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20-INCH LED LIGHT BAR SHOOTOUT

This comparison has been a long time coming; join Unsealed 4X4 as we take a look at the top-performing LED light bars on the market today.

 

The Light Emitting Diode was first brought to market in 1963, by a 33 year-old scientist named Nick Holonyak Jnr. Fast forward forty-three years to the futuristic era better known as 2006, and this technology began to gain legs with off-road drivers and racers around the world in the form of LED light bars. Here we are ten years down the track, and it really must be noted that LED light bars have taken over the 4X4 fraternity. I dare you to find a modified four wheel drive that doesn’t have at least one form of LED lighting on it… go on, I dare you!

 

We now have a lighting solution that draws fewer amps, produces less heat and all things considering should last a heck of a lot longer than the equivalent halogen or HID counterparts. But the few-hundred-dollar-question on everyone’s mind is how do you know where to start when it comes to purchasing an LED light bar for your own vehicle? Do you need to spend top-dollar for a strong performer, or is there a bang-for-buck option on the market that could potentially tick many boxes for most four wheel drivers? Well my friends, the good news is you are about to find out.

Read the rest of this feature and check out the images in our Unsealed magazine HERE.

 

WHY IS LUX IMPORTANT?

Lux is the best measurement to gauge the brightness of a beam of light. A lux meter is considered to be the most scientific way of measuring the intensity a beam of light, and then record these findings. Which is exactly why we went out and bought one for this test. Lux readings are also used to calculate the light intensity travelling over distance. For example, a driving light should have a higher lux reading that a household light bulb, which won’t travel large distances, but will offer a good spread (or illumination) which is used to light a room.

 

WHAT IS LUMEN?

Lumen (known as luminous flux if you’re smarter than me) is a measurement that takes into account the total amount of output produced by a light. Lumen is not the ideal test of a light in this case though, as it measures the entire light being produced without taking into consideration the quality of beam patterns or how that light output is being utilised. This is why many driving light manufacturers will make tremendous claims regarding their lumen output, without supplying a claimed lux reading. This was also the deciding factor as to why we measured lights on this test in lux as it provided a much better indication into the real-world performance of each light bar.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF COLOUR TEMPERATURE

You might not know it, but not all light bars will produce the same colour (or temperature) of light when in use. Just by looking at the images of each light bar we tested, you will see subtle differences in the light beam colour temperature. Some were yellow or gold, others almost blue. Halogen lighting for example would have a lower corrected colour temperature (CCT) than HID or LED lights, as they produce a yellow or gold light. The whiter the light beam, the higher the CCT will be. Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins, which is why you will notice readings such as 5000K printed on promotional material and packaging when shopping for lights.  Choosing the right colour temperature for your requirements is a personal choice, just remember that direct sunlight is approximately 4,800K and make your decision from there. If you prefer a white or blue light, a light bar from the 5,000K to 7,000K range could work well for your needs.

 

 

DISTANCE VS SPREAD

Now this is a hot topic, and one that has been discussed around campfires all across this wide brown land. What is more important in a forward-facing driving light: distance or spread? Well, the answer really is overall illumination, not just one or the other. You want enough spread to see Skippy hiding on the side of the road or track, but you also need enough distance to see any potential hazards further ahead. The choice is ultimately going to come down to the conditions you drive the most. If you drive lots of long straight roads then you will want more distance than someone who is only driving tight low-range tracks. If you live in hilly country, more spread will help you to see the edge of the track and any animals or hazards that could present themselves on bends in the road. Use the images from the testing over the next few pages to help better decide what would suit your needs; there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all lighting solution.

 

UNDERSTANDING IP RATINGS

IP Ratings might seem like some sort of space-age science that is impossible to decipher, but they are actually quite easy to read when you know what to look for. IP Rating stands for Ingress Protection, which is measured against both solids and liquids. The first number in the IP rating identifies how protected a light is against dust and other solids and the second number represents the amount of protection against liquids such as rain or submersion during river crossings. What all this boils down to, is the higher the IP rating, the better the light should be protected against environmental damage.  We imagine the IP rating scale will change as technology improves; at the present moment the highest rating is IP69K, which offers total protection from dust ingress and protection from steam jet water cleaning.

 

NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS

We wanted to test as many lights as possible, but unfortunately there were a few companies who did not want to be involved in our testing. Rigid Industries didn’t reply to emails sent to both their American head office and Australian-based distributer, which is a shame. The same applies for Baja Design who also did not reply to our correspondence. Great Whites and Vision X straight up declined the invitation to be involved, as did Monster Lights which is why these lights did not make it into this test. Sorry guys, we tried!

 

TESTING METHOD

We decided to test only 20-inch (or as close as possible) LED light bars, as this is the most common size sold in Australia. The reason behind this is a 20-inch light bar will fit between the rails of most bullbars sold on the market, making for a straightforward installation.

The first test was to physically fit the light bars to the front of a vehicle (making notes on how hard they were to fit and if a wiring loom was included) then take an image of what the light looks like in a real world stationary position.

The LUX output of each light was measured at 1m, 10m and 100m increments with a LUX (or light) meter. Camera settings were fixed at 1 Sec, F8 with an ISO of 1600, for anyone playing along at home. We also measured the spread of light produced from 10m in front of the vehicle, then 5m to the side. All stationary testing was conducted over one extremely dark evening on private property in the NSW Snowy Mountains. The temperature of each light was also recorded from the heat sink at the back of the light. As we all know, heat is a major factor when it comes to the longevity of electrical equipment so this needed to be mentioned.

Another point worth mentioning, is that water ingress is a huge killer of anything electrical, which is why all LED light bars have an IP rating which we’ve already mentioned. We decided to switch each LED light bar on and throw them into a fish tank to test this IP rating. While switched on, the lights should generate heat. If there were any weak points in the sealing of the light bars, this test would find them.

 

AURORA DOUBLE ROW

SPECS
PRICE: $549
IP RATING: IP69K
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 200W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 11,200
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Side-mounted
WIRING LOOM: Supplied

NOTES: While not the biggest household name, the light bar from Aurora had an impressive output. The supplied wiring loom was good quality. The beam of light was consistent without cold spots, with a good balance of spread VS distance. Unfortunately, water was found inside the light in our submersion test.

 

Overall Results 2.5
Performance 4
Close range: 52,800 lux
Mid range: 1400 lux
Long range: 21.63 Lux
Spread: 18.28 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 1
Temperature: 25.3°C
Water resistance: FAIL (water was found inside the light)
Price 2

 

 

BIG RED  DOUBLE ROW

SPECS
PRICE: $259
IP RATING: IP67
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 126W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 9800
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Side-mounted
WIRING LOOM: Not supplied

NOTES: The beam of light was rather concentrated to the middle and quite low in comparison. The output wasn’t as bright as others tested, but overall quality seems good. No loom was supplied which is a black mark against Big Red, and water was present inside the light after our water submersion test.

 

Overall Results 1.5
Performance 1.5
Close range: 23,000 lux
Mid range: 300 lux
Long range: 5.19 Lux
Spread: 6.31 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 0.5
Temperature: 24.5°C
Water resistance: FAIL (water was present inside the light)
Price 4.5

 

DRIVETECH 4×4

SPECS
PRICE: $330
IP RATING: IP67
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 120W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 8,100
MOUNTING SYSTEM:
Adjustable in middle of light
WIRING LOOM: Not supplied

NOTES: This light strikes a good combination of distance and spread – just look at how powerful that centre beam is. It is also one of the smallest lights tested, making it perfect for those with limited space for mounting an LED light bar. The Drivetech LED light bar also passed our water submersion test with flying colours.

 

Overall Results 4
Performance 5
Close range: 67,200 lux
Mid range: 1600 lux
Long range: 23.71 Lux
Spread: 12.78 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 4
Temperature: 26.0°C
Water resistance: pass
Price 4

 

KORR

SPECS
PRICE: $429
IP RATING: IP67
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 120W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 10,200
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Side-mounted
WIRING LOOM: Not supplied

NOTES: Bang for buck, it would be hard to go past this light from Korr Lighting. The beam of light was strong, with some cold spots to the sides of the centre main beam of light being the only let down. Water submersion testing didn’t stress the XDD500 either, with no water entering the light at all.

 

Overall Results 3
Performance 3
Close range: 43,200 lux
Mid range: 1100 lux
Long range: 13.61 Lux
Spread: 15.01 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 4.5
Temperature: 27.1°C
Water resistance: pass
Price 3

 

 

LIGHTFORCE

SPECS
PRICE: $620
IP RATING: IP69K
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 200W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 11,200
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Side-mounted
WIRING LOOM: Supplied

NOTES: From the moment we opened this box, we knew the offering from Lightforce was a serious contender. It just felt well-made. While the beam of light is rather concentrated down the centre, and with less spread than some other lights on test, there are nearly no cold spots produced. Our water submersion test in no way stressed the Lightforce light bar either, which you might expect given it has an IP69K rating.

 

Overall Results 3
Performance 4.5
Close range: 70,400 lux
Mid range: 1500 lux
Long range: 20.84 Lux
Spread: 18.01 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 3
Temperature: 23.2°C
Water resistance: pass
Price 1.5

 

 

NARVA

SPECS
PRICE: $1499
IP RATING: IP68
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 200W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 18,000
MOUNTING SYSTEM:
Adjustable in centre of light
WIRING LOOM: Not supplied

NOTES: The thing that lets this light down is its price. At nearly three times the cost of other lights on test, the Narva unit lost points in the bang-for-buck stakes. Which is a shame, as it is a solid performer. Water submersion testing caused no issues for it, and look at the amount of spread available combined with the straight-line performance. A great all-round combo beam pattern is produced too, which would be very usable on or off-road.

 

Overall Results 3.5
Performance 5
Close range: 60,200 lux
Mid range: 1500 lux
Long range: 23.38 Lux
Spread: 21.30 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 3.5
Temperature: 25.1°C
Water resistance: pass
Price 0.5

 

 

RHINO 4X4

SPECS
PRICE: $995
IP RATING: IP68
CLAIMED WATTAGE:
CLAIMED LUMENS: 10,000
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Side-mounted
WIRING LOOM: Supplied

NOTES: This would have to be the coolest looking LED light bar… well, ever made! This is a new light for Rhino 4X4, which has been designed for straight-line performance. They have several other options in the range if you are chasing a different beam pattern however. Water submersion testing highlighted good sealing from contaminant ingress, and the supplied wiring loom and mounting brackets were a nice touch.

 

Overall Results 2
Performance 1.5
Close range: 21,930 lux
Mid range: 700 lux
Long range: 7.81 Lux
Spread: 1.8 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 4
Temperature: 25.8°C
Water resistance: pass
Price 1

 

 

STEDI ULTIMATE

SPECS
PRICE: $190
IP RATING: IP68
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 120W
CLAIMED LUMENS: Not supplied
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Side-mounted
WIRING LOOM: Supplied

NOTES: Condensation had built up in the light just from being left outside overnight, and water was present inside the light after submersion testing. Performance was acceptable, especially when you consider this is the cheapest light on this test, however the beam pattern looks more like individual fingers of light rather than a solid beam. The supplied wiring loom is easy to install and seems to be of decent quality.

 

Overall Results 3.5
Performance 4.5
Close range: 19,500 lux
Mid range: 1600 lux
Long range: 28.4 Lux
Spread: 18.4 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 2
Temperature: 26.8°C
Water resistance: FAIL (water and condensation present inside)
Price 5

 

 

XRAY VISION

SPECS
PRICE: $379
IP RATING: IP67
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 100W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 900 (raw)
MOUNTING SYSTEM: Fixed
WIRING LOOM: Not supplied

NOTES: The word to describe the performance of the Xray Vision LED light bar is ‘smooth’. The beam of light produced is liquid-smooth and produces an acceptable level of spread vs. distance with minimal cold spots. Submersion testing highlighted issues with water present inside the light however, and it would also be nice to have a loom included (these are available for an additional $65).

 

Overall Results 2.5
Performance 3
Close range: 38,100 lux
Mid range: 1100 lux
Long range: 14.75 Lux
Spread: 16.30 Lux
BUILD QUALITY 2.5
Temperature: 27.5°C
Water resistance: FAIL (water was present inside the light)
Price 3.5

 

 

ULTRAVISION TORNADO (Prototype tested)

FURTHER TESTING REQUIRED

SPECS
PRICE: $995
IP RATING: IP68
CLAIMED WATTAGE: 240W
CLAIMED LUMENS: 22,800
MOUNTING SYSTEM:
Side and centre adjustable
WIRING LOOM: Not supplied

NOTES: We were forced to remove this light from the official results, as this unit is a hand-made prototype. We have in writing from Ultravision Australia that the internals will be exactly the same as the production models, however without having one to test, it is not fair to other suppliers to include this light until we get the mass produced units in February. The performance of this light was staggering though and excelled in all areas. We look forward to taking a closer look at the production model when it’s released and we will keep you updated.

 

Overall Results
Close range: 86,200 lux
Mid range: 2000 lux
Long range: 35.6 Lux
Spread: 41.8 Lux
Temperature: 36.8°C
Water resistance: pass

 

 

Click here to VIEW the overall comparison chart http://unsealedmag.com.au/led-shootout/

 

Click here to see the scientific testing results http://unsealedmag.com.au/led-shootout-scientific-testing/

 

So… who won?? http://players.brightcove.net/4517911927001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4664261472001

 

Words by Evan Spence, photography by Scott Mason

 

3 Comments

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  • Thanks guys. Looking to set up lights on my new Mack Superliner and your research has been VERY helpful. Just a note. I have been buying some light bars from the guys at Sun Yee in Altona Melbourne. Very cheap. 40″ , 680 watt , $140 & 20″ 392 watt, $105. Good spread & loom etc included, but I’m hearing you , IP rating is lacking.

    • Hi Graham,

      I also bought an Osram 23″ 336 W 5D light bar from them for $95 (:S now its like $65 on ebay), but I doubt it’s really 336W. Although the LED Chips don’t look like the one on Osram’s website, its really got some nice spread, but thats about it. When I compared it with my mate’s higher price light bar, the difference in terms of distance and beam pattern is day and night, the Sunyee one is only good at around 150m, for the higher price one however, I can see so much further like 400m ahead, yet its only 120W, so I think the wattage here is irrelevant. Yes you are right, the IP rating is lacking, after 5 months of use there are already condensation inside. I will see how it holds up, but since it is real cheap, I have no complains about it. However if Im buying a light bar again, I will definitely pay more for a better one justfor its performance and built quality.

  • […] More info as to the light bar testing and choosing the right one can be found Here […]

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