Nitecore HC65 v2

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Nitecore HC65 v2 Review: Headlamp

Nitecore HC65 v2 specifications

Brand/modelNitecore HC65 v2
LEDLuminus SST-40-W
Lumens1,750 lm
Beam intensity10,000 cd
Battery config.1*18650 / 2*CR123A / 2*RCR123
MaterialAluminum
Modes5+1Aux
BlinkiesRed blinking
ReflectorTIR
WaterproofIP68
Review dateDecember 2021

Introduction:

Nitecore has a serious lineup of headlamps, including some L-shape (or right-angle) lamps. But today we’re reviewing the HC65 v2, which is the second version of the HC65. The original HC65 used a CREE XM-L2 LED with a total of 1000 lumens and 3,000 cd. And the HC65 v2 was upgraded to a Luminus SST40 LED with a max output of 1750 lumens and 7,000 cd. That’s definitely an upgrade.

You might confuse the product name with the Nitecore HC60 v2 we reviewed earlier, but this is a different kind of flashlight. The HC60 has only 1 LED, and not red or AUX LEDs like the HC65 V2. So the HC65 v2 looks like an ‘upgraded’ version of the HC60 with multiple LEDs and features.

But just like the HC60 v2, it uses a 18650 battery and has onboard charging (with USB-C)

Package quality.

The Nitecore HC65 V2 arrived in a standard paperboard box that features the usual black-and-yellow Nitecore styling with some of its specifications printed on the front, and its features on the back. Inside the box you can find the following:

  • The headlamp: Nitecore HC65 v2
  • Battery: Nitecore NL1835HP : 18650 battery with 3500mAh
  • USB-A to USB-C charging cable
  • Headband
  • 2 o-rings
  • Warranty card

The contents looks similar to the HC60 v2. However, the battery provided with the HC60 v2 has a capacity of 3400mAh.

Flashlight in use

There are a few different designs for headlamps, with the two main ones being L-shaped (right angle) and T-shaped. The L-shaped lights can be pretty nice since they work as both a headlamp as well as a handheld flashlight. But as a dedicated headlamp, some people don’t like the L-shaped headlamps as the beam is to the side and can feel a bit unnatural. The Nitecore HC65 V2 is a T-shaped headlamp with the main emitter centered in the body of the headlamp, and the red and AUX LEDs on each side. 

The Nitecore HC65 V2 comes with the headband pre-installed. And while you could potentially take it off, I see no reason to do so. The strap itself is pretty nice and feels like it’s made of good quality. It’s the additional strap that goes over the head and helps with stability. The straps connect to plastic + rubber brackets. The strap has a few sections of rubberized grip on the inside which can help keep the strap from sliding around, particularly on hats and helmets. Overall, the Nitecore HC65 V2 is pretty comfortable to wear.

I took the headlamp with me on a 50-minute bike ride at night, and even on Medium setting, it was plenty bright to see 15-20 meters in front of me. And the weight and position of the HC65 v2 on my forehead didn’t feel strange or annoying. I must say that I was wearing a beanie.

Build Quality, and Warranty

When it comes to the build quality, everyone who owns a Nitecore flashlight knows that they are built well. Their anodization is top-notch, black HAIII, with a relatively matte finish. The threads near the battery cap are anodized as well, and greased. Just the type of coating you expect on a high-quality headlamp like this.

There is knurling on both of the end caps. The end cap, covering the USB-C port is actually connected to the headlamp is held on with a firm tether so you won’t lose it while it’s charging. It’s also interesting to note that the USB port is built inside the threads, and not at the end of the battery compartment.

As far as warranty goes, Nitecore has your back with three levels of guarantee:

  • Exchange and DOA/defective products locally within 15 days of purchase
  • Defective / malfunctioning products will be repaired free of charge for 60 months
  • Beyond 60 months, Nitecore will cover the cost of the labor and the end user is responsible for the cost of the parts

LED, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector

The Nitecore HC65 V2 moved from the CREE XML2 to the Luminus SST40 LED. This is a pretty popular LED that you see in many flashlights these days. Moving from the CREE to the Luminus is a nice upgrade. Like most Nitecore products, my HC65 V2 came with a cool white LED. Although the SST40-W is available in 5000K, 5700K, and 6500K.

The LED is centered behind a TIR optic. Nitecore calls it PDOT: “Precision Digital Optics Technology”. The beam has a nice wide spill with a hotspot that is not too apparent and doesn’t look bad. I don’t mind the lack of High CRI in the main beam, because you can always change to the AUX LED, that is supposed to be High CRI.

I measured the beam inside my integrating sphere and got the following measurements. Keep in mind that the Opple Lightmaster is no laboratory-level spectrometer, but it gives a nice indication. This is an average of the measurements I took.

Main light:

  • CCT: between 5100-5300K
  • CRI/Ra: between 63.0-63.2
  • DUV: 0.0099

That’s on the cool side, but definitely not too blueish.

For the Hi CRI light I measured the following:

  • CCT: around 4200K
  • CRI/Ra: around 82.3
  • DUV: 0.0061

This is a neutral white light, and getting a little warm in my opinion.

Although these numbers would indicate a slightly greenish tint… you won’t see any green, unless you compare it to one below BBL. (If you don’t know what this means, just skip this part, because only a handful of people care about this).

Dimensions and size comparison

  • Diameter/length: 92.19 mm / 3.63 ”
  • Thickness: 25.3  mm / 0.99 ”
  • Caps diameter: 26.35 mm / 1.04 ”

Weight: 

  • Headlamp only: 66 grams / 2.33 oz
  • Headlamp with battery: 116.3 grams / 4.10 oz
  • Headstrap with headlamp empty: 113.9 g / 4.01 oz
  • Headstrap with headlamp and battery: 164.3 g / 5.8 oz

Headlamp comparison

Size compared to another Nitecore headlamp

Nitecore UT27 and Nitecore HC65 v2

Driver & User Interface:

Like with many flashlights, the HC65v2 uses its own dedicated UI. But there are a few nice features that makes it pretty useful, as long as you can remember what they are :–)

Available modes:

  • Main mode menu: Ultra Low, Low, Medium, High, Turbo
  • Special mode menu: red low, red high, red blinking, High CRI AUX, slow strobe, SOS

From OFF:

  • Single-click: Ultra Low
  • Double click: activates Special menu with red, hi CRI AUX, and blinky modes
  • Triple-click: nothing, just the next mode in Special menu
  • Press and hold 1 sec: last used mode
  • Press and hold 2 sec: Turbo mode (continous) it will first return to the memorized mode, but then moves on to Turbo

From ON:

  • Single-click: next mode in the menu from Ultra Low to Turbo (Turbo is part of the normal menu)
  • Double click: Turbo (temporarily, as it returns back to last used mode after 30 seconds)
  • Triple-click: just returns to the same mode, jumping to Turbo and back
  • Press and hold: turns off

Shortcuts:

  • To Turbo: press the switch for 3 seconds from Off.. or double click from ON (main modes) for temproraily activation (30 seconds)
  • To Moon: single click from off

Mode memory:

  • Yes, with a long-press you can return to previous used mode in the Main menu

Blinky modes menu:

  • Only in the Special mode group

Low battery warning:

  • The light will automatically go to the lowest mode and continues to run for many hours

Lock-out mode:

  • No

PWM:

  • Not visible, even if it had it.

Firmware / UI Conclusion:

The switch has a translucent cover and a blue indicator LED. When inserting the battery, the indicator LED will blink the battery Voltage. 4 blinks, pause, and 2 blinks means: 4.2V. 3 blinks, pause, and 7 blinks means: 3.7V.

Batteries & Charging

Another nice upgrade from the HC60 v1 is the USB-C charge port. The v1 still used a Micro USB port, which is a little more difficult to use, because it’s only usable in 1 direction. For USB-C it doesn’t really matter what the top and bottom of the USB plug are.

The charge current is about 1.9A, and a full charge takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes from testing. While charging, the blue indicator LED blinks.

It also works with a USB-C to USB-C cable, but there are no real benefits, because the current and Voltage just stays the same. So it still charges at 5V with a max of up to about 1.9A.

Nitecore says that it doesn’t work with flat tops, but I tried a flat top Sanyo cell, and it works just fine. And since the Nitecore’s NL1835HP batteries are one of the longer ones, I don’t see any problems with any battery.

Performance

Lumen measurements:

All output numbers are relative to my homemade Integrating Sphere. It is set up with an Extech SDL400 Lux Meter for measurements including a Kenko PRO1D ND-16 filter. The base measurement is done with a Convoy S2+ that has been tested at 255 lumens.

For Amp readings, I use a Fluke 77III DM, and the readings are taken at turn on. For higher amps, I now use a Fluke 325 True RMS clamp meter. For microamps, I use a cheap DMM with an easy-to-use micro amp setting.

All of my readings were taken from a fully-charged Nitecore NL1835HP 18650 type battery with 3500mAh.

ModeAmps Specs@turn on@30sec@10minutes
AUX white0.10A35 lm373636
Ultra-low0.0078A (7.8mA)10.601.21
Low0.09A5053.7853.7854
Med0.47A250278277273
High2.13A900962941872
Turbo4.13A1750 lm1831 lm1716 lm679 lm

My measurements were pretty close to specs, and even above specs in most modes. Keep in mind that I measured them with an ND filter installed. Therefore, the difference between turn on and 30 seconds in Ultra-Low low seems big, but that’s actually just the lowest lux numbers the luxmeter can measure with that camera ND filter installed. So it’s like 1lux vs 2lux..

Parasitic drain:

  • 0.02 mA (The 3500 mAh battery would take 175.000 hours to dicharge completely.

Runtime:

The runtime test was done with the 50cm integrating sphere, including the Kenko Pro1D ND-16 filter and Extech SDL400 data logging Lux Meter. The battery used: Nitecore NL1835HP 3500mAh.

Runtime zoomed into the first 3 hours.

Turbo mode started at around 1830 lumens and dropped to roughly 1500 lumens in 2 minutes, and at 10 minutes it was at around 680lumens. At around 20 minutes it settled at roughly 620-630 lumens and ran till it dropped again at the 2 hours and 5 minutes mark, to roughly 40 lumens. This is not the end of the battery life, because it continued at this output, till after 4hours-14minutes it dropped to 1 lumen. It still didn’t turn off, and continued for several hours, although I stopped the test before it turned off. It never really turned off, even after letting it run for several hours. When the light drops to the 1 lumen level, the battery is around 3V. (Specs: 30 min)

High started at 962 lumens and slowly declined in output to 872 lumens at 10 minutes when it dropped rapidly till it reached about 550 lumens, and slowly increased to about 570 lumens. At the 2 hours-26minutes mark, it dropped to 255 lumens. And at 2 hours-34minutes it dropped even further, to 51 lumens. After 3 hours and 24 minutes, it dropped to 1 lumen. It continued running for many hours. (Specs: 2h 15min)

Medium was very stable, and started at 278 lumens, and ran for 6 hours and 12 minutes when it dropped to 50 lumens. At 6h and 56 minutes, the light dropped to 1 lumen. Again I stopped the runtime before it turned off completely. (Specs: 6h)

Low mode was also very stable, at 54 lumens, and ran for 31 hours and almost 29 minutes when it dropped to a 1 lumen output. (Specs: 28h)

The High CRI AUX LED in the Special mode group is also tested, and it started at around 36 lumens. After 29 hours and 54 minutes, the output started to slowly decline till it reached 8 lumens after 32 hours and 58 minutes. At this point, I think I turned the light off manually. (Specs: 20h)

Ultralow isn’t tested, as it is rated at 800 hours, which equals to 33 days. When I calculate 7.8mA from 3500mAh it’s 448 hours. But the measurement goes a little up and down. But even at 448 hours, that means more than 18 days.

Throw Measurement

Measurements were taken indoors at 5 meters with a professional Hagner E4-X Lux Meter. Measurements were taken 30 seconds after turn on. Ultra Low was too low to measure at 5 meters. These are measured candelas.

ModeSpecsmeasured candelain metersin yards
Low200 cd250 cd3235
Medium1,100 cd1,275 cd7178
High3,810 cd4,400 cd133145
Turbo7,000 cd8,175 cd181 meters198 yards

I’m happy to say that Nitecore’s throw numbers are pretty conservative.

Beamshots

For the following beamshots I used a Canon EOS 5D Mk2 and a 50mm lens. manual settings: ISO1600, 1/4sec , F4, 5000K

The reflective fence is about 200 meters / 219 yards away. 

Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by Nitecore. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.

Final Verdict

Pros

  1. Plenty bright for a headlamp
  2. USB-C charging (less trouble with inserting your USB cable)
  3. No PWM
  4. Red + blinking red = great for emergency while biking
  5. High CRI option in Special mode group
  6. Good quality overhead headband
  7. Battery voltage indicator

Cons

  1. Need to get used to the UI a bit
  2. Screwing back the cover for the USB port can be a little tricky
  3. The switch can be a bit difficult to find when wearing gloves

Explanation on star ratings:

1: Avoid: my phone flashlight would be a better choice – 2: Poor: significant defect or issues; almost unusable – 3: Average: some defects or issues; but still usable 4: Good: recommended (minor issues) – 5: Great: highly recommended

Reviewer Marco
Author: Marco

5 stars: ★★★★★

I think Nitecore did a good job on this headlamp. It has some interesting features and comes with all the accessories you need to get going. This includes a 18650 battery, as well as a USB-A to USB-C charging cable.

It’s not the brightest headlamp out there, nor is it meant to be used for jogging, but as an all-around headlamp, this is a great choice.

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1lumen selects and reviews products personally. We may earn affiliate commissions through our links, which help support our testing.