REVIEW: Nitecore NU30 Headlamp

Bdm82

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[Submitted as a REVIEW]

This light was provided by Nitecore Store for review, shipping from their location in Texas.

Before we get into the beamshots, test results, and detail, here’s the summary in one table:
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Design
The Nitecore NU30 is the top model in the NU lineup, slotting above the NU10 and NU20. Each of the three NU headlamps are very different, aside from being lightweight and USB rechargeable. The NU10 delivers pure and neutral flood using 5mm LEDs. It also has a red LED. It’s battery capacity is 900mAh. The NU20 has a single reflector-based LED; it can be had in a high CRI model or a regular higher output model. It lacks red output but is the lightest weight, though its battery is only 600mAh.

Then there’s the NU30… The NU30 is the headlamp for people who just can’t make tough decisions. The NU30 has all of the output options covered – a deep reflector-based XP-G2, red LEDs, and high CRI LEDs. It also has an 1800mAh battery, 2x the capacity of the NU10 and 3x the capacity of the NU20. The NU30 also has the highest turbo output.
The NU30 is available in 3 “tough” colors – Black, Army Green, and Desert Tan. I selected the Army Green for this review. All color NU30s come with a black Nitecore headband with yellow logos.


The headlamp arrived in retail packaging in a padded envelope. The retail box packaging is similar to that used with Nitecore E series flashlights. The front of the package describes most of the major features: 4 color options, 4 brightness levels, 400 lumens, built-in 1800mAh battery, white and red dual outputs, and USB recharging.
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The back of the box is dominated by the UPC and QR Codes, though there is text advertising the NU30’s weight, peak output, 1800mAh battery, and maximum runtime.
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The right side has pictures showing potential uses for the NU30. Nitecore has marketed this light for a variety of outdoor uses; what strikes me about these pictures (other than “Mechanic” being the one caption not ending in “ing”) is that a use for the red light is not shown.
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The left side of the box has the basic ANSI information. This is useful for gaining a quick perspective of what the NU30 can do. Unfortunately, the box does not contain a runtime chart.
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Unboxing, we find the NU30, the headband, charging cable, and manual. The charging cable includes a hook and loop strap; this is a nice touch. The Army Green color of the NU30 is as represented on Nitecore’s website.
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The manual sufficiently describes all of the features of the headlamp. It also includes the full output and runtime chart for each mode.
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The NU30 has the XP-G2 LED and reflector in the center, with the HCRI and red LEDs flanking it on both sides. The red LEDs are on top with the HCRI LEDs on bottom. The buttons are on top and the USB charging port is on one end. I measured the width at 2 1/2 in., the height at 1 3/4 in., and depth at 1 5/16 in. With headband, the total weight was 2.95 oz. This makes it the heaviest of the three NU headlamps by about 0.5 oz.
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The XP-G2 LED was nearly centered but not absolutely perfect being just a hair to the right of center. In use it was never noticeable and performance was not adversely affected.
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The top of the NU10 features two buttons to control the various LEDs. They are generously sized and easy to activate with gloves on. Like with the NU10, the easiest way to press the buttons is to pinch the top and bottom of the light with thumb and index finger. This can be done without bringing the rest of the hand across the light so no light is bounced back at the wearer’s eyes. These buttons also provide charging status, battery level, and lockout functionality.
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The NU30’s headband bracket is the same color and has a gentle curvature to it. The back of the NU30 states the model number, battery details, safety, and disposal information.
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There is a slightly recessed section where the band passes through the bracket so the band sits nearly flush when in place.
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The NU30, like the NU10 I tested previously, features 60 degrees of adjustment across 4 stops. The stops are controlled by notches in the hinge assembly. The “click” when adjusting is audible as the pressure from the arms on the rear plate is quite strong. I tried to shake the headlamp out of the selected angle but was unable to do so. I’m confident that the NU30 would hold the desired angle regardless of the activity.

Adjusting the angle with one hand must be done with a prying motion so that one finger holds the top of the back against the head while the rest pull the light outward. Otherwise the will rotate together on the headband and dig into the lower part of one’s forehead.


The right side of the NU30 (if wearing it) is smooth and featureless.
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The left side features the micro USB charging port. The port is covered by a rubber flap; it rotates out of the way for charging. The cover has a rubber nub that fits inside the micro USB port to keep it secure when not charging. The port cover is required to maintain the IP67 rating for waterproofness.
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The headband for the NU30 is a one-piece design; it does not need the additional front-to-back top strap like heavier headlamps do. The NU30 without headband is 2.25 oz.; the headband brings the total weight to 2.95 oz. as tested. For comparison, the HC60 with an 18650 weighs 5.1 oz. while the NU10 weighs 2.4 oz.
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The Nitecore logos on the headband are prominent and yellow. Over time these would likely show dirt first but the black headband will hide more than lighter headbands like those that accompany some of the NU10 colors.
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I was not able to disassemble the NU30; its battery is not removable and the unit is not intended to be user-serviceable. The entire outer shell is polycarbonate (“plastic”); the front and rear halves appear to be glued together.
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When charging the NU30, a red light illuminates between and through the buttons. If the electronic lockout has been enabled and a button is pressed, this same red light will briefly flash to let the user know that the NU30 is locked out. All modes can be used while NU lights are charging, so an external power bank can prolong battery life indefinitely.
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A green light shines in the same place when charging is complete. It took about 3 hours to charge from a completely dead battery. The NU30 charged at a rate of 0.76 to 0.81 A until the charging was nearly complete. My inline USB meter registered that the NU30 took 2047mAh during charging. While a very small amount (<1mAh per 20 minutes) would have been used to light the green/red indicators, this still shows that the NU30’s battery capacity is not overstated.
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Performance
With the XP-G2, high CRI LEDs, and red LEDs, the NU30 has many operating modes and outputs.
Nitecore advertises the NU30 as PWM-free (constant current) and using my digital camera I was unable to detect any PWM.

The central reflector is deep and smooth. It is deeper and wider than the HC60 and is definitely built to throw the light long distances. There is a tight hotspot with moderate spill.
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Here is the NU10 and NU30 side by side. (They are upside down with hinges open as to project the output slightly upward.)
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Turned on, the difference in beam profiles and colors are evident. Latter pictures show the tints better, but greens and yellows are visible in the NU30’s XPG-2 beam.
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Adding the Nitecore HC60 with a XM-L2 CW and a BLF348 flashlight with a Nichia 219B LED into the mix, the tints and temps are more discernable. The NU10 is on the cooler side of neutral while the HC60 and NU30 are both cool and slightly yellow. The tighter hotspot of the NU30 is also visible relative to the others.
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Switching the XP-G2 off and the High CRI LEDs on, the hotspot is replaced with a slightly cool, high CRI, flood. The NU30’s HCRI LEDs are not as warm as the Nichia 219B, but are high CRI nonetheless. Switching from the XP-G2 to the HCRI LEDs in real-world use was eye-opening; every time I toggled back and forth I was surprised just how much color I saw/lost.
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The red LEDs are the final option. While they appear to be the same red emitter behind clear dome as found in the NU10, the NU30’s two red LEDs are not driven as hard as the NU10’s single red LED. The NU30 and NU10 thus both put out 18 lumens in my testing.

The “donut hole” is present but less visible in the NU30. The two red LEDs blend reasonably well to produce one red beam.
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The NU30’s red output still has artifacts, but they are farther out and less noticeable.
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One thing that’s interesting is that with the red and main LEDs controlled separately, both can be turned on at the same time. I’m not sure how this would be useful in a practical sense, but it is rather amusing.
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Looking at the front of the NU30 with both the XP-G2 and red LEDs on:
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But enough beamshots; what about the output!? This gets interesting…

First, Turbo is intended for quick bursts only. Once activated it almost immediately starts stepping down (gradually), so it has to be measured quickly. Nitecore rates it at 400 lumen, but I tested it at a much higher 485 lumen peak! With a fresh battery it held 469 lumens until 30 seconds; by 1 minute it was down to 215 lumens.
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After it stepped down quickly in the first minute, it then began a gradual and linear decline until about 5 hours into the test. (Note: Nitecore rates that the Turbo runtime of 1h 15min is “calculated based on theoretical arithmetic”. As the light cannot stay on turbo more than 30 seconds, the 1h15min runtime is meaningless.) The NU30 then held 15 lumens from the 5 hour mark to the… 38 hour mark!

I was not expecting this at all; while it held up completion of this review several days and is too low to count for ANSI runtime, it provides useful info about what the light is capable of in case of emergency.
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Nitecore rates the NU30 at 180 lumens on High mode; I found that the NU30 outperforms that as well coming in at 220 lumens.

Medium is rated by Nitecore at 36 lumens; I tested it at 32 lumens.

Nitecore rates Low at 1 lumen; I found a notably brighter 1.7 lumens in my testing.

The throw is rated for 3700 Cd or 121 meters. In my testing, the NU30 performed at 3567 Cd, good for 119 meters of throw. These numbers are very close and within margin of error.

As for the special modes, HCRI is rated at 35 lumens; I tested it at 41. I found this brightness and the beam’s flood to be very useful; bright enough to flood the immediate area but not too bright to work with something within arm’s reach. Red and Low modes are available to protect nightvision.

Red is factory rated at 19 lumens; I tested the NU30 at 18 lumens. Again a very close measurement, though this brightness is a bit awkward for my use. It is brighter than most red lights designed to protect night vision, yet it isn’t bright enough to throw very far. It would work for brisk walks at night, but I’d be inclined to just use one of the white modes and see a bit more.
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Special Note: When testing the NU30, I found an “undocumented feature” (what some may call a “bug”): Turbo can be tricked into holding at a higher level. This sequence must be followed:
1. Turn on red
2. Turn on main white light
3. Activate Turbo
4. Turn off red
When this is done, the NU30 operates turbo at whatever strength it can for as long as it can. I only let it go about 3 minutes at 400+ lumens as I didn’t want to damage the unit, but this was long enough to confirm that the Turbo stepdown had been circumvented. Repeat at your own risk.



Interface

The NU30’s two buttons are easy to use and simple in operation yet they hold several hidden modes and features as well.

White LEDs
The button with the power symbol (to the right when being worn) controls the white LEDs. One press turns the NU30 on low. A second press within 3 seconds switches to medium, and a third press within another 3 seconds switches to high. A fourth press within 3 more seconds turns the NU30 off.
If the NU30 has been on any mode for more than 3 seconds, pressing the power button turns the NU30 off.
From off, holding the power button down for 1 second will activate the HCRI LEDs. Pressing the power button again will turn the HCRI LEDs off.
From off, holding the power button for 3 seconds will activate the hidden SOS mode. Once SOS begins, another press of the power button within 3 seconds will activate the location beacon mode. Another press turns the NU30 off.


Red LEDs
The left button (when worn on head) is labeled with an “R”. Pressing it once turns the red LEDs, and if pressed again within 3 seconds, the red LEDs will begin to flash. The frequency is 2 flashes per second. A third press within 3 more seconds will turn it off. If the NU10 has been in on either mode for more than 3 seconds, the next press will turn the NU10 off.
HCRI and red can be illuminated simultaneously, though red and the main LED cannot be.
There is no mode memory for any of the LEDs. The main white LED always starts in low and red always starts solid; HCRI is single mode.


Battery Indicator
From off, pressing the R button for 1 second triggers the battery indicator. The same red LED under the buttons used to show status when charging will blink to indicate the battery level. 3 blinks indicates a battery level over 50%, 2 blinks indicates 10-50%, and 1 blink indicates battery life is under 10%.


Lockout
Lockout is activated by pressing both buttons simultaneously for 1 second while the NU30 is powered off. As the NU30 has no removable battery, this electronic lockout is the only way of ensuring the battery doesn’t get drained by an unintended button press when stored. The same two-button press is repeated to disable the lockout.



Commentary
The NU30 is the Jack of all Trades.

While it doesn’t set any new records on runtime, throw, or lumens, it has quickly become one of my favorite headlamps. Being able to have good throw or high CRI in one headlamp is really unique and really nice. It reduces the debate when deciding what light to grab. The HCRI mode is the perfect brightness for the tasks I use headlamps for the most.

The beam colors from the XP-G2 aren’t ideal at lower modes, I do wish that was a bit better. At higher outputs it isn’t as noticeable, and in reality, tint is more critical for flood uses – where the NU30 does have the HCRI LEDs. I found no PWM from any of the LEDs in use, which is a plus.

The output levels are appropriately stepped, with the medium level falling into a nice middle ground between Low and High. The red is a little bright for my preference; with the lowest white lumen output between 1 and 2, there’s no sub-lumen option to totally preserve night vision.

A hair heavier than the NU10, the NU30 is still lightweight, comfortable, and stays in place no matter how hard I try to shake it loose. The throw makes it a good candidate for nighttime runs.

While I haven’t been able to complete runtime tests on all modes, the NU30’s output on Turbo was impressive, as were the lumen counts on High and Turbo.

The color options are masculine but should provide enough options to most buyers. And while it’s the most expensive of the NU headlamps, the internal battery does save cost up front and over the life of the headlamp (relative to primary batteries).

Like the other NU headlamps, the NU30 is not user-serviceable and won’t last forever. Time will tell if the hinges remain tight and slip-free. At this point, I think it represents a respectable value; I’ll update this review if there are pertinent updates over time. Nitecore warranties the NU10 for 12 months and the current retail price is about $39.95.

 
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kreisl

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What batteries does it use?

And can they be replaced?

tl;dr

Looks like a 10$ cost price item. Not worth my reviewers efforts if they had sent me a free sample for review
 
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Bdm82

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The answers to your questions are in the review. Non replaceable internal battery.

While I don't agree with your value analysis, if the review helped you to make it, then the review served its purpose.

At the end of the day, it's better that all models get reviewed, not just the most expensive. There are people shopping at all price points.
 

Hooked on Fenix

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Thanks for finding the cheat code for the turbo mode. That will be useful on cold, dark nights. I was thinking running the red l.e.d.s might bump up the C.R.I. if used in conjunction with the main beam on high or turbo, but unfortunately, that donut hole in the red beam gives it a red halo around the main beam instead of blending in. Putting scotch tape over the red l.e.d.s evens out the beam, but still has some halo showing. If you put scotch tape on the bright l.e.d. and the red l.e.d.s, you get a decently blended light on turbo and not too bad on high. They should fix this so the two beams can be used in conjunction with each other. Adding red to the high beam could bump up the C.R.I. at brightness levels above what most high C.R.I. lights are capable of.
 

Bdm82

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Thanks for finding the cheat code for the turbo mode. That will be useful on cold, dark nights. I was thinking running the red l.e.d.s might bump up the C.R.I. if used in conjunction with the main beam on high or turbo, but unfortunately, that donut hole in the red beam gives it a red halo around the main beam instead of blending in. Putting scotch tape over the red l.e.d.s evens out the beam, but still has some halo showing. If you put scotch tape on the bright l.e.d. and the red l.e.d.s, you get a decently blended light on turbo and not too bad on high. They should fix this so the two beams can be used in conjunction with each other. Adding red to the high beam could bump up the C.R.I. at brightness levels above what most high C.R.I. lights are capable of.
Does the cheat code also work on yours?

I hadn't even thought about trying to blend the main and red led beams. Honestly the HCRI as is works for me so I hadn't tried to manipulate the others. Given how different the outputs are, I don't forsee them blending well and it sounds like that's what you've found.
Plus, simply adding red doesn't mean high cri. Red things may look more red, but then other things will as well. Blues may look purple, etc.
 

Hooked on Fenix

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The cheat code does work for me. I like the high C.R.I. setting as well (though I wish it was a warmer tint like my TIP CRI), but it's nice to have more high C.R.I. light when you need it. I wish the red and main beam lights blended well together. Most low C.R.I. lights are lacking in the red spectrum so I think it would bump up the C.R.I. if the beams matched. However, you'd have to have more settings for the red to match the settings of the main beam or it wouldn't work well. The amount of red in those l.e.d.s is overkill for anything lower than turbo.

I went on a hike last night up a local mountain at the tail end of a rain storm and found out how much light is required in those conditions. I used a 4000 lumen Nitecore Tiny Monster on the 1500 lumen medium setting on the way up and found it was not too bright to see the dark soil path in front of me. I didn't like the blue tint from the dark anti-reflective coating on the lens. The light was bright enough, but I had a hard time distinguishing between solid ground and thick mud. On the way down, I used the high C.R.I. setting on the NU30 and a TIP C.R.I. on medium and high to see my way back. I stepped in far less mud on the way back than the way up. 130+ high C.R.I. lumens worked better than 1500 cool white low C.R.I. lumens.
 

Tomchrome

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Thx Bdm82, great work. Lot of useful info. For my use it looks much better than recent "plastic" Olight and Fenix offerings.
 
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Bdm82

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The cheat code does work for me. I like the high C.R.I. setting as well (though I wish it was a warmer tint like my TIP CRI), but it's nice to have more high C.R.I. light when you need it. I wish the red and main beam lights blended well together. Most low C.R.I. lights are lacking in the red spectrum so I think it would bump up the C.R.I. if the beams matched. However, you'd have to have more settings for the red to match the settings of the main beam or it wouldn't work well. The amount of red in those l.e.d.s is overkill for anything lower than turbo.

I went on a hike last night up a local mountain at the tail end of a rain storm and found out how much light is required in those conditions. I used a 4000 lumen Nitecore Tiny Monster on the 1500 lumen medium setting on the way up and found it was not too bright to see the dark soil path in front of me. I didn't like the blue tint from the dark anti-reflective coating on the lens. The light was bright enough, but I had a hard time distinguishing between solid ground and thick mud. On the way down, I used the high C.R.I. setting on the NU30 and a TIP C.R.I. on medium and high to see my way back. I stepped in far less mud on the way back than the way up. 130+ high C.R.I. lumens worked better than 1500 cool white low C.R.I. lumens.
Thanks for confirming yours works similarly.

And yeah, I find the same thing... less but higher cri lumens are more effective than more low cri lumens. "I can see 'something' for a long ways" vs "I can tell what I'm seeing for a decent distance".
 

proceed5

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Hi BDM82,
Firstly, thank you for the useful and informative review.

May I ask if the Mid brightness level rated at 180 lumens (or 220 lumens by your count) be constant 180 ? or would it step down quickly ?

Thank you
 

Bdm82

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Hi BDM82,
Firstly, thank you for the useful and informative review.

May I ask if the Mid brightness level rated at 180 lumens (or 220 lumens by your count) be constant 180 ? or would it step down quickly ?

Thank you
I'll run a test this evening.
 

Bdm82

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Partial test only, but it shows the curve followed is very similar to what Turbo does after the first minute.

If you recall, Turbo drops to around 215 lumens at minute 1, then slowly drops over the next 5 hours before plateuing at a level under ANSI 10% standard, where it hangs on seemingly forever.


I didn't test this all the way through, but the first 2.5 hours follows that same curve.


32054934014_6ea79f3f17_c.jpg
 

Shaysrebellion

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Wont buy any more nitecores until they fix ALL parasitic drain issues. My headlamp drains the battery in 2 weeks.

What is the drain on this light?
 

Bdm82

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Wont buy any more nitecores until they fix ALL parasitic drain issues. My headlamp drains the battery in 2 weeks.

What is the drain on this light?
Could you be specific about your situation?

Should we assume you have a NU30 with parasitic drain? If so, do you have it locked out when stored or not?

Or, are you of this stance because of a different situation like the TIP?

I'll test it out, but that'll take some time since the battery is internal. I haven't noticed a problem so far or heard about one otherwise on the NU30.
 

proceed5

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Partial test only, but it shows the curve followed is very similar to what Turbo does after the first minute.

If you recall, Turbo drops to around 215 lumens at minute 1, then slowly drops over the next 5 hours before plateuing at a level under ANSI 10% standard, where it hangs on seemingly forever.


I didn't test this all the way through, but the first 2.5 hours follows that same curve.

Hi BDM82,
Thank you so much for the special test at mid level, very much appreciated.
The results are pretty Ok for a "AAA" sized very lightweight headlamp with only 1800 mah battery built in.

IMO, this light would give me sufficient lighting & runtime for my 'round the local park jogs' .

Thank you again BDM82, cheers mate:thumbsup:
 

Bdm82

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Hi BDM82,
Thank you so much for the special test at mid level, very much appreciated.
The results are pretty Ok for a "AAA" sized very lightweight headlamp with only 1800 mah battery built in.

IMO, this light would give me sufficient lighting & runtime for my 'round the local park jogs' .

Thank you again BDM82, cheers mate:thumbsup:
You bet! Thanks for the feedback.
 

royjohnson77

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If the battery is not replaceable, why is Nitecore offering a 5 year warranty on them? I got the NU30 and the packaging states it has a 5 year warranty.

I doubt the non replaceable battery will last 5 years.
 

iamlucky13

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If the battery is not replaceable, why is Nitecore offering a 5 year warranty on them? I got the NU30 and the packaging states it has a 5 year warranty.

I doubt the non replaceable battery will last 5 years.

Do they have a 5 year warranty on it or does it exclude the battery?

Regardless, non-replaceable battery means the user can't reasonably do it. The factory or service center almost certainly can.

A well-cared for lithium-ion battery should last over 5 years, and Nitecore is largely in control of the charging of this battery, so they should be able to ensure it is not overcharged, and minimize the likelihood of it being undercharged. I know a few people have posted in the batteries sub-forum about having 18650's still retaining most of their capacity after over 5 years. I got almost 7 years out of my last phone before the battery life got too short, and it was probably averaging almost 100 cycles per year.
 
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