Streamlight have been adding USB power into their range and in this review we take a look at the ProTac HL USB along with the Portable USB Charger
Taking a more detailed look:
Everything shown here actually came in a completely plain white outer cardboard box (which didn’t really show up in these white background photos).
The package is comprehensive as it includes the ProTac HL USB, a holster, USB cable, mains USB charger and 12v Car USB charger.
A simple holster is provided.
The belt loop has a Velcro closure so it can be fitted without taking your belt off.
Laser-engraved on the side is the model and serial number. There is not enough flat space for the writing so it spills over onto the knurling.
Already fitted is a removable, powder-coated, pocket clip.
As with most Streamlight lights, the main switch has the Streamlight logo.
Taking the tailcap out reveals its long twin-springs. This is part of a special design catering for the use of the Streamlight proprietary 18650, standard 18650s and CR123 cells.
Standard fully-anodised threads are used.
Streamlight’s proprietary 18650 cell has a full plastic casing with one standard negative terminal.
Swapping round to the front end of the cell, there is a dual pole contact system which relates to the built-in USB charging of the Protac HL USB.
For an 18650 light, the Protac HL uses a slightly larger tube than most, but this is due to the clever system to accommodate 18650 and CR123 cells without any rattle. Inside the battery tube are three sprung strips which keep whatever cells are being used securely in place.
While we are looking very closely, the surface texture has a subtle sheen.
So where is the USB part? Starting here with a reverse angle view with the USB port cover closed.
Then with the port cover pulled back.
Under the port cover is a micro USB port and a charging indicator light.
Oddly the Protac HL doesn’t make full use of the size of the head, instead having a thick bezel and smaller reflector. For its diameter the reflector is relatively deep.
Though Streamlight never specify the actual LED used, this sample has an XM-L2 LED.
Of course, if you are out and about with no mains or car charger available, a Portable USB Charger is ideal for topping up the battery.
Taking a more detailed look at the Portable USB Charger:
Taking a slight digression from the Protac HL USB light and onto the Streamlight Portable USB Charger. This is how it arrives.
There is a short USB cable which you can use to charge it, or charge other devices, and the instructions.
A nice feature of the Streamlight powerbank is that is has a weatherproof cover over the ports. The cover is held on with an elasticated cord, so you need to positively pull it off.
Once opened the cover stays at an angle and cannot be lost. There is a 5mm LD built in which allows this to be used as a basic light and this has been switched on in this photo.
When you turn it on with a click of the power switch, there are four lights to indicate the state of charge. This is showing approximately 75% remaining.
Though not specified as fully waterproof, the seal has a triple flange.
Thought it looked familiar? Well yes, it is rather reminiscent of the Streamlight Sidewinder.
Any standard USB device can be charged.
When charging the USB Portable Charger, the indicator lights tick up to show it is charging, with each 25% LED staying lit once that level of charge has been reached, and then all stay on once fully charged.
Back to the ProTac HL USB …
Please be careful not to judge tint based on images you see on a computer screen. Unless properly calibrated, the screen itself will change the perceived tint.
The indoor beamshot is intended to give an idea of the beam shape/quality rather than tint. All beamshots are taken using daylight white balance. The woodwork (stairs and skirting) are painted Farrow & Ball “Off-White”, and the walls are a light sandy colour called ‘String’ again by Farrow & Ball. I don’t actually have a ‘white wall’ in the house to use for this, and the wife won’t have one!
The beam is a pretty good all-rounder. There is a wide hotspot and usable spill.
Giving it a bit of range and the beam smoothes out further and give a nice field of view.
Modes and User Interface:
Thanks to Streamlight’s TEN TAP programming, you have the choice of three different mode sets. These are:
High – Strobe – Low (Factory default)
Low – Medium – High
There is no mode memory so every time you use it, it will start from the first mode in the set. To access sub-modes, you use rapid half-presses of the switch.
For example, on the factory default mode set, one press gives you High, a rapid double tap gives you Strobe, and a rapid triple tap for Low.
The switch is a momentary ‘forward-clicky’ so once you have the mode you want, you can fully press the switch to click the mode on.
TEN TAP programming is simple. To cycle through the available mode sets, rapidly press the switch 9 times and then on the tenth hold it on. Continue to hold until the light goes off then release the switch. Doing this moves you to the next mode set, so simply repeat until you have the one you want.
Batteries and output:
The ProTac HL USB runs on its own rechargeable 18650 cell, any standard button top 1860 or 2x CR123. The manual also mentions not using RCR123, but only due to the lower capacity, not because it will damage the light.
To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).
Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.
|ProTac HL USB using supplied cell||I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens||PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)|
* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.
Peak Beam intensity measured 8700 lx @1m giving a beam range of 187m.
There is no parasitic drain.
Maximum output is delivered in a burst format, lasting around 3 minutes before making a controlled reduction. Turning the light off and on again restarts the 3 minute burst. If left on permanently (as in this runtime test) the output initially reduces and then remains well regulated until it steps down slightly after 30 minutes. The remaining runtime is also well regulated right up to the point the cell runs low and output quickly drops.
This section is included to mention any minor niggles I come across during testing, in case the information helps anyone else.
No issues were encountered during testing.
As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar ‘issue’ that might be fixed in the same way.
The ProTac HL USB in use
Though the ProTac HL USB uses a wider battery tube than most 18650 lights, by keeping the head roughly the same size as the battery tube, overall the light is not overly bulky. With my XL glove sized hands, I find the ProTac HL USB a very comfortable size.
Tailstanding can be a useful feature, and the tailcap design allows for this, but what it means is that the switch is relatively recessed and can become a little difficult to press and click-on, especially when wearing gloves. It requires more of a stab with the tip of your thumb than a press with the pad.
I’ve always like the Streamlight TEN TAP programming, and wish there were more mode-sets available. My preference is for the Low-Medium-High mode set. What I really do like is that when then choosing your output level, this system keeps it very simple; you have a single tap, double tap, or 3 or more taps. If you rapidly press the switch 5 or 6 times you still get the third output level in the mode set. Timing on the mode changes seems to work very well and I always managed to get the mode I want.
Access to the USB charging port is easy as the cover is a simple slider. What does worry me is that the cover is retained only by the o-rings at each end. Once these o-rings wear the cover may not stay in place securely, so it might be better if there was a screw thread to hold it in place. This is a trade off between ease of use and reliability.
Great news is that in the ProTac HL USB Streamlight have not used PWM. All output levels are current controlled and a pleasure to use.
The included 18650 is only 2200 mAh; comparing this to current ‘normal’ capacities of 3400mAh it is somewhat behind the rest. There may be some reliability in a lower capacity cell, but this is slightly disappointing. Of course you can pop a 3400mAh 18650 in and use it, but you can’t charge it in the ProTac HL USB.
Being able to also use standard 18650 (button top) and CR123 cells is a great feature as you are not tied into the proprietary Streamlight cell and can carry backup cells. If you want to use the built-in charger then you have to use the Streamlight cell, but you get one with it so that is not a big issue. Streamlight’s anti-rattle battery tube works very well (but can be a bit tight on some 18650s) and stops CR123s making the light feel cheap as they don’t rattle about.
It may not be outstanding in terms of overall output, or for being compact, but the ProTac HL USB is a workhorse of a light and the package gives you a full kit of parts which can be used for other purposes. I use the mains and 12V USB chargers for my phone and the Portable USB Charger as well as the ProTac HL USB. Simple, programmable and rechargeable.
|Things I like||What doesn’t work so well for me|
|USB Rechargeable.||Switch can be a little difficult to press.|
|Can use standard 18650 and CR123 cells.||Charging port cover only held closed by o-rings.|
|No PWM.||Supplied 18650 only 2200mAh|
|TEN TAP Programming.|
|Anti-Rattle battery tube.|
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