Halogen vs LED Bulbs vs Projector Bulb vs TEQ BiLED Projector Shootout
There are a lot of options for upgrading your headlights out there, from drop in bulbs, mini projector bulbs, complete aftermarket housings, and of course, TEQ Retrofit Headlights.
Today we are going to compare 4 different options for your headlights, using the stock halogen bulbs as a baseline.
One measurement we are going to be utilizing is Lux. Lux is a measure of light intensity at a certain distance. Lux is measured at a single point, so for each of these Lux readings, we found the maximum lux value in the beam of the headlight.
A quality light should have little drop off from the brightest point, but that can typically be seen by viewing the beam pattern.
The formula is Lux = Lumens/m^2
Some important notes on Lux readings
1. As lux readings take into account distance, lux readings must be taken at identical distances to be comparable
2. Lux is just one helpful data point to evaluate light output and needs to be taken into consideration along other data points. A light that is extremely focused can have a very high lux rating, while a light that is more dispersed will have a lower lux reading.
For headlights, it is important to have a mix of light intensity and dispersement so you can adequately see the road. A headlight that is very focused, and as such has a high lux reading, is not very useful for your nighttime vision. Nor would a headlight with a very dispersed beam.
Notes On Our Testing
- All photos were taken in an identical environment with camera settings locked.
- All lux readings were taken at an identical distance of about 40 feet.
- All lights utilized the same power source and received the same voltage for testing.
- Halogen and LED Bulbs were tested in an 96-02 4Runner headlight. In other housings, there may be slight differences in beam patterns.
- The projector options do not utilize the housings reflective surface, so the output would be unchanged across different headlight housings.
First up is our baseline, Halogen bulbs. We utilized a bottom of the barrell, unbranded halogen bulb that comes with DEPO headlight housings for free. I do not think it would be possible to get any cheaper; perfect for a baseline.
As you can seem the beam on the halogens is poor. The beam is largely unfocused and lacks width.
The halogens had a max Lux reading of 221.
While the lux reading itself is not terrible, going back to the picture of the beam pattern, you can see the beam is incredibly uneven. This is why it is important to take into account multiple factors when evaluating lights. Overall, this makes for a very poor headlight.
Drop in LED bulbs have been utilized a lot in reflector headlights as an upgrade. They are also heavily criticized (spoiler alert; rightfully so) for causing glare and blinding other drivers.
For this test, we utilized Lasfit LED Bulbs. These piqued my interest as they claim they do not cause excessive glare and are 300% brighter than halogens, though they do not claim in what measurement.
As you can see, these are not a big upgrade in the beam pattern department. The beam resembles a halogen beam and is, once again, very unevenly dispersed. It is also higher on the side of the beam that would be toward oncoming traffic.
The LED Bulbs came in with a Lux reading of 242, only 21 lux brighter than the cheapest halogens we could find. Again, the beam pattern is terrible and unevenly distributed, so this reading once again makes the lights seem better than they actually are.
While it's hard to pick up glare on a camera, you can look at this picture and imagine what it would be like seeing this coming at you on the road.
When you combine the excessive glare with a poor beam pattern and an almost identical Lux reading to halogen bulbs, you get a truly terrible option for your headlights. Please, don't be that guy.
Projector Bulbs are a fairly new offering and have become pretty popular. These are drop in bulbs to your stock headlights that utilize a small projector lens. If your vehicle has a reflector piece in front of your bulb opening, you will need to remove that piece prior to putting these bulbs in.
For this test, we used the popular COLIGHT brand projector bulbs.
Huge improvement over the last 2. We have a cutoff line, for one. A cutoff is important as it allows you to maximize your vision without blinding other drivers.
One thing I noticed immediately is the lack of a foreground limiter. There is a ton of useless foreground light. Aimed 10ft up on a wall, it lights up all of the boxes on the ground. When driving, especially at higher speeds, you need more light down the road, not directly in front of the car. A foreground limiter reflects the foreground light back onto the optical surface to aim that light down the road
Overall, not bad. Far and away better than standard halogen and LED bulbs, and you aren't blinding everyone.
These measured out at 94 max Lux. At first glance, that 94 Lux is less than half the max lux of the halogen.
However, given the small size of the lens, it is clear this lens was optimized for as wide of a distribution as possible. There is a trade off between width and intensity down the road. The width isn't fantastic (comparison coming later in the article), but is a usable amount.
TEQ BiLED Projectors
Now, we get to our TEQ BiLED Projectors. BiLED means these have a low and high beam function integrated. We designed these optics ourself to provide an optimal amount of width and intensity for great night time vision. These are a 3in projector.
We aimed these higher up on the wall to show the foreground limiter on our projector (notice the cutoff on the bottom), which increases the down road output by reflecting the foreground light back on to the optical surface to be aimed down the road.
We'll show more output shots of these in a moment in a comparison with the Projector Bulbs.
These came in at 471 Lux, about twice as bright as the LED/halogen bulbs and 4 times as bright as the projector bulbs.
The big upgrade we see here over the LED and Halogen bulbs is that the projectors maintain a higher level of brightness consistently, where the bulbs have a very scattered pattern with dark spots here and there.
Compared to the projector bulbs, you have virtually 4 times the output.
Now that we have established halogen and LED bulbs suck, let's compare the projector bulbs and TEQ BiLED Projectors further.
TEQ VS Projector Bulbs - Low Beam
At 40 ft, the projector bulbs are ok. The obviously lack intensity, but they're bright enough to keep you safe. 25 ft farther, at 65 ft, the lack of performance from the 1in lens is apparent. They are very dim.
According to the IIHS, a low beam should shine about 150ft. The projector bulbs would certainly not provide that kind of visibility.
The TEQ BiLED has much less drop off over that distance, still providing great visibility.
The odd thing about the projector bulb is it utilizes a second LED chip on top of the bulb as a high beam. It is not projected down the road like the low beam, it relies on the headlights reflective surface. The result of this is the high beam is virtually the same as an standard LED bulb. The light is no higher than the low beam and added very little intensity.
The TEQ BiLED Projector utilizes a cutoff shield that flips up and down within the headlight. Flipped down, the projector is able to emit the full amount of light. This light shines higher than the low beam, allowing more down road light when the high beam is toggled.
Your LED bulbs are not an upgrade to halogen. They provide tons of glare, no more light output than halogen, and the beam pattern is terrible. Rather than increasing your visibility, all you're doing by installing LED bulbs in your reflector headlights is decreasing the visibility of everyone else.
The projector bulb is fine for the money. Though at max output it has a lower lux rating than halogen, it does provide a much more full beam pattern and has a cutoff to prevent others from being blinded. It is poor at distance, but is an upgrade over the halogen, all things considered.
If you're looking to upgrade your headlights, a projector retrofit is clearly the best option. It provides the best width and down road vision. It experiences the least drop off over distance, keeping you safer at higher speeds. Though it may be a little more expensive than the other options, we feel the upgrade in safety and vision is well worth it. It's a "buy once, cry once" situation. Once you go for a retrofit, nothing compares.
If you're looking to upgrade your headlights, you're in the right place. We offer a range of options for a variety of vehicles. Under the Guides tab, you will find guides to all of the additional options we offer. If you're looking for the most cost effective solution, our line of OEM+ headlights will give you the most performance for the lowest cost.