Nitecore TM15 (3xXM-L U2, 4x18650, 8xCR123A/RCR) Review: RUNTIME, BEAMSHOTS, VIDEO +

selfbuilt

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Warning: pic heavy, as usual.

TM15006.jpg

TM15007.jpg


The TM15 is a latest member of the ‘Tiny Monster’ series from Nitecore. It is a high-output, 3xXM-L, 4x18650 (8xCR123A/RCR) light with a built-in recharging dock for 18650. Let's see how it compares to other recent lights in this class that I've reviewed recently …. :whistle:

Manufacturer's Specifications:
Note: as always, these are only what the manufacturer reports. To see my actual testing results, scroll down the review.

  • 3x CREE XM-L U2
  • Uses 4 x 18560, or 8 x CR123A batteries (Batteries not included)
  • Can run on 1 x 18650, or 2 CR123 batteries in case of emergency
  • Output and Runtime: (runtime based on 4x 2600mAh 18650)
  • Turbo: 2450 lumens (1 hour)
  • High: 1300 lumens (3 hours, 10 minutes)
  • Mid: 570 lumens (8 hours, 20 minutes)
  • Low: 300 lumens (16 hours, 30 minutes)
  • Lower: 95 lumens (52 hours)
  • Maximum Throw: 1,190 feet (363 m)
  • Peak Beam Intensity: 33,000 candela
  • Impact Resistant to 4.9 ft. (1.5 m)
  • IPX-8 Water Resistant
  • Integrated thermal protection prevents overheating
  • Compatible with both 18650 Li-Ion and CR123A Batteries
  • Intelligent charging circuit with status detection recharges the light easily, safely, and quickly
  • Exceptionally long run times
  • Innovative power indicator light displays remaining battery power
  • Single button two-stage switch provides a user-friendly interface
  • Coated mineral scratch-resistant glass lens
  • Aluminum reflector ensures consistent and powerful beam
  • Constructed from military grade HA Type III hard-anodized aluminum alloy
  • Dimensions: Length: 6.22" (158 mm), Bezel Diameter: 2.36" (60 mm), Body Diameter: 1.96" (50 mm)
  • Weight (Excluding batteries): 15.76 oz. (447 g)
  • Accessories: Charger, holster, lanyard, and spare O-ring
  • MSRP: ~$300
TM15004.jpg


Packaging is a cardboard box with built-in packaging foam. Inside you will find the light, belt holster, extra o-ring, simple wrist lanyard (with threading wire), manual and AC charging cable. My sample came with the standard North American 110V AC charging plug.

TM15051.jpg

TM15060.jpg

TM15.jpg

From left to right: AW Protected 18650; Nitecore TM15, TM11; Sunwayman T60CS; Thrunite TN30.

All dimensions are directly measured, and given with no batteries installed:

Nitecore TM15: Weight: 450.6g (634g with 4x18650). Length 158mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm
Nitecore TM11: Weight: 342.6g (526g with 8xCR123A), Length 135.3mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm
Sunwayman T60CS: Weight: 338.9g (est 477g with 3x18650), Length: 145.0mm, Width (bezel): 60.0mm
Thrunite TN30: Weight: 468.2g (est 620g with 3x18650), Length: 179mm, Width (bezel): 64.3mm, Width (tailcap): 49.0mm
Xtar S1 Production: Weight: 876.0g (est. 1028g with 3x18650 protected), Length: 240mm, Width (bezel): 83.4mm
Olight SR51: Weight: 405g, Length: 190mm, Width (bezel) 62.0mm

The TM15 is definitely a longer light than the TM11, but otherwise looks very similar in build. In fact, the battery handle appears to be virtually identical – the difference is all in the head.

TM15012.jpg

TM15027.jpg

TM15026.jpg


As with the TM11, anodizing is a flat black, and seems in excellent shape on my sample. There is some knurling on the head and body, of reasonable aggressiveness. Overall grip is certainly decent, despite the cylindrical shape.

Body labels are rather extensive as before – in additional to the usual maker and model information, you also have a 5-point series of warnings about the light (in a very tiny, but legible, font). :rolleyes: The light can tailstand.

Battery handle is quite compact, and easily houses 4x18650 or 8xCR123A/RCR. The battery compartments are molded right into the aluminum, with a common negative terminal contact plate. You don't need to fill all the wells for the light to work, but should expect lower runtime (and Turbo mode is not recommended on anything but the full complement of cells). Again, scroll down for more info.

As before, screw threads are anodized for lock-out. :thumbsup:

Inside the head, there are two raised contact rings for the positive and negative current paths. These appear the same as the TM11, and are quite solid (likely gold-plated brass?).

The switch design has changed a little bit from the TM11. It is still a two-stage (two-pressure) electronic switch, but the button projects out a little further now. The ring around the switch now uses a blue LED instead of red to signal the state of the light (i.e., battery status, voltage, and standby modes). Scroll down for an explanation of the interface.

TM15034.jpg

TM15031.jpg


The TM15 has an AC charging cable that connects on the back of the head. The connection point has a small rubber cover, held down with a screw. Not sure how durable or water resistant this will be long-term. Note the charging solution is to be used ONLY with 18650 cells.

Nitecore estimates it will take about 7 hours to full charge the cells this way, which seems a reasonable estimate (i.e., it took just over 6 hours for my relatively low capacity 2200mAh 18650 cells). My somewhat used cells all came out ~4.14-4.15V in my testing, which is a nice conservative level (i.e., just ~0.01-0.02V less than my Pila charger on these same cells).

There is also a tripod attachment mount nearby, with uses the standard tripod screw diameter (presumably 1/4-20 UNC). Note that I found some of inexpensive tripod mounts were a bit loose when screwing into the TM15 (e.g., gorilla-pods), but seemed stable enough in the end. Professional tripods mounts fit stably and securely. The mount seems a little far forward on the light, given that a lot of the weight is in the battery handle.

TM15015.jpg

TM15037.jpg


TM15 has the same size bezel opening as before, and comes with a stainless steel bezel ring, slightly scalloped. The screw-on bezel diffuser from the Eagletac M2- and M3- series lights works as before.

The TM15 uses 3x cool white XM-L emitters as before. However, the TM15 has much deeper reflector wells than the TM11, as illustrated below:

TM11 on the left, TM15 on the right:
TM15020.jpg
TM15024.jpg


Scroll down for beam pic comparisons. :whistle:

User Interface

The TM15 uses an updated version of the TM11’s innovative two-stage electronic switch.

Like before, for Turbo output, press the switch all the way and release (for constant on), or press firmly and hold for momentary on. What's new is that this "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 Lower > 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.

Along with the raised switch, the pressure required to activate the various modes has changed slightly from the TM11, but you quickly get used to it.

The light will read-out the voltage of the cells when you first connect the head, by a series of blue flashes around the on-off switch. 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. The indicator stays constantly illuminated when the light is on. 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 a switch lock-out mode that prevents accidental activation (and lowers the standby current, see below). Press the switch all the way down and hold for more than one second. When you release, the light will turn off and enter the lockout mode. To exit the lockout mode, simply press and hold the switch firmly for more than one second.

The charger plugs in under the rubber cover on the back of the head. The blue indicator light comes on during charging, flashing twice a second. Once the charge is complete, the indicator shows solid blue. My sample charged to a reasonably full level.

For information on the light, including the build and user interface, please see my new video overview:


As always, videos were 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. :)

PWM/Strobe

There is no sign of PWM on any level – I believe the light is current-controlled, as expected. :)

TM15-Strobe.gif


As you can see above, the TM15 has a true variable frequency strobe. In my testing, the time between pulses varied from ~75 to ~200 msecs (or 5 to 13 Hz).

Standby Drain

Due to the electronic switch, the TM15 will always be drawing a small current when the body/carrier is connected to the head. I measured this current as 790uA (although it would periodically spike every couple of seconds to ~3.6mA for a fraction of a second, when the signal flash occured).

Going with an "average" current of ~1mA, and assuming four times 2600mAh capacity batteries, that would give you a little over 1 year and 2 months before four fully charged batteries would be completely drained (given the parallel cell arrangement). This is about twice the current of my TM11, but it's certainly not bad.

Note there is always an electronic lock-out mode, to lock-out the switch and reduce the standby current. I don't know how much this lowers the current, but it likely to be significant. You can also break this current completely by turning the head a quarter turn (due to the anodized threads).

Beamshots:

And now, what you have all been waiting for. ;) All lights are on their respective max rechargeable battery sources (i.e., 18650s), 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.

TM15-Beam001.jpg
TM11-Beam001.jpg

T60CS-Beam001.jpg
TN30-Beam001.jpg


TM15-Beam002.jpg
TM11-Beam002.jpg

T60CS-Beam002.jpg
TN30-Beam002.jpg


TM15-Beam003.jpg
TM11-Beam003.jpg

T60CS-Beam003.jpg
TN30-Beam003.jpg


TM15-Beam004.jpg
TM11-Beam004.jpg

T60CS-Beam004.jpg
TN30-Beam004.jpg


The TM15 clearly has a much narrower spillbeam than the TM11, due to the deeper reflectors. :eek:oo: In fact, both overall output and throw have increased on the TM15, compared to the earlier TM11.

Despite how it may look above, there is no artifact near the hotspot on my TM15 (rather, that faint line seems to be a mark on my white wall :eek:).

In my experience, these sorts of deep well 3xXM-L lights tend to have a lot of "daisy flower" artifact effects in the spillbeam. But the TM15's reflector design is remarkably good – I see very little evidence of artifacts in this case. Much better than most lights in this class.

To show the spill a little better, here are some side shots on my famed "integrating carpet". :rolleyes:

TM15-Carpet.jpg

TM11-Carpet.jpg

T60CS-Carpet.jpg


Again, the TM15 is far more focused for throw than most other 3xXM-L lights.

For outdoor beamshots, these are 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). Please ignore the red-tint in the lower-right corner these shots (I was wearing a brighter-than-usual red headlamp during this excursion :p). Zoomed-in pics of the hotspots are also included.

TM15-TN30-T60CS.gif

TM15-TN30-T60CSz.gif


Here is how the TM15 compares directly to the TM11:

TM11-TM15.gif

TM11-TM15z.gif


I know it can be a bit hard to compare, given the slight variation in angling of the lights and the tint differences. But as you can probably tell, the TM15 is a greater thrower than the TM11. The TM15 is generally comparable in throw to the Thrunite TN30.

Testing Method:

All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. 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).

TM15-FL1-Summary1.gif


Turbo output is quite high – similar to my other recent 3xXM-L lights (i.e., the Sunwayman T60CS and Thrunite TN30). Throw is higher on my sample than the Nitecore specs indicate.

Here is how the TM15 compares to the TM11 in terms of relative level spacing.

TM15-Lumens.gif


Nitecore's lumen specs seem to be pretty accurate. :)

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Note: All my 18650 runtimes are done using AW protected 2200mAh.

TM15-Hi18650.gif

TM15-Med18650.gif


The TM15 shows excellent efficiency for this class, in keeping with the current-controlled circuit. Output is flat-regulated at all levels, very similar to the TM11.

TM15-HiCR123A-1.gif


There was a step-down from Turbo to Hi on 8xCR123A after ~20 mins runtime. I suspect this was the thermal sensor kicking in to limit output. Note that primary CR123As tend to get a lot hotter than 18650 under high drive currents, which may be why I didn't observe any step-down effects on the 18650 runs (all runs above done under a cooling fan, as always).

As you will recall from my earlier TM11 review, there was some variability initially in the thermal sensitivity of the step-down control circuit of that model, even on 18650 (i.e. that light always stepped down eventually, even with cooling). I'm guessing the larger head of the TM15 has also allowed from improved heatsinking.

Since most of you are not likely to be running your lights under a cooling fan, I did an analysis of what happens if you run the light without any cooling whatsoever, on 4x18650. I also attached a thermal probe on the surface of the head of the light, just above the switch.

TM15-Temp-nocool.gif


As you can see above, the rise in temperature triggered a step-down from Turbo to Hi on 18650 after about ~20 mins of runtime. The surface of the light was definitely quite warm by this period, but cooled down quickly once the output stepped down.

With 4x18650, the output remained stably at this Hi level for the rest of the run. This is in contrast to the gradual partial recovery of output on 8xCR123A as the temperature dropped, but that may reflect differences in the internal resistance of the different chemistries. I am happy to report there is no sign of the rapid cycling in output I observed on the early TM11 samples.

In case you are curious, here is how the TM15 compares to other lights in estimated lumens:

TM15-SuperHi18650.gif


Potential Issues

Due to the overlapping reflector design, there are bound to be some artifacts in the periphery of the spillbeam. However, I find them to be surprisingly minor in this case. The light is a lot "throwier" than the TM11 (by design), with a much narrower spillbeam.

Due to the electronic switch in the head, the light has a stand-by current when waiting to receive a button press. This current is reasonably low (~1mA, on average). You can lower this standby current further by locking out the switch. You can also completely break this current by loosening the head from the body.

The charging dock cover feels a little flimsy, but has held in fine during my testing so far. Note the charger is meant only for 18650 cells - do not attempt to charge other kinds of batteries inside the light.

The raised switch - and increased sensitivity - may result in greater accidental activations on the TM15, compared to the earlier TM11. I do find the new sensitivity easier to use in practice, though.

Preliminary Observations

The TM15 is an impressive update to the Tiny Monster series of Nitecore lights. As many of you may recall, there were a number of initial circuit and soldering issues at the time of the TM11 launch. Nitecore seems to have these now well in hand, judging by my one TM15 sample – it performed consistently and reliably throughout my testing.

There are some minor circuit and user interface tweaks from the earlier TM11, as described earlier in this review. These are relatively minor, although I personally prefer the new raised switch and feel. I am glad to see they have kept the standby current to an acceptably low level, and have provided a variety of lock-out options.

Overall output/runtime efficiency and regulation pattern remain excellent. :) The thermal sensor-driven step-down on Turbo worked exactly as I would have expected, with a reasonable set point and sensitivity (i.e., there was none of the repeated "cycling" pattern I observed on the early TM11 samples).

The build is very similar to the TM11, and continues to feel solid and robust. As before, those with smaller hands may find it a bit awkward to carry for extended periods. It is also heavier now, thanks to the greater heatsink and deeper reflector wells.

On that point, I am impressed with the quality of the beam. The TM15 is much "throwier" than the TM11, but without the usual heavy spill artifacts I've noticed on previous on 3xXM-L designs. Clearly, a lot of work went into this reflector. :eek:oo:

As before, the light has considerable battery flexibility by running the four wells in parallel. You can thus run the light in 1x, 2x, 3x, or 4x 18650 configurations (or 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x CR123A/RCR). Although I haven't tested it here, I recommend you don't try to run Turbo on anything less than the full 4x/8x complement of cells (or Hi on anything less than 3x/6x). Although in a pinch, I'm sure you could get by with an IMR-18650 or two (if you had ones that were long enough to activate the light).

The other new addition here is the built-in battery charger option. My testing showed this charger worked as expected, with a nice conservative termination level (i.e., didn't over-charge my cells). I can't easily determine if it terminates completely at the end of a charge, but Nitecore assures me that it is "intelligent automatic" like their i4 charger, and will terminate charging immediately. Note that the i4 charger actually has a low uA current once charging is complete, but it is so low as to be close enough to full termination (i.e., it is definitely not a trickle charge). If it is the same here, then there is nothing to worry about.

All told, the TM15 is a nice addition to the Tiny Monster line. The circuit tweaks are really more evolutionary than revolutionary, and the built-in charger worked well in my testing. But to me, the main advantage of this light over the TM11 is the much greater throw. :wave:

----

TM15 provided by Nitecore for review.
 
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sidecross

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Jul 29, 2012
Messages
1,369
I did contact Nitecore about the cover for the charging port and they replied: "As to the charging cover, is it necessary to prepare a spare
one? For example, I don't see mobile phones prepare spare covers.
"

I have two TM11's Version 3 and I have one of the TM15 too.

This is a good step in this light's development and NITECORE wrote they plan on continuing making the TM11. :thumbsup:
 

oKtosiTe

Well-known member
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Jan 7, 2012
Messages
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Location
Sweden
I did contact Nitecore about the cover for the charging port and they replied: "As to the charging cover, is it necessary to prepare a spare
one? For example, I don't see mobile phones prepare spare covers.
"

My (waterproof) Xperia Active actually did come with a spare back cover, which I thought was a very nice touch. The second cover was white, as opposed to the preinstalled black cover.



And thanks for another epic review, selfbuilt! :twothumbs
 
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Yourfun2

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Sep 26, 2012
Messages
202
108g heavier than the TM11. Makes me glad I went with the 11.

Nice Review!

Thanks for getting it out so quickly.
 

sidecross

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Messages
1,369
108g heavier than the TM11. Makes me glad I went with the 11.

Nice Review!

Thanks for getting it out so quickly.

I agree with your comment; I have both the TM11 & TM15 and I am pleased that NITECORE will still make the TM11.

The TM15 has an advantage of a lower out put, but it extra size makes the TM11 a first choice. :thumbsup:
 

brightnorm

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Oct 13, 2001
Messages
7,160
Selfbuilt,

Your superb review was such an enticing appetizer that I just ordered the main $$ course!

Brightnorm

BTW, does the charging port and circuitry add length to the light?
 

brightnorm

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Joined
Oct 13, 2001
Messages
7,160
108g heavier than the TM11. Makes me glad I went with the 11.

Fully loaded the difference is nearly 6 ounces. (Might be more or less with 4x18650 in the TM11)

TM15: 634g with 4x18650).
TM11: 476g with 8xCR123A
158g (5.57oz)


Brightnorm
 

brightnorm

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Messages
7,160
You're right:

TM15: 634g with 4x18650).
TM11: 476g with 8xCR123A
158g (5.57oz
)


4x18650: 186.4g (3100mah Redilast)
8xcr123: 132.8g (Duracell)
53.6g

TM11: 344.8g without batteries (slightly more than Selfbuilt's figure)
+186.4g

530.2g Total with 4x1850 3100's

TM15: 634g with 4x18650
TM11: 530g with 4x18650

104g (3.7oz)

So, with 4x18650's in each light, the TM15 is 104g/3.7oz heavier than the TM11. This is still a noticeable but not unduly burdensome difference. (Selfbuilt's 2200 Mah 18650s will be lighter than the 3100s, but I don't have any 2200's available
for weighing)

Brightnorm
 

selfbuilt

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TM15: 634g with 4x18650
TM11: 530g with 4x18650

104g (3.7oz)
Pretty close - I just went and measured to confirm, and my TM11 comes up as 526g with 4x18650 AW 2200mAh installed. As you would expect - the TM15 base unit is 108g heavier than the TM11. I've updated the review with the weight, to allow you to directly compare to other lights measured with the same AW 2200mAh cells.

BTW, does the charging port and circuitry add length to the light?
Presumably that is part of it - but Nitecore has taken advantage of the opportunity to extend the reflector depth. It seems a reasonable size, all things considered.
 
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Ualnosaj

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Feb 9, 2012
Messages
807
I did contact Nitecore about the cover for the charging port and they replied: "As to the charging cover, is it necessary to prepare a spare
one? For example, I don't see mobile phones prepare spare covers.
"

I have two TM11's Version 3 and I have one of the TM15 too.

This is a good step in this light's development and NITECORE wrote they plan on continuing making the TM11. :thumbsup:

The TM15 neutral I have comes with a spare rubber cover.

On a side note, the button now is much more sensitive than the TM11 meaning accidental presses are easy with the holster or in general. Do you see the same thing on the copy supplied to you Selfbuilt?
 

jorgemac

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Aug 23, 2012
Messages
28
Very good review. Thanks.
TM15 is a very goog light, but Fenix Tk75 on paper seems a lot better, and US100 cheaper.

2012117102522872.jpg



2012117102513722.jpg
 

shelm

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review, written, concise, concealing, favorably, cajoling, as, to, be, expected, lovecpf
 
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flashlove

Member
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Sep 5, 2012
Messages
7
Very good review. Thanks.
TM15 is a very goog light, but Fenix Tk75 on paper seems a lot better, and US100 cheaper.

2012117102522872.jpg



2012117102513722.jpg


Not bad, just the size, and the D Battery really...If I were Arnold Schwarzenegger, I would buy for sure... Too big to handle it...
 

candle lamp

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Excellent review. Selfbuilt! Thanks a lot for your time & effort as always. :thumbsup:

It's certain that TM15 is upgraded light of the TM11. The light shows a better regulation stably in temperature.

By the way, I'd like to know the test room temperature, the point on the light where the thermal probe were set in pace in detail, and whether you open the window during the test or not.
(Maybe I escaped your note! :eek:)
 
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