After our last Nitecore review, NItecore sent us their P20 and EA42. I was interested in the EA42 since it is a AA powered light that puts out a respectable 1800 lumens. While the P20 is their basic 800 lumen tactical flashlight. Let us first take a closer look at the Nitecore P20 and then the EA42.
I am going to be honest. I am a bit of a flashlight snob but do not confuse my lumen snobbery for price elitism. Just because a light is expensive does not make it better. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of inexpensive lights that are fantastic. However, the Nitecore P20 is neither great nor terrible. It is just banal. The light does not really do much that is innovative or different than other lights.
Sure it has a tactical strobe button on the back where the tail cap is but it is a separate button. The switchology is cute but not exactly earth-shattering. There is the main switch, the button with a giant N on it. Then there is the smaller offset Strobe Ready button. When the light is off, you just have to press the Strobe Ready button and the light will strobe. The main switch activates the regular non strobing beam.
The P20 has high, medium and low brightness levels. For some reason, the lumen levels of medium and low are different depending if you use an 18650 or 2x CR123 primary batteries. If using an 18605 the Medium is 290 lumens and low is just 40 lumens. If you use 2x CR123 batteries then the medium is 400 lumens and low is 70 lumens.
Besides brightness levels being different, run times are drastically different. Even though the medium and low settings are lower when powered by an 18650 the run times are better. On high, the P20 will run for 4.5 hours. 9 hours on medium and a respectable 26 hours on low. Now on just 2x CR123s high mode only lasts for 1.5 hours, the medium is 2.5 hours and you only get 10.5 hours on low.
The instructions mentioned the P20 has red LEDs in the tail cap that indicated battery levels. The red LEDs are supposed to blink to indicated if the battery is over 50%, under 50% or close to depletion. However, I was unable to get the hidden LEDs to turn on.
The P20 has three modes: Tactical, Law Enforcement Mode and General mode. Don’t let the names of the modes fool you. The only difference between them is how many lighting levels you have access to. On Tactical mode the light only produces light on high. You can switch to strobe at any time but the light will not change to medium or high. On Law Enforcement mode or general mode you just need to turn the light on and then press the strobe ready button to cycle through the different lighting levels. Law Enforcement mode only has high and medium levels. While General Mode has all three brightness settings. In order to change modes you need to press and hold the strobe ready button down while unscrewing the P20 head. When you tighten the head back on, the light will blink letting you know what mode it is in. One blink for Tactical, two blinks for LE mode and three blinks for General mode.
I did discover a hidden mode. If you click the main switch on then press and hold the strobe ready button the light will strobe. And now the P20 is locked into only strobe. Turn the light off and any button will strobe the light. Click the light on and it stays strobing. While the light is constantly on, press and hold the strobe ready button to exit this hidden mode.
The accessories for the P20 seem like good ideas if you have never talked to law enforcement or people who shoot for a living. The holster is ok if you are mall security or you want something that looks tactical. Feature wise the NTH30B is packed full of them. But they seem like points of failure. The holster allows you to carry a spare 18650 battery but the battery is exposed. The flashlight holster can rotate 360 degrees around the belt clip.
On the side of the holster is a plunger-like button. This releases the detent and allows you to pivot the holster every 30 degrees. I am not sure how robust the detent on the holster is but if it is anything like the belt clip I do not see it lasting long. The belt clip is the flimsiest part of the holster. It is very flexible and can pop off the belt with a medium amount of force.
Nitecore included their weapon light accessories, the GM02 mount and RSW2 remote tape switch. These accessories are what makes me think the designers at Nitecore have never used a weapon-mounted light while shooting a gun in the dark.
While the GM02 does “work” at mounting the P20 to a Picatinny rail, this type of mount has been obsolete for a while now. We have lights like the SureFire Scoutlights and even the Streamlight HLX Rail Mount. Light bodies with dedicated mounting options. Design aesthetics aside the GM02 mount is out of spec. In the picture below it was tightened as much as possible and it was still loose on my handguard.
There are plenty of weapon-mounted light options that weapon mounting the P20 seems lazy and cheap. No, you do not have to spend over $100 for a Streamlight or multiple hundreds of dollars on a SureFire. There are plenty of dedicated weapon lights that outperform the P20 and for not much more money.
The other weapon mount accessory that leaves much to be desired is the RWS2. For some reason when used with the P20 I can only access strobe. No regular light output. I can overlook the constant strobing but the retro rotary phone coiled wire is definitely something only seen in cheap weapon light tape switches. There is no need to have a coiled pigtail for your remote tape switch. It increases the chance of getting it snagged on something and it ends up being too long anyway.
The tail cap of the RSW2 has a button for constant activation however I was unable to use any mode other than strobe so I found this useless.
The coiled wire is just useless. It is a snag hazard and there is no need to have such a long remote tape switch.
The RSW2 did not come with any adhesive or velcro so you will have to get those yourself if you want to use it on your gun.
1800 Lumen 4xAA Powered EA42
While the P20 is mediocre, the EA42, on the other hand, is a great light. It has a respectable 1800 lumen output. It powered by 4 AA batteries.
Interestingly the handle is flat and made of polycarbonate. It is nicer to hold in hot or cold climates. My only complaint is the tail end is rounded making it harder to tail stand the light.
The contact area is very narrow and to make matters worse it is rounded so it is easy to tip the light over or it can fall over since most of the weight is in the head.
Performance wise the EA42 is great. 1800 lumens at the ready. The head has two buttons – the main switch and a mode button. When the light is off you just press and hold the mode button and the EA42 will automatically turn on to turbo mode which is the full 1800 lumens.
The EA42 has five modes or illumination levels. On turbo mode, it is 1800 lumens and lasts for 30 mins. High is a reasonable 850 lumens for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Step down to medium mode and you will have 4.75 hours at 300 lumens. Low mode is 55 lumens for 20 hours. But for long term battery savings ultra low is just 1 lumen but will run for 280 hours!! The EA42 has some hidden emergency modes such as SOS, beacon and strobe.
Unlike the P20 the EA42 has a power meter function that works. When the light is off, pressing the mode button activates the power meter. It is a blue LED under the rubber buttons.
The EA42 is a bit bigger than the P20. The P20 is similar in size to a SureFire 6P. I do not mind that the EA42 is bigger for the increase in performance and that it is powered by just four AA batteries. Nitecore sent the EA42 with Ni-Mh rechargeable batteries but alkalines will work in a pinch.
The Nitecore P20 is not an expensive light at a retail price of around $65. However, its performance is underwhelming. 800 lumens on a single 18650 or 2XCR123 is not on par with what is available now. 1000-1500 lumens on a single 18650 is quite common. I do not need the fancy modes and to be honest the frequency of the strobe is not that debilitating. If Nitecore updated the LED to be brighter it might be more useful and worth buying.
On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised with the EA42. It exceeded my expectations. I was looking for a reasonably sized handheld light that is AA powered and can deliver a lot of light. It is a perfect bug out bag light. I would recommend against storing it with Alkalines though and go with lithium AA batteries or some really good Ni-Mh AAs like eneloop. Having 1800 lumens is phenomenal. The only thing I would change would be a redesign of the tail end of the light so it can tail stand better. Price wise the EA42 retails at $69.99. Not a terrible price for the performance you get out of it.
For more information check out Nitecore’s website.