If I’m being honest, when I started dabbling in reviewing gear ~4 years ago I was really just trying to find a way to justify purchasing new gear. I have 3 young kids and don’t mess with debt, and at the time my gear budget was incredibly well defined and inelastic. I thought if I played it smart I could buy and sell gear, remain somewhat flat, produce some cool content for the community and get to try a lot of different things in the process. Overall, the plan worked – though the logic doesn’t quite hold up. Most of my friends in the hobby take a similar approach and are perfectly content without the need to broadcast their every thought like I do.
So what does this have to do with a small, weird, boxy flashlight? Great question, I’m still trying to figure that out. While I ponder that, allow to me to monologue for a bit and let’s see if we can connect some dots.
So – as time has progressed, and I’ve found efficient ways to fund my gear obsession with extra income, my preferences have changed on certain things, and overall the quality of gear I’m buying for personal use and even just for review has gone up substantially. This used to drive me crazy as a review consumer – don’t these guys know we can’t all afford expensive stuff? Can they put their pinky’s down for a moment and understand that a $400 knife is practical insanity?!
And yet, here I sit. Writing this review to you with a drawer of multiple expensive knives on one side and a drawer of expensive watches on the other. As a wise old philosopher once said, “If once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny”. I have tasted the king’s wine and now I look down on your Trader Joe’s swill.
If you’ve made it this far, allow me to elucidate before I really lose you. This odd little light has taken me back to my roots. Its small beam has penetrated the depths of gear fluff and illuminated the root desire of utility that gave young Rybo a fascination with mechanical instruments at an early age. The gear emperor has no clothes. Ok, I may be getting just slightly carried away. But my point is…young, broke Rybo – this one’s for you. The Nitecore TIP SE is an insanely good, lightweight and useful pocket light and it comes in at $30 shipped.
If it isn’t abundantly clear, I like this light. I waited for several months before writing/recording a review, because I knew my tendency as a reviewer was to form a quick impression of something and either be fully-in or fully-out. So I carried and used this light almost daily for well past my normal break-in time before putting out any opinions. But dawn breaks a new day, it’s time to go on record to the 3 of you who subscribe.
At a high level, the thing that I most appreciate about this light is the overwhelming utility of it as a pocket light. I’ve never encountered another daily carry light that is actually in my pocket every day. I can talk all I want about the benefits of a standalone light compared to your cell phone’s flashlight, but it just doesn’t hold up – Carolina summers are hot and some days I just don’t want another thing clipped to my pockets. But the Nitecore is so lightweight, and the box profile lends itself to a much more enjoyable pocket carry than your typical round body flashlight.
So, carry is good but it’s only half the battle. Thankfully, the TIP SE is an excellent performer as a flashlight. There are 3 modes on the light – ok, technically 4. In basic operation mode, you press the “power on” button to turn the light on, and then you can manipulate the mode button to switch between 3 modes – a firefly, medium and high beam. Additionally, if you press and hold the mode button while the light is on or off, you will get an ultra-high beam. It does heat up the light pretty quickly, and is really intended just for quick use, but it’s not a bad feature to have.
I find the 3 modes to be about what I would look for in a stepped light. The firefly could be a hair dimmer, but overall it’s great. I tried to get a good illustration of the difference between the 3 modes in the pictures below. For this test, I went into the darkest area of my house – my closet, which has no windows or outside light source.
Not bad for a light that comes in at 1″x2.25″ and weighs less than an ounce. For my daily needs, this is more than sufficient. Over the past few months, I’ve used this for finding lost kids toys under furniture, casting a raking light across carpeted floors to find rocketed spring bars and finding my way to my trash cans on those cold rainy nights that my wife reminds me I have yet again forgotten to take them to the road. The Nitecore TIP SE has outperformed its size at every step.
There’s really only one fault that I’ve found after extended use – and it’s not a big one. The light uses a USB-C cable instead of the more popular micro-USB/USB-B (what I mistakenly called a mini-USB in the video). While a minor difference, it is fairly annoying for me personally (cue the violin). Most of my other electronic gadgets or lights function on a standard micro-USB cable, and so I have them in abundance. I can pretty much lay hands on a micro-USB in under 10 seconds anywhere in my house. The USB-C, however, is a little less common and I just don’t really keep them around. Not a real problem, since the Nitecore ships with one (as well as a a cool but impractical plastic clip). However, I’ve found that I generally have to go hunting to remember where I stashed mine, instead of just re-using a more common cable from another device. Again…I’m really splitting hairs here, but…that is my one critique.
If you have an IQ higher than the average politician, you’ve probably realized by now that this is a strong carry for me. I adore this light, and it will be a significant challenge for a future flashlight to kick this out of my pocket. Until that happens, I have decided my flirt with practicality and good sense has taken me too close to the edge of wisdom, and so I’ve picked up a second TIP SE, this time in black. Cheers.