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Old 03-18-2011, 06:52 PM   #1
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Location: Richmond, VA
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Why do I keep ripping on p46 headlights? (Don't buy crappy crap) Retrofit to RX330!

If you have seen any of the threads asking about which HID kit to buy or how to get projectors for cheap, I will probably have chimed in saying, "You're an idiot," or, "Die a terrible death," or something along those lines.

Why? Because most people and vendors recommend the Depo P46 headlights as the best alternative to the OEM projector headlights. While I agree that P46 headlights will do "just fine," that doesn't mean it's the best alternative, especially when the alternatives are things like Morimoto Mini H1 ($120) or Mini D2S ($110) projectors which *screw into your headlights* making mounting the projector as simple as changing a blown bulb.

Recently, a fanatic asked me if I would like to help him make some room in his garage by taking a box of stuff out of it. I was excited to help. The box's contents: Depo P46 headlights, 9 CCFL rings (4 installed, 5 spares), and an H7 HID kit (5000K). Now I can finally put to rest all the hearsay about "P46 is just as good as OEM."

As soon as I got the headlights home, I cleaned them up and tore one of them apart. The other headlight is still mostly in-tact, with just the front lens being taken off for testing/cleaning purposes. The headlights are being torn apart so that I may test these without the excess bulk of the headlights.

I will be comparing the Depo P46 projector against itself (halogen vs. 5000K HID) and against a Lexus RX330 single xenon projector with a suuuuuper old Philips 85122 bulb and Denso ballast. I would test it against the e46 Bosch bixenon, but I don't want to take my headlights apart, again.

Results and Discussion
Test setup (top = RX330; bottom left = P46 5000K; bottom right = P46 halogen):

And now the output pictures. Top to bottom: RX330, P46 5000K HID, P46 halogen:

A little bit closer together

Now I know most of you will come in here screaming, "HAHAHA YOU'RE SUCH A FUGGIN NEWB THE P46 IS BETTARER!" but you'd be wrong. The P46 does a great job of throwing light directly in the middle, way below the cutoff. Translate this pattern onto the road and you will have a very bright foreground with barely any light going into the distance.

You might also be saying "THE P46 IS WIDERRRR" but is it really? The P46 projector, both halogen and HID setups, bow downwards near the edges. Sure, the light on the wall stretches further to the left, but again, translate it to on the road performance and you have sub-par lighting performance at the sides. Do you want to light up the mailbox or the grass?

The RX330 shows exactly what the OEMs want and what you need: smooth light output, brightest along the cutoff (not just at the step/middle) and dimming as it gets lower. This gives you the most light far in front of the vehicle so that you can, you know, see.

As an alternative to the OEM bixenon (or even the single xenon) projectors, the p46 just isn't up to snuff.

As an alternative to the OEM halogen reflector headlights, the p46 with halogen bulb will give you a more updated looking front end, but lighting performance will probably suffer. I can't imagine the OEM halogen headlights performing worse than these. If, however, you decide to "upgrade" from OEM halogen reflectors to the p46 with HID kit, you may put more strain on your eyes by concentrating too much on what's directly in front of your bumper instead of what's out 100+ feet away from the car.

Note: if the vendors want to chime in saying they "modify" their P46 projectors to not be as crappy, there's absolutely no way in hell that you are going to modify these headlights without actually replacing parts. And if you're going to go that far, you might as well just RETROFIT A BETTER PROJECTOR!
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