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ThruNite TN36 Limited review: lumenmonster flashlight test
ThruNite TN36 Limited specifications
|Brand/model||ThruNite TN36 Limited|
|LED||3x CREE XHP70.2|
|Max. Lumens||11,000 lm|
|Max. Beam intensity / distance||31,140 cd|
|Modes||1 + ramping|
|Review date||May 2022|
ThruNite has been around since 2009 and has made some really nice products over the years. Some of my most used lights have been ThruNite products, including the TH20 headlamp and the recent Thrunite T1S EDC carry light. The product I’m reviewing today, the ThruNite TN36 Limited, falls into a completely different category: high-lumen soda-can style. An upgrade to the TN36 2017 model, this now features three Cree XHP70.2 (as known as “XHP70B”) LEDs that put out a wall of light. A soda-can light (that is, its dimensions are roughly similar to a soda can) isn’t exactly pocket friendly, but could definitely accompany you on walks or be used to light up a football field, or whatever you want to do with 11,000 floody lumens!
When the package from ThruNite arrived, I was a bit shocked at just how big it was. Then I remembered that this was the full kit, and as such also included a set of batteries and a stand-alone charger. Overall, the box is nothing to write home about – just plain cardboard with the ThruNite branding – but it gets the job done. The inside has white foam cut into compartments to organize the contents. Inventory of the box includes:
- ThruNite TN36 Limited
- Batteries (4)
- Battery charger
- Spare o-rings
- Spare switch cover
Flashlight in use
Being a soda-can style light, the ThruNite TN36 is definitely a chunker. That said, it’s actually a bit more compact that I was imagining and is smaller than some of the lights from this category that I’ve recently handled. The entire body tube is covered in knurling, so it grips easily without worry of slipping. The tail is very flat, so there are no concerns with the TN36’s ability to tail-stand. The lanyard mount point is cut out from around the edge of the tail. ThruNite has included a very nice nylon holster that fits the TN36 perfectly.
There is one button that sits on the side of the head of the flashlight. It’s an e-switch and has a stainless cover over most of the switch.
Being quite large, you realistically won’t be running around with the TN36 Limited in your pocket. If you do want to carry it around with you stowed, using the holster would be a good idea. I could see using this for walking the dog, hiking at night, and camping (though not for ultralight camping). It could also be a good vehicle light, assuming you’re ok with leaving lithium-ion batteries in your vehicle.
Build Quality, and Warranty
The TN36 Limited is predominantly made out of aluminum which is covered in premium Type III Hard-Anodized finish. I would call the sheen “satin”. The majority of the body tube is covered with clean-cut knurling. There isn’t a removable tailcap; the entire body tube comes smoothly off from the head as one piece. Inside that tube is a battery carrier. Removing it leaves a battery tube that is devoid of any internal features aside from being completely covered in anodization.
All in all, the build quality feels solid and clean which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from ThruNite.
- 30 days refund from Amazon (if you bought it on Amazon)
- 2 years free replacement from issues brought on by normal use
- Limited lifetime maintenance (cost of parts and shipping covered by the customer)
LED, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector
The TN36 from 2017 featured Cree XHP70 LEDs – these big boys combine the dies from four XP-L emitters onto a single substrate. The problem with doing that is there’s a gap between each die which ends up forming a “donut hole” in the beam. Cree effectively fixed this issue when they released the XHP70.2 which had a much more uniform emitter surface. ThruNite picked up on this and released an updated version the “TN36 Limited” that used these new XHP70.2 LEDs.
These XHP70.2 LEDs sit nicely centered in a clover-leaf shaped shallow orange peel reflector. The reflector is surrounded by what looks like a sheet of aluminum, over which sits a sheet of glass. The arrangement is held in place by a stainless steel bezel.
ThruNite offers many of their lights in both Cool White and Neutral White LEDs, including the TN36 Limited. I opted for the NW version because that is my personal preference. That decision does come at the cost of lumen output, though, as CW LEDs tend to produce more lumens than their NW or WW counterparts.
The Opple Light Master gave these readings of the beam:
- CCT: 4791K
- CRI: 66.8
- DUV: +0.0075
Dimensions and size comparison
Flashlight size comparison with its competition
“Soda cans” from left to right: actual soda can, ThruNite TN36 Limited
Driver & User Interface:
The ThruNite TN36 Limited uses some kind of buck or boost driver that does a good job of keeping output consistent and efficiently powering the LEDs.
ThruNite says the light uses ITC Technology to “automatically lower the current when temperature in LED or driver rises to 80 degrees centigrade to protect the light from overheating”. It’s great that they included this feature, but 80°C is a bit too high for my comfort level. I could see maybe 70°C, but even in that range I get worried about skin burns and potential damage to batteries.
Available modes: Firefly, Infinity Low – Infinity High, Turbo
- Press and Hold: Firefly
- Single click: On
- Double click: Turbo
- Press and Hold: ramp up and down
- 1 click: Off
- Double click: Turbo
- Yes, the TN36 will remember your last used mode except for Firefly, Turbo, and Strobe
- To Firefly: hold from Off
- To Turbo: double click (from Off or On)
- To Strobe: double click from Turbo
Low voltage warning:
- The side switch has an indicator LED in it, when that goes red, the batteries need charged
- There is Strobe mode which can be accessed by double clicking from Turbo
Additional info on the UI:
- A Lock-out mode would be very welcome in this light. The TN36 isn’t one that you want accidentally turning on in your coat pocket, in the holster, etc.
Batteries & Charging
The ThruNite TN36 Limited can be purchased by itself or as a kit with batteries and a charger. Buying the full kit takes the guesswork out of whether you’re using appropriate batteries or what charger you might need. The kit I received contained four ThruNite-branded button-top IMR 3100 mAh 18650 cells. These get loaded into the 4S1P (4 series, 1 parallel) battery carrier – that means when the batteries are fully charged, the carrier provides 16.8 volts. The carrier itself can be installed in either direction, it doesn’t matter. BUT do be careful of the battery orientation within the carrier; that is crucial.
I tried flat-top Samsung 30Q batteries in the TN36 Limited. They made reasonable connection in the carrier. The flashlight operated just fine with them, but if you bumped it firmly on the tail, then the batteries would lose connection and the light would turn off. I didn’ find that to be too problematic, but if your usage includes a lot of jostling around, you might want to use button-top batteries or some spacers.
The kit came with a ThruNite MCC-4S charger. This is a 4-bay multi-chemistry battery charger. It doesn’t have a lot of fancy features like discharge or capacity test, but it does handle several chemistries including lithium-ion, LiFePO4, and NiMH. You can select between two charge rates: 500 mA (default) and 1000 mA. During my testing, it wasn’t uncommon to see the display claim that the ending voltage was 4.22 volts which sounds a little high, but my DMM confirmed that all cells were between 4.17 and 4.20 volts. It took around 3 hours and 45 minutes to fully charge the included 3100 mAh 18650s.
Lux was measured by a UNI-T UT383 BT at 10 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 four ThruNite 18650 batteries from the kit were used.
Lumen measurements (for each mode)
|Mode||Specs||Lumens @turn on||Lumens @30 sec||Lumens @10 minutes|
|Infinity Low||96 lm||51||51||–|
|Infinity High||8,000 lm||6,266||6,118||5,937|
- not able to test due to carrier design
- The observed lumens are considerably lower than spec. This is almost certainly due to the Neutral White LEDs in my sample which almost never deliver the amount of light that Cool White LEDs will produce. This is part of the trade-off with CCT preferences: warmer light, though less of it.
- As mentioned in the UI section, the TN36 Limited is supposed to have temperature control but is set to keep the light under 80°C which is too hot for my tastes. So to keep things cooler, I ran a fan for both the Turbo and Infinity High tests. Even with the fan, the Turbo test hit 75°C after 15 minutes and I stopped the test.
- My measured runtime on Infinity High is lower than what is spec’ed. I’m guessing this is because ThruNite’s runtime number probably includes a step-down from thermal throttling. Since I used a fan, it was able to maintain full power throughout the entire test.
A Fix for the ThruNite TN36 Limited Turbo shut off problem
(ThruNite TN36 Turbo turns off within a minutes, and sometimes within seconds after activation)
I initially had some very frustrating trouble getting the TN36 Limited to run for more than a minute at a time in higher modes. I would turn the light on, and it would automatically shut off after 40 seconds or so. We reached out to ThruNite for assistance. As it turns out, there was a cable for the driver that was sitting too close to the inductor on the driver. At high currents, the magnetic field from the inductor caused a malfunction.
The instructions said to remove the 3 screws from the driver retaining ring, gently lift up the driver and push the flat cable away from the inductor, and then reassemble it. It really only took a minute to do this, didn’t require any special tools, and the light worked perfectly afterwards. It was unfortunate that it happened, but an easy fix nonetheless.
ThruNite battery life
|Mode||Specified runtime||Measured runtime|
|Infinity Low||2.6 days|
|Ramp @ 1500 lm||N/A||4 hr 30 min|
|Infinity High||90 min||57 min|
Tested at 10 meters after waiting 30 seconds
|Turbo||31,140 cd||25,150 cd||317 meters||347 yards|
Beam shots of the building are taken at 15 m (16 yd) using a Pixel 6 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 6 set to ISO 200 with 1/2 second exposure time. The trees in the background are around 65 m away.
- ThruNite TN36 Limited
- Nitecore TM9K Tac
- Astrolux MF01 Mini
- Fireflies E12R
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by ThruNite. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.
- Very stout, clean build
- Holds output a long time
- Kit option is full featured
- Available in CW and NW options
- Can get very hot
- Initially had a driver issue for Turbo mode, but was easy to fix
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
4.5 stars: ★★★★⋆
New flashlights come out all of the time, trying to push the limit and get buyers’ attention to jump on the next bandwagon. Progress is a good thing! But that doesn’t mean that lights that have been around for a few years are any less great. The ThruNite TN36 Limited proves this to be true. It has excellent build quality and a nicely regulated driver. The UI is pretty good and easy to use. And while this Neutral White version produced “only” 9,000 lumens, I have no doubt that the Cool White could hit the claimed 11,000 if that’s your cup of tea. Unlike a lot of high-lumen lights, the TN36 Limited doesn’t drop down immediately. No, it holds its output for a long time, though at the expense of getting quite hot. If you’re looking for a well-built high-lumen light that isn’t just chasing the latest fad but is instead a trusty workhorse, the ThruNite TN36 fits the bill!