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Verdict: 
Solid construction and easy to use, but a primitive beam pattern
Weight: 
190g

The Magicshine MJ-900 is a reasonably powerful front light that comes in a tiny, lightweight package, pitched at an attractive price point. On the whole it looks pretty good and there is a lot to like. The only real thorn in its side is the average beam pattern.

Cycle lighting technology moves fast; even four or five years ago you would have struggled to get a durable 1200-lumen front light for anywhere near a hundred quid, let alone half that. But that's exactly what Magicshine has achieved here with its MJ-900.

> Buy this online here

It doesn't weigh a lot, just 190g, which is pretty impressive for an external battery system, and the head unit is so tiny it doesn't take up much real estate on your handlebar – an important consideration with Garmins and the like taking over the cockpit.

The head unit is fitted in place with a simple o-ring, which makes attaching and removing the light a simple operation, ideal if you need to leave your bike somewhere public. The downside is that road vibrations make it creep around the bar, normally backwards so that the beam continues to rise higher into the sky. On really rough roads you have to constantly adjust it.

The hard body battery pack is held in place with a wide Velcro strap and it gives a much more secure fit. The battery pack itself has a curved cutout on the bottom with a rubber insert, so it's perfect for attaching to the top tube or under the stem.

While we're on the subject of the battery pack, it has a 2.6Ah 7.4W capacity, which will chuck out full power for 2hrs 18mins – if you're lucky. The best I got was 1hr 56mins and up to 10 minutes less sometimes. The on/off button illuminates when the light is on, turning brighter when the battery has about 20 minutes left so you do get some warning.

On my first ride with the MJ-900 I used the 50% mode for the majority of the time; that should have given me a smidge over 4hrs, but I got 2hrs 8mins before it died. Things improved over time, but it still wasn't really a light I felt like trusting on a reasonably long ride.

To increase burn times you can upgrade the battery pack: a 4.4Ah is £19.99 and a 6.6Ah is £39.99.

The light has four modes: 100% (1200 lumen), 50% (600 lumen), 30% (360 lumen) and flash. When you turn on the MJ-900 it starts off in 100% and a single touch of the button scrolls through the modes. It's really easy to set up and use, but one issue is that you have to scroll through 'off' if you are in one of the lower modes and want to get back to full. Not ideal in any situation really.

Magicshine MJ900 - beam shot.jpg

The beam pattern isn't ideal either, especially on the road – it's nothing more than a glorified torch really. A lot of people criticise lights that cost hundreds of pounds, but in many cases a large portion of that money goes on the reflector R&D – that's how the likes of Hope and Exposure really make the most out of the available lumens.

The full mode here is a claimed 1200 lumen, but what the MJ-900 actually achieves with that is very little with its 20-degree beam angle. Out on the road you get a very bright central spot with a lot of light bleed around the edges – basically illuminating everything from the road surface to the tops of the trees. You can never get the position quite right – you're either lighting up your front tyre or birds' nests.

You need to have it on full mode all the time to see where you are going in the dark, and by doing so you're also irritating those coming towards you.

> Check out our guide to the best front lights and our beam comparison engine here

The build quality seems pretty good – I can't see anything that would suggest it's going to fall apart any time soon. It stood up to heavy rain as well with no issues and no water getting into any connection points or the main body.

In conclusion, the Magicshine MJ-900 is light, easy to use and reasonably priced, but in terms of illumination you're better off spending a little bit more on something more refined, beam-wise. Here, there is so much light going off in all directions that it really irritates oncoming drivers, and if you dip the light down the bright centre spot ends up too close to your front wheel to be able to see far enough up the road. If you ride a lot on quiet, unlit country lanes, canal paths, that type of thing it's fine, but anywhere there is likely to be a lot of oncoming traffic the Magicshine is quite antisocial.

Verdict

Solid construction and easy to use, but a primitive beam pattern

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Magicshine MJ-900

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Magicshine says: "This little light really is tiny, but does pack a punch for it's size. We've kept everything as small as possible including the battery especially for the road boys where weight is paramount. The MJ-900 comes with a 2.6Ah 7.4V battery as standard weighing in at 130 grams it will make your commute a synch with very little extra weight to carry! "

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?

1200 theoretical lumens

4 power settings, high,medium, low, flash

10 hours run time on low power

2.5 hours run time on full power

Compact and very lightweight

Wide beam spread (20degree)

2.6Ah 7.4V

Helmet mount option available

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Considering the price it looks and feels decent quality.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
9/10

Very simple, just one button to scroll through.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
5/10

Using an o-ring is okay for a light that you just need to be seen by, as it doesn't haven't to be spot on. But the MJ-900 tends to creep round the bar through vibration so you constantly have to tweak it up or down.

The Velcro fitting for the battery pack and wire keeps those parts secure.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
8/10

I didn't have any issues with it in the rain.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
5/10

I spent the majority of the time in 50% mode on its first ride and it failed on me after just 2hrs 8mins instead of the 4hrs promised. After that things got better, although I'd struggle to get to 2hrs on full (2hrs 18mins claimed) at around 1hr 54mins. It wasn't really a light I felt like I could truly rely on, so always had a backup.

Rate the light for performance:
 
5/10

The beam is nothing more than a glorified torch with a large round bright centre and lesser light spilling off around it. The LED may be capable of the claimed 1200 lumens but the reflector certainly isn't doing much with it. The Exposure Sirius Mk4 recently tested may look similar on the beam comparison but in real use it's far superior, and that's a light that isn't intended for riding on unlit roads, more of an urban commuter.

To get the right amount of light where you want it with the MJ-900 (a brighter pool about 6-8ft in front with lesser light heading off up the road) you have the option of pointing it right down in front of your tyre and reducing the distance you can see, or pointing it upwards and lighting up the inside of every oncoming car and tree top. I imagine it'd be much more useful off road.

Rate the light for durability:
 
7/10

It doesn't feel as high quality as many other units, but nothing's failed yet.

Rate the light for weight:
 
9/10

One of its high points. It weighs next to nothing.

Rate the light for value:
 
6/10

It's cheap for an external battery system, but I'd rather pay a bit more for something like a Niterider 720, which has a more solid feel and a decent beam pattern.

Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Too much light spill for road use, would work better off road.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

The light weight and compact size.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

Poor beam pattern.

Did you enjoy using the light? No

Would you consider buying the light? As a backup maybe.

Would you recommend the light to a friend? If their budget was tight.

Use this box to explain your score

The score reflects the Magicshine's competitive price, coupled with its light weight and ease of use. It would make a good commuter light to stick in your rucksack as a spare, or if you get caught out in the dark and need a get-you-home light.

For the rider who spends a lot of time in the dark, I'd say spend a bit more and get something with a better beam pattern which makes much more use of its lumens.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: Mason Definition

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.