One of the hottest topics of discussion amongst automobile enthusiasts and consumers alike is whether projector headlamps are better or reflector headlamps are. Well, no matter what you chose the dilemma is as real as it gets. With all modern-day vehicles providing projector headlamp setup, it seems as if it is the new norm.

But with veterans still rooting for their old-school reflector headlights, it is normal for anyone to get confused. But fret not! As we are going to pitch projector headlamps head-on against their reflector counterparts so that you can make an informed choice.

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What is a projector set-up and how does it work?

Modern-day projector headlight is a headlamp set-up that uses three major components for its working. These include the reflector, lens, light source. The reflector portion inside a projector headlight set-up is very similar to what you usually come across in a flashlight. It is practically a reflective half-sphere that throws light from the light source in a specific direction.

Once the light is thrown forward, the lens bends spreads and concentrates the light. The distance between the light source and reflector from the lens determine the overall intensity and concentration of the light in a projector set-up.

A blueprint of a projector set-up // Source

To better understand the process, you can imagine it being similar to a magnifying glass. If you have ever felt like an evil scientist as a kid and taken out a magnifying glass out in the open, you know that if you find just the right angle between the sun and a dry leave through your magnifying glass, the poor thing is sure to get burned. This is how projector headlights work as well.

The lens is used to concentrate the light in a very precise and even manner. And to ensure that the light is angled properly, there is also a cutoff shield that helps to direct the light down towards the road and give the projector headlights a very sharp cutoff.

Pros of a projector set-up

  • A distinct cut off for both low and high beams, which prevent oncoming traffic from being blinded by too much of a light throw.
  • Thanks to a cut-off shield, projectors headlights can handle a brighter headlight as well namely a high-intensity discharge (HID) bulb.
  • Since HIDs are brighter than conventional bulbs, projector headlights tend to provide a brighter night driving experience.
  • Even distribution of light with little or no intense and weak spots.
  • The projectors units look awesome. Period

Cons of a projector set-up

  • Projector set-ups are more expensive to manufacture and thus they are generally available on top models and/or vehicle that are mid to high ranged.
  • One has to be careful while selecting the light source as only a capable and compliant light source can actually perform well in a projector set-up.

What is a reflector set-up and how does it work?

Reflector headlights have been featuring as a standard on all kinds of vehicles since the very invention of electrical headlights. In terms of technology, a reflector headlight consists of a bulb that is encased in a steel bowl.

This bowl consists of mirrors that reflect light out onto the road. The final output of a reflector set-up is a stream of light that comes out of the reflective bowl and points in the direction in which the light is pointing.

Blueprint of a reflector set-up // Source

In the earlier days, the shape of the light beam was dependent on the lens in the front of the headlight. In this kind of sealed-beam set-up, the casing could not be removed to replace a burnt-out bulb.

However, modern-day reflector headlights use mirrors inside the headlight housing in order to guide the beams. This allows for an easy replacement and/or change of bulbs without actually opening the headlight casing.

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The pros of reflector set-up

  • First things first, they are cheaper to make and hence make their way to almost all vehicles around the globe
  • Their design is simple yet effective
  • They are smaller and less deep than projector units and hence take up less space within the vehicle.

The cons of reflector set-up

  • The output of light is less controlled and the low beam cut off is less distinct.
  • Since the light output is less controlled, high output light sources such as HIDs are not usually used with this design.
  • Most reflector headlights use a halogen bulb which produces a less bright output than HIDs.
  • The beam of a reflector often has a few intense and weak spots within the beam.

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