Protac HL3 vs Protac HPL

mrsteel

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Been really getting into Streamlight as of late, and I’m curious what your guys‘ thoughts are on the two.

I really like the way the HL3 looks and it seems to outperform the HPL while being a comparable size.

If anyone has some beam shots I’d appreciate it!
 

aznsx

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Been really getting into Streamlight as of late, and I’m curious what your guys‘ thoughts are on the two.

I really like the way the HL3 looks and it seems to outperform the HPL while being a comparable size.

If anyone has some beam shots I’d appreciate it!

The last time I was looking for a light in that category I compared the HPL and HL-X (which you might also want to consider) and 2L-X (and others in the line), and with a lot of general similarities, I went with the 2L-X almost entirely due to form factor / dimensions, as I wanted to keep the size down. That was at the expense of some lumens and candelas. The HPL looks like a great choice to me if size is not a big consideration, and in that case I would have likely chosen the HPL.

Between the HL3 and HPL, to me the choice would clearly be the HPL. They also have a lot in common, but the two biggest factors in that choice for me are:
  • The HPL is rated / tested at an impact rating of 2 meters, whereas the HL3 is only 1 meter. I understand that SL takes those ratings very seriously, as I do, and that indicates that they consider the HPL to be a more 'rugged' design. That's a P1 criterion for me.
  • The HL3 is only advertised as being compatible with a power source of 3xCR123A primary cells. The HPL features on-board USB charging with the included (bespoke design) lithium ion cell (74175). However, importantly it is also set up to use a button-top, protected 18650 (such as their SL-B26[which features on-board USB charging] like the ones that came with your Stinger 2020, as well as any 'industry-standard' button-top protected 18650 - although both of those standard-type 18650s are not rechargeable inside the light. It can also use 2xCR123A primaries.

The HPL also offers 3 output level choices instead of the 2 of the HL3. Both offer '10-Tap' user-selectable UI options. The lumen output / candela / distance ratings are very similar between the HPL and HL3, with the HL3 having a longer run time rating (although I don't know which power source that is spec'd with). I believe the HPL is a newer design, but that's not necessarily relevant. I do note that (oddly for SL) they provide an output performance graph in the 'Fact Sheet' for the HPL, but not for the HL3. Also note that their HL and HPL lights in general feature a somewhat different emission / beam pattern, as explained on their web site under 'Resources > Interactive Beam Demo', and that may or may not be a decision factor for you.

Personally, I'd go with the HPL - but that's just me. By the way, I also have the Stinger 2020, and I LOVE it. I believe you and I are practically the only users of this forum who have that light, and as I've commented previously, that light is about as popular around these parts as a wasp at a picnic :). It's (IMO) a brilliant design.

Edit: BTW, keep in mind that the run time specs for the HPL are likely using the included / bespoke 74175 cell (which I believe is the same as my Strion uses, ~2000 mAh), and if so should be somewhat longer using the SL-B26 18650s (2600 mAh), and of course would be significantly increased using one of the commonly available 'industry-standard' button-top protected 18650s, which are often ~34-3500 mAh. I use (for example) some Fenix 3500 mAh button-top, protected 18650s in my 2L-X and my Stinger 2020, in addition to the SL 18650s.

Added HL-X reference in 1st paragraph.
 
Last edited:

Scotty321

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I'm assuming you are referring to the Protac HPL-USB and not the Strion HPL.

Although I don't have either, I've accumulated a few over the last year: 2L-X, HL-X, HL4, HL5-X, Macrostream USB, Microstream USB (Coyote), and borrowed a Stylus from a friend for a few months.

I considered the HL3 and HPL-USB, but decided that I didn't need the size and range "middle ground" between my HL-X and HL5-X. I doubt you will notice a difference in beam profile and brightness between the HPL USB and HL3. I also found I already had alternative brands when I wanted something "inbetween." I think it really boils down to whether you want to use an 18650 (and USB charging port on the flashlight). Also, the SL 18650's are the longer type with microUSB port, and are rated at 2600 mAh. You might get longer runtimes with a 3500mAh 18650. I use my NC 18650's in my HL4. If you get free CR123's from work, the added runtime and range compared to the HL-X might be worth the extra size and weight.

I'll add, I like the simplistic UI of the Streamlights, and even though they offer less output than my other flashlights, they also don't get hot nearly as quickly.

Mrgunsngear has a good size comparison to other SL's and beamshots of the HPL USB and HL USB in this video:

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

mrsteel

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The last time I was looking for a light in that category I compared the HPL and HL-X (which you might also want to consider) and 2L-X (and others in the line), and with a lot of general similarities, I went with the 2L-X almost entirely due to form factor / dimensions, as I wanted to keep the size down. That was at the expense of some lumens and candelas. The HPL looks like a great choice to me if size is not a big consideration, and in that case I would have likely chosen the HPL.

Between the HL3 and HPL, to me the choice would clearly be the HPL. They also have a lot in common, but the two biggest factors in that choice for me are:
  • The HPL is rated / tested at an impact rating of 2 meters, whereas the HL3 is only 1 meter. I understand that SL takes those ratings very seriously, as I do, and that indicates that they consider the HPL to be a more 'rugged' design. That's a P1 criterion for me.
  • The HL3 is only advertised as being compatible with a power source of 3xCR123A primary cells. The HPL features on-board USB charging with the included (bespoke design) lithium ion cell (74175). However, importantly it is also set up to use a button-top, protected 18650 (such as their SL-B26[which features on-board USB charging] like the ones that came with your Stinger 2020, as well as any 'industry-standard' button-top protected 18650 - although both of those standard-type 18650s are not rechargeable inside the light. It can also use 2xCR123A primaries.

The HPL also offers 3 output level choices instead of the 2 of the HL3. Both offer '10-Tap' user-selectable UI options. The lumen output / candela / distance ratings are very similar between the HPL and HL3, with the HL3 having a longer run time rating (although I don't know which power source that is spec'd with). I believe the HPL is a newer design, but that's not necessarily relevant. I do note that (oddly for SL) they provide an output performance graph in the 'Fact Sheet' for the HPL, but not for the HL3. Also note that their HL and HPL lights in general feature a somewhat different emission / beam pattern, as explained on their web site under 'Resources > Interactive Beam Demo', and that may or may not be a decision factor for you.

Personally, I'd go with the HPL - but that's just me. By the way, I also have the Stinger 2020, and I LOVE it. I believe you and I are practically the only users of this forum who have that light, and as I've commented previously, that light is about as popular around these parts as a wasp at a picnic :). It's (IMO) a brilliant design.

Edit: BTW, keep in mind that the run time specs for the HPL are likely using the included / bespoke 74175 cell (which I believe is the same as my Strion uses, ~2000 mAh), and if so should be somewhat longer using the SL-B26 18650s (2600 mAh), and of course would be significantly increased using one of the commonly available 'industry-standard' button-top protected 18650s, which are often ~34-3500 mAh. I use (for example) some Fenix 3500 mAh button-top, protected 18650s in my 2L-X and my Stinger 2020, in addition to the SL 18650s.

Added HL-X reference in 1st paragraph.

It is nice to see that someone else has the Stinger! Thanks for the good info, it seems that the HPL while more robust to impact isn't as resistant to water so there's a bit of a tradeoff there in durability it seems. I'll have to check out that interactive beam demo! Also I'm not too familiar with the inner workings of 18650's, what is it that makes the SL batteries 2600mah? The surefire 18650's with micro USB charging I have were rated above 3000mah if I remember correctly.

Thanks!
 

mrsteel

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I'm assuming you are referring to the Protac HPL-USB and not the Strion HPL.

Although I don't have either, I've accumulated a few over the last year: 2L-X, HL-X, HL4, HL5-X, Macrostream USB, Microstream USB (Coyote), and borrowed a Stylus from a friend for a few months.

I considered the HL3 and HPL-USB, but decided that I didn't need the size and range "middle ground" between my HL-X and HL5-X. I doubt you will notice a difference in beam profile and brightness between the HPL USB and HL3. I also found I already had alternative brands when I wanted something "inbetween." I think it really boils down to whether you want to use an 18650 (and USB charging port on the flashlight). Also, the SL 18650's are the longer type with microUSB port, and are rated at 2600 mAh. You might get longer runtimes with a 3500mAh 18650. I use my NC 18650's in my HL4. If you get free CR123's from work, the added runtime and range compared to the HL-X might be worth the extra size and weight.

I'll add, I like the simplistic UI of the Streamlights, and even though they offer less output than my other flashlights, they also don't get hot nearly as quickly.

Mrgunsngear has a good size comparison to other SL's and beamshots of the HPL USB and HL USB in this video:

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the video, it's nice to see some beam shots of the thing, it seems rather hard to find in depth Streamlight reviews. (at least on new ones)
 

Bflanders

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In my opinion once you go to 18650’s, you will never want another light that is not one! So convenient to always have spare batteries that are charged! Mah is just the “capacity” of the battery. All 18650 are 4.2 volts fully charged….a 3500mah is twice as dense and has twice the capacity as a 1750mah.

There are a lot of good 18650 battery’s out there, I always stay with Panasonic, Sanyo, LG and Samsung. Most others are one of those big 4 rebranded and cost twice the money. Sony makes good cells too.
 

bykfixer

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az, the Streamlight products have never been very popular at CPF. It began a long time ago when SureFire was king around here and anything else was taboo. Along comes Streamlight trying to out SureFire SureFire, which around here was blasphemy. Then when LED's took over Streamlight was seen as behind the times compared to all those new kids on the block. Eventually even the mighty SureFire fell from grace around here and was relegated to nothing more than just another over priced flashlight.
Now why the new Stinger was met with so much skeptisism, again was because Streamlight was seen as behind the times. Yet auto mechanics love them. But one thing that did not help the Streamlight name was quality control issues from their factories over seas. Crooked LED's and failing switches became a big issue. Ah, but part of that was not really the fault of Streamlight, but was on the buyer who clicked on the cheapest priced ones at Amazon that were actually fakes. That led to a slew of bad reviews there, which also reached the CPF crowd.

I stopped buying Streamlight products mainly because I just don't need anymore flashlights. My 375 lumen Stinger for example still does the job. Same with the 750 lumen ProTac or 2200 lumen HL-4. Then I went all in on Maglite products simply because I prefer domestically built when practical. Now Maglite truely are behind the times in some respects. They still build mostly alkaline fueled lights. And still stick to a few old shapes and sizes. Yet like Levis straight leg jeans and Chuck Taylor sneakers that is still keeping things going for them.

If I were to buy a new model Streamlight it would either be the ProTac HL-X or the new Stinger.
 

aznsx

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It is nice to see that someone else has the Stinger! Thanks for the good info, it seems that the HPL while more robust to impact isn't as resistant to water so there's a bit of a tradeoff there in durability it seems. I'll have to check out that interactive beam demo! Also I'm not too familiar with the inner workings of 18650's, what is it that makes the SL batteries 2600mah? The surefire 18650's with micro USB charging I have were rated above 3000mah if I remember correctly.

Thanks!

On those ratings, yeah, it's engineering, so it's the art of prioritized tradeoffs. I've faced a similar choice before, but it was an easy decision for me. Reliability / availability is P1 for me. In my own situation and use environment, although there are ingress hazards, my light is many times more likely to suffer an impact event than an ingress event. That alone would make my decision, but that's not the whole story. While the probability of an event is important, often the effects / ramifications of an event can be even more important. Here's my speculation: I think of an impact-induced failure as being more likely to be instantaneously fatal - sudden darkness. I think of an ingress-induced failure as having a longer time factor, and less likely to render the light immediately unusable. That 'time factor' can determine how bad my night is likely to get. Together, an impact event is more likely / probable to occur, and also to have a more negative impact on me when it does, than an ingress event. That's why for me, the 'impact' rating is always the swing vote in such decisions. This is subjective, and everyone has different use environments and priorities.

Regarding the capacity of the current Streamlight 18650: It is produced using a somewhat older 'base cell' than some others. Others will know the 18650 history better than I do, but it wasn't so long ago that a 2600 mAh was a fairly par rating for an 18650. As cell development steadily progressed, typical capacities steadily ratcheted up from the lower 2000s to where they are now, which is ~34-3500. I noted on the web site that Surefire, who hasn't even sold 18650s for too long, has (recently) updated theirs to a 3500 mAh cell. I expect a similar project is underway at Streamlight as we speak. Fenix, who I believe offers several, has offered a 3500 for a good while (I bought some). There are several reasons why Streamlight and Surefire (specifically) are on a development schedule for updating their 18650 cells that is slower and lags behind that of some other flashlight manufacturers, and I understand those reasons, but won't get into that here because it doesn't really matter and is beyond the scope of this post:). Suffice it to say that SF and SL are both doing what they need to do.
 

Scotty321

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I use Nitecore protected 3400 mAh 18650's in my HL4 (I had them on hand), and the SL 2600 mAh 18650's in my HL5-X (came with the light). No issues that I can tell so far. I don't think flat top or large button top cells would work because of the reverse polarity protection cutout.
 
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