The 'smart' tag on Magicshine's MJ-900B Smart Light is important, because its latest front light is Bluetooth-enabled for programming from your smartphone. It also features a much-improved battery and lens.
Last time we reviewed the MJ-900 in February 2016, Stu Kerton complained about the beam pattern, which relied on a reflector rather than a lens. 'B', then, must stand for 'better', because the MJ-900B has an optical lens, 'built to the highest quality and specifications' Magicshine assures us.
The new incarnation throws out a clean, smooth light, with no blobby patches or shadowy areas. You can see the difference in our beam comparison engine below (select the MJ900 from the list of 2015 lights). Stu didn't like the wide beam pattern, and that's not changed much, but I found it useful for lighting up dark lanes and old railway tracks, and found that I could easily see the edges of unlit, unmarked roads, even on a paltry 10% power. At full-whack, it lit up road signs half a mile away.
Magicshine has also scaled back the claims about power output from 1,200 to 1,000 lumens. Even so – and it's been said before on this very site – you won't want to use all 1,000 lumens around town, and no other road user will be thanking you if you do.
This is where the 'Smart Light' bit of the Magicshine comes into play, because it allows you to program the light for different riding conditions. It's done by means of an app, downloadable when you register your light (there's even a QR code in the instruction book to allow you to do this).
With the app and Bluetooth up and running, and your light plugged into the battery, you can select something called 'Scene' from a drop-down menu. Here, you can add different arrangements of settings for your light. Magicshine suggests 'Forest' and 'Road' as examples. In here, you can add as many or few intensities and modes as you like – up to 20 in fact; for example flashing or constant and anything from 1% to 100% intensity. Then, when you enable that particular 'Scene', the options transfer to the light head unit and you can scroll through them as on any normal light.
It sounds a bit complicated, and the instructions were not the clearest, but once I figured out what I was trying to achieve it all fell into place and it works well. The only drawback is that I'm useless at remembering to switch between 'scenes' before I set off. If you're a regular fiddler with apps and settings it'll be second nature to you. Otherwise, you might find it a bit irritating and something else that needs sorting out before you can get down to the business of riding.
I mentioned the improved battery and I liked this a lot. There's no external charger anymore, you simply plug it in using a mini-usb cable and socket. Little green lights flash, or not, according to whether the battery is charging or full. You can also push a button to check the state of the battery's charge. When out riding that wasn't much use because my battery was under the down tube where I couldn't see it. Magicshine has helpfully added a low-battery warning to the head unit too, where the button glows orange as power runs low. Select a low-power setting to avoid being plunged into darkness (speaks the voice of experience...).
The output from the battery to the light head is via a separate piece that clips onto the other end of the battery pack. This seemed strong and simple, and the contacts are easy to get at for cleaning. In my experience of some very cheap lights imported from China it's been the cables breaking up that has brought their lives to an end – or if not that, the charger packing up. I'm confident the MJ-900B won't be unduly vulnerable to those issues.
It does mean the redesigned battery pack is quite chunky, and at 100mm long wouldn't fit comfortably on my stem, so I had to mount it under the down tube. A rubber cap keeps the dirt and water out effectively. This is just as well, because the unit was very exposed – having to clean it all off before charging the battery was not the light's best feature. Nevertheless, it seems a reliable and reassuringly well-built unit and should put an end to any lingering doubts about the quality of the battery packs supplied by Magiscshine.
There's a usb output socket as well, which is handy if your phone battery is flat and you need to borrow a little power for a phone call. Or you can use it to run another light. If the instruction book mentions that you have to press the battery-test button to power up the auxiliary usb, I must have missed it, which led to some head-scratching, but it all became clear in the end.
Following the new 'metric' time system, Magicshine states '2.6 hours run time at 100% output' on its website, but in the instructions that came with the light, Magicshine claims a run-time of between 2.2 and 91.5 hours; 2.2 hours translates to 2 hours 12 minutes. At the end of the test period I gave the battery a full charge and ran it at 50% (to avoid overheating), for a full 5.25 metric hours. In normal use, switching between different modes, I had plenty of power in reserve at the end of a typical 2-hour night ride.
Magicshine mainly targets the mountain bike market, but it aims the MJ-900B at commuters and audax riders. So how does it measure up? Well, if your commute involves unlit sections of cyclepath or road and quiet back lanes you may well find all that power useful. Personally, I think it's more than you need on the road, and there are plenty of very bright lights that don't require carrying round a separate battery pack.
However, if you are looking for a light that can do everything – up to and including off-road night-rides – and can be run at lower power for an extended period, then the ability to program this light to do what you want is a very big bonus. The retail price is £10 higher than for its predecessor – it's just been reduced in price – but it's still highly competitive and, given the improvements, recommended.
A new lens, redesigned battery and the ability to program this light via Bluetooth make for a much-improved, versatile package
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Magicshine MJ-900B Smart Light
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the light is for
There's lots of useful tech spec and info on Magicshine's website: "The MJ-900B APP version is a brand new, innovative, USB rechargeable bike light from Magicshine, giving a maximum output of 1000 lumens from 1 CREE XM-L2 LED with fully customisable settings. Just download the free Magishine APP and you have the power to customise the perfect light for your own needs. Once the APP is downloaded, plug the lighthead into the battery, add your light to the APP and connect via Bluetooth. It's as simple as that."
"The Magicshine MJ-900B has a beam angle of 20 degrees, brilliant for on the road but plenty for a spot of unlit country park riding. A thoroughly decent beam throw that much higher priced lights would be envious of. A great little light for the road, an absolute must for any audax rider and commuters will love it too."
"You can add up to 20 levels of personalised modes or stick to just one or two. Flash, blink and SOS modes are available and run times can be extended by reducing the output to your optimum needs - a definite plus for Audax riders. The choices are yours. Full power when on a country lane or a full on flash at 20% when you're in the city, or if you prefer a gentle blink during the day, that's possible too!"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
On its website, Magicshine lists:
power settings customised by Bluetooth APP
1% to 100% output you choose
customised flash modes
2.6 hours run time at 100% output
battery can be used as power bank
2.6Ah 7.4V newly designed smart battery
Head unit: 45x33x38mm, 72g.
Battery: 95x45x30mm, 140g
In the leaflet that came with the light, Magicshine claims a run-time of between 2.2 and 91.5 hours.
The plastic head unit is adequate rather than impressive in quality. The battery pack is well made. The cable connectors look robust enough to survive a couple of winters at least!
Good on the road, though I found the app difficult to navigate around at first. Once I got the hang it was fine. Otherwise it depends on whether you find all that infinite adjustability a help or a hindrance.
Simple rubber band and hooks for the head unit, Velcro strap for the battery. Mounting and removing the battery pack is a bit of a fiddle but it's secure once in place. Unless you run a very long stem, you may have to mount the battery under the top tube or down tube.
It's stood up very well, the rubber seal on the battery pack doing a good job – as it has to, because the whole design leaves it very exposed to dirt and water.
Over 5 hours at 50% power. Recharging took 4:30 hours from flat.
If the MJ-900B's predecessor had issues with the quality and spread of the beam, Magicshine seems to have solved them. The beam pattern looks much the same, judging by road.cc's Beam Comparison Engine, so maybe I have a different opinion on that, but I found the beam smooth and clean and very good to ride into. Operation while in use is easy and this was a very useful, versatile light.
For the money I think you should get a good life out of this, and Magicshine is easy to contact for replacement parts.
For a separate light-and-battery system this is good. Compared with some of the single-unit lights available it's a bit heavy, but it does a different job.
£10 more than its predecessor, but considerably improved, I think. Extremely good value.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I was more than happy with this light. The beam pattern is good, the light quality excellent, and the battery pack high quality. Magicshine has made some very thoughtful upgrades and come up with a very versatile product.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
It might be argued that the app and Bluetooth programming is a bit of a gimmick, but actually I thought it worked well and it certainly gives you lots of options. Both the light pattern and battery pack seem much improved.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
The long battery pack meant it had to go under my down tube where it got very mucky.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes
Would you recommend the light to a friend? I already have.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Magicshine must have read our review of the MJ-900 because it has addressed the issues Stu had with it. In addition it has built in the ability to program the light in all manner of ways. It's very good, and a clear 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking