Best car headlight bulbs 2023

We reveal which light is a shining example to its rivals

The tech may date back to the sixties, but there are still enough cars with halogen bulbs to justify the continued arms race to increase light output and safety.

In our last H7 test, just one of the single-filament bulbs claimed a 200 per cent increase over a standard version, but now all the top players have a bulb delivering twice the required light at some point within the beam.

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So which has embraced the latest technology the best? We enlisted the help of Philips’ light tunnel in Aachen, Germany, via Microsoft Teams to find out. 

With the very limited number of firms capable of operating at the highest level, we also looked at a standard bulb to see how far the tech has come and the compromises needed to get that xenon white/blue look in your headlamps. We also looked at where the tech is going by assessing the latest LED replacements for the ageing halogen systems.

How we tested them

Every bulb was put through our standard set of assessments. We measured light at 50 and 75 metres ahead of our test Volkswagen Passat headlamp on low beam. The results were combined to give our figure of merit (FOM). 

To balance this adjustment-dependent rating, we measured the area at more than 30 lux, beam length above 3 lux and the maximum brightness. We also checked the bulbs for ECE R112 beam compliance plus maximum output and geometry. The results were converted to percentages to get an overall ranking. 

We also took price into account for the first time, because there is a wide spread here, but as when we test other safety items like tyres, it played a small role overall. The price quoted is for a pair and is what we paid, because the bulbs were bought to ensure we test what you can buy.


At the second attempt, the original 200 per cent bulb takes the win for Philips, with a FOM no rival got close to. Among the Osram-produced bulbs, Halfords took the honours narrowly from the closely matched Xenon200 and Night Breaker 200, with the latter just getting the verdict because it performed marginally better in the light tunnel.

  1. Philips RacingVision GT200
  2. Halfords Advanced 200% Brighter
  3. Osram Night Breaker 200


Philips RacingVision GT200

  • Price: around £26
  • Score: 100%
  • Rating: 5 stars
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The 200 per cent pioneer gets the win that narrowly eluded it when we first tested it in 2020. But it was still close with the chasing Ring, Halfords and Osram bulbs. The victory was primarily down to a big advantage in the FOM, where rivals were 10 per cent off. It was helped by the two bulbs being evenly matched. In the tunnel it was white and bright with crisp cut-off lines. A winning combination. 

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Halfords Advanced 200% Brighter

  • Price: around £26
  • Score: 99%
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
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There’s little to choose between the Osram-made quartet (which includes this and the Rings) as you’d expect from OE-standard bulbs. The Halfords version just gets the verdict here, thanks to a narrow win in the brightest point measurement and a shared victory in the area above 30 lux. It was also the best of the rest in the FOM rating. A top performance and this is the one to go for in Halfords, given its price advantage over the RingPro.

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Osram Night Breaker 200

  • Price: around£34  
  • Score: 97%
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
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The pack claims a beam length of up to 150 metres. We didn’t see that, because we measure down to 3 lux, but it was good enough for just under 95 metres, close behind Ring and Halfords. It sealed its podium place in the maximum brightness test, where it was a close second, and the beam spread, where it shared a win. Price does it no favours, but shopping around may find some deals, and it had the edge over the Ring in the light tunnel. 

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Ring Xenon200

  • Price: around £30
  • Score: 97%
  • Rating: 4.5 stars 
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A string of thirds and fourths means it’s no surprise that the Ring Xenon200 ends up just off the podium. But the margins were small and its price helped it top the Pro. The hotspot just below 75 metres in front of the car was wide and bright with clear cut-offs. It was strongest in the FOM rating and maximum brightness assessments, but a pair of bulbs that were just a bit off the impressive consistency of some rivals kept it off the podium.

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RingPro +200% Brighter Headlamp

  • Price: around £36
  • Score: 96%
  • Rating: 4.5 stars 
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Exclusive to Halfords, this is the fourth of the Osram-produced quartet and, as you’d expect, it is a close match for its stablemates. It was joint third in the beam spread assessment and in our FOM. It was joint second in beam length, with just a metre between the two bulbs, although the gap was bigger elsewhere. Its biggest problem is Halfords’ pricing, which favours its own-label offering and makes the RingPro the most expensive on test.

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Twenty20 daylight 200

  • Price: around £24
  • Score: 95%
  • Rating: 4 stars   
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Uniquely here, the Twenty20 has a one-year warranty, which may attract some buyers because bulb life is cut as outputs rise. It is the lowest-placed 200 per cent bulb, but you’d only spot the differences between them in a light tunnel. We’d expect nothing less from a Tungsram-built bulb, but it was a touch off the Osram and Philips. 

Carlex Autobulb

  • Price: around £8  
  • Score: 81%
  • Rating: 3 stars
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This is the first of the bulbs we included as a comparison to the latest innovations because it is a standard-spec lamp from a high-street shop. It performed above the minimum standard, but it had a yellow hue and the lack of brightness was obvious. And several measurements confirmed the 200 per cent extra performance over the required standard claimed by our front-runners.

Bosch Plus 150 Gigalight

  • Price: around £18  
  • Score: 76%
  • Rating: 2.5 stars  
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We included this because we wanted to see how the 150 per cent bulbs compared to the performance of the latest 200 per cent bulbs. Bosch may be a leader in producing headlight sets, but it doesn’t make a bulb and this version from Korea is not the best example of a 150 per cent lamp. It managed to beat the standard bulb in the FOM rating, but its brightest point was less than the Carlex. Its beam spread was also significantly smaller.

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Aceparts 55W Super White

  • Price: around £10  
  • Score: N/A
  • Rating: N/A  
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This Aceparts lamp was tested to see how much you needed to compromise performance to get that blue/white gas discharge look in the headlamp. And that compromise is far too much. On initial start, both bulbs smoked significantly and would likely wreck any headlamp reflector. Once fitted into the headlight, performance was woeful, with faulty geometry on one bulb. Both failed to meet ECE R112 standards. Avoid.

How do LEDs compare?

You don’t have to search online for long for an H7 bulb before you are offered a retrofit LED version. They are illegal for use in the UK because the ECE spec requires a filament bulb, but in some European countries on some cars that’s not the case. In Germany 70 per cent of the car parc can use them, and half in France. Other countries are in the process of accepting them. 

The process is tortuous because each car needs to be tested both electronically and mechanically in order to ensure they comply with the regulations and the results approved by the various legal authorities. These results could be adopted in the UK, but there is a question mark over whether the results for a left-hand-drive car are also valid for UK cars. There are, no doubt, political aspects to adopting European standards as well.

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Whatever the legal problems, there’s no doubting the performance of the latest LED replacements: this Philips version claims a 350 per cent increase. The rating below doesn’t factor in price, but shows its position relative to our halogen winner, which had a 100 per cent score. As you can see from the diagrams at the top of the column, beam length was up to 115 metres from the GT200’s 104, while the area over 30 lux was more than doubled. 

The FOM was almost twice as high too. LED bulbs are not cheap, but their life is far longer than for the high-performance halogen alternatives. It’s probably not a priority for the Government at the moment, but there are significant safety gains with the adoption of LED halogen replacements that meet current standards.  

Philips Ultinon Pro9100 LED

  • Price: around £130  
  • Score: 173%
  • Rating: N/A 
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