Nitecore Explorer (EC1, EC2, EA1, EA2) Round-up Review: RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS, VIDEO+

Chicken Drumstick

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I have purchased the EC2, but being new to this type of flashlight I don't know what I need for a battery. I understand that many people on CPF trust the quality of AW batteries, but I have become lost in a sea of protected/unprotected, flat/not, and a range of different maH ratings. What would be considered the "best choice" when buying a battery for the EC2?

mortrca
Best is always subjective. Personally I'd stick with a quality known brand such as AW or maybe the new EagleTacs. The more mAh the more capacity, so longer run times. But this isn't the be all and end all. Some 'cheap' batteries from overseas often claim false or unrealistic mAh ratings, so again I'd say buy quality, not just the claimed numbers.

ICR Li-ion are normally protected cells, this chemistry is potentially more volatile so the "protected" circuitry will try and prevent over discharging. This makes them much safer.

IMR Li-ion uses a safer chemistry and these are far less volatile. These are not normally protected because there is no real hazard using them. However you can still over discharge them, which while safe to you can damage the cells.

If you are new to Li-ion cells then I'd recommend avoiding any non protected ICR's. While it's possible to use them, they are likely to be the most as risk of producing an accident.

There's nothing really to fear about Li-ion, but there are potentially hazards, so it's well worth reading up on them first. Lots of good info in the battery forum.
 

mortrca

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Thanks for the info, Chicken Drumstick.

What about the difference between flat and button top batteries? Will flat top batteries work in the EC2? Is the lump on one end really the only difference between the two designs?
Finally, I have looked through the CPF marketplace and have found IMR batteries by AW, but I haven't seen any listed as ICR. Is an ICR just any protected battery or is there more to it than that?

mortrca
 

selfbuilt

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Finally, I have looked through the CPF marketplace and have found IMR batteries by AW, but I haven't seen any listed as ICR. Is an ICR just any protected battery or is there more to it than that?
ICR is a type of Li-ions chemistry - the most common type, in fact. The "C" refers to the use of cobalt at the cathode (as opposed to "M" manganese in IMR cells). Here's a thread by Battery Guy that explains the chemistry types.

"Protected" cells refers to a type of circuitry that provide some degree of protection against over-discharging (or over-charging for that matter). Protected cells are recommended, as over or under charging the cells damages them. Typically, all protected cells are based on ICR. But it is possible to buy unprotected ICR cells too.

AW is well-known and well-respected dealer/brand here on CPF. Unless specified otherwise, his Li-ion cells will all be the ICR type (i.e., other chemistries will be identified).

And yes, the button top style is matter of preference by manufacturers. Smaller button-tops are more compatible with a wider range lights, but will add length which can also be an issue (and which is why most high-capacity cells have wider buttons),
Please see the batteries subforum here for more info. :wave:
 
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cxg231

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Hi everyone - first post in a long time! I was looking for a new EDC light, and the Nitecore EC2 seems to fit the bill pretty well. I currently EDC a Fenix PD20, which is a very nice little light, but I am less than satisfied with the runtime, as I mostly use the light on "high" when I need it for work or to scope out the critters in my backyard at night. So, I was looking for something small with comparable light output and much longer run time. Basically I knew I was looking for a small 2-cell CR123A light, bonus points if I could also run a 18650 cell. I think this light is exactly what I have been looking for, only 3/4" longer than the PD20 so it will be easy to pocket carry, higher output and 3x the runtime @~200 lumens.

Another "thank you" to selfbuilt for all of his hard work! :wave:
 

member 6142

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Outstanding review Selfbuilt!

I've an EC1 and as you told below I'm definitely unhappy with the runtimes scored with RCR123 (AW's as yours) :(
Many manufacturers claim that they support a broad voltage range, but mantaining same output level and decent runtimes is quite another story.
I.e. so far the only one is Ralights/HDS Systems and I do hope I miss some 1x123 form factor flashlight that runs on RCR123 perfectly regulated as well.
My EC1 will be another shelf queen ;)


The individual models of this family clearly have customized circuits, given the varying support of different battery voltages. On the EC2, comparable output levels are maintained on all battery sources. On the EC1 and EA1, all Li-ion output levels are considerably brighter than on the primary battery options.

Now that I have tested all the models, overall output/runtime efficiency seems generally very good across the series (i.e., in keeping with current-controlled lights).:thumbsup: On fully supported batteries, the regulation pattern was very typically well stabilized, with a timed step-down on Turbo. Note that 1x 3.7V Li-ion produces the more common quasi-regulated pattern on the EC1 (and presumably EA1) - but multi-mode status is maintained (just at a higher set of levels).
 

IronMac

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I am seriously considering the EC1 but are there really issues with running this on AW RCR123s? From selfbuilt and daberti posts it seems that battery life is compromised and on a retailer's site there is a review stating that the EC1 will not work well with RCR123s.

Any suggestions? I can stick with the Olight S10 baton but I was hoping for something with a bit more throw that runs on 1x RCR123. Thanks!
 

selfbuilt

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I am seriously considering the EC1 but are there really issues with running this on AW RCR123s? From selfbuilt and daberti posts it seems that battery life is compromised and on a retailer's site there is a review stating that the EC1 will not work well with RCR123s.
Well, the EC1 has decent output, throw and runtime on Med on 1xRCR, which is comparable to the output of a lot of lights on Max on 1xCR123A. :shrug:
 

IronMac

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Well, the EC1 has decent output, throw and runtime on Med on 1xRCR, which is comparable to the output of a lot of lights on Max on 1xCR123A. :shrug:

Hrmm...sounds a bit like faint praise because it sort of precludes High on RCR. I think I may keep looking, thanks selfbuilt!
 

member 6142

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Hrmm...sounds a bit like faint praise because it sort of precludes High on RCR. I think I may keep looking, thanks selfbuilt!

As you cited myself I wish to chime in, with some sort of simplifying though.
As Selfbuilt previously said (post #1) EC1 is a semi-regulated flashlight with RCR123. Much better anyway than many 1x123 flashlights simply run in direct draw with RCR123. The only notable exception being HDS/Ralight line that runs fully regulated with RCR123.
This means you will achieve higher outputswith direct drawn flashlights with RCR123 cells, but you'll trade for sure runtime and in many if not all cases all of the intermediate and lower levels, keeping only the max level and lowest level. This is true notably for EagleTac D25C Clicky.
But there is another issue you must be ready to understand: RCR123 give higher voltage (3.7v under load nominal voltage) and will somehow run led beyond specs with reference being made to flashlight body/led housing coupling.
Last but not least: RCR123 (the best ones) are tipically on the 750mAh range and can withstand a max draw of 2C. Thus 1.5A. At 1.5A their capacity will drop by a great deal.
You could use IMR16340 to mantain same (or even higher) outputs as with RCR123, but these ones have 500mAh capacity. You'll find IMRs to deliver better runtimes than RCR123 at the two highest levels, tipically, though, as they are designed to withstand 4C currents.
Yet heat problems and semi-regulation are still there.
The best option IMHO is to get AW's LiFePo4 cells and charger . These can handle (Selfbuilt please confirm) 4C currents as well, yet their nominal voltage is 3.2v (more on the 3.1-3.0v tag if under 1C-2C load). EC1 will actually help you monitoring their actual voltage (by means of red led blinking), thus avoiding discharging them beyond recovery. You'll keep all levels as with primaries. You'll keep perfect regulation as well. You'll lose extra lumens.
 

selfbuilt

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The best option IMHO is to get AW's LiFePo4 cells and charger . These can handle (Selfbuilt please confirm) 4C currents as well, yet their nominal voltage is 3.2v (more on the 3.1-3.0v tag if under 1C-2C load). EC1 will actually help you monitoring their actual voltage (by means of red led blinking), thus avoiding discharging them beyond recovery. You'll keep all levels as with primaries. You'll keep perfect regulation as well. You'll lose extra lumens.
Not sure about the current discharge limits of LiFePO4, but this is the general application for them (i.e., for lights that are over-driven or that lack defined levels on standard 3.7V ICR/IMR Li-ions).

I don't have any, so can't confirm how well they work in the Explorer series. But in principle, relative output levels should be closer to 3V primary CR123A than 3.7V Li-ion, so discharge rates should not be a problem. Questions is if you want to deal with unprotected cells, and the custom charger. :shrug:
 

member 6142

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Not sure about the current discharge limits of LiFePO4, but this is the general application for them (i.e., for lights that are over-driven or that lack defined levels on standard 3.7V ICR/IMR Li-ions).

I don't have any, so can't confirm how well they work in the Explorer series. But in principle, relative output levels should be closer to 3V primary CR123A than 3.7V Li-ion, so discharge rates should not be a problem. Questions is if you want to deal with unprotected cells, and the custom charger. :shrug:

I've just asked AW the official C rate of his own LiFeO4 cell.
I've tested them with EC1 (now donored to my father) and they deliver more runtime than RCR123at turbo mode and at the level immediately below.
 

IronMac

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Questions is if you want to deal with unprotected cells, and the custom charger. :shrug:

Thanks daberti for your response and recommendation but it may be getting too much into the weeds at this point. I'm already having issues with another charger and overheating on AAs. :duh2:
 

member 6142

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Thanks daberti for your response and recommendation but it may be getting too much into the weeds at this point. I'm already having issues with another charger and overheating on AAs. :duh2:

You're welcome. AW said 2C max continuous discharge rate.
Which charger is giving issues to you BTW?
 

IronMac

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Which charger is giving issues to you BTW?

It looks like a knock off of the Intellicharger V.2. And it was not even off of eBay! It recharges AW RCR123As very well. (Battery barely warms up) But with GP2000(sp?) NiMH batteries they become VERY hot. I am going to try a recharge on slots 1+3 or 2+4 to see if that will cool things down a bit.
 

Burntrice

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Thankyou Mr Built for a fantastic review and great responses to a torrent of questions. Just ordered the EC1 :D
 

davpet

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Hi guys,

I noticed that when I use my ec1 with a primary 3 volt cr123a battery - especially on high or turbo -, the tube and the battery itself get hot really fast. I have not experienced this with rechargeable 3.7 volt cr123a s. Is this normal? The primaries in question are Nitecore branded, that I received bundled with my TM 15 from Nitecore uk. (8 non rechargeable cr123a bundled with a rechargeable flashlight. WOW! :) )
 

selfbuilt

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I noticed that when I use my ec1 with a primary 3 volt cr123a battery - especially on high or turbo -, the tube and the battery itself get hot really fast. I have not experienced this with rechargeable 3.7 volt cr123a s. Is this normal?
In general terms, yes - I've noticed that primary CR123As will get hotter than rechargeable Li-ion for equivalent output/drive levels. I presume it has to do with the internal resistance difference of the cells. This is true for all lights, not just the EC1.

This is why primary CR123A have a PTC resistor, to shut-down current if the cells overheat. It's presumably also why I've noticed more circuit failures on highly-driven lights when run on multi-CR123As than on multi-Li-ions (i.e. more heat generated on CR123A, which can be bad for the circuit as well as the cells).

Again, in general terms, the real risks with Li-ions are when you are attempting to charge them (as opposed to CR123A, where discharging is the concern). You can see the battery forum here for more info.
 

davpet

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In general terms, yes - I've noticed that primary CR123As will get hotter than rechargeable Li-ion for equivalent output/drive levels. I presume it has to do with the internal resistance difference of the cells. This is true for all lights, not just the EC1.

This is why primary CR123A have a PTC resistor, to shut-down current if the cells overheat. It's presumably also why I've noticed more circuit failures on highly-driven lights when run on multi-CR123As than on multi-Li-ions (i.e. more heat generated on CR123A, which can be bad for the circuit as well as the cells).

Again, in general terms, the real risks with Li-ions are when you are attempting to charge them (as opposed to CR123A, where discharging is the concern). You can see the battery forum here for more info.

Thank you for your response, selfbuilt!

So, would you say that operating the ec1 on primaries are safe, and the heating up of the battery should not be a concern? Or should I just stick with rechargeables? Thanks
 

selfbuilt

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So, would you say that operating the ec1 on primaries are safe, and the heating up of the battery should not be a concern? Or should I just stick with rechargeables? Thanks
It's meant to work with primaries, so you will be fine. Just stick with quality cells, and hold onto the light during use at the really high levels (helps dispel some heat).
 

davpet

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It's meant to work with primaries, so you will be fine. Just stick with quality cells, and hold onto the light during use at the really high levels (helps dispel some heat).

Ok, maybe it's a lame question but are Nitecore cells considered quality cells? As I have 8 of them, and they will not go into the Monsters.
 
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