Thursday, October 08, 2020

Ledlenser NEO10R & NEO6R Headlamps Multi Tester Review

Article by Jeff Valliere, John Tribbia, and Jacob Brady

LED Lenser NEO10R ($79.95) & NEO6R ($39.95)

John: It’s the beginning of October, which means pumpkin spice lattes, candy corn, and dwindling daylight. While the lattes and candy bring comfort to the change in seasons, the lack of daylight can drain even the most dedicated runners’ enthusiasm to get out of the door for a pre- or post-work run. Having a good headlamp is undoubtedly one of the best ways to overcome the temptation of hitting snooze one more time or opting to collapse on the couch after a long day working. 


The NEO Headlamp range is Ledlenser’s recent addition to their popular lighting line up. The series includes the NEO10R, NEO6R and NEO4. The NEO10R brightly shines 600 lumens at a range of 426 feet for over 6 hours. 

The latter two models are more minimal and lower power than the 10R, but no less impressive. We focus on the 10R and 6R shown above in this review. 

Jeff V:  Like John and Jacob, I run often in the early morning hours or after sunset in order to accommodate for a busy work and family schedule, so I have developed an keen sense of what works well on the trail and what does not.  I had never heard of LedLenser prior to being offered to review and while naturally skeptical at first, I walked away a fan.  LedLenser offers a wide range of lights with impressive illumination at a competitive price and the 10R provides a warm beam which I have come to prefer for maximum perception and confidence on technical trails.


Jacob: I’m a frequent night runner, even in the summer months. I run every day, and on “rest” days I often don’t prioritize my run and weekly end up just chilling out for 3-4 miles after 10 pm. Thus, a headlight is a critical piece of running gear for me. For short runs, I run primarily roads, though in the winter when the sun sets at 4 pm, I do trails in the dark often as well. I’m a fan of bright lights and find anything under 300 lumens to be annoyingly dim. When on roads, along with a reflective vest, a headlight is as important for visibility to vehicles as is for seeing where I’m going. I’ve always had a few lights to rotate through, but I’ve been running primarily in the Petzl Swift RL (RTR Review) recently, Petzl's brightest (900 lumen max) compact headlight. 


Like Jeff, I’d never heard of LedLenser prior to the offer to test. I received the NEO10R, a simple, bright, large rear battery headlight with multiple wearing options. 


Tester Profiles

Jeff V.  runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over two years and averages 50-60 miles per week. Jacob has run several marathons and shorter (≤ 50km) ultras and mountain races in the past two seasons, with a PR of 2:51 in the marathon. In addition to running, he surfs, rides (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skis. He is 25 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and about 155 lbs / 70 kg.


John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.



NEO10R ($79.95)






Brightness and Hue


John:The 600 lumens provide plenty of bright light in both narrow and spread settings. More specifically, the light scope illuminates wide trails with great depth. 


The softer white hue of the light effectively brightens up obstacles without harshly outshining them. I found that the 10R lights up from the trail floor to the canopy that easily spans a double track trail or road. I feel extremely confident moving at high speeds on single track, twisty paths, and unsure footing with this lighting system. 


Jeff V: One complaint I have had with traditional LED headlamps has been the harsh and sterile white hue. I really appreciate that the Ledlenser 10R provides a warmer glow that brings out trail definition better.  This warmer hue helps make it easier to “interpret” shadows when running in technical terrain and gives a more natural look.  With a 600 lumen max brightness setting, the 10R is bright and has an adjustable beam that can be a spot at a long distance forward, or illuminate a wider, mid - close distance diffused area.  


Jacob:  The 10R provides a notably bright, slightly warm white light. I agree with Jeff that warmer hue helps see depth a bit more than the whiter/bluer Petzl light I am used to. I definitely prefer this hue. 


The light can be focused into a spot or a wide angle circle. The wide angle beam is the default and throws a circle of light with clear edges. The size of the beam works well to see both far enough ahead and right in front of my feet. It’s like I’m in a tunnel of light. When the beam is focused into a spot it has more reach but much less width and is less useful for running.


As for brightness, on road/in the city the beam can overpower street lights and far away car headlights, which is ideal. I turned a lot of heads running on the road next to a popular park with the light on medium. For the occasionally lit, lots of ambient light city environment the brightness is ideal—it can stand out to cars and I was never wishing for more.


On totally dark trails, overall brightness is adequate, but not remarkable. On wide mode I would benefit from more throw of the beam. Brightness in the immediate foreground is solid but there isn’t enough penetration. A combination of wide angle and spot modes like some lights have (this would require a different design) would have been preferable.

10R Diffused


10R Spot

Jeff: I never run using this mode, as I get a bit of an imbalanced tightrope feel and only use it momentarily for trying to get a better read on something in the distance (usually to answer the question “is that a mountain lion or a deer?”).


10R Diffused


10R Spot (yes, that is the moon, orange from wildfire smoke)


10R Diffused


10R Spot


10R Diffused (wide angle)


10R Diffused — rather dark in the distance


10R Spot — bright but illuminated area is too limited to run with it like this


Fit & Chest Harness

John: There are several ways you can wear the NEO10R as a headlamp or over the front of your chest. Out of the box, the 10R is ready to fit on your head with the battery pack in the standard headlamp setup. 


There’s an extension cable that also allows you to remove the battery pack from the head strap and stowe in your pocket, vest, or belt pack. Finally, the 10R can convert to a chest lamp by attaching the lamp to the provided chest harness or creating a custom setup with your vest/hydration pack. 









For me, the option of a chest lamp setup was most anticipated. The chest harness setup can be worn on its own with the battery pack connected to the shoulder or stowed in a pocket with the extension cord. 

What I like about the setup is that it takes the weight off my head and provides light lower to the ground. Moreover, since I’m usually running early in the morning on both road and trails, l like freeing up my head for a lighter, more comfortable, headlamp (like the 6R) so that I can be seen and see in all conditions. 


Even with significant adjustments, I couldn’t get the chest lamp setup to work for me using the provided harness. There was significant movement that increased... as my pace increased, making the experience so bad I had to turn it off mid-run despite cinching the harness as tight as possible.

However, I found a really easy and great solution by wearing the lamp across my chest in conjunction with a hydration vest/pack. This setup effectively shined in a focused or spread beam with minimal bouncing. 


Jeff V:  I first tried the 10R as it came shipped, with battery mounted vertically to the rear strap, but with an overall unit weight of 179 grams or 6.25 oz., the bulk of which is the battery, I could not tighten the headstrap enough to keep the rear battery from bouncing and this was especially problematic on fast, technical downhills.  I stopped multiple times and eventually and incrementally tightened enough over the course of the downhill that I had a headache by the end, yet the battery still bounced.  I then tried the chest strap, which I found to be a bit futzy to set up and while the light at chest level (coupled with a good headlamp) is a great idea, this strap setup allowed for enough light bounce that it was too distracting.  Additionally, having the light strapped in place complicates layering.  John seems to have come up with a good compromise in attaching to his run hydration vest.


Ultimately, my preferred method has been to utilize the included extension cable and wear the headlamp on my head, which on its own sans battery is super light and then route the cord through my shirt and stow the battery in a shorts pocket or run vest 

Jacob: My initial impressions of the strap design and fit of the 10R were among the worst of any product I’ve ever received. 


Upon unboxing and looking at the headlight strap, it wasn’t clear to me how the large plastic battery cage would fit on my head. The straps were also too loose and difficult to adjust due to the seam not pulling through the plastic strap clip on the battery cage. Also, I have long hair and usually run with my hair in a mid-height bun, sometimes a ponytail. The vertical battery held by the large plastic cage takes up too much room on the back of the head for my bun. I tried a very low bun and very high bun—the latter seemed preferable though it was annoying to have to redo my hair just to put on the headlight and I still had to angle the battery a bit off of vertical. I then worked to adjust the straps so they could actually be tight enough, which required several minutes of work feeding the straps through to get the seam out of the way. Even once I got it tight and sitting nicely with my hair and pulled quite tightly, the battery was still bouncing a bit. After spending 15 minutes just getting the fit to be “ok”, I decided to just give it a shot and go run. 


The bulky battery cage (photo lit by the 10R)


On the run (and subsequent runs) the fit wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be from my struggles inside. I was sure I was going to hate the bouncing and have to head home or keep stopping to readjust, but I found that although not a seamless or weightless feel, the fit is acceptable when tightened down. I usually run around an hour or less, and although a bit tight, it isn’t uncomfortable for this time period. It does leave an impression on my forehead. It’s definitely not a great fit with the battery on the head—the design is inelegant and the build quality is just ok. 


I also tried using the extension cord to allow removing the battery cage and putting the battery in my shorts back pocket. This led to a great lightweight feel on the head—better than the front-heavy Swift RL I’m used to. 


Having to deal with the cord and making sure my shorts have pockets adds complexity, but it makes the 10R fit much better and is more enjoyable on the run. I think it would be even better if I had a hydration vest/pack and could put the battery in there to have less cord length exposed.


Battery


John:  As a daily 4:30am runner, I rely on a dependable battery for upwards of 2 hours that takes into account my forgetfulness of recharging when I get home. The 10R specs say a 6 hour lifespan on one full charge. I put the 10R to the test by “forgetting” to charge multiple consecutive days and was able to put four consecutive days of 1 hour 30 minutes with no recharge. The light showed no signs of fatigue by the fourth day. 

The battery pack is less impressive, both in its weight and fit. It fits into a plastic holster, but the plastic holster is uncomfortable at best, because it has no form of friction to hold it on the head without sliding down as I run. Fortunately, I wear a hat most times, so in that use it fits securely with no major bounce or slide.


Jeff V:  I have found similar results to John in regards to battery life, running it non stop through my work day so that I can monitor and have observed 7 hours of battery life without degradation at the highest setting (temps being 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit).  While the battery is admittedly somewhat dense and heavy, I find it to be a very fair trade off for that level of lighting for such a duration.  As John noted above, it is simply too much to wear on the head, so after trying one time, I have converted over to keeping the battery in a pocket, which is far more reasonable.


The battery has a small semi clear rubberized door to access the micro USB charging port, which also covers a small LED that indicates charging status (red for charging, green for full) and also doubles as a rear visibility light (though I would not rely on it if running in the proximity of cars).



Jacob: The 10R battery is large and heavy as far as on-head batteries go, but with this comes long battery life. With the included extension cord, the battery can be stashed in a pocket or bag, which though this adds complexity, resolves the cumbersome size and weight issues on the head. 


As my runs in the dark are typically less than an hour and rarely exceed an hour and a half, the extra bulk of the higher capacity battery isn’t worth it for me. For longer hikes it will be appreciated, combined with the ability to stow the battery in my pack. 


The battery itself can be removed from the housing and thus you can have multiple batteries charged and ready for swapping in. 

The battery is a fairly common size 18650 Li-ion.


Settings


John:  At first, I didn’t realize the lens and beam on the 10R was actually adjustable. I had to twist the face of the lamp fairly hard to discover there is beam width and focus adjustments. I like to run with the beam width at extra wide, but use the focused beam to identify any nondescript moving objects. I’ve been lucky enough to spot bobcats, foxes, skunks, and coyotes on my morning runs at 100 feet away! 

Jeff V:  The bezel to adjust the focus of the beam is exceptionally difficult to turn at first (counter clockwise), so much so that I thought I had a different version of what was described.  Once I figured it out however, I was impressed with the range of focal point.  


Like John, I use it on the most proximate, widest setting, as it still projects plenty far ahead for any trail running that I do and the wider swath of light helps me to maintain my perspective, depth perception and reduces that tippy, tunnel vision feel. I do like the option however to be able to manually adjust the lamp to spot for distance to try to decipher what kind of eyes are out there looking back at me.


Light operation is simple, with a single easy to press button that cycles through the 3 light settings, high, medium and low.


Jacob: The 10R has a single, easy to press button and three brightness settings. The button functions as on/off if pressed with more than a second in between presses. When the light is turned from off to on it will start in the brightest setting, and if you continue pressing, it will cycle through to medium, low, then off. 


In addition to the brightness settings, the 10R light beam itself can be focused by turning the silver bezel on the front of the lens cell. The default is the widest setting. On “spot” focus, the light doesn’t have a wide enough beam to see things in the near foreground, so it’s much less useful for running. Also, it’s challenging to rotate the bezel to change the beam focus while on the run.


Value


John:  Notwithstanding the fit issues, the $80 price point is unbeatable for the amount of quality light you get. 


Jeff V:  $80 really is a bargain, given that the 10R puts off a very warm 600 lumens for about 7 hours and also allows for multiple configurations with the extended cord.  With battery stowed away, the headlamp itself is remarkably light and bounce free.


Jacob: There are a lot of positives with the 10R: nice color temperature, bright, easy to use, long battery life—poor fit is the critical negative. If you aren’t planning to primarily wear it with the battery on the back of the strap on the head, it’s potentially worth the price. However, the build quality and finishing is a definite step down from every Petzl light I’ve tried, as well as the BioLite 330 which I’ve been enjoying recently. Also, if your primary use is as a traditional, confined to the head headlight, the fit may be so annoying that it’s not worth any price.


NEO6R ($39.95)



Brightness and Hue

John:  The NEO6R runs at 240 lumens, compared to the NEO10R’s 600. It is certainly less bright, but still offers a spread out warm hue that allows you to see objects in the 20-50 foot range fairly well. 


Jeff V:  The 6R is a tidy little lamp and reasonably light at 96 grams/3.4 oz..  While only 240 lumens, the projection of light is plenty adequate for small doses of technical trail running, however I find it more suitable for less technical paths, urban running or hiking where you may want lighter weight and longer battery life.  I do not find the hue to be as warm as the 10R and is more in line with the typical LED bulbs found in the majority of headlamps.












4:30am on unlit trails


Fit & Chest Harness

John:  Even though the NEO6R is lighter and has a lower profile compared to the 10R, I still found that the chest harness fit creates a lot of bouncing despite my efforts to tighten as much as possible. 


This said the traditional fit over the head is amazing! 


There is a foam pad on the light and a soft sticky rubber on the battery component to prevent sliding. The lamp in the front is wide but not tall, so it fits really well on the forehead or the brim of a cap with no issues. 


Jeff V:  John sums it well, fit is excellent and there is no bounce when worn on the head.

Traditional Fit

Specs



Battery

John: As with the 10R, I also put the 6R to the test through multiple consecutive days of no charge. I almost made it 1 week, but lost power on my 6th day. The fit and feel of the rear battery on the 6R is comfortable and, unlike other headlamps where the lamp and battery are on the forehead, I appreciate the weight distribution to the back. There is a rubber cover on the battery that is removable so that you can insert the charging cord. I wish there was some small attachment of the cover to the actual battery, because I could envision the cover being lost or popped off in the shuffle of camping, travel, or in the car. 


Jeff V:  Battery life is excellent.  I turned the 6R on one morning at 7:30am and it shone at full brightness for 10 hours, then at the lower setting well into the night, as I went to bed at 10pm and it was still going until sometime in the middle of the night (was off when I awoke at 5am).

The battery itself is light and balances well with no bounce and the rubber cap grips the back of the head.  I do wish that the micro USB charge port was more easily accessible instead of having to remove the rubber backing, which as John says, would be easy to lose and is a little fuzty.


Settings

John:  The light has three push button settings that are easy to toggle between - bright, dim, and flash. I don’t use anything other than the bright because I would prefer to use as much of the 240 lumens as possible. 

Jeff V:  Same as John, I only use the brightest setting, given 240 lumens is still on the low end, but the button is easy to operate.


Value

Jeff/John: Long charge with decent light output and a comfortable fit at $40 is also quite a good deal in my book. 


Comparisons

Kogalla Ra Adventure Light  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  I place the Kogalla in a special category, with 5 warm, natural light LED bulbs, near infinite mounting options, interchangeable battery options and 800 total lumens, the Kogalla has been an absolute game changer for me when it comes to night running.


Petzl IKO Core (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  IKO Core costs $10 more is lighter, though puts out 100 less lumens, but it is hard to tell the difference in brightness.  I appreciate the adjustable beam of the 10R, however it is the warm light that is the greatest asset of the 10R.


Petzl Bindi (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Bindi costs $5 more and has 40 less lumens, but is 61 grams lighter at a scant 35 grams.  The 6R puts off a light swath that seems even more bright than the mere 40 lumen difference would suggest and the battery life of the 6R is far superior.  I take along the Bindi as a just in case light, if I might be out a short time after dark, or need a light for an early start, then do not want the added weight for the day, where the 6R would be better for longer periods of time.

Ledlenser Headlamps and Flashlights can be purchased from Ledlenser HERE


Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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4 comments:

Irwin said...

Lumens, blah, blah, lights, blah blah...oh look! Razor 3 Elite Hyper!! Do tell!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Irwin,
Road.. Trail.. Run.. Due to embargo agreements from Skechers we abide by we will be able to post Razor Elite Tuesday Oct 13!
Sam, Editor

Irwin said...

Thanks, Sam! RTR is the best!

Jeff Valliere said...

Following