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      02-26-2016, 03:19 AM   #1
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A definitive answer on headlight brightness LED vs Xenon

I figured there was only really one way to find out a definite answer as to which chucked out more light and that was to ask BMW direct, so I did. Took a fair few weeks to get the answer but here it is. It confirms my suspicions that F30/31 LEDs aren't as bright as the pre LCI Xenons, but for low beam purposes they should be pretty. High beam, Xenon is clearly brighter, F32 LED even more so again which was a surprise. It also shows that for your cash on adaptive LED on the F30, you're getting more than just the adaptive features, they're brighter too (something I had a hunch about after having a loaner 330D with standard LEDs the other week).

Hopefully this clears up some confusion!

Low Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 784 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1097 lm
F32 Xenon: 1170 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 903 lm

High Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 1226 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1498 lm
F32 Xenon: 1702 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 1802 lm
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      02-26-2016, 03:24 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daftasabrush View Post
I figured there was only really one way to find out a definite answer as to which chucked out more light and that was to ask BMW direct, so I did. Took a fair few weeks to get the answer but here it is. It confirms my suspicions that F30/31 LEDs aren't as bright as the pre LCI Xenons, but for low beam purposes they should be pretty. High beam, Xenon is clearly brighter, F32 LED even more so again which was a surprise. It also shows that for your cash on adaptive LED on the F30, you're getting more than just the adaptive features, they're brighter too (something I had a hunch about after having a loaner 330D with standard LEDs the other week).

Hopefully this clears up some confusion!

Low Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 784 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1097 lm
F32 Xenon: 1170 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 903 lm

High Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 1226 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1498 lm
F32 Xenon: 1702 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 1802 lm

It depends on what the lm refers to?

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      02-26-2016, 03:27 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brigand
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daftasabrush View Post
I figured there was only really one way to find out a definite answer as to which chucked out more light and that was to ask BMW direct, so I did. Took a fair few weeks to get the answer but here it is. It confirms my suspicions that F30/31 LEDs aren't as bright as the pre LCI Xenons, but for low beam purposes they should be pretty. High beam, Xenon is clearly brighter, F32 LED even more so again which was a surprise. It also shows that for your cash on adaptive LED on the F30, you're getting more than just the adaptive features, they're brighter too (something I had a hunch about after having a loaner 330D with standard LEDs the other week).

Hopefully this clears up some confusion!

Low Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 784 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1097 lm
F32 Xenon: 1170 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 903 lm

High Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 1226 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1498 lm
F32 Xenon: 1702 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 1802 lm

It depends on what the lm refers to?

Lumens
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      02-26-2016, 06:57 AM   #4
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Good investigative work!

That's a very interesting bit of information.

I've very glad then that I went for the adaptive LEDs on the new 330e, as until late on I was going to have just the standard LEDs.

Questions that came in to my mind were:

Why is the Lumen rating for the standard LED lower than the adaptives?

Is it just to help BMW justify the extra cost of the adaptives, or a regulation thing?

Can this light level be adjusted through coding?

Why is the F32 adaptive LED so different to the LCU F30/F31? It's quite significant in the high beam and the newer cars (LCI) seem to worse than the older (F32) version.
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      02-26-2016, 07:09 AM   #5
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Wow this is a surprise, Xenons are brighter is that? Seems to back some users claims despite a US guy taking measurements showing LED's were better.

Confusing as heck.


EDIT: Any rating for the Halogens ... ... .. ..
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      02-26-2016, 07:12 AM   #6
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Good stuff indeed.

Did you get any figures for adaptive Xenon on the F32? I have them and I think they are pants. I would certainly go for non adaptive Xenon on my next F32 looking at those figures.
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      02-26-2016, 07:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brigand View Post
It depends on what the lm refers to?

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      02-26-2016, 07:23 AM   #8
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I don't think you'll ever get a definitive answer. The problem is that a lumen is a measure of how much light is emitted by the "bulb" and that light then has to be shaped and directed to where it is required so direct comparison between different headlights on lumen output isn't possible. The measurement of "how well you can see something" is the lux (lumens per sq metre) but for car headlights that isn't much help again because the lux measurement decreases as the beam spreads out - double the distance to the target and the lux halves. So a headlight needs to put less light on the road near the car to obtain a more even illumination.

The comparison problems don't end there the light output measurement is also adjusted to the perception of a standardised human eye i.e. the light output is weighted at various frequency bands so light near the infra red or ultra violet that the human eye doesn't see well doesn't score well. And just to make it more complicated the "standardised human eye" exists because perception of brightness at various wave lengths varies with individuals, sex and age.

I've got adaptive headlights etc. and live in a rural area (Yorkshire Dales) with lots of left/rights and small crests/dips but I can't decide if I prefer them over my Subaru xenon dipped (on all the time) supplemented by the manual control halogen main beams. The issue is tightly controlled and directed beam leaving dark (black?) areas v overall illumination with less light where its needed.
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      02-26-2016, 07:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris10Bimmers View Post


EDIT: Any rating for the Halogens ... ... .. ..
The LCI Standard LEDs look crap (in terms of lumens) and probably about as good as halogens.
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      02-26-2016, 07:38 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter-K View Post
I don't think you'll ever get a definitive answer. The problem is that a lumen is a measure of how much light is emitted by the "bulb" and that light then has to be shaped and directed to where it is required so direct comparison between different headlights on lumen output isn't possible. The measurement of "how well you can see something" is the lux (lumens per sq metre) but for car headlights that isn't much help again because the lux measurement decreases as the beam spreads out - double the distance to the target and the lux halves. So a headlight needs to put less light on the road near the car to obtain a more even illumination.

The comparison problems don't end there the light output measurement is also adjusted to the perception of a standardised human eye i.e. the light output is weighted at various frequency bands so light near the infra red or ultra violet that the human eye doesn't see well doesn't score well. And just to make it more complicated the "standardised human eye" exists because perception of brightness at various wave lengths varies with individuals, sex and age.

I've got adaptive headlights etc. and live in a rural area (Yorkshire Dales) with lots of left/rights and small crests/dips but I can't decide if I prefer them over my Subaru xenon dipped (on all the time) supplemented by the manual control halogen main beams. The issue is tightly controlled and directed beam leaving dark (black?) areas v overall illumination with less light where its needed.

Yep lumens and Lux is where I was heading.

Neither being an accurate science for measuring efficient and effective headlight throw distance and what the driver can see.

Probably Lux at say 30 meters, 60 meters etc over width of road lane.

Lumens just falls in to yep they are bright.
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      02-26-2016, 09:19 AM   #11
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I just go by "how well I can see in the dark and the Adaptive LED's do it for me.
Especially with HBA.
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      02-26-2016, 09:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Questions that came in to my mind were:

Why is the Lumen rating for the standard LED lower than the adaptives?
Fewer LEDs would be my guess

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Is it just to help BMW justify the extra cost of the adaptives, or a regulation thing?
I would hazard a guess at it being a cost thing more than anything else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Can this light level be adjusted through coding?
Apparently so, but that could just be a US thing. Personally I wouldn't want to push it for fear of shortening the lifespan of the LEDs. Have you seen how expensive they are!? It's worth noting that the adaptive LEDs increase in brightness with speed or if you switch them to permanently on so in the UK with the full adaptive features, we probably already get the full brightness when driving at speed (or they're switched permanently on).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Why is the F32 adaptive LED so different to the LCU F30/F31? It's quite significant in the high beam and the newer cars (LCI) seem to worse than the older (F32) version.
Different manufacturers and different technology. F30/31 are Hella, F32, F80/82 are AL (Automotive lighting: http://www.al-lighting.com/home/)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rukka View Post
Good stuff indeed.

Did you get any figures for adaptive Xenon on the F32? I have them and I think they are pants. I would certainly go for non adaptive Xenon on my next F32 looking at those figures.
Adaptive Xenon will be the same as normal Xenon, same bulbs same basic design just with different shutters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter-K View Post
I don't think you'll ever get a definitive answer. The problem is that a lumen is a measure of how much light is emitted by the "bulb" and that light then has to be shaped and directed to where it is required so direct comparison between different headlights on lumen output isn't possible. The measurement of "how well you can see something" is the lux (lumens per sq metre) but for car headlights that isn't much help again because the lux measurement decreases as the beam spreads out - double the distance to the target and the lux halves. So a headlight needs to put less light on the road near the car to obtain a more even illumination.

The comparison problems don't end there the light output measurement is also adjusted to the perception of a standardised human eye i.e. the light output is weighted at various frequency bands so light near the infra red or ultra violet that the human eye doesn't see well doesn't score well. And just to make it more complicated the "standardised human eye" exists because perception of brightness at various wave lengths varies with individuals, sex and age.

I've got adaptive headlights etc. and live in a rural area (Yorkshire Dales) with lots of left/rights and small crests/dips but I can't decide if I prefer them over my Subaru xenon dipped (on all the time) supplemented by the manual control halogen main beams. The issue is tightly controlled and directed beam leaving dark (black?) areas v overall illumination with less light where its needed.
Indeed, it's always going to be difficult to 100% accurate answer due to the different designs, materials and illuminating surfaces etc. I figured when the lights are new, all other things being equal, the lumen rating should give a fairly good indication as to the actual light output. One thing I have noticed is the beam is narrower on the adaptive LEDs I have when compared to the Xenons I had previously, and the LEDs appear to have increased in brightness compared to when they were brand new. That being said, the colour temp of the LEDs is much higher than the Xenons. The factory Xenons are 4300K whereas the LEDs are 6000K+ which may help account for the LEDs appearing to not be as bright as the Xenons, and might explain why road signs appear to reflect brighter using LEDs than Xenons as the signs will alter the colour of the reflected light to produce a greater contrast than the light scattered on the ground.

The reflector housing of the LEDs does mean more scatter above the cut-off which is handy for reading road signs, but I can't imagine it's too pleasant for oncoming traffic. The Xenons were very much on/off with their cutoff due to the shutters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dopper99 View Post
The LCI Standard LEDs look crap (in terms of lumens) and probably about as good as halogens.
Yeah I wasn't particularly impressed with them on the loaner I had.
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      02-26-2016, 09:58 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brigand View Post
Yep lumens and Lux is where I was heading.

Neither being an accurate science for measuring efficient and effective headlight throw distance and what the driver can see.

Probably Lux at say 30 meters, 60 meters etc over width of road lane.

Lumens just falls in to yep they are bright.
Exactly this. I have a number of flashlights with different types of LEDs with varying lumen outputs. Some emit 20-30% more lumens than others but do not appear brighter because of throw distance and even hue etc. More lumens doesn't necessarily mean better or worse.
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      02-26-2016, 10:01 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daftasabrush
I figured there was only really one way to find out a definite answer as to which chucked out more light and that was to ask BMW direct, so I did. Took a fair few weeks to get the answer but here it is. It confirms my suspicions that F30/31 LEDs aren't as bright as the pre LCI Xenons, but for low beam purposes they should be pretty. High beam, Xenon is clearly brighter, F32 LED even more so again which was a surprise. It also shows that for your cash on adaptive LED on the F30, you're getting more than just the adaptive features, they're brighter too (something I had a hunch about after having a loaner 330D with standard LEDs the other week).

Hopefully this clears up some confusion!

Low Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 784 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1097 lm
F32 Xenon: 1170 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 903 lm

High Beam:
F30/31 LCI Standard LED: 1226 lm
F30/31 LCI Adaptive LED: 1498 lm
F32 Xenon: 1702 lm
F32 Adaptive LED: 1802 lm
I don't care what they say, from actual use I can tell you that LCI non adaptive LEDs are far brighter than F30 pre LCI xenons!

It is literally night and day! I would say the same difference as between halogen and xenon!
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      03-01-2016, 08:47 AM   #15
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Adaptive LED S552A vs Adaptive Xenon S524A

For what its worth last night I took delivery of my 16-Plate F31 with Adaptive LED's (Iconic LED S552A) which has replaced my 63-Plate pre-LCI F31 with Adaptive Xenon's (S524A).

I drove it home the 30 or so miles from the dealer after midnight, on a mixture of A & B roads and country lanes. The weather was light to medium drizzle (light as in not very heavy rain).

These are only my first impressions but so far I have to say I'm a little disappointed. I must stress this is my first impression and is only my opinion - the light spread on the LED certainly appears wider than the pre LCI xenon's, however the hots spots and lack of range on the adaptive LED's is poor. There is a lot of glare from reflective road signs, so much so that I had to manually drop to dipped beam to clearly read some of them.

The pre-LCI xenon's were amazing, both colour rendition and range consistency. The LED's by comparison certainly appear very bright close to the vehicle but the range is not as good in full beam contrast, i.e. in full beam the far distance is very dark compared to over-saturated foreground.

I would say that the beam on the LED's appears a little low on dipped beam too, pointing too low at the ground.

As I say this is only my opinion and is based on my initial impressions, I'll update once I have a few more night time miles clocked up.

The adaptive xenon's were one of the best features of my last F31, and I'm sad to say I'm disappointed with the new adaptive LED's. Over 80% of my year round driving is in the hours of darkness so it wont be long before I can post an update.

I also believe that the lamp units themselves on the LCI also don't look as good at the pre-LCI assemblies. The projector units look a lot better, and more like a headlight.
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      03-01-2016, 09:32 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teaston View Post
I don't care what they say, from actual use I can tell you that LCI non adaptive LEDs are far brighter than F30 pre LCI xenons!

It is literally night and day! I would say the same difference as between halogen and xenon!
Thank god you've said that. I was getting a little worried for a bit as I hate dim lights!
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      03-01-2016, 09:33 AM   #17
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Yes it seems everyone is initially quite underwhelmed by the LED's. I think the difference in colour of Xenon makes it more obvious light? That doesn't even make sense but it is a difference kind of light.
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      03-01-2016, 09:44 AM   #18
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Another thing, the non-adaptive LEDs look shite.
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      03-01-2016, 05:05 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris10Bimmers View Post
Yes it seems everyone is initially quite underwhelmed by the LED's. I think the difference in colour of Xenon makes it more obvious light? That doesn't even make sense but it is a difference kind of light.
My drive to work includes a long section of unlit dual carriageway that is largely empty at the early hour that I hit the road. For the first couple of weeks with the adaptive LEDs I was disappointed every morning at the fact that they didn't light up the road anything like as well as the adaptive xenons that I had previously.

After that initial disappointment I became used to them as they still excellent headlights, way way better than any halogens out there and no doubt better than many xenons too.
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      03-01-2016, 05:13 PM   #20
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So to throw a wild card in

I quite like my xenons with an osram night breaker upgrade. The light is a lot whiter and brighter than standard xenon bulbs. Would like to compare to led
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      03-01-2016, 05:26 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xenon
Another thing, the non-adaptive LEDs look shite.
How so? They look virtually identical to the adaptive LED's! :
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      03-02-2016, 02:45 AM   #22
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The adaptive have the halos and eyebrows in DRL mode whereas the non-adaptive just have four lights?
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