Flashlight manufacturers and marketers face an increasingly difficult set of challenges to remain competitive and relevant in an increasingly crowded marketplace. “Old guard” U.S. companies such as Streamlight and Surefire go toe-to-toe with many quality products from around the globe. This is good for consumers – we have more choices at more competitive prices. Competitive prices are certainly important – whenever a review of a light is posted, inevitably a comment is posted resembling; “I can buy brand X light for half as much!” Or, “if I paid that much for a light my spouse would (insert punishment here) me, and I’d deserve it!” I will confess that even this reviewer can be accused of sometimes having jaded opinions. Many a quality flashlight has passed through my hands through the years, and my current collection of lights is quite large. So I was very pleased to discover that this Streamlight is a very good and useful tool.)
When Streamlight sent the PROTAC HL USB for review, I was prepared to be unimpressed.
Pity. Shame on me.
This is a good, well-made, very usable light. It has what I consider to be a few flaws, but overall it is a very desirable product.
The particulars (taken from Streamlight’s product sheet):
“The Pro Tac HL® USB is a versatile tactical light that can charge from multiple sources and use three battery types; Streamlight rechargeable lithium ion battery, two CR123A batteries, or commercially available Rechargeable Li Ion cells. This light will charge from a laptop or most USB wall chargers. Multi battery versatility means you can always use primary disposable cells to power the light when a charging source is not available. Designed for use in all markets, it features a tail cap switch for momentary or constant on operation, three different user selectable programs and a pocket clip for convenience. The aluminum housing with Type II Military Spec anodizing helps make the light extremely durable and abrasion resistant. Packaged with a removable pocket clip and holster. Available in Black.”
Case material: 6000 series machined aircraft aluminum with Type II MIL-Spec anodized finish.
Dimensions and weight: Length: 6.50 in. (16.5 cm) Head Diameter: 1.23 in. (3.1 cm) 1.07 in. (2.7 cm) – 7.2 oz (204 grams) with Li Ion rechargeable battery. (included in purchase)
The light is programmable via Streamlight’s “Multi-function, push-button tactical tail switch. One handed operation of momentary, variable intensity or strobe mode. TEN-TAP® programmable switch allows user selection of one of three different programs: high/strobe/low (factory default), high only, or low/medium/high.”
Output is rated by Streamlight as follows:
These outputs are measured with a full charge – about 10% into the run time outputs drop considerably. Based on my integrating sphere Streamlight’s ratings appear to be accurate at turn on and after extended run times. Realistic outputs during my week of use measured around 500, 300 and 50 lumen on high, medium, low (I did not charge the light for a week.)
The light comes with the already mentioned rechargeable battery as well as a micro-USB cable and nylon holster. I didn’t use the holster as the included belt clip works functions well for my needs. I did try it with an AW 18650 cell and it worked perfectly, although as Streamlight stated the internal charger would not charge the battery. 2 Surefire primary cells also worked just fine.
After my week of use the light has proven to be more impressive than originally expected. Each morning I walk my dog well before sunrise. I have an extensive stable of ‘go to’ lights to use on the walks, but I preferred the Streamlight all week and never had to charge it. The stated run times seem accurate if not conservative.
The beam is a nice white beam that transitions nicely from spot to spill with consistent tint throughout the beam. I reprogrammed the light from its factory setting of “high/strobe/low” to “low/med/high”. Low seemed to be adequate for most of my needs.
2 gripes – the act of switching modes could be easier. You have to really time your clicks to move through the levels. I would like to see the button press timing increased slightly for more intuitive and ‘natural’ mode switching. The other gripe is the spacing between the levels. Your opinion may differ, but 10/200/850 might be more useful. Before someone starts lecturing on output, it is fact that the human eye has difficulty discerning increases in brightness of less than 50%, and in many cases 10 lumen would be as useful as 50 and 200 as useful as the stated 350, plus logically run times would increase.
Charging is easy – slide a cover down to reveal the ubiquitous micro-USB port and plug in to any USB power source. I used a wall-wart charger that came with some other gizmo I have.
The clip has already been mentioned, but it is strong, easy to clip on to a belt, and easy to remove if you prefer to not use the clip and/or use the holster.
Dimensions are given, but most likely every reader of TFB is familiar with the old Surefire 6P – here is a comparison photo of alongside my old reliable 6P.
So this reviewer gives the light thumbs up. Value is something that every potential purchaser has to measure for themselves, but I consider the light to be a good value. List price is around $180 and the selling prices tend to be around $130 most places – Amazon has it for $128.66 as of the time of this writing. It comes with Streamlight’s “Limited Lifetime Warranty.”