LED light bars comparison

LED light bars comparison

Yet another LED light test has us spending many nights out on the tracks of our test paddock loaded with reflectors and test gear; this time we’re looking at light bars – both single row and double stacked to see if length and wattage really matters.

While there are many variables in the lights available – mainly the bars at varying lengths – we requested each company supply us with their biggest and best efforts, most of which measure in at about the one metre mark in length.

We did meet a few hiccups along the way; wiring irregularity issues that you should be aware of when purchasing, we also tussled with the mechanics of fitting such long light bars to a standard bullbar – again, another logistical issue you need to be aware of before handing over your hard-earned.

There’s also the varying state regulatory systems that can’t comprehend technical advancements, nor agree with one another from state to state as to whether light bars are legal. For instance; one long light bar has an uneven number of lights (you are supposedly meant to be fitting additional forward facing lights in pairs with a maximum of four).

There are, however, (in many cases) 20 or more little lights (LEDs) in each long light casing. So technically, according to some, that is also illegal as there are more than four additional forward facing white lights. Head shakingly dumb, isn’t it?

PROS AND CONS
Given our last light test focused on round LED driving lights, we were eager to see if light bars could match them with their wide angle spread combined with pure outright reach.

My initial disappointment of LED light bars, when compared to the results of the round versions, was from a touring point of view; the bars simply didn’t cut it for medium to high speed driving on the open road. They did, however, offer plenty for the ‘slow is the go’ mob who relish low range crawling on rocks, ruts and gravel-rash-inspiring terrain.

Led light barsLED light bars have, and still are, (mostly) regarded as a wide-beam-only lighting system, with little long distance penetration. Sure, there are a couple on test that cast a medium length beam at decent Lux readings, but they fall well short compared to the round versions.

There are, however, a few benefits of running with LED lighting over traditional forms; most excel in lower currant draw, have no warm up time, have a massive (most say over 50,000 hours) life span and can offer a spread in both horizontal and vertical planes. They can also be waterproof and vibration resistant.

LED bars are not cheap, but the varying prices on test, combined with their performances, shows you get what you pay for – quality counts.

Fitting such long light bars can be a little tricky. I’ll wager not many bullbars have uprights spaced far enough apart to slot a one-metre-plus light in between. That leaves a spot above the bullbar which isn’t legal as it can obscure vision and (in some cases) be positioned too high. How about down lower and protruding from the bar work? Not legal either as that doesn’t fit within the vehicle (or bar work) lines. That leaves up on the roof racks or under the windscreen. Still a no, as that’s legally too high to be used on road.

There are different legalities from state to state regarding the use of light bars, so best check them out prior to fitting if you plan on driving on a gazetted road. Other than that, they’re beaut for off-road work.

Fair Play

To KEEP this test fair to all players, we mounted each light bar to the same test vehicle, a 100 Series Land Cruiser, and used the same wiring loom at all times. Other than the different plugs and a couple of inches of wiring difference, all else was even.

LED light bar tester

Amperage

Current draw indicates the power each driving light is sucking from your vehicle’s electrical system. We kept the Cruiser running at an even RPM for the complete test time to ensure fair and equal battery power source was achieved. Notably, with the results, there seems a bit of ‘number-fudging’ going on with some (supposed) higher wattage lights drawing less current than a lower wattage light. Nevertheless, these are our results:

Light Current draw (amps per light) measured Nominal bulb wattage
Great White – 24 LED double row bar 8.9 120
Great White – 18 LED single row bar 6.5 90
XRay Vision – 80 LED double row bar 13.1 240
XRay Vision – 20 LED single row bar 14.8 200
Ironman 4X4 – 24 LED single row bar 9.6 120
Dura Vision – Tornado 26 LED single row bar 20.0 260
Dura Vision – Tornado 12 LED single row bar 7.8 120
NARVA – 36 LED single row bar 7.4 180


THE CONTENDERS… Let there be light

1) GREAT WHITE – 24 LED DOUBLE ROW BAR

Great -White -24-led -double -bar -beam$895 each from www.greatwhites.com.au

Lumen (claimed) 10,003 Effective / 12504 Raw
Dimensions (length) 384mm long
LED wattage x number 5W X 24
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP68
Electrical connector Deutsch 2-pin
Warranty 5 years


2) GREAT WHITE – 18 LED SINGLE ROW BAR

Great -white -18-led -single -bar -beam
$750 from www.greatwhites.com.au

Lumen (claimed) 6375 Effective / 8874 Raw
Dimensions (length) 640mm long
LED wattage x number 5W x 18
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP68
Electrical connector Deutsch 2-pin
Warranty 5 years


3) XRAY VISION – 80 LED DOUBLE ROW BAR 

Xray -vision -double -bar -beam
$799 from www.xrayvision.net or all TJM stores

Lumen (claimed) 17600 Raw
Dimensions (length) 1119mm long
LED wattage x number 3W x 80
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP67
Electrical connector No plug
Warranty 2 years


4) XRAY VISION – 20 LED SINGLE ROW BAR
 

Xray -vision -single -bar -beam
$729 from www.xrayvision.net or all TJM stores

Lumen (claimed) 18000 Raw
Dimensions (length) 780mm long
LED wattage x number 10W x 20
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP67
Electrical connector No plug
Warranty 2 years


5) IRONMAN 4X4 – 24 LED SINGLE ROW BAR 

Ironman bar beam
$440 from www.ironman4x4.com

Lumen (claimed) 10800 Raw
Dimensions (length) 1016mm long
LED wattage x number 5W X 24
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP67
Electrical connector Deutsch 2-pin
Warranty 2 years


6) DURA VISION – 26 LED TORNADO SINGLE ROW BAR
 

DURA-VISION-26-LED-TORNADO-beam$1155 from www.ultra-vision.com.au or all Opposite Lock stores

Lumen (claimed) 24700 Effective / 27040 Raw
Dimensions (length) 1074mm long
LED wattage x number 10W x 26
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP68
Electrical connector Deutsch 2-pin
Warranty 3 years


7) DURA VISION – 12 LED TORNADO SINGLE ROW BAR

DURA-VISION-12-LED-tornado -bar -beam$555 from www.ultra-vision.com.au or all Opposite Lock stores

Lumen (claimed) 11400 Effective / 12480 Raw
Dimensions (length) 516mm long
LED wattage x number 10W x 12
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Combo
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP68
Electrical connector Deutsch 2-pin
Warranty 3 years


8) NARVA – 36 LED SINGLE ROW BAR

Narva -light -beam$1299 from www.narva.com.au

Lumen (claimed) 17600 Raw
Dimensions (length) 967mm long
LED wattage x number 5W x 36
Spot / Spread / Combo beam pattern Spot
Housing Extruded aluminium
Lens Polycarbonate
Water / dust proof rating IP68
Electrical connector Deutsch 2-pin
Warranty 5 year


LUX METRE READINGS

Light 50m 100m at CL/5/10/15/25m 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550
Great White – 24 LED double row bar 62 20/13/3/1/0 9 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Great White – 18 LED single row bar 61 16/6/2/1/0 6 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
XRay Vision – 80 LED double row bar 80 19/11/4/2/1 7 4 3 2 1 1 0 0 0
XRay Vision – 20 LED single row bar 89 22/12/2/1/1 9 5 3 2 1 1 0 0 0
Ironman 4X4 – 24 LED single row bar 46 12/6/2/1/1 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dura Vision – Tornado 26 LED single row bar 103 26/19/8/4/2 15 10 5 3 2 1 1 0 0
Dura Vision – Tornado 12 LED single row bar 67 16/9/3/1/0 7 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
NARVA – 36 LED single row bar 95 23/11/2/1/0 9 4 2 1 1 1 0 0 0


THE WRAP UP AND THE WINNER IS...

To pick a winner, we had to fit the LED light bar illegally on the test vehicle, as it simply couldn’t be done legally. Instead we perched each LED light bar on a dedicated mounting system on the Land Cruiser that was for stationary use. This enabled Lux readings and light cast photos to be taken.

The accompanying video was done off-road to ensure we stayed on the right side of the law.

Check out the accompanying photos of each light and note not just the brightness, but also the width and spread pattern and you’ll see a massive difference from the front runner to the tail-end Charlie in this pack.

First choice here is a split decision. One side of the coin goes to the Australian-made Dura Vision Tornado 26 LED, which romps it in with its far superior Lux readings for both distance and spread, although running at 260W and drawing 20 amps makes it heavy on the juice. It also got noticeably hotter (to the hand) than all the others.

Dura Vision Tornado 26 LED bar tied 1st placeIt’s the only LED light bar that came close to the sheer light outputs of the round LED lights we tested last month, but still a long way off for outright distance lighting. This would be the LED bar we’d bolt on if it was going to serve duties as a single light source for all occasions.

Xray Vision 20 LED bar tied 1st placeOn the other side of the coin, and in equal first place with a superior close range spread pattern, is the Xray Vision 20 LED bar. Studying the very different light patterns of our two winners will show that, while the Dura Vision is brighter along the centre line (and on the trees from beyond the mid-range) the Xray Vision bar lights up more at close range.

This can be seen in the pattern itself (note the small shrub to the left in the photo). This would be our first choice of LED bar if it was going to be a supplementary light, or for off-road driving where you were more interested in spotting everything in the close wide-range areas.

Next on the podium is another split three-way choice with the NARVA 36 LED, Dura Vision Tornado 12 LED and the Xray Vision 80 LED bars which all cast a similar pattern, spread and distance.

Narva 36 LED bar tied secondDura Vision Tornado 12 LED bar tied secondXray Vision 80 LED bar tied secondI know I’ll attract furrowed eyebrows from those who love them, but I’m not a big fan of the longer LED light bars for on-road use. Sure they are brilliant at saturating the short distance by throwing plenty of wide-angle light for off-road use (and they can be a great addition to a set of long distance spot-style driving lights for on road use); but, given their physical size, combined with legalities and practicalities, I’d stick with round versions any day… or night.

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