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  1. #1
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Magicshine Battery Maintenance Question

    I got a first generation MS-900 last x-mas from geoman. Love the light.

    But the battery died.

    Here is my experience:

    Initial burn time was 3 hours - sweet!

    After just a few (maybe 5-6) cycles, burn time dropped to 1 hour, not so sweet but ok.

    After another 6 cycles or so, the battery died....it just wouldn't take a charge, the charger LED was always red.

    I wrote to geoman and they VERY KINDLY sent me a new battery last month. This one is the newer battery (cylindrical shape).

    I want to do right by the new battery, and am wondering the following (forgive my ignorance but I am not knowledgeable about batteries):

    1. Does it matter if I let it run down between charges? Or just top it off?
    2. Does it matter if I keep battery and charge it in my garage (winter temps about 45F).
    3. Anything else I can do to maximize battery life and minimize it from dying an early death?
    4. I plan to disconnect the battery when not in use (so the stupid LED is not on), is that best or should I keep it connected or does it not matter??

    For my backup lights (fenix L2D CE Q5) and blinkies I have a smart charger from Lacrosse, but for the MS I just have the dumb charger and would appreciate any suggestions/answers to the questions above.

    Thanks!

    Doug

  2. #2
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    First off, there was definitely something wrong with the first battery. The battery has circuitry inside the pack to prevent you from doing anything to it that will damage it that badly. It is not supposed to allow either overcharge or undercharge. So don't be concerned that you did something to damage it (unless you drove a nail through it, or got it wet or something).

    The "ideal" for LiIon storage is to charge them to 60% and leave them like that. But that's for long-term storage. For a few hours or days at a time I don't think it matters much. I would not leave a LiIon cell totally discharged for long, that's the worst thing you can do to them. If you do run one flat, charge it back up ASAP. If it's not down to where the light turns off, don't worry about it, charge when you get a chance.

    45*F temps are NOT an issue. I've left LiIon batteries outside in subzero temps overnight and they didn't die. They don't LIKE it, but their dislike is limited to just not providing much power while they're actually cold.

    As far as disconnecting, I don't think it matters much as long as you don't leave it connected for so long that it totally discharges the battery. Again, the battery's internal circuitry should prevent cell damage, but you never know.

    If you're disconnecting regularly, be very careful of the connector. Even the best connectors will get damaged if you unplug and re-plug them hundreds of times a year if you at all pull on the wire rather than the connector. I personally do disconnect twice a day, but I'm extremely careful to grab ONLY the connector, and I do not twist more than necessary to get them apart.

    The charger that comes with the MS is NOT a "dumb charger" - if you were to use a "dumb charger" on a LiIon cell, you'd wind up with a fire; you simply can not charge a LiIon without a smart charger. It's probably not a brilliant charger, but it's not dumb. The lack of an LCD panel does not mean it's not a smart charger. I leave mine plugged in overnight regularly and nothing gets hot or anything. I've left it plugged in for a few days before too, and no problems. Besides, again, the circuitry built into the pack itself will prevent overcharging so you don't have to worry about that.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    ^^ Thanks!!

  4. #4
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    To clarify, running a battery until the light shuts off then not charging it for a day or two won't hurt it. What you do not want to do is to allow the per-cell voltage to get below a critical level. The circuitry inside the battery will stop it discharging before it gets to this level. The only danger is if you let it get that low, THEN let it sit for weeks or months, during which time it may self-discharge below the critical level.

    If the voltage per cell gets too low, it can crystallize the electrolyte within the cell, and the part that becomes crystallized no longer is able to hold a charge.
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  5. #5
    RT
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    Agree with ItsJustMe, and I had the same experience as the OP. The new battery rocks. I charge mine every other trip (about an hour or so of use), and if I allow the light to go idle for more than a week.

  6. #6
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    I have had my ms light for over a year and I am seeing lower runtimes than when I bought it but that is the norm for all lights.. It is always a possibility that you have just 1 bad cell in the 4 cell battery pack and this is the problem. Due to the price, I'm sure they are using low cost 18650 cells in the battery packs..

    I always top my battery off before riding, just in case I get adventurous and decide to ride for 2-3 hours.. I always have someone extra on my bars in case the battery runs down, it has only happened once on 3 hour ride, switched to the lower mode to preserve battery once the red light came on..

  7. #7
    Senior Member AltheCyclist's Avatar
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    Just curious, so, it seems the "older" (non-cylindrical MS 900 model) batteries have had problems? Mine is about year old and doesn't hold much charge, I chalked it up to being a crappy battery. Sounds like others have ran into this?

  8. #8
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AltheCyclist View Post
    Just curious, so, it seems the "older" (non-cylindrical MS 900 model) batteries have had problems? Mine is about year old and doesn't hold much charge, I chalked it up to being a crappy battery. Sounds like others have ran into this?
    I'm assuming that they're all the same thing, the cylindrical model is just the old one, well, shoved into a cylinder. Mine is a year old and it does fine. However, I did buy an aftermarket 8 cell pack (not from MagicShine) and I mainly use that now, because with that I only have to charge up once a week even with the taillight running too.

    I almost wish my old pack would have died, if the new packs with the hard plastic shell and the battery gauge were available for a good price! But it's still running fine.
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  9. #9
    I am a caffine girl colleen c's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AltheCyclist View Post
    Just curious, so, it seems the "older" (non-cylindrical MS 900 model) batteries have had problems? Mine is about year old and doesn't hold much charge, I chalked it up to being a crappy battery. Sounds like others have ran into this?
    My battery pack went through about 25 charge/discharge cycle since near the end of March this year. I charge them once a week because I use them for 2.5-2.75 hours a week. The first 20 cycle, I were getting at least 2.5 hrs before recharging. The last 5 cycle, I get less than 1.5 hours of run time.

    I doubt the new battery will be any better than the old one unless they used better 18650 cell so that they are better balanced and less mismatch in the 2S2P hookup, but base on the price I kinda doubt that and issue such as diminishing run time from the pack going bad will be a common thing.
    "Difference between a well dressed cyclist riding a two wheeled bicycle and a badly dressed cyclist riding a Recumbent is only a-tire"
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  10. #10
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    I'm probably asking a biased crowd here, but is the MagicShine (sounds like shoe polish) that much better than the other lights out there? Would you buy another?
    Who is John Galt?

  11. #11
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xizangstan View Post
    I'm probably asking a biased crowd here, but is the MagicShine (sounds like shoe polish) that much better than the other lights out there? Would you buy another?
    For the price, yes, it's very much better than other similar lights, especially in their current generation. In the sub-$100 range, the only other competitor is high powered flashlights like those using P7 LEDs. A P7 flashlight with charger, batteries and mounting will run you in the neighborhood of $65 or so, and for $80 you can get the Magicshine.

    The pros on the Magicshine are that it has a 4 cell pack which gives a 3 hour runtime, and the beam pattern is pretty good (with the caveat that it's a conical beam, but that's true of pretty much every light sold in the US). Flashlights are a little cheaper but the runtime is typically only 1 to 1.5 hours per battery change. That's plenty for most people if they don't mind changing the battery after every ride.

    The MagicShine's actual light output is somewhere in the 450 to 550 lumen range (manufacturers love to exaggerate- the 900 lumen rating is just what the LED is rated at)

    To equal the Magicshine's light output with name-brand lights, you have to go into the $200 to $300 range at least. Some people argue that you don't need that much light, and depending on your situation, that could be true. Personally I ride regardless of weather, and when I'm riding at 4AM through heavy fog or heavy rain, I do feel like I need that kind of power.

    They also have a taillight that can run off the same battery pack; this is a bonus for me - I was getting sick of having to charge two battery packs.

    If price is no object to you, or if you are not comfortable with or feel it's not worth your time to deal with things that might be less reliable, then perhaps a name brand light (at 3 or 4 times the cost for the same functionality) is a better light for you. Personally, all I've really had to do with my MS light is to solder on a new connector after a year or so, and wrap a plastic bag around the battery. To me it was worth saving over a hundred bucks for that 15 minutes worth of work.

    I would not ride with only one light even if I paid $1000 and had the best light on the market. I've had my light fail (not the MS) in the middle of the night with no backup; in that case I wound up using my Dinotte taillight to see where I was going. It was nerve wracking and I don't care to repeat that, so I now run with a P7 flashlight on the bar as a backup. It also serves as a light to use when running errands, since the MS battery lives in my panniers and I usually don't bother mounting it when running out for a sandwich or something.

    MagicShine had issues in their first generation; the connectors and wires were a little flaky and the battery pack was not waterproof. Those issues have been addressed. What they have not addressed is the fact that their battery packs are made from pretty cheap cells, which means that after a year or so of use they're losing runtime. This affects different people to different extents - my pack is still running great after a year, some people have lost half their runtime after a year. However, given the fact that replacement packs are $40, and similar replacement packs from name-brand manufacturers might cost $120 or more, you could buy a new pack every year and still probably be ahead on that score, because all packs die eventually.
    Last edited by ItsJustMe; 09-22-10 at 05:17 AM.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xizangstan View Post
    I'm probably asking a biased crowd here, but is the MagicShine (sounds like shoe polish) that much better than the other lights out there? Would you buy another?
    Yes. As ItsJustMe stated much more eloquently than I could, it's a good light. If you want a fairly bright light and you are on a budget, it's the best bang for your buck headlight.

    It's not perfect but I would buy another in a heartbeat.

    There are certainly better lights out there but you would have to pay three times the price.

  13. #13
    RT
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Some people argue that you don't need that much light, and depending on your situation, that could be true.
    The main reason I own a Magicshine (aside from this board recommending it) is an unfortunate encounter with a wayward rabbit at 4:30 a.m. on a commute which involved an endo, and not in a good way. I was using a CatEye EL320 at the time, and my accident made clear the need for more illumination. Magishine provides that. If I am anywhere on my ride at dusk, dawn, or dark, I mount the 'Shine. Absolutely a necessity, based on practical (and painful) experience.

  14. #14
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    Like others, I had older lights that did not produce much light, like the EL320, especially not enough spill light. I like the idea of more than one light, in case batteries fail in one. The Magicshine is good, I use it most of the time on the low setting and get at least 6 hours of run time before I recharge.
    Like the OP, I also have some Fenix AA flashlights mounted, these are not as bright and have less run time, but are good backups, and are useful off the bike for camping, exploring. I have never owned a more expensive bike light, so I cannot compare except to say the Magicshine is rather low cost for a bright bike light. There are beam comparison photos out there on the web.

    After 11 months, I have not had any issues yet with the MS battery, but all batteries eventually develop less capacity and then fail. In truth, I have had many capacity issues with the Nimh AA batteries I've used, so the charger I now use for them (like the OP) allows for the test of individual batteries, and refresh if needed. The MS battery pack does not allow for this kind of testing, but so far, no issues... The MS battery pack is four 18650 cells in series/parallel, so one bad cell mean half the capacity, which is still better than the AA battery lights where they are all wired in series, so one bad battery and the light gets very dim.

  15. #15
    I am a caffine girl colleen c's Avatar
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    Yes I will buy another MS only because I have the option of not using their battery pack. If I had to do this all over again, I probably buy the tail light with the battery and a light head only without a battery. I use the MS battery only for the tail light and buy an another pack from elsewhere or build my own pack using holder such that I can recharge each battery individually in a charger to keep them all balance and less problematic.
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  16. #16
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colleen c View Post
    Yes I will buy another MS only because I have the option of not using their battery pack. If I had to do this all over again, I probably buy the tail light with the battery and a light head only without a battery. I use the MS battery only for the tail light and buy an another pack from elsewhere or build my own pack using holder such that I can recharge each battery individually in a charger to keep them all balance and less problematic.
    That's actually not a bad idea, however, I'm too damned lazy to want to take cells out of packs to charge. I was doing that for my Dinotte AA and it drove me batty. Also having a combination of removable batteries AND waterproof would make it even more troublesome to get the batteries out.

    I actually use an 8 cell pack that I bought from some other place when they had them on sale last year for $25 - I think many others here bought one at the same time. The connector on that wasn't exactly right and it was very intermittent. I wound up soldering on an actual MS connector.

    These days my battery pack is in a plastic bag and just lives in the bottom of my pannier with a wire sticking out the top. I haven't seen the actual battery for weeks. I know the pack would last longer if I took the cells out and charged them individually, but given that it lasts a couple of years anyway, I'm too seduced by the convenience of just "plugging in" my pannier at my desk at work once a week, and that's the extent of my regular maintenance.
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    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    If one had to re-design or re-configure the power supply for the MagicShine 900, what would be "best"? Wouldn't one big battery be better than 4 batteries hooked up in series/parallel?

  19. #19
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    If one had to re-design or re-configure the power supply for the MagicShine 900, what would be "best"? Wouldn't one big battery be better than 4 batteries hooked up in series/parallel?
    I don't know what you want the battery to do. But the simple facts are using a 4x18650 format makes the most sense from a mounting, power, run time or any other measure. Here is one of the best deals going.

    PS - this battery should break the 3 hour run time mark - maybe 3.5 hours on high - continuous!!!

    PS again - the reason battery cells are made like 18650 or "AAs" is because of the physics and chemistry of how minerals ionize. As soon as you start making cells the - like "D" size or bigger - problems develop with how the chemicals can disperse and hold "ions" evenly.

    Otherwise - giant cells the size of coffee cans would already be made - but they just won't work well - they would have "hot and cool" spots of electrolytic material.
    Last edited by Richard Cranium; 09-24-10 at 08:40 AM. Reason: To become science guy and spread battery knowledge

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    Quote Originally Posted by xizangstan View Post
    I'm probably asking a biased crowd here, but is the MagicShine (sounds like shoe polish) that much better than the other lights out there? Would you buy another?
    I think the quote; "if you are not comfortable with or feel it's not worth your time to deal with things that might be less reliable, then perhaps a name brand light (at 3 or 4 times the cost for the same functionality)" says it all.

    Part of the reason other (name) brands cost more is that reliability is part of the functionality. Others are you don't need to arrange your own water resistent packaging for the battery pack, etc...

    A light is a key safety element when riding in dark conditions, if your comfortable with it failing and willing to deal with the consequences, then it may be a good choice to save $100-$300. Certainly if you can't afford the better (more reliable) lights then it is better than nothing).

  21. #21
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    If one had to re-design or re-configure the power supply for the MagicShine 900, what would be "best"? Wouldn't one big battery be better than 4 batteries hooked up in series/parallel?
    It would have to be two big batteries. One big battery would only give you 3.6 volts, not 7.2 volts. Then you're back to charging in a serial arrangement and that's actually probably the biggest problem. Two batteries in parallel will be forced to stay in sync with one another, and as long as one isn't vastly worse than the other, probably not a big problem.

    The other problem is that in order to maintain the economy of the thing, you want to use commonly used batteries that are made in the hundreds of thousands. 18650s have GOT to be the most common LiIon cell in the world, by a huge margin, because it's the cell used in laptop computer packs and other things. As soon as you switch to a different cell, you're probably going to double your cost right there.
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  22. #22
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by myrridin View Post
    Part of the reason other (name) brands cost more is that reliability is part of the functionality. Others are you don't need to arrange your own water resistent packaging for the battery pack, etc...

    A light is a key safety element when riding in dark conditions, if your comfortable with it failing and willing to deal with the consequences, then it may be a good choice to save $100-$300. Certainly if you can't afford the better (more reliable) lights then it is better than nothing).
    It's questionable whether this is much of an issue anymore anyway. Even with my first generation light, the only time it failed was a year after purchase, after hundreds of uses. It was a bad connector, I replaced it, and it's up to dozens of uses again since then and I expect it to last many hundreds more uses at least.

    With the new generation, the wires are more reliable (so expect problems less than once a year under constant use) and the battery has been fully waterproof for the last two entire generations of lights. And in any case, the solution was "put battery in heavy plastic bag, put a zip-tie around mouth of bag with wire coming out, tighten. 10 seconds, and it's fine in heavy rain now. I don't think it's particularly worth harping on, and it's especially not now that it's not been an issue for this light for over 6 months now.

    Talking to someone considering a new light purchase about shortcomings that have already been fixed with the current generation of lights is not helpful to anyone. It really makes it sound like you're just grasping at straws.

    There are many things to consider when purchasing lights. One thing is that, honestly, hardly any person who's just getting started riding is going to go right out and spend $200 to $400 on a headlight. Even $80 is probably pushing it. Now that really good, bright lights that car drivers notice and respect are available for < $100, I think it's sensible to try to convince people who otherwise would be buying $35 wimp lights to make the extra investment in safety.

    If the message being pushed is that the $80 light is a complete piece of crap that will fail when you most need it, and they really should be buying a $250 light instead, most people are not going to buy the $250 light, they'll buy the $35 light instead. This is not doing them any favors.

    I don't personally feel that ANY light, even a Lupine, is reliable enough to not carry a backup anyway, so I may as well save the money. I carry a P7 flashlight on my bar at all times as a backup. The one time my MS failed a few weeks back, I just reached down and hit the flashlight switch. I was without light for 3 seconds.
    Last edited by ItsJustMe; 09-24-10 at 09:30 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    It's questionable whether this is much of an issue anymore anyway. Even with my first generation light, the only time it failed was a year after purchase, after hundreds of uses. It was a bad connector, I replaced it, and it's up to dozens of uses again since then and I expect it to last many hundreds more uses at least.

    With the new generation, the wires are more reliable (so expect problems less than once a year under constant use) and the battery has been fully waterproof for the last two entire generations of lights. And in any case, the solution was "put battery in heavy plastic bag, put a zip-tie around mouth of bag with wire coming out, tighten. 10 seconds, and it's fine in heavy rain now. I don't think it's particularly worth harping on, and it's especially not now that it's not been an issue for this light for over 6 months now.

    Talking to someone considering a new light purchase about shortcomings that have already been fixed with the current generation of lights is not helpful to anyone. It really makes it sound like you're just grasping at straws.

    There are many things to consider when purchasing lights. One thing is that, honestly, hardly any person who's just getting started riding is going to go right out and spend $200 to $400 on a headlight. Even $80 is probably pushing it. Now that really good, bright lights that car drivers notice and respect are available for < $100, I think it's sensible to try to convince people who otherwise would be buying $35 wimp lights to make the extra investment in safety.

    If the message being pushed is that the $80 light is a complete piece of crap that will fail when you most need it, and they really should be buying a $250 light instead, most people are not going to buy the $250 light, they'll buy the $35 light instead. This is not doing them any favors.

    I don't personally feel that ANY light, even a Lupine, is reliable enough to not carry a backup anyway, so I may as well save the money. I carry a P7 flashlight on my bar at all times as a backup. The one time my MS failed a few weeks back, I just reached down and hit the flashlight switch. I was without light for 3 seconds.
    I have no personal experience with the Magicshine, though I do have experience with cheap chinese products...

    That said, I haven't seen a single Magicshine user recommend the light without qualifiers... Great light for the price. Best Bang for the buck. Or the quote of yours that I used...

    If all you can afford is an $80 light, then it is certainly better than nothing, or the other alternatives in that price range... But someone buying a $1,000+ bike can likely afford a more expensive (and better built) product and will likely do so, after being unsatisfied with any (or all) of the quirks that warrant the users qualifications about the light.

    If someone asks the question; "What is the best light under $100" The answer is almost certainly the Magicshine
    When the dollar value hits $200 the answer is less certain, and by the time it hits $300 it is almost certainly not the Magicshine.

  24. #24
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by myrridin View Post
    If someone asks the question; "What is the best light under $100" The answer is almost certainly the Magicshine
    When the dollar value hits $200 the answer is less certain, and by the time it hits $300 it is almost certainly not the Magicshine.
    Even that depends on the goals of the purchaser and what they mean by "best". If they mean "brightest" then the answer is the Magicshine 1400. You can't buy any light off the shelf for less money that's brighter.

    If they mean most reliable, then you're correct, it's very likely that the Dinotte 400 or some of the lights you've talked about are more reliable.

    It's like asking "what's the best bike" for a given amount of money. There's no one answer.

    For me, the "best" light for $200 is the Magicshine at $80. I want that level of brightness and without spending more than $200, I can't get more light than the MS light. And honestly, I don't think I need more light that that, so I don't personally want a MagicShine 1400, or even a Lupine Wilma or something crazy like that.

    If you put a MagicShine and a Wilma on a table and said "pick one, either one is yours for free" of course I'd take the Wilma. Then I'd hit eBay, sell the Wilma, buy a MagicShine and buy a new bike with the difference.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Even that depends on the goals of the purchaser and what they mean by "best". If they mean "brightest" then the answer is the Magicshine 1400. You can't buy any light off the shelf for less money that's brighter.

    If they mean most reliable, then you're correct, it's very likely that the Dinotte 400 or some of the lights you've talked about are more reliable.

    It's like asking "what's the best bike" for a given amount of money. There's no one answer.

    For me, the "best" light for $200 is the Magicshine at $80. I want that level of brightness and without spending more than $200, I can't get more light than the MS light. And honestly, I don't think I need more light that that, so I don't personally want a MagicShine 1400, or even a Lupine Wilma or something crazy like that.

    If you put a MagicShine and a Wilma on a table and said "pick one, either one is yours for free" of course I'd take the Wilma. Then I'd hit eBay, sell the Wilma, buy a MagicShine and buy a new bike with the difference.
    Yep, I understand what you are saying. For me, I ride for two purpose (really only one) fitness and for shorter distance errands like grocery shopping every few days (again for fitness purposes). So I don't have to ride in really bad conditions. I wanted a light that was bright enough to see unlit trails at my speed (10-15mph) and that would have a good battery life and quality of build. I ended up trying a couple of different lights and settled on the Cygolite Minty cross 350 which I got for $175. I then ordered a second mounting bracket.

    I tend not to like chinese products for a number of reasons.

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