[Review+Teardown] Nitecore TIP2 - 720 lumen keychain light, 2*XP-G3, micro-USB, magnetic quick release

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[Review+Teardown] Nitecore TIP2 - 720 lumen keychain light, 2*XP-G3, micro-USB, magnetic quick release

The Product

The TIP2 is Nitecore's latest high output keychain light. This one has two emitters behind a TIR, two side switches along the edge, and built in micro-USB charging. With an advertised output of 720 lumens, this is their second highest output light in the series.


Spoiler

This is my favorite keychain light from Nitecore yet. The milled body looks and feels extremely solid, and very high quality. The magnets are convenient, and using them to hold the light on a keychain is just plain smart.

Although the UI isn't what I would normally want, it works very well for a small light like this. The only major downside for me is the LEDs - the XP-G3 has a reputation for tint shift in the beam, and this is no exception. If you aren't picky about that, this will be a great option for you.

I certainly hope Nitecore keeps making more keychain lights with this style of body.

Physical Dimensions

The light measures 58 mm long (including the cap, but not including the keychain loop, 25 mm wide and 13.3 mm thick. It weighs 40 grams with the keyring and clip removed.

To help visualize the size, here it is lined up next to the Rovyvon Aurora A8Acebeam UC15, and Nitecore TUP - all extremely high output lights for their tiny form factors.

The TIP2 actually has a lot of similarities with the Rovyvon Aurora - integrated pouch cell, similar length and thickness, long press for on, momentary turbo, and a charge port in the tail. I like to think of this like two Auroras glued together.

Build

As far as I can tell, this is the first of the keychain series from Nitecore that is milled out of a solid chunk of aluminum. Early models were all plastic, and the TINI and TUP were stamped. The result is that the heft and solidity are great.

 

Starting with the head of the light, you can see the TIR nestled in the bezel/body, with no apparent seams. The top side of the light has the brand, model, and regulatory info etched into the anodizing. This is the only marking on the entire light. The bottom edge and opposite side are bare, and the entire body is one piece of metal.

At the top of the light, a small aluminum plate holds the two switches in place. Between the switches, three tiny holes are drilled to let the indicator LED shine through.

The tail is a separate piece, held on by two strong magnets flanking the micro-USB port. There's no evident way to remove these magnets. There's not much of a seal to keep water away from the port, but Nitecore states the light is IP67 water resistant. In any case, I'm sure normal use in any weather won't be an issue.

The semi-circular loop on the tail can't be removed, and comes attached to a clip.

What's Included

The light comes in a black box, and includes:

  • The light, pocket and key clips installed
  • Paperwork

Note that a micro-USB cable isn't included, but you probably have enough of those flying around by now.

Ergonomics and Retention

Ergonomics are great. As usual, I don't like holding on to tiny lights for very long periods of time, but the solid aluminum body and nice chamfered edges are great. I also really like the button placement on the edge of the body.

The light includes a pocket clip, magnets, and a keyring to carry it around. I really like the magnetic closure on the keyring - being able to pop the light off when you want to use it is very convenient.

The strong magnets have no issues holding the light in place.

The included clip wraps around the light, protecting it from scratches and making the buttons a bit more recessed. The clip is deep, and leaves the emitters pointed forwards if used on the brim of a hat. The plastic doesn't feel as durable as some others I've used, but I didn't have any issues with it.

Modes and Interface

Advertised modes for this light are low, mid, high, and turbo at 1, 30, 200, and 720 lumens. Turbo is treated as a true turbo, and can only be activated momentarily. The interface is controlled by the power and mode switches as follows:

  • From on or off, hold mode for momentary turbo
  • From off, hold power on
  • From off, press mode to indicate level of charge (1 to 3 flashes)
  • From on, press mode to cycle modes
  • From off, hold both switches to cycle between daily or demo modes
  • From on, press power to turn off

The demo mode shuts the light off automatically 30 seconds after the last button press, whereas daily mode leaves it on until turned off. Unlike on the TUP, there is no way to extend the demo timer without changing modes.

I really like that there's momentary access to turbo here. I also like the actually low low mode, and the spacing overall is good. As much as I usually don't like long press to turn a light on, it makes sense for a keychain light where avoiding accidental activation is key. It's also nice that there aren't any strobe modes making things difficult.

Some people are upset about the turbo mode being momentary only, but I think that's a little ridiculous. Getting 700 lumens out of a light smaller than a tictac box is phenomenal, and anyone who thinks the cell or thermal performance could handle that for extended periods of time needs to check their math.

Light Quality and Beam

Two XP-G3 emitters behind a custom TIR optic are what's used for this light.

Compared to a 4500K Nichia E21A in a Jetbeam Jetu, the tint shift across the beam is clear. To my eyes, it goes from a yellow hotspot, to a blue corona, and then to an even more yellow ring around the perimeter of the beam. The emitter selection here is the main drawback of this light, and I would love to see Nitecore offer a high CRI model as they have in the past, with either Nichia 219C or Samsung LH351D emitters instead.

Power and Runtime

The light is powered from an internal cell, claimed at 500 mAh.

On high, output is nice and stable until it starts to climb for the last few minutes. It stayed on for 86 minutes, 11 longer than the time listed in the manual.

Medium output stays steady for a little over 5 hours before it starts to slowly drop, finally falling below 10% after over 7.5 hours. This is a bit less than the claimed 8 hour runtime, but not by much.

Charging

To charge the light, just plug a micro-USB cable into the port on the light.

Both test showed charging a bit under half an amp drawn from the USB port, and took about an hour and 45 minutes to fill up the cell. There's some small drain when the charge is complete, but that's likely just to keep the indicating LEDs lit.

Teardown

The wording for this section was chosen very carefully - this is a teardown, not a guide. If you do this, you could very well break your light and will definitely void your warranty. I do this so you don't have to, and to show you what's inside this impressive little package.

 To open the light up, I first removed the two T4 screws holding the switch place in. Once that was out, I could remove the switch covers and the silicone gasket sealing water out of the light. Once the switch covers are removed, pushing gently on the TIR popped the entire assemble out the rear end. The brass piece is a heat spreader, seated under the MPCB and in contact with the aluminum body to help manage the thermals.

 The entire driver is on a flexible PCB. The wires at the bottom lead to the pouch cell on the other side and the charge port. There's a nice o-ring sealing water out of this end, and another at the head. I was quite impressed by the seals on this light. It does look like the solder points on the top right are sitting a bit high and may come in contact with the body of the light - it's anodized inside, but I would have preferred for that edge of the PCB to be tucked in like the lower edge is, just to avoid any unwanted shorts.

 This construction allows them to bend the driver around the cell, and have the buttons placed on the same PCB.

The LEDs are on a separate MPCB, again for better thermal performance. Interestingly enough, there are two negative contacts going to the driver, but these are connected to each other on the MPCB. It's possible they can be addressed separately by the driver, which would mean that special editions with two independent emitters could be possible - that's what Nitecore did with the THUMB LEO in the past.

Beneath the driver, the 500 mAh cell takes up almost all of the internal space in the light.

Since I was in there already, I de-soldered the MPCB and reflowed some 90 CRI 5000K Samsung LH351D to make my own TIP2 CRI.

Soldering the MPCB back onto the driver is a bit touchy, and I think I separated the Kapton from one of the two negative traces a bit - but I was able to get it back together. and working.

Compared to the original XP-G3, these LEDs have a wider hotspot, but a much more even beam. This image shows them next to the same 4500K E21A used for the original comparison.

Summary

Pros:

  • Good form factor, fantastic unibody build
  • Good UI with momentary turbo from any state, pocket activation prevention
  • Hat clip, magnet, and quick remove keychain attachments
  • Built in charging
  • Internal construction is impressive

Cons:

  • I don't like the XP-G3 LED selected for this light

Notes and Links

This product was provided free of charge from the manufacturer. I was not paid to write this review, and have tried to be as unbiased as possible.

Manufacturer's product page

Amazon product listing (affiliate link)

Zeroair's review

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

Edited by: bmengineer on 05/29/2019 - 15:11
AnhTran
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Thank you for a very nice review. How does the mcpcb keep a good contact with the aluminium shelf? I don’t see any screws there

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AnhTran wrote:
Thank you for a very nice review. How does the mcpcb keep a good contact with the aluminium shelf? I don’t see any screws there

There’s no aluminum shelf, the internal frame is plastic. The brass heat spreader has a bend just a hair above 90 degrees, so it pushes upwards on the MPCB and outwards on the body of the light. The whole frame is also held forwards against the optics with the screws at the switch, and it’s a pretty tight fit to begin with.

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Lexel
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too bad a full frame aluminum case like the UC15 would have been nice

bmengineer
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Lexel wrote:
too bad a full frame aluminum case like the UC15 would have been nice

I guess it would have, but the exterior here is all aluminum. Only the internals are plastic, and the rear housing for the USB port. I don’t really see any structural weak points. I would worry about the stability of the switch over time, but the cell sits right behind the frame for added support.

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avservice
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No lockout=BAD.

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avservice wrote:
No lockout=BAD.

I recognize you

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avservice
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I forgot my clever disguise!

I am just tired of buying Nitecore lights that turn on in my pocket.
Now they don’t even try to prevent it anymore?

bansuri
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Thanks for the teardown! Got mine today and it desperately needed some different emitters, fortunately I’d already seen the inside so I knew what to expect.
It’s nice to know any potential issues ahead of time and your great pictures and description made the mod go quickly.
UI could sure use some adjustments but the form factor and other features are fantastic. Fits right in the 5th pocket.
Thanks again,
Robert

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Perfect, glad it helped you out.

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bansuri
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The TIP2 is slick for my old hands and also I value things that are more visible than black so I put some 1” HeatShrink Tubing w adhesive on mine.
I’m not used to using this large type for hobby use so it’s not perfect. The adhesive bubbles up at some point then the tubing starts swelling again after it’s already shrunk. When that happens it can create a void or thicker section. Anyway it did what I needed it to do. More grippy and more easily seen.
Still struggling with my firstworldproblem of 2 second press to ON and no shortcut to Moonlight but other than that this is the ultimate 5th pocket light.
By carrying it in 5th pocket there is still room for a D4V2 or SC64 if needed.

bmengineer
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Looks good!

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Another thanks for the teardown; mine arrived last week and I couldn’t stand the tint shift of those XP-G3’s, especially as I had some of BSM’s SST-20 95CRI 4000K calling my name from the packet; always easier when you know what to expect Thumbs Up

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It certainly has some of the best looking innards of any light I’ve torn into so far.

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Boro
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Thank you for the review; I found this light to be exceptionally useful and versatile. Small size, magnet disconnect and clip/hat mount work wonderfully .
Jerommel
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Hey, thanks for the tear down. Thumbs Up

Seems fairly easy to swap those horrific XP-G3’s with Nichia or SST-20. Thumbs Up

The 1.3 second turn on delay sucks a little… Facepalm

I will probably get one anyway, i think it’s a really nice little package.
I saw one on AE for 23 Euro.
Still not cheap though…

2Q19

bansuri
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Jerommel, the wait makes you use the light when you really, really need it. UI is not ideal but damn, the size and 5th pocket fit is just perfect.
There’s almost no chance it would come on in the 5th pocket, (little pocket above front pocket in blue jeans and some pants) but I guess they figured some folks would put it on their keychain. That’s something I would never consider unless my keychain consisted of a single key.
Swapping emitters is a breeze, if you’re careful you don’t even have to unsolder to MCPCB from the circuit.
For whatever reason the SST-20s create a better beam profile. I tried some Nichia and the spill was very rectangular. SST-20 spill is round all the way out except a tiny bit at the edges.

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Okay, thanks for the TIP Silly

I think they should have used frosted or pebbled optics in the TIP2.
Especially since they chose to put XP-G3 in it..
The TINI has a very nice pebbled optic.

2Q19