Nitecore TIP SS Tropical Keychain Flashlight Review

Nitecore seems to love the TIP series of lights.  They’ve released a stainless steel version, and sent one out for me to review.  I happen to like stainless lights, so I already kind of liked it from the start.


Official Specs and Features

Versions

There are three colors of this stainless steel light.  One is PVD titanium coated and one (or both of the others) is  “mirror polish”.  I have the PVD titanium coated version.  The manual does mention a “TIP SS CRI” but I don’t see those for sale (yet?) anywhere.

Price

MSRP is $34.95.


Short Review

Another nice iteration of the TIP series.  I’d love for this one to be high CRI (and a SS CRI version may be available soon – manual indicates such).  But this is a solid little light, and the stainless adds some nice heft.

Long Review

The Big Table

Nitecore Tip SS
Emitter: Cree XP-G2 (S3)
Price in USD at publication time:
Cell: Internal
High Runtime
LVP? ?
Switch Type: E-Switch
Quiescent Current (A): ?
On-Board Charging? Yes
Charge Port Type: micro-USB
Chargetime
Power off Charge Port with no Cell?
Claimed Lumens (lm) 360
Claimed Throw (m) 74
Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s) 290lux @ 2.113m = 1295cd
Throw (Calculated) (m) 72.0 (97.3% of claim)*
All my Nitecore reviews!

* Standard measurement disclaimer: I am an amateur flashlight reviewer. I don’t have $10,000 or even $1,000 worth of testing equipment. I test output and such in PVC tubes!! Please consider claims within 10% of what I measure to be perfectly reasonable (accurate, even).

What’s Included

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  • Nitecore TIP SS Tropical
  • Split ring
  • Clip
  • Small ring
  • Manual/papers

Package and Manual

Black and orange box but this time it has a window!  And not only that, the buttons may be activated while the light is fully inside the package.  For demonstration purposes, of course.  The box has the usual Nitecore-level printing with specs and features.

The manual too, is all Nitecore.  It’s a large fold out sheet, printed with a bunch of languages, including English.  The manual does a good job of covering all the info you’d need about the light.  And one thing I love about Nitecore?  Their manuals are almost all available online!  Here’s the Tip SS.

Build Quality and Disassembly

It could be just the extra weight of the stainless steel body, but this version of the TIP actually feels a good bit more solid than other TIPs I have.  It could also be the coating, which is very glossy and smooth (and also happens to look very nice).  But by and large this is just a standard Nitecore TIP.

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The light will tail and headstand, surprisingly.

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I did not disassemble this light.  There are four screws on the body but as I recall it requires more than removing these screws to disassemble this light.  Emitter swaps have been performed on these lights, though, so it can be done.

Size

Officially: Length: 60.8 mm,  Head :24.5 mm, Weight: 32 g.

It’s a small little light.  Not the smallest keychain light by any means, but it’s small.

It does stack up exactly with other Tips.

Bigger than the Tube, of course.

Retention

The TIP SS ships with a plastic clip attached.  This clip has multiple functions.  Primarily it’s a pocket clip.  Secondarily it can be oriented so that the sides cover the usb charging port.  (There is no cover for this port otherwise!)  The clip is fully removable.

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On the tail there’s also a loop where a lanyard may be attached.

Power

The TIP SS is powered by a non-swappable internal cell.  This cell is recharged via a micro-USB port on the side of the light.

The UI of this light makes running turbo nonstop hard (if not impossible – I didn’t figure out a way).  So the runtime is two sessions of turbo, which each step down to High after 30 seconds.  Thus, the majority of this runtime is really on High, after two 30 seconds of turbo.

Runtime.png

Below see the charge test of the TIP SS.  The cell’s capacity looks to be around 550mAh, and takes around 2 hours to fully charge.  The cell is quoted at 500mAh, so there’s some nice headroom allowed here.

Chargetime.png

The buttons turn from red to green when charging is complete.

User Interface and Operation

The TIP SS and the TIP2017 share a UI (and manual), so please forgive me for pasting the UI from the other review to this section.

There are two black square buttons, both with indicating leds (or one led between the two, more likely). One is labeled with power symbol, and the other has 4 dashes – this is the “mode” button. It’s not really possible to feel the difference (in pocket, for example) based on these symbols. Both of these buttons are very clicky, thought they interestingly have a slightly different click. It isn’t a bad click strictly speaking, but it’s in no way quiet.

There are two mode groups entirely.  One is “Daily” (factory default) and one is “Constant-On” mode.  To switch between these two, hold both switches until the light flashes.  One flash = Daily; two flashes = Constant-On.  Mode groups may be changed while the light is off, as well as on.  If on, the light will still be on in the same output as before.

In Daily, the light will turn off after 30 seconds. In Constant, the light will stay on until the power switch is pressed again.

In either group, click the Mode button (three lines) to cycle L>M>H.  There is mode memory in both groups, so that the light will come on in whatever state it was last in.

In either group, hold (>0.6s) the Mode button for Turbo, or the Power button for Low.

In either group,the TIP SS will stepdown from turbo after 30 seconds (and if you’re in Daily mode, the light should then shut off.)

There’s a power indicating option:  Click the Mode button while the light is off, and the switches (not the main emitter) will flash  according to cell charge.

3 flashes, cell is >50%
2 flashes, cell is below 50%
1 flash, cell is below 10%

Nitecore says it’ll take approximately 2 hours to charge the tip.  I found that to be about right, but even a little high.  It only took 100 minutes for me to charge from depleted.

There may be some further nuances to the UI, so I’d recommend checking the manual.  This is by far the most advanced Tip UI, so it’s worth having a look at.

Modes

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Mode Measured Lux
Turbo 360 30m 6690
High 150 1h30m 2540
Mid 35 6h30m 1083
Low 1 46h 22

LED and Beam

This TIP SS uses a Cree XP-G2, as the other non-CRI Tips do.  The outputs are largely the same, with the minor exception of an imperceptible bump at the Mid mode.  The beam as you’d expect, is very floody due to the small orange peel reflector – Probably the ideal beam profile for a keychain light.

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These beamshots are always with the following settings: f8, ISO100, 0.3s shutter, and manual 5000K exposure.

Tint vs BLF-348

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

Nitecore makes some of their own competition in this category. The Tube, the Thumb, and the variations on those two lights, make this a big category. Then there is the Mecarmy SGN3, a very similar light with more leds, and a shallower reflector. It’s rated for half the lumens of the TIP, and for a much higher cost. There is a Surefire variant. (And in case you’re interested in my opinion, I like the three emitter options on the SGN3, but not at the added cost. I’d probably pick this TIP for price considerations, and the dual switch).

The Manker Lad is still a competitor in this category and it’s quite compelling. It has a more featured UI, more emitters (including red) and a sealed port for the micro-USB charging. It’s a worthy contender. I’d still love to compare these two lights in person!

Conclusion

What I like

  • Metal body
  • Two mode groups add versatility
  • Quite bright for size
  • Indicating switches
  • Dual switches
  • Nichia option

What I don’t like

  • Just not in love with the clip.  It’s a bit bulky.  Glad it’s there, though, and I’m not sure how I could improve the design….

Up Next

I have a couple of Skilhunts that will probably come out as one review, and the SkyRC MC3000 up fairly soon, too.

Notes

  • This light was provided by Nitecore for review. I was not paid to write this review.
  • This content originally appeared at zeroair.org.  Please visit there for the best experience!
  • For flashlight related patches, stickers, and gear, head over to PhotonPhreaks, another site where I write!
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Author: zeroair

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