I bought my wife a NiteCore HC65. No you’re not reading the wrong review, this is actually a review for the Fenix HL60R. The first night out with the NiteCore I had already come to realize that the flashlight was vastly too complicated for my wife to use. The NiteCore tries to do too many things, with too many button presses. After accidentally putting the flashlight into strobe mode three times during our walk, I came to the conclusion I probably need to get a simpler flashlight.
Enter the HL60R by Fenix. I have owned a ton of headlamps by Fenix in the past, specifically the HP11. My wife struggled with this headlamp, with her thick hair and me not being able to adjust the headband correctly (I’ve now learned how to properly adjust the headbands) this headlamp constantly fell off. So I decided to get her a single cell 18650 rechargeable headlamp that was lightweight and had no battery pack on the back of her head.
Compared to the NiteCore HC65, the Fenix is dropdead simple to operate. It’s hold to turn on, half press to change light levels, and hold to turn off. That’s it, and that’s perfect. I don’t need strobe, I don’t need beacon, I don’t need SOS mode, I don’t need jump to Turbo mode, I don’t need any of it. I don’t need to spend 15 minutes trying to figure out which button press sequence I need to get to the light mode that I want. The NiteCore actually has four different LEDs with four different sequences to operate all of them.
The tilt adjustment is also vastly superior to the NiteCore. The NiteCore relies on friction to hold it in place and/or change position. The Fenix has a notching system that clicks into place easily and firmly. The NiteCore actually required a bit of dry lube to get it to be not so binding.
I’m a big fan of battery charge indicators built into these headlamps. Most of my lights now all have some form of battery charge indicator. If you know anything about lithium-ion you know that you should not always charged 100% if you don’t need it. Also because these lights are regulated you never know if the light is five minutes away from dropping down to the next lower light level (like all of my Fenix AA flashlights and headlamps) . Fenix has a basic system for battery charge level, in the case of the HL60R the main light flashes for above 70%, flashes the red and main light for below 70%, and flashes the red below 30%. A simple tap of the button will give you the battery voltage level with the light off. NiteCore in their infinite wisdom decides that I need to know the exact battery voltage, this means that it actually counts out the exact voltage in LED blinks. There’s no need for this and it takes a ridiculous amount of time and you have to keep track of how many blinks it actually counted. Give me full, give me medium, give me empty. Fenix does this perfectly. And with the NiteCore and the only way to see this is actually to loosen the battery compartment, press the light button to discharge the capacitors, and then screw the cap back on to get the light sequence for the battery charge level, vastly more complicated than it needs to be.
The light output on the Fenix is perfect, the steps between low to Turbo are perfectly spaced. On the NiteCore the lowest to the next low has a huge jump, which can be brutal to the light-sensitive eyes. The NiteCore does have a high CRI flood which seems to fill this gap. Both lights seem to have the same amount of coverage considering they both have the same emitter there’s no real surprise here. The Fenix is rated 950 lm and the NiteCore is rated 1000 lm. To be honest in my testing even with swapping the batteries the Fenix actually seems to be brighter than the NiteCore. The Fenix main emitter seems to have a more neutral white light which the box does indicate. The NiteCore seems to have a slightly more bluish tint but to be honest in any real-world usage, 90% of people are not going to notice the color difference. The NiteCore’s emitter is actually off-center, seems to be a manufacturing defect. The Fenix is dead on like all my other Fenix lights.
Both lights have a red LED in the case of the Fenix, it has two LEDs. The NiteCore is rated 11 lm, the Fenix is rated one. Using both lights with the red LED I come to find that the NiteCore red LED is too harsh for other people when looking at you it’s actually quite blinding. Most people that use a red light at least with the people that I hang out with are astronomers. The NiteCore would be considered vastly too bright. Fenix really has nailed the lumen output here as well with it being one lumen, your night adjusted eyes will thank you.
The Fenix uses a dust cover to protect the micro USB plug that is used to charge the unit. The NiteCore requires that you unscrew the one side to access the micro USB. Both have cons here, the Fenix dust cover can eventually wear out and get lost. The NiteCore can eventually have the threads worn out from constantly unscrewing the cover which is not captive by the way so you can lose it. The Fenix also uses the standard square threads while NiteCore uses regular threads. The NiteCore is significantly easier to cross thread than the Fenix.
To summarize I probably should’ve just stuck with the Fenix. If I hadn’t had the NiteCore for quite a while at this point I probably would’ve returned it and bought two Fenix HL60Rs. The light outputs are perfect, the operation is dead simple, and honestly at the end of the day this is pretty much all that matters (at least to me).