Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The best LED I've ever bought

With its bright light, spidery legs, magnet and sensor, the Ritex Dokodemo portable LED light is probably the best LED I've ever bought. And I've bought quite a few LED lights over the past few years. A lot of them have been completely rubbish. 

I got a battery powered device with three LEDs spaced a few centimetres apart in a row and a magnet on the back that would fit onto the front of the fridge. 

The magnet worked.

Unless you tried to use it to hold something else onto the fridge.

And there was an E17 light that looked pretty promising to replace the incandescent bulb in a table lamp. It had several LEDs in reflective holes that would point light where you wanted it. But it was made of cheap plastic, incapable of conducting the amount of heat away from the LEDs that they would have produced if they'd put out a decent amount of light. 

They did not. Somebody in the design department had not considered that. 

The best lights I'd got so far were bedside lights with single high-power LEDs. Nice heavy bases and plenty of luminous power. 

I saw the Ritex docodemo in a hardware shop and decided it would work well under the stairs. 

Instead of wiring in a light there, from the start the plan was to plug a sensor light into a socket high up on the wall in there. Plug-in sensor lights have been around for a while, and recently they have been LEDs. But they don't put out a lot of light. They are probably OK in a corridor or on stairs so you can see where you're going, but if you're in a store room trying to find something they don't really do their job. 

The Ritex has been keeping it light under the stairs when necessary. It is battery powered and the batteries ran out once, but that was when someone had left it switched on, rather than on sensor mode, since the previous day, and it was starting to dim.

I took it camping with us last weekend, and realised there what a great light it was. 

It was in the area of camping that LEDs made their first big commercial success in delivering light rather than just vaguely letting you know that light was there, as they had been doing since the 1970s when they appeared on electronic panels and then in the seminal digital watch that would come on for a few seconds to show you the time in red. LED head-torches have been around for a while, where their reliability, long life, low power and light weight make any extra cost worth paying. 

We've got a decent collection of LED head torches, but have still been adding unideal candidates to our gallery of camp lights. 

Before it got dark, I lined three of them up along the rope above the table that was going to hold up the tarp covering it. One of the lights gets about seven out of ten on my scale of satisfaction. It's a small puck light with a hook on the back, three AAAs inside and not a bad amount of light, although it seems to take a little while to warm up. It works well hanging from the middle of a tent, and is better than nothing above a table, although it doesn't really give out enough. 

Next to it I put our wind-up LED tilley lamp. This gets about six out of ten. The good point with it is the handle on top so you can charge it when it starts getting dim. It can also be charged from the mains or from a car. The big problem is that it's trying to be a tilley lamp, so instead of sending the light down, where you need it, it sends it around in all directions, which may be useful if you're pretending to be a lighthouse, but is not much use otherwise. And if you were going to be a lighthouse you wouldn't be that bright. 

Next to these I hung the Ritex, and when I turned it on, the other two immediately became parodies of themselves. The puck light is smaller and we'll probably bring it with us, but I think the LED tilley lamp will be staying at home for our next trip. One issue with camping lights is that you don't want things to be too bright when you're camping. Being under the stars is great, but you have to be able to see them. Since this is a sensor light, it will go off if nobody moves for a while, so when you're sitting back you can enjoy the night, but when you need to see what you're doing it will help you out. 

So under the stairs it works perfectly. On the campsite it works perfectly. I haven't had cause to try it out in the event of a power cut, or use it for illumination when I'm working outside at night, but I'm confident it will perform wonderfully in these situations too. 

It's so good, in fact, that I'm going to get another one, or perhaps two. The only problem is that they now offer an updated version, on which you can adjust the colours, and I have to decide whether that's worth the extra 500 yen. I think it probably is.