery voltage (accurate to 0.1V)
- Reverse polarity protection prevents damage due to incorrectly inserted batteries
- Stainless steel retaining ring protects the core components from damage
- Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating
- Constructed from aero grade aluminum alloy
- Sturdy HAIII military grade hard-anodized
- Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (two meters submersible)
- Impact resistant to 1.5 meters
- Tail stand capability
- Dimensions: Length: 183mm, Head diameter: 60 mm, Tube diameter: 41.8mm
- Weight: 302g (without battery)
- Accessories: Quality holster, lanyard, spare O-ring
- MSRP: ~$100
The EA8 comes in similar packaging to the other Nitecore Explorer series lights. Inside the cardboard box, you will find the light, holster, simple wrist lanyard, extra o-ring, manual, and warranty card.
From left to right: Duracell NiMH; Nitecore EA8; Eagletac SX25A6; Olight S65; Fenix TK45; Jetbeam PA40; Nitecore EA4.
All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed (unless indicated):
Nitecore EA8 8xAA: Weight: 301.9g , Length: 182mm, Width (bezel): 60.1mm
Nitecore EA4 4xAA: Weight: 161.6g , Length: 117.9mm, Width (bezel): 40.2mm
Eagletac SX25A6 6xAA: Weight: 279.8g, Length: 183mm, Weight (bezel): 47.0mm
Fenix TK45 8xAA: Weight: 307.3g, Length: 202mm, Width (bezel) 50.6mm, Width (tailcap) 44.0
ITP A6 6xAA: Weight: 209.9g, Length: 174mm, Width (bezel) 48.0mm, Width (tailcap) 37.8mm
JetBeam PA40 4xAA: Weight: 184.0g, Length: 183mm, Width: 40.8mm (bezel), 42.1mm (max width)
Lumintop PK30 6xAA: Weight: 454.0g, Length: 218mm, Width (bezel): 62.0mm
Olight S65 6xAA: Weight 215.4g, Length: 180mm, Width (bezel): 38.7mm
Sunwayman M40A 4xAA: Weight: 247.0g , Length: 145mm, Width 57.0mm (bezel)
The EA8 is certainly in keeping with other 6x and 8x AA-size lights in my collection, but has a wider bezel opening. Note that this bezel size is comparable the TM11 and TM15.
The EA8 certainly share a lot of similarities to the EA4 – except for the much longer body and wider head. As before, there are ridges along the body to help with grip, and there is no knurling except on the tailcap (where it helps when performing battery changes). The power button has the same feel as before, and is actually fairly "grippy" (more on this in a moment). Overall grip is reasonable. Anodizing is a flat black, and seems in excellent shape on my sample.
Body labels are rather extensive, but they are very legible and clear.
As with many lights of this type, the connection is made by contacts on a connector piece in the tailcap. This connector board can spin freely, and locks in place to a couple of holes in the flashliught body that line up with rods in the tailcap. As with the EA4, screw threads are anodized, but it doesn't matter – there is no physical lock-out, because it is the tension in the springs that determines the contact. In my handling, you will need to loosen the tailcap more than half-way off to even begin to break this contact (i.e., it's not very effective as a lock-out).
Battery handle is rather compact for 8xAA (alkaline, NiMH or L91). But that's because the battery compartments are molded right into the aluminum, with the cells in a 4s2p arrangement. This means you could run the light on 4x AA lights in a pinch, just like the EA4. Just place the four cells on the same side of the handle delimited by the two lock-pin holes in the base.
The light can both tailstand and headstand. There is a cut-out on the base to allow you thread a wrist-lanyard through.
The switch design is the same as the EA4, which is rather distinctive. It is a two-stage electronic switch, and in many ways functions similarly to the TM11 or TM15. But it also has a lot of differences – first off, the switch is smaller, with a rubberized "grippy" texture. This actually makes it relatively easy to access with bare hands (i.e., you will feel the difference easily).
Secondly, the switch feel is different from either the TM11 or TM15 – you don't need to press it as hard to activate the first or second levels. It's hard to describe in words, but I would describe the pressure needed as more subtle than those TM-series lights.
There is also a faint blue LED located underneath the switch cover. This is used to signal the state of the light (i.e., battery status, voltage, etc). In daylight this LED is quite dim (i.e., not too useful as a readout), but it does make a good standby indicator in the dark. Scroll down for an explanation of the interface.
The EA8 reflector is very smooth and quite wide and deep – this should translate into excellent throw for the class. The XM-L emitter (Cool White U2 in my sample) was well centered. The light has a flat stainless steel bezel ring, in a brushed finish.
The EA8 uses the same interface as the EA4 – which is in turn similar to the TM15's innovative two-stage electronic switch.
For Turbo output, press the switch all the way and release (for constant on), or press firmly and hold for momentary on. This "Search/Turbo" set also has a slightly lower Hi mode, which you can switch to and from (when locked on in Turbo) by half-pressing the switch and releasing. There is no mode memory on this mode set – the light always comes on in Turbo. Turn off by a full press and release.
For the lower "Daily" modes, only partially press the switch from Off (again, hold for momentary, release quickly for locked-on). Light will come on in the memorized lower output mode. As described above, to switch modes when on, simply half-press and quickly release the switch again. The light will advance to the next output, in repeating sequence of Micro > Lo > Med > Hi. The light has memory on this mode set, and will retain the last lower output used. Turn off by a full press and release.
Note that the Micro, Lo and Med modes are much lower than on the EA4 sample I tested. Scroll down to my testing results for a direct comparison.
The feel of the "grippy" switch is the same as the EA4, which is a bit different from the TM15 (i.e. the pressure need is less, with less of a traverse).
The light will read-out the voltage of the cells when you first connect the head, by a series of blue flashes under the switch cover. 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.
Like my EA4 sample (but unlike my earlier TM-series), the switch LED indicator doesn't stay illuminated when the light is on – but it will start to flash as the batteries begin to drain, at increasing frequency.
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. There is also a SOS and Locator Beacon mode that can be accessed by pressing and holding the switch all the way down when in Strobe mode. Simply release the switch to select SOS/Beacon as the light rotates through the options.
There is a switch lock-out mode that prevents accidental activation (and lowers the standby current, see below). From On, press the switch all the way down and hold for more than one second. There will be a brief flash - when you subsequently release the switch, the light will turn off and enter the lockout mode (and briefly flash out the voltage of the cells).
As before, to exit the lockout mode, fully press and hold the switch firmly for more than one second. The EA8 manual correctly provides this instruction (an erroneous instruction was given in my original EA4 manual).
For more information on the light, including the build and user interface, please see my video overview of the whole series:
Video was recorded in 720p, but YouTube typically defaults to 360p. Once the video is running, you can click on the configuration settings icon and select the higher 480p to 720p options. You can also run full-screen.
As with all my videos, I recommend you have annotations turned on. I commonly update the commentary with additional information or clarifications before publicly releasing the video.
There is no sign of PWM, at any output level. The EA8 appears to be current-controlled.
I know there has been concern raised about PWM due to a report of non-visible circuit noise detected on an EA8 sample. The presence of a reoccurring signal does NOT indicated PWM however. In the vast majority of cases, this circuit noise is not visually detectable (i.e., can only be detected with sensitive equipment), and it does not affect efficiency. With my oscilloscope setup, I commonly detect non-visible circuit noise on many lights - including current-controlled ones. But in the case of my EA8, I am happy to report that there is no evidence of circuit noise in my testing.
As with many recent Nitecore lights, the strobe mode is very interesting. Basically, it's a variable high frequency strobe, but with varying pulse duration as well.
On many Nitecore lights, I've not able to resolve specific reoccuring frequencies (i.e., they appear truly variable). With the EA8, there seems to be a "typical" strobe frequency of ~13 Hz. In actual fact, the time between the majority of pulses is anywhere from ~74-89 msecs (i.e., between 11.1 and 13.5 Hz). But every now and then, the strobe "skips" a pulse (i.e., goes ~160 msecs between two pulses), or "double-ups" (i.e., ~44 msec between two pulses). I show a 1 sec time sample above where several of these conditions are present.
The net effect is that the strobe is never constant, although most of the time is between 11-13.5 Hz. But it is possible people could detect apparent short-lived frequencies as low as 6 Hz or as high as 25 Hz.
A standby current drain is inevitable on this light, due to the electronic switch in the head.
When you first connect batteries, the light reads out the battery voltage. Afterwards, the stable standby drain is 0.54mA on my sample. But roughly every 3 seconds, there is a brief flash of the switch LED, which causes the current to jump to up to ~6mA.
Given that this flash is very quick, it's hard to calculate an "average" overall current. By repeated sampling, my best estimate is that this higher current only lasts for half a second, once every three seconds (i.e., spends 5/6 of the time at 0.54mA, 1/6 of the time at up to ~6mA). As a result, that makes the estimated overall current ~1.5mA, on average over time.
Given the 4s2p arrangement of the cells (with effective capacity of 4000 mAh for my Sanyo Eneloops), that would translate into under four months in the regular standby mode. As such, I recommend you use the electronic lock to lower this current. I haven't measured it, but it is bound to be lower than the standard standby.
And now the white-wall beamshots. All lights are on Sanyo Eneloop NiMH, at the maximum supported number for the given models (4x, 6x or 8x). Lights are 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.
The Nitecore EA8 has a relatively wider spillbeam than most lights in this class, with a sharply defined hotspot. Peak throw is the highest I've seen in a multi-AA light to date (scroll down for actual beam measures).
Of course, the true test will be in outdoor shots. The snow is nearly gone here, so I should be able to get to these soon. In the meantime, here are some indoor shots. These will at least allow you to compare the throw and spill of the three lights. For your reference, the back of the couch is about 7 feet away (~2.3m) from the opening of the light, and the far wall is about 18 feet away (~5.9m). Below I am showing a series of exposures, to allow you to better compare hotspot and spill.
I will update these comparisons with outdoor shots when available.
UPDATE JUNE 18, 2003: Below see a comparison of the EA8 to the EA4 and Eagletac SX25A6.
For outdoor beamshots, these are all done in the style of my earlier 100-yard round-up review. Please see that thread for a discussion of the topography (i.e. the road dips in the distance, to better show you the corona in the mid-ground).
FYI, any "streaks" you see across the images are bug-trails. Flying insects are often attracted to the bright lights, and their flight trails get captured as swirly streaks due to the long exposure time.
The EA8 is slightly "throwier" than the SX25A6, as you would expect for the larger head and smooth reflector. But the difference isn't that great really – I wouldn't expect throw to be a major discriminator for most people.
I haven't bothered with the close-up of the EA4, but you can tell from the above that the EA8 is a much better thrower, for roughly similar overall output (as you would expect, with that larger head).
All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, as described on my flashlightreviews.ca website. 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.
I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lightbox values to Lumens thread for more info.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
My summary tables are reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see http://www.flashlightreviews.ca/FL1.htm for a discussion, and a description of all the terms used in these tables. Effective July 2012, I have updated all my Peak Intensity/Beam Distance measures with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter (orange highlights).
As you could tell from the beamshots, the EA8 has the highest throw of any mutli-AA light in my collection. Max output is also the highest I've seen for a XM-L based light (although the newer XM-L2 emitters would allow you to squeeze out another ~15% more output, on average).
Another interesting finding is the relatively low "Micro" mode on the EA8 – considerably lower than my EA4 for example. In fact, the Micro, Lo and Med modes are all lower on the EA8, which I personally like. Hopefully the EA4 will soon follow suit with a similar distribution. Here is how my lumen estimates compare to the Nitecore specs for the EA8:
There is remarkably good concordance between my lumen estimates and the Nitecore reported ANSI FL-1 specs for this light.
One thing to note – my EA8 sample steps down by ~7% after 3 mins on Turbo. This is much less than what I noticed on my EA4 sample, as shown below.
Another change here is that I see no significant difference between alkaline and NiMH on my EA8 – but I did see a measurable difference between those cell types on my EA4.
See runtimes graphs below for more information on the EA8 performance.
The EA8 typically has excellent regulation over the course of its runs, even on alkaline cells. Although alkaline will eventually drop out of regulation, I noticed a relatively slow decline in output at that point (i.e., too gradual for you to notice, until the cells are nearly exhausted).
Overall output/runtime efficiency seems very good overall on all batteries, consistent with a current-controlled light. That said, the extremely-efficient Eagletac SX25A6 (which is only 6xAA, but with a higher output bin XM-L2 T6) seems to have nearly equivalent regulated runtime performance at some levels. But that light has a more abrupt drop-off on alkalines, compared to the extended runtime on the EA8.
Nitecore's ANSI FL-1 runtime specs are generally consistent with my results. Recall that the FL-1 standard calls for time to 10% output (not 50%, as reported above), and that I am using relative low-capacity 2000mAh Sanyo Eneloop (compared to 2400mAh with Nitecore).
UPDATE: As the EA8 can easily run on 4x AA batteries, I have done some additional runtimes on Turbo and Hi, on eneloop:
As you can see, runtime is reduced on the highest Turbo level (i.e. regulated runtime on 4xAA is only ~40% that of 8xAA). But for the lower levels, you should expect what is shown above for the Hi mode - i.e., 4xAA will give you approximately 50% of the regulated runtime on 8xAA.
Due to the electronic switch in the head, the light has a stand-by current when waiting to receive a button press. The current is relatively low, but because of the intermittent standby flash, I estimate this would drain fully charged Sanyo Eneloops in under four months. As such, I recommend you store the light lock-out at the electronic switch, which should drastically lower the standby current. Note that it only takes a sustained button press of >1 sec to unlock the light, so accidental activation is still possible (although far less likely).
The electronic switch is fairly small, and it may take you a few seconds to find it when you want to activate the light. That said, I actually found it easier to locate by touch than some (thanks to the grippy switch feel). It may also take you some time to get used to the relative pressure required for the two-stage switch, although I personally got used to it quickly.
The LED indicator under the switch is very dim, and it can be hard to see under typical illumination conditions (good in the dark, though).
Like the EA4, the EA8 lacks any sort of anti-roll feature.
The EA8 is the "big brother" of the EA4 released recently from Nitecore. The main benefit of the extra batteries is extra runtime – but the EA8 has also taken advantage of the extra size to enlarge the head for even greater throw, along with a few other changes.
The EA8 is a more substantial light than the EA4, and I find overall hand feel and grip is a bit better for it (despite a very similar body handle design). The user interface is basically the same as the EA4, which is similar to the earlier TM-series lights like the TM15, or newer P-series lights like the P25. Note that the EA4/EA8 switch does have a different feel from the TM- or P-series lights, but it took me no time at all to get used to it. With bare hands, it is easy to isolate the grippy, rubberized switch cover on these lights.
Output levels have changed from the EA4 – and for the better, in my view. The EA8 now sports a proper Lo mode, with wider spacing spread out across all are five levels. Personally, I hope Nitecore applies this new circuit spacing the EA4 as well. Max mode output has also increased, by ~5-13%, depending on battery type (see my earlier EA4 review for my lumen estimates of that light).
Another thing that has changed is the step-down feature on Turbo is now greatly reduced. On my EA4, I noticed a ~33% step-down on Turbo after 3 mins runtimes. This was presumably for both thermal control and runtime issues (i.e., given the small mass and limited 4xAA capacity). On the larger EA8, the magnitude of this step-down has dropped to just ~7% after 3 mins. This is a small enough step that you are not likely to notice it in practice (i.e., you may not even realize the light has a step-down). In any case, you can always turn the light off-on to restart the initial max.
Overall output/runtime efficiency remains very good, consistent with current-controlled circuitry. I am particularly impressed by the regulation pattern on alkalines – the EA8 is able to keep flat regulation for a good amount of time, and then shows a very gradual drop-off in output (which would be hard to notice).
The beam pattern is more of the "thrower" type, with a wide spillbeam and a sharply defined hotspot. That said, even the smaller EA4 had relatively good throw for its size. The only thing missing in the EA8 bundle is a diffuser for the light, to increase its versatility. I've seen online offers of a 60mm diffuser cover for the Nitecore TM11 and TM15, which should also work fine here (but I haven't tested one).
All told, the EA8 is an evolution of the EA4 into a larger build. While no longer a pocket light, the EA8 does have some improvements in terms of mode spacing and step-down. While max output is only marginally higher than the EA4, it does have much greater throw and runtime (thanks to the larger head and 8xAA batteries, respectively). Certainly another option to consider in this class.
EA8 was supplied by Nitecore for review.