The P10 is a new slim-lined 1x18650, 2xCR123A/RCR light from Nitecore – but featuring a new two-button tailcap design (which Nitecore informs was developed some time ago for the P20). The end result is that the P10 even smaller than the P12 that I reviewed recently.
Let's see how the P10 compares to the earlier Nitecore offerings (and everyone else's, while we are at it).
Note: as always, these are only what the manufacturer/dealers report. To see my actual testing results, scroll down the review.
- Premium CREE XM-L2 (T6) LED
- Maximum output of 800 lumens
- Output/Runtime 1x18650: Hi 800 lumens / 4hr 30min – Med 290 lumens / 9hr – Lo 40 lumens / 26hr
- Output/Runtime 2xCR123A: Hi 800 lumens / 1hr 30min – Med 400 lumens / 2hr 30min – Lo 70 lumens / 10hr 30min
- Boasts a peak beam intensity of 9,300cd and a throw distance of up to 193 meters
- Highly efficient circuit offers up to 26 hours of use on low
- Crystal Coating Technology combined with “Precision Digital Optics Technology” for extreme reflector performance
- Dual-switch tail cap designed for tactical use and easy application
- STROBE READY (TM) button for quick access to Strobe Mode (Patented)
- Three selectable modes brings flexibility in operation
- Integrated LEDs on tail switch to indicate remaining battery power (patented)
- Anti-rolling design to provide a firm grip
- Titanium steel clip included
- Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-scratch coating
- Constructed from aero grade aluminum alloy with HAIII military grade hard-anodized finish
- Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (two meters submersible)
- Impact resistant to 1.5 meters
- Dimensions: Length: 134mm (5.28”), Head Diameter: 25.4mm (1), Tail Diameter: 25.4mm (1”)
- Weight: 82grams (2.89oz)(without battery)
- Accessories Included: quality holster, CR123 battery magazine, clip, tactical ring, lanyard, spare O-ring
- Optional: remote switch RSW2, tactical lanyard NTL10/NTL20
- MSRP: ~$80
Packaging is Nitecore's current standard thin cardboard display box, with detailed specs and information printed right on the box. Inside, included with the light are spare O-rings, anti-rattle CR123A plastic insert, spare main switch boot cover, removable grip ring, pocket clip, basic wrist lanyard, holster with Velcro closing flap, product inserts, warranty card, and manual.
From left to right: Nitecore protected 18650 2300mAh; Nitecore P10, P12; Fenix PD35; Thrunite TN12 2014; Thrunite Neutron 2C 2014; Zebralight SC600-II; Olight S20 Baton 2013.
All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed (unless indicated):
Nitecore P10: Weight 82.0g, Length: 135.1mm, Width (bezel): 25.5mm
Nitecore P12: Weight: 89.7g, Length: 139.4mm, Width (bezel): 25.4mm
Eagletac D25LC2: Weight: 50.0g, Length: 116.3mm, Width (bezel): 22.5mm
Eagletac TX25C2: Weight 93.6g, Length: 120.4mm, Width (bezel): 31.6mm
Fenix PD35: Weight: 82.7g, Length: 138.1mm, Width (bezel): 25.4mm
Foursevens MMR-X: Weight 90.8g, Weight (with 18650): 138.5g, Length: 138.6mm, Width (bezel): 31.5mm
Foursevens MMX Burst: Weight 145.8g, Length: 153.3mm, Width (bezel): 38.7mm
Klarus XT11-2014: Weight 140.1g, Length: 150.5mm, Width (bezel): 34.8mm
Olight M20S-X: Weight: 124.1g, Length: 145.4mm, Width: 35.5mm (head)
Thrunite TN12-2014: Weight: 80.0g, Length: 140.5mm, Width (bezel): 25.4mm
Zebralight SC600 II: Weight 79.3g, Length: 101.8mm, Width (bezel) 29.7mm
The P10 is a compact and solid little light, similar in overall appearance to the P12 (though without the secondary switch in the elongated head). Anodizing is a shiny black finish, hard anodized, with no chips or damage on my sample. Body labels are bright white and clear against the black background. Knurling is of moderate aggressiveness on the body tube and tailcap. But when combined all the other grip elements (e.g., side switch cover, fins in the head, pocket clip, grip ring, etc.), I would describe overall grip as very good.
The light has some anti-roll indentations on the body, but the clip and grip ring are even more helpful in that regard. Clip is supposedly titanium-plated stainless steel, and feels reasonably sturdy. There is also a bundled grip ring in the package, for cigar-grip style carry.
Tailcap screw threads are standard triangular cut and anodized for lock-out at either end of the body tube. Note that the body tube threading is identical to the P12 (i.e., heads/tails are physically interchangeable).
What differs from the P12 is the dual-switch tailcap design. The P10 is now controlled by two switches in the tailcap – a primary forward physical clicky (for off/on) and a secondary electronic switch (for strobe or mode switching). There is a hard plastic lever over the electronic switch labeled "MODE" (held in place by a pin through the tailcap). Both switches can be accessed one-handed by the thumb or index finger, in whatever grip style you prefer. Nitecore informs that this design was originally developed some time ago (for the P20), but only recently released. Observant readers will note that it looks very similar to the tailcap from the recent Klarus XT11 update for 2014. The feel of the two switches on the P10 are generally similar to my XT11-2014 sample (although with slightly less resistance on the mode changing switch on my P10).
The contact board in the head is also updated from the P12. On the P10, there is an electronic reverse polarity feature in the head (instead of physical). This means that all flat top cells will not work in the light now (i.e., only smaller button top accepted).
As before, the body tube is wide enough to accommodate all size 18650 cells, and there seems to be plenty of room of longer cells as well.
The P10 comes with a slightly scalloped black aluminum bezel. The overall head is typical for this class - not very large. Reflector is identical to the P12 version, and is smooth and fairly deep (given this size head). Coupled with the XM-L2 cool white emitter (which was well centered on my sample), I would expect a fairly typical beam pattern, comparable to the P12. Scroll down for beamshots.
There are several programming options for the P10, but basic operation and switch use is similar across the mode sets.
Press the large forward clicky switch for constant On or Off (press for momentary, click for locked-on).
When On, you can the change output level by pressing the smaller electronic mode switch under the lever. Note that there are three sets of mode sequences available to you, which I will describe below.
Also note that in any set, Strobe can be activated directly from Off by simply pressing the mode switch (momentary Strobe only when accessed from Off). Strobe can be activated from On by a press-and-hold of the mode switch for ~0.5 sec (constant on Strobe when accessed from On).
Standard General Mode Set (default setting)
In the default setting, when On, mode sequence is Lo > Med > Hi, in a repeating loop, upon successive pressing of the electronic mode switch. Note that the XT11-2014, which has a similar looking tailcap, moves through modes in the reverse direction. Press and hold the P10 mode switch for ~0.5 secs to activate constant output Strobe.
There is a memory feature on the default Standard General mode on the P10 – when clicked Off/On at the main switch, the light comes back on in whatever mode you last left it (including Strobe, if that was your last mode). Again, the XT11-2014 had no memory mode, in contrast.
Law Enforcement Mode Set
In the Law Enforcement setting of the P10, mode sequence is just Hi > Med (i.e., there is no Lo mode). Strobe works as before (i.e,, press and hold the mode switch for ~0.5sec).
Unlike General mode, there is no memory feature for the Law Enforcement mode – light defaults to Hi every time you turn it On at the main tailcap switch.
Tactical Mode Set
In the P10 Tactical mode, the light is defined as Hi only (i.e., no Med or Lo). However, I find Strobe activates in constant On with a quick press of the electronic switch. So I would describe the mode sequence as actually being Hi > Strobe.
There is again no memory feature for the Tactical mode – light defaults to Hi every time you turn it On.
How to change between mode sets
To select a mode set, loosen the head of the light. Hold the electronic mode switch, and tighten the bezel (while continuing to hold the switch).
After ~1 sec, the light will flash to indicate the mode it is in. One flash is for Tactical Mode, two flashes is for Law Enforcement mode, and three flashes is for Standard General mode.
To change the mode set, simply repeat the above procedure. The light will advance to the next mode set, in sequence.
Battery capacity read-out feature
Nitecore has retained a battery read out feature on the P10 – although it is more basic than the P12, and reads out though the main power switch boot cover.
When first connecting a battery and tightening the tailcap, a (faint) red LED under the main switch illuminates. This LED reads out the voltage in a series of flashes, with 3 flashes indicating >50% power remaining, 2 flashes <50% power remaining, and 1 flash for nearly depleted. This differs from the P12, which read out actual voltage (in bright blue, under the electronic switch).
Note that if you want to check the capacity of a battery currently inside the light, you will need to break the current and pause at least ~10 secs or so before re-establishing the connection to get a read-out.
For more information on the overall build and user interface, please see my video overview:
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.
Reviewer's note: I have recently updated my oscilloscope software, so the traces below may look a little different from my earlier reviews.
Unlike the P12 (which was current-controlled), the P10 is bound to use pulse width modulation (PWM) in all its output modes, including Hi. This is a common feature that I have observed on lights that have a secondary circuit in their tailcaps (i.e., ones with a secondary mode switch there). I suspect PWM on all levels is required for how the two circuits communicate with each other and coordinate their function
Let's see how it looks on the P10:
The P10 uses PWM range in a range from ~860-910 Hz, depending on the output level. This PWM frequency is similar to the other dual-switch tailcap design in my collection, the XT11-2014.
As with other lights that operate this way, it is practically impossible to notice the PWM on the P10 Hi mode (even when shining on a fan). For higher perceived outputs (where the light is on for most of the time), the detectable perception of PWM drops considerably. This is another example where you would need an oscilloscope to be able to detect the Hi mode PWM.
PWM is far more noticeable when the duty cycle is low (i.e., the light is off more than it is on for each pulse). Personally, it is really only on Lo where I find it to be particularly noticeable on the P10 (although I can see it on Med).
The overall strobe frequency is very high, around 16.5Hz. But as with many lights with very high frequency strobes, it also has unusual pulse duty cycle. Most strobes have a 50:50 on/off cycle (i.e., the light spends an equal amount of time on and off during each pulse). On the P10, the light is off longer than it on during each pulse – it's actually more of 30:70 on/off cycle. Not that this will be visible to you in practice – the strobe will seem highly disorienting at 16.5 Hz.
A second point you may have noticed about is the "noisy" spikes during the On phase (i.e., during the negative deflections above). That is just due to the ~860 Hz PWM pattern of the Hi mode described earlier. Here is a blow-up of what this PWM signal looks like during a strobe cycle:
Since the secondary mode switch is electronic and can function as momentary strobe, there needs to be a standby current when the tailcap is connected.
When first connecting a battery to the tailcap, I measure a quick ~0.5mA current, that rises to ~7mA over the first two secs, and then drops down to a stable 73uA indefinitely. At this level, a 3100mAh 18650 would be fully drained in a little under 5 years.
Not really much of a concern there – accidental activation is more what I would worry about, especially given how sensitive the electronic mode changing switch is. As such, I recommend you lock out the light by a quick turn of the tailcap (or head) when not in use.
And now the white-wall beamshots. All lights are on 1x18650 AW protected (2200mAh). 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.
As expected, the P10 has very similar beam to the P12 – although max output is slightly less. The larger XT11-2014 has a more "throwy" beam, due to its larger head. Scroll down for direct output and throw measures.
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 shown in the beamshots, max output of the P10 is a bit lower than the P12 – but the overall beam profile is the same (i.e., beam distance is proportionately decreased as well).
Here is a comparison of output levels on different batteries. For this table, I've done something a little different, and shown output levels at various times post-activation (in brackets).
The main point to take away from above is that (unusually) the P10 has different ANSI FL-1 output levels depending on the voltage source of the batteries being used. This is true across all 3 levels (i.e., Lo, Med and Hi). That said, my output estimation measures generally correlate very well with Nitecore's published specs.
The second point to the above is the reason why I added additional time points in brackets, for Med and Hi. Nitecore reports that the P10 "steps down" at 3 mins runtime. But as you can probably tell from the above, that is not the whole story. Scroll down to runtimes for more info – specifically, for why I choose the 3, 7 and 20 min time periods post-activation shown above.
As usual, all my standard runtimes are done on AW protected 2200mAh cells, under a cooling fan.
The main take-home message above is that overall output-runtime performance and regulation pattern of the P10 is consistent with other PWM lights that use a dual-switch design (e.g., the XT11-2014).
Clearly, overall efficiency of these lights takes a hit due to the use of PWM on all levels. Current-controlled lights (like the P12) will always have a runtime advantage. The stabilization pattern is also different here compared to most lights. As you can probably glean from above, the so-called "step down" at 3 mins for Med and Hi (as reported by Nitecore) is not the whole story. To show this better, here is a close-up view of output over time for the two levels, on a number of batteries.
Ok, so for 2x sources (CR123A/RCR), the P10 begins to drop down in output at 3 mins. But this is not an abrupt step – instead, it is a very linear decline over (varying) time. On Hi, it takes 4 mins before it finally settles down to its new flatly-regulated level (which is ~50% of the Hi mode ANSI FL-1 output level). On Med, it takes 1 min before it settles down to its new flat regulated level (which is ~70% of the original Med mode ANSI FL-1 output level).
But the 1x18650 situation is quite different. Here, there is no linear drop in output beginning at a specific time. Instead, the initial output (which is lower to start with than 2x sources), drops off for exactly 20mins. At which point, the output level "stabilizes" in a direct-drive-like pattern. At 20mins into the runs, output is ~40% of the Hi mode ANSI FL-1 output, and ~65% of the Med ANSI FL-1 mode output.
I don't know why they went for such distinct regulation patterns on the different cells. But it is unusual to see lights "step down" this much, and in this fashion. Especially so on Med, where I've never seen anything quite like this. However, on the positive side, the rate of decline is slow enough that you are not likely to notice it visually.
Unlike other Nitecore offerings, the P10 uses PWM on all modes (including Hi) at a visually detectable ~900 Hz. This seems to be a necessary feature on lights with a dual-switch/circuit design in the tailcap. I find the PWM unnoticeable on Hi on this light, but those sensitive to PWM may notice it on the Med and Lo modes (i.e., as perceptual visual "flicker").
Light uses an electronic secondary mode switch in the tail, and therefore requires a stand-by current when fully connected. However, this is very low (73uA) in my testing, and would take years to drain a battery. To prevent accidental activation and break this current, you can always lock-out the light with a simply twist of the head or tailcap (thanks to the anodized threads at both ends).
Output is higher (and runtime lower) on 2x battery sources compared to 1x18650, at all levels. Note that max output is toward the lower end of this class, on all batteries.
The P10 drops in output after 3 mins on both Med and Hi. However, the regulation patterns (and final output level) differ depending on the voltage source (i.e., the number of batteries used). In all cases, final output after "step down" is lower than many competing lights in this class. Please see my runtimes above for more info.
Light lacks a true Lo mode, on any battery.
The P10 is an interesting addition to the Nitecore line-up. Maintaining the slim-lined build and general function of the popular P12, this new model features a new dual-switch tailcap design. While the tailcap looks and functions similar to the XT11, there are some significant benefits to the P10's programmable user interface.
The physical parallel to the XT11-2014 tailcap is very close – the switches have very similar function and feel (although slightly more sensitive on the P10), and use an almost identical pulse-width modulation (PWM) frequency of ~900Hz. I find this frequency a bit disappointing, as it means that PWM "flicker" – for those who are sensitive to it – will be detectable on the Lo level (and maybe Med). But it isn't that bad, and this does seem to be a common level for lights with this dual-circuit design.
A second potential issue with PWM is the lower overall efficiency compared to current-control. Again, the performance of the P10 is remarkably similar to the XT11-2014 and other PWM-based lights. So if maximum runtime and flat stabilization is important to you, you may want to stick with the P12. But the overall performance of the P10 is still acceptable for the class.
Another point on this front is the unusually significant drop in output on Hi and Med on the P10 – and the extended time it takes to reach the final set level. Nitecore explains this "step down" feature is to "prevent battery overheating and extend battery longevity". But I suspect the intent is to extend the total runtime for each mode, while gradually reducing the output in such a way that you are not aware of the decline. This is actually a good strategy, as you can always restart the light if you want max initial output again. However, I think a clearer explanation of this feature in the documentation would have been good.
Getting all that out of the way, the P10 does have some unusual perks in terms of the user interface. It's an obvious truism that you can't please everyone with a single interface. But Nitecore has thoughtfully provided three sets of programmable modes for how you use the light.
Personally, I like the default Standard General mode set, with its Lo > Med > Hi sequence, and mode memory feature (that even includes strobe as a memory option). In contrast, I am not crazy about with the interface on XT11 (which goes from Hi > Med > Lo, and always defaults to Hi upon activation).
But never fear tactical fans, you have two other mode sets to choose from on the P10: Tactical mode (which is Hi only), and Law Enforcement mode (which is Hi > Med only, and always defaults to Hi). And of course, strobe is always available at any time - in any mode set - by simply holding down the secondary mode switch.
This option on the P10 to pre-select your mode set is welcome – and particularly useful, given the dual-switch tailcap design. Personally, I would like to see an option where the mode switch did something other than Strobe from Off (i.e., all the mode sets right now seemed to be somewhat geared to more tactical use). But this is certainly a powerful set of options as to how to use a dual-switch interface in a smaller build - hopefully one of them meets your needs. And of course, the P12 is still available for those who like its particular combination of features and performance instead.
P10 provided by Nitecore for review.