Do I really need shades at night?

[November 17, 2006]

OK, here is another one of those questions.  Is the PIAA Xtreme White Plus H7 bulb really brighter than the standard H7 halogen bulb?  I have been wondering about this for a while since I have thrown away my Wunderlich running lights for quite some time now.  I had electrical problems with the Wunderlich lights ever since the bike's last software upgrade.  So, I have been running at night just with the standard headlight.  It turns out the standard R12GS headlight is pretty darn good.

Anyway, my thought is, if I can get the headlight on the 12GS bright enough, chances are I don't have to add additional running lights.  So is the PIAA Xtreme White Plus bulb all that it's cracked up to be?  Let's see.

Here is the PIAA bulb compared to a standard Sylvania H7 halogen bulb.  The PIAA is definitely beating out the Sylvania standard bulb.

Standard Sylvania H7 halogen bulb, $17

PIAA Xtreme White Plus H7 halogen bulb, $42

Now here's the deal, I haven't compared the PIAA Xtreme bulb to the Philips CrystalVision bulb nor the Sylvania SilverStar bulb.  The CrystalVision and SilverStar have the same specs as the Xtreme but the CrystalVision/SilverStar might end up being brighter because Philips and Sylvania doesn't rely on filtering to generate the high intensity white light.  My friend Minh says the PIAA Xtreme White Plus bulb is a gimmick.  The PIAA Xtreme bulb does have a blue tint to them.

On the other hand, the CrystalVision bulb is clear.  No colors at all to the bulb that I can see on the internet images.

Here is a comparison of the bulbs from Sylvania and Philips.

You can get more information about this by going to the SUV Lights website.

The results for now.  The PIAA looks to be doing its job.  It is brighter than the standard bulb but I don't know that it will hold up against the CrystalVision and the SilverStar.  I'll update the page when I get the bulbs from the other manufacturers.

These pictures were taken with a Cannon EOS D30 digital camera with the following parameters:
  1. ISO1600 film speed
  2. Shutter speed 350
  3. 4.0 F stop

Update [November 27, 2006]

Finally, a chance to try the lights out.  5:30PM and the commute home was in the dark.  Since the sky is overcast, the darkness isn't as intimidating as usual (e.g. a lot of light from the city is being reflected by the clouds).  Nonetheless, the illumination from the PIAA bulb is much better than the standard H7 Halogen bulb.  Areas on the ground that was once dim is now better illuminated.  I had one car flash me to check my light.  I flashed my high beam in response to prove that I'm on my low beam.  Soft far so good.  I think the PIAA bulb is doing OK.

I just order a Philips CrystalVision bulb set from  I will update this page further when I have the bulbs in my hands.

By the way, just in case you BMer folks out there haven't realized it yet, the R12GS, and the K12R both use two H7 bulbs for the lights.  In other words, the low beam bulb is of the same type as the high beam bulb.  So if your low beam bulb is burned out, you can always use your high beam bulb as a temporary replacement.  Now you don't have to run without lights when you really need a light.

Update [December 9, 2006]
At long last, I have all three manufacturers' bulbs: Philips CrystalVision, Sylvania SilverStar, and PIAA Xtreme White Plus.  All three are of the same category (max temp 4000 degrees Kelvin).  Here are the pictures of all three bulbs.  This time around I set the camera on a tripod so there is no shifting in the image.  This allows for an easy comparison among the three images.  By the way, all three bulbs have a blue tint to them.  Some have more than others.  I think they all use some type of filter to get the white light.  Of course the PIAA is the most noticeable in terms of the blue tint.

NOTE: all three pictures were taken with the same manual camera settings as before: ISO1600 film speed, 4.0 F stop, 350 shutter speed.

PIAA Xtreme White Plus

Sylvania SilverStar

Philips CrystalVision

As you can see, all three are pretty close to one another.  If there are any hints of being brighter, it is ever so slight.  My camera's light sensor thinks the brightness goes in this order:

  1. PIAA Xtreme White Plus
  2. Philips CrystalVision
  3. Sylvania SilverStar

With my own eyes, I have to agree with the camera's light sensor.  The PIAA does appear the brightest (definitely no gimmick here).  However, I don't think you will loose out if you decide to use the Philips or the Sylvania bulbs.  The price points for the Philips and Sylvania bulbs makes it more affordable to see the road at night without killing your wallet.  The real question is, "do you mind spending the $ for just a little brighter light?"  The phrase "a little brighter" implies at most 5-10% brighter.  If you don't mind that little extra cost, get the PIAA Xtreme White Plus.

The competitors from left to right:  Standard Sylvania Halogen, PIAA Xtreme White Plus,
Sylvania SilverStar, Philips CrystalVision

Update [March 19, 2007]

So I've been riding for a while now.  Some 3-4 months on the PIAA Xtreme White Plus bulbs.  It's good and all but in reality, like my friend Minh says, it's not as bright as the Philips Vision Plus.  The proof was seen in the Death Valley '07 trip.  I was the lead of the pack so I had to blast my lights as much as I can because we ended up riding at night.  Well, in the process, the PIAA bulb burnt out.  I'm not sure if it's from the vibration or it's just a short life expectancy.  If it's from a short life expectancy, 3-4 months is a pretty short amount of time for the price.  Not only that, once I replaced my bulb with the Philips Vision Plus, it was a clear difference in the illumination.  The review above still stand for bulbs of the same class, but the Philips Vision Plus is in a class all of it's own.  The illumination is far superior to the PIAA Xtreme.  From here on out I'm going to use the Philips Vision Plus.

Do I really need shades at night?  With the Philips Vison Plus, sure.

Written on: November 17, 2006
Last modified: March 19, 2007