Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review

Preface
Official Specs
Versions
Price
Short Review
Long Review
  What's Included
  Manual and Packaging
  Build Quality and Durability
  Size
  Retention
  Power
  User Interface and Operation
  Modes
  LED and beam
  Tint vs...
  Beamshots, Runtime, etc table.
  Comparisons
Conclusion
  What I like
  What I don't like
Up Next
Notes

Preface

Nitecore has a few headlamps out now and this one is an interesting entry – it has three emitters.  A main emitter, a secondary NW emitter, and a red emitter.  All powered by a single 18650 and in a reasonably small package.


Official Specs and Features

Versions

Really just one version, but NitecoreStore sells a few accessory options with the HC65.

Price

The price of this one is $74.95.


Short Review

While this isn’t my favorite format (emitter in the center of the body on an 18650 headlamp) I have to admit I like this one a bit.  The NW is good, and a red is a nice bonus.

Long Review

What’s Included

  • Nitecore HC65 Headlamp
  • Nitecore HL1834 3400mAh 18650
  • Headstrap
  • Charge cable
  • Spare o-rings (4, 3 types)
  • Manual and paperwork

20180115-IMG_9606.jpg

Package and Manual

The package is the usual black and yellow Nitecore package.  Usual specs and features on the box.  A bit of a large box for such a small light, but there’s a lot of stuff in there.

Here’s a pdf of the manual.  Nitecore is consistent with their manuals, and this is no exception.  It’s a nice manual with a good description of the UI, specs, features, modes, and runtimes.

Build Quality and Disassembly

Nitecore has another high quality build on their roster now.  I’m satisfied with the moving parts, and the emitter parts don’t give me any concerns either.

The emitters (4) are housed in a plate of sorts, held on to the cell tube by four hex screws.  Unfortunately my set is missing the one hex that’s the right size for this, so I wasn’t able to take it apart.  However, it is just regular hex screws, so accessing the internals of this plate should be fairly straightforward.

More on the switch later, but for now note that the tailcap is threaded on to the body (head and tail in fact) with small triangular threads, which are well lubed.  The threading is the same, but the parts are different.  (So the caps are reversible but the light won’t be functional or water resistant that way.)

The tail end of the light is the end without the switch.  The positive terminal of the cell goes toward the “head” of the light which is the end with the switch.  Internally these are different, too.  The head end has a brass button, and the tail end has a gold plated spring.  The head/switch end’s cap does come off but unscrewing but the light isn’t “open” then, only the micro-USB port is exposed (and the switch may be maintained).

20180123-IMG_9720.jpg

Size

Officially  82.7mm x 33.3mm x 26.7mm

One of the things I normally don’t care for about these style lights (emitters on the tube) is that they always feel bigger than they should be.  This one really doesn’t.

20180123-IMG_9717.jpg

Retention

Of course this is a headlamp, and so the primary means of carrying this light will be the headstrap.  This is a stretchy cloth band, which has an easily removable center (over-head) band.  These bands just slip in to their connection place.  It’s a comfortable headband, but I’m not sure it’s quite tight enough for running and the like.  However for camping, or just general use, it’ll be great.  The plastic piece that holds the light to the band is nicely contoured for the forehead.

20180115-IMG_9625

The light slips in and out of the plastic piece easily, with just two silicone loops on each end of the light.  This is primarily how I use the light, even though it’s not ideal as a pocket light.

There’s nothing else:  No pocket clip, no magnet, no pouch.

Power

The HC65 is powered by a single 18650.  It’s also possible to use the light with 2-up cells:  Cr123 and RCR123a.  I tested the light with this option and the output wasn’t actually different (no greater output than with a single 18650).

A cell is included – it’s the Nitecore NL1834, which is a 3400mAh 18650.  It seems like a high quality cell.  It’s a protected button top.  The HC65 should work with any type 18650, though.

20180123-IMG_9723.jpg

Here’s a runtime on Turbo.  The runtime estimate on Turbo is 1h, and the HC65 does output light for that long.  Turbo maintains >90% output for around 10 minutes, which is not too shabby.

runtime.png

The light also has on-board charging, facilitated by a micro-USB port in the head.  The headcap must be fully removed in order to use this port.  When closed, there’s an o-ring that should seal the port nicely.  Actually two, because there’s on on the switch, too.

20180123-IMG_9718

The charging isn’t the fastest charging, but it’s solid, at around 0.5A.  And it’s a good li-ion charge curve, too.  The cell tests to around 3200mAh.  This chargetime is approximately in line with the specification Nitecore states (7h).

chargetime.png

There’s also a built in battery check option.  When a cell is inserted and the parts are snugged down, the blue emitter will blink for the Ones and Tenths of voltage.  So 4 blinks, pause 1 blink, is 4.1V.  It will indicate the series voltage when 2-up cells are used, too.

User Interface and Operation

There’s just one switch on the HC65.  I don’t think it’s all that different from many reverse clicky switches, but Nitecore describes it as a “camera shutter” style switch.  It has a rubber cover, and some nice knurling.

20180123-IMG_9715.jpg

20180123-IMG_9729.jpg

To be sure, this UI is basically one you’ll just have to memorize (or flubb your way through).

Here’s a UI table!

 

State Action Result
Off Half Click Turn on/off blue beacon
Off Half hold NW emitter on/off
Off Full click Main emitter on (memory)
Off Full hold Red emitter on
Red Half click Red mode cycle (Caution>Solid)
Red Full click Off
On Full click Off
Off Full double click Turbo
On Half hold >0.6s Turbo
Any Full hold Strobe

This might be construed as a difficult UI, but that’s one price you pay for having so many emitters and options in a light.

Modes

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Mode Measured Lux Tailcap Amps
Turbo 1000 1h 21400 2.80
High 550 2h 45m 13740 1.06
Mid 280 4h45m 6440 0.52
Low 80 16h 1760 0.12
Ultralow 1 800h 28
Auxiliary White 26 25h 0.08
Red 11 32h 0.09

LED and Beam

The main emitter here is a Cree XM-L2, and is coolish.  The secondary emitter is a high CRI (≥90) NW emitter, and there’s a red emitter also.  The 4th emitter I mentioned above is the blue, which is used as a beacon, and for cell voltage indication.

The main emitter is at the base of a very short, very broad smooth reflector.  The beam afforded by this setup is a quickly broadening beam, with a fair amount of spill.

The other two emitters are behind a dimpled lens, and are fully flood.

20180115-IMG_9607.jpg

Tint vs BLF-348

First the main emitter:

20180118-IMG_9680.jpg

Then the NW emitter (left):

20180118-IMG_9681.jpg

Beamshots, Runtime, and Lux Measurements

Nitecore HC65
Emitter Cree XM-L2
Emitter Notes  with NW ≥90cri and red emitters
Cell 18650
Glamour Shots Beamshots [0.3″, f/8, ISO 100, 5000k]
Runtime Chargetime
LVP? No
Claimed Lumens (lm) 1000
Lux (Measured) 344 lux @ 3.382 m
Candela (Calculated) in cd 3934.6
Throw (Calculated) (m) 125.5
Throw (Claimed) (m) 110

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

Nitecore makes some of their own competition for this light.  But as this is the most current option, there’s not much point mentioning those.  Thrunite makes a few lights like this, as does Fenix.

The HC65 is quite compelling, as it has multiple emitters and reliable on-board charging.

Conclusion

What I like

  • Three emitters
  • On-board charging is good
  • Forehead piece is comfortable

What I don’t like

  • Main emitter could be warmer, even if not as warm as the high CRI emitter.
  • I’d like the blue emitter to be utilized more (or make it green and put it in the main mode group switch options?)
  • UI is a little complex, but not necessarily complicated.

Up Next

I hope to wrap the Acebeam X80 this week, and a couple of other blog-only things too. Maybe another Acebeam by the end of the week!

Notes

  • This light was provided by NitecoreStore for review. I was not paid to write this review.
  • 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.  Note I’ve upgraded that sheet so that now, you may subscribe and get notifications when the sheet is edited!!
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