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Review: Nitecore P18

The Nitecore P18 is one of Nitecore’s newest lights in their P Series (Precise Series). It is aimed at the “tactical” market and manages to shoe-horn 1800 lumens into a surprisingly compact package. It also packs a number of interesting ideas that made me jump at the chance to review it.

Overview

The P18 is just over 4″ long and weighs in at 3.7 ounces. It utilizes a CREE XHP35 HD LED to pump out up to 1800 lumens and is powered by a single 18650 rechargeable battery (included). It comes packaged with a manual, sheath, extra o-ring, and lanyard.

This light boasts a completely silent “tactical switch” and die-cast aluminum construction, both of which really piqued my interest.

Observations from Use

I consider this light to be very ambitious with a number of forward-thinking ideas and concepts. It is VERY different in construction and operation than any light I have ever used so it should come as no surprise that some of the ideas in this light really connect and some could probably be improved.

The tree line in this photo is 40 yards away. Turbo mode is activated. This photo does not do the spill beam justice but you can see the intensity and size of the hot spot even at 40 yards.

Beam – The P18’s beam is balanced with an emphasis on flood. It has a relatively wide, defined hotspot with an ever-so-slightly donut-like hole in the middle. This “hole” is slightly noticeable on a white wall but it is so slight that you do not see it outdoors. The spill portion of the beam is wide and bright. The engineers at Nitecore appear to have successfully balanced both throw and spill. I find it excellent for all-around use.

Construction – I think the die-cast aluminum body design of this light is very successful. It is a unique shape for sure but it is a shape and construction method with some strong advantages. First, it seems to handle heat very well, staying cooler on turbo mode than other lights I have with even less output. Second, the flat-ish sides allow this light to ride in the pocket VERY comfortably and easy to index which is important given the switch configuration. The overall shape and benefits of the die-cast body are some of my favorite things about this light. I was pleasantly surprised with how much of a difference it made in the overall experience with the P18 and I hope Nitecore continues to play to with this concept with future lights.

Switches – The P18 has two switches: a small round switch on the side that controls only the red LED and a larger switch that controls all of the white light options on the tail of the light. Both switches are metal so there are no rubber boots to wear out.

The tail switch is shaped roughly like a rectangle and is located directly next to the P18’s battery cap which can make pressing the switch a little awkward unless the light is oriented in your hand correctly (which is easy to do thankfully). It is what Nitecore calls a “silent tactical switch” which means it has no feedback at all – no click and no real change in resistance. This can take some getting used to since half presses are required to move through the UI (user interface) and the line between a half and full press is minimal. I would prefer that the switch offered more feedback as I think that would make the UI a little easier to deal with. As it stands, I think that one of the things holding this light back is the main switch.

User Interface – The user interface of this light is relatively easy to move through, but, as stated above, the switch can feel like it is fighting you at times. I actually like the output spacing between modes but given the complexity, I find this better suited as an outdoor light than a tactical light.

The UI offers 5 levels of white light, 3 flashing white light modes, a red light mode, and a battery charge level indication. All modes are accessed via two switches.

The side button controls the red light and allows direct access to ultralow white light.

  • Press and hold to activate the red LED.
  • Press and hold to deactivate the red LED.
  • Press and hold the side button and tail button to access ultralow mode directly.
  • Long press (3+ seconds) to view the battery level indicator flash sequence.

The rear button controls numerous white light functions.

From Off:

  • Press and hold the main button to enter Turbo mode directly (after a short delay). Release to turn light off.
  • Press and release to enter the last used output mode. The light remains on after release.
  • Half press to enter last used mode. Release to turn light off.

From On:

  • Half press to switch between output modes (including Turbo).
  • Half press and hold to access Turbo mode directly. Release to return to last used output mode.
  • Full press and hold for 1 second to enter the special modes (strobe/beacon/SOS).

As with most flashlight UIs, they look more complicated on paper than they really are. However, this is more complicated than I would like in a tactical light but the multiple modes and all-around useful beam shape make this handy as a camping/hiking light in my opinion. In fact, I really like it in that role. It is also important to point out that this UI has two important features: direct access to turbo and direct access to ultralow.

Battery – The P18 can be powered by 2x CR123A/RCR123 or 1x 18650 battery. It comes with a flat-top 3100 mAh 18650 cell. The light is limited to cells under 67mm in length. It can operate with longer protected 18650 cells but the tail cap will not fully close rendering the light susceptible to water ingress. The use of CR123A or RCR123 cells will remove access to the turbo mode (high mode replaces turbo for all direct-access functions). The cap will fully close on 2x CR123A cells.

Build Quality – The build appears to be very good on this light. The threads and o-ring came greased from the factory. The tail cap turns smoothly with no grittiness. The LED is well centered in a flawless reflector. There is no dust under the lens. The finish is evenly applied and attractive.

Other Observations – The pocket clip on this light is excellent. It grips the pocket well and, because of the mostly flat sides of the light, it allows the light to carry very comfortably in the pocket. It is not reversible which seems like an unfortunate oversight.

Wrap Up

Nitecore markets this light for the “tactical” market and I think that is a miss. The switch and user interface conspire to make it just a bit too complex for that market. The switch doesn’t offer enough feedback to allow the user to work within the UI effectively. However, I find this to be an excellent light for outdoor use and I applaud a UI design that offers direct access to both the brightest and dimmest white light settings.

I was surprised at what a positive functional difference the shape and unibody, die-cast construction make. I hope that Nitecore continues to innovate this unique shape and construction method.

Flashlight.Nitecore.com


Nitecore provided this light, free of charge, for review.

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