[New][Review] Nitecore TUP - 1000 lumen keychain light

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bmengineer
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[New][Review] Nitecore TUP - 1000 lumen keychain light

The Product

Nitecore TUP

Nitecore was generous to send me over an early sample of the unreleased Nitecore TUP. Now that the light has been released, I can finally share my thoughts on it. This light is the current flagship model in their T series of keychain style lights, and uses a sealed internal cell. Compared to the other lights in the series this model is larger, more powerful at 1000 lumens max claimed output, and has an OLED display.

Spoiler

This light is an interesting form factor, and is a bit larger than most keychain lights on the market. The UI is good, the output for the size is great, and it feels well built. Overall, I think Nitecore made a great light, and I know the OLED screen and huge output will make this a popular choice. The only major downside to this light is that the cool white beam won’t appeal to most enthusiasts.

Size

The light measures 67.2 mm long, 26.0 wide, and 19.1 mm thick at it’s thinnest point. My first impression after pulling it out of the box was that it would be far too large for a keychain, but it’s actually both shorter and narrower than my car fob (though it is a bit thicker). For myself, it’s a great size for pocket carry, and it’s very comparable to the 16340 lights that are quite popular with the EDC crowd.

Olight S1R, Nitecore TUP

Build

The obvious place to start with this light is the side with the screen, which I’m going to call the top. The TUP top, if you will.

The display

On the top of the light, the first feature is the OLED display. This is a fun little display that shows a surprising amount of data, depending on the context. Things I’ve seen on it include:

  • The NITECORE splash screen

  • Lockout status

  • Current UI group, daily or demo

  • Current mode and output

  • Remaining runtime in the current mode

  • Cell voltage

  • Remaining time until auto-shut off

By the time I was done playing with the screen, I was half surprised it didn’t have a watch built in to it. It’s extremely versatile!

Top view

Under the screen, there are two hard plastic buttons - a mode button and a power button. Both of these have a blue backlight. There’s also the brand and product names lasered into the aluminum case of the light, and 4 screws holding the thing shut.

Side view

micro-USB port

After the top, the rest of the light has much less going on. The one side is completely bare except for the seam where the two halves meet, and the opposite side is the same with the micro-USB port. There’s a rubber flap that seats inside the port to keep dust and rain out, although I wouldn’t recommend submerging this one if it can be avoided.

Pocket clip

The bottom of the light has a thick, screwed on pocket clip for head-up carry. Again, we can see 4 small Torx screws holding the light together. There is some regulatory labeling etched in under the clip.

Tail

The tail of the light has the obligatory key ring, and no other notable elements. The key ring does mean that the light is not able to tailstand.

Head

The head of the light is almost completely filled with the optic, which sits nearly flush with the ‘bezel’.

What’s Included

Nitecore has a great habit of sending their newest lights to me without any packaging whatsoever, so my sample included only the light and they keychain. Production lights will likely also include a manual and packaging.

Ergonomics and Retention

The light feels good in my hand. As it is a smaller light, it’s not one I would want to hold for an hour long hike or something similar - but that’s also not the intended use of the light. For quick tasks, it’s great.

The finish is smooth without any knurling or other accents to add grip, so if you don’t have a set of keys hanging off the tail to keep it in your hand I would suggest keeping the clip installed. The ramp on the clip, intended to help it slip onto a pocket, is enough to help get a good grip on the light.

Pocket clip

The clip is head up and very deep carry. It’s held on to the body of the light with two #0 phillips screws. The positioning of the clip means it can be clipped on to the bill of a cap and used as a headlamp for hands-on tasks. This might technicallybe the smallest and lightest 1000 lumen headlamp.

As this is a keychain light, the obligatory key ring is present on the tail, and Nitecore includes a little lobster claw style clip.

Modes and Interface

There are two independent mode groups that can be enabled on the TUP - daily, and demo. The only difference between the two modes is that in demo mode, the light will automatically shut off 30 seconds after the last button press. Based on the name of this mode, it sounds like it’s meant to keep the light from draining in the packaging, but I found it a useful alternative to locking the light out in my pocket. 30 seconds is plenty for me to unlock a door, pick up after my dog, or do any number of other tasks suited to a light this small. To switch between the two modes, simply hold both buttons down - a message on the screen will helpfully show you the mode group you’ve switched into, and the main LED will blink to indicate the selection as well (once for demo, twice for daily).

Mode groups

In either mode group, the usage is the same:

  • Tap the mode button to check cell voltage

  • Tap the power button to turn on in the last used mode, or off when the light is on

  • When on, tap the mode button to cycle through the main modes (not turbo)

  • From off, hold the power button to turn the light on in the lowest mode

  • In any state (including lockout 1), hold the mode button for momentary turbo

  • To lockout the light, press the power button while the light is on. The screen will indicate lockout mode 1 is active. Holding longer will get to lockout mode 2. To unlock, tap then hold the power button in quick succession.

This is a good UI, and has almost everything I could hope for. A non-momentary turbo option would be nice, but it’s probably smart that Nitecore did it this way to preserve cell life and prevent hot pockets.The mode spacing is good to, with levels claimed at 1, 15, 65, and 200 lumens, in addition to the 1000 lumen turbo.

Light Quality and Beam

The optic

This light uses a cool XP-L HD in a 21 mm TIR lens. It’s an interesting TIR in that it has a very clear view of the LED when looking directly at it. It seems almost like there’s a hole in the optic, or a clear pipe in the center? I can’t really say what this does to the beam. What I can say, is that the beam produced is functional, but not as pretty as some others.

Power and Runtime

The light is powered from an internal cell. Although I prefer replaceable cells when possible, that would require a different form factor for this light and would probably result in the finished product being larger, so this seems like a reasonable design compromise from Nitecore.

High runtime

On high, runtime was flat for 200 minutes before starting to track down rapidly. Final runtime in this mode is over 3.5 hours.

Turbo runtime

Holding the button down on turbo, the light starts to throttle pretty quickly, although it does hold close to its initial output until the 30 second mark, wen ANSI measurements are taken.Turbo was reset once in this test, but didn’t quite bounce back as high as the first run. The light got warm during this run, but never concerningly so.

Charging

The light is charged through a micro-USB port on the body. After draining the cell, I measured the charge rate at 0.5 A. Charging from dead to full took a little over 3 hours. Power into the light was 6.5 Wh, although this isn’t necessarily a great indication of the actual cell capacity.

Charging curve

While charging, all the functions of the light work just as they do on cell power - including a single tap of the mode button to check the current charge state. The indicator LED behind the two buttons flashes during charging, and turns solid once complete.

Teardown

The steps in this section likely voided my warranty and, if replicated by you, will do the same to yours. Always take proper safety precautions when working with electronics and tools. This is purely investigative, and is not intended as a guide.

To open up the back of the light, first we need to remove the two #0 Phillips screws holding the pocket clip in place. The threaded holes are deep enough that the screws can be installed with the clip removed - otherwise you’re left with two holes in the side of your light.

Clip removed

Once the clip is out of the way, the four T3 screws can be removed and the back cover taken off. This reveals two pouch cells, an aluminum heat sink that doubles as a secure mounting point for the clip, and a glimpse at the driver.

Back removed

Removing the four more T3 screws on the opposite side of the light shows the button board, which seems to have some driver components on it as well. Once both halves are removed, the TIR and it’s retaining bezel pop right out the front. The TIR lens measures 21 mm in diameter and 23.7 mm deep. There’s a lip running around the diameter to hold it in place, and this measures 1.6 mm thick.

Fully torn down

The MPCB has a yellow plastic insulator installed around the XP-L HD, and is screwed to the heatsink.

Summary

Pros:

  • Great output for the size

  • OLED display actually manages to show a great amount of useful information

  • UI has all the good stuff - shortcut to low, momentary turbo, mode memory

  • Great pocket/hat clip

Cons:

  • Beam has some artifacts

  • Non-replaceable cell and rubber flap for water resistance are understandable with this form factor, but I still don’t like them

Find all my reviews of flashlights and more gear at www.bmengineer.com

M4D M4X
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thanks for the review!

 

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the best deals are waiting for YOU!

 

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mrheosuper
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it would be really good if they include clock function to it, first time i saw it i thought it has clock built it

btw, great light

Forgot my pen

thisnameisvalid
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Great review! I’d been looking forward to this one. I like that there may be emitter swap potential in this, looks like it needs some high cri Cool

fran82
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Great review.

Two li-ion batteries… are they in series or parallel?

I dont like the non-replaceable cells.

And too expensive

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pc_light
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@bmengineer, great review and take-a-part; thanks. It’s great that you included profile shots of the TUP which were lacking in other promo photos up to this point.

Quote:
… A non-momentary turbo option would be nice, …
Too bad about that, I think Turbo via pres&hold of Mode button while ON would have been ideal.

That would have been a nice tweak to the NC TIP’s UI which is my personal favorite. With the TIP, Turbo is momentary from any mode while ON but non-momentary when activated directly by press&hold of the Mode button from OFF. Changing it up to momentary from OFF but non-momentary during ON would have been perfection.

FWIW, my TIP is defaulted to memory mode on Medium, that way I have direct access to Low (long press On button), direct access to Medium (short press On button) or direct access to High (long press Mode button).

———————————
edit – The TUP has gone live in the U.S. for MAP $64.95

Move towards the light.

teacher
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Excellent review!! Thank you….. Thumbs Up

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mrheosuper
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65$, with a gooood coupon it may drop to under 50$, so yeah, good price

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Cereal_killer
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I can not believe it doesn’t have a clock function! It’s obviously got a RTC (real time clock) if it’s giving you an at all accurate count down timer.

Nitecore please do a simple FW update adding a time telling mode so I can buy one!

 RIP  SPC Joey Riley, KIA 11/24/14. Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

Cereal_killer
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fran82 wrote:
Great review.

Two li-ion batteries… are they in series or parallel?

Well specs state 1200mAh capacity and cells are marked 600mAh so it’s parallel.

Btw I definitely am not arguing against your point that non-standard [cylindrical] batteries suck but LiPO’s like that arnt hard to source at all should they fail and Nitecore warranty not cover you (unlikely if it’s not user caused). That’s probably a <$5 pack from a trustworthy vendor like RMRC or other small business US owned RC hobby shops.

 RIP  SPC Joey Riley, KIA 11/24/14. Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

bmengineer
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A few quick points:

  1. The $65 price point sounds completely reasonable to me, putting it in direct competition with the Olight S1 lineup.
  2. The two cells being in parallel is smart. This means half the current is drawn from each cell, so they shouldn't have as many issues as the Olight cells tend to.
  3. It's a bummer that the cells aren't replaceable, but the proprietary cells used by the competition really aren't much better, and to be honest I don't think I've ever heard of anyone replacing a 16340 - if it happens, it's the vast minority.
  4. Nitecore has confirmed that, since the primary goal of this light is to get as much light out of a tiny package as possible, there is no high CRI model planned at this time.

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CRX
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Interesting light, thanks for the review Beer
Shame it’s so fugly though Big Smile

Noctiluco
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Very interesting light, thanks for the good review. I would like to see some beamshoot.

Agro
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bmengineer wrote:

A few quick points:



  1. The $65 price point sounds completely reasonable to me, putting it in direct competition with the Olight S1 lineup.

  2. The two cells being in parallel is smart. This means half the current is drawn from each cell, so they shouldn’t have as many issues as the Olight cells tend to.

  3. It’s a bummer that the cells aren’t replaceable, but the proprietary cells used by the competition really aren’t much better, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone replacing a 16340 – if it happens, it’s the vast minority.

  4. Nitecore has confirmed that, since the primary goal of this light is to get as much light out of a tiny package as possible, there is no high CRI model planned at this time.


Who said they are not replaceable?
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/CE-UL-BIS-Certificated-3-7V_60744529255.html
Wink
DBSS
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Very nice review. I am still on the fence about this light, mostly because of that screen and the cost…adding a clock function might make it slightly more interesting, and I would very likely get one if I could get it about the $50 mark.

I’m not totally buying the keychain option, but inside a bag, clipped to the key holder in a maxpedition for example and used as a bag light or emergency back up light, I think that it would be pretty darn good.

bansuri
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Thanks for the thorough review and teardown!
Got in on the Illumn group buy, I love these USB non-cylindrical lights.

realista
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Agro wrote:
bmengineer wrote:

A few quick points:



  1. The $65 price point sounds completely reasonable to me, putting it in direct competition with the Olight S1 lineup.

  2. The two cells being in parallel is smart. This means half the current is drawn from each cell, so they shouldn’t have as many issues as the Olight cells tend to.

  3. It’s a bummer that the cells aren’t replaceable, but the proprietary cells used by the competition really aren’t much better, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone replacing a 16340 – if it happens, it’s the vast minority.

  4. Nitecore has confirmed that, since the primary goal of this light is to get as much light out of a tiny package as possible, there is no high CRI model planned at this time.


Who said they are not replaceable?
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/CE-UL-BIS-Certificated-3-7V_60744529255.html
Wink

alibaba is not ok for 1 piece, aliexpress is better
Jerommel
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A shame the TIR sucks a little..
But i guess they wanted to give this light both a fairly tight beam and some spill.
Very deep TIR by the way.

I wonder what kind of driver it uses.
TIP uses a buck driver.
But this has a high Vf LED, so maybe they use a linear driver.
If so, the max output should be lower on a partially depleted cell.

1200 mAh is a nice bunch of capacity for this size light. Thumbs Up

Attractive thingy, silly name though..
Tupperware…

Bit pricey i.m.o. and i don’t really need a display in a flashlight.
A clock and an MP3 player would have been nice additions, justifying the display.

Thanks for the review and tear down.
Wonder if you have a pic of the electronics.
If there’s an inductor on the PCB it’s probably a buck driver, or maybe linear / boost.

2Q19

bmengineer
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Guess I’ll have to take it apart again and check for you!

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Jerommel
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Only if you’re as curious as i am. Beer Thumbs Up

2Q19

Lexel
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still in this size a waterproofing would be possible, but not as easy to manufacture

bansuri
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Got mine for Illumn yesterday, it was exactly as I expected (but was hoping to be surprised).
It’s a carry nightmare unless you lock it out, and if its just in your pocket it is a big lump that sticks out.
Buttons are hyper-sensitive, they are so ready to click, it’s kinda funny. No way it’s NOT coming on in your pocket.
Power button is almost as far away from your thumb as possible when holding it.
There’s just no carrying this in the real world without locking it out.
The weight of it makes me wonder if it’s empty. It works, so I guess not.
Clip is great, but everything is so cramped on this light you’ll probably turn it on trying to use the clip.

In spite of all of that, it’s a cool little light! Got a great GB price on Illumn, I’ve know people to spend 2x that and only have a hangover to show for it.
I’ve bought all of the tubular lights one could ever want so I’m usually all-in when a new light that is any other shape is released.
I’ve been struggling to find a use for the “coulda been great” Lumintop Geek, finally found something: clip to belt and it makes a fantastic belt light that has no competition!
The Tup will remain on my desk until I find it’s true calling. Despite all the negatives, there’s a lot to like.
UI is decent.
Button functions are logical and easy to remember, despite too sensitive.
Stock tint is usable.
Has a strong, fixed clip.
USB port has a boss dust cover.
The screen, the glorious screen!!! Pretty cool having a readout to give you some useful information. We should tell the vape makers there’s money in flashlights and watch what happens.
Will update when I find the perfect use for the TUP.

Oh yeah, I was able to file down the metal tops of the switches on the TIP and make it more pocket-friendly, don’t think I’ll be able to do that with the TUP because it doesn’t have rubber buttons.

pc_light
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+1 @bansuri’s observations for me as well.

I like the TUP UI (similar to the TIP UI, one of my favorite), nice display, nice clip, nice mode spacing, nice battery capacity and light weight.

I can live with the size which is bulkier than typical keychain lights but comparable to a small cr123a pocket light. But those buttons are simply way too prone to accidental activation. One would have thought Nitecore applied the lessons learned about accidental Button Press from the TIP Facepalm

The Lock-1 feature is relatively easy to activate/deactivate but it would be nice not to have to do so. I actually don’t have a problem with the TIP’s buttons, but for those who do/did, stay clear.

My first tweak will be to do something about those buttons. Either raising the area surrounding the buttons or lowering the button height, to reduce accidental button presses taking the light in/out of pocket or clipping/unclipping.

FWIW, here are some photos for size and tint comparison against the TIP CRI. The slight green tint is not nearly as pronouced as appears on screen, but the beamshot image (1-ft distance) is fairly accurate otherwise. Larger cool white TIR-type hotspot with less spill than the TIP.


TUP (on left), TIP CRI (on right)

———————————-
edit:
TUP after a little Magenta Correction of the TIR for Green Cool

Move towards the light.

Kindle
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bansuri and pc_light are spot-on in detailing the problem areas for the light. It’s a fun light, I don’t regret buying it but no way is it getting carried in a pants pocket.

For now it’ll be close to hand on my desk to grab when I need a quick blast of light (until something else catches my fancy).