Xtar B20 1200 Review – Better than anything at Walmart

The Boring Stuff

The B20 1200 was sent to me for free by Xtar in exchange for a review. No money changed hands at all. At the time of writing, I can’t actually find it for purchase anywhere so I’m not certain what the price is. Here is the official product page and below are the official specs.

What comes in the box?

This is definitely a complete package. The light comes with lots of accessories: a 4900mah protected (mostly) button top 21700 cell, big lanyard, extra o-ring, Xtar SC1 charger, micro USB power cable for the charger, and a fairly nice velcro belt holster. The box itself is your typical printed box with branding all over it that hangs from a hook on a pegboard product display.

Size & Dimensions

MeasurementMeasured (mm)
Head/Bezel Diameter3.45
Body Tube Diameter26.8
Tailcap Diameter38.3
Clip Slot Diameter24
Clip Slot Width5
Length146

User Interface

This UI leaves a lot to be desired for me, but it’s simple and it’s probably fine for the target audience for this light.

StateActionResult
OffHalf-pressMomentary on (mode memory)
OffQuick double half-pressStrobe
OffClickConstant on (mode memory)
OffMultiple slow half-pressesCycle modes (high-turbo-medium-low)

I think this UI is actually fairly good for the target audience, people wanting a dedicated tactical light. I think that target audience likes quick access to strobe, likes mode memory, and doesn’t care about having a moonlight mode. This light would be right at home on a duty belt or a plate carrier or something. It would make a poor daily carry light.

Personally I’m not a fan of the UI at all. I don’t like mode memory. I want quick double-tap access to turbo, not strobe. I like having some kind of charge status indicator, preferably a voltage check mode that blinks out the voltage. I want a moonlight mode, and I would prefer there to be no mode memory.

One thing that is weird regardless of the target audience is the mode order. Who thought that high > turbo > medium > low was a good idea? Modes should always be in a consistent order from dimmest to brightest, or in rare cases from brightest to dimmest, but never in a weird order like this.

Modes & Outputs

I don’t have a good way of measuring lumens. Officially, the B20 1200 is rated at 1200 lumens and I’ll be assuming that to be correct for all my lumen estimates. Here’s what I measured:

ModeClaimed LumensMeasured Relative Output (%)Lumens (Calculated)Current @ Tailcap (miliamps)
Turbo120010012001800
High60052624920
Medium27029348430
Low3033657

It’s worth noting that I think the 1.8A of current draw I measured for turbo mode is inaccurate. My multimeter is the basic kind with probes so it doesn’t always read high current accurately. The other current measurements appear to be in line though.

Candela & Throw: Officially this light is rated at 14.4kcd or 240m of throw. I measured 15kcd or 245m of throw. That’s definitely within the margin of error for my testing setup so I’d call the official rating accurate.

Regulation

Battery VoltageMeasured Relative Output (%)Lumens (Estimated)
4.211001200
3.8167804
3.1921252
2.9513156

Regulation here is not great. There’s a >30% drop in output going from a full charge of 4.2V down to 3.8V, which is still more than half-charged. The runtime regulation is pretty flat though, which is nice.

There is a low voltage warning in the form of several blinks, which I observed after inserting a cell at 3.1V. I also observed it on medium mode in my runtime testing.

Runtime

Turbo: The B20 1200 maintains its maximum turbo output for nearly 10 minutes before beginning to step down which is pretty impressive. It drops over the course of a few minutes and finally settles at about 750 lumens where it stays until just before the two and a half hour mark. Then it begins a slow, stepped decline and curves off near the bottom. Eventually, it settles at a low, moonlight level brightness where it stayed until I ended the test just before the 9 hour mark.

I stopped the test because I thought the light had turned off, but it actually was still on and very dim. I measured cell voltage at 2.45V which is below safe recharging voltage. I left the cell for a couple hours and it had recovered to 2.68V which is safe to recharge. Clearly the light has no LVP (low voltage protection) and the protection circuit doesn’t either, which is interesting. I’ reached out to Xtar about this and they confirmed that this is by design, “to let turn on the flashlight in some emergency situations, even thought the battery is with low power”.

High: High mode is well below the B20’s thermal threshold so there’s no significant thermal stepdown. It’s largely stable at around 560 lumens for over 4 hours and then it starts the same slow stepped decline as seen in Turbo mode. I stopped the runtime test before 5 hours as to not over-discharge the cell.

Medium: Medium is fairly stable for just over 11 hours and then it starts to drop off. I assume that fluctuation on the “cliff” of the graph before the steep drop is the low voltage warning blinking.

Disclaimer: All these runtime graphs are scaled based on the assumption that the official lumen ratings for each mode are correct.

Emitter & Beam

This light uses a Cree XPL V6 emitter. It’s a very popular emitter for this class of light. It’s bright, but CRI standard and there’s a lot of tint-shift. A lot of tint-shift.

The beam is fine for a tactical light like this. It’s got plenty of spill, plenty of throw, with a wide enough hotspot that it’s useful at most distances. As you can see though, the tint shift is off the charts. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t really need to be.

The B20 1200 doesn’t actually have a moonlight mode. The lowest mode is claimed to be 30 lumens, which seems right to me. I would prefer there be a moonlight mode, but it’s not a critical thing in a tactical light like this so it’s not a big deal.

Design & Construction

The design here is pretty standard for a tactical light like this. Crenulated bezel, flared head, some cooling fins, knurled body, tailcap with forward clicky switch, and a couple fins on the tail for tail standing. Nothing special.

Build quality nothing special either. It’s adequate and I don’t see any problems but it’s nothing to write home about. One area I would like to see improved is the threads. They’re triangle cut and fairly fine. I have to be deliberate every time I thread on the tailcap not to cross-thread it. My comparison, I can’t cross-thread my Emisar D4V2 even if I try.

The B20 1200 uses a forward clicky mechanical switch on the tailcap of the light. It takes a substantial amount of force to actuate, much more than other forward clickies I’ve tried. It’s not too difficult to actuate though. Accidental activation seems extremely unlikely here.

Carry & Ergonomics

The B20 feels good in hand overall. It doesn’t really lock into my hand like some lights, but I don’t feel like I’m going to drop it.

The clip is fine. It leaves a whopping 1.53″ (38.9mm) sticking out of the pocket which is fine for the tactical use case this light is designed for. The clip has plenty of ramp so it’s easy enough to get the light back into your pocket one-handed. Once you put it in the pocket it doesn’t come out accidentally.

A belt holster is also included with the light. It’s pretty standard with a velcro closure on front and and two stacked belt loops on the back for carrying it vertically on the belt. The outside loop can be opened up via a snap button and some velcro to allow you to thread on the holster without removing your belt, or to allow you to attach it to molle webbing. The inner loop is fixed and you can thread your belt through it for maximum security. There’s a pretty basic lanyard included as well.

Batteries & Charging

The B20 1200 uses a 21700 battery. It includes a protected button top 4900mah cell, and that’s what I used to do all my testing. It also worked just fine with an unprotected flat top Molicel P42A thanks to the springs at both ends. It’s worth noting once again that the light has no low voltage protection, and the included cell has no low voltage protection either, so you shouldn’t leave the light running unattended. The cell is 74.5mm long and 21.2mm in diameter.

Xtar also includes a charger with the B20 1200, the Xtar SC1. It’s a simple, single bay li-ion charger that does the trick nicely for the included cell. It’s a little longer than most chargers to accommodate the added length of the protection circuit on the battery. It’s 52mm between the contacts though so it can’t support 14500 or smaller cells. I didn’t do any extensive testing but I ran through a half dozen charge cycles of this cell and exclusively used this charger to recharge it.

Competition

What lights compete with this one and how do they compare?

Convoy M21B: Similar size & design, same battery, programmable UI, no shortcuts, includes low voltage protection, wide range of emitter options, brighter and throws further. The light is very affordable, but the clip, battery, and charger have to be purchased separately. Also, you have to request a forward clicky switch because it doesn’t come with one by default.

Klarus E3: Smaller, much deeper carry, instant strobe button

Acebeam T36 Killzone Edition: Instant turbo tailswitch, moonlight mode, brighter and throws further, integrated charging

Fenix TK16 V2:much brighter & throwier, instant strobe button, deeper carry clip, glass breakers in bezel

I don’t know exactly what the selling price of the B20 1200 is, but I think about $40 would be reasonable for this package.

Conclusion

This light fits into a fairly narrow use case: a dedicated tactical light. It’s not a bad option for that use case, but I don’t think it stacks up to the competition fairly well. If you needed a light today and found one of these in a big box store I think it would be a great buy because it would probably be the best light they carry. However, I suspect that this will only be sold online, and if you’re buying online then I think there are much better options to choose from.

If Xtar wants to improve the B20 1200, here’s what I suggest:

  • Include some kind of LVP, preferably in the light itself. The light can still step down substantially and stay on a low level for a long time, just make it shut off eventually. I would hate for someone to buy this and leave it on by accident, drain the cell too low, try and charge it, and then start a fire because the cell was overdischarged.
  • Improve the UI:
    • Change the strobe shortcut from a double tap to a triple tap
    • Add a shortcut to the highest mode via a double tap
    • Add a moonlight mode
    • Improve mode spacing so it’s visually linear from 1 lumen to 1200 lumens, maybe something like 1, 6, 33, 200, 1200.
    • Remove mode memory
  • Reduce the tint shift: Use a different emitter, an orange peel reflector, or both
  • Improve the threads: make them larger and square cut
  • Make it carry deeper either by moving the clip mounting location or by including a deeper carrying clip. Also, put two lanyard holes on each ear of the tailcap so that using a lanyard doesn’t compromise tailstanding.

Thanks to Xtar for sending this light out for me to review!

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