Review: Nitecore NU30 Headlamp (with X-rays of internals)

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stephenk
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Review: Nitecore NU30 Headlamp (with X-rays of internals)

Disclaimer

This headlamp was kindly sent to me for review by Banggood.
Product page: https://goo.gl/fYfDfG (link is external)
30% off Nitecore NU30 code: f270c5
No other payment was received for this review. A free headlamp does not stop me from being critical if required during reviews.

Introduction

The quality and functionality of headlamps on the market has improved considerably in the last few years. The Nitecore NU range, is a fairly new range of headlamps that have USB rechargeable li-ion batteries. USB charging is increasingly popular with the consumer market, as they don’t need to fuss around with cylindrical li-ion or NiMH batteries and chargers.

The NU30 is currently top of Nitecore’s NU range, and has the following claimed features and functionality.

Product name: Nitecore NU30 XP-G2 S3 USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp
Main Emitter Type: Cree XP-G2 S3
Material: Durable PC materials
Mode: Turbo,High,Mid,Ultralow,
+SOS,Beacon,High CRI,Red
Lumens: 400LM,180LM,36LM,1LM,35LM,19LM
Runtime: 1h15min,22h,25h15min,330h,12h,13h
Battery Configurations: 1 x Built-in 1800mAh Li-ion battery
Switch Type: clicky
Switch Location: body side of the headlamp
Peak Beam Intensity: 3,700cd
Impact Resistant: 1.5meters
Max Output: 400lumens
Range: 121meters
Reflector: Smooth Reflector
Waterproof: Waterproof IP67 (Rated)
Color: Black,Army Green, Desert Tan
Weight: 84.8g
Size: 2.48” ×1.71” ×1.24”(with bracket)

Features:
·Multi-purposes lightweight headlamp
·White and red dual outputs
·A XP-G2 S3 primary white LED capable of outputting 400 lumens
·Incorporated Precision Digital Optics technology
·Two auxiliary LEDs with high colour rendering capability: CRI ≥90 provides output at 35 lumens ·Red light illumination
·Built-in 1800mAh Li-ion battery
·USB rechargeable with onboard charging circuit
·Dual switches design offers easy one-handed operation
·Built-in power indicator
·4 brightness levels and 2 special modes available
·Flood beam profile with 60° adjustable angle
·Made from durable PC materials
·Compact and lightweight ·Impact resistant to 1.5 metre

Packaging

As with most Nitecore lights, the NU30 arrived in a branded cardboard box. The box contained the Nitecore NU30 XP-G2 S3 USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp, Headband, USB cord, and a well written English Manual. Along with most USB flashlights, no plug was supplied, as most people have plenty of USB plug/chargers around the house.

Design and Ergonomics

The Nitecore NU30 is a fairly compact plastic symmetrical moulded headlamp. There is a single, thick headstrap (around the head) which I much prefer over the twin strap (around and over the head) design. The main body is hinged from the back, and can rotate up to 60 degrees down, with four steps (15 degree increments). For night running, I had the body angled down at approximately 30 degrees. The set angle remained stable during urban night running, and due to the solid plastic constriction there is no bouncing effect when running that occurs on tube shaped headlamps with rubber holders.





The NU30 is relatively lightweight for its output and functionality, at just 84.8g (including built in battery) Due to the plastic construction and slightly protruding auxiliary LEDs, I doubt that this headlamp would be as tough as some (heavier) aluminium headlamps. I would thus be cautious when using this headlamp for more extreme uses such as caving or rock climbing. It survived multiple 1m drops during testing, and is rated to handle 1.5m drops.

There are two buttons on the top – user interface is explained in the next section. The buttons are quite large, and very useable for people wearing gloves, with fat fingers, or poor spacial awareness. I sometimes accidentally changed the angle of the light when pressing the buttons, but it only takes a second to adjust it back again.

The USB charging port is located on the left hand side of the body, and has a rubber cover to stop dust and water ingress. A red light illuminates during charging, and a green light illuminates when charging has terminated/battery full. Charging from empty took 3.5 hours using a 1A iPhone 6 power supply and supplied Nitecore USB cable.


The main Cree XP-G2 emitter is located centrally, and there are two auxiliary emitters located on each side of the main emitter (four total) for symmetry. The Auxiliary emitters are two high CRI, and two red emitters. The exact emitter type for the auxiliary emitters is unknown.

The light is available in black, army green, and desert tan colours which seem to be orientated towards a male market. If the NU30 sells well (which I’m sure it will) some more unisex or female orientated colours should be introduced as well. My review version was in army green.

The two halves of the light are well glued together, so a teardown is quite difficult. However, having an x-ray machine handy, I’ve taken some x-ray images of the internals of this light. The battery appears to take up approximately 30% of the case, positioned at the back. The driver board is screwed into the front of the light. The buttons, main reflector, USB socket, and pins for the auxiliary LEDs are clearly seen.


User Interface (UI)

There are two buttons on the top of the light. The “power” button controls the white light, and the R button controls the red light.

Single clicks of the power button will cycle the light through Low>Medium>High>Standby mode. After 3 seconds, the light will turn off if this button is clicked again. A long hold from on will take the light straight to turbo, which steps down after just 30 seconds.

A long (1 sec) hold of the “power” button from off, will turn on the high-CRI auxiliary lights. Another click will turn the high-CRI auxiliary lights off.

A very long (3 sec) hold of the “power” button from off, will cycle through SOS>Beacon modes. After 3 seconds, the light will turn off if this button is clicked again. The beacon mode has a short flash approximately every 3 seconds.

Pressing the R button will cycle the light through Red>Flashing Red>Standby. After 3 seconds, the light will turn off if the R button is pressed again. The red flashing is at approximately 1Hz.

Holding down both “power” and R buttons until the red indicator blinks will enter lockout mode. The same action is done to unlock the light.

A long (1 sec) hold of the R button will display battery capacity remaining – >50% = 3 flashes, 10-50% = 2 flashes, <10% = 1 flash.

Despite the many options, I found the user interface easy to learn and remember. I liked the one press access to low, high-CRI, SOS, and red modes.

Beam, Output, and Runtimes

The main beam uses a Cree XP-G2 emitter and smooth reflector which is relatively deep for a headlamp. There is a small and very bright hotspot allowing for improved throw compared to flood only headlamps (such as the Thrunite TH20). However, whilst the spill beam is fairly wide which is essential for a headlamp, the spill beam doesn’t quite cover as wide an angle as flood only headlamps (such as the Thrunite TH20 again). I found the extra throw useful for focussing my SLR camera when taking night or light painting photos, and also useful for night treks. However, for night running, I would prefer a slightly wider angle spill beam to allow both illumination of my next step with the spill beam, as well the hotspot illuminating further into the distance rather than 2 to 3m in front of me. Saying that, having the hotspot 2m in front of me allowed for easier dodging of pesky cane toads!

The tint of the main beam is at the warmer end of cool white (estimated 5700k), and the usual 70CRI+ fare that we are used to on more recent LEDs. The cool white beam has a hint of yellow in the hotspot, with no hint of blue or green. This CRI is good enough for most purposes, but I would personally have preferred a high CRI main beam as well as auxiliary beam. Thankfully, Nitecore will soon be releasing a high CRI version of the Nitecore NU30, called the NU30CRI with a Nichia 219B emitter. Thus if you want slightly more output and throw go for the Nitecore NU30. If you want a bright high-CRI main beam with less of a hotspot, then go for the Nitecore NU30CRI when it is released. Full marks to Nitecore for providing these options.


Above – Beam comparison Nitecore NU30 (left) and Thrunite TH20 (right)

Turbo mode was measured at approximately 450 lumens (higher than claimed output), for the first 30 seconds, before reducing to approximately 220 lumens after 60 seconds. As the light steps down from turbo quite quickly due to the lack of heat sinking in the plastic body, the advertised turbo runtime is somewhat theoretical as it cannot be achieved continuously. Another reviewer found an undocumented “bug” where turbo remains on if red is turned on before activating turbo, and red is then turned off. This was reproducible, but needs to be used carefully so as to not overheat the light after a few minutes (as per any light with no automatic step down). The throw in turbo can usefully illuminate up to around 100m.

High mode is approximately 220 lumens (again higher than claimed output), and the next mode down is approximately 40 lumens. Personally, I’d prefer a mode around 75-100 lumens for urban night running, though the 220 lumen high mode is great for trail running. The 1 lumen mode is useful for finding things in a camera bag without disturbing others, and also very useful as a night light for camping and other situations. As the mode order is low>mid>high, it is possible to turn on the light for low mode purposes without having to cycle through blinding output first. I like this practical mode order.

When running on the high output, the output steps down in a linear fashion over 300 minutes, until it reaches around 20 lumens, where the light continued to run for another 15 hours, where it briefly dropped to moonlight level, and finally gave up the ghost. When the battery is heavily discharged, the high and turbo mode will be unavailable. When the battery is close to the end of the runtime, selecting the high-CRI mode will kill the output. Due to the gradual step down, and long 20 lumen runtime, there is no sudden turn off that could leave a user in the dark unexpectedly until around the 20 hour mark. Usefully, the light can be used when charging via USB, and thus the light could be run off a power bank if required. The internal 1800mAh li-ion (li-polymer) battery allows for considerably longer runtimes compared to 14500 class lights.

The auxiliary high-CRI beam outputs approximately 35 lumens. This high-CRI beam is slightly warmer than the main beam, with a rosy pink tint, and makes illuminated colours more vivid, especially reds. Despite using two seperate LEDs, the beam is floody and impressively smooth with no beam artefacts. The high-CRI beam is useful for illuminating up to 3 to 6m (depending on dark adjustment of eyes). Sadly, the high-CRI beam cannot be used at the same time as the main beam (or red beam).


The auxiliary red beam is approximately 16 lumens. Unlike the high-CRI beam, the red beam has a lot of beam artefact when white wall hunting. Outside, the beam artefact is much less noticeable, and not an issue. The red light can be useful for people who don’t want to loose dark adjusted eyesight, for example astronomers, and some photographers. The red beam is sufficient for illuminating up to 2 to 4m (depending on dark adjustment of eyes).



The red beam can be used at the same time as the main beam, just in case anyone wants a funky pink beam Wink (Note the yellow area in the auxiliary red beam shots is where the camera was over-exposing the beam – the beam is 100% red in reality).

No PWM detected in low, medium, high, red, and high-CRI modes.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed using the Nitecore NU30 for multiple purposes, and this light lends itself to situations where throw is required rather than a super-wide flood beam. With lots of functions, it is the swiss army knife of headlamps. With a single strap headband, relatively light weight, and ergonomic design it is a pleasure to have strapped to my head. The user interface has lots of options, but is still easy to learn. The red and high-CRI auxiliary beams are useful for short distance illumination. Runtime is quite decent too, and the gradual output step down will not suddenly leave you in the dark. Those who would prefer a main beam with high-CRI output and less of a hotspot, should look at the forthcoming NU30CRI model instead, which has a Nichia 219B emitter instead of Cree XP-G2.

I would highly recommend this light to consumers wanting an ergonomic, feature packed headlamp for general purpose use. Nitecore need to be congratulated on such a well designed line up of lights in the NU range, that also has market leading options for high-CRI requirements.

Outdoor beam shot (turbo) – 6 sec, f/5.6, ISO400; +0.9EV exposure in post processing.

Video coming soon!

Edited by: stephenk on 04/13/2017 - 04:49
RobertB
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Very nice review. Great xray images. Been using this light for a few weeks now and like it a lot.

weklund
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RobertB wrote:
Very nice review. Great xray images. Been using this light for a few weeks now and like it a lot.

Same here … Very well made and I love the versatility. I use the NU10 as well … great all flood headlamp.

... Happy Landings ...

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thanks for that very informative review!

find all available items in this list

i launched my new blog - all deals for members without MAP B$ Wink

 

if you want to buy a flashlight or battery for a better price: just send a mail - i will try to save you money!

Henk4U2
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Very extensive review stephenk. You certainly pushed the envelope. Now we all have to buy x-ray machines? Wink

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i always use my edc  for test-Xrays

 

i love the looks when the customers try to figure out what that is on the screen Big Smile

find all available items in this list

i launched my new blog - all deals for members without MAP B$ Wink

 

if you want to buy a flashlight or battery for a better price: just send a mail - i will try to save you money!

firedome
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nice review! Big Smile

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

-Plato

RollerBoySE
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Thanks for the review!

Already have the NU20CRI, love it and wouldn’t mind a more powerful version of it. So I look forward to the NU30CRI.

stephenk
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^ Thanks for the comments. The more I use this light (I was using it for night photography in a forest again last night) the more I like it – fantastic multi-purpose headlamp.
dekozn
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Nobody has the blue tint in auxiliary LED? Compared to my other nichia lights, this one has an horrible tint, stil better than some of my cree xml or xpg light but it pales in comparison with my nichia tool. Also I have a totally different beam profile than the one in the last picture of OP. assuming it is turbo from main LED. I got a very tight and bright hotspot and a weak spill.
I find that managing the position of the light is frustrating to do with one hand, I don’t think it will last long, it’ll probably break if used alot.
The warning blink of low battery is useless when on your head and it’s ***** dangerous when using auxiliary leds, the light shuts down without stepdown. Happened to me when riding my bike, from one moment to the other I was in the dark.
I just don’t see what all the fuss is about, to me it’s a cheap-a** light. I wonder how long it will last, especially in winter time and hard rain. The rubber for usb port is put in upside down and keeps popping out. So I expect water running in when used in pouring rain.
I hope the plastic is strong enough for freezing temps and/or temp differences which always killed my previous $10 AAA headlamps. The plastic gets brittle and breaks at thin points when under stress, most of the time it’s the battery compartment so probably less of an issue with NU30.
But I said it before and I’ll say it again: It aint worth the full price. Cause it’s actually a throw away light. How long will the battery last for people like me who use it everyday? Hopefully I can heatup with hairdryer and get the glue to loosen up to replace the battery if they used a standard size.
The only reason I bought one was because I needed one with red LEDs and the groupbuy price was convincing. It is light on the head but I had $10 energizer headlamps that where much more comfortable to wear and use (better beam profile also but that’s a matter of what you need), but they suck the juice right out of NiMh batteries.
I am not convinced.

dekozn
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just looked at the x-ray again and omg Facepalm

wood screws, really? Come on, this is not something I would expect from a top of the line company like nitecore claims to be. Nuts and bolts of the right length and size is what I wanne see, not just some random screws they find in the janitors storage room.

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dekozn wrote:
just looked at the x-ray again and omg Facepalm

wood screws, really? Come on, this is not something I would expect from a top of the line company like nitecore claims to be. Nuts and bolts of the right length and size is what I wanne see, not just some random screws they find in the janitors storage room.

The screws are actually the same size at the top and same size at the bottom, just the projection of the x-ray beam makes them look different sizes. X-rays have a diverging beam as the x-rays are generated by a point source.
stephenk
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dekozn wrote:
Nobody has the blue tint in auxiliary LED? Compared to my other nichia lights, this one has an horrible tint, stil better than some of my cree xml or xpg light but it pales in comparison with my nichia tool. Also I have a totally different beam profile than the one in the last picture of OP. assuming it is turbo from main LED. I got a very tight and bright hotspot and a weak spill.
I find that managing the position of the light is frustrating to do with one hand, I don’t think it will last long, it’ll probably break if used alot.
The warning blink of low battery is useless when on your head and it’s ***** dangerous when using auxiliary leds, the light shuts down without stepdown. Happened to me when riding my bike, from one moment to the other I was in the dark.
I just don’t see what all the fuss is about, to me it’s a cheap-a** light. I wonder how long it will last, especially in winter time and hard rain. The rubber for usb port is put in upside down and keeps popping out. So I expect water running in when used in pouring rain.
I hope the plastic is strong enough for freezing temps and/or temp differences which always killed my previous $10 AAA headlamps. The plastic gets brittle and breaks at thin points when under stress, most of the time it’s the battery compartment so probably less of an issue with NU30.
But I said it before and I’ll say it again: It aint worth the full price. Cause it’s actually a throw away light. How long will the battery last for people like me who use it everyday? Hopefully I can heatup with hairdryer and get the glue to loosen up to replace the battery if they used a standard size.
The only reason I bought one was because I needed one with red LEDs and the groupbuy price was convincing. It is light on the head but I had $10 energizer headlamps that where much more comfortable to wear and use (better beam profile also but that’s a matter of what you need), but they suck the juice right out of NiMh batteries.
I am not convinced.

You seem to be in minority of people who own the NU30 and aren’t happy.

My high-CRI beam has a pink tint rather than your blue. Not sure if these are Nichia emitters or not.

The last photo is in turbo, you can see the slightly yellow hotspot in the distant right side trees. For beam profile, the white wall beam shots are more realistic.

If you are ending up in the dark using the auxiliary emitters then you must have run the battery very low. I would advise taking more care with runtimes, and periodically checking capacity (especially if using not after a recharge).

Build quality seems to be similar to other lights in its class. I doubt it will outlive my Thrunite TH20, but I expect it to last a couple of years of regular use. My “indestructible” Varta/Rayovac headlamp broke after 1 year. My 10 year old plastic Black Diamond headlamps are still intact (just a shame they are so dim).

You compare it to the Energizers, which are a good range of consumer lights. However I’m not aware of any Energizers that are USB rechargeable. If you are so unhappy with your NU30, can you recommend us something better?

dekozn
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IDK really, I guess I expected too much of it. I haven’t found anything I like more or comes close to my H03, I’ve been looking for xtar comander with the red LED but I can’t find it (shipped to europe).
True it is different class of light and I don’t know any headlamp that is rechargeable. I would love to see one that uses the convoy style of recharging with the magnet thingy. I think armytek has them but they are way out of my price range and also no red LED.

It’s little things like the usb cover, the ui and no way to get it apart for fixing it when needed. But the blue tint (do you think it’s high cri?) and the main spot light I really dislike. Do you use the xp-g2 led on the low setting? I find it next to useless, the spill is too weak, even reading a book is annoying. If I could open it up I would put some scotch tape over the lens to get more flood.

I hope nitecore proves me wrong and that it outlast my energizer lamps that craped out on me after a year or 2.

I just use it as a back-up light or when I go out partying (cause I might loose it and I like my skilhunt too much).
Rechargeable makes it nice if you stay in the “civilized” world, so you don’t have to carry any spare cells or charger ,you can charge it anywhere so to speak. But for long hikes in no-man’s land I’d rather carry spare cells.

I don’t own a black diamond but my friend’s one keeps turning on in his pocket he says, told me I shouldn’t get one just because of that. I had one energizer that had red lights and a not to bad main LED but the battery compartment fell apart (cheap plastics don’t like the cold). I liked that one. Smooth angle positioning, simple ui and almost didn’t feel I had it on my head. But that was before I got spoiled. Don’t know if I would still like it now.

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The tints on both the primary and secondary LED’s are fine on mine, and the usb cover fits good and snug. Had the light in the pouring rain last night with no problems what so ever. The fact that you can connect a powerbank to this and have virtually endless run time is a huge plus. I own the H03, Zebralight H600Fd, and a Lumintrail, but really like how handy this NU30 is.

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I recieved my two samples of the Nitecore NU30 today. When comparing tints it found that one of the lights has a greenish tint while the other one has a normal/expected cold white tint. Other than that i am very pleased with how neat and compact it is. Also the buttons sits lower in the light than i expected, i personally would like them to protrude a little more.
Quality seems good for this pricerange.

Now i just have to find a usb-cable with a coil, so that i can have a powerbank i my pocket/backpack. Any suggestions/recommendations?

stephenk
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PWM test added to review in OP – none detected!

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I’m on the same hunt. As a pack light, this would be an unstoppable feature. What kind of bank would you pair it with?

Edit: oops. Meant to reply to the coil cable query above. I’ll PM you if I find one. Everyone is into peitzl headlamps for running, and all I see is a boxy light with a lot of R&D gone into headstraps and proprietary battery packs that I’d rather not have on my head anyway.

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Fantomet wrote:
I recieved my two samples of the Nitecore NU30 today. When comparing tints it found that one of the lights has a greenish tint while the other one has a normal/expected cold white tint. Other than that i am very pleased with how neat and compact it is. Also the buttons sits lower in the light than i expected, i personally would like them to protrude a little more.
Quality seems good for this pricerange.

Now i just have to find a usb-cable with a coil, so that i can have a powerbank i my pocket/backpack. Any suggestions/recommendations?

Replied above, much agreed!

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Woknblues wrote:
I’m on the same hunt. As a pack light, this would be an unstoppable feature. What kind of bank would you pair it with?

Edit: oops. Meant to reply to the coil cable query above. I’ll PM you if I find one. Everyone is into peitzl headlamps for running, and all I see is a boxy light with a lot of R&D gone into headstraps and proprietary battery packs that I’d rather not have on my head anyway.

Hi, i would much appreciate if you did! I recently bought a 8000mah powerbank, and i plan to keep it in the toplid of my backpack for longer hikingtrips. If i could get a coilet usb cable or some kind of super soft and flexible cable it would be perfect.

Btw,sry Stephenk for hijacking your post Facepalm in hinsight i should have started a separate thread for my inquiry. I really enjoyed your review Thumbs Up if its any consolation Smile

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Fantomet wrote:

Hi, i would much appreciate if you did! I recently bought a 8000mah powerbank, and i plan to keep it in the toplid of my backpack for longer hikingtrips. If i could get a coilet usb cable or some kind of super soft and flexible cable it would be perfect.

Btw,sry Stephenk for hijacking your post Facepalm in hinsight i should have started a separate thread for my inquiry. I really enjoyed your review Thumbs Up if its any consolation Smile

Amazon has both right and left angled coiled cables. There are also no angle coiled cables https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PGJ67N4/ref=twister_B01HPS5OFU?_encoding=UT...

Not sure how you would get one to Norway

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dekozn wrote:
just looked at the x-ray again and omg Facepalm
wood screws, really? Come on, this is not something I would expect from a top of the line company like nitecore claims to be. Nuts and bolts of the right length and size is what I wanne see, not just some random screws they find in the janitors storage room.

Just because it has that type of thread does not mean it is a wood screw…
There are tons of screws that look like that.
They are for plastic, metal, and all kinds of other materials.
Since there are no nuts, this is the correct type of screw to use to attach the PCB to the plastic body.
It’s very common to use self-tapping screws for plastic. They are not “just some random screws”.

Hey, how are you? :)

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[/quote]

Amazon has both right and left angled coiled cables. There are also no angle coiled cables https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PGJ67N4/ref=twister_B01HPS5OFU?_encoding=UT...

Not sure how you would get one to Norway[/quote]

With the amount of money I spend at Amazon, you’d think that I’d just look there first. Thanks.

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Hi, everyone mine also have the bluish tinted secondary LEDs.It's doesn't seem to be of any hi-CRI type.The main led is rather yellowish than the secondary flood lights.

Iam not complaining ,it's just an observation.I have many nitecore tubes, and these secondary LEDs looks to be having that same tint.By the way ,I use the secondary led a lot and I like the fact that its brighter since it's of coolwhite tint.Ofcourse the colour reproduction is bad compared to the mainled.

Also,like many here I found that the main led should have been more floody.It annoys particularly during walking in high mode,as when you look down you are blinded by the tight hotspot.

If it could be taken apart, i would also add a tape or film to make the beam more floody.

Rest everything seems to be ok for me.I don't think the water can get in through the usb port, its having a good snug fit,and if pressed correctly won't pop out.weight seems to be fine and is comfortable to wear .Red LEDs are so bright and would prefer a lower red mode or a lower secondary led for reading purpose(main led is very concentrated even at low settings for closeup uses ).

Big battery is really useful for longer hikes, though charging from completely dead takes a while (around 4 to 5 hrs in my experience).But love the fact that it is usb rechargeable and can be used while charging.

So , after all these observations I must say I expected a little more(like good beam profile and lower modes), but am getting comfortable with it as I use it more and more.Plans to use it for next two years.(I had a few drops and dips but none seems to leave any mark, so I expect it to be sturdy enough to handle my daily outdoor uses).