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Click to enlargeLED Headlight Comparison

















Here are some photographs of currently available LED headlights.

All headlights were aimed at the same location. All pictures were taken with the camera on a tripod, and with the same exposure. All headlights were powered from a battery charger / starter set to 13.0 volts.

In each pair of pictures, the low beam is on the left, and the high beam is on the right.

Stock OEM Headlights (non-LED, included for comparison)
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Truck-Lite Gen. 1
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Truck-Lite Gen. 2
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J. W. Speaker
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I did a subjective field test of the J. W. Speaker lights vs. the Starr HID lights. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures. The intensity was similar in the center, but the HID lights projected a lot more light to the sides.



Second round of testing: Added in April of 2015, two new LED headlights were evaluated. Test setup was the same. Camera zoom setting was slightly different, causing the second round to appear brighter than the first round. The brightness of the Peterson is similar to the Truck-Lite, and the brightness of the VixionX is similar to the JW Speaker.

Peterson
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VisionX
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VisionX (wide angle to show low-beam illumination)
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VisionX Front & Halo
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The test setup
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The object hanging on the garage door in the pictures was there to allow the camera to autofocus.





Analysis:

The difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Truck-Lite headlights was minor, but significant. The light had better fill (fewer dark spots).

The J. W. Speaker headlights provide significantly more illumination, particularly in the foreground.

Subjectively, all of the LED headlights provide better visibility than the OEM headlights.

Update: April 2015, Peterson and VisionX, plus the Truck-Lite heated lens.

The Peterson light is similar to the Truck-Lite in illumination. The low beam is dimmed during high-beam operation, which is an improvement over the Truck-Lite. The Peterson light has been rebranded for several other vendors, including KC-HiLiTES.

The VisionX headlight is very similar to the JW Speaker. Light output is similar, and both use multiple lens/reflector types to direct the light. (The front of the JW Speaker light is shown above, in the test setup section.) Unlike the JW Speaker, the VisionX light turns off the low beam when the high beam is turned on. This is the only LED or HID headlight that does this. See the next section describing why this is important.

The VixionX also has, by far, the best low beam "near illumination". This can be a significant advantage for off-road operation.

Truck-Lite heated lens:

Any headlight can freeze over (become covered with snow / ice) under the right conditions. It happens with ordinary sealed-beam headlights. The Truck-Lite headlights, having a heated lens, will be less likely to freeze over than other LED headlights. In practice, there is a relatively narrow range of temperatures and conditions where the heating element will actually make a difference. All of that said, heating the lens is a significant feature but it is not a cure-all.


The Hidden Danger:

There is one feature of the OEM headlights that is not provided on any of the tested LED headlights (nor the Starr HID headlights). When in high-beam, the foreground illumination is turned off with the OEM headlights, but remains on with the others. (Update 2015: VisionX LED Headlights turn off low beam when high beam is on.)

In the case of the LED headlights, this was specifically by design. In the case of the Starr HID headlights, it was an error of omission in the design.

Why is this an important feature? Well, like many things, it is a bit counter-intuitive. One would think "the more light, the better", and subjectively it would seem to be true. The problem is with distance vision. When the only illumination is on distant objects, the driver's pupils expand, allowing in more light and improving visibility. With added foreground illumination, the pupils contract (more light = smaller pupils) thus reducing distance vision. You can certainly see well up-close, but you cannot see as well at a distance as you could if the foreground illumination were turned off.

This is no different than dimming the instrument panel lights so that you can see better outside the vehicle.

There are a couple ways to try this for yourself with OEM-type headlights. It is relatively simple to rig a switch to turn on the low-beam lights manually. You would turn on the high-beams normally, allow your eyes to adjust for a few seconds, and then manually turn on the low beams. You will immediately observe that you can no longer see as well in the distance.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of rigging up a switch, you can do the same test using two vehicles side-by-side. Turn vehicle 2 slightly so that its low-beam illumination falls mostly in front of vehicle 1. Leaving the headlights of vehicle 2 completely off, turn on the (OEM-type) high-beams of vehicle 1. Let your eyes adjust, then have the low-beams of vehicle 2 turned on. Again, you will immediately observe reduced distance vision.

This change in distance vision is not easily documented via photography because cameras work differently than the eye. The closest you can come is to take the pictures at a relatively wide angle while allowing the camera to auto-adjust the exposure, and then compare the amount of detail visible in the distance.

In the final analysis, you will have to decide for yourself whether the improved illumination from these headlights offsets the distance vision issue.





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Last Update: May 18, 2017