Monday, October 26, 2015

NIWALKER Nova MM18 (1xXM-L2 + 2xMK-R)(4sx18650) Review

Important notice:
The MM18 has a very high Standby current draw! Always remove at least one of the batteries,when you will not use it for a few days,or a week.
The green indicator under the buttons will stop flashing when the voltage of the batteries is low. It is important to take the batteries out of the flashlight and to recharge them.
Leaving the batteries in the flashlight for longer time is highly possible to kill them and has following issues(could be dangerous)when you recharge and discharge them later.

If you are not used to check the flashlights and batteries every day and to know approximately how much charge is left in the batteries,it is highly recommended to use only batteries with a built in protection circuit.

Quite busy,I left two Niwalker flashlights unattended for few days and until I notice,I lost 8 batteries!
There is no a Low voltage protection to stop the full discharge.The MM18 discharged the batteries down to 300mV each!! This is 1,2 V total.
The flashlight has a low voltage protection while turned On and also prevent activating the light when the battery voltage is low.However,it will continue to discharge the batteries until they are absolutely empty!
The MM18 is a great flashlight in use,but please keep my recommendation in mind. Lets keep our hobby safe.

Review

Niwalker is one of the manufacturers with different ideas how a flashlight should look like.
Each one of their flashlights has its own character and specific appearance.
The MM15 model is one of the most popular fully flood beam flashlights with a great wide angle,warm white beam,thanks to two MT-G2 LEDs.
This year Niwalker is updating the MM15 model and even more importantly is releasing a new "multi-task" model called MM18.
In the review below I am reviewing the Niwalker MM18. I will try to cover all important characteristics with important info about the run time performance.
Enjoy!

Specific for the new model is the multi-cone reflector with three separate LEDs.
One Cree XM-L2 and two Cree MK-R emitters.35mm diameter smooth reflector for a well throwing focused beam.
Two 25mm textured reflectors with the MK-Rs for a wide floody beam.
A promising combination for a multi-use flashlight.

The lighting modes are controlling by two momentary/electronically operating side switches.
One switch for the throw beam and one for the two flood beams.
Every of the switches work independently of the other,with no interacting their operation at all.



The UI is the same for both buttons. 6 brightness modes for each beam plus Strobe,SOS and Beacon.
The highest 6th mode and the flashing modes are hidden and can be accessed only by quickly pressing the switch two or three times.
So,as in all premium flashlights,you don't have to go through the all modes every time when you want to switch the mode.
This makes the UI a little easier to use.




Here is a picture from the user manual describing all modes-their lumen output and peak beam intensity.
Note that the index for waterproofing is IPX7.




The MM18 net weight is ~500 grams. Add four batteries ~190gr to get the full weight ~690 grams.
Definitely a solid flashlight. According to the specifications,there is a large copper heat sink pad under the LEDs for optimal thermal conductivity.
The aluminum body seems also quite thick for good dealing with the heat.






The MM18 comes in a sturdy sport bag/holster. No cardboard box.
The holster has impressive amount of pockets. In some of them are placed the spare parts and some tools.
Standard accessory is an aluminum handle,if you prefer carrying the flashlight this way without holding the body,which gets quite hot while working on the highest mode.
There are two screws for the handle and tool for mounting them.
Spare O-ring and nice lanyard are also included.


Here is the flashlight disassembled on two main parts.
Four high drain 18650 batteries are needed for powering the MM18.
The four 18650 batteries lie in a holder,which unusual is stationary mounted to the head.
The batteries are connected in series,providing high voltage for the multi-core MK-R leds.


The fixed holder is saving us some troubles when inserting the batteries and also saves some of the parts needed for a good electrical connection with the head.
The electrical connection is through the metal sticks.Physical lock out to disconnect the Standby consumption is not possible.
Due to the fixed battery holder,inserting the batteries takes a little more effort.
The space is well designed for unprotected batteries and they fit normally.
The edge of the battery tube has well rounded end edge for smooth battery inserting,but even that the batteries get scratches from the contact.
Inserting protected 18650s is also not a problem,as I managed to insert a protected Keeppower 3400.
If you use protected batteries,more care is needed not to tear the wrapping.





All batteries are in the same direction-with the minus pole to the flashlight's head.
There are four springs at the head end of the holder.


A nice close up showing the impressive anodizing,the level of the switches and their protruding.
You can see also the anodized square cut threads.


The overall machining of each parts is excellent.Very precisely rounded or bevelled edges.
The only thing I found a little contrasting are the two edges,cut for opening space for the handle.
As you can see on the picture,they are fairly sharp and I would like them rounded as the rest of the edges.
I can feel them with my thumb,but its position is usually over the buttons and then the edges are not noticeable,at all.
Impressive anodizing all over the body with the specific for Niwalker fully matte black finish.
I don't have any critique about the design other than the one I pointed above.I found it comfortable and really well looking at the same time.


Handle mounting point (picture above). Tripod crew mounting point(picture below).
There is no any kind of anti-roll designing. Only the handle could stop the flashlight from rolling away,if left on its side.






The switch covers are relatively small. I found them a little smaller than needed and in my opinion people with big hands will need some time to get used.
I also did not tested how is the operating when wearing gloves.
The switches have enough move to feel their pressing.They produce audible sound,which also helps.
I have some concerns about the silicone covers.They look too thin for heavy usage. I can't do wear resistant tests,but don't recommend pressing the switches with nails often,etc.
The silicone covers are also semi-transparent,allowing back illumination from the status LEDs-red(low battery voltage),or green(when the light is On).
Every of the indicator leds shows the status only on its respective beam,independent of the other beam.
Both switches are flashing every three seconds,which helps locating the flashlight and switches in the dark. Initially both indicators blinks simultaneously,but after turning ON/Off one of the beams,they blink in different time,which results in more(double) flashing.If one is Off,the other is On.This could be very distracting for the peripheral vision,sometimes.
The switch which beam is activated stays constantly green,until the beam is On. This will help to find the switch in the dark,when changing the mode is needed.
The switch functionality could be locked by triple clicking the selected switch.Locking have to be repeated also for the other switch,if you want to lock it,too. In lock out state,the flashing indicator LEDs are inactive.


The plate around the switches has carbon fiber look.
Great care to detail also on the handle.





Very clean high transparency glass lens with anti-reflective coating on the front of the head.
You can hardly say it is there. ~65mm diameter of the lens.

A little unusual,but beautiful looking reflector.


Wide flood beam thanks to the two MK-R emitters mounted under shallow orange peel reflectors.



Run Time Performance

The MM18 provides quite a lot combinations of two different beams-spot and flood.Each beam with 6 different brightness levels.
As usual I tested the flashlight on its highest output,as this time I tested also the lower 5th mode,because of the significant difference with the 6th mode,
which is more like a Turbo mode(it is not in the regular mode sequence).
The total curves in the graph below are five.
Flood 5 and 6 mode. Spot 5 and 6 mode. Flood+Spot 5th mode.
The results are very interesting and somewhat unexpected,especially comparing the Flood and Spot beam.
Lumen measurements(measured by me with not laboratory calibrated,or designed integrating sphere).
All lumen measurements and run time tests taken with Keeppower IMR 3000mAh batteries.
Flood modes: 1= 1Lm ; 2=11Lm; 3=149Lm; 4=648Lm; 5=1645Lm; 6=5070Lm(5190Lm initial)

Spot modes: 1=1Lm; 2=13Lm; 3=185Lm; 4=669Lm; 5=980Lm; 6=1300Lm

Flood+Spot mode 5=2410Lm
Flood+Spot mode 6=5540Lm

Pretty well spaced modes and lots of mode and beam combinations that should suite almost every scenario.

The MM18 features thermal triggering brightness step down,which has the purpose to allow you to use the max output as long as possible,without worrying of flashlight overheating.
Unlike the timed step down,this type of step down controlling will/should not decrease the brightness,if you use it in the cold weather outdoor and the flashlight is not as hot as,if used in the hot summer days.
For example,a timed step down decreases the brightness,even if the flashlight is frozen.

To get the optimal output results from the LEDs,I used a small computer fan to flow fresh air around the flashlight,which is mounted and stays static through the whole test.
The thermal step down was presented on the 6th mode Flood beam.The protection triggered after about 9 minutes on this mode.
Even with the external cooling,the MM18's head was hot after 5 minutes,as after that it becomes really hot and not recommended to keep your fingers ,or objects in contact with this part of the flashlight.
Here the included aluminum handle may come in use.
I am glad to see the heat is not excessive on the battery tube,which is important for the batteries.
On the other modes tested,with the external cooling the heat dissipation was pretty good keeping the temperature in normal ranges.
What surprises me is the run time difference between Flood and Spot beams.
Even the lower output and lower voltage required of the XM-L2 LED,the Spot beam times are much shorter than what Flood beam shows.




Current draw measurements:
Flood: 9mA / 12mA / 60mA / 260mA / 780mA / 4350mA
Spot: 9,2mA / 12,4mA / 93mA / 470mA / 750mA / 1170mA

For best performance,it is highly recommended to use high drain compatible IMR/INR batteries from a good brand.
All batteries are connected in series,which requires to match the voltage on all batteries.
The MM18 features also a low voltage protection,which actually works and works properly.
The protection kicked in in every of the tests,leaving the batteries in save condition with quite enough resting voltage.
Voltage on every single battery after the test was ~3,2V. A well working LV protection is really appreciated and I like the safety it gives,allowing me to use unprotected batteries without over-discharging them.
The indicator LEDs under the switch covers also alert for low battery voltage,but in my tests they did not give accurate information about the battery discharge level,as the RED light was On about half the run time.

As any other flashlight controlled by an electronic switch,the MM18's driver circuit requires a certain amount of current while turned Off (Standby mode).
There are many discussions on the forum about the effect of the high parasitic standby drain.
Testing the MM18,it shows the highest stadby drain from all flashlights I have tested so far.
Standby current 5,8mA (10mA with the green indicator light On).
In switch lock out mode the current is much lower 0,85mA(which is actually still much higher than the average).


Beam Shots

The light from the two beams is different color temperature.
The Spot beam produces cool white light. The flood beam light is warmer,I could say neutral white.
Beam profiles are clean,with hardly noticeable artifacts,mostly if you hunt on a white wall.
There is no visible greenish,or bluish tint in regular use.

/I did all possible to represent the real beam tint on the pictures I show in the review.
However it's hard to judge for the tint only by the pictures.There are too many factors that could affect the color reproduction-screen brightness,white balance setting,contrast,etc.
The tint is also depending on the exposure time of the picture./

Indoor Beam Shots
1/6 sec









1/6 sec



1/50sec

1/50sec




1/200sec



Outdoor Beamshots

Niwalker MM18 compared to Fenix TK51(another multi-emitter flashlight,which is result of the same idea for a multipurpose beam)
Comparison also with the updated Niwalker MM15MB.
Unfortunately Lumintop PS03 had a strange technical problem and is not presented on the outdoor beam shots.

Spot beam down




Spot beam up





Flood beam
Niwalker MM18 and MM15MB on Max mode.








MM18,MM15MB on 5 mode.(pictures below)


Niwalker MM18 and MM15MB on Flood beam,mode 5, Fenix TK51 Flood



Spot+Flood beam
Comparing to the MM15MB,the MM18 has more balanced and easier to use beam.
It is not too wide,which is protecting you from the blinding effect of the reflected 5000+ lumens light from the ground.
You can see it very clearly on the pictures below.






Spot Beam
Closer distance





Flood beam
Closer distance





Turbo modes Flood and Spot+Flood beam






Strong points:
Excellent build quality and machining.Excellent heat transfer capability,thanks to the massive aluminum body and copper LED board.
Wide angle flood light and focused spot light in a single flashlight. Very high max output.Relatively compact for what it gives.
Excellent matte anodizing.Conventional user interface-nothing too complicated,or overloaded.
After some usage,my impression of the different beams is only good,as they could be quite useful outdoor or indoor,providing quality illumination.

Weak points:
Here I should add the very high Standby current on first place.It is consuming as high current as the Low mode.
Please read my notice in the beginning of the review!
I found the indicator lights on the switch a little too bright and often distracting.
The switch covers could be thicker and with a larger diameter,people with big hands will benefit from this.
May not be very comfortable in long periods walking and carrying it,due to its weight.
I would prefer to activate the 6th mode with just one press and hold the switch.Activating it takes some time to get used to.

(Review reserved for more info and corrections,if needed)


Thanks for reading!
I wrote as much info as possible and hope it was helpful for you.

Thanks to NIWALKER for providing the MM18 for test and review!

3 comments:

  1. Howdy
    I just bought a MM15mb and it suggests high drain batteries. Should I use protected high drain or unprotected or will it matter? I'm a newbie and do not want to ruin light or batteries. Great review on this light above by the way. Thanks in advance for any advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I highly recommend protected batteries. All flashlights from Niwalker have very high Standby consumption. If you leave the flashlight with partly charged batteries,it will overdischarge them pretty quickly. I was busy for a week to check the batteries and found them at 300mV resting voltage. I was testing the MM18 and MM15MB as well.
      Both killed their batteries-IMR unprotected.
      My testing of the MM15MB shows 5,5mA/7,5mA(switch indicator Off/On) Standby current draw. 750microAmps with the switch locked.

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