on October 26, 2013
I bought this flashlight because I work security detail in an ugly part of my city, and when I need a flashlight, I need it to work consistently every time - because my life could depend on it. For a standard flashlight, that may be too much to ask for, but for a flashlight of this reputation and price, I was expecting much more. I bought the Streamlight Protac HL 2 months ago. It worked for about a month (long enough for the return time to expire), and then the 600 lumen output drastically decreased. I assumed it was exhausted batteries, and so I bought a new package of batteries. The Streamlight did not regain its 600 lumen output. It put out less than 200 lumen, in my estimations. At times the light did not turn on at all when the switch was pressed. I assumed that this was my fault, that maybe I didn't know how to use the Streamlight's "ten-tap" technology. After all, I couldn't find anything on the internet suggesting that anyone had ever had a problem with a Streamlight. I even bought another package of batteries, just to be sure that expired batteries weren't to blame. Sure enough, it was a problem with the flashlight. Bear in mind, I had not abused the light, submerged it, dropped it, exposed it to shock or high heat, and I would go as far as to say I babied it. It spent most of its time in the holster, on my belt.
Streamlight has a limited lifetime warranty on parts defects, and so I decided to send the flashlight to the Streamlight repair facility, after filling out an online repair form on Streamlight's website, accompanied by a detailed description of the problem. I asked them to call me with their findings. I paid for 2 day priority mail, it was shipped within 2 days to their facility, and by the morning of the 3rd day, it was marked as shipped back to customer. I called them and asked what the problem was with my light, and they said it was that I must be using bad or inferior batteries, because they couldn't find anything wrong with the light. I told them that there was indeed a problem with the light, and that I had used both Energiser and Duracell batteries with expiration dates of 2021, and they said that I must be mistaken, and that they strongly recommend more new batteries. Personally, I don't think they looked at it at all.
When the flashlight shipped back to me, I decided to inspect it myself. I figured I'd lose nothing since honoring the warranty was seemingly ignored by Streamlight, and as is, I had a useless paperweight of a flashlight. I started by cutting the rubber button on the tail-cap off, exposing the "guts" of the flash-light's switch, and immediately exposing the problem: corrosion in the tail-cap. An easy fix that I believe that Streamlight should have easily found and fixed. I ordered a new tail-cap on eBay for $16, and the light works like new.
In the end: Does the light work now? Yes, but because I fixed the problem.
Did it work in the beginning? No.
Did Streamlight honor the warranty? No. They insinuated that I was mistaken to weasel out of warranty work, and offered no solution to the problem.
Total cost of flash light after repairs, shipping, and batteries: Easily over $100
Would you recommend this product? No. The product is made in China, offers quality craftsmanship, but poor quality control, and customer service is marginal at best. For you to buy a flash light this expensive, you would have to need it for a tactical/emergency situation, and if it doesn't work in even simple situations, you have a serious problem.
I will probably get steam-rolled for this negative review, but I can only report my experience. I can't speak for the entire Streamlight brand, nor other model flashlights of this brand. I'm only speaking from my experience, and this being my first and only Streamlight, I can tell you that I'm not pleased.
on June 4, 2012
First, I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars here. I'd give it 5 if it had every feature I wanted, but I'm also picking nits here.
I've only used this light a bit, but I wanted to report on it for those considering one. It's been backordered for months, but did actually ship when the seller said it would.
The PT HL is a crazy bright light, at a price that beats similarly priced lights with lesser output. I have a Surefire GX2 Pro, which is a very good comparison, given they are at a similar price point (indeed the GX2's are priced $15 higher than the PT HL!; bet that situation changes soon...). Both are similar in size and use two CR123A batteries, both have high/low output capabilities.
PT HL low/high 35/600 lumens, GX2 15/200
Both use LED's; why anyone would buy an old-school bulb flashlight is beyond me unless you are incredibly cheap. Then why are you looking at this light? The ONE virtue of bulbs you don't find in LED flashlights is, with a few exceptions, adjustable beam spread. But the efficiency and reliability of LED's so far outweighs bulbs I don't mind the tradeoff. Just be careful to pick the proper light for your application, which mainly means "how close is your work area?"
To Streamlight's credit, the beam spread of the PT HL is actually a bit wider than the GX2. This is especially good for close work. Creating a pencil-thin beam is a good way to make your output figures look great by concentrating the light in one spot, but such a beam isn't very practical unless you are trying to illuminate something hundreds of feet away.
I'll also be interested to see if I find the slightly brighter low setting a good or bad thing.
So is 600 lumens bright? Why, yes it is! It isn't mind-bogglingly brighter than 200 lumens (which is very bright mind you), but it is most certainly brighter.
Streamlight also somewhat 'fess's up about the runtime one can expect when using the high output setting. Their literature states 1 hr 15min on high, 18h on low. But they also provide a graph of the high output as a function of runtime: by 45 minutes, you'll be to half power, by 1.25hrs you'll be to 60 lumens. Let's call it about an hour on high. The GX2 is rated 2hrs high (2hrs until light drops below 50 lumens), 45 hrs on low, so both manufacturer''s are at least writing their specs in a similar manner.
Since I mostly use the low setting, I'm fine with the 18hrs. If you need to constantly use the high setting, you would probably be better off finding a light with greater battery capacity or rechargeability. But then you are talking about a physically larger light.
PT HL "IPX 7" waterproof, which translates to immersion in water up to 1 meter deep, GX2 is "water resistant".
PT HL machined aluminum in black, GX2 Nitrolon plastic in black and a few other colors. The aluminum light is very slightly heavier, but as tough as the Nitrolon seems, I think they would both survive similar abuse. One virtue of the Nitrolon is it's non-conductivity, so if you are choosing a light for electrical work, plastic might be a deciding factor. Dropping a flashlight onto bus bars should not be an exciting experience.
Both are operated via momentary/sustained pushbutton on tail. GX2 has low/high settings, PT HL has three different configurations you can program the button to: high-strobe-low, hi only, low-high. Not sure why they don't give a couple more options, such as low-high-strobe. I don't see myself using the strobe feature much except perhaps for long distance signaling. Normally I want the low-high behavior (like the GX2), but it would be nice to be able to get to the strobe if desired. Putting the strobe in the middle of the high-strobe-low program seems odd, but I'm not using it for tactical purposes. Perhaps it makes SWAT guys happy, but I don't want to have to step through the strobe to get to the low & high settings that I'll be using 98% of the time, and I rarely see myself wanting to start the light on high.
The PT HL comes with a nylon holster, the GX2 does not. Both provide an option for a lanyard, but both suffer the problem of the lanyard attachment point being part of either the pocket clip (standard with the PT HL), or a ring sandwiched between the body and tailcap of the GX2. If you find the pocket clip (like a ball point clip) on the PT HL annoying, you can remove it. Both types of clip don't look like they would survive if you really yanked the lanyard. But if something is pulling the light that hard, maybe you don't want the lanyard around your neck to be connected to the light anymore...
The PT HL pocket clip is also deathly tight: if you want to use the clip, you'll probably want to adjust it with pliers to your liking.
I also don't see much in the way of other accessories for this light (yet). I'd like a red filter, which is available for the GX2.
In summary, this is a great super-bright light, by one of the oldest names in flashlights. I think they've got a winner here for sure. Probably the things you'll want to consider in making your choice are: case color, run time, intensity, plastic or metal case, need for seizure-inducting strobe feature.
A little update:
-After studying the lanyard clip on the PT HL, it would take an immense amount of force to tear it off the light. The only downside is if you want to use a lanyard attachment point but find the "pen clip" feature needless and in the way, too bad, you get them as a team.
-Unlike the GX2, you have to double-click the button to move between modes. Sometimes. I can't figure out Steamlight's logic behind this. I.e.: You click once to turn on the light, double-click to move from low to high, single-click to move back to low. Part of this makes sense, since a hard press of the button is electrically turning the light on and off, but a gentle touch is making a momentary interruption the software can pick up on to change states. But even then, some soft touches are single presses and some are double.
The switch is well designed and requires a deliberate touch, so I don't think this programming prevents any accidental changes. The double-click takes a tiny bit of getting used to, as the GX2 just requires you to click the button once to switch modes. One the other hand, the GX2 has the twist-to-turn-on feature, which is annoying in its own special way. More problematic is when the ProTAC is set to hi-strobe-low, I find it hard to get from strobe to low. It's oddly touchy about how you double-click it. I don't much care in this particular situation because as I mentioned I don't see myself using that button setup.
-My reaction to the brighter low setting of the PT HL vs. the GX2's low setting: It's brighter, duh. There might be a very good reason Streamlight chose this brightness level for the low setting, perhaps in response to some particular user group feedback. I'm afraid for my miscellaneous uses it is a tad unnecessarily bright; what I really would like to see is another couple of program settings for the button, either extralow-high, or extralow-low-high, or extralow-low-high-strobe! Hey, it's got a processor in it, why not make it do everything? You just don't need this this much light on low to look at a map or read a driver's license. All it does is manage to temporally trash your night vision.
-After extensive night-time walking around the woods and fields near the house, it becomes apparent just how much brighter the PT HL is than the GX2. GX2 is no slouch, but this is really wicked bright, and I like the distribution of the beam better than the GX2. The only thing that makes it that much more amazing is that it's coming from a little light you had in your pocket a moment ago!
-One minor but possibly important oddity: Apparently the PT HL is using a pulse width modulation (PWM) scheme to provide the low light setting. What this means is that the processor is pulsing the LED on and off very quickly, so quickly that the light appears constantly on but dim. The downside to this is when in the low setting, the frequency of the PWM is fairly slow. If you are out in the rain or snow, you'll notice a stroboscopic stop-motion effect with the rain drops or snow flakes. This may just be annoying but perhaps more seriously, if you are considering using this to service equipment with spinning parts, it may create a hazardous situation if you are looking at gears or blowers, and the stroboscopic effect causes the spinning equipment to appear to be running at different speeds than it really is, even backwards, or barely moving at all! You won't have this problem on the high setting, but you've been warned. The GX2 does not seem to exhibit this behavior.
More testing on this issue: As mentioned, the low setting of the PT HL strobes above the persistence of vision, which is why it doesn't look like it is strobing. But the pulse rate is a very low 130Hz, or pulses per second. This is slow. I tried shining it on a variety of moving devices around the house to see what the effect would be. Blowers, power tools, car parts, appliances and the like. While you might be viewing these objects with some ambient light diffusing the effect, if you are relying solely on the light of the PT HL you may have issues. At 130Hz, I can make spinning drills appear to stop or even run backwards. Same with low speed cutting devices like a reciprocating saw. Peering under the hood of the car, radiator fans appeared to turn slowly, belts and pulleys slowed, stopped, or ran backwards dependent upon engine speed. In short, this phenomenon can range from totally inconsequential in some applications, annoying in others (think snow or rain as I mentioned), to downright dangerous if it causes you to misinterpret the operating state of some piece of machinery you are looking at. Imagine a noisy mechanical room where you can't tell by hearing if a particular piece of equipment is running, and you are evaluating a spinning gear solely on its motion. Go ahead and touch it...
This issue may be tolerable if you are aware of its existence; if you are purchasing a bunch of these lights for your HVAC mechanics, you might want to seriously consider a different product.
For LEO's, aside from the rain & snow situations I've mentioned, I should also note that if out searching in the tall weeds, moving one's eyes and the flashlight around can also create very subtle strobing effects. The weeds sort of flicker, especially in one's peripheral vision, which is more sensitive to contrast changes then central foveal vision. Some people are more sensitive to this than others, so this tweaky issue may not be a bother to many folk. For the sensitive folks, hunting around in the weeds for a couple of hours looking for evidence may be unnecessarily exhausting & headache inducing.
on August 20, 2010
What kind of flashlight can you get at this price point? A really good one, that's what kind. This seemed to be promising too much for the dollar amount, but I gave it a try and I'm glad I did.
Firstly, though, about that 180 lumen rating -- she's bright, but 180 seems a little, um, optimistic.... My very informal and very unscientific assessment would be around 120 or so, which is still pretty darn bright. Throw is decent, and the beam is a good balance between spot and fill. Very useful.
The best part is the switching system. You switch between modes using just the pushbutton on/off click switch in the tailcap (as usual, a little pressure gives you momentary on, push in further to click it to constant on). Press once, and you've got high beam. Press twice within .4 seconds, you've got strobe. Press three times within .8 seconds and you cycle to low beam. I like the feel of the switch; there's quite a bit of travel before you hit the constant-on click. The strobe would certainly be disorienting to an attacker, and the bezel and tailcap have the mandatory crennelations (relief cuts) in case you want to, you know, strike somebody in the head or something. Hey, it is a TACTICAL light, right?
Check the dimensions: at 4.68 inches long, 0.90 inch at its largest diameter, and weighing less than 3 ounces with batteries (I'm going by Streamlight's data here, as I don't have a postal scale handy, but that feels about right), this is one small, lightweight flashlight. The head diameter is barely larger than the body, making it sleek and easy to draw from a pocket. The pocket clip seems pretty sturdy, and a nylon holster is included if you prefer that method of carry. Build quality is adequately rugged, and you've got a lifetime guarantee (excluding abuse and batteries).
Quibbles? Well, the anti-roll flats on the side of the head are mighty subtle, and not very effective on even a slight incline; thankfully the pocket clip stops a roll. The batteries rattle a bit in the body, which I can't stand, but wrapping a piece of adhesive tape around each battery will help to quiet that (not too much, you need to be able to get the batteries back out). And if you like a lanyard, you'll have to improvise, as there's no loop for attaching one. Other than that, I can't find anything to gripe about. There's a lot to like here, especially the switching system. It's so light and slim that I'm not even aware of it clipped in my left rear pocket. Great value, my friends. I'm gonna order a couple more!