Nitecore TM20K | Expert Review by Koen van der Jagt
Even in the flashlight world brands and manufacturers do not sit idly by but still continue to develop their products. The (at the time) spectacular TM10K recently welcomed a big brother which, as the name already suggests, has double the amount of output. But that is not all: the TM20K is enhanced with multiple interesting (light) options, amongst which two light profiles that can be used individually. This piqued my interest which is why I was looking forward to trying this light canon. Continue reading and find out what I think of this new Nitecore top model!
My first impressions
The TM20K is wrapped in a luxurious cardboard box with its specifications and details on the bottom. The light itself, including the familiar documentation, is hidden in the holster in between the foam of the box. Lanyard and charging cable were given their own spot. The TM20K also comes with an inconspicuous cord: don't throw it out, you need it to attach the lanyard. Like is common these days the charger is missing: other than that there is not much left to be desired.
The TM20K is a member of the Nitecore T(iny) M(onster) collection and these lights were given their names for a reason because, despite their size, they excel in light intensity or reach. In terms of design I think the TM20K looks the best of all lights from the collection thanks to the balanced design that radiates power. The LED lights in the head immediately highlight that this light is one to take into account.
The TM20K is quite heavy, but still feels great in hand. This size just barely still fits in a large (jacket) pocket, but thanks to the long clip you can also attach it to your jeans pocket or belt. Optically speaking the light shows no flaws, the finish is (once again) top notch. The eye catchers are both the front and back. The head contains no less than 19 similar XP-L2 LED lights, of which one is located in the middle in a separate and deep reflector. The other 18 each have their own shallow mini-reflector and supply the TM20K with a lot of lumens and a broad beam. The back is enhanced with multiple details: in between the main switch and the charging port you can also find a flat, tactical switch, meant for the instant-turbo or stroboscope mode. In addition, the side is also enhanced with a button for the light modes and a switch that determines which mode the TM20K is using. Later on in this review I will tell you how this works! Close to the button on the side you will find an eye to attach the lanyard. This was not easy to do and I noticed that the anodisation wears away easily in that spot. I do, however, not think that the average user will be bothered by these 'traces of use'. Because the body is not round it cannot roll away which is great. Cut-outs in the body provide you with more grip; you can, if need be, remove the solid clip. The TM20K cannot be opened. The advantage is that this light is protected from rain and dust in the best way possible; the disadvantage is that you cannot exchange or replace the batteries.
The TM20K leaves a great first impression and looks like a very solid product with details that were carefully thought through.
When and how
The TM20K is made for the more demanding tasks; think of completely lighting up a cave as a guide or having access to a wide beam during a search op. Even though the maximum power can only be used for a short amount of time there is always enough power left when you switch back to the lower light modes. The beam can also be focused thanks to the special spot mode that only uses the central LED light. The light is also great for tactical purposes because you can completely control it by hand and it has a tactical mode to make sure you will be ready for anything.
How is the Nitecore TM20K in terms of controls and comfort
Charging is easy and familiar, but will take up to 5 hours because the two built-in 21700 batteries have a large capacity. You can always check the current battery voltage with an accuracy of up to 0.1 volt by briefly pressing the mode button. This only works if the light is unlocked. I always appreciate this option!
Talking about unlocking: the TM20K is enhanced with a slide switch with which you can easily unlock the light, lock it and choose between the daily or tactical mode. For these types of lights a good 'lock' is key because the light can heat up quickly in only a short amount of time. I know because in the past I (on numerous occasions) ended up with scorch marks on jackets and jeans. To lock the light you only need to put the slide to zero, or move it to the left (the head facing down, in case it is dark out). Via a cut-out below the slide you will quickly know which position it is in; also on the opposite side of the mode switch you can find this type of slot that helps you find the button by feel. To unlock the TM20K you need to hold the mode button as you push the slide in position 1 or 2. When you switch modes without pressing the mode-button the light will immediately lock. The security works like a charm! The status light in the main switch will light up to confirm you unlocked the light the right way; if not, the blue LED light will flicker, telling you the TM20K is still locked.
In position 1 the light will be in daily mode. After turning the light on you can switch between the four standard light modes via the mode button on the side. It is remarkable that for the lowest mode only the central LED light is used; in the following modes the 18 LED lights in the edge of head will help out. Nitecore calls the lowest mode of 320 lumens 'ultra-low', but for me a really low mode is less than 5 lumens. As such you only really use the TM20K outside. The blinding turbo mode has its own switch in the middle, on the back of the light. This mode is impressive.. wow.. the amount of light it can produce! Sidenote is that it is only for a short amount of time, after approx. ten seconds the light will switch back to the last mode used. You can also set up this central tactical button for direct access to the stroboscope mode by briefly pressing the mode button once as you hold the button. The mode last used is stored to make sure you have access to the turbo or stroboscope mode via this button. The TM20K has two additional special light modes: maximum focus and maximum spread light. You activate these modes by holding the mode button when the light is turned on, the spot and flood mode will now alternate intermittently as long as you hold the button. When you turn the light off the flood or spotlight mode is stored in the memory and with a single click you will return to the last used normal light mode.
In position 2 (the tactical mode) things work differently. All modes will be in 'momentary-on', so light as long as you hold the main or tactical switch. Choosing between light modes and the functions of the central button for turbo and strobe is the same as in the daily mode, with one main difference: the flood and the spotlight mode are not available in the tactical mode. Both the main and mode switch operate silently, which is a must-have for tactical use and therefore fine.
I like the controls of the TM20K, they were carefully thought through and as a user you quickly understand how the light works. Especially the lock-out and daily and tactical mode are excellent Nitecore finds. The TM20K has many practical light options even though I do miss a low and energy-efficient mode.
This is what I love about the Nitecore TM20K
The user-friendliness is a massive plus; it is jam-packed with light options which can all easily be used. I also love the switch that enables you to lock the light or select the desired light mode. The light intensity in the turbo mode is overwhelming to say the least, even though it is only for a short amount of time. The light is incredibly versatile because you can switch between light beams (focused or spread).
This could be better
For this light I miss a good low mode: even on a big light I believe a 5-lumen mode or less is a must. Great in emergency situations to provide yourself with enough light for a longer period of time and also practical if you use the light indoors. There is also quite a gap between the highest and turbo mode (from 3100 to 20000) lumens; in between you can, in my humble opinion, easily fit another level.
Value for money?
Nitecore's top model is quite expensive and therefore you need to decide for yourself if its price is worth what you will use it for. On the other hand this is a light that will mostly be used by professionals such as guides or law enforcement, making it a part of your daily gear and definitely worth its price.
The TM20K is impressive in terms of intensity, but also thanks to the sophisticated interface. Even though you can only briefly use the turbo mode, the TM20K has more stamina in the lower modes than lights that can produce maximum between 1500 and 3000 lumens. As such you have a lot of light at your disposal in a light with a manageable size. Being able to switch between the spot and flood mode is also great. The previously discussed slider to lock or pre-select the daily and tactical mode is easy in use. I think the TM20K is an amazing product with a hefty price tag.
When I look at the ever-growing Tiny Monster family I notice that almost all of them are super compact lights that produce a lot of light at a short distance. There is one outsider in the shape of the TM39: clearly no 'Tiny' Monster, but wow the reach.
Last, but not least: the beamshots!
Even for me this is always thrilling: how powerful is a light and what does it produce? I truly expect a lot from the TM20K. As mentioned before the light will only start with the central LED light in the middle; only for the three subsequent modes the remaining 18 LED lights in the edge of the head will work as well. It is remarkable that you hardly see this transition when you look at the light profile. The test location is a grassy field with the edge of a forest located approx. 75 metres away. Below first the four standard light modes followed by the incredibly powerful turbo mode.
Below you can see what a reflector does with an LED light! The flood mode only uses the LED lights in the edge of the head while, in the spot mode only the central LED light is used. As such you can turn the TM20K from a broad beam light into a searchlight. Below you can see the massive difference in light profile.
The next location is a moor with some trees close by and the edge of a forest located approx. 100 metres away. Here you once again see the effect of the different options the TM20K has to offer: focused in between the trees, or broad light at a short distance and illuminating almost everything at full power. I can assure that 'live' it looks even more impressive than what I can capture in images.
Below some more pictures as I am standing on a forest path in the Veluwe. The turbo mode produces so much light the foreground becomes overexposed. The second image once again highlights how broad the beam of the TM20K is. Its power is truly unheard of!
It is really cool to try out this light in the dark. Unique light beams combined with a massive amount of light!
Until next time!
Koen van der Jagt
Ever since he could walk Koen has been interested in lights, wires and batteries. As a child he was always working with dyno torches, bike lights and electrical boxes. The krypton and halogen lights were replaced by LED lights. A couple of years ago he discovered the ‘professional’ stuff. His first brands were Led Lenser and Fenix. Photography is also one of his hobbies. In addition to nature and meteorology Koen loves to show others what a light can do and what its beam looks like at night. Koen’s reviews can often be found on forums such as candlepowerforums.com and taschenlampen-forum.de. Throughout the years Koen has collected lights in practically any category: from small and compact to enormous powerhouses.