Reviewer's Note: This is a three-in-one review, and so is a lot more pic-heavy than usual.
Following on the earlier 1x18650/2xCR123A models from Nitecore – the P12, P10 and EC20 – I have on hand three new models in their Multitask Hybrid family of lights, the MH10, MH12 and MH20.
These MH-series lights are distinguished by their in-light USB battery charging feature. Aside from this, the MH10 and MH12 are very similar in design and functionality as the earlier EC20 and P12, respectively. The MH20 is a bit more distinctive, with a two-stage switch similar in feel to some of the Tiny Monster lights.
Let's see how they compare.
Manufacturer Reported Specifications:
(note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results).
- LED: CREE XM-L2 U2
- 1000 Lumen LED output
- Uses 1 x 18650 (Included) or 2 x CR123A
- Integrated micro-USB charging port
- Integrated power indicator light indicates remaining battery power
- Battery voltage display
- Precision digital optics technology
- Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-scratch coating
- Constructed from aero grade aluminum alloy
- HA III military grade hard-anodized finish
- Constant current circuit
- 1.5 Meter impact resistant
- Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 standards
- Output / Runtime (18650): High: 1000 Lumens / 1 Hour 15 Minutes, Mid: 240 Lumens / 6 Hours, Low: 70 Lumens / 28 Hours, Lower: 1 Lumen / 520 Hours
- Beam Distance: 232m
- Peak Beam Intensity: 13500cd
- Single button design
- Dimensions: Length: 130mm, Head Diameter: 25.4mm, Tube Diameter: 25.4mm
- Weight: 75g (Without Battery)
- Includes: Nitecore NL183 2300mAh 18650 Battery, USB charging cable, Nylon Holster, Pocket Clip, Lanyard, Spare USB Port Cover, Spare O-Ring, User's Manual
- MSRP: ~$65
- Output mode/Runtime: High: 1,000 lumens / 1.25hrs, Mid: 240 lumens / 6hrs, Low: 70 lumens / 28hrs, Lower: 1 lumen / 520hrs, Strobe: 1,000 lumens / hrs
- Peak Beam Intensity: 13,500cd
- Max Beam Distance: 232 meters
- Dimensions: Length: 5.47" (139mm), Bezel Diameter: 1" (25.4mm), Body Diameter: 1" (25.4mm)
- Weight: 3.1 oz (88g) (excluding batteries)
- Included Accessories: NL188 18650 battery, USB charging cable, holster, pocket clip, tactical ring, lanyard, spare switch cover, spare O-ring, and spare USB port cover
- MSRP: ~$80
- Output mode/Runtime: Higher: 1000 lumens / 2hrs, High: 410 lumens / 2.75hrs, Mid: 230 lumens / 5.75hrs, Low: 50 lumens / 15.75hrs, Lower: 1 lumen / 235hrs, Strobe, SOS, Location Beacon
- Peak Beam Intensity: 12,500cd
- Max Beam Distance: 220meters
- Smallest, lightest 18650 USB rechargeable flashlight
- Direct access to ultra-low and turbo outputs
- Advanced temperature regulation (ATR) technology
- Dimensions: Length: 4.13" (105mm), Bezel Diameter: 1.25" (31.8mm), Body Diameter: 1" (25.4mm)
- Weight: 3.08 oz (87.3g) (excluding batteries)
- Included Accessories: Holster, Lanyard, O-Rings, USB Cord, Pocket Clip
- MSRP: ~$80
Packaging across the models is the same - Nitecore's standard thin cardboard display box, with specs and information printed right on the box. Included with each of the lights are a holster with Velcro closing flap, micro-USB charging cable, spare O-rings, basic wrist lanyard, warranty card, and manual. The MH12 also comes with a grip ring, and MH20 with a spare micro-USB port cover.
Moreover, the MH10 comes with a Nitecore 2300mAh protected 18650 ICR battery, and the MH12 comes with a 3200mAh battery. No battery was included on my MH20.
From left to right: Keeppower Protected 18650 3100mAh; Nitecore MH20, MH10, MH12, EC20, P10, P12, P10; Fenix PD35; Zebralight SC600-II.
All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed:
Nitecore MH10: Weight: 73.6g, Length: 129.5mm, Width (bezel): 25.4mm
Nitecore MH12: Weight: 87.3g, Length: 139.5mm, Width (bezel): 25.4mm
Nitecore MH20: Weight: 85.4g, Length: 105.5mm, Width (bezel): 31.8mm
Nitecore EC20: Weight: 77.1g, Length: 129.2mm, Width (bezel): 25.4mm
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
Olight S20 (2013, XM-L2): Weight: 52.4g, Length: 106.5mm, Width (bezel): 23.1mm
Skilhunt DS20: Weight: 53.8g, Length: 110.0mm, Width (bezel): 24.0mm
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
Despite the addition of the in-light charging feature, overall weight of the MH10/MH12 models are lower than the corresponding EC20/P12.
All three MH-series models tested here are relatively compact for this class – although the MH20 is particular short for a 1x18650 light. It also has a wider bezel/reflector, for great throw.
The MH10/12 look a lot like the EC20/P12 – with the main physical difference being a short flat tailcap on the MH10/EC20 instead of the larger tailcap clicky on the P12/MH12. Body styling is almost identical. Like the EC20, the MH10 has a secondary ridge to allow you to reverse the position of the pocket clip. This isn't really an option on the MH12 or MH20 – but the clip is somewhat bi-directional in its design anyway.
Across the series, anodizing is a shiny black finish, hard anodized, with no chips or damage on my samples. 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, etc.), I would describe overall grip as pretty good – especially so for the MH20 with its larger, grippy-textured switch.
The main distinguishing feature of the MH-series is the built-in micro-USB port in the head – for in-light charging with the supplied USB cable. These are protected with attached rubberized dust/waterproof covers (identical design on the MH10/MH12)
The lights have some anti-roll indentations on the body – and these work better than on the earlier lights, thanks to the rubberized port covers here.
Tailcap screw threads are standard triangular cut and anodized for lock-out at either end of the body tube. Tailstanding is stable due to the flat tailcap. Tailcap is suitable for lanyard attachment on the MH10/12, while still allowing tailstanding. The lanyard option on the MH20 is a small hole for a split-ring or simple lanyard.
On/off and mode switching is controlled by the tailcap clicky switch on the MH12 – and the single electronic switch in the head on the MH10/MH20. On all models the electronic switch in the head controls output selection - see below for a discussion. The MH10/MH12 uses a similar electronic switch as the EC10/P12. Switches on all models are relatively easy to locate by feel, although you may mistake the micro-USB cover on the MH10/12 by touch alone.
Like the EC20/P12 models, there is a blue LED under the switch on the MH10/MH12 that will glow blue when the batteries are running low. It also serves as a voltage read-out function. For the MH20, there are two blue LEDs located under the switch cover. Please see my User Interface section for a discussion.
The MH10/MH12 have a physical reverse polarity feature in the head, with the modern Nitecore design that allows "wide button top" cells to still work in the light. True flat-tops (where the positive contact is below the wrapper) won't work, but all my cells with a slightly raised contact worked fine. On the MH20, I presume that is an electronic reverse polarity detection feature, judging by the secondary contact band next to the centre contact. As such, only true button tops are likely to work on this light. For example, my AW protected 3100mAh ICR work fine in the MH20, but the Samsung 20R INR don't.
The body tubes are wide enough to accommodate all size 18650 cells, and there seems to be plenty of room of longer cells as well. Note the MH20 has less space length space than the other models.
The models all come with a flat black aluminum bezel. The overall head of the MH10/12 is typical for this class - not very large (and identical to EC20/ P12). The MH20 has a larger head, with a bigger reflector. Reflectors are smooth throughout (and relatively deep given the size of the heads. Coupled with the XM-L2 cool white emitters (which were well centered on all my samples), I would expect a fairly typical beam pattern for MH10/M12 – but greater throw on the MH20. Scroll down for beamshots.
The MH10 uses a single electronic switch interface. Fully tighten the tailcap to allow the light to function. Turn the light on/off by a click of the side switch.
To change modes, press and hold the switch (while the light is on). Mode sequence is Lower > Lo > Med > Hi, in repeating sequence. The light has mode memory, and returns the last level set after turning the light off/on.
Double click the switch (from either on or off) to access the blinking modes. Press and hold to advance through all the strobe modes. Mode sequence is: Strobe > Locator Beacon > SOS, in a repeating loop. A single click exits you from the blinking modes and turns off the light. Note that there is no mode memory for any of the blinking modes.
The MH10 uses a tailcap forward clicky switch for on/off, and an electronic side switch to change modes. Turn the light on/off by a click of the tail switch (press and hold for momentary on).
To change modes, click the side switch (while the light is on). Mode sequence is Lower > Lo > Med > Hi, in repeating sequence. The light has mode memory, and returns the last level set after turning the light off/on at the tail switch.
Double click the side switch to access the blinking modes. Single click the side switch to advance through all the strobe modes. Mode sequence is: Strobe > Locator Beacon > SOS, in a repeating loop. Note that there is no mode memory for any of the blinking modes.
The MH20 uses an updated version of Nitecore two-stage electronic switch (as found on on the P25 and TM11/TM15).
For initial Turbo constant on, press the switch all the way and release (i.e., a full click). Turn off by a full press and release. The light has memory on this mode, and will retain the last output used (see below). Alternatively, press firmly and hold all the way down for momentary on (in Turbo), with no memory.
Half-pressing the switch for ~1 sec (and then releasing) turns the light on in Lower (Moonlight) mode. There is no memory for this mode – it always comes on in the Lower level.
From either method of activation, simply half-press and release the switch to advance modes. Mode sequence, in repeating order, is Lower > Lo > Med > Hi > Turbo. Turn off by a full press and release. Note that the MH20 features an additional Hi level over the MH10/MH12 (i.e., 5 levels on the MH20).
Strobe modes can be accessed by fully holding down the switch from On for ~1 sec. To advance strobe modes, simply half-press and release the switch as you would for constant output modes. Mode sequence is Strobe > SOS > Locator Beacon, in repeating sequence. Turn off the light to exit strobe modes (there is no memory for strobe).
On all models, there is a blue LED under the switch to serve as a battery readout and/or low-voltage indicator when the flashlight is on. On the MH10/MH12, once the cells are below 50% power (according to Nitecore), this indicator will flash blue every 2 seconds. It will flash faster as the power capacity drops down further. Note that this low-voltage warning feature does not seem to be implemented on the the MH20.
Note that when first inserting cells and connecting the tailcap on the MH10/MH20, the blue LED under the switch will read out the voltage of the battery in a series of flashes (e.g., four flashes, followed by a short pause, with two more flashes would indicate a full charge of 4.2V). For the MH12, you need to hold down the side switch when clicking on at the tailcap to see this readout.
For information on the light, including the 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.
All the MH-series lights appear to be current-controlled. There was no sign of pulse width modulation (PWM) at any level, on any light.
However, on the MH12 (and like the earlier EC20) I did detect faint re-occurring signals on the Lo and Med modes - but not the Lower or Hi modes.
There were no signs of this pattern on the MH10 or MH20. In any case, it is not a concern – these patterns were NOT visible by eye, even when shinning on a fan. In keeping with my standard review policy, I report on anything I can detect (whether it is visible or not). Rest assured this is not PWM, and there is no perceptible flicker on any MH-series light tested here.
The MH10/12 have similar "tactical" strobe frequencies ~16 Hz.
The MH20 has a slightly higher frequency strobe, at 20 Hz. For the other blinking modes, I am just showing the MH20 below.
A fairly typical SOS mode on the MH20.
MH20 Beacon is a quick full-power flash, once every 2 secs.
There is no standby drain on the MH12, thanks to the physical clicky switch for on/off. On the MH10 and MH20, there needs to be a standby current when the tailcap is connected (due to the electronic switch).
When first connecting a battery on the MH10/12, the circuit will read out the battery voltage as a series of flashes of the blue LED under the switch. On the MH10, current during this time can be as high as ~4mA. Once the readout is finished however, current drops to a consistent 129uA standby drain on the MH10 (which is virtually identical the EC20 reviewed previously). For a 3100mAh 18650, would mean it would be fully drained in a little under 3 years. Not really much of a concern there.
On the MH20, the final standby drain after the battery read-out was even lower, at 27uA. This would translate into over 13 years before a 3100mAh battery would be drained.
Accidental activation can be prevented by a physical lock out of the light – simply do a quick turn of the tailcap (or head) when not in use. This is true on all models, due to the anodized threads on all lights.
MH20 In-Light Charging
Because the light uses a USB charging cable, I was able to take direct measures of the charging parameters using my Xtar VI01 "USB Detector" (basically a specialized USB current/voltage meter). There are many of these on the market now, and this model was favorably reviewed by HKJ here.
For charging tests, I started with a NCR18650A 3100mAh battery (protection circuit tripped). For all these tests, I left the USB detector in place for all readings. Note that the voltage reading on this device refers to the input voltage (i.e., from the USB port).
I am only showing the MH20 results below.
Initial charging current and input voltage:
For the first ~4.5 hours, there was no change in the input voltage or charging current.
By 5 hours, it had become to drop
By 5.5 hours:
By 6 hours:
By 6.5 hours:
By 7.25 hours:
Final resting battery voltage was only ~4.16V.
This pattern is pretty much what I would expect from a typical CC/CV algorithm.
For white-wall beamshots below, all lights are on Max output on an AW protected 18650 battery. 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.
Beam pattern is consistent with the earlier Nitecore lights, and about what you would expect for lights of this size. The MH20 has slightly greater throw and a wider spillbeam than the MH10/12, due to the larger reflector. Scroll down for detailed 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).
Max output of the MH10 and MH12 is virtually identical to EC20 – with the MH20 similar to the higher max output P12. Beam distance is comparable for the smaller-headed lights, with the MH20 having a clear advantage due to its larger reflector.
Let's see how all the levels compare across the lights on 1x18650, in my lightbox:
The MH10 and MH12 are not too different across their various levels. Mode spacing overall is reasonable, in my view. As before, I am glad to see the ~1 lumen "Lower" mode on all models, as I personally like having low-level options in a general purpose light. This is very helpful when you have dark adapted eyes.
The MH20's output levels are higher across the board despite the additional Hi/Turbo mode on the MH20. The extra Hi mode on the MH20 doesn't add much functionality (although may provide a runtime advantage – scroll down to see).
Note that I am only reporting the first timed step-down for the MH10/MH12 above (the MH20 doesn't have a timed step-down). Both the EC20 and P12 had a second timed step-down (at ~41-42 mins into the runs), although to different levels. Please see the runtimes below to see how the new MH-series lights compare
All my current runtimes are done with protected NCR18650A (3100mAh capacity) batteries. First, a comparison between the Hi/Turbo levels of the three new lights:
And now how they compare to other lights on 1x18650:
Basically, the MH10 behaves exactly the same as the EC20, and the MH12 behaves the same as the P12 (although initial max output is the same for the MH10/12). It can be hard to see in the graphs, but these four lights start to step down from Hi at ~4-5 mins, taking ~1.5 mins to reach their first defined step-down output level. A second step-down from this reduced Hi take places ~41-42 mins into the runs.
But the real difference is that the second step-down takes you to a higher level on the EC20 and MH10 (i.e., ~340 lumens, compared to ~250 lumens on the P12/MH12). This means that total extended runtime will be less on the EC20/MH10, compared to the P12/MH12, when run on the same batteries.
Clearly, the EC20 and MH10 are using equivalent circuits, just like the P12 and MH12 (except the initial max output of the MH12 is set to the MH10 level).
The MH20 is completely different, with no timed step-down. Instead, you see a direct-drive like pattern on Turbo, gradually dropping in output. On Hi, you have flat-stabilized regulation for an extended period, until the battery starts to run out of power (and the lights switches to direct drive).
Otherwise, you could consider the EC20 and P12 as roughly equivalent. These lights show very good efficiency and regulation at all levels. As I mentioned in my P12 review, I would personally like to see the first step down from Hi be available as a fifth mode (i.e., sort of Med-Hi mode).
What about the thermal regulation on the MH20? To see how it handles heat, I have repeated the Turbo mode runtime with no cooling. Note that all my usual runtimes are done under fan cooling.
As you can see, without cooling the MH20 ran for ~6 minutes at Turbo output, before dropping down to a reduced output level that was just below the defined Hi mode level. With some minor fluctuations it stayed at this level for the rest of the run. These results indicate the thermal sensor-mediated drop in output works as expected.
And now runtimes on 2xRCR and 2xCR123A
Note that only the MH20 officially supports 2xRCR on the spec sheet.
On the MH20 on 2xCR123A, you will notice a similar unusual runtime pattern as the EC20. This is presumably due to PTC engagement. I have seen this before on a number of lights – the made-in-the-USA CR123As that I use tend to have their thermal safety features set lower than cells manufactured elsewhere. For a detailed discussion of this phenomenon, please see all the comments in this thread. It is unlikely to be an issue for most users. And at lower levels, you can expect normal operation.
Sorry, I haven't gotten around to 2xCR123A on MH10/12.
The MH10 and MH20 both use an electronic switch, and therefore have a standby current when connected but not on. But in both cases, this current was negligible - and can easily be broken by a simple twist of the anodized tailcap.
There are a couple of timed step-downs from Hi on the MH10/MH12, very similar to the EC20 and P12. The MH20 lacks timed step-downs, and instead relies on thermal management to reduce output from the highest levels.
Reported output mode levels and beam distance specs are reasonably good – but not entirely consistent. I recommend you rely on my actual output measures here for each light, in helping you choose a model.
The rubber dust plugs covering the micro-USB ports may reduce waterproofness. I recommend you make sure these are securely in place before venturing into any wet conditions.
Like the EC20, continued high mode operation on the MH20 may result in PTC protection limitation on some brands of CR123A cells (especially those made-in-the-USA).
The two-stage switch interface on the MH20 gives you more versatility in how to control the light, compared to the MH10/12. But it also means you will need to take care on the timings/pressure if you have dark-adapted eyes and want to avoid Turbo.
As previously discussed in my earlier review of the Multitask Hybrid lights from Nitecore (MH1C and MH25), the MH-series basically takes earlier models and adds a Nitecore 3.7V Li-ion battery and a built-in USB charging solution. In that sense, the MH10 and MH12 could be thought of as direct extensions for the earlier EC20 and P12. The MH20 is a novel member of the family though, with an extended range of features.
Let's start with the MH10/MH12. Basically, you have the same circuits here as the earlier EC20 and P12 – with the only real difference being the in-light 18650 charging feature. This will be very comfortable and familiar to users of Nitecore lights, as little has changed outside of this new functionality. It adds a nice option for those who would like to be able to recharge their lights without having to use a stand-alone charger.
In terms of the physical build of the MH10/12, quality is good across both models, with decent hand feel and ergonomics. The user interfaces are appropriate for the designs, with a good feel to the various switches. Again, these lights are basically unchanged physically from the EC20 and P12 – except for the extra rubber dust cover over the micro-USB port. As before, the low-voltage and battery read-out features of the LED under the switch are nice additions to this class.
The MH20 is an innovative light for this class – remarkably short for an 18650 light, it reminds me of some of the early CR123A/RCR "thrower" lights in its overall dimensions (e.g., the old Lumapower D-mini). Of course, it manages that feat by skipping a physical clicky tailswitch and using just an electronic switch in the head. But the choice a two-stage switch means the added functionality of the Tiny Monster series is also available now, in a single 18650 build. The MH20 is thus a true hybrid in every sense of the word – combining features from across the Nitecore stable of lights.
The circuit performance of the MH20 is distinctive as well, with an additional Hi level available (5-mode, unlike the 4-mode MH10/12) – and no timed step-down. Of course, this also means you won't get the same flat-stabilized performance on Turbo as you see on the MH10/12. But overall, output/runtime efficiency remains very good across the series. Based on the results here, it does indeed appear that the MH20 is using thermal management to regulate output at its highest level. Please see the runtimes above for more info on how everything compares.
Beam pattern for the MH10/12 is unchanged from the earlier EC20/P12, with a reasonable balance between throw and spill. The larger head of the MH20 means you get a wider (but dimmer) spillbeam, with a slightly more focused hotspot.
At the end of the day, these new MH-series models are nice in-light-charging upgrades to a couple of existing 18650 lights (the EC20 and P12). The MH20 is something new altogether in the 1x18650 space, with some features cobbled together from the Tiny Monster series of lights. I have to admit, that extra functionality of the MH20 is appealing to me – but you may prefer to stick with the simpler MH10/12 if one of those better fit your needs. Definitely nice additions to the Multitask Hybrid family from Nitecore.
MH10, MH12, and MH20 provided by Nitecore for review.