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Thread: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

  1. #1
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    Default [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    Manufacturers Specs: 3500 Lumens with a runtime of 1.25Hrs on high, Beam distance 452m, and 51,000 Candela. It has a Glass lens, TIR optic, 6000 series “aircraft” aluminum with anodized finish, “C4 LED Technology”, and a “sure grip rubber sleeve”. Rated IPX7 – 1 meter water for 30 minutes and 1 meter impact.
    This light works with 2x18650 cells or 4x123 batteries.

    Here’s a link to the Streamlight product fact sheet:
    https://www.streamlight.com/docs/def...1.pdf?sfvrsn=5

    I found a good deal on this light at MidwayUSA . (Sept 2019 - the typical price has now dropped to the low $70s on other sites including Amazon)

    It is sold in two flavors. One has the light, (2) 18650s with built in charging ports and a USB cord. The second is the light with (4) 123s (for less $$). I got the latter.

    Light and batteries



    Opening the box I found the 123s in a Ziploc bag and the strap already attached. The batteries were not at full voltage. Cleary I got sent a returned unit.


    Specs on the outside.





    The instruction sheet





    Take a look at the “Lifetime Warranty”.




    It covers everything except the stuff that will break, like “bulbs” (I wonder do LEDs count as bulbs?), switches, and electronics (which get 2 years).
    And you need proof of purchase!
    And it doesn’t cover abuse or normal wear.
    Not exactly a “if you break it we will fix it” warranty that ought to come from a US company selling a “Duty/Tactical/Operators/Ninja” light.
    And if you look in the right place, it’s made in China.


    The Specs as I measured them
    Length = 9.5” (241mm)
    Head OD = 2.245” (57mm)
    Lens (visible) OD = 1.795” (45.6mm)
    Heat sink OD = 2.34” (59.5mm)
    Switch OD = 1.716” (43.59mm)
    Tube OD = 1.231” (31.26mm)
    Metal at end of tube OD = 1.05” (26.67mm)
    Battery tube ID = 0.751” (19.07mm)
    Weight with batteries = 1Lb, 3.1oz.




    This is beefy for a 18650 light. For comparison a WOWTAC A4 is 0.9” (22.86mm) OD on the tube and is much lighter at 11.5oz. with batteries.

    The end cap is not rubber coated. It has a single spring - tapering backwards from what we normally expect.
    The threads and O-ring were dry and needed lubing. Even though the endcap and tube threads seem to be coated, the light can’t be locked out by unscrewing the cap. It remains on even with the O-ring well exposed. Look closely and you can see the anodizing is already wearing off some of the threads.
    The threads are a fine pitch with sharp tops – not square cut.

    End Cap



    The tube and switch area are covered in a firm rubber. Think Hogue grips or inner tube.
    There is texture on most of the tube. It gives a very secure hold.

    The switch does not protrude from the flat area on the switch portion of the light. This area is also rubber covered.



    The head with the heatsink is not covered. There are crenulations on the rim. They are not sharp or deep (lawyer approved?). The purpose is, I assume, to let the user know if the light is on when placed face down on a flat surface.


    Battery Tube




    The battery tube is hefty. It is a bit large for an 18650 at just over 19mm ID. The cells will rattle if the light is shaken hard. The extra space makes me wonder if the batteries could get banged around if the light gets smacked around. Like maybe by the type of duty it’s expected to fulfill?




    Peering down the tube towards the business end I see a flat brass contact.
    There are some projections on the side (to protect from reverse polarity?).

    A flat top battery won’t work. A slight protruding flat top (like a Sanyo GA) also won’t make contact.
    I used a magnet spacer for the Sanyo GAs and the Samsung 30Qs.
    An additional spacer between the batteries is needed to make the battery stack (on the GAs) long enough to get a solid compression of the end cap spring.


    The Optic



    The reason this light caught my interest was the optic. Instead of a reflector, the HL 5-X has a huge TIR on the front.
    I really like my pocket lights with TIR lenses. I wanted to see what supersizing one was like. The head feels super solid.

    The UI
    The UI is dead simple on this light. There are 3 programs to choose from.
    High-Strobe-Low (the factory default).
    High only.
    Low-Med-High (the one I use).
    There is no memory. So you always know what’s going to happen.
    The switch is a forward clicky. Momentary flashes are easy.
    A very quick half press before fully engaging the switch changes the modes.
    A full click always turns the light on. A second full click always turns the light off.

    Swapping between programs takes 9 fast clicks and a hold. It is unlikely that a program will get switched by accident.
    Clearly the UI is designed for those who the light is a tool.
    Watching cop TV I see lots of clicking going on. Even with just limited choices they often end up in strobe mode when they don’t want it.

    The High, Strobe, Low makes a lot of sense for those who need such.
    It could easily be renamed:
    High - Where are you?
    Strobe - Oncoming traffic don’t hit me!
    Low - I’m searching your car where’s the dope?

    I see in the instructions not to store or heat above 212F (!).
    I wonder if they had a problem with EMS types boiling their lights to sanitize them?

    Some may lament the absence of an end cap switch. This lights predecessor the HL 4 has one. Some users have been fitting the HL 4 end cap (For that thumb action goodness).

    I find end switches are less useful as the light gets longer and heavier. This one is about at the limit.
    I find the light too long and head heavy to hold in the approved tactical cigar pose. Thumb on the tail cap, body between the first and middle fingers.

    I hold the light with the head cupped in my hand and the switch falls under my finger. The traditional overhand rest on the shoulder batter-up pose.

    Runtime
    On high using Samsung 30Q cells.
    I decided that the max output is about 3200 Lumens. So that’s how I scaled the chart.
    Please note that the lumens listed are for entertainment purposes only (Jeff Lumens).
    Any relation to real lumens living or dead is purely coincidental.


    The first 10 Minutes. No cooling.



    The thermal stepdown starts at the 1 minute mark and slopes down to 5.5 minutes where it flattens out around 1850 Lumens.

    Full Runtime. No cooling



    At about 14 minutes the first plateau slowly drops and at about 18 minutes flattens out at about 1500 Lumens.
    The light maintains this brightness until about 1Hr. 17Min. Then there is some chatter.
    Is the driver trying to maintain the brightness and the batteries not quite making the grade?
    Around 1Hr. 22Min. the batteries are getting tired and the light ramps down to a very low level of about 145 Lumens.
    I switched it off just long enough to try to step it up to high again. It briefly jumped to 600 Lumens then dropped back to the 145 range.
    I stopped the test at 1Hr 34Min. The batteries were at 3.15v.

    PWM
    A light with crappy PWM is useless. Taking a look at the O-Scope – I see a current controlled light. There is no PWM. The runtime charts indicate the driver controls brightness very well. The different levels are dead flat.

    Waveform LOW




    There is a DC offset. On low a 500KHz sine wave can be seen. This is an artifact of the driver.

    Waveform Medium



    On Medium the 500KHz wave is starting to flatten out.

    Waveform High



    On High the scope can’t count a Frequency. Pretty close to a straight DC as far as I can tell.


    Impressions
    The switch takes a long press to engage and click on. It’s flat with the body. The long press should prevent accidental power ups. Using the light with heavy winter gloves might prove problematic. It’s also not easy to find the switch if I’m in fumble mode. With heavy gloves in the dark? F’gettaboutit.

    The head feels sturdy and (should) take quite a beating before giving up the ghost.

    Some lights just feel right. This is one of them. The Convoy L6 and the Sofirn SP70 (both 2x 26650) feel heavy and clunky compared to the Streamlight. This one seems well balanced when carried in the Maglite “El Ka’bong” method.




    The rubber coating and the hefty tube gives the impression that this light could take (or deliver) a beating.

    Taking a look at the usual suspects



    C8, HL 5-X, Maglight 4D, WOWTAC A4, Convoy L6, Sofirn SP70

    Now everyone laydown
    out so we can see you



    L6, C8, A5, HL 5-X, Mag 4D, SP70


    As far as weight the SL HL 5-X is at or maybe above the limit of what could be comfortably hung on a duty belt (along with all the other crap). Some other lights for comparison.

    0Lb, 4oz – Surefire G2 (2x132, old school incan)
    0Lb, 6.7oz – Convoy C8 (1x18650)
    0Lb, 11.5oz – WOWTAC A4 (2x18650)
    0Lb, 14oz – Streamlight Stinger DS HPL (3x sub-C NiMH)
    1Lb, 3.1oc – Streamlight HL-5X (2x18650)
    1Lb, 10.2oz – Convoy L6 (2x26650)
    1Lb, 14.5oz – Sofirn SP70 (2x26650)
    2Lb, 8.4oz – Maglite (4xD cell, incan (the original El Ka’bong))


    What’s it Look Like?

    The center spot from the TIR projects a small to moderate sized hot spot. Not a flood or a pinpoint thrower (Goldilocks?).



    This shot is a JPEG converted from RAW without processing. It highlights the flaws in the beam.

    The HL 5-X has much larger hot spot than a C8 with the SST40


    This C8 is also a RAW without processing.

    The very center of the spot has a blueish tint – at least to my eyes. My Olight with a TIR also shows this blueish spot in the center.

    Around the outside of the center spot I see a greenish tint. Once again kind of disappointing. When photographing the beam, the green meanies really show up compared to other light.

    Streamlight Left, L6 (5000K) Right



    This is closer to what I see with eyeballs. I see the center blue spot and a green outline around the hot spot.

    One excellent point in the Streamlights favor is the spill.
    It is much dimmer than the L6 or SP70 in the immediate area outside the hot spot.

    L6 Beam




    SP70 Beam




    HL 5-X Beam



    But outside that secondary cone of light the Streamlight has useful light almost to 180 degrees.

    I really notice this when it’s pitch black. Stuff that is not illuminated at all with the two throwers is visible with the Streamlight.
    Much better for situational awareness. Really important for this lights intended use.


    Lumens
    The specs call for low 250 Lumens, Medium 1000 Lumens, and High 3500 Lumens.
    I don’t have a calibrated light box, but I do have an uncalibrated box and a ceiling (for bouncing) to compare various lights.

    I compared it to several lights and waved my magic wand and call it 3200 Lumens and I used this as the max value for the runtime graphs.

    On medium (1000 Lumens), The Box reads 910
    On Low (250 Lumens), The Box reads 233

    So it’s clearly in the ballpark of the factory specs. My measurements could easily be off by a good margin and it could be out producing the factory specs for all I know.

    When the batteries get low the light just dims and doesn’t seem to have any low voltage protection. I have some crappy cells that I let run to 2.8v. It was still producing enough light to use for stumbling back to someplace where the fresh batteries are stored .


    Conclusions
    This is one stout feeling light. It is on the heavy side for duty belt carry (says someone who never wears a duty belt). The rubber coating makes for an excellent grip. The coating keeps the grip and switch area from getting too hot to hold during prolonged use.
    The coating also makes it harder to clean if something nasty gets on it. The large ID battery tube lets the batteries rattle if the light is shaken hard.

    The battery tube is slightly slimmer than the 26650 lights. The L6 1.377” (34.98mm) compared to the Streamlights 1.231” (31.26mm). Doesn’t seem like much, but it feels better in my hand.
    The switch area is smaller also making it just easier to hold for me.

    The quality and color of the beam is not up to flashaholic standards (actually it sort of sucks in flashaholic standards). The target market for this light, I suspect, could care less. I wish there was a way inside to see if an LED swap could improve things.

    The simple interface is good for non-flashaholics or Flasaholics not wanting all the magic modes.
    I like the side button (only) control much better than the L6 that uses the side button for modes but must be turned off with the end button. On a light this size I think the single button is just fine. It’s a shame you can’t lock it out by unscrewing the tail cap.

    So who’s it for? It falls into the area between a duty belt light and general purpose/search and rescue light.
    For law enforcement, this would be a great light if the weight can be tolerated.



    I can see it on the belt of a night watchman type being used on low to light the way between dark areas and on high to peer into those dark corners if something goes bump in the night. The broader light will be an asset in this case.

    Any job a 2xD cell Maglite does this could do better, thinks I. Neighborhood watch on foot or in a car would be right up HL 5s alley (so to speak). For a general use light in harsh conditions I think it fits the bill quite well.

    I don’t see a firefighter type using this as the broader hot spot and cooler tint would reflect back at the user in smoky conditions. The same for EMS types who might be searching in rubble post building collapse. A thrower that can peer down crevices would seem the better choice (says someone who has done neither).

    Used alone or in combo with a headlamp, it would certainly do for close/medium range search & rescue. It is not too heavy to be carried for extended periods of time. The rubber coating is way nicer to hang onto in cold or hot weather with bare hands.
    Something with more throw and runtime like the SP70 would do better for longer range searches.

    It would be a good choice to give to someone emergencies. Stick some protected cells inside and don’t tell them it goes brighter then low.




    There are so many choices these days. One can afford to be picky when it comes to choosing a light for any purpose. When I bought it the full asking price was over $100, now it seems that it’s selling in the low $70s for the 4x123 version (Sept, 2019). At 100 bucks, I’d pass unless I had a specific need for a simple UI heavy duty light. Even at $70, I’m not all that impressed. It’s hell for stout and simple to use, but that’s about it. I do like the wide spill. The big TIR is interesting. I will be keeping mine.

    All the Best,
    Jeff

  2. #2

    Default Re: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    Great review! Have had one for a handful of months now. Absolutely love it.
    "The World is insane. With tiny spots of sanity, here and there... Not the other way around!" - John Cleese.

  3. #3

    Default Re: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    Nice review - I appreciate the runtime charts.
    On mine, when the output drops, clicking the light off/on returns it to a noticeably brighter level for a short time.
    Doing this several times makes the head hot and drains the cells PDQ.
    The large bore is perfect for my Keeppower 3000mAh R series protected button top cells.
    My switch has some flutter so I have my light set to high-only mode.

  4. #4
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    "My switch has some flutter so I have my light set to high-only mode."

    Thanks for the good words,
    What does the flutter look like? I wonder if it's a driver problem.
    Have you thought about trying to contact Steamlight about it?
    All the Best,
    Jeff

  5. #5

    Default Re: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    The switch travel, from momentary to click-on, sometimes breaks contact... resulting in unintended mode changes.
    It was worse brand new out of the clamshell package then it is today. I suspect with more use and switch cycles it may cure itself.
    I purchased the light for it's high mode anyway, so it is fine with me.
    Getting ten-tap programming engaged was quite a challenge.

    I like your comments about the beam profile -- I couldn't even begin to describe it.
    I noticed that blue center spot right away.
    Anyway, I bought it for the output, so I'm good with it.
    Last edited by wrf; 09-14-2019 at 02:46 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    Thanks for pointing out the warranty info.

    Looks like I have no reason to buy another Streamlight.

  7. #7
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: [Review] Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

    Quote Originally Posted by busseguy View Post
    Thanks for pointing out the warranty info.

    Looks like I have no reason to buy another Streamlight.
    Yeah, That was a turnoff considering Streamlights reputation.
    Shame - the more I play with it, the better I like it.

    wrf,
    I'll bet that was quite an adventure trying to get 9 clicks out of a wonky switch.
    Wonder if some contact clean down the switch area would reach anything that made a difference.
    All the Best,
    Jeff

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