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Jun 19 2014

Review: Princeton Tec’s VIZZ

 

Princeton Tec's VIZZ. Handy mid-sized headlamp.

Princeton Tec’s VIZZ. Handy mid-sized headlamp.

Headlamps are no longer optional in my life. They’re akin to prescription glasses, but they aren’t mandatory and they don’t need a doctor’s signature to obtain. But they sure do make working with your hands easier. It’s amazing how many dark corners there are in the middle of the day that could use a little filler light, especially when it’s aimed right where you’re looking.

Nowadays you almost can’t go wrong with a headlamp. Any brand will do, and for simple tasks around the house, smaller is generally better. Princeton Tec’s VIZZ headlamp is my current fave.

Basic Specs

It’s small, weighing less than 4 ounces with batteries. My digital postal scale read 100 g, give or take five grams. and it has a powerful 165 lumen high beam, a continuously adjustable low-beam, plus the obligatory red LED night light. The adjustable low beam uses two leds for a more diffuse beam with good light at the high end to illuminate stuff within five feet (2m-ish), and at its dimmest, just enough light to navigate familiar territory without disturbing fellow campers already asleep.

Power Source

Thumbscrew locks and opens the battery door. Any flavor of AAA you prefer works.

Thumbscrew locks and opens the battery door. Any flavor of AAA you prefer works.

3 AAA batteries provide the juice, in any flavor you like, Lithium, Alkaline, rechargeable lithium-ion, NiCd, or Nickel-Metal-Hydride. Currently I’m using rechargeable NiMH and they seem to last about 5 hours, which means about 2-3 weeks of intermittent use and when they die, I just recharge ‘em. I don’t mind dedicated, special rechargeable batteries in other devices, but replacing rechargeable AAAs is much easier than almost any other size battery, except AA.

The key to this adaptability to different voltage power sources is internal circuitry to regulate the power. In addition, this circuitry works to maintain the output of the LEDs as constant until they are about to go kaput. Then the light will flash a few times, a sign language way of warning you you’re about to lose the light. In my experience, you still have about 5-10 minutes of light left, but not much more.

High, Low, Red

Mode switching is done by toggling a membrane button on top of the case. Once turns on the red LED. Twice, semi-fast, turns on the hi-beam. Three times in a row locks the unit off. Once you do that you can’t turn it on until you unlock which is three times in a row, but it seems the timing is somewhat critical here. Too fast or too slow and it won’t unlock.

My fave part is the ability to turn on the adjustable low-beam from the get go by holding down the button for about a full second. This will turn on the low-beam at the same intensity it was on the previous time. To change the intensity, continue to hold it down and the light will begin to increase or decrease. Release your finger when it reaches the level you want.

To turn the light off, no matter what mode it’s in, low, high, or red, simply toggle it once, but you need to wait a few seconds before turning it off if you just turned on the high beam. Try to toggle it off right after you turned on the high beam and the microprocessor will think you toggled it three times and lock the light off. You will learn to avoid that mistake.

The only thing I am not so impressed with is the tactile feel of the membrane button. It’s too stiff and small of a sweet spot to hit easily even with bare fingers. It’s impossible to operate with gloves on.

Casing

As with many Princeton Tec headlamps, it’s waterproof down to 1m (IPX7). More importantly for long term durability, to access the battery compartment the back door is secured with a metal thumb screw. I have a Petzl Tikka XP that utilized plastic snap tabs that, eventually cracked. Metal works better over time.

Conclusion

There are a lot of headlamps like this on the market with the major difference being the logic of the mode switching, or the tactile feel of the buttons. I like the sturdiness and simplicity of the case, and really appreciate the generically simple AAA power source.

© 2014