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LEDs... Is it game over for Halogen and HID Driving Lights?

WORDS AND IMAGES BY WES WHITWORTH

Chances are you’ve seen the theory behind the different technology of spotlights on the market back in the last issue of Unsealed 4X4 – Issue 69. If you missed it and wanted to have a read, so you know exactly how each of the different technology works, head over to here and have a read. Fair warning though; it’s pretty in-depth and will probably overload you with more information than you’ll ever need. It’s good for pub ammo though.

That aside, let's have a look at each of the lights we’ve tested and how each of them will perform side by side. Interestingly, having all three light up next to each other is pretty awesome, being able to see the specific differences between the technology, and the light that each puts out. It’s not often we get the chance to have a look at them all side by side.

You’ve seen the theory; now we’ll look at the practical side

GUIDE

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THE LIGHT SPECS
As you know, we’ve tested three separate lights. All from the same manufacturer, all the same size, however, all with different wattage specification and lighting technology. We did this to keep things as scientific as possible – we know that Narva are a long-running manufacturer of quality lighting and electrical components, so it keeps things on a level playing field for us. Here’s the information on each light as specified by Narva.

NARVA ULTIMA 225 LED DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12V
Power: 45W
Amp Draw: 4.6A
Housing size: 225mm
Colour Temp: 5000° Kelvin
Globe: 3 X 15W XHP50.2 Cree LED

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HID DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12V
Power: 35W
Amp Draw: 2.9A
Housing size: 225mm
Colour Temp: 4200° Kelvin
Globe: Arc tube

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HALOGEN DRIVING LAMP
Voltage: 12V
Power: 100W
Amp Draw: 8.3A
Housing size: 225mm
Colour Temp: 3000° Kelvin
Globe: H1

“The important part here is that the lights were all running the same wire, specs, and voltage while testing, so our numbers remained accurate."

THE TESTED SPECS
You might remember our test bench from articles such as, ‘How not to burn your 4X4 to the ground! We ended up testing the lights on the test bench we knocked up a few issues ago to blow fuses up. Essentially, we have 50A wire coming into the bench, with 30A wire running to a relay and then to a positive and negative bus bar, which we connected the lights directly to. Each light utilised the factory harness and relay from Narva; we just bridged the switch side of the Narva relay to act as the high-beam switching wire as if they were installed into a four-wheel drive. It’s as close to having them installed as we could get without actually mounting them on the ‘Cruiser. The important part here is that the lights were all running the same wire, specs, and voltage while testing, so our numbers remained accurate. Each one was run for 90 seconds.

This is what we found while testing:

NARVA ULTIMA 225 LED DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12.6V
Stated Power: 45W
Amp Draw: 4.9A
Back of housing temperature: 27.9°C
Lux at 50 metres: 290lux
Colour Temp: 5000° Kelvin

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HID DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12.6V
Stated Power: 35W
Amp Draw: 4.0A
Back of housing temperature: 29.1°C
Lux at 50 metres: 620lux
Colour Temp: 4200° Kelvin

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HALOGEN DRIVING LAMP
Voltage: 12.6V
Stated Power: 100W
Amp Draw: 6.5A
Back of housing temperature: 30.4°C
Lux at 50 metres: 680lux
Colour Temp: 3000° Kelvin

LED
Despite this light being a flood beam instead of a spot, the LED shone rather well. The colour temp was a touch cooler than I would prefer (HID wins that point), but for a light with just three LEDs in it, I was blown away. Current draw was a touch higher than HID but was steady from go to woah. Interestingly, the heat was not an issue, due to the fact there were just the three 15W LEDs within the housing, so there was no need for a massive alloy heatsink on the back of the light (as you’d see on an LED lamp with 20+ LEDs). The light was consistent, in that colour temp and brightness was the same across the entire beam (unlike HID’s blue hue, and the fall-off of the Halogen). I think the LEDs will continue to improve into the future, and soon enough will replace the other technologies available in the light space. Especially now with the ability to generate many different colour temperatures within the LED space.

HID
Honestly, HIDs are just cool. Especially when you think of them as having little lightning bolts lighting up the road for you. They’re exceptionally efficient (once they’ve ‘warmed up’), but do have the drawback of having to warm up in the first place, and also their lack of longevity, losing their output relatively quickly over a few thousand hours of burn time. That said, in the real world, they looked to be the closest to daylight in the testing, and their amp draw was the lowest of the lot once they had warmed up. The 4200°K colour temp was nice on the eyes, but the blue hue around the outside of the beam was a touch off-putting. All in all, not bad, but again, I’m probably not going to spend my hard-earned on a set any time soon.

HALOGEN
As no surprise, and which matches the theory data, Halogen lights are a dying breed. Despite the numbers that we saw in the previous yarn, the current draw, heat generation and colour temperature all ran as we expected them to. They just aren’t nearly as efficient and needed nearly triple the amount of power to get a similar light output as their counterparts.  Their only saving grace is that they cut through the dust, smoke and fog better than both HID and LED, being a much more yellow (borderline orange next to the others) light being thrown down range. If you’re in an area that gets exceptionally foggy over the winter months and do a lot of hours at night, Halogen lights may be the best option for you. That said, personally I don’t think there is anything in the Halogen line-up that would get my money into the future.

WES’ THOUGHTS ON THE RESULTS
Remembering we were only out in this yarn to look at the differences between the technology in practice (we already covered the theory side here) of your average driving lights, some things have become blatantly clear.

AN INTERESTING OBSERVATION
Something that shocked me was the lux reading out of the Halogen light. Despite the HID looking quite a bit brighter than Halogen, and again brighter than the LED, the Halogen gained the greatest lux result at about 50 metres. This comes as interesting for two reasons (before the Halogen fanboys start throwing confetti in the air).

First off, is that it is just a lux reading (when was the last time you needed to read a newspaper at night by spotlight?). Sure, it’s a point for Halogen, and most punters will look at lux and lumen data when picking which lights to spend their dollars on. But it was higher than the other two lights.

The second reason is that despite having a higher lux reading, it did not appear as bright as the HID. This is where we throw the science and readings out the window and bring things back to personal observations.

BUT WHAT’S BEST?
I’d be happy to say that that’s more about personal choice as it is about the science. Personally, I love LEDs simply due to their spread, light output, and the efficiency that some manufacturers are getting out of them – hell, these Narvas are just 45W a piece. That said the HIDs seem to throw light better, but you’ve got the longevity to worry about, as well as the random blue/purple hues around the periphery of the light being thrown. And, well, Halogens I think have had their day. Unless of course you’re running 300W globes that melt lenses and retinas alike, and you’ve got two alternators and three batteries to run them.

It all comes down to exactly what you want out of them, and what you feel is the best for you. Have a good look at the images through this story, and hopefully it will give you a bit of an insight into which way you want to go.

GUIDE

LEDs... Is it game over for Halogen and HID Driving Lights?

Chances are you’ve seen the theory behind the different technology of spotlights on the market back in the last issue of Unsealed 4X4 – Issue 69. If you missed it and wanted to have a read, so you know exactly how each of the different technology works, head over to here and have a read. Fair warning though; it’s pretty in-depth and will probably overload you with more information than you’ll ever need. It’s good for pub ammo though.

That aside, let's have a look at each of the lights we’ve tested and how each of them will perform side by side. Interestingly, having all three light up next to each other is pretty awesome, being able to see the specific differences between the technology, and the light that each puts out. It’s not often we get the chance to have a look at them all side by side.

You’ve seen the theory; now we’ll look at the practical side

WORDS AND IMAGES BY WES WHITWORTH

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

THE LIGHT SPECS
As you know, we’ve tested three separate lights. All from the same manufacturer, all the same size, however, all with different wattage specification and lighting technology. We did this to keep things as scientific as possible – we know that Narva are a long-running manufacturer of quality lighting and electrical components, so it keeps things on a level playing field for us. Here’s the information on each light as specified by Narva.

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HALOGEN DRIVING LAMP
Voltage: 12V
Power: 100W
Amp Draw: 8.3A
Housing size: 225mm
Colour Temp: 3000° Kelvin
Globe: H1

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HID DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12V
Power: 35W
Amp Draw: 2.9A
Housing size: 225mm
Colour Temp: 4200° Kelvin
Globe: Arc tube

NARVA ULTIMA 225 LED DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12V
Power: 45W
Amp Draw: 4.6A
Housing size: 225mm
Colour Temp: 5000° Kelvin
Globe: 3 X 15W XHP50.2 Cree LED

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

“The important part here is that the lights were all running the same wire, specs, and voltage while testing, so our numbers remained accurate."

THE TESTED SPECS
You might remember our test bench from articles such as, ‘How not to burn your 4X4 to the ground! We ended up testing the lights on the test bench we knocked up a few issues ago to blow fuses up. Essentially, we have 50A wire coming into the bench, with 30A wire running to a relay and then to a positive and negative bus bar, which we connected the lights directly to. Each light utilised the factory harness and relay from Narva; we just bridged the switch side of the Narva relay to act as the high-beam switching wire as if they were installed into a four-wheel drive. It’s as close to having them installed as we could get without actually mounting them on the ‘Cruiser. The important part here is that the lights were all running the same wire, specs, and voltage while testing, so our numbers remained accurate. Each one was run for 90 seconds.

This is what we found while testing:

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HALOGEN DRIVING LAMP
Voltage: 12.6V
Stated Power: 100W
Amp Draw: 6.5A
Back of housing temperature: 30.4°C
Lux at 50 metres: 680lux
Colour Temp: 3000° Kelvin

NARVA ULTIMA 225 HID DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12.6V
Stated Power: 35W
Amp Draw: 4.0A
Back of housing temperature: 29.1°C
Lux at 50 metres: 620lux
Colour Temp: 4200° Kelvin

NARVA ULTIMA 225 LED DRIVING  LAMP
Voltage: 12.6V
Stated Power: 45W
Amp Draw: 4.9A
Back of housing temperature: 27.9°C
Lux at 50 metres: 290lux
Colour Temp: 5000° Kelvin

WES’ THOUGHTS ON THE RESULTS
Remembering we were only out in this yarn to look at the differences between the technology in practice (we already covered the theory side here) of your average driving lights, some things have become blatantly clear.

HALOGEN
As no surprise, and which matches the theory data, Halogen lights are a dying breed. Despite the numbers that we saw in the previous yarn, the current draw, heat generation and colour temperature all ran as we expected them to. They just aren’t nearly as efficient and needed nearly triple the amount of power to get a similar light output as their counterparts.  Their only saving grace is that they cut through the dust, smoke and fog better than both HID and LED, being a much more yellow (borderline orange next to the others) light being thrown down range. If you’re in an area that gets exceptionally foggy over the winter months and do a lot of hours at night, Halogen lights may be the best option for you. That said, personally I don’t think there is anything in the Halogen line-up that would get my money into the future.

HID
Honestly, HIDs are just cool. Especially when you think of them as having little lightning bolts lighting up the road for you. They’re exceptionally efficient (once they’ve ‘warmed up’), but do have the drawback of having to warm up in the first place, and also their lack of longevity, losing their output relatively quickly over a few thousand hours of burn time. That said, in the real world, they looked to be the closest to daylight in the testing, and their amp draw was the lowest of the lot once they had warmed up. The 4200°K colour temp was nice on the eyes, but the blue hue around the outside of the beam was a touch off-putting. All in all, not bad, but again, I’m probably not going to spend my hard-earned on a set any time soon.

LED
Despite this light being a flood beam instead of a spot, the LED shone rather well. The colour temp was a touch cooler than I would prefer (HID wins that point), but for a light with just three LEDs in it, I was blown away. Current draw was a touch higher than HID but was steady from go to woah. Interestingly, the heat was not an issue, due to the fact there were just the three 15W LEDs within the housing, so there was no need for a massive alloy heatsink on the back of the light (as you’d see on an LED lamp with 20+ LEDs). The light was consistent, in that colour temp and brightness was the same across the entire beam (unlike HID’s blue hue, and the fall-off of the Halogen). I think the LEDs will continue to improve into the future, and soon enough will replace the other technologies available in the light space. Especially now with the ability to generate many different colour temperatures within the LED space.

AN INTERESTING OBSERVATION
Something that shocked me was the lux reading out of the Halogen light. Despite the HID looking quite a bit brighter than Halogen, and again brighter than the LED, the Halogen gained the greatest lux result at about 50 metres. This comes as interesting for two reasons (before the Halogen fanboys start throwing confetti in the air).

First off, is that it is just a lux reading (when was the last time you needed to read a newspaper at night by spotlight?). Sure, it’s a point for Halogen, and most punters will look at lux and lumen data when picking which lights to spend their dollars on. But it was higher than the other two lights.

The second reason is that despite having a higher lux reading, it did not appear as bright as the HID. This is where we throw the science and readings out the window and bring things back to personal observations.

BUT WHAT’S BEST?
I’d be happy to say that that’s more about personal choice as it is about the science. Personally, I love LEDs simply due to their spread, light output, and the efficiency that some manufacturers are getting out of them – hell, these Narvas are just 45W a piece. That said the HIDs seem to throw light better, but you’ve got the longevity to worry about, as well as the random blue/purple hues around the periphery of the light being thrown. And, well, Halogens I think have had their day. Unless of course you’re running 300W globes that melt lenses and retinas alike, and you’ve got two alternators and three batteries to run them.

It all comes down to exactly what you want out of them, and what you feel is the best for you. Have a good look at the images through this story, and hopefully it will give you a bit of an insight into which way you want to go.