Reviewer's Note: I am working through a large backlog of lights, and this EA11 sample was originally received in July, 2015.
The original models of the Explorer Series from Nitecore (reviewed here) all featured a dual-button electronic interface, with a secondary red LED. Although the family has expanded in recent years, the EA11 is an updated version of the original design ethos.
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)
- Runs on 1 x 14500 or 1 x AA
- Output / Runtime (Using 14500): Turbo: 900 Lumens / 30 Minutes, High: 300 Lumens / 45 Minutes, Medium: 160 Lumens / 1.5 Hours, Low: 70 Lumens / 2.5 Hours, Lowest: 1 Lumen / 12 hours
- Output / Runtime (Using AA): Turbo: 150 Lumens / 45 Minutes, High: 90 Lumens / 2 Hours, Medium: 40 Lumens / 2.5 Hours, Low: 17 Lumens / 3.5 Hours, Lowest: 1 Lumen / 10 Hours,
- Peak Beam Intensity: 9000 cd
- Beam Distance: 190 Meters
- Dual switch design
- Secondary red LED
- Battery voltage indicator
- High efficiency constant current circuit
- Direct access turbo mode
- Direct access ultra-low mode
- 1.5 Meter impact resistant
- IPX-8 Waterproof
- Crafted from hard anodized aluminum
- Includes sturdy aluminum pocket clip, holster, lanyard, spare o-rings
- Dimensions: Length: 3.62" (92mm), Bezel Diameter: 1" (25.4mm), Body Diameter: 0.8" (20mm), Weight: 1.87 oz. (53g) (excluding batteries)
- MSRP: ~$55
Packaging is the same as other recent Nitecore lights a standard thin cardboard display box, with specs and information printed right on the box. Included with the light is a holster with Velcro closing flap, pocket clip, spare O-rings, basic wrist lanyard, warranty card, and manual.
From left to right: Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA NiMH; Nitecore EA11, EA1, MT1A; Zebralight SC5; Olight S15; Skillhunt DS10; Thrunite Archer 1A V2.
All dimensions are given with no batteries installed:
Nitecore EA11: Weight: 53.9g, Length: 92.7mm, Width (bezel): 25.5mm
Nitecore MT1A: Weight: 54.6g, Length: 104.6mm, Width (bezel): 22.7mm
Fenix LD12: Weight: 52.3g, Length: 99.9mm, Width (bezel): 21.6mm
Olight S15: Weight: 46.4g, Length: 87.0mm, Width (bezel): 23.1mm
Lumintop ED15: Weight: 59.7g, Length: 100.2, Width (bezel): 21.9mm
Manker Quinlan T01: Weight: 61.7g, Length 84.5mm, Width (bezel) 29.8mm
Skilhunt DS15: Weight: 52.0g, Length: 92.1mm, Width (bezel): 24.0mm
Thrunite Archer 1A v2 CW: Weight: 66.9g, Length: 109.6mm, Width: 23.1mm
Thrunite Neutron 2A 2014 (1xAA form): Weight: 57.6g, Length: 95.6mm, Width (bezel): 25.6mm
Zebralight SC5: Weight 58.3g, Length 81.5mm, Width (bezel): 22.6mm, Width (max) 27.0mm
The overall build of the EA11 reminds me a lot of the MH20, except with a revised two-separate button switch (and of course, different shape head and secondary red LED). Anodizing is a somewhat matte 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 fairly smooth on the body tube and tailcap. But when combined all the other grip elements (e.g., raised switch covers, anti-roll fins in the head, pocket clip, etc.), I would describe overall grip as pretty good.
Switches are electronic in nature, mounted on the head both slightly raised, and somewhat "grippy". The lower switch is the main power switch, and the upper one is a mode change although please refer to the UI section below for more information.
Tailcap screw threads are standard triangular cut and anodized for lock-out. Tail threads in the head region are square-cut, and similarly anodized. Tailstanding is stable due to the flat tailcap. There is a lanyard attachment point on the side of the tailcap, for a split-ring or simple lanyard.
There is no LED indicator under the switches on the EA11, and all signaling information is done using the secondary red LED in the main reflector (again, see below for interface).
Flat-top 14500 batteries will not work in the light, due to the electronic reverse polarity feature in the head. All my button-top protected 14500 cells fit and worked fine inside the light.
The removable metal pocket clip fits the body fairly firmly, and worked well in my testing.
The reflector is fairly deep for a 1xAA light with this size head. Reflector is textured, likely to help smooth out the effect of the secondary red LED that is recessed within the side of the reflector. Centering of the main white XM-L2emitter seems pretty good scroll down for beamshots and direct measures.
When you first connect the tailcap with a battery installed, the red LED will flash to read out the battery voltage. The first set of flashes corresponds to number of volts, after a pause a second set of flashes will tell you the number of tenths of a volt.
Main beam operation is controlled by the lower ON/OFF switch click to turn the light on at the previously memorized constant output level. While on, click the upper MODE switch repeatedly to cycle between the four main output levels in the following repeating sequence: Lower > Lo > Med > Hi > Turbo. Turn the light off by pressing and releasing the ON/OFF switch again. Light has mode memory, and will return to the last level used when turned back on from off.
To access strobe modes, press-and-hold the MODE switch for more than 1 sec from On. Cycle between blinking modes by pressing and holding the switch for more than 1 sec. Mode sequence is Strobe > Beacon > SOS, in repeated loop. You can exit these modes by clicking the MODE switch. There is no mode memory for blinking modes.
There are shortcuts to jump to min, max, and strobe from Off. From Off, press-and-hold the ON/OFF switch to activate in Lower (moonlight) level. Alternatively, press-and-hold the MODE switch to activate in Turbo. Or double-click the MODE switch to activate in Strobe.
You can turn the red LED on continuously by clicking the MODE button while the light is off. The red LED will stay on until you press the MODE switch again (or turn on the light off by the ON/OFF switch). Press-and-hold the MODE switch for more than 1 sec when in the red light mode, and it will switch to a slow signaling flash of the red light.
There is a lockout mode that reduces the standby power drain, and prevents quick activation. To turn it on, press and hold the ON/OFF and MODE switches for 1 sec when the light is On. It will shut-off, and stay locked out until you press and hold the ON/OFF and MODE switches again for 1 second. Under this mode, Nitecore says the standby current is reduced.
For information on the light, including the build and user interface, please see my video overview:
As always, I recommend you have annotations turned on with all my videos.
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The Nitecore EA11 shows no signs of pulse width modulation (PWM) on any level. The light appears to be fully current controlled. See example Medium mode trace below, as an example.
The strobe mode is a disorienting 18.5 Hz tactical strobe. Strobe pattern is unusual though, as the light is actually off most of the time (i.e., a brief on flash, with longer off state). Note that a downward deflection on the oscilloscope traces indicates the on-phase.
This differs from most strobes, where it is typically a 50:50 on/off duty cycle. As a result, this strobe should run longer on a single battery - but doesn't seem as bright to the eye as a typical full-power strobe.
Beacon is a full power flash, once every 2 seconds (0.5 Hz)
A fairly slow SOS mode.
A standby current drain is inevitable on the EA11, due to the electronic switches in the head.
When first connecting a battery, the circuit will read out the battery voltage as a series of flashes of the red LED in the head. Once the readout is finished however, current drops to a consistent 0.25mA standby drain on both a NiMH AA or 14500.
For a Panasonic ~2500mAh Eneloop Pro NiMH, that current would translate into just under 1 year and 2 months. For a 750mAh 18650, would mean it would be fully drained in just over 4 months.
Nitecore reports that locking out the light (by holding both switches when On) will further lower the standby mode. I have not tested this, however.
You can fully break this standby current - and physically lock-out the light - by twisting the tailcap a quarter turn.
All lights are on Max output on Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA NiMH. 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.
Scroll down for actual beam intensity 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).
Let's start with an overall comparison, including throw:
On standard AA batteries, the EA11 has a small increase in max output from the old EA1 although peak intensity throw has dropped due to the use of a larger die XM-L2 emitter now. Output and throw and very reasonable for this class.
On 1x14500, the EA11 is quite a bit brighter initially on max.
Let's look at the relative output levels, for each sub-mode and battery type:
As usual, Nitcore's specs match my estimated ANSI FL-1 output measures fairly well. It is just the Turbo output on 14500 which isn't quite as high in my testing.
Note that I currently use Eneloop Pro NiMH anyway (2550mAh typical capacity) in my testing now. And all my standard runtimes are done under a cooling fan, as always.
The EA11 has an interesting Turbo step-down pattern on standard AA cells. The light first steps-down after 3 mins (with a 1 min ramp down phase). A second step-down occurs 15 mins later. But as the NiMH and L91 batteries become nearly exhausted, they jumped back up to the first step-down level for a good period of time (~30 mins) before finally falling out of regulation.
Overall efficiency seems very good on the EA11.
On 1x14500, the light shows a more direct-drive like pattern, especially after the first single step-down from Turbo.
Interface is fairly sophisticated, with the two-button arrangement but still very easy to use for basic operation. There are some differences from the original Explorer series, so you will need to spend a little time with it to be completely comfortable with using the special modes (without the manual).
Due to the electronic switch, there is stand-by current. Although it is reasonable, you may want to physically lock out the light to break this current when not in use (or use the electronic lock-out feature to reduce it).
The red beam has noticeable artifacts up close (consistent with most small colored LED emitters). The main white beam is surprisingly clean, despite the reflector cut-out for the red LED.
I was a fan of the original Explorer series design (EA1, EA2, EC1, EC2), and am happy to say the EA11 is a worthy follow-up model - now using the more common (and higher output) XM-L2 emitter.
Switch feel is a definite improvement now, with the raised and grippy switch covers. The user interface update is also more in keeping with other 2-button lights now. Placement of the red LED within the main reflector also makes sense, given how people like to use their lights.
There were some build issues on the original Explorer lights, including press-fit bezels (with waterproofing issues) on all models -and a tight battery tube for the EA1 specifically. The EA11 has a traditional screwed-on bezel, and it took all my protected 14500 batteries without issue.
Overall output/runtime efficiency remains very good for the EA-series. The EA11 has a revised regulation pattern, with multiple step-downs on max for standard AA batteries (see runtimes above). Performance is good across the board, and this is one of the brightest 14500 lights I've tested. Note that maximum output on standard AA (alkaline, NiMH, L91) is not as high as some of the recent competition.
The beam pattern is less throwy now, due to the move to the XM-L2 emitter (and textured reflector). But the main beam pattern is clean, with a reasonable amount of throw. The red LED has more artifacts in its beam, in keeping with this style of emitter.
The EA11 is a versatile light, with a mature interface and build. No surprises, it handled and performed well in my testing. A nice light, I expect it will do well for Nitecore.
EA11 was supplied by Nitecore for review.