Reflector vs Projector Headlights: Which is a Better Option?

Headlamps

These days, the trend of projector headlight housing is getting very popular. So, naturally, the question of reflector vs projector comes up a lot. It is easy to find these projector head lamps on imported cars in Pakistan and in terms of locally manufactured vehicles, only Honda Atlas and Toyota Indus are offering them in the higher-end variants of their vehicle line-up. And now, I would like to point out the fact that some of the vehicles feature both (reflector and projector) in one headlight, which leads one to wonder about some sort of logic behind all this. The purpose of this article is to settle this issue. Reflector vs Projector Headlights, which is best?

1: Working of Reflector Headlight

In essence, the conventional reflector headlights use a very simplistic design. It consists of a light source that is situated in the middle of the reflector cup.

Reflector Headlight

Pros & Cons of Reflector Headlights

Pros:

  • Simple design, which is easy to understand, replace and manufacture

Cons:

  • The beam often has intense and weak spots in it
  • The light output is less controlled and the low beam cut-off for oncoming traffic is less distinct.
  • Most reflector headlights use a halogen bulb, which produces less output than a HID.

2: Working of Projector Headlight

At its most basic form, there are three parts in a projector headlight

  1. Reflector
  2. Light Source
  3. Lens

proj 1.0

The reflector portion is similar to the schematics of a flash-light. It’s a reflective half-sphere that throws the light in a specific direction. The lens, then bends, spreads or concentrates the light.

Another way to wrap your head around this concept is considering the working of a magnifying glass in sunlight. If you line things up just right with the sunlight and a dry paper, the magnifying lens will concentrate the sunlight to a fine point and the leaf will begin to start to burn. And if the magnifying glass is held closely or far away, the light spreads and the intensity of light will react accordingly. This same principal is applicable to the working of projector headlights. The lens is used to throw the light in a very precise and even manner. The headlight manufacturers tune the headlights so that you get an exceptional experience.

Now many of the astute readers might have noticed a trend in the flow of article, as I have taken the liberty to briefly explain the components and their functionalities. So, keeping this flow alive, the components I am going to discuss include the ‘Cut-off Shield’ and ‘Solenoid’.

To put it simply, without the ‘Cut-off Shield’ the output of headlights will be in a rounder shape – similar to a flashlight-, and now the ‘Solenoid’. It controls the high and low beams. The Cut-off Shield -explained earlier- is for low-beams. When the full-beam is engaged, the solenoid drops the cut-off shield out of the way, allowing all of the light to pass through, giving you the access of full light.

Pros & Cons of Reflector Headlights

Pros:

  • Even distribution of light with little to no intense or weak spots.
  • Distinct cut-off of low beams, which keeps minimalizes the blind effect for on-coming traffic.
  • Due to the distinct cut-off, Projectors can handle a brighter headlight bulb, namely HID (High Intensity Discharge Bulbs).

Cons:

  • The distinct difference in the light output, whereas some favor it and some don’t. So, in the end it all falls down to your preference.

Conclusion:

We started off this article with a question; “Reflector vs Projector Headlights: Which is a better option?”, and after all the points that have been discussed above, I believe that it is safe to say that our winner is the Projector Headlights. Not only do they have the ability of handling a HID bulb, their design to deliver an even beam of light and their appearance, all contribute in making Projector headlights a superior choice than the reflector headlight bulb.

You can also visit PakWheels Forums to discuss more on Reflectors Vs Projector Headlamps

  • In both scenarios you used the words “Pros and cons of reflector headlights”

    Proofread first, please.

    Some other points you missed:
    1. Both types can handle all sorts of stuff. You can put an LED, HID or a halogen bulb behind a projector lens, an LED, Halogen or an HID in a reflector based lamp All you need is a proper housing. Heck, they’re putting HIDs in CD 70s these days. Everything is available to put into anything.
    2. Better or worse depends on the situation and how the headlamps have been adjusted. I frequently curse people with projector headlamps because they haven’t adjusted the tilt of their lights and it makes me nearly blind at night.
    3. The spread of light that one gets with reflectors is better than the concentrated beam seen in the projector, specially when driving on highways through small towns and near the fields. Try seeing a black cow or a small dog running onto the road with a projector. At highway speeds, you’ll hit the animal before you know what happened.
    4. Not all projectors have cut off points. Some are just plain single beam projectors used as a high beam option in cars which have both options, reflector for the low beam and projector for the high beam, like a 2nd Gen Prius.
    5. Cut off shields just block some light. So low beam in these type of projectors mostly equates to horrible light.

    Cheerios.

  • Aqeel Zia Nayyer

    now we have TUBES for the car in which we have proper cut-off shield for low-beam. those work just fine in reflector headlights.

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