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Biolite 800 Pro review
Biolite headlamp 800 Pro specifications
|Brand & Model||Biolite 800 Pro|
|Flashlight category||Multipurpose Headlamp|
|LED||Neutral white flood, spot, and red|
|Max. output||800 lumens max|
|Max. beam distance||135 meters|
|Max. beam intensity||?|
|Battery config.||Built-in battery pack|
|Onboard charging||Onboard micro USB|
|Review publication date||January 2023|
Today, I’ll be taking a hiatus from Chinese brands and have a go with an American company. No, not Streamlight or SureFire. The subject of this review comes by way of a newcomer to 1Lumen, and any outdoor enthusiast who’s ever frequented an REI outlet will recognize the name BioLite. BioLite sells outdoor-centric products including backpacking and camp stoves, lanterns, headlamps, solar power units, and power stations. Starting out as a small start-up by a couple of chaps from New York, BioLite became mainstream after introducing a revolutionary line of portable camp stoves featuring ingenious technology that transforms heat into electricity. Build a fire in the BioLite stove, and after a few minutes, voila, electricity to charge your GPS, phone, walkie-talkie, or flashlight.
As expected, BioLite is also a very environmentally-conscious company, touting green products and manufacturing processes that reduce their carbon footprint. BioLite even invests a lot of time and resources into humanitarian efforts and causes. Recently, BioLite ventured into more vertical markets and started selling other gadgets outdoors enthusiasts regularly tote into the great outdoors (or the shed out back with the burned out lightbulb).
Amongst these are the 3D SlimFit series headlamps. Consisting of headlamps ranging from 200, 325, 330, 425, 750, and 800 Lumens, these are uniquely designed and are unlike anything else on the market (certainly like nothing I’ve seen) with a design that integrates the headband into the headlamp. BioLite sent out their new 800 Pro headlamp for testing and review. It incorporates some pro-level features like full pass-through charging, stepless dimming UI, 3-LEDs (red, flood, and spot), 3000 mAh battery back, red LEDs at the rear for a tail lamp, constant and regulated modes, and a 500 Lumen output with a (brief) 800 Lumen Burst mode. It certainly boasts some impressive specs to back up BioLite’s equally impressive street cred.
Since these are sold in stores, The 800 Pro comes in a very, very nice retail package. It has a removable outer sleeve with product graphics, branding, specs, and feature blurbs galore. Slide off the sleeve, and the main carton has a flip open lid with a nice picture on the inner flap and greeting/thank you. It’s very nicely done with a premium feel. Inside, the headlamp and accessories are neatly arranged and smartly packaged like other premium flashlight brands. Here’s what you get:
- BioLite 800 Pro headlamp
- RunForever Micro USB charge/power cable
- Warranty card
Everything you need to get running (literally) is here, including the charging cable (which is very high quality). The charging cable is also long enough (almost 3 feet long) so you can use it with a power bank or external battery pack and bypass the internal battery for uninterrupted use. More on that later. Te instruction manual is very nice, well-written and organized (no Americanese to be found), and comes in 12 languages.
Flashlight in use
This is a truly multi-role headlamp that can be employed in a variety of activities. With the large onboard battery and passthrough power capability, it would be perfect for long duration and especially cold climate use, or general purpose use.
As far as headlamps go, the 800 Pro is unique in that it can wear a lot of hats, so to speak, and BioLite did a great job with the design and its execution. In a word, this is a smartly designed headlamp. The rear mounted battery back has a power cord with an exposed 3 inch coil to allow for movement, but the rest of the cable is integrated into the headband to keep it nice and tidy. The battery pack also incorporates a rear red tail lamp that’s either solid or blinking, controlled by a single switch. Also located on the battery back are 4 white LEDs for battery status and a single blue LED. The single blue LED shows whether the light is in constant or regulated mode (more on that later). The charging charge port is on the bottom covered by a very generous silicone rubber plug.
The head contains the LEDs, each with its own TIR lens integrated into the front of the headlamp housing. The housing has some heat dissipating fins on the back, and the whole thing tilts in the headband mount from 0 to 60 degrees downward in 4 distinct detents. I bumped around with the 800 Pro for a while and honestly, I felt like I died and gone to headlamp heaven.
First off, it’s very comfortable to wear and after a few minutes of wear, it almost disappeared on my head. It can also ride higher than my brow comfortably without slipping down over time. The band design incorporates BioLite’s 3D SlimFit design, which eliminates a separate mount to keep everything consolidated and compact.
Got a big noggin or a small noodle? No worries.
The two adjustment buckles on the side make for one of the most hassle-free headband adjustments I’ve ever encountered: slide them forward to tighten, slide them back to loosen. BioLite is so confident it will be a good fit, they’ve backed it with the “HolyFit” guarantee, a 30-day trial period where you can send it back for a refund if you don’t like how it fits.
Although I’m used to headlamps that incorporate the battery in the main housing, I really like the rear-mounted battery. It equally distributes the weight so it’s off the front of the headlamp, which keeps it steady without a third top band. The 800 Pro stayed rock-steady and didn’t jump around during activities. All the controls are nicely laid out. There’s a single e-switch on the top of the front housing and two on the battery pack for mode and function switching. The single switch up front controls on/off and brightness changes, while the two switches out back control the rear tail light functions and the Burst mode (basically a short-duration Turbo function).
These switches all have proud, tactile silicone rubber boots and each is labeled and designed to be located/discerned by feel. The Burst button and tail light button are different sizes and have unique tactile shapes (the Burst button has a knobble on top) to help differentiate them by feel. They feel great, and have good feedback and clicks so I never missed a click and could find them easily by feel.
Build Quality, and Warranty
BioLite products are made in the USA. I won’t venture down the rabbit hole of domestic vs. imported, but I will acknowledge there are subtle differences between the two. However, at this price point they become less marked, and the BioLite 800 Pro is a very well-made and smartly designed headlamp. With a street price of $99 US, it’s definitely not cheap, but it’s a good deal for what you get.
Although the 800 Pro is made pretty much entirely of plastic, doesn’t feel cheap or chincy in any way shape or form. The front housing containing the MCPCB, lenses, and LEDs is plastic, and the rear-mounted battery back (which probably contains the driver and charging circuit) is also plastic. It’s good quality plastic though, and everything seems really tough with soft-touch finishes all around. The rear of the front housing is somewhat opaque and it looks like there’s an aluminum heatsink under the plastic (which also has heat sinking fins). The power cable to the front housing terminates in what looks like a sheathed ribbon cable. There’s no anomalous gaps or ill-fitting parts anywhere. The headband seems to be a very durable elastic EVA rubber core with a tough polyethylene sheath for abrasion resistance and breathability. It can’t be disassembled, so if the band were to break or wear out, it would probably be a warranty claim.
Speaking of warranties, BioLite has a standard warranty that covers the product for 1 year against defects in materials or workmanship. It doesn’t cover accidental/intentional damage though, but if one were so inclined, an extended warranty is available from BioLite that expands the coverage to include no-hassle, 24/7 support and no-deductible coverage for damage from drops, spills, and accidents. This could be useful if you plan on taking your 800 Pro spelunking or otherwise rough it up.
LED, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector
Like so many other great headlamps these days, the BioLite 800 Pro incorporates 3 LEDs to cover the gambit of lighting tasks, including a red, a flood LED, a high power main LED, and 3 SMD LEDs out back for the red tail light. Unfortunately for the enthusiast/LED nerd in me, these LEDs are choosing to remain anonymous this time.
There is mention of something called “ChromaReal broad spectrum LED (90 CRI)”, so maybe one of the LEDs is high CRI. I would venture to say that the red and flood LEDs are probably SMD, and the main LED could be something like a Cree XP-L HD.
At 1 meter from the sensor, the Opple Lightmaster Pro has the flood LED coming in at 5207K and CRI Ra 94, so yep, it’s high CRI, while the main LED comes in at 5581K and CRI Ra 70.
The duv for the flood LED is 0.0011 and 0.0012 for the main LED.
Each LED has its own lens integrated into the front of the headlamp housing, with the red and flood LED residing under a dome-like lens, and the main LED with a large TIR-type lens. The downside is none of this is protected in any way shape or form, not even a bezel ridge, so if you use your BioLite 800 Pro a lot in demanding environments, plan on the lens getting scratched.
The beam is really good for general purpose use. The main LED projects a wide hotspot a bit like a hybrid aspheric/reflector setup, so you get very even light distribution. The flood LED is, well, floody and not meant for distance at all, but does good out to about 40 meters in the dark. The main LED easily reaches 100 meters. The red LED is great for smaller areas, and was every bit as good as the Cyansky HS6R and HS3R in red light mode. The tail light LEDs are plenty bright and on the highest brightness would be visible for quite a ways. The HS6R is still a bit better with the flood+main LED modes though, but I appreciated the slightly cooler flood LED tint on the 800 Pro more.
Dimensions and size comparison
|Biolite 800 pro dimensions||Millimeters||Inches|
Dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter, and to the nearest tenth of an Inch.
|Biolite 800 pro weight||Grams||Oz.|
Weight is rounded to the nearest gram, and to the nearest tenth of an Oz.
Even with a 3000 mAh battery on board the 800 Pro is pretty lightweight.
Flashlight size comparison with its competition
I compared the 800Pro to:
Group 1 left to right: BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro, Cyansky HS6R
Group 2 let to right: Boruit D10, BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro
Driver & User Interface:
I can’t take apart the 800 Pro, and no mention is made of the driver, but there’s some electrical wizardry and witchcraft happening here since the 800 Pro can operate in either a regulated or constant output mode. The regulated mode drops the output as the battery drains, whereas the constant mode operates a bit like a buck or boost driver, with laminar output throughout the battery discharge. The cool thing is that you can switch between constant and regulated modes with a button press. Slick!
The UI is a bit different from other (non Anduril) headlamps on the market, and employs smooth ramping to adjust the output. Press and hold the front power switch to toggle between the lighting modes and ramp up or down. Each LED is independently controlled with the same front power switch, and is dimmable as well. The two switches on the rear battery housing control the tail light LEDs, the Burst function, and the constant/regulated output functions. Both the front LEDs and the rear tail light are dimmable and controlled independently. You can have the front LEDs and tail light operate simultaneously.
Modes: Smooth ramping for Main LED, Flood LED, Flood+Main LEDs and Red light, Beacon
Rear light Modes: Smooth ramping, constant and flashing
User Interface from OFF:
- Single click front power switch: Turns on in last mode
- Single click rear light switch: Turns on in last mode
- Single click front power switch: Switches lighting modes (in order): Red light, main LED, flood, main+flood LEDs, flashing
- Press and hold front power switch: In any lighting mode, ramps up. Releasing and holding again ramps down
- Double click front power switch: N/A
- Single clicking the front power switch in any mode after 1.5 seconds of activation will turn off the light. Switching modes requires clicking within 1 second of turning on
- Single click rear light switch within 1 second of activation: Switches modes constant, flashing
- Click rear light switch after 1.5 seconds of activation: Turns off
- Yes, last mode memory for any of the lighting modes
Low voltage warning:
- The 4 LED indicators on the battery pack show battery state. BioLite doesn’t give a figure for battery life remaining, but I figure all 4 LEDs represent 100% to 75%, 3 LEDs 75% to 50%, 2 LEDs 50% to 25%, 1 LED less than 25%. The light will indicate LVP when the output drops to the output to about 100 Lumens and flash 4 times every minute for 10 minutes before the output drops 5 Lumens for Low Reserve mode
- Both the main LED and rear LEDs have a beacon mode
- Electronic lockout is activated by pressing and holding the front power button for 8 seconds from off. The light blinks twice to acknowledge the lockout and will blink twice if the power button is pressed. Repeat to unlock
Constant and Regulated Modes:
- To switch between constant and regulated modes, press and hold the Burst mode button until the blue LED indicator on the battery back lights up (about 8 seconds) to switch between constant and regulated operation
- None visible by eye
Additional info: While I give BioLite mad props for sticking smooth ramping on an American (non Anduril) headlamp, I have mixed feelings about the UI. First, the ramping is way too slow with the top to bottom of the ramp taking about 7 seconds. I am also not a fan of the mode switching. While I like being able to control all the lighting modes with a single switch, and BioLite has done a good job implementing that, it still feels a bit clunky and I really prefer two switches for if you have a main LED and a flood LED. With the 800 Pro, if you want the flood LED on, you have to cycle past the main LED, and the main+flood LED is only available after you switch through red, main, and flood modes. If you want beacon, you have to cycle through all the modes. I think these functions could have been better implemented with a dual switch handling the main LED, and a separate switch for the flood/red LED. The rear light modes are much better, and I liked that the rear light can also be controlled with the smooth ramping in both constant and blinking modes! Cool. The real gem of all this is the constant and regulated modes and Burst mode. Burst mode can be activated for 30 seconds at a time for an 800 Lumen output on the Main LED, and can be reactivated after the step down as many times as you need without much loss in output each reactivation. There’s no mention of thermal regulation, so we’ll see what the runtimes say.
Batteries & Charging
The Headlamp 800 Pro utilizes a 3000 mAh battery back mounted at the rear of the headband. The composition is a mystery, but it’s probably made from prismatic li-ion batteries in parallel for 4.2 volts. It’s rechargeable via a micro USB port on the bottom of the battery back. While I abhor micro USB anything since it’s unnecessarily fragile, directional, and flimsy, the charge port is properly designed to accommodate the included charging cable plug and is well protected. I don’t foresee this connector getting knackered or prematurely worn out and rendering your BioLite 800 Pro worthless. No charge specs are advertised, but my Ruideng AT35 USB tester connected to a QC power bank showed 1.6 amps at 5 volts on a depleted battery.
Total charge time of around 3 hours.
The 800 Pro also incorporates pass-through operation, which bypasses the charging circuit when attached to a charger or external power source (power bank). BioLite includes their RunForever cable, which is a properly sturdy and high quality 3-foot (1 meter) USB A to micro USB power/charging cable that can be attached to a power bank to run the headlamp. The cable is flat and very flexible and didn’t want to kink or knot up. The insulation is also a type that would stay flexible in very cold weather (who wants a stiff charging cable?).
The benefit of pass-through operation is that it enables you to run the 800 Pro off an external battery that can be kept warm (close to your body, for example) in very cold (BioLite says down to -5 F) weather. This is important due to the deleterious effect of cold weather on batteries. Li-ion batteries in particular do not like cold weather and can refuse to work when cold. I tested the 800 Pro on a power bank connected with the RunForever cable, and it worked flawlessly.
Lumens are measured in my 50 cm integrating sphere with a Digi-Sense 20250-00 data logging luxmeter. The sphere has been calibrated with a Convoy S2+ measured to 260 Lumens and the figures are within 10% of actual. The battery pack was fully charged for the readings. No amp reading this time due to the internal battery.
|Mode||Specs||@turn on||@30 sec||@10 minutes|
|Red||?||3.6 lm||3.6 lm||–|
|Low Flood||?||29 lm||29 lm||–|
|High Flood||?||104 lm||104 lm||–|
|Low Main||?||2.4 lm||2.4 lm||–|
|Low Main+Flood||?||12 lm||12 lm||–|
|High Main||500||480 lm||479 lm||492 lm|
|High Main+Flood||?||504 lm||504 lm||492 lm|
|Burst Main||800||861 lm||197 lm||–|
BioLite doesn’t list concrete output figures for each lighting mode, but they do list 500 Lumens for the highest setting for the main LED and 800 Lumens for the Burst output, which I more or less hit. The red and flood outputs were pretty low though, which is okay for this headlamps intended purpose. 500 Lumens is plenty for most tasks anyway, and having the Burst function is great for when it’s needed.
Battery Life: Runtime graphs
Runtimes are measured in my 50 cm integrating sphere with a Digi-Sense 20250-00 data logging luxmeter. The sphere has been calibrated with a Convoy S2+ measured to 260 Lumens and the figures are within 10% of actual. I used the battery pack that was fully charged for the tests. I tested the top of the ramp on the main LED, and the main+flood LED. I tested constant and regulated modes as well.
|Mode||Specified runtime||Measured runtime (ANSI)||Time till shut off|
|High Main LED Constant||2h||2h 49m||2h 49m|
|High Main+Flood LED Constant||?||2h 38m||2h 38m|
|High Main LED Regulated||7h||8h 54m||8h 54m|
I tested the max (top of the ramp) setting for the runtimes, although BioLite does advertise a Medium 250 Lumen mode (middle of the ramp, maybe?) runtime of 4 hours for constant and 8.5 for regulated. I have no doubt the 800 Pro could meet those figures given the High setting performance. For a 3000 mAh battery, these are good runtimes, with the constant and regulated output modes performing as advertised.
There is a LVP (visual) notification before the output drops very low into “reserve” mode (5 Lumens), with 4 quick flashes every 5-10 minutes, so you have plenty of warning. Even when LVP (low voltage protection) hits, BioLite specs the reserve runtime at an additional 8 hours, so you still have usable light for quite a long time. With both the main LED and flood LED modes running in High mode, the runtime (and output) isn’t far off from the main LED performance and runtime. I think there’s some current limiting taking place here like I see in the Cyansky HS6R combined lighting mode.
ANSI FL1 standards: The runtime is measured until the light drops to 10% of its initial output (30 seconds after turning on). This does not mean that the flashlight is not usable anymore. The last column shows how long the light actually works till it shuts off. If there is a + symbol, it means that the test was stopped at that particular point, but the light was actually still running. This happens on certain occasions, with certain drivers, firmware, or batteries.
Peak beam intensity and beam distance measurements
Beam distances are measured using a Uni-T UT383S luxmeter measured indoors at 5 meters with the fully charged included battery. Measurements taken at 30 seconds.
|High Flood LED||?||125 cd||22 m||24 yd|
|High Main LED||?||3375 cd||116 m||127 yd|
|Burst||?||5900 cd||154 m||168 yd|
BioLite doesn’t list candela specs for the High mode, but they do for the Burst mode at 135 meters.
I didn’t get a reading for the red LED at 5 meters or 2 meters, and same for the Low setting (bottom of the ramp). The distance for the main LED+flood LED were the same. The Main LED on Burst gave good distance for a headlamp of this size and output. No complaints there, and it’s more than enough reach for most tasks you’ll use the 800 Pro for.
Extra info: Peak beam distance according to ANSI FL1 standards: The calculated value of distance in meters at which the flashlight produces a light intensity of 0.25 lux. (0.25 lux is about the brightness of a full moon shining on an object). Columns Meters and Yards show rounded numbers.
For the outdoor photos, the fence is about 40 meters away. The camera is set to 0.3s ISO 200 and 5000K WB for the outdoor shots, and 1/15s, ISO 100 and 5000K WB for the indoor shots.
Beamshots of the following flashlights compared:
- Boruit D10 headlamp
- Brinyte HL16
- Fireflies PL47G2
- Fireflies PL47G2 Mu
- Cyansky HS6R headlamp
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by BioLite. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.
- Very comfortable to wear
- Easy to adjust headband
- High quality with great and finish
- Fully regulated and constant output
- Pass through charging
- Very good performance
- High CRI flood LED
- UI needs some work
- Could be a bit brighter
- Could benefit from stepped modes
- Still uses Micro USB
Explanation on star ratings:
1: Avoid: a match would be a better choice – 2: Poor: significant defect or issues; almost unusable – 3: Average: some defects or issues; but still usable 4: Good: recommended (minor issues) – 5: Great: highly recommended
4.5 stars: ★★★★⋆
Bioilite wasn’t a name I associated with headlamps, but apparently they know how to make some nice ones. The 800 Pro really does round out an already impressive portfolio of great headlamps and outdoor gear for BioLite. In my time with the 800 Pro, I found it to be every bit as good as my usual go-to Cyansky HS6R and cheap (but great) modded Slonik D10. There’s a lot I like about the 800 Pro. Aside from being a high quality, well-made item, it has one of the most comfortable headbands…ever. It’s also very to wear thanks to the stupidly easy-to-adjust headband.
The headlamp also has excellent performance in runtime and output. There are a lot of pro-level features here, some not found on other headlamps. Being able to switch between fully regulated and constant brightness modes is a big advantage when you need constant brightness.
The pass-through charging feature is also extremely useful since you can run the 800 Pro in cold weather that would disable most other headlamps, not to mention running it off a high capacity power bank for uninterrupted, long duration runtimes.
I appreciated the variety of lighting modes, and the rear tail light is a perfect safety feature for those who venture out after dark.
While I like the smooth ramping, I really think this could benefit from stepped modes, especially with the unrefined smooth ramping.
I also wasn’t a fan of the 1.5 second on time for mode hold, and I think the lighting mode controls could be revised to minimize cycling through unwanted lighting modes to get the one you want.
Lastly, while not a deal-breaker for me, 500 Lumens is a bit low for max (non-Burst/Turbo) output these days on pro-level headlamps.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the BioLite 800 Pro. It’s a very smartly-designed, high quality, and great-performing headlamp. It would be right at home fixing pipes under the sink, going on a quick trip through the Ape Caves or an evening stretch on the Duckabush or Dosewallips Trail. With some UI improvements and refining, I think the 800 Pro could represent the best of the best in headlamp form and functionality on the market. As-is, I think it’s worth a look if you want a pro-grade headlamp. For now, 4.5 stars for the BioLite 800 Pro.