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Nitecore TM9K Tac Review: Tactical Flashlight
Nitecore TM9K Tac specifications
|Brand/model||Nitecore TM9K Tac|
|LED||9x Cree XP-L2|
|Beam intensity||19,800 cd|
|Battery config.||1*21700 (built-in)|
|Review date||November 2021|
Nitecore is no stranger to the flashlight market. They’ve been producing robust, high-quality lights for at least 14 years. They have a very wide portfolio that they segment into different series: MH (Multi-task Hybrid), P (Precise), TM (Tiny Monster), T (products like the Tube, Tip, Tini, and Tiki), and so forth. My first ever high-output flashlight was Nitecore’s P12GT: a 1000 lumen throwy tube light. This first impression with Nitecore certainly didn’t disappoint.
What we have on hand today is Nitecore’s newest entry in their Tiny Monster series: the Nitecore TM9K Tac. This is my first time ever using one of the Tiny Monster lights. Let’s just say that this light is aptly named.
The Nitecore TM9K Tac arrived in a sturdy two-piece box. In typical Nitecore fashion, the box is black with yellow accents. This particular packaging isn’t overly flashy; I’d say it’s a pretty refined design. Upon sliding the two pieces apart, you’ll notice half of the box contains a dense foam insert for the flashlight, while the other half has a secondary box with all of the accessories. In all, the package contained:
- Nitecore TM9K Tac
- Battery (sealed into the light)
- Charging cable
- Pocket clip
Flashlight in use
Like many Nitecore lights, this Tiny Monster has a tactical look to it: black and fairly aggressively machined. The tube sits fairly well in the hand. And despite a minimal amount of knurling, this light isn’t going to slip out of your hand – there’s just so many fins, diameter changes, and the permanent cigar-grip ring that’s actually part of the tailcap. Speaking of tailcap, let’s just get this out of the way… the TM9K Tac is locked up tight like Fort Knox. The tailcap is firmly glued in place and it seems like the bezel is likely glued as well. This would be why no o-rings were in the box; you’ll never have the chance to replace one. The head and body are actually a unibody design (machined as one solid piece) which is good for dissipating heat.
Between the flat spots that are machined into the head and the four protruding points of the cigar-grip ring, the TM9K Tac does not roll around at all. Though neither does is tailstand, as the tail button sticks out from the cap.
One of the points of the grip ring has a hole through which the lanyard is supposed to be threaded. This actually comes in its own little baggie with its own instruction sheet. There’s a separate cord that you’re supposed to use to feed the lanyard through the hole. Problem is, the hole is quite small. And despite actually reading the instructions before doing anything, I was completely unsuccessful in getting the lanyard through the hole – it just wouldn’t fit. Speaking of fitment, the pocket clip reminds me of the issue I ran into on the P20iX. The clip fits onto the tube, but not very well. It’s as if it were designed for a smaller diameter flashlight. Not a huge deal, but it just doesn’t seem to fit well.
Nearly identical to the button setup of the Precise series lights that I’ve reviewed, the tailcap is home to two buttons: a forward clicky on/off button and a flush-mount e-switch for mode changes. In the TM9K Tac it’s referred to as the “TurboReady” / Mode button (whereas on the Precise series it’s referred to as the StrobeReady button).
Build Quality, and Warranty
Build quality is one of those things I feel like Nitecore really excels at. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s the nice HA III finish. Likewise, the machining is very smooth and well done. It just looks and feels like a quality light.
I can’t really talk about the thread or internals, as there’s nothing I can really access on the TM9K Tac. I guess that’s less potential points of failure, so that’s a bonus.
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, and Reflector
While the Nitecore TM9K Tac has a lot going for it, the business-end is definitely the crown jewel. Come to think of it, the stainless steel crenulated bezel actually could pass as a crown. That nice steel bezel, in conjunction with a glass lens, protects 9 Cree XP-L2 LEDs in shallow smooth reflectors. They’re packed in pretty tight.
When you’ve got that many LEDs put together in a small package in tiny reflectors, it should come as no surprise that this is a true flooder. Like “turn a large room into daylight everywhere” kinda flood.
One thing that surprised me about the TM9K Tac was the CCT of the LEDs. I’m used to Nitecore lights always having cool white LEDs. I was shocked to find that this Tiny Monster looked to be really neutral. I couldn’t hardly believe my eyes so I got out my new Opple Light Master and checked. Sure enough, I measured 5216K CCT. Wow. Now the CRI on the other hand left a bit to be desired (only 64 Ra), but I’ll take what I can get.
Side note: the TM9K Tac ships with a protective sheet over the lens. Don’t forget to remove it!
Dimensions and size comparison
- Length: 125 mm / 4.92 inches
- Head diameter: 40 mm / 1.57 inches
- Body diameter: 26 mm / 1.02 inches
- With cells: 218.5 grams / 7.71 oz.
I was shocked at just how small the TM9K Tac is. Definitely short and just a bit stubby. Certainly shorter than the Precise-series lights, and even smaller than my other high-lumen lights.
High lumen multi-emitter lights from left to right: Fenix LR50R, Convoy 3X21A, Nitecore TM9K Tac, Fireflies E12R, Astrolux MF01 Mini
Driver & User Interface:
The Nitecore TM9K Tac has a necessarily simple UI, befitting its tactical orientation.
Available modes: Ultralow, Low, Mid, High, Turbo (& Strobe)
- Press and Hold, Mode button: Turbo
- Press and Hold, Power button: momentary on
- Single click, Power button: on in last used mode (excluding Turbo)
- Double click, Mode button: Strobe
- Press and Hold, Mode button: Turbo
- Single click, Power button: turns off
- Double click, Mode button: Strobe
- Yes, there is mode memory including Strobe
- To Low: none
- To Turbo: hold the Mode button
- To Strobe: double click the Mode button
Low voltage warning:
- No real warning, just runs very dim (~2 lm) for a long time
- Variable-frequency strobe can be access by a double-click of the Mode button, no matter whether the light is on or off
- Side note, the driver makes an interesting light fluttering sound while Strobe is active
- While the light is on, click the Power button while holding the Mode button to activate lock-out
- Yes, this means you’ll get blinded by Turbo while locking it out
- Immediately upon locking the light out, the blue indicator LED in the tailcap will flash out the battery level in volts and tenths
- Triple-click the Mode button to exit lock-out
- While I’m not able to see it with my bare eye, my DMM + Photo Diode picked up 11.3 kHz PWM in Ultralow mode and 15.5 kHz PWM in Low and Mid modes
Additional info on the UI:
- In addition to the hidden voltage check that’s part of the lock-out mode, the TM9K Tac also indicates remaining capacity while the light is on. When the battery is above 50%, the blue indicator LED will be steadily turned on. Below 50% and it’ll flash slowly. Below 10% and it’ll flash quickly.
Batteries & Charging
The Nitecore TM9K Tac is a great rechargeable flashlight and takes 21700 batteries. Well, it takes the 21700 battery that’s glued inside its body (read: non-replaceable). Nitecore says the battery has a capacity of 5000 mAh. I know some people are going to hate on the built-in battery. I think Nitecore did it as a safety measure for the non-enthusiast crowd. In order to get to 10,000 lumens, I’m sure they had to use a non-protected battery. But for safety sake, Nitecore generally provides protected batteries. Since they couldn’t use a protected battery, they just sealed it into the light to keep people from messing with it. I won’t say for sure that was Nitecore’s reasoning, but it seems logical to me.
The flashlight can be charged via its USB-C port. There’s Standard charging which happens at 5 volts. Nitecore says the TM9K Tac will charge in 5 hours with standard charging – I measured 4 hours and 14 minutes with my USB-PD charger. But if you have a QC charger handy, Nitecore says you can charge in just 3 hours and 15 minutes. I hooked up a QC charger and it jumped into the 12 volt QC profile and completed a charge in 2 hours and 59 minutes.
While charging in Standard mode, the blue indicator will flash slowly. In QC mode, it will flash quickly. The indicator will solidly illuminate when charging is complete.
For current measurements, an ANENG AN8008 multimeter and UNI-T UT210E clamp meter were used. Lux was measured by a UNI-T UT383 BT at 5 meters. Lumens were measured in a homemade lumen tube using a TSL2591 sensor, calibrated with a Maukka calibration light. The temperature was monitored with a MLX90614 IR temperature sensor. The built-in Nitecore battery was used for testing (of course)
Lumen measurements (for each mode)
|Mode||Specs||Lumens @start||Lumens @30 sec||Lumens @ 10 min|
- Couldn’t measure, but Nitecore claims 12 months of standby
You can’t just put the TM9K Tac into Turbo mode to do a test. Rather, you have to hold the button down in order to use Turbo. So I held the button and made a quick graph. It didn’t take long to do because Turbo is truly meant for short bursts. It started out at 11,508 lumens – well above its claim! But it doesn’t last long. By 7 seconds, there was a sharp decline to 5,757 lumens before dropping down to 3,617 lumens a few seconds later. By 30 seconds, the light was at 3,471 lumens and slowly dropping. I quit the test (releasing the TurboReady button).
High mode also attained the lumen claim, starting out at 2,098 lumens. It held that fairly steady until 3 minutes and 37 seconds, where the body was at 52°C – output dropped down to around 500 lumens where it stayed for most of the rest of the run. Output crossed the 10% threshold at 3 hours and 34 minutes. The light kept on shining, I eventually turned it off at the 7 hour mark where it was still at 3 lumens. The max temperature of the run was 53°C.
Mid mode test was pretty uneventful. It started out at 561 lumens and stayed pretty close to that for most of the run. It crossed the 10% threshold at 3 hours and 58 minutes. Like the High mode, it continued to peter along for several hours. The max temperature was 51°C.
|Mid||890 cd||1,225 cd||70 m||77 yd|
|High||3,500 cd||4,625 cd||136 m||149 yd|
|Turbo||19,800 cd||23,425 cd||306 m||335 yd|
Beam shots of the building are taken at 15 m (16 yd) using a Pixel 3 set to ISO 200 with 1/10 second exposure time
Beam shots of the playset are taken at 30 m (33 yd) using a Pixel 3 set to ISO 200 with 1/2 second exposure time. The trees in the background are around 65 m away.
- Nitecore TM9K Tac
- Astrolux MF01 Mini
- FireFlies E12R
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.
- Monstrous power
- … in a tiny package
- Good construction
- USB-C charging
- Nearly neutral CCT
- Easy to use UI
- Very floody
- Low CRI
- So-so accessories
- Built-in battery
- “Ultralow” isn’t so low
Explanation on star ratings:
1: Avoid: my phone flashlight would be a better choice – 2: Poor: significant defect or issues, much better options available at the same price – 3: Average: some defects or issues – 4: Good: recommended (minor issues) – 5: Great: highly recommended
4 stars: ★★★★
The new Nitecore TM9K Tac truly lives up to its name – it really is a tiny monster. I was honestly expecting a larger light, we are talking about ~10,000 lumens after all. Turbo is truly a short-burst turbo, but I’m ok with that. Even High is generously bright at 2,000 lumens which it can comfortably provide for several minutes before stepping down.
For all the things that the Tiny Monster gets right, there are some caveats. While the CCT is surprisingly good, the CRI is unsurprisingly not so hot. The 30-50 lumen “Ultralow” mode isn’t very low at all. And I know a lot of folks aren’t too fond of built-in batteries, though I feel this one might be justified.
The Nitecore TM9K Tac is an easy-to-use jacket-pocket sized light that’s powerful enough to turn a dark house into daylight… for a few seconds at least.