Best LED Searchlight – ProTac HL 5-X

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It’s been a while since I reviewed a bigger LED flashlight. Typically, many of the lights I’ve been reviewing are everyday carry or just generally compact tactical flashlights that you could take with you on the job. The one I will be reviewing today is still a flashlight you could take on the job, but it’s a little bit bigger. Today I’ll be reviewing the Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X LED flashlight. This light is more of a searchlight with an extremely impressive beam throw and high candela count.

The Difference Between Lumens and Candela

Before I jump into a review of this searchlight, I want to talk about something that is an important spec to distinguish in any tactical flashlight. So let’s talk about the difference between lumens and candelas. I may actually write an entire article on this eventually, but for now, let’s just go over the basics. Both lumens and candelas are a form of measurement for light, but they measure different things. So with lumens, it measures the amount of light that the flashlight is able to produce. Candelas, on the other hand refers to the amount of light shining in one direction, so it’s mostly concerned with the focus of the beam or hotspot.

So a floodlight will have a high lumen output and a lower candela output because it does not have that concentrated beam. On the other hand, a searchlight may have a lower lumen output but higher candela output because the beam is concentrated into that pinpoint focus. For example, the Klarus XT21X tactical flashlight delivers a maximum lumen output of 4000 and its peak beam intensity is less than 25,000 candelas. The LED flashlight that I will be reviewing today, the Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X, has a maximum output of 3500 lumens with a peak beam intensity of 51,000 candelas. If you’re looking for a highly concentrated beam, look for that high candela count. Already, you can tell that the Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X is going to be an excellent throw light.

Features of the ProTac HL 5-X Searchlight

Now that we’ve discussed the difference between lumens and candelas, let’s get into the features of the ProTac HL 5-X along with my thoughts on the flashlight itself.

3500 Lumen Searchlight

As I mentioned before, it has a maximum output of 3500 lumens which is extremely impressive. I wanted to talk to you earlier about the candela count because it really does mean something with this flashlight. When you’re looking at other flashlights on the market, you’ll see higher lumen outputs of 4000 or 6000 which is always exciting. But the impressive part of the ProTac HL 5-X is that with the extremely concentrated hotspot you’re going to see extremely clearly far away. so if you’re looking for a searchlight, this may be the best searchlight on the market. You do have a lot of light with that high lumen output all being focused in one direction rather than in a more angle direction such as a flood light.

The ProTac HL 5-X LED flashlight isn’t small. It’s about 9.5 inches in length, but it is still a great flashlight for search and rescue and other applications where you would use a throw light. It is crafted from aluminum and has a rubber sleeve on the body for insulation and a firm grip. I’m wondering a little bit about the insulation. I’d like to know if that rubber sleeve protects the batteries from the cold specifically. As you may know, lithium ion batteries do drain more quickly in the cold so I think it would be really cool if it helps to insulate the batteries from the cold. This LED flashlight also has a crenulated bezel along the head, but it is a bit smaller and I wouldn’t really consider it tactical exactly. However, if you wanted to use it in self-defense, the flashlight certainly is big enough that you could probably do a bit of damage with it.

Simple LED Flashlight Operation

It’s always good news when a flashlight is easy to operate. The Streamlight ProTac HL-5X has a single side switch design that’s super easy to figure out. It does have a few shortcuts and those shortcuts are different depending on which program you have the light in. If you haven’t owned a Streamlight before, many Streamlight tactical flashlights come with a 10 tap programming system where you can essentially tap the switch 10 times to change the different modes. 

3500 lumen led flashlight streamlight protac hl 5x

The ProTac HL 5-X flashlight has three different modes. With the first mode you’ll get high, strobe, and low. The second mode is high only and the third mode is low, medium, and high. So if a strobe is important to you then that first mode is definitely the way to go. I do know there are some users who prefer a single output flashlight in which case that second mode would probably be better. And if you’re really just wanting to have that medium brightness level available to you, the third mode is the way to go. These programmable modes offer quite a bit of versatility with the light giving you the option to operate it however you want.

Speaking of versatility, let’s talk about the outputs. The ProTac HL 5-X flashlight features three outputs total. You have high at 3500 lumens, medium at 1000 lumens, and low at 250 lumens. I do appreciate Streamlight pairing down of the brightness levels. While I do prefer having four brightness levels at least, there is something to be said about the simplicity of only having three brightness levels. Some would even argue that three brightness levels is unnecessary. On top of that you do also have the option of using the LED flashlight in the second programmable mode where you only are able to operate the flashlight on high. I can definitely see that appealing to several flashlight users.

18650 Flashlight

The Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X runs on two 18650 batteries but you are able to put in four CR123 batteries instead. As you can imagine, you’re going to see a bit of difference depending on which batteries you choose. So the outputs I gave you above are if you’re using two 18650 batteries. If you use two CR123 batteries the outputs are listed here: high at 2500 lumens, medium at 1000 lumens, and low at 250 lumens. Basically everything’s the same except for that high where you lose a thousand lumens using the CR123 batteries. 

18650 flashlight streamlight protac hl5x

Along with the lumens you’re also going to lose some candelas in that high brightness level. So with the 18650 batteries you’re going to see a candle count of 51,000 whereas with the CR123 batteries you’re going to see a candela count of 37,000. Once again, this is still a great amount of light so if you do choose to go with the CR123 batteries, you’re still getting an excellent focused and concentrated beam that’s extremely bright.

I do appreciate the ability to use either 18650 batteries or CR123 batteries. Especially if you’re out in the cold, CR123 batteries are often the better way to go due to the fact that they are more cold resistant and therefore will not drain quite as quickly as 18650 batteries. Unfortunately, they’re not as powerful as lithium ion batteries so you do see a drop in power, but it may be worth it to have that extra runtime. With the two 18650 batteries you’ll be seeing a runtime of 10.5 hours on that low mode of 250 lumens. Whereas with the CR123 batteries, you’ll be seeing a runtime of 11.5 hours with that same low mode. So that gives you an idea a little bit of the difference in general. And of course there’s a very good chance that in the cold that 10.5 hours with the 18650 batteries would probably decrease.

I’m always a fan of when LED flashlights can take multiple battery types. It’s extremely convenient and is always a good capability for a flashlight to have. Honestly, it’s a little impractical to have an LED flashlight that runs on just one battery type nowadays. There are so many battery options available to us and Streamlight did a great job with the ProTac HL 5-X.

Final Thoughts on the Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X

Pros: I love the beam on this flashlight. It’s such a great spotlight and is extremely powerful. You can see so clearly so far away which makes it extremely valuable for search and rescue and possibly hunting as well though I’m not sure if this is able to be mounted or not. I also do appreciate that rubber sleeve because it does allow for a firmer grip on the flashlight itself. Due to the size of the flashlight, I think it’s good to have that extra grip on it.

Cons: As I mentioned before, I really do prefer flashlights to have more brightness levels. I would have liked to see a lower output on this flashlight so we could see longer run times on it. The run times are not the best, but 10 or 11 hours on the low brightness level is still a good run time. You still probably won’t have to be charging or replacing the batteries that often unless you’re using the flashlight all the time.

Conclusion: I’m extremely impressed with the ProTac HL 5-X flashlight. It is a great searchlight and the beam is amazing. It would definitely be great for police officers, search and rescue, or anyone who’s interested in or in need of a flashlight with an extremely concentrated beam. So check out the Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X LED flashlight.

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