Niwalker Nova MM18 (2xMK-R + 1xXM-L2, 4x18650) Preview: RUNTIME, BEAMSHOTS, VIDEO+

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UPDATE JULY 10, 2015: The final release version of the MM18 is almost ready. In the meantime, I have updated this review with results from a new late-model prototype.

First prototype:
MM18007.jpg

MM18002.jpg

MM18006.jpg

MM18004.jpg


Final prototype:
MM18-3%20001.jpg

MM18-3%20003.jpg

MM18-3%20002.jpg


This is an updated review of a late engineering sample of the Nova MiniMax MM18 by Niwalker. Building on the success of their earlier MM15 (2xMT-G2) flood light, the MM18 combines both flood (through 2x MK-R emitters) and throw (through a single XM-L2 emitter). And as an interesting feature, you can control these emitter classes independently (i.e., the MM18 has two independent switches).

Specs are limited to date, but here's what I know so far …

Preliminary Manufacturer Specifications:
(note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provided me – scroll down to see my actual testing results).

  • LED: Utilizes two Cree MK-R LEDs and one Cree XM-L2 LED (note: final shipping version to use one Cree XP-L LED for throw)
  • Max output: estimated ~4000 lumens for the MK-R, ~1000 lumens for the XM-L2, ~5000 lumens combined (based on the Cree datasheets – not directly tested yet)
  • Dual Multi-function clicky side switches, with momentary activation and on/off
  • Memory function to remember last output setting used (except Turbo and hidden modes)
  • Batteries: four 18650 rechargeable batteries (not included)
  • MSRP: unknown, but likely higher than MM15
MM18001.jpg


I don't know what retail packaging will be yet, but it is likely to be similar to the MM15. My MM18 came with a sturdy multi-function holster. This holster has plenty of room for the light with or without the handle attached, and a lot of extra pockets (velcroed and/or zippered) – both inside and on the outside of the holster.

MM18-2034.jpg


Also with my sample was an Allen key, hex screws, and carry handle (all very similar in design to the MM15). There are also a couple of adhesive decals to place over the exposed screws and contacts on the back of the battery carrier. While not necessary to use the light, extra protection never hurts. And the spare decals are a good idea, as you may need to get access to the carrier plate screws to tighten over time (i.e., can loosen up, after a lot of battery changes).

First prototype:

MM18042.jpg

MM18057.jpg

MM18046.jpg

MM18036.jpg

MM18019.jpg

From left to right: Keeppower Protected 18650 3100mAh; Niwalker MiniMax Nova MM18, MM15; Olight SR Mini, S52.

Final prototype:

MM18-3%20025.jpg

MM18-3%20021.jpg

MM18-3%20016.jpg

From left to right: Keeppower Protected 18650 3100mAh; Niwalker MiniMax Nova MM18 #2, MM18 #1, MM15; Thrunite TN36; Olight PS03.

I'm glad that the handle design gives you plenty of space to grip the light. While not really critical on the smaller MM15, some may like the easy carry ability with the handle in place.

All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed (unless indicated):

Niwalker MM18 #2 (Final Prototype): Weight: 511g (without handle), 535g (with handle), Length: 139.4mm, Width (bezel): 75.9mm
Niwalker MM18 #1 (First Prototype): Weight: 510.g (without handle), 534.1g (with handle), Length: 135.3mm, Width (bezel): 73.9mm
Niwalker MM15: Weight: 333.7g (without handle), 355.9g (with handle), (539g with 4x18650 and handle), Length: 114.6mm, Weight (bezel): 63.7mm

Eagletac SX25L3 3x18650: Weight: 315.9g, Length: 150.2mm, Weight (bezel): 47.0mm
Crelant 7G10: Weight 643.4g (827g with 4x18650), Length: 198mm, Width (bezel): 79.0mm
Fenix TK75: Weight: 516.0g (700g with 4x18650), Length: 184mm, Width (bezel): 87.5mm
Nitecore TM11: Weight: 342.6g (476g with 8xCR123A), Length 135.3mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm
Niwalker BK-FA01: Weight: 687.6g (870g with 4x18650), Length: 209mm, Width (bezel): 80.0mm, Width (tailcap): 50.3mm
Thrunite TN35 (MT-G2): Weight: 571.4g (723g with 3x18650), Length: 201mm, Width (bezel): 78.9mm

I actually received two samples of the first prototype during testing, and both are used for the pics below. First sample is without the protective carrier decal attached, but has the handle attached. Second one is with the decal, but without handle attached.

First Prototype:
MM18003.jpg

MM18005.jpg

MM18018.jpg

MM18017.jpg

MM18010.jpg

MM18-2040.jpg

MM18-2037.jpg

MM18016.jpg

MM18015.jpg

MM18012.jpg

MM18011.jpg

MM18014.jpg

MM18013.jpg


Final Prototype:

MM18-3%20009.jpg

MM18-3%20010.jpg

MM18-3%20012.jpg

MM18-3%20015.jpg

MM18-3%20011.jpg

MM18-3%20004.jpg


The physical build is very similar to the MM15. Indeed, the battery covers are interchangeable (i.e., threading and diameters are the same) – although there are some cosmetic differences to the battery cover. As before, black anodizing has a thick "grippy" matte finish. Labels are similarly small and bright white. Knurling on the battery handle remains not particularly aggressive.

Integrated carrier is again similar to before. The contact plate in the head is a different color now, but the tail-end plate looks about the same. Niwalker seems to have switched to a new center strut material (at least on the second sample they sent me) – there were reports on the MM15 of the original material shredding under repeated battery changes. As with the shipping MM15, height of the built-in carrier is good (and allows most cells to fit). But you may find wider cells a tight fit to slide into the carrier. As before, the four 18650 cells are in series, not parallel (i.e., 4s1p).

The removable handle seems virtually identical to the MM15 version. Use of the handle is optional, but it may be of more value now on the larger MM18.

As with the MM15, there is also a lanyard attachment point and a reinforced tripod attachment point in the head.

The switch design is different. Of course, one major change is that there are now 2 switches. :rolleyes: The lower one is to control the 1xXM-L2, and the upper switch controls the 2xMK-R emitters. Switch appearance and feel has changed as well: unlike the flat switch with semi-transparent "N" logo on the MM15, you now have a slightly bulging (and more grippy) textured material. Switch feel is similar, but traverse is longer (likely due to the raised cover). In practice, I find this means it is a bit easier to "miss your shot" when trying to double-click (i.e., you need to be fast). :shrug: As before, there are still green/red LED indicators underneath the switches.

Let's check out the head, where all the action is. :whistle:

First Prototype:

MM18007.jpg

MM18009.jpg

MM18008.jpg

MM18021.jpg

MM18035.jpg

MM18023.jpg

MM18027.jpg


Final Prototype:

MM18-3%20005.jpg

MM18-3%20006.jpg

MM18-3%20007.jpg

MM18-3%20008.jpg

MM18-3%20029.jpg

MM18-3%20027.jpg

MM18-3%20028.jpg


The MM18 has a distinctive head – with two small textured wells for the MK-R emitters, and one larger smooth well for the XM-L2. Overlap is relatively minimal (but there is some). What this means in practice is that you can probably expect a few artifacts in the spillbeam for the different emitter classes.

In general terms, the flood pattern for the quad-die MK-R emitters should be similar to the MT-G2s on the MM15 (but in cool white, not neutral). Niwalker confirms that the use of the MK-R emitters is to provide a cool white option specifically.

The size of the XM-L2 reflector well suggests you will probably get a beam pattern similar to many larger 1x18650 lights (e.g., Olight M22, Eagletac TX25C2, etc.). However, Niwalker informs me that they plan to replace the XM-L2 emitter on the final shipping version of the MM18 with the new XP-L emitter from Cree. Simply put, the XP-L has the die size and output of the XM-L2, but with the overall footprint of the XP-G2. But overall output (and likely throw) should be similar to the results here.

Scroll down for beamshot comparisons.

User Interface

The user interface is basically the same as the currently shipping MM15. Note that there were a few updates to the MM15 interface since the time of my last MM15 review - I will highlight the differences below.

As previously mentioned, the MK-Rs and XM-L2 emitters are controlled separately by two distinct switches (independent of each other, but each with the same relative interface). Holding the light out in front of you, the left switch controls the XM-L2 emitter, and the right switch controls the MK-R emitters.

UPDATE: with the Final Prototype, the top switch controls the MK-R emitters, and the bottom switch controls the XM-L2.

For constant On of the desired emitter type, click (press-release) the appropriate electronic switch. A single click turns the light back Off. For momentary Turbo mode from Off, press and hold the switch (release to turn Off).

Once in constant On, press and hold the switch to cycle through all the regular modes in sequence: L1 > L2 > L3 > L4 > L5 (lowest to highest output), in repeating sequence. Release the switch to select the desired level. You can restart the level ramp at any time. Note that all currently shipping versions of Niwalker lights have the ramp continue from the current level (i.e., on the original MM15, the ramp always re-started at Level 1). The shipping lights have mode memory for the regular modes, and returns to last setting used from Off.

As with the MM15, Turbo (i.e., L6) is not on the regular constant On mode sequence. To access Turbo when On, double-click the switch. Double-click repeatedly for the strobe modes, in the following repeating sequence: Turbo > Strobe > SOS > Beacon. Note there is no mode memory for Turbo or the strobe modes.

To exit these special modes, single click the switch. Note that with all currently shipping Niwalker lights, this takes you back to the previously memorized regular mode. You need to click again to turn the light off. This differs from the original MM15 prototypes, when a single click from the special modes turned the light off.

You can access Strobe directly from Off by double-clicking switch. This means that you can have the light come on in Turbo or Strobe at any time (i.e., press-and-hold from Off for momentary Turbo, double-click from Off for constant Strobe).

Since the two switches are independent, you can produce a wide variety of output combinations, including "disco" modes. :rolleyes: For example, you could set the XM-L2 to SOS while setting the MK-Rs to Beacon, or have the MK-Rs in L1 while the XM-L2 is in SOS, etc., etc.

One distinctive feature is that the standby indicators under the switches always flash in unison on the MM18. This signals that batteries are connected but the light is not on (i.e., a brief green flash under both switches occurs every four seconds). Similarly, both switches light up in constant green when in use (regardless of which emitters are on). The indicators turn constant red as the batteries run down in capacity. This is the only example of how the two switches are linked – in everything but the standby flash, they function independently

There is an independent electronic lock-out mode (for each switch), accessed by a rapid triple-click of the switch from Off. The respective emitters will flash twice to indicate the lock-out is engaged. Another triple-click re-activates. Note that due to the dual switches of the MM18, you will have to do this maneuver separately for each switch (i.e., you can lock out only one switch at a time, or both). However, as the standby flash is common to both switches, you can't tell if one switch is locked out – you need to lock out both switches to stop the standby flash.

Video:

For more information on the overall build and user interface, please see my video overview:

First Prototype:



Final Prototype:



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.

PWM/Strobe

As with the MM15, there is no sign of PWM that I can see, at any output level – I believe the MM18 is current-controlled. :)

Also like MM15, there is some circuit noise detectable in the output of L2-L5 levels – but in undetectable high kHz frequency. Below are samples for the 2xMK-R emitters (but something similar is also present on the 1xXM-L)

L1:
MM18-MKR-L1Noise.gif


L2
MM18-MKR-L2Noise.gif


L3
MM18-MKR-L3Noise.gif


L4
MM18-MKR-L4Noise.gif


L5
MM18-MKR-L5Noise.gif


L6
MM18-MKR-L6Noise.gif


Again, It is quite common to see high frequency noise in current-controlled lights. Consistent with my standard review policy, I report on anything I can detect on a light. But rest assured, these signals are not visible to the eye in actual use – the light is fully flicker-free in all modes. :)

As there are independent controls, let's look at the blinking modes separately.

XM-L2 Strobe:
MM18-XML2-Strobe.gif


MK-R Strobe:
MM18-MKR-Strobe.gif


This is one area where there is a default difference between the emitters – the MK-R emitters have a faster 13.3 Hz strobe, compared to the 10.6 Hz strobe on the XM-L2.

As the Strobe modes are independent, I thought I'd see what happens if I keep one emitter class strobing, and adjusted the output level/mode of the other. What I observed is that, for example, the XM-L2 Strobe remains at 10.6 Hz as you move through levels L1-L5 on the MK-R emitters. But when you reach L6 (Turbo) on the MK-R emitters, the XM-L2 Strobe drops to 9.5 Hz. If you activate the MK-R Strobe, then the XM-L2 Strobe synchronizes to a common 13.3 Hz frequency, as shown below.

XM-L2 + MK-R Strobe:
MM18-XML2-StrobeMRKStrobe.gif


A small curiosity, but not one you could notice without an oscilloscope. :whistle:

XM-L2 SOS
MM18-XML2-SOS.gif


MK-R SOS
MM18-MKR-SOS.gif


A fairly typical SOS mode for both. Don't worry about the "messy" pattern above during the on-phase – that is the just the visually-undetectable high-freq noise showing through.

XM-L2 Beacon:
MM18-XML2-Beacon.gif


MK-R Beacon:
MM18-MKR-Beacon.gif


The beacon modes were similar to each other, and the earlier MM15 – you typically get ~0.6 secs of light, repeated every 2.9 seconds.

Standby Drain

Like the MM15, a standby current drain is inevitable on this light, due to the electronic switch. The batteries are all in series, as before (i.e. 4s1p arrangement).

On my MM18 I measured this standby current as 750uA initially, but it rapidly drops down over 30 secs or so to settle at a stable 640uA. Note the MM15 was 370uA.

As with the MM15, the standby indicators flash every three seconds - causing a momentary jump in current. For the MM18, I measured the peak at 5.6mA (comparted to 4.8mA on the MM15). If we use ~1.9mA as a rough overall average current (i.e., averaging the current over 4 secs), that would give you just over two months before 3100mAh cells would be exhausted.

As before, there is no physical lock-out available (i.e., you would need to pull one of the cells). But Niwalker has included a similar electronic lock-out mode at the MM15 (i.e., triple-click the switch from off). Note you have to lock out both switches separately on the MM18

I haven't tested it here, but on the MM15 at least, lock-out mode uses the same standby current - just without the indicator flash jump.

Beamshots:

And now, what you have all been waiting for. ;) All lights are on AW protected 18650, except for the MM18 which is on Samsung 20R INR 2000mAh cells. Lights are about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall).

Automatic white balance is used on most of my wall beamshots (to minimize tint differences), but in this case I went with a Daylight WB on my Canon for all Niwalker MM-series lights.

Let's start with a Turbo comparison of the various MM18 options (i.e., XM-L2 alone, MK-Rs alone, or both XM-L2+MK-Rs):

MM18-BeamMKR1.jpg
MM18-BeamXML1.jpg

MM18-Both1.jpg


MM18-BeamMKR2.jpg
MM18-BeamXML2.jpg

MM18-Both2.jpg


MM18-BeamMKR3.jpg
MM18-BeamXML3.jpg

MM18-Both3.jpg


MM18-BeamMKR4.jpg
MM18-BeamXML4.jpg

MM18-Both4.jpg


Centering may look a little off, but that's just because of the insanely close-up distance. :rolleyes: In real life, the two emitter classes both "focus" on the same point.

As may notice, there is a slight "double-bulge" in the spillbeam of the XM-L2 (due to the slightly overlapping reflector wells).

Now let's see how the Turbo mode of both XM-L2+MK-Rs compares to other lights:

MM18-Both1.jpg
MM15-ship-Beam001.jpg

MM15vn-Beam001.jpg
OlightX6-Beam001.jpg


MM18-Both2.jpg
MM15-ship-Beam002.jpg

MM15vn-Beam002.jpg
OlightX6-Beam002.jpg


MM18-Both3.jpg
MM15-ship-Beam003.jpg

MM15vn-Beam003.jpg
OlightX6-Beam003.jpg


MM18-Both4.jpg
MM15-ship-Beam004.jpg

MM15vn-Beam004.jpg
OlightX6-Beam004.jpg


Note: No matter what white balance I use, these comparisons will never be entirely accurate for tint. Try to focus on the relative beam comparisons

You can't really tell too much from these standardized up-close beamshots, so let's move on to my basement. For your reference, the back of the couch is about 7 feet away (~2.3m) from the opening of the light, and the far wall is about 18 feet away (~5.9m). Below I am showing a couple of exposures, to allow you to better compare hotspot and spill. And again, the camera is set to a Daylight white balance for all lights below. All lights on Turbo.

MM18-Basement-25.gif


MM18-Basement-100.gif


I think the above gives you a good idea of the difference of the two emitter classes on the MM18. :whistle:

Now, let's see how it does relative to the MM15. For this, I am also including the dedomed version of the MM15vn (as it has greater throw than the stock MM15). The MM18 has both XM-L2 and MK-Rs activated (on Turbo)

MM15-MM18-Basement-25.gif


MM15-MM18-Basement-100.gif


The XM-L2 emitter definitely adds some greater throw to the proceedings.

BTW, in case you were curious how the 2xMK-R emitters compared to the stock MM15, here is one more set of comparisons – this time with only the 2xMK-R activated on the MM18:

MM15-MM18-25.gif


MM15-MM18-100.gif


Again, these are all done with a Daylight white balance to consistently capture tint differences. As such, it can a bit hard to meaningfully compare output. But hopefully you can see that the MK-R emitters seem to be a bit more relatively "throwy" than the MT-G2 (i.e., spot to spill ratio). The spillbeam of the MM18 also doesn't seem as bright as the MM15 – suggesting overall output is a bit lower for the MK-R emitters. But as always, tint differences make that hard to quantify visually.

No time for outdoor shots, so please scroll down to my summary tables for more beam and output measures.

Testing Method:

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).

MM18-FL1-Summary.gif


I've broken down each emitter class separately and combined above. Note the my lumen estimates for this light are again only approximate, as I am depending solely on my ceiling bounce calibration method. Also note that I am using higher-drain rated INR cells for the max output estimates above (see lumen table below for more info).

The 1xXM-L2 adds a fairly typical amount of output and throw, comparable to heavily-driven small handhelds (i.e., overall output and throw are similar to the Olight M22 or Eagletac TX25C2). Niwalker plans to replace the XM-L2 with a XP-L emitter in the shipping versions of the MM18. But this isn't likely to change output or runtime significanltly.

The 2xMK-R emitters allow for better focusing than the MT-G2 emitters on the MM15. The end result is that the peak intensity throw of the MM18 MK-Rs is about the same as the MM15, as the MM15 has higher overall output.

Let's see how the rest of the output levels compare:

UPDATE: Included below is how the Final Prototype compares, both lights tested on Samsung INR 20R cells. As a result, the ANSI FL-1 max outputs have increased slightly for the first prototype from the table above, which was based on NCR18650 3100mAh cells. Note that "Samp#3" refers to the final prototype, as I had two samples originally of the first prototype.

MM18-3-lumens.gif


Again, these lumen estimates are directly measured, but still very approximate due to the use of a ceiling bounce calibration. Niwalker has not provided detailed testing specs yet, but they originally told me to expect max output to be ~1000 lumens for the XM-L2 and ~4000 lumens for the MK-R.

A few observations on output:

You can see that Turbo on MK-R (especially if the XM-L2 emitter is in use) really requires IMR/INR/Hybrid class Li-ion cells to get the maximum output.

You can also see that the effect of multiple emitter classes is really additive – if you run both the XM-L2 and MK-Rs at the same level (last column), the measured output really does closely reflect what happens if you combined the separate outputs.

Of course, you don't have to combine emitter classes to the same level – each control is independent. Since the effect is linearly additive, you can estimate other outputs from the table above. For example, if you wanted a moderate amount of flood (e.g. MK-R L3) and a greater amount of throw (e.g. XM-L2 L5), you can just add the corresponding fields in the table for a good overall output estimate (i.e., 410 + 460 = 870). :wave:

Output/Runtime Graphs:

Note that my standard runtimes used to be done on AW protected 18650 2200mAh cells (always under a cooling fan). In this case, I have tried a few additional cell types: protected Panasonic NCR18650A (3100mAh), unprotected Samsung 20R INR (2000mAh) and unprotected Panasonic NCR18650PF Hybrid (2900mAh)

UPDATE: Scroll down for results of the Final Prototype

First Prototype:

Let's start with the max possible output – Turbo on both MK-Rs and XM-L2:

MM18-Max.gif


As the drive level on max seems rather high for standard ICR chemistry cells, I am just showing unprotected INR (Samgung 20R) and Hybrid (Panasonic PF) runs above. Thermal step-down occurred at a consistent ~2 mins runtime.

An interesting point above – the step-down dropped only the output of the MK-R emitters (i.e., the XM-L2 was still running in L6 Turbo, with the MK-Rs dropped to L5). As a result, I estimate the lumen output immediate after step-down to be ~2450 lumens.

Using the same relative output scale, here is how the max output of each emitter class separately performed:

MM18-MaxSingle.gif


There was greater variability as to when the MM18 on MK-R L6 Turbo stepped down, depending on the batteries used. Typically this occurred between ~3-14 mins after activation (under fan cooling). Of course, ambient temperature could play a role here as well. Regulation pattern looks to be direct-drive-like for the MK-R emitters (i.e., just as for the MT-G2 emitters on the MM15).

In contrast to the MK-R emitters, the XM-L2 emitter is able to maintain perfectly flat stabilized regulation at all levels (including L6 Turbo). In terms of the eventual switch to a XP-L emitter on the shipping version, I doubt output or runtime will change very much. This will depend on the exact output bins of course, but from the specs, it looks like the XP-L class will be generally comparable to the current XM-L2 for output and efficiency.

Let's look at some Med-Hi levels. I haven't bothered to test L5 directly, since you can extrapolate from the L6 runs (i.e., as L6 steps down to L5, just imagine slightly longer runtime if run continuously at L5).

MM18-MedHi.gif


As expected, the higher capacity 3100mAh cells clearly do a lot better than 2200mAh cells for total runtime. This is always especially noticeable on the direct-drive-like regulation patterns.

A second point is what happens when you compare combined modes to a single emitter class. In the case above, I have compared the L3 mode on both emitter classes to the single L4 mode on MK-R. Consistent with my output table, the L4 MK-Rs are slightly brighter overall than the combined L3 MK-Rs + XM-L2 (i.e., 740 vs 610). However, overall runtime seems pretty comparable between these configurations (although it seems like my 3100mAh run ended a bit earlier than I would have expected).

Let's see how the MM18 compares to other high output lights, starting at the highest levels:

MM18-Max18650.gif


Taking the number and type of batteries into account, overall efficiency on Turbo/Hi levels (for MK-Rs and MK-Rs+XM-L2) seems about on par with heavily-driven 3x XM-L/XM-L2 lights.

MM18-Hi18650.gif

MM18-Med18650.gif


At the Med-Hi levels, the 3x/4x XM-L2 lights clearly have a relative efficiency advantage – as does the MT-G2-equipped MM15. That said, the overall runtimes of the MM18 are still perfectly acceptable.

UPDATE: Final Prototype Runtimes

MM18-3-3100.gif


MM18-3-Max-both.gif


MM18-3-Max-INR-PF.gif


As you can see, output and runtime are not all that different between the prototypes (taking into account the small output increases). However, one new feature has been added – a low voltage cut-off. :thumbsup: This means you will be able to run the light safely on unprotected cells.


Potential Issues

The MM18 switches are slightly raised, and have an improved tactile feel from the MM15. However, the traverse is also a bit longer, which can make rapid repeat clicking difficult, given the overall switch stiffness. I found myself occasionally "missing my shot" when double-clicking.

The emitter classes can be controlled independently, which adds a lot of versatility. It can also add complexity. For example, the revised interface for the MM15/MM18 requires you to click once to exit the Turbo or other special modes and return to the memorized regular level. To turn off the light, you need to single click a second time. This can get a bit confusing if you have both types of emitters on, but are not sure what mode you last left each one (i.e. you would need to click four times in total - two per switch - to turn the light off if you were in Turbo/Turbo for both emitter classes).

Similarly, the indicator LEDs under both of the switches light up in unison, despite independent control. I would have preferred separate indicators (i.e. helpful to know which emitters are on).

As with the MM15, the internal battery carrier is still a bit tight for longer and wider high-capacity protected cells. No physical lock out is possible (unless you pull the cells), but an electronic lock-out is available. Note that you have to lock out both switches to remove the standby indicator flash.

Standby current is high enough to fully drain most cells within a couple months. Locking out both switches should extend that to around half a year.

Turbo mode on both emitters really requires high-drain-rated batteries for best performance (i.e,, IMR, INR or Hybrid cells).

Preliminary Observations

While the Niwalker MM15 is a great light, it does suffer from one potential limitation – it is really all flood, with little focused throw. It is also only available in Neutral white (actually a bonus from my perspective ;) - but not everyone shares that). The new "big brother" MM18 rectifies these issues by replacing the 2xMT-G2 emitters with two cool white MK-Rs, and adding a secondary cool white XM-L2 emitter under independent control.

In relative terms, the cool white 2xMK-R substitution gives you a relatively similar pure "flood" beam profile as the MM15 – although with ~25% less max output in my testing. In practice, that decrease does not appear as great as it may sound on paper - cool white always looks "brighter" than neutral, and I didn't find much of an overall brightness difference in practice. Niwalker confirms that the reason for the switch is to access relatively high output cool white emitters - but they would consider bringing the MT-G2 emitter back to the MM18, if there were sufficient demand.

The XM-L2 addition provides the relative output and throw of a good-sized 18650 handheld (e.g., Olight M22 or Eagletac TX25C2). When both emitter classes are combined on the MM18, overall output is within ~10% of the stock MM15 (just in cool white instead of neutral) – and you get both flood and throw simultaneously. :eek:oo: I haven't seen the replacement XP-L emitter yet, but based on the Cree specs, I would expect similar output and runtime to the XM-L2 tested here - and probably throw too, for that matter.

A key point to remember here is the MM18 has two completely independent controls – you can adjust either emitter class separately of the other. Each switch has the same basic interface as the MM15. This adds a lot of versatility in operation – but also some complexity (e.g., turning off from the special modes requires an extra click for each emitter class, etc.). But how many other lights let you mix and match beam types and modes to the level offered here?

Like the MM15, regulation of the 2xMK-R emitters is largely direct-drive – although the 1xXM-L2 is fully flat-stabilized at all levels. Overall efficiency of this MM18 setup is lower than the 2xMT-G2 emitters on MM15. I suspect this is due to the combination of a lower relative efficiency of the MK-R and XM-L emitters (compared to MT-G2), and the extra circuit overhead of the dual independent switch controls on the MM18. It's hard to be more precise, as I don't have all the specifics of the emitter bins used in these lights. But in my reading of the Cree emitter spec datasheets, it seems that MK-Rs require more forward current than equivalently-matched MT-G2s for the equivalent output.

UPDATE: One nice feature added to the final prototype (and presumably the shipping versions) is a low-voltage cut-out build into the light's circuit. This means you can safely use unprotected cells.

All that being said, the absolute runtimes of the MM18 are more than acceptable – as are the max outputs. It just when you compare lower output levels on the MM18 to the sub-max outputs on a typical 3x/4xXM-L2 light (or the MM15) that you will find a runtime difference. But the much cleaner beam profiles of the MM18 may well be worth that runtime hit.

On that note, beam pattern is very good for both emitter classes, with relatively minor artifacts from the overlapping reflector wells. I'm actually quite impressed that they managed to do so well here – makers of other multi-well setups should take note. :rolleyes:

One potential issue on the MM18 is that if you want to get maximum Turbo performance with both emitter classes simultaneously, you really need to use higher drain-rated 18650 batteries (i.e., IMR, INR or Hybird chemistries). It would be a bit hard on standard ICR chemistry cells to do sustained dual Turbo. But as with the MM15, you have a thermal management feature to step-down the MK-R emitters from Turbo (L6) to L5 as the light heats up.

I know there is a lot of data up there – I hope you found the comparisons useful. :sweat: From my perspective, I think this is a good attempt to create a "jack-of-all-trades" high-output cool white light. Personally, I would have preferred to see neutral white emitters here - ideally combined with the MT-G2s for max efficiency and overall output. But the flashlight market often seems focused on cool white offerings, and so the MK-R/XM-L2 (or new MK-R/XP-L offering) makes a lot sense. As always, I know Niwalker is looking for feedback from members here on what you would like to see. Don't be shy! :wave:

UPDATE: the shipping version should have equivalent functionality to the final prototype version shown above. It is also supposed to be available for sale imminently.
----

Nova MiniMax MM18 was provided by Niwalker for review.
 
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jonwkng

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Thanks for yet another superb review, selfbuilt! Amazing amount of detail in your review, as always! This is definitely an interesting light for sure. Looking forward to the review of the final production light and possibly a Vn version in the future. :thumbsup:
 

ven

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Thank you selfbuilt again for an awesome in depth review:twothumbs,i second Jons comments completely.:thumbsup:

I am happy to see the centre post improvement,some kind of protection on the edge would be good (outer side of cell when fitting can scuff against head).

UI wise does look a little complex but with learning brings plenty of options which is a good thing on this type of light.

I am sold anyway,being a huge fan of the mm15vn the mm18vn will make a perfect big bro
 

Blueroots1

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I'm super excited about this light.ive been waiting for you to put out a review since I heard it was coming out. I really like the direction they chose to go with their improvements/upgrades for the 18. I only have a few issues with the the mm15 and they seemed to have been addressed for the most part.

The only thing that I really didn't like about the mm15 that I was hoping would be remedied with the next mm was the handle. Or more the way that the handle is mounted. I found it extremely difficult to put on. There is very little space to work with when you're setting the screws. And if you use the Allen key provided it takes sooooooo long to get them tight. Because of the confind space you can only get a quarter turn in before you have to pick up and reset the Allen key.

but that was the only thing that I really had a problem with. Does anyone know of an approximate release date yet?

oh and I just wanted to say that I am a new member to cpf and just recently admitted my flashlight addiction. And I was kind of blown away to see how tight knit this community is. And to selfbuit in particular i really love what you got going on and there isn't much else that I need to see after seeing one of your reviews.
 

ven

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:welcome:Blueroots to cpf and welcome to the awesome selfbuilt reviews....................your certainly at the right place..............enjoy your stay:thumbsup:
 

selfbuilt

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Thanks for yet another superb review, selfbuilt! Amazing amount of detail in your review, as always!
Yeah, this was a longer review to pull together than usual - a lot more possible output combinations to measure, test and compare. :sweat:

I am happy to see the centre post improvement,some kind of protection on the edge would be good (outer side of cell when fitting can scuff against head).
Ys, that is something this common MM15/MM18 design could benefit front. It will be fairly common to knick the edges of battery labels, for example.

UI wise does look a little complex but with learning brings plenty of options which is a good thing on this type of light.
Well, technically, the UI of the individual switches is no more complex than the MMM15. But by being doubled, this brings out new interaction issues. Personally, I wish they hadn't "updated" the original MM15 interface to require a second click to turn off from Turbo. I don't see that as very helpful on either model ... and it is a certainly a pain to have to click 4 times to turn off the dual Turbo here.

the xpl die size is the same as the xml2 just the footprint is the same at the xpg2
Ah yes, good point - I was just looking at overall footprint when I made my earlier comments. Text updated to clarify. Still, I would have expected throw to be a bit better on the XP-L due to the dome characteristics - but I see in Vinh's testing thread that he found no difference between XM-L2 and XP-L when behind the same reflector. :shrug:

The only thing that I really didn't like about the mm15 that I was hoping would be remedied with the next mm was the handle. Or more the way that the handle is mounted. I found it extremely difficult to put on. There is very little space to work with when you're setting the screws. And if you use the Allen key provided it takes sooooooo long to get them tight. Because of the confind space you can only get a quarter turn in before you have to pick up and reset the Allen key.
Yes, I'm afraid the attachment process is unchanged. And I agree, it is not something you are going to want to swap around every day. :rolleyes:
 
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Alex1234

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the cool thing about the xpl is it can be put into more cramped places thanks to the xpg2 sized footprint which is why i like it
 

don.gwapo

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Thanks for the detailed review SB.


- How about a third momentary switch (even just a small one) to simultaneously fires up all three LED's when you need a lot of light!

- Having an option for third MK-R's in place of XP-L for raw lumens!
 

One missed call

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Great review, as always.


Here is another vote cast for neutral white/MT-G2 emitters.

Also, I am not sure if it's just me, but getting into/out of Turbo on the MM15 is cumbersome. I hope they change that part of the UI.
 

selfbuilt

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Also, I am not sure if it's just me, but getting into/out of Turbo on the MM15 is cumbersome. I hope they change that part of the UI.
I agree. The original MM15 shipping lights turned off as soon as you clicked, regardless of mode. But shortly after the launch, they updated the interface to have the ramp continue from the last level (a good idea, which I recommended), and to require a second click to turn off when in the special modes (no idea where that came from). It is only mildly annoying on the MM15 - but thanks to the dual switches here, things can get confusing when trying to shut down both emitter classes.
 

thedoc007

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As always, an excellent review. Thanks selfbuilt for all the work you put into this!

I already have an MM15vn, so I have no interest in this. If I am carrying big lights, I usually have two, one each for throw and flood. A MM15vn paired with a K40vn gives you OUTSTANDING flood and throw, which the MM18 cannot hope to match.

That said, if the MM15 had been offered with MK-R instead of MT-G2, I might have preferred that. How hard would it be to offer both emitters? Having the choice would allow each buyer to get the emitter that is right for them. Are there technical reasons why this is impractical?
 

InfinitusEquitas

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Very detailed, excellent review as always, and I love the way you broke out the different output options for the separate LEDs.

This light reminds more more than anything of the Fenix TK76 in terms of the various lighting options, although the TK76 takes it to an ever greater extreme with three LEDs that can be semi independently controlled.

Count me in as yet another vote for an MTG2 version of this light. Not only could it be brighter, and more efficient, but personally I have a strong preference for neutral white tint outdoors.

One GLARING issue imo is that turbo for all LEDs cannot be activated from one button. In personal use (with the TK76 last weekend camping for example) I've found it to be very useful to be able to switch into turbo mode for a quick area scan, and be able to step down immediately to whatever preset I was on before. A third button, or having turbo activate on all LEDs from pressing just one of the buttons would be a good improvement.

I think it would be helpful to have lockout also function this way, where it would affect the light as a whole, if either switch were locked out.

Also not a fan of the raised rubber switches. Suggestion would be to stick to the same button design as on the MM15, but with a less bright LED blink.
 

selfbuilt

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That said, if the MM15 had been offered with MK-R instead of MT-G2, I might have preferred that. How hard would it be to offer both emitters? Having the choice would allow each buyer to get the emitter that is right for them. Are there technical reasons why this is impractical?
Count me in as yet another vote for an MTG2 version of this light. Not only could it be brighter, and more efficient, but personally I have a strong preference for neutral white tint outdoors.
I love how everyone has different preferences - I think it demonstrates why it is so hard for manufacturers to settle on one design.

I understand the move to cool white MK-Rs on the MM18 was in response to customer feedback on the MM15. Niwalker has not shared with me any reason why technically MT-G2 couldn't be used on the MM18 (or presumably, MK-R on the MM15). So I presume both designs are possible - it's really a question of whether or not it is worth their while to offer both on each model (with the headaches that causes for inventory, etc.).

Personally, I have a strong preference for the efficiency and neutral white tint of the MT-G2, but that's just me. :)

One GLARING issue imo is that turbo for all LEDs cannot be activated from one button. ... A third button, or having turbo activate on all LEDs from pressing just one of the buttons would be a good improvement. I think it would be helpful to have lockout also function this way, where it would affect the light as a whole, if either switch were locked out.
I agree. Right now, you would need to do two single-clicks and two double-clicks to get Turbo (and four single-clicks to turn off the light) - across the two switches. That's a lot of clicking. :rolleyes:
 

InfinitusEquitas

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I think they should take a look at the Fenix TK76... they almost nailed it with a perfect UI imho. Dedicated turbo button that puts all emitters on turbo from any mode, an independent control for each LED, as well as a dedicated on/off button that works across all of them. Only downside is, if the main power button is used to turn off, and turn on, all secondary LEDs turn on to the previously set mode.

I expect it didn't do well in sales due to looking like something out of star trek.

Having to go through so many clicks, TWICE, that's an issue. The UI on the MM15 is fine (imo). It's very frustrating to me that flashlight companies are so afraid of more buttons.
 
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Ugh, MKR's, what are they thinking?? Wish it was MTG2's for flood...happy with the XML2 for throw.
Also prefer it be an option of NW or CW.

Thanks for the review mate.
 

Danielsan

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Is there something like a special CPF Version of the Niwalker MM15? Because at banggood you can order such a thing
 
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tdi10

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Thanks for another excellent review.... I too would vote for the MT-G2 - better tint and looks to have a wider flood. Any idea yet as to pricing or release date? I currently have the Nitecore TM06, Thrunite TN36, and the MM18 on the same "watch list" for my next purchase. I haven't entirely ruled out a MM15vn as an option however if I can get what I need without mods I think I would prefer to go that route.
 

selfbuilt

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Any idea yet as to pricing or release date? I currently have the Nitecore TM06, Thrunite TN36, and the MM18 on the same "watch list" for my next purchase.
I expect it will be soon - Niwalker has just sent me a revised sample for testing. Not sure of release date or price, but this should be close to the final shipping. Will update this review once I've completed the testing.
 
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