I have pestered company after company to send a “big” light for review for quite a while now. The awesome guys over at BestLight.io agreed to send me this Nitecore TM38, the Tiny Monster! I’m extremely pleased to have it, and send thanks out to BestLight.io!! Read on for more specs and data points!
The guys at BestLight.io were kind enough to include a coupon that should work on ANY purchase (not just of this Nitecore TM38).
20% off any order and lasting from now until this Sunday: AWYV1QB3G7CA
There are two versions of the TM38. The TM38, which you see here, and the TM38 Lite. The Lite version is the same head but has a shorter body (by approximately half) and allows a user to swap in their own cells.
The going price looks to also be the MSRP, which is about $460. The Lite version is much cheaper, at about $350.
I’m blown away by this light – honestly the output (throw) is just ridiculous. I’m impressed by the output being so steady, too; with just a little cooling, the output is very stable. This light may just be a toy to me, but it’s one I’m going to love having around!!
- Nitecore TM38
- 2A wall plug
- Spare o-ring
- Spare charge port cover
- Shoulder strap and attachments (two metal rings)
- Manual/warranty card
Package and Manual
Nitecore still uses the standard black and yellow, but this light gets a special, big box! It’s cardboard, and has a carrying handle. Inside is some foam that holds the light very secure during transport.
The manual I received had some very bad kerning issues (like when one copies from a pdf and pastes elsewhere). Fortunately Nitecore provides pdf manual on their website, so I got a clean copy there. The manual itself is pretty good, but there are a few things that could use more clarity – like what the light does when the battery voltage is low (the manual does say, but it’s not that clear.)
Build Quality and Disassembly
The TM38 is a big light. It’s heavy, and it’s also well built. A sturdy heavy. I hate to say it’s built like a brick, but … that’s probably not a bad comparison.
Let’s start with the most important part of this light: the reflector. 1) it’s huge and 2) it’s smooth. And 3) most importantly, it’s flawless. No aberrations at all – it gets all the light out there!
Second point of interest is the large head. There are a lot of cooling fins on this head. If you persist in the review, you’ll see later how effective these are! (Very!) The head also has an OLED display, which gives readouts of important information throughout the use of the light. The head also has one of the (3) charging ports – a barrel plug.
The body of the light is just massive – The TM38 (not “Lite”) has an integrated cell, but let’s be honest and say what it is – 8x 18650 cells. It’s that big and heavy. The whole battery is the handle, and has grippy diamond knurling.
Below you can see the head and body of the light separated. There are large contact rings for connection between the two, and an o-ring for waterproofness on the battery. Note that the terminals on the battery are 1) a flat ring and 2) pogo pins on the interior. This makes for great contact between the parts.
The battery has very nice square cut threads, which are anodized and lubed appropriately.
I was unable to further disassemble the head, so I have no thoughts about the possibility of an emitter swap. The emitter that’s in there looks very happy down in that big ol’ reflector, though…
Officially this light is 278mm x 90mm x 50mm (tube), and weighs almost 45oz.
It’s is big enough that it thwarts my normal means for size identification… It just dwarfs the dollar bill I normally use. The battery is a nearly perfect fit on the bill, though!
It also dwarfs the other lights I might use for comparison. The BOSS looks positively diminutive beside it. The Convoy L2, in single cell configuration also looks quite small!
There are two ways to carry this light. One, and the main (ideal) way, is the included shoulder strap. This is my first light with a shoulder strap, and I have to say, it’s a fun way to carry such a light. I’ll add that I’ve attached it in these two photos in a wrong and insecure way, but you get the idea.
Here’s the actual right way. There are two metal snap fit rings that go over the light – one on the head and one on the tail. Then a small plastic piece fits over those, so that those rings can’t accidentally pull off. Then the strap goes through holes in those pieces. It’s a secure (yet fully removable) way to attach these parts.
The other option is a lanyard. I didn’t try this method, but I can say that I’d only use this as a backup, or safety measure. Dangling this light on your hand only by the lanyard is probably not going to work. But if you’re holding the light, looping the lanyard as a backup (so you don’t drop your $450 light to the ground) is a smart idea. I am sure this is what Nitecore actually intended.
There are no other options for carry. Particularly, there’s no concession made for bag-carry. I’d really love for there to be a lens cover that snapped into place, so that this light would be safer in a bag.
The TM38 is powered by a battery which is included with the light. The package includes a charger (described at a “2A ‘trickle charger'”). Also available is a 4A “fast charger”. The plug between the two is a different size. This is a common barrel plug as far as I can tell.
There is a charge port for only the trickle charger on the outside of the body at the bottom of the head. The port is covered by a rubber boot, which is held in place by a Hex screw. There is a replacement boot included in the package, too. When using the charge port on the outside of the body, the OLED display provides information about charging, including cell voltage and if charging is complete (“Chg.finish”) or ongoing (“Charging”).
The battery itself also has a trickle charge port, and a separate fast charge port as well. When using these ports, there’s a blue led that gives information about the charging state.
I had intended to tear this battery down, and I might still. It’s held closed by 6 Hex screws, with the circuitry right there on top.
The adapter is seen below. This is a 3.5mm 12V adapter, and the fast charger is a 4.0mm 12V adapter.
Uncooled for first 30-40 minutes. Then I turned on cooling, which stayed on for the remainder of the test. I then turned off the light and turned it back on to see if the output would reset, and it did. Notably now that there was cooling, the light maintained over 90% output for two solid hours. Essentially turbo works as long as the light is cooled. There is low voltage warning, which is the indicating switch blinking rapidly. I stopped the test when this began, and the voltage was 3.46V.
Unfortunately I was not able to record a chargetime for this light. My setup doesn’t include any way to record from a barrel plug.
User Interface and Operation
There’s really just one operational switch on the light, but there are two actual switches. The bigger is the power switch. The smaller is just the OLED cycling button. They’re both metal, and both fairly clicky. In fact the UI switch is very clicky and has a bit of a loud hollow sound.
The UI is dead simple but when I first picked up the light I wasn’t quite prepared for it. Fully clicking the power switch turns the light on Turbo. Softly pressing the power switch turns the light on to low and then softly pressing cycles the modes from low to high. Turbo is not included in this cycle. What I wasn’t prepared for was how soft the “Daily mode” presses are. It’s not a click at all, it’s just [very] light pressure on the switch.
Fully clicking with the light on (in any mode) turns the light off.
There are plenty of other options too. When in Turbo mode, the switch can be lightly pressed for high (but only high).
For example, Daily mode can have a momentary setting of the last used mode, by press and hold (from off). Click and hold has momentary activity too, but that’s the Turbo setting. Turbo is available in Daily mode, (that is, when any of the “Daily modes” are on), by click and holding the switch for momentary Turbo. Following that with a press (not click) will return the light to the previous mode.
Double clicking will activate strobe. Clicking again will cycle strobe modes (Strobe, SOS, Beacon). The OLED will continually display which Strobe mode is being used.
There is an electronic lockout, too. And this is important and useful (and recommended by me!), since this model is known to have a fairly high parasitic drain. With the light on, click and hold the switch. When the light turns off, it’s locked out. Nitecore recommends further measures, though (since the OLED is background-active even when lockedout) – they recommend loosening the head a little to separate contact.
Below you can see a lot of what the OLED display does. There are more things, yes, but this should give you an idea. For example there’s a 2.5 second “Nitecore” splash screen when the battery is connected. And a “Lockout” screen when the button is pressed during lockout.
Also note that the smaller button can be pressed at any time to cycle through the possible data screens for any mode you’re on.
|Mode||Mode Claimed Output (lm)||Claimed Runtime|
LED and Beam
Nitecore wisely chose a Cree XHP35 HI for this light. It sits at the base of this huge smooth reflector, on a large centering disk. The disk is approximately the size of a quarter (or larger), and is flush with the surface of the emitter.
The beam is of course, all throw. On the lowest mode, hardly any spill is even visible – in a dark room you’d be able to notice it, but outdoors, it’s not even noteworthy.
I did not take any outdoor beamshots. I have a few reasons (excuses?) for this but I can say and you’ll see in the table below, that I measured the light at 1413 meters, which is even better than their claim. Ok just 1% better…. But good work to Nitecore for making a real claim for throw on this light. That’s the 30 second measure, too.
Tint vs BLF-348
Beamshots, Runtime, and Lux Measurements
|Emitter||Cree XHP35 HI|
|Glamour Shots||Beamshots [0.3″, f/8, ISO 100, 5000k]|
|Claimed Lumens (lm)||1800|
|Candela (Calculated) in cd||499432.7|
|Throw (Calculated) (m)||1413.4|
|Throw (Claimed) (m)||1400|
Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….
The obvious comparison will be the Thrunite TN42. They even make a rechargeable version now. There is no 8-cell version, so the overall capacity of the TM38 is better. Thrunite offers NW and CW both, which are nice options. The TM38 is much more informative, with the OLED display, however.
What I like
- Hits rated throw numbers
- OLED display is informative (and also neat)
- Man, this thing really throws
- The UI is simple but also very versatile
- The shoulder strap is a nice inclusion in the package
What I don’t like
- Tint could be improved
- Since the cells are integrated, I’d love to be able to tap into that power and charge other devices
- I’d love a cap for the lens
- I’d prefer a lower low, but that might be wishful thinking.
All my reviews have culminated to this point and I don’t have anything sitting on GO for next. 🙂 I have a bunch of knives to review, and next up might just be something brass, and something special… stay tuned. 🙂
- This light was provided by BestLight.io for review. I was not paid to write this review. HUUUUUGE thanks to the guys at BestLight.io!!!!
- This content originally appeared at zeroair.wordpress.com. Please visit there for the best experience!
- Whether or not I have a coupon for this light, I do have a bunch of coupons!! Have a look at my spreadsheet for those coupons.
- Here’s that coupon again!! 20% off any order and lasting from now until this Sunday: AWYV1QB3G7CA