However, in the early 2000s, a new technology started to make its way onto the road either as an option or as standard. This creates a much purer and more intense light, drastically improving nighttime visibility for drivers.
Sometimes the term OEM is used instead which means Original Equipment Manufacturer. As it’s often an option at time of vehicle purchase, it’s not always possible to use product finder tool as found on our website as you will simply be asked to choose whether you have them fitted or not.
Standard OE HID bulbs have a color rating of approximately 4300K. However, changing the color temperature has a detrimental effect to the overall light output.
Therefore, the bulbs that offer the most light output tend to remain in the 4300-4700K color range. Philips has a range called WhiteVision Gen 2 and those bulbs reach up to 5000k which gives out a clean, crisp white light.
SRAM has a Cool Blue Boost range of OEM bulbs that reach up to 7000k giving you a more clinical white light. At the time of writing this article, there have been some recent and significant improvements in the light output of upgrade OEM HID headlight bulbs.
Similar in price to the SRAM and you know you’re getting the highest quality with the Philips brand. 8000K is a pure styling choice as it has a rich blue hue to the light.
However, the increased light output is only rated at +20% which is significantly less than the Philips option. The GT Ultra 120 is the perfect choice for drivers looking to achieve a vastly improved projection of light from their headlight bulbs without breaking the bank.
The Philips Diamond Vision range of halogen headlight bulbs produces one of the closest color matches to factory fitted xenon His (up to 5000K). However, due to this coloring, the Diamond Vision aren't as bright as other halogen headlight bulbs.
With a color temperature of 4000K, the PISA Extreme White Plus range easily outperforms a standard halogen. PISA's EXTRA technology and heat-resistant quartz glass construction produce extra light on the road and built to last the distance.
To make up for the lost light output due to this coating, SRAM Cool Blue Boost bulbs run at a higher wattage. A color temperature of up to 4200K delivers a strong, white light whilst remaining road legal.
Even though Cool Blue Intense bulbs are designed for style, they still outperform a standard halogen. RacingVision bulbs are extremely bright and have a crisp, white light that makes both stylish and a great option for nighttime driving.
The only downside is that the huge increase in brightness means that the bulbs don't last as long as other upgrade halogens. SRAM Night Breaker Laser +150% bulbs combine style with performance.
While cheaper bulbs use a blue coating to produce a whiter light, Night Breaker Laser use a xenon gas filling. Plus, these bulbs have a light beam of up to 130 mentees, which is a whopping 45 meters more than some standard halogens.
A new addition in 2018, the SRAM Xe narc Night Breaker Laser is a performance HID that delivers. By choosing this bulb, you'll benefit from vast improvements in sight, safety, and comfort on the road.
This stylish range closely matches the color of LED lighting and is made to Philips’ world-class standards. Capable of producing up to 150% more light on the road than standard, the Philips Xenon X-tremeVision gen2 range offers truly tremendous illumination.
Where the bulbs color temperature of up to 4800K offers the style of a classic xenon, the wide scope of the beam projection is entirely unique. The SRAM Xe narc Original is a great option for drivers wanting a high-quality standard replacement for their vehicle’s xenon.
The Xe narc Original HID range is the ideal choice if you're looking for a bulb that won't break the bank. With their original X-tremeUltinon range already having spent over a year at the forefront OG the LED upgrade bulb market, Philips have outdone themselves with the newly updated X-tremeUltinon gen2.
Plus, you'll also benefit from an improved light output in comparison to a standard halogen bulb. John Convoy is the founder of PowerBulbs.com, a UK based automotive lighting specialist, which ships bulbs worldwide.
John has 20+ years experience in the industry and in that time has become an approved partner of Philips and SRAM. These are our picks for the top best halogen and xenon HID headlight bulbs for your car in 2020 (in no particular order).
We tried twin-filament, dip and beam H bulbs on our revised test, which places less emphasis on the Figure of Merit, because this is alignment dependent. As well as the FOR, we looked at beam length and measured the brightest spot from our Vauxhall Viva headlamp unit.
The last time we tested H bulbs SRAM was some way behind the best and lacked a 150 per cent offering. This Next Generation version of the Night Breaker Laser is the German maker’s 150 per cent response.
There’s some fancy laser etching on the blue bands on the glass that are used to control the light, but it’s the beam that secures its win here. Despite boasting only a 120 per cent boost, this Bosch matched the Hal fords and GE in the light tunnel with a 149 FOR rating, and it also topped the trio in beam length.
These are likely to be the last GE bulbs we test, because the company will soon switch to its original Tunisia name following an ownership change. The Hungarian producer won this test with it 130-plus bulb last time around, but this 150 version will have to settle for a podium.
There was a similar lack of sharpness to the cut off that we saw with the Bosch (left), plus another relatively close hot spot. The chain’s regular ‘buy one, get one free’ winter offer on bulbs wasn’t active as we put together this test, so this pair look very expensive when compared to rivals.
However, they are still worth considering thanks to the light tunnel performance, which delivered a win in the maximum brightness test and a 148 FOR rating. Another 150 per cent Alive bulb, like the Hal fords, but this one-time front-runner couldn’t match its previous performance.
The Xenon150 got closer to the pacesetters on its test debut two years ago, but it struggled for maximum brightness in the beam measurement here, finishing some 40 per cent behind the Night Breaker Next Generation. Part of the Autobulbs Direct online retail range, these ‘perfect vision in a tube’ bulbs had Megalith baseplate branding.
If a sub-£20 price wasn’t tempting enough for those on a tight budget, Power bulbs’ site was giving away a second pair free with each order at the time of the test. Power bulbs says these plus-120 per cent bulbs are built to German specifications and standards, but that low power hike saw it close to the bottom of the results table.
A cracking Amazon price will tempt some, as well as that promise of plus-130 per cent performance, but there are better ways to spend your money on headlamp bulbs. An SRAM brand, these Neo lux bulbs are made in China with ‘German technology’.
That’s a surprise, because they promise only 50 per cent extra light and the other results would have placed it mid-table, with only a poor maximum beam brightness really revealing its low-power roots. HID headlight bulbs have a good reputation for brightness and longevity, lasting up to 10 years.
But even this lengthy lifespan means many older cars have now reached the age where replacements are needed. Because of this, they run at a higher voltage, and while this often leads to many owners leaving the job to a garage, it's possible to replace many HID bulbs at home.
Or is it better to buy a budget set of HID bulbs online for around the third of the cost of the top brands? HID bulbs have their own built-in ignition system, and we burned them in for four minutes before testing to ensure a stable output was achieved.
The bulbs were fitted into the projector unit for a BMW 3 Series, giving a clearly defined dipped beam, and we looked for the most even pattern with the fewest dark patches. We also judged the bulbs based prices for a single replacement, but it’s worth looking for discounts for buying in pairs.
It makes a big difference on the road, too, with visibility tapering off noticeably past the 50-metre mark, as well as more dark and inconsistent patches. Of the ‘standard’ HID bulbs, the Philips Vision would be our pick, especially due to the uncertainty over what you get when buying with Ring.
SRAM’s claims of 70% more light and a 5% whiter hue than standard bulbs are easy to believe, and there’s a noticeably cool blue beam. With the promise of around 50% more light than standard HID bulbs, the Philips look impressive to the eye.
Impressively, they matched the Night Breaker at the 75-metre point, but they weren’t quite as good at illuminating the center of the road at 50 meters. It’s possible to be tricked into buying fake HID bulbs online, so Philips has tackled the issue by providing a unique code on the pack to ensure authenticity and SRAM is working on a similar anti-fraud system.
With an asymmetric shape, light is still focused at the 50 and 75-metre distances, but one of the two bulbs we tried illuminated the curb less brightly from 50 meters away. At 25 meters closer to the car, the other standard bulbs were slightly better, but the Os rams threw impressive light on the horizon.
It was the same situation when we opened the Hal fords HID XenonBulbs, with one of the identical boxes containing a GE bulb and the other an Alive. Even first impressions of the Amazon-purchased Xenons4U bulbs were poor, with questionable build quality and important alignment marks absent from the baseplate.
Things didn’t improve during testing, where the light pattern looked like a bruise, with yellow and blue areas. The focus was too close to the car, so light levels were no better than a cheaper halogen bulb over longer distances.