The Giant Recon HL900 is compact, bright and has some neat smart features that make it a good deal at £79.99. Its only real problem is that for just £20 more, you can get its 1600-lumen big brother.
- Pros: Bright, auto-adjusting output, decent battery life
- Cons: Value compared to the HL1600
Giant has its fingers in many pies in the bike industry. It makes far more than just bikes these days, and this stretches to lights, with the Recon 900 and its soon-to-be-available big brother, the Recon HL1600.
What sets the Recon family apart is the smart setting. It's easy to miss it as you scroll through the settings, mistaking it for a simply brighter flash mode, but the normally green indicator around the function button flashes blue to indicate that the ANT+ chip inside is looking for a speed sensor to connect to.
Why? Well, it comes down to something called 'SpeedBeam' technology which receives data from a connected sensor and auto adjusts brightness according to the speed that you're riding. You do need a sensor unit itself – it won't pair to a Garmin or other head unit for example – but it's definitely a handy little feature that has the potential to save battery life automatically.
That smart mode works by cycling through the modes until the indicator flashes blue, in which time it'll pick up a fitted ANT+ speed sensor and change its static brightness according to the speed you're travelling; faster equals brighter, and slower equals dimmer to save battery life. That indicator also runs in a traffic light system to indicate the status of battery.
If you don't connect it to a sensor, then the smart setting starts basing its choice of mode on ambient light conditions using an in-built light sensor. During the day, for example, it can sit on an 800lm flash mode, while at night it keeps the beam on with a flash in the background.
You also get standard settings at 900lm, 450lm, and 150lm, plus a 100lm simple flash mode too.
Burn-time for the highest 900lm setting was recorded at 1:46hrs, which is quite good.
Initially, I was slightly perturbed after noticing it flicking between the full 900lm output and a slightly lower output – not when out on the bike, but when the light was shining on my white walls at home. A fault? Nope. The reason I couldn't see it while riding is because it only occurs when the light is stationary: it's designed to lower output to prevent overheating of the bulb when it's not being air-cooled.
The Recon produces a nice, even, round beam that fills the periphery very well given the single-LED squared nature of the light. I reviewed the (slightly) updated Cateye Volt 800 recently too, and it's fair to say that they're fairly similar in the ultimate brightness given – supported by our beam testing – even if the Giant light clearly bleeds out to the edges more.
The Recon is a tenner cheaper than the Cateye, though, and that can't match the adaptive smart mode of Giant's light. Plus, you get a slat on either side for some side visibility too.
The bracket is secure and allows for up-and-down adjustability, while the light slides in and out easily. I'm also impressed by the build quality too – Giant doesn't seem to do anything by halves in anything it makes – an alloy body with a good quality rubber cover on the underside for the USB charger, and it achieves an IPX6 waterproofness rating.
The function button is also easy to use. No touch sensor here (as you'll find on the 1600); it's a proper button, clickable, which makes working it easier on the move.
That said, the price is a slight problem when you consider that the 1600 is only £20 more, and on paper offers a serious chunk more power to go with it (demonstrated in our beam testing). Yes, it's heavier (the Recon HL900 is only 120g including the bracket), but if you need the way lit for commuting or night riding then the double LED array is likely going to benefit you too... and the near-double battery capacity will see you through longer stints if you run that light on its medium 800lm setting, which should near-enough match the 900 lumen offering here with a single array.
However, in terms of value the Recon HL900 marries up well to the comparable Volt 800, and although it's undercut by the Lezyne Lite Drive 800XL by £23, we know from our beam testing that the Recon's is significantly superior.
Its big brother might prove better value, but the Recon HL900 still packs a punch for its weight
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant Recon HL900 front light
Size tested: 900 lumens
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?
Giant says: "SMARTER SEEING. Aside from the outstanding light output and industry-leading usage time, the Recon HL900 demonstrates the SpeedBeam technology, which adjusts light beam output based on riding speed; also features a light sensor to monitor ambient light source to change light output; these features help save battery power for when you need it. Brighter, longer and smarter."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
- Output: 900 lumens
- Modes: High (900LM) 1.6hrs, Middle 4.5hrs (450LM), Low 10hrs (150LM), Smart (450LM with flash output in Day) 24hrs; (450LM with steady output at Night) 2.8hrs, Flash (100LM) 50hrs
- Power: Li-Ion polymer battery (3100mAh), USB rechargeable
- Run time: Up to 50 hrs
- Charge time: 3.5 hours(2A)
- Mount: OSFM adjustable strap QR
- Weight: 125g with mount [120g actual]
- Dimensions: 105x28x30mm
The USB cap on the underside is good quality, as is the fitting.
The button is much better than the 1600 (full review to come).
Easy to use and fit – simple plastic construction though.
1:46hrs on the top setting is good.
Performance is very good overall.
Decent, although I've seen arguably sturdier brackets.
Comparable with others of this type – 120g all-in is nothing to fear on your bar if you go out for a long ride.
For just £20 more you could have a lot more power (the 1600).
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, very competently.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Bright, auto-adjusting output, good battery life.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Nothing really – only that for £20 more you can get the HL1600...
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's undercut by the Lezyne Lite Drive 800XL by £23, but is a tenner cheaper than the excellent Cateye Volt 800.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? I wouldn't rule it out, but I'd be tempted to upgrade to the 1600.
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The 1600 version is arguably a better deal, but there's no doubt that this is a very good light.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding