The New Fenix HP25R Rechargeable vs. The Older Version
The champion of our brightness metric has been replaced by a new version, the Fenix HP25R. As its name indicates, one of the biggest changes to this light is that it comes with a USB-rechargeable, Li-ion battery. The light also features a battery level indicator to let you know when it's running low on juice. The housing for the battery has also significantly decreased in size, which is likely where part of this product's weight loss occurred; the new HP25R weighs 6.5 oz (albeit measured sans battery), which is 3.4 oz less than its predecessor. The new model also boasts more modes than before, with nine different modes in total — four Floodlight modes (Eco, Low, Med, High, ranging from 4-350 lumens), four Spotlight modes (Low, Med, High, Turbo, ranging from 30 - 1000 lumens), and a Red Light mode (0.2 lumens). With a whopping 1000 lumen output in Spotlight Turbo mode, we assume that the HP25R can produce an even brighter light than the older model. In a clear trade-off, the manufacturer claims this light with will only give you 1.5 hours of run time on its highest setting, and just 96 hours in Red Light mode. Along with the Li-ion battery, this model comes with a micro-USB cable for charging, as well as a spare O-ring. Lastly, the HP25R costs a pretty penny more than the previous model, ringing in at $100.
As we haven't had the opportunity to test out the new model yet, this review still pertains to the older model. Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the updated version, the Fenix HP25R, pictured on the left and the older version, the HP25, shown on the right.
Hands-On Review of the HP25
The Fenix HP25
is a specialized light-generating machine. It is the brightest in our test, but suffers from otherwise mediocre performance.
In most usage, the user can select between one of two bulbs. In its true advantage, the Fenix's big bulb is what you are here for. If you need less than the brightest, choose something else.
The chart below gives you an idea where the Fenix HP25
stands in our lineup of headlamps.
Our trail finding scores were the result of head-to-head, on-trail usage. We handed headlamps out to several testers and asked "which one makes it easier to find your way?" What we found could be almost directly correlated to a combination of beam strength and the evenness of that beam. The best lights in this category are strong, but also spread that light out in a usable fashion. The most usable light is a little brighter in the center, and evenly gradates towards the user's periphery.
While the Fenix HP25
is the brightest in our test by far, the light quality is a little rough. We tempered our trail finding scores to account for the bright and dark spots in the beam shape. As compared to the highest scoring trail finder, in the beam comparison below
, the Fenix
is a little rougher than the light of the Petzl NAO
Even more so than with trail finding, our subjective testing of close proximity performance and comfort revealed that light quality matters a great deal. All testers preferred the close proximity lighting of products with bright bulbs set in well-designed lenses. Well-designed lenses focus light with consideration to how they will be used. In close proximity use, the user appreciates a broad beam with even, but slightly center-concentrated, brightness. The Fenix
sends out a strong beam, but is a little rough and lumpy. There are brighter and darker spots in the beam cast. Incidentally, since our testing team and procedures are so involved, we tested multiple versions of each and every light. In the case of the HP25
, our testing team found variation in the quality of the close proximity/flood light. One version cast a more even, non-distracting beam than the other.
For such a bright light, we are tempted to completely gloss over the battery life. Our test is indeed very objective. We use modern instrumentation in a controlled setting to address significant issues on the headlamp market. While a standard for testing and reporting exists, developed with the cooperation of light manufacturers and retailers, many manufacturers choose to completely dismiss this standard and report numbers that are, at best, grossly optimistic and at worst fully misleading. Our methodology, as noted, is sound, but has its own biases. We tested every light in its respective highest mode. With the highest of the high modes, it is no surpsise that the Fenix HP25
burned through batteries rapidly.
This battery life vs. beam distance chart
shows the relative shape of battery drain curves for two otherwise tied products. At that link you'll see the Fenix
compared to the Petzl Tikka RXP
The battery pack in the back holds this light's power, and allows it to be extremely bright. Unfortunately all the straps, cord, and pack tend to get tangled when in a pocket.
We cannot say it often enough. This is the brightest light in our test. It exceeds the nearest competitor by more than 20%. No other headlamp we tested dominates any other category in this way.
While the performance of the Fenix
is somewhat mediocre in most other ways, the fact that it is so much brighter than the others justifies some sort of award. If a category reviewing lights cannot reward light, what can we reward? Our Top Pick award exists to honor exactly something like this. When a product stands out for some particular purpose, it is a clear contender for the Top Pick. With such a large field of products serving such wide range of users, multiple sub-niches are bound to exist. In the case of headlamps, we award three Top Pick badges. On this extreme, we honor a product that exceeds a half pound but replicates the sun. On the other extreme we awarded a top pick for ultralight performance to the Petzl e+LITE
. The Petzl
is 1/10th the mass of the Fenix
and sends light about 1/6th as far. The next brightest product in our review, after the
Fenix, is the Coast HL7
. After that, the Petzl NAO
casts light just 70% of the distance of the Fenix
. None of these lights can be considered in even the same realm as the Fenix
The Fenix HP25 is bright enough to be distracting to other hikers, unless you use its other modes. In a day-trip, rock cragging setting like Indian Creek Utah, you would only need the brightest settings if you are looking for distant bolted anchors or something. Routine trail finding requires just a fraction of what this light is capable of.
Just as it is the brightest light in our review, it is also the heaviest. Just as it dominates the brightness of the next brightest product by 20%, it is 21% heavier than the next heaviest. While it sure seems as though the Fenix
could be made lighter with no compromise in brightness, our testers didn't seem to care. One would not carry this light anywhere that weight matters. It is a pure light-throwing beast!
Interestingly, it was not that long ago that we all carried ten ounce headlamps while backpacking and climbing and didn't think anything of it. Twenty years ago those burly beasts weighed the same as the Fenix
, but threw light for a tiny fraction of the distance. The batteries burned out even faster, and were much heavier to carry as spares. While we gripe about a few ounces on our lighting devices, the fact is that the portable lighting world has come way further than most other businesses. All of this is due, of course, to the widespread use of LED bulbs in our lights. LEDs are brighter, more energy efficient, and longer lasting than the alternative. Its a win/win/win situation. Fenix
taps into that and creates an ultra bright light that will serve certain people very well. It is heavy, but we overlook that for now.
No one will claim the Fenix is compact. But it is super bright. No holds barred bright!
Ease of Use
Just like everything else about the Fenix
, we overlook some quirks on account of the brightness. With two bulbs and two buttons, usage is even less intuitive than some of the other multiple moded products we reviewed. Thankfully, the HP25
is slightly better designed in one aspect than its cousin the Fenix HL30
. In our use of the HL30
, we found the head to flop forward and down uselessly at times. The notches that hold the head in place run out on the 30 before the light aims low enough to use for the closest proximity tasks. The 25 has a similar issue, but the angle is much lower. Essentially, at all usable angles, the HP25
works just fine. In an issue ubiquitous to all two-part lights (lights with battery pack at the back of the head and bulb unit on the front), and exaggerated by a somewhat floppy cord connecting the two, the HP25
gets tangled up in pocket or pack. Before putting it on, you must sort out the straps and cord in order for everything to line up correctly. All two part lights suffer this fate, but the Coast HL7
streamlines things with an internally routed cable and no top strap.
Finally, in terms of ease of use, and this goes for both Fenix
lights we tested, but there is some assembly required. Out of the package the Fenix
arrives with straps and hardware all separate. You must put it all together in a 10 minute project.
Rock goddess, OGL bike tester, and owner of ultimate stoke, Denise Park and the Fenix HP25 in Utah.
When you need to see a long distance, choose the Fenix
. We hesitate to prescribe exactly when you might need this much light, but when you do, you'll know. Perhaps Search and Rescue professionals are prime candidates for a light this bright. Just be aware that, in max mode, the light will burn through batteries pretty quickly.
Again, this is a specialized beast. It is not particularly expensive, nor is it cheap, but for those that need this amount of light, they'll overlook price and battery life and weight and plunk down for the massive lighting power.
We love specialized, no-holds-barred products. With such powerful lighting performance, it is easy to overlook the shortcomings. This is not a light for everyone. In fact, very few are apt to need this sort of performance. But those who do will be glad to stumble upon this somewhat obscure product.