For many people, an 18650-powered flashlight is the natural progression from ‘beginner’ models that contain AA (or even AAA) batteries. It’s a sign that you’re serious about your flashlight – and you want a serious tool to do a serious job.
And there’s a bewildering array of choice out there, with some great models stretching well into the hundreds of dollars. But you don’t need to spend that much to get a solid, useful flashlight that ticks an awful lot of boxes.
The Nitecore EC20 is one such model. It’s sort of the baby brother of the P12GT tactical flashlight (review coming soon), very similar specs and feel, but without the tactical features that many buyers neither want nor need.
Instead, what you get is a smart-looking, compact light with a single button on the side to handle both on/off and mode-switching. It’s a simple, clean style that will appeal to people who don’t like tail-switches.
Usefully, the side switch houses a blue LED that will glow when the batteries are running low, so you’ve plenty of warning either to turn down the output and save juice or get ready for a recharge.
Operating the EC20 is simple, given there’s only the one switch to bother with. A single click turns it on and off, while you press and hold the switch with the light turned on to change modes, cycling up from 1 lumen, through 50 and 210 right up to full power of 960 lumens. There’s mode memory, so the flashlight remembers which setting it was previously in when turned back on.
There are also flashing modes too, which are accessed through a double-click of the side switch. Again, you press and hold when the light is on to step through the various modes. The sequence is: Strobe, Locator Beacon, SOS. For me, the Locator Beacon appears to be the most useful in the event of an emergency. It’s a genuinely useful mode that conveys a sense of urgency without the need for the viewer to know Morse Code. Coupled with its ability to tail-stand, and you’ve got a very handy emergency beacon.
Run-time is managed by a constant current circuit board to provide up to 520 hours in its lowest mode. At the 960 lumens level, you get 1.25 hours, which isn’t bad at all.
The EC20 weighs in at just 2.68oz without the battery, and is five inches long, making it easily pocketable or suitable for carrying long-term in a purse. But it’s meant to be used too, not just carried around. In the hand, the aircraft-grade aluminum alloy exterior feels reassuringly robust, which the company backs up with an impact-rating of 1.5 meters. It’s also IPX-8 water-resistant to two meters.
The EC20 comes with a lanyard and a spare O-ring, but not with a pocket clip or holster like the P12GT. It does, however, come with an 18650 battery as standard. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to purchase a charge, though there are many deals out there for the flashlight and a suitable charger combined.
The EC20 retails for a little over $40, representing remarkably good value for such an impressive flashlight. It’s the perfect light for someone looking to make the step up from an AA model – and it might just be all they ever want. After all, if you don’t need fancy tactical features, why pay for them?
- Small, light and strong
- Powerful output
- Locator Beacon mode is excellent
- Battery supplied
- No pocket clip or holster
- Need to have/buy a charger
The flashlight used for this review was provided to us by Nitecore. We’ll be giving away our review copy in the coming weeks to one lucky reader. Keep an eye out for how to enter.