Review: NITECORE EC4 979lm (2x18650, 4xR/CR123)

subwoofer

Well-known member
Joined
May 5, 2010
Messages
2,498
Location
Hove, UK
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Author's Statement for Transparency and Disclosure
The test sample/s featured in this article have been provided for technical testing and review by the manufacturer. Test samples are retained by the reviewer following publication of the completed review for the purposes of long term testing and product comparisons.

All output figures and test results published in this review are the sole work of the reviewer, and are carried out independently and without bias. Test results are reported as found, with no embellishments or alteration. Though best endeavours are made to maintain the accuracy of test equipment, the accuracy of these results is not guaranteed and is subject to the test equipment functioning correctly.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


NITECORE have left convention behind and instead of machining the EC4’s body from stock material, it features a die-cast body. Use of a die-cast body reduces size and weight and increases strength and heat dissipation. In a extreme test NITECORE applied the weight of a Tesla car to the EC4 (1300Kg), and though it dented, it did not fail.

07%20EC4%20angle2%20P1100019.jpg


Note: the various marks visible on the light are due to damage caused by DHL during a ‘security inspection’


Taking a more detailed look:

The EC4 arrived in NITECORE’s standard cardboard packaging.
Note: the EC4 and box were damaged by DHL during a ‘security inspection’ - #DHLSlasher

01%20EC4%20boxed%20P1090984.jpg



In the box are the EC4, holster, lanyard and instructions.

02%20EC4%20unboxed%20P1090996.jpg



The EC4 fits bezel down into the holster. The fit is relatively loose.

03%20EC4%20holster%20P1090998.jpg



There is a fixed belt loop, and a Velcro secured loop.

04%20EC4%20holster2%20P1100002.jpg



Surface finish is a matt ‘Stoving Varnish’ coating.

05%20EC4%20angle%20P1100006.jpg



A first view of the dual button control switch.

06%20EC4%20angle%20switch%20P1100016.jpg



The grip pattern is relatively smooth to the touch.

08%20EC4%20grip%20P1100020.jpg



A large thumb wheel screw secures the tail-cap onto the body.

09%20EC4%20tail%20P1100024.jpg



The negative spring terminal is long and uses two springs (one within the other)

10%20EC4%20tailcap%20P1100029.jpg



Large tabs are used to located the tail-cap onto the body.

11%20EC4%20tailcap%20P1100031.jpg



Here you can see the threads cut into the battery tube, and these are what the tail-cap thumb screw fixes into.

12%20EC4%20tail%20off%20P1100034.jpg



Inside the battery tube, the contacts are similar to the tail-cap except that there is a protective plastic guard over some driver components.

13%20EC4%20internal%20contacts2%20P1100047.jpg



A closer view of the battery tube threads.

14%20EC4%20internal%20threads%20P1100059.jpg



As they are tucked away, the view of the tail-cap threads is limited.

15%20EC4%20tail%20threads%20P1100064.jpg



Showing the fit of the cells in the battery tube.

16%20EC4%20tail%20cells%20inserted%20P1100070.jpg



The EC4 next to the cells it holds. This is a compact light considering it holds 2x 18650.

17%20EC4%20size%20P1100078.jpg



The long contact spring prevents the tail-cap being attached the wrong way round. Here it is shown the wrong way roung.

18%20EC4%20wrong%20tailcap%20P1100081.jpg



Changing to the correct way round you can see the tail-cap will now fit on.

19%20EC4%20right%20tailcap%20P1100083.jpg



The EC4 is fitted with a XM-L2 LED.

24%20EC4%20LED%20P1100103.jpg



In the tail-cap screw is a standard camera tripod threaded hole allowing the EC4 to be mounted on a tripod.

38%20EC4%20tripod1%20P1100794.jpg



It is important to look closely at the effect of the die-casting manufacturing process. A raw casting is sitting next to the finished EC4.

23%20EC4%20with%20casting02%20P1100094.jpg



Another view of the raw casting next to the EC4.

25%20EC4%20with%20casting03%20P1100116.jpg



Looking into the raw casting you can see how the structure does not rely on any joins. The heatsink surface is directly connected to the body making the thermal path uninterrupted and more efficient.

26%20EC4%20casting%20internal%20P1100118.jpg



Through the switch opening the LED mounting plate can be seen as well as the thermal path directly flowing into the body and finned area.

27%20EC4%20casting%20internal2%20P1100120.jpg



The raw casting next to its unfinished tail-cap.

28%20EC4%20casting%20P1100122.jpg



You can see the evidence of the casting process as well as some sanding marks from the removal of flashing. The threaded holes for fixing the tail-cap contact board to the tail-cap have also been cut into the casting at this stage.

29%20EC4%20casting%20tail%20P1100124.jpg



Die-casting quickly creates very complex shapes as a single piece of metal.

30%20EC4%20casting%20tail%20P1100128.jpg



A view inside the raw casting of the battery tube.

31%20EC4%20casting%20internal3%20P1100130.jpg



Looking from the front, all the way through the casting.

32%20EC4%20casting%20internal4%20P1100131.jpg



More internal details of the casting.

34%20EC4%20casting%20internal6%20P1100138.jpg



The raw casting is transformed into the final EC4.

37%20EC4%20with%20casting05%20P1100158.jpg




The beam

Please be careful not to judge tint based on images you see on a computer screen. Unless properly calibrated, the screen itself will change the perceived tint.
The indoor beamshot is intended to give an idea of the beam shape/quality rather than tint. All beamshots are taken using daylight white balance. The woodwork (stairs and skirting) are painted Farrow & Ball "Off-White", and the walls are a light sandy colour called 'String' again by Farrow & Ball. I don't actually have a 'white wall' in the house to use for this, and the wife won't have one!



Starting indoors, the EC4 has a very clean and crisp beam. The smooth reflector gives a defined hotspot which has a smooth transition into the spill.

41%20EC4%20indoor%20beam%20P1110714.jpg



Outdoors, that 1000lm output shows it strength. The hotspot blends smoothly into the spill which is bright enough to be useful.

40%20EC4%20outdoor%20beam%20P1110605.jpg




Modes and User Interface:

The EC4 has a total of five constant modes (Turbo, High, Medium, Low, Lower) and three flashing modes (Strobe, Beacon and SOS). Like many other NITECORE lights this is controlled by a dual button.

From OFF, to switch ON to the last used steady white output, briefly press the Power switch. When ON, press the Mode switch to cycle through Turbo -> Lower -> Low -> Mid -> High back to Turbo etc. To switch OFF briefly press the Power switch.

From OFF, for direct access to Lower, press and hold the Power switch for more than 1s.

From OFF, for direct access to Turbo, press and hold the Mode switch for more than 1s.

To access White flashing modes, from ON, press and hold the Mode switch for more than 1s. This will activate strobe. Press and hold the Mode switch for more than 1s again to switch to Beacon mode. Press and hold the Mode switch for more than 1s once more to activate SOS.
Once activated, pressing the mode switch briefly returns the EC4 to the previous steady mode, or a brief press of the Power switch will turn the EC4 OFF.

There is a 'Standby' mode which uses brief low power flashes of the blue switch indicator LED to act as a locator to allow you to find the EC4 in complete darkness. To activate Standby, from ON press and hold the power switch for 3s until the blue switch light comes on. Although low power, the flashes are bright enough to disturb someone's sleep. Exiting standby mode is achieved by switching on the EC4.

There is a lockout mode included. With the EC4 ON, press and hold both buttons simultaneously for 1s to enter lockout. When entering Lockout, the EC4 will turn off and give a brief flash of the main beam as you release the buttons. Like this the buttons will not turn the EC4 on. Thanks to the button design this can be done easily with the thumb. To exit Lockout press and hold both buttons simultaneously for 1s and the EC4 will turn ON in the last used mode.

Lastly when first inserting cell/s into the EC4 or briefly pressing the mode switch when OFF, the blue switch light will flash to indicate the battery charge level. It flashes once, twice, or three times. Three flashes indicates full power.



Batteries and output:

The EC4 runs on 2x18650, 4x CR123 or 4x RCR123.

To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).

Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
NITECORE EC4 using 2x NL189 3400mAh 18650I.S. measured ANSI output LumensPWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Turbo9790
High5290
Medium2360
Low840
Lower20
Strobe49316.6
BeaconNot measured0.5

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

Peak Beam intensity measured 28400lx @1m giving a beam range of 337m.

There is parasitic drain at 315uA which will fully deplete 3400mAh cells in 1.23 years.

Output on Turbo is never stepped down (partly due to the enhanced heatsinking provided by the die-cast body) and is well regulated for the entire runtime.

NITECORE%20EC4%20runtime.jpg




Troubleshooting

This is a new section I am adding to mention any minor niggles I came across during testing, in case the information helps anyone else.

No issues were encountered during testing.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar 'issue' that might be fixed in the same way.



The EC4 in use

Immediately on picking up the EC4 you find the ergonomics excellent. The slightly flattened tube feels better in the hand than a round tube (to me anyway) and your thumb falls onto the control switches. The raised ridge between the power and mode switch provides great tactile feedback to tell you which button you are over.

In the few weeks I’ve been using the EC4, its surface finish has already started to shine up, so the EC4 will quite quickly develop a worn look.

A lot of my own use is at close range and indoors, and ideally I would have preferred a floodier beam, but the EC4 has been aimed at providing a good general purpose beam with some reach. Having some throw certainly works well peering into deep spaces.

Using the two 18650 format means the EC4 effortlessly holds the 1000lm output strong throughout the runtime. Heat was never an issue, and as NITECORE say in its promotional wording, the die-cast body certainly keeps the heat flowing away from the LED.

The switch pattern used is one of my favourites with the direct access to both Lower and Turbo modes. You know that if you press and hold the power button from OFF you will always get the lowest mode. In fact access to ‘Lower’ like this is more important to me than direct access to Turbo.

As it is unlikely I will need to use the EC4 to hold up a Tesla Car, the super strength provided by the die-cast body is not of real importance, but rather the smooth flowing lines and compact form it allows the EC4 to have that are the real benefits.

Two 18650s provide the EC4 with a great power reserve to draw on and (when OFF) with a quick tap of the mode button you get one to three flashes to tell you how much power there is. Two flashes would lead me to consider how long I’m likely to need it for, and one flash will have me recharging the cells. Nice and simple for most users without needing to know the actual battery voltage.

A minor disappointment is the parasitic drain. Not the worst I’ve tested by a long way, but with the drain fully depleting the cells in 1.23 years, this gives what I would consider its ‘standby life’ of half that time (so you have at least 50% charge left). In reality if left in a drawer it is easy for 6 months to fly by without thinking about it and for the EC4 it would then have just over half the charge remaining (which is even worse for you if loaded with CR123s). For a regular use light this is no problem at all, but for standby purposes, I’d leave the tail-cap off in storage.

Despite all its good points, the EC4 is quietly reserved and doesn’t really stand out. Everything about it works really well and feels great. It is the quiet dependable one. Maybe it is only because everything is just right that it doesn’t seem to stand out, I haven’t quite figured that out yet.

As the ‘First ever die-cast flashlight’ I think the EC4 has hit the nail on the head, and I’m looking forward to seeing the next two die-cast NITECOREs, the EC4S and EC45.


Review Summary

______________________________________________________________________________________________
Things I likeWhat doesn't work so well for me
______________________________________________________________________________________________
Solid 1000lm outputSurface finish already marking
Excellent ergonomics an ‘feel’Relatively high parasitic drain
2x18650 power reserveLacks grip
Compact
Great Dual-button interface
Very good heat dissipation
Useful tripod thread

20%20EC4%20angle%20P1100085.jpg

21%20EC4%20angle%20lit%20P1100088.jpg

39%20EC4%20tripod2%20P1100797.jpg

36%20EC4%20with%20casting04%20P1100149.jpg



If you enjoyed my reviews, please remember to 'Like' me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @Subwoofer_CPF
to get all the latest updates and news.

You can also find exclusive insights on Instagram and Pinterest



SubwooferAnimationV4.gif

 
Last edited:

sidecross

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 29, 2012
Messages
1,369
Thank you for an excellent review and I totally agree with your review. I have two EC4's one is my daily use light and the other is in reserve with two Keeppower 3400mAh out of the light and ready to install. Time will tell about how the EC4 is over time, but for now the EC4 is as you write 'it hit the nail on the head'.
 

zs&tas

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 5, 2009
Messages
1,075
Location
UK
That is an awesome review, first one ive seen that makes me want one ! How on earth did you snag that bare cast ? What a cool thing to have kicking around !
 

WarRaven

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2013
Messages
2,135
Location
Edmonton, Alberta
Great review.
Thank you for the detail and look into the bare casting too.
Informative +1
I haven't followed this light and this a surprise to me it did not step down on turbo, the design is good for shedding heat.
 

subwoofer

Well-known member
Joined
May 5, 2010
Messages
2,498
Location
Hove, UK
Great review.
Thank you for the detail and look into the bare casting too.
Informative +1
I haven't followed this light and this a surprise to me it did not step down on turbo, the design is good for shedding heat.


:D

I'm hoping that the EC4S will also be able to manage no step down, but pushing 2000lm out of the same body might hit the limit of its heat dissipating abilities.
 

CelticCross74

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 30, 2014
Messages
3,938
Location
Fairfax Va
outstanding review!! I am very impressed by the lights EA41 on steroids design and am quite frankly blown away that the light can hold max output for THAT long wow!
 

KeepingItLight

Well-known member
Joined
May 25, 2015
Messages
1,823
Location
California
Thanks, subwoofer, for your fine review. Your pics and descriptions are excellent.

Do you know how the Nitecore EC4 handles over-discharge? Does it have a low-voltage cutoff? If so, what is the voltage at which it shuts down? Does it blink when batteries run low? Does it have forced step-downs to lower levels?

Thanks in advance.
 

subwoofer

Well-known member
Joined
May 5, 2010
Messages
2,498
Location
Hove, UK
Thanks, subwoofer, for your fine review. Your pics and descriptions are excellent.

Do you know how the Nitecore EC4 handles over-discharge? Does it have a low-voltage cutoff? If so, what is the voltage at which it shuts down? Does it blink when batteries run low? Does it have forced step-downs to lower levels?

Thanks in advance.


A very good question, and not one I can answer absolutely. However I can suggest a few considerations:

Typically multi-cell-type lights would struggle to automatically detect the difference between 4xCR123 and 2x18650 under load and at different states of discharge. In the EC4 we have 2S1P or 4S1P.

Before going any further, you can't actually implement any meaningful form of built-in cell protection if you have any cells in series. Whatever the light might detect, one of the cells could be out of balance.

With CR123 being primary, they can be taken down to much lower voltages as you won't be damaging them like you would a li-ion. This means a light running on 2xCR123 will often go below 3V in operation, some as low as 2V. If they don't, the most is not going to be taken from the cells.

Thanks to cell voltage sagging under load, again the comparison of different cell types is difficult and though the input voltage of the EC4 might be considered to be 8.4V-16.8V (based on cell types that can be used) in reality this is going to be more like 5V-16.8V.

The EC4 does have a low battery warning which is shown by the blue switch illumination starting to flash. In the runtime trace the end of the runtime was due to the cell protection kicking in. This is very likely due to the EC4 being able to run on CR123 where it needs to go lower than 5V (where 2x 18650 would tend to shut down).

Based on all of this, and in a short answer to your question, I don't think the EC4 has a low voltage cut-off.
 
Last edited:

KeepingItLight

Well-known member
Joined
May 25, 2015
Messages
1,823
Location
California
The EC4 does have a low battery warning which is shown by the blue switch illumination starting to flash.

Based on all of this, and in a short answer to your question, I don't think the EC4 has a low voltage cut-off.

Your analysis sounds right. Thanks for giving such a well-considered response.
 
Last edited:

2000xlt

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 16, 2004
Messages
1,302
Great review and great and i mean grrreat lol, pictures..any pics of the ec4 around from it's normal use displaying the worn look
 

markr6

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2012
Messages
9,262
That raw version makes me want a SS or Ti version. Yes it would be expensive, heavy and heat-sinking would suck, but it would look great!
 

subwoofer

Well-known member
Joined
May 5, 2010
Messages
2,498
Location
Hove, UK
Great review and great and i mean grrreat lol, pictures..any pics of the ec4 around from it's normal use displaying the worn look


Once I get it to a suitably 'used' look I'll post some photos. Having quite a few lights on my hands I can't promise how soon this will be though. :rolleyes:

That raw version makes me want a SS or Ti version. Yes it would be expensive, heavy and heat-sinking would suck, but it would look great!

Oh yeah, die-cast Ti body. I'm with you on that, even if I had to sacrifice Turbo for that Titanium body :clap:
 
Top