Tool review: Streamlight ProTac HL USB flashlight

March 14, 2016
Features that stood out include three different powering options, and a programmable switch.

The Streamlight ProTac HL USB features three battery type options and includes a built-in USB charge tab, permitting it to be charged from a laptop or most USB wall chargers. With up to 850 lumens, the light features the company's Ten-Tap programming, which includes high/strobe/low, high only and low/medium/high modes. The 6-1/2", 7.2 oz light has an IPX4 rated design for water-resistant operation and is impact-resistant to 1m. The ProTac HL USB uses a C4 LED that is impervious to shock. A Streamlight Li-ion rechargeable battery pack is included. It has a removable pocket clip and comes packaged with a USB cord and ballistic nylon holster. An optional USB/AC wall adapter is available.

The review

Lighting in the shop is a huge proponent to any tech’s productivity. This continually evolving technology can be seen in the development of flashlights for technicians.

Lou Fort, lead technician at K.A.R.S. Inc. in Huntingburg, Ind., tested out Streamlight’s ProTac HL USB flashlight.

For setup, Fort plugged the light into a USB power source to fully charge the unit before using.

Fort advises he has used multiple Streamlight products in the past. This one stood out with some different features than other models he’s used.

"This is the only (light) that we can change how the switch works or the type of battery we use in it,” he explains. “This lamp is also the only one that has a pocket clip attachment.”

Fort explains the Ten-Tap end cap switch system took a bit to get used to, but he liked the feature once he was able to figure it out.  

“You can program how the switch works,” says Fort of the light’s programmable switch functionality. The Ten-Tap function allows users to select from three different mode options: High/Strobe/Low, High-Only or Low/Medium/High.

“All of the different modes are available in either a momentary or ‘on/off’ depending on how you press the end cap switch,” says Fort. “Since I have little use of the ‘Strobe’ option and wanted to reduce my need to recharge the lamp, I set mine up for ‘Low/Medium/High.’”

As for storage, the flashlight comes in a heavy duty nylon pouch with an adjustable loop.  With the adjustable feature, Fort says “It can be set up to attach to a large number of objects like say a toolbox handle or a roll over protection bar, so you can keep it were you need it most.”

Fort was impressed with the unit’s USB charging tab. “Access to the protected charge port is nicely done by sliding a sleeve down just under the head of the lamp.”

He commented that the light could be battery-powered one of three ways: with the included Streamlight Li-ion battery pack, a commercially available rechargeable Li-ion battery or with two CR123A lithium cell batteries.

“This feature makes it possible to have a more affordable emergency power backup for the lamp,” says Fort. He also comments that with using the alternative battery options, the system is “smart” and will automatically determine if the charging feature needs to be engaged. “What it will do is turn the charging indicator light ‘green’ as soon as it is hooked to a power source. It’s nice to have a bit of safety built right in.”

Fort could offer no additional recommendations for improving the current tool. He advised that it does not have an indicator to advise when the light is about to run out of power, but this did not affect his usage of the product.

He mentioned for future offerings, he thought a standalone charging station and adjustable beam on the unit may be helpful.

“I have used this light all around the shop both inside and out, during the day and at night,” says Fort. “When extra light was needed I could count on the ProTac HL to give me what I needed when and where I needed it.”

Manufacturer's note: Streamlight has recently introduced a charging cradle for 18650 Li-Ion batteries, one of the power sources this product accepts. For more information on the charging cradle, visit VehicleServicePros.com/12168423.

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