REVIEW: Nitecore TINI Keychain Flashlight

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bdm82
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REVIEW: Nitecore TINI Keychain Flashlight

The Nitecore TINI is the newest keychain light from Nitecore, joining the Tube, TIP, and THUMB in the keychain flashlight lineup.  The TINI has about the same output as the TIP but in a more compact package.

 

Here are the key review details:

 

Skip to the commentary section at bottom to read my subjective notes on the R1.

 

Disclaimer: This light was provided free of charge by Nitecore Store, shipping from their location in Texas. As of January 12, 2017, the retail price was $29.99. This review was completed over about 4 weeks of testing and real-world use.

 

 

Unboxing

The TINI is packaged in a retail box consistent with other recent Nitecore boxes. The front advertises the 380 lumen output, 280mAh battery, dual-switch design and USB charging.  Nitecore Store tucked a Quick Operation guide into the box top (more on that later).

 

 

The rear of the box lists the TINI’s features in greater detail.

 

 

ANSI specs are presented on one of the box sides.

 

 

The other side shows the range of colors the TINI is available in – and the one selected.

 

 

A keychain clip, manual, and warranty card are included.  No spare parts are included or necessary.

 

 

The manual is in 9 languages (English, Spanish, German, French, Polish, Japanese, Romanian, Chinese, and Korean).  It is also available online:

http://flashlight.nitecore.com/pdf/TINI_UM_EN.pdf

 

Nitecore Store (the official U.S. distributor that provided the TINI for review) included a Quick Start guide of their own creation.  This addresses to the power-on delay and Demo mode that may confuse users initially.

 

 

Nitecore backs the TINI with a 1 year warranty.  Nitecore services lights in the market where they were allocated for distribution, so purchasing from your local market is advised in case there’s an issue.  (If you are in China and purchase from the U.S., it must be sent to the US for service.  If you are in the U.S. and purchase from a Chinese retailer, the light has to be returned to China at your expense for service.)

 

 

Design

The Nitecore TINI is a tiny keychain light – just as the name implies.  Nitecore reports the light to be 43.3 mm long, 25.4 mm wide, and 11.5 mm deep. My measurements were within 0.6 mm.

 

For size reference, the TINI is about as wide as a U.S. quarter and shorter than a typical house key.  It is small.

 

 

The TINI makes modern car key fobs look gigantic.

 

 

One side of the TINI has the two buttons – Mode towards the head, Power towards the tail. The buttons, bezel ring, and center section on both sides is silver-colored.

 

 

The buttons are backlit in blue.  They flash when the battery is low or while the battery is charging.  They are solid when the battery is charged.  And they serve as a battery life indicator.  Turning on the TINI requires holding a button for about 2 seconds.  If the Mode button is pressed for less time than that while the light is off, it will blink to indicate battery life.  3 blinks is <50%, 2 blinks is 10-50%, and 1 blink indicates <10% battery life remaining.

 

 

The other side of the TINI has the Nitecore name, model, registration, and disposal information embosses in white.  All writing is clean and clear.

 

 

The black case (also available in 6 other colors) is thin and feels like plastic in hand – but is actually aluminum.  The coating (whether hard anodization, PVD, etc) is not disclosed, but it so far has proved durable and resisted scratching when I drug a Torx bit over it.  The silver-colored surfaces appear to be painted plastic.

 

 

The charging port is micro USB.  The rubber port cover is easy to open thanks to a raised flap, but the port cover itself doesn’t move fully out of the way when open.  Bulky USB cables will prove challenging to use.

 

 

The head of the TINI is about 3.5 mm deeper than the rest of the body. The bezel is chrome-colored.  The XP-G2 S3 emitter sits behind a diffusing TIR optic.

 

 

The tail has a key ring that’s not removable as the post it goes around is deep inside the TINI.  This ring adds about 3 mm to the length and keeps the TINI from tail standing.

 

 

It will stand on its charging port side.  This illuminates a room better than laying flat – but not as well as tail standing would.

 

 

 

Disassembled

The Nitecore warranty is void under certain terms, including if the TINI has been “broken down, reconstructed, or modified.”  I likely invalidated the warranty by taking it apart for the following pictures – but couldn’t resist learning what was inside.

 

Three (3) small Torx (star) screws on each side are required to access the internals.  Under the flat side is a thin heatsink.  It starts at the front with the LED and covers one side of the battery back to the tail.  A sufficient amount of thermal paste transfers heat to the case.

 

 

On the switch side, the circuitry is largely visible and there is no heatsinking.  A rubber pad insulates and protects some of the components, but the battery attachment wires, TIR, and switches are all in view.  The switch buttons are plastic and have no gaskets around them on the outward-facing side.  For this reason, I’d advise against using the TINI with wet hands as pressing the buttons could force water into the TINI.

 

 

 

Accessories

 

The included snap ring for keychain attachment is the only included accessory.  Given that the TINI is a keychain light, it is no surprise there are no pocket clips, cigar rings, cases, etc.

 

 

Performance

Beam The XP-G2 S3 and TIR optic combine to produce a wide beam with a wide hotspot.  There are minor artifacts around the outside of the spill but this is only noticeable indoors and when the light is rotated.  Overall the beam is quite smooth.

 

 

Tint & Temperature

Tint is cool.  The center of the hotspot is around 5600K while the outer part of the spill is around 7000K.  I found the hotspot color to be nearly colorless, but the spill had the blue tint typical for cool temperatures.  (tested on Turbo)

 

To demonstrate the overall color balance, here is the TINI surrounded by lights with emitters of various tints and temperatures on lower output modes.  Camera W/B set to daylight.

L to R: Convoy S2+ (cool XM-L2 U2 1B), Olight S1R (cool XM-L2), Nitecore TINI (cool XP-G2 S3), BLF 348 (neutral 219B SW50), Lumintop Tool (warm 219B).

 

 

 

Output

Nitecore rates the TINI at 380 lumens on Turbo.  Runtime is listed at 15 minutes, though this is “based on theoretical arithmetic.”

 

Nitecore also advertises that the TINI has “Advanced Thermal Regulation” – and multiple Turbo tests confirmed it does.  The light was tested 3 times: in hand, with a fan, and without a fan.  In each test, the TINI performed differently.

 

At turn on, the TINI’s output was about 460 lumens.  Between 30 and 120 seconds (ANSI FL-1 standard), peak output was 370 lumens (+/- 3 lumens). This was consistent.

 

When I held it in my hand, the TINI stepped down sharply at 4 minutes and 6 seconds. It had reached a temperature that was uncomfortable to hold but did not cause injury. (Note: Maintaining a perfectly steady hand while testing for over 4 minutes is difficult so chalk some of the variation in the curve up to tester movement.)

 

 

When tested by itself with no cooling, the TINI stepped down at 2 minutes and 17 seconds.

 

 

When tested with a fan (80mm Thermaltake Mobile Fan II), the TINI had no stepdown.  Instead, the light gradually declined in output until shutting off at 24 minutes and 27 seconds. 

 

 

Nitecore lists calculated Turbo runtime at 15 minutes based on “theoretical arithmetic”.  By conventional testing methods, the TINI’s runtime can be anywhere from 2.3 minutes to 24.4 minutes based on the environment.  In reality, the requirement to hold the Mode button to access Turbo means that real-world use will be different.  Few people will hold the button for 24, 4, or even 2 minutes solid.

 

 

Safety note: During testing, I used a wooden clothes pin to hold the Turbo button.  After the TINI turned off due to low battery, the continued pressure on the Mode button caused the TINI to turn back on as soon as the battery rested and voltage bounced back.  It would only stay on a few seconds before turning back off again…and then it would repeat this cycle.  I stopped it during within 30 or 40 seconds, but in real world use I highly recommend not locking the Mode button down like this as it will over-drain the battery and cause damage.

 

 

High is rated by Nitecore at 145 lumens for 60 minutes.  I measured 164 lumens and a runtime of 58 minutes.  The output was extremely flat through 52 minutes when output began dropping.  The TINI turned off after 68 minutes.

 

 

Medium is rated by Nitecore at 38 lumens and 4 hours.  I measured 36 lumens and a runtime of 4 hours 42 minutes.  The output was very flat for the first 4 hours 30 minutes before output began dropping.  During this final period, the TINI had a very high (and odd) spike to 62 lumens before falling back off. It turned off entirely at 4 hours and 46 minutes.

 

 

Low is rated by Nitecore at 1 lumen and 60 hours.  I tested it at 1.8 lumens. Runtime not was tested.  

 

 

All outputs:

 

 

All runtimes tested:

 

 

 

Throw

I tested throw distance at 1.41 meters and the resulting candela was 1065 - equivalent to 65 meters of throw. 

Nitecore rates the TINI at 1020 Cd and 64 meters of throw – almost exactly what I tested.

 

 

 

PWM

No PWM was detected visually or using a camera’s CMOS sensor. Nitecore lists constant current as a feature of the TINI so this is no surprise.

 

 

 

Parasitic Drain

The R1 uses an electronic switch so some parasitic drain is to be expected.  As it is a sealed unit I was unable to test this, but Nitecore says the TINI can be stored for about 1 year before the battery will self-deplete. 

 

 

Internal Charging

Nitecore lists battery capacity at 280mAh.  Using an inline USB meter, I measured charges of between 330mAh and 355mAh following each of the output tests above.  Though some of the amperage will have been lost to the charging circuit and side switch illumination, it appears the stated battery capacity is valid or understated.

 

Charge current peaked at 34mA with typical charge rate of 32mA.  Towards the end of the charge amperage decreased to <10mA.  It took about 1 hour 30 minutes to fully charge the TINI though the majority of the charge happened in the first hour.  Nitecore states a full charge should take about 1 hour 45 minutes.

 

The side switches flash while charging and remain solid once fully charged.

All modes (including Turbo) can be used while the TINI is charging.  Given its low power consumption, an external battery connected to the TINI’s micro USB port will extend the TINI’s runtime exponentially.

 

 

Impact Resistance

Nitecore rates the TINI’s impact resistance at 1.5 meters.  This was not tested.

 

 

 

Water Resistance

Nitecore rates the TINI as IP54, meaning it is protected against most dust and splashing from water.  After seeing how the TINI is constructed without gaskets to keep water out, I would try to minimize the amount of water the TINI is exposed to – especially around the buttons.

 

 

Interface

The Nitecore TINI has two modes: DAILY mode and DEMO mode.  Daily mode functions in a normal manner; Demo mode shuts off after 30 seconds automatically. 

A 2 second button hold is required to turn the TINI on in either mode.  Mode memory is present (L/M/H); there are no special modes like SOS.

 

From off:

  • Press and hold the Power button for 2 seconds to access the memorized mode
  • Press and hold the Mode button for 2 seconds to access Turbo for as long as held
  • Press and hold both buttons for 2 seconds to switch to modes (Daily<->Demo)
  • Short press the Mode button to perform a battery check
    • 3 flashes indicates >50%
    • 2 flashes indicates >10%
    • 1 flash indicates <10%

From on:

  • Press the Mode button to cycle to a higher mode (L->M->H)
  • Press and hold the Mode button to access Turbo for as long as held
    • The last used mode is restored when the Mode button is released
  • Press and hold both buttons to switch modes (Daily<->Demo)
  • Short press the Power button to turn the TINI off

 

 

Problems

No problems were experienced with the Nitecore TINI while testing.

 

 

Commentary

Nitecore seems on a mission to introduce as many keychain options as possible.  Each one seems to have its own advantages and disadvantages – and the TINI is no exception. 

 

The TINI and TIP are at the top, with $29.95 MSRPs, multiple body colors, peak outputs of 380 and 360 lumens, and similar mode spacing.  The $19.95 THUMB and $9.95 TUBE can’t compete with their peak outputs of 85 and 45 lumens.

 

The TINI is considerably smaller than the TIP though the TIP handles heat better.  One of the more common complaints about the TIP was that it could activate in a pocket too easily.  Nitecore responded with the TIP by providing a pocket clip that covers the TIP’s buttons – a solution eschewed by many.  With the TINI, Nitecore shrank the size, skipped the clip, recessed the buttons slightly, and added a 2 second delay on the button press and a 30 second auto-off mode.

 

So far, I have found that the 2 second delay is successful at preventing accidental activation in pocket.  It does take a little getting used to, though – most flashlights turn on as soon as a button is pressed – but not the TINI.

 

The cool tint will not be to the liking of some.  Nitecore introduced high CRI versions of other lights before – including the TIP – and I look forward to seeing if they do the same here.  A high CRI TINI would be excellent.

 

Another weakness is ingress protection.  The much cheaper TUBE has IP65 water resistance; I find the IP54 ratings on the TIP and TINI to be a little disappointing.  Granted, nobody would ever try going diving with the TINI – but asking a light to survive a walk in heavy rain or an accidental drop into a puddle doesn’t seem like too much to ask. 

 

I do not carry anything but a key fob and small light in my front pocket.  The keychain clip doesn’t open wide enough to clip on my key fob, so I’d prefer to carry it with no keyring at all.  The fact that the small tail ring can’t be removed is therefore a little annoying.

 

The outputs and runtimes as tested are all inline with Nitecore’s specifications – which is excellent.  Better yet, it manages these outputs with constant current (no PWM).  The internal charging is also fast and effective, though the rubber port cover doesn’t quite swing far enough out of the way.

 

The mode spacing is very useful, escalating (as tested) from 1.8 to 36, 164 and 372 lumens.  When modes are too close or too far apart it’s difficult to find just the right amount of output but I haven’t had that experience with the TINI.  The TIP shares very similar ratings, so the TINI’s mode spacing should be consistent for TIP users. 

 

The Nitecore TINI has true-to-specification outputs and runtimes, is PWM-free, has a nice floody beam, offers a battery indicator, fast micro USB charging, and can be used while charging.  The cool tint, 2 second power on delay, momentary Turbo, and poor water resistance won’t be to the liking of everyone.  Still, it’s my favorite Nitecore keychain light and the one that I’ve started carrying.

 

 

Lux Meter: Dr. Meter LX1330B Integrating "sphere":

Homebuilt tube-style device calibrated on other known lights and test results. Numbers should be considered relative to each other and my other review figures but accuracy is in no way certified or guaranteed.

Camera: Canon SD4000IS

Micrometer: Mitutoyo CD-6ASX

Multimeter: Craftsman 82170

Edited by: bdm82 on 01/15/2018 - 02:45
Boro
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Very nice review, thank you !