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Nitecore P20 v2 FLASHLIGHT REVIEW: XPL2 LED 1100 LUMENS
|Brand / Model||Nitecore P20 v2|
|Lumens||1100 lumens (CR123), 1000 lumens (18650)|
|Beam intensity||12300 cd|
|Battery config.||1*18650 / 2*CR123|
|Waterproof||IP68 – 2m submersible|
|Review date||September 2020|
Today I have in my hot little hands (they’re cold and large, but I digress) another light from Nitecore, the P20 v2 – this is an upgrade to the venerable P20, released in 2014. The P20 featured a Cree XM-L2, rated at 800 lumens – the second iteration upgrades that to an XPL-2, bumps lumens to a maximum of 1100 (with CR123 cells), and retains the STROBE READY technology. There are some other upgrades, but they’ll be mentioned in due course.
A note before I go on:
I received the P10 v2 and P20 v2 at the same time for review, so there’s going to be an awful lot of crossover between the two reviews – please bear with me! There’s also a lot of comparison to be made, as they’re in the same family, and fill very similar roles.
The lights are very similar behind the head – the tailcap, UI, and emitter are the same, with the same rated specification apart from candela – the primary difference between them is the reflector and bezel, and how that affects the shaping of the head, along with small differences in the body.
As such, there’s a lot of data that’s an almost direct copy/paste between the two – I’ve opted to focus on improved measurements rather than retread old ground on things that are identical/very similar.
The P20 v2 arrived in a very impressive retail box. Small details have added to the experience, such as gloss printing on the light itself on the box and the reflective silver lumen count, which elevate it above packaging from other lights. I realise this isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it’s definitely nice to see on lights in this arena.
On opening the box, I’m greeted with a plastic tray to slide out. Inside the packaging, I find:
- A tray holding the P20 v2 itself
- Inside, a Nitecore NL1835HP battery with isolator shield
- Nitecore NTH20 holster
- A spare “clip” for this holster
- 2x spare o-rings
- Stainless clip with titanium coating
- 2x CR123 battery magazine
- Warranty card
This is a great bundle – everything you need to get up and running. There’s no charger, but a lot of law enforcement agencies will be using CR123 cells, so the point is moot – for those of us who like Li-Ion rechargeables, we’ll most likely have our own charger anyway.
In a difference to the P10 v2 box, this doesn’t have a cardboard tab to pull on to remove the tray, which is somewhat of a shame as most of the accessories are tucked in behind the tray, so some of them fell out while removing it.
This package also included an NL1835HP battery, rated at 8A continuous discharge, which was lovely to see; the P10 v2 I received came with a non-HD battery (rated for 4A continuous discharge). I don’t expect to see much of a difference given I was getting 3.4A on high in the P10 v2, but it’s still nice.
The tray for the P20 v2 also doesn’t have a recycling logo on it unlike the P10 v2 tray – not a huge issue, but I would have liked if it was recyclable.
Handling of the light
As with my previous Nitecore, this light has a great feel in the hand. There’s sufficient knurling and ridges in the light to make it very secure in the hand, and the flat spots on the side are a nice addition to give your fingers somewhere to rest in the tactical grip. There’s no sharp edges that I can see or detect with my hands, which gives it an even more premium feel; attention to detail appears wonderful.
The area behind the head of the light has large protrusions to help prevent it rolling away if placed down, which is great to see. I wouldn’t expect the light to be placed down given the included holster or clip, though.
Holstering the P20v2 is quite rapid – place the bezel into the bottom of the holster, and angle the light into the catching section. It will grab on in any rotation, but is far more secure when either of the “flat sides” is facing outwards. If you have the pocket clip on, it’ll still clip in, but it’s far less smooth to do so.
The primary switch is a forward-clicky type – You can half-press it from off to temporarily activate it, or fully press it to turn the light on/off. The Mode switch is an e-switch but is held in by the pivot pins (seen either side of the tailcap), and has a good “click” to it, so you’re aware that it has activated. I’ve read some comments in the last few days from when this tailcap was introduced; people lamenting the mode switch not being set out from the body. This is definitely less prone to accidental activation, but I can see how some people may not be a fan. I’ve encountered an issue activating it intentionally on only one occasion, and have tried a number of sets of gloves – the set I ran into issues with were my firefighting gloves, and that’s to be expected – they’re not made for finesse.
The included clip and lanyard are also good quality; the lanyard can fit around my hand easily, but can only attach to one place – the loop in the clip. The clip itself has a smooth yet matte-like finish that feels rugged and doesn’t catch when sliding the light into a pocket.
Tailstanding is a no, though – the primary button protrudes far too much to even consider it. It can technically tailstand in the holster, but lens-down is a far better orientation for that – it just looks strange facing the other way.
Something small that I do appreciate – the indentation that has the Nitecore logo and, on the opposite side, the P20 v2 marking, is actually milled out differently than on the P10 v2. I had at first thought that from the head back was identical, but the milling makes the flat surface more notched; it doesn’t continue out to the body. It’d be very easy to reuse the same body and reduce production costs, but I do appreciate the effort gone to – and I like this design more, as my fingers tuck into it better.
Build Quality, Knurling, Threads, and anodization
The P20 v2 I’ve received holds up to the quality I’ve come to expect of Nitecore; there’s a definite solid feel to it that is very welcome. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, but there’s a certain something about Nitecore’s lights. There’s plenty to grip onto, as both the knurling and the “lines” in the middle of the tube provide excellent grip. Those “lines” give spacing for the clip, so you can install it whichever way you like. That said, lens-down would be the most useful direction.
The included holster is fantastic – the bezel sits in a little lip, and can be removed by pulling on the button end of the light away from the body. It’s quite a natural feel when performing the movement, and as mentioned above, it fits best when the “flat” section of the light’s body faces outwards.
Inside the tube I can see the contact point for the battery – this appears to be a contact point on a spring, which is quite nice; it gives the light a bit more durability in harder use.
The anodisation on the light is mentioned as HA III Military Grade on the advertising blurb – this means that it’s thicker than 25µm (0.0025mm!). It’s definitely a step up from other anodisations I’ve felt.
The threads on the light are triangle-cut and quite long – this requires quite a bit of unscrewing to get the tailcap off. They’re very well lubricated, so the movement of doing so is very smooth. There’s two o-rings there too, which gives excellent environmental protection.
I’m impressed by the quality of the clip and lanyard – both are suitably sturdy. There’s a nice matte finish on the clip that feels better than some of the cheaper offerings, and the lanyard can actually fit around my hand – always a welcome sight.
LED, LENS, BEZEL, AND REFLECTOR
Nitecore have chosen an XP-L2 emitter for this light, at 6500K. While not my personal preference, I know that this is a very popular CCT for tactical lights, as it generally provides higher illumination levels than lower colour temperatures.
There’s a little bit of green around the edges of the corona, but this is only really noticeable when shining at white walls. While using it outside, it’s far less noticeable.
A smooth reflector gives the light quite a bit of punch, and the XP-L2 being a domed emitter makes the hotspot a decent size. There’s quite a lot of usable light in this, which is very much ideal for the intended use. There’s some slight machining lines as seen in the photos, but it doesn’t seem to affect the beam created.
The bezel itself is very interesting: six evenly spaced crenulations, three of which are a little taller; the taller three contain high-hardness silicon nitride “dots”. This allows glass to be broken very easily if needed, and isn’t sharp, so won’t tear any clothes/pouches. It’s also smooth to the touch, so fingertips are safe. That said, I’m very careful when placing it down on the glass stage for my lumen sphere!
- Length: 149.7mm (5.89”)
- Head diameter: 34.8mm (1.37”) at widest – 31.8mm (1.25”) around bezel
- Body diameter: 25.4mm (1”) at widest – 22mm (0.87”) at narrowest around logo
- Empty: 133.1g (4.69oz)
- With cells: 181.7g (6.41oz)
Tactical flashlights comparison
Size compared to other tactical flashlights.
Image 3: Nitecore P20 v2, Nitecore P10 v2
Driver & User Interface:
Nitecore’s UI for this is both simple and complicated – usage is simple, but changing things took a bit for me to wrap my head around.
The idea is this:
There are three modes with this light – Tactical Mode (Mode 1), Law Enforcement Mode (Mode 2), and Daily Mode (Mode 3). The way they are broken down is this:
- Mode 1: High, Strobe
- Mode 2: Mid, High, Strobe
- Mode 3: Low, Mid, High, Strobe
The trick is that Mid on Mode 2 and 3 are actually different – Mode 2’s Mid is about half the lumens of Mode 3 (200 vs 370).
Out of the box, the P10 v2 will come in Daily Mode, which is great for getting a feel for things. To change modes, you need to unscrew the tailcap to break contact (¼ turn), and then while holding the Mode button, tighten the tailcap. This will make the main light flash the number of times of the mode it’s going into (ie. flash once for Mode 1, twice for Mode 2, thrice for Mode 3). Note that you need to do this once per mode change; you can’t go from Mode 1 to Mode 3 by continuing to hold Mode after it flashes twice for Mode 2.
Confused? That’s where the “complicated” part comes from. But it’s far more intuitive after you’ve done it once or twice than it is while reading.
- Press and hold Mode button: Strobe
- Single click main button: Last used mode (other than strobe, Daily Mode only – Mode 2 always starts in High)
- Half-press main button: Instant High (or instant mode-memory in Mode 3)
- Press Mode button: Change mode (L/M/H, M/H, or H/Strobe)
- Press and hold Mode button: Strobe (press again to return to previous mode)
- Single click main button: Turn off
- As previously mentioned, only available in Daily Mode (Mode 3).
Low voltage warning:
- There’s no official LVP mentioned, but in my two runtime tests, the light turned itself off at around 3.2V. This might be a little high, as it could probably be stretched to 3V without issue, but it’s not a bad idea in the interests of keeping cells as healthy as possible.
- You activate Strobe by holding down the Mode button from either off or on – while off, you release to stop, and while on, you need to press Mode again. Mode 1 also has Strobe as part of its cycle.
- No lockout mode available other than unscrewing the tailcap ¼ turn.
The PWM on this light is very much present. While checking through the camera of my phone as I usually do for reviews, there are LARGE black bars instead of the rolling thin lines.
Batteries & Charging
This light is compatible with both button-top 18650 and CR123 cells. It requires a button-top for the 18650, and I’m happy to report that it’s perfectly usable with unprotected cells too, as I tested with my 30Q button-tops. The Nitecore cell fits more neatly inside the tube though, and actually requires a bit of a jiggle to release, it’s that snug – quite impressive on the tolerances.
There’s a carrier provided for CR123 cells to be placed in parallel, too.
On the tailcap is a small indicator LED. When you tighten the tailcap, you get a quick battery check that flashes this LED depending on the battery life remaining. The flashes indicate as follows:
- Three flashes – power is above 50%
- Two flashes – power is below 50%
- One flash – power is almost depleted
While not as precise as other battery checks, it’s a very quick way to see if you need to be changing the battery. You’ll need to place Li-Ion cells you use into an external charger though, as there’s no internal charging – please don’t try and recharge CR123 cells though!!
For my readings, I use the following:
Lux Meter: For lumen readings and runtimes, an Adafruit TSL2591 connected to a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu, using RuTiTe by bmengineer in a custom sphere (build document coming soon, when I have some more time). A UNI-T UT383S is used for candela readings.
I hope to have temperature readings operational soon, but will need to consider the logistics of connecting a probe to the light without damaging the anodisation.
DMM: Fluke 87 (original series!) and UNI-T UT210E – 16AWG wire is used directly into the Fluke via some banana plugs, and 8AWG wire in a loop for the UNI-T. The DMM I use depends on how high the expected current will be – I use the Fluke for <10A, and the UT210E for >10A.
I will be using the battery supplied with the light (Nitecore NL1835HP); the light can also support CR123 cells in a 2x carrier, but as I have ethical/environmental concerns regarding disposable batteries, I’ve chosen not to purchase some purely for the purposes of testing the light.
This is, as is the P10v2, a difficult light to test tailcap amps on. Because the driver and both buttons are in the tailcap, it’s not as easy as bridging the tailcap and checking things, so a somewhat hacky method has to be come up with. It unfortunately needs more arms than I have to make work; thankfully my lovely wife assisted.
With that, I get:
- Low: 150 mA
- Med (mode 2): 490 mA
- Med (mode 3): 960 mA
- High: 2.8 A
This is definitely lower than the P10v2. Hmm. I initially thought the driver in this light was identical to the one in the P10 v2, but it doesn’t seem to be – on a wild hunch, I’ve swapped the P10 v2’s tailcap (and driver) onto the P20 v2, as the P10 had higher lumen/current output – but I don’t get any higher readings.
I’ve done a runtime in each of the four modes; L/M/H in Mode 3, and M in Mode 2. What’s really interesting is that the LVP appears set to 3.3V – I ran the High runtime with two different Nitecore cells (NL1835HP and NL1835) and I get the exact same reading when the runtime is complete; when tested in another light, the cells can go down to 2.9V (possibly below). I feel that it’s overly conservative; these cells could go down to 3.0V without any long-term damaging effects, so I’m unsure why it’s set as that.
Beyond that though, the runtime appears to be wildly different from Nitecore’s ratings on their product page. I’ve tabled it as below:
|Mode||Advertised runtime||Measured runtime|
|High||3 hours||265 mins (4 hrs 25 mins)|
|Medium (Mode 3)||7 hours||340 mins (5 hrs 40 mins)|
|Medium (Mode 2)||18 hours||453 mins (7 hrs 33 mins)|
|Low||55 hours||1527 mins (25 hrs 27 mins)|
So while we get longer runtimes for the highest modes, the low modes are drastically lower than advertised.
The bands are thicker than I’d usually expect, as there appears to be some wavering in the output. I’ve checked with a few other lights, and there’s a small amount of ripple, so my sensor is fluctuating, but not to the degree I’m seeing here. That said, the bands are misleading; there’s less than 1.5 lumens from top to bottom of some of the areas I’ve checked. This will be effectively imperceptible to the eye.
The P10 v2’s output tapered off until nothingness, whereas this cuts out hard at 3.3V. Quite odd.
Lumen measurements (for each mode)
As mentioned in my Sofirn SP33v3 review, my integrating sphere is finally complete – build document still to come.
In this sphere, my readings are as follows:
- Low: 54 lm
- Medium (mode 2): 167 lm
- Medium (mode 3): 304 lm
- High: 893 lm
I’ve measured at 5m indoors, and 10m outdoors. With a fully charged battery, I set the UT383S to record maximum lux, turn on, point it at the sensor, change to the highest mode if not already there, and gently wave the light around to try and capture all of the hotspot. With that, my results are:
- Indoors 5m: 551 lux = 13775 cd = 234.73m throw
- Outdoors 10m: 139 lux = 13900 cd = 235.79 m throw
I love consistent results! Especially ones that are above the rated candela!
- P20 v2 beam profile – note the interesting pattern around the outside; the crenulations cause that. Kinda pretty!
- P10 v2 vs P2 0v2 – the P10 v2 seems to be all corona, whereas the P20v2 has the corona with the green, then tapers off to spill.
- JetBeam PC20 vs P20 v2 vs P10 v2 – The PC20 and P10v2 have similar reflectors, so I’m not totally surprised that they look quite similar.
It was hard to get this exactly how my eye sees it, but there’s a tighter band of the “green” corona around the P20v2 – it tapers off much faster.
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.
- Feels great to hold
- Easy UI
- Included holster is great
- Useful glass-breaker bits
- Lower output than P10 v2?
4 stars: ★★★★
Most everything I’ve mentioned in the P10 v2 review applies here, and I’ve used it as a comparison a lot, as they’re very similar lights – it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, and it gets on with the job it purports to do.
I actually like the holster on this light more than the P10 v2; pulling the light outwards from the body is perhaps easier to do, especially if you’ve got a little…ahem, overhang above the belt (guilty party over here). I love the rounded silicon nitride glass-breaker pieces, as I can imagine that’d be very useful.
However, again, my primary frustration is with the PWM. This was expected though, as I initially thought it used the same driver as the P10 v2 (although now I’m not sure) – I still get that same scratchy feeling in my eyes.
I give the P20 v2 four stars – while there’s improvements over the P10 v2, there’s also detractions. The hard cutoff at 3.3V, while annoying, doesn’t warrant a drop to three stars in my opinion; if the PWM and the hard cut were resolved, this would be a five star light.