Nitecore HC70 Headlamp

Preface

I’ve had this light for a little while and like the idea. Another offering by Nitecore and also a power pack let’s see how it fares!


Official Specs and Features

Versions

There is just one version of this headlamp.  Looks like a kit is available, which includes cells, too.

Price

$99.95.  There looks to be a version that includes cells, which is around $119.95.


Short Review

This is a nice headlamp and very functional but its usefulness could be expanded and the cord doesn’t really need to be so long. It could even be a bike light with the right mount.

Long Review

What’s Included

  • Nitecore HC70 headlamp
  • Head strap
  • Manual
  • Charge cord

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Package and Manual

This package is fairly typical line for with black and yellow everywhere. It has the usual specifications and features and photos on the box.  The box is a little flimsy, but that’s not a huge deal.

This box is bigger though because there’s a lot of material included with this package.  For example, the cord connecting the headlamp to the battery pack.  It’s long!

Here’s a pdf of the manual.  It’s a fine manual, and up to Nitecore’s usual manual standards.  A big sheet of paper, with many languages printed on.

Build Quality and Disassembly

While there are a few things that I would like to improve, this is a well-built light. Both the headlamp and the battery part are solidly constructed.  The battery has a screw down end.  This end has threads that are unanodized, and square.  Big nice threads.

The headlamp itself is nicely built.  It’s… anodized but I’d call it much more of a powdercoat feel (maybe it is actually powdercoat?).  The headlamp is mounted to the plastic parts for the headstrap, and doesn’t seem to be removable from that.  A nice addition here would be a helmet mount, or a bike handlebar mount – but the headstrap parts obfuscate that.  Maybe v2 of this unit will feature these improvements.

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As stated elsewhere, the cord connecting the lamp to the battery is quite long.  Too long? I don’t know…. too long for me, yes.

The battery has a screw down closure.  Fortunately Nitecore includes an appropriate tool for opening this, and it stays handy by fitting in it’s location, and staying there magnetically.  That said, a coin could be used in this very wide slot.  This closure is not hard to operate, but it’s fairly specific.  Do it right or the cover will be askew.

Size

The official dimensions are 64mm x 36mm x 56mm.  I’d call that a little meaningless since there are two essentially separate parts of this device.  However I will say that the battery is quite long, for what it is.

Retention

There’s a removable pocket clip on the battery.  The clip is quite large, and has a usable mouth, but is not all that thick.  I like the clip, even if it is a little large.

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And of course the head unit has the appropriate connectors for connecting to the two-piece strap.  (Two piece = around head and over head both.)

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There’s no pouch or anything else for carrying this light.

Power

The HC70 is powered by two 18650 cells.  In my testing I found that these cells must be quite long.  Any cell will work, but they just need to be long.  Even these Efests seen below didn’t quite cut it – I had to add a small rare earth magnet to the positive end.  And that was a little problematic because the driver end of the light is highly magnetic, so the magnet didn’t like staying where I put it.  Still, it worked.

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Runtime was on mode 5 (highest) with a number of resets, and cooling turned off appx midway through.  After runtime, the individual cells were at 3.2V and 2.48V (blue test).  In the second test, where I’d added magnets to the cells, the cells discharged much more evenly, to 2.95V (red test).  I like that the light will reset to near-turbo over and over during the run.  Just be sure that both of your cells make GOOD contact.  I say “good” because the light won’t work on just one cell, so in my ‘bad’ run the cell must have been making some contact.  How can you be sure?  Well, I’d recommend just starting with a magnet.  (I only had very small magnets.  Larger diameter ones, for the negative terminal, would possibly work better.)

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The HC70 does have LVP – at around 3.05V the light strobes wildly (not “strobe” but more like…. random strobe).  Then around 2.95-3.0V, the light does shut off completely.

The cell tube does have on-board charging, too.  That’s done by a standard micro-USB connection, and a cable is provided.

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There’s a battery level indicator, too.  Three bars means “charged.”

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The line color below corresponds to the runtimes in the graph above.  The blue looks wonky because it is – I was charging two disparate cells.  The graph gives me the idea that it’s charging the cells independently, for seconds at a time.  That could be wildly wrong, of course.  At the end of the red test, the cells were at 4.2V and 4.12V.  I am not sure I’d call this very good charging, unfortunately.  It could be.

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A couple other niggles about the power on this unit.  The 2-up battery pack will not operate with just one cell (disappointing).  The unit is not complicated to open, but it’s still cumbersome – clearly the idea is to have a couple of cells that just live in this light, and are never removed.  I wouldn’t hate that idea if you’re using protected cells, but with unprotected cells (like those Efests), I’d recommend checking the voltage periodically to be sure you didn’t under charge either cell.  The USB plug that the light goes into does not have a cover.  So the pack alone would not be a good travel power pack.  I can’t imagine why Nitecore didn’t include a separate cover.  That said, the light’s male USB has a sealing cover, so when it’s plugged in it does provide protection.

The USB-out for the light can clearly provided ample current (over 1A, I’d guess) since it’s running an XM-L2 at over 1000 lumens.  (If I read Texas_Ace correctly, you’d need to hit an XM-L2 with around 3.3A to get 1000 lumens out of it.)  My USB load was able to pull nearly 3A on one port, and over 3A on the other port, down to around 4V.

User Interface and Operation

The head has a mode e-switch.

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And the tail has a button, too.

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Here’s how the light operates.  First a bit of a caveat:  When the light (head) is plugged in to the USB power source, the light turns on to the previously used mode.  As far as I know this is not avoidable.  I don’t like this at all.  Secondly, the light may be turned off (and on) from the button on the battery pack.  No mode changes, only off and on.  This is really more of turning the battery pack off and on, which I like.  Combining these two means the light can be connected and “off” but that’s a result of the battery pack being off.  This is acceptable.  (As a result, take all items in the “Action” column below to be from the head switch, not the battery switch.)  On to the actual UI.

 

State Action Result
 Off Click On (Ultralow)
 On Click Mode Advance (L>H direction)
 On Hold Off
 Off Hold Mode Memory (Including Turbo)
 Off Long Press Mode Memory, then Turbo
 Off Double Tap Special Modes
 Special Mode Group Click Special Advance (Caution>SOS>Beacon)

Modes

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Mode Measured Lux
Turbo 1000 2h15m 20500
High  550 4h 17160
Mid  240 10h 4390
Low  65 30h 517
Ultralow  1 220h 33

LED and Beam

Nitecore chose a Cree XM-L2 for this light.  The shallow reflector is smooth, and the beam is a fairly tight spot with reasonable spill.

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Tint vs BLF-348

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Beamshots, Runtime, and Lux Measurements

Nitecore HC70
Emitter Cree XM-L2
Emitter Notes
Cell 18650×2
Glamour Shots Beamshots [0.3″, f/8, ISO 100, 5000k]
Runtime 18650×2
Chargetime 18650×2
LVP? Warning
Claimed Lumens (lm) 1000
Lux (Measured) 435 lux @ 4.931 m
Candela (Calculated) in cd 10576.9
Throw (Calculated) (m) 205.7
Throw (Claimed) (m) 182

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

There are surprisingly some fairly similar lights in this category.  For example, the Fenix HP30 has the [nearly] same setup (three years ago).  I know that Fenix makes quality products, but it’s otherwise hard to compare the two.  The HC70 does have twice the USB outs.

Conclusion

What I like

  • Output is good
  • Modes are simple enough
  • I like these separate battery back, which has on-board charging and USB-out
  • Built quality is good

What I don’t like

  • Uneven discharge unless very long cells are used.
  • Cord between headlamp and battery is very long (and hard wired to the head).

Up Next

Likely the JETBeam TH20, but maybe (hopefully!) some other stuff next week, too.

Notes

  • This light was provided by Nitecore for review. I was not paid to write this review.
  • This content originally appeared at zeroair.wordpress.com.  Please visit there for the best experience!
  • Whether or not I have a coupon for this light, I do have a bunch of coupons!!  Have a look at my spreadsheet for those coupons.  Note I’ve upgraded that sheet so that now, you may subscribe and get notifications when the sheet is edited!!

Author: zeroair

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