- Near-infinite customisable options
- Rock-solid hardware connectivity
- Useful as general external battery pack for charging things
- 3/4 of the lumens are wasted
- No included remote and an unintuitive app
- No ability to change mode without using your phone
The Magicshine MJ-906B Bluetooth Smart USB bike light APP version - to use the full name offers a shed load of lumens and builds on the previous model of the 906 light by adding a smartphone app but doesn't address the light beam issues.
In February 2017 our drop-bar'd brethren Stu from road.cc gave the MJ-906 three stars, noting that beam wasn't focused and that switching modes between high and low outputs required cycling through the disco strobe settings. The 906B reduces the output and removes the included remote along with the ability to change mode without using a smartphone, whilst not addressing the main complaint of a mostly-wasted, unfocused output.
In the box is the head unit, battery with straps, and the 38cm battery-light connecting cable. It all feels premium - the connectors snap home firmly, and the body of the battery and light look and feel well-made. The head unit fixes to your handlebars using a simple rubber ladder strap. There's no left-right tweakability in the mount, and on my handlebars positioning the head to be easily-reachable for button presses meant putting right next to the stem.
The battery pack has a rubber backing and mounts on your frame using wide velcro straps, with enough spare to wrap securely around the largest of box-girder frames. There's a rubber seal around the inside, and the connector to the light is a robust circular push-fit - both survived several pressure-washings with zero ingress. I found the 38cm cable to be a perfect length for getting from the frame up to the bars via three or four wraps around a brake or gear cable outer.
The 5200 mAh battery pack is charged via micro-USB, accessed under a robust double-sealed rubber cover. Alongside the charge port is a full-sized USB port you can use to charge other USB devices whilst running the light as well. You can also charge the battery whilst using the light, for example via a dynamo hub - but you can't charge and run the USB output at the same time.
For around £6 each you can purchase a helmet or headband mount and 1m extension cable, which would enable most of the Magicshine light range to be used as a helmet or head light. There's a bluetooth remote option that costs £7.99 - given how people use lights like these, a remote is a highly-desirable item and it's a pity it's not included in the package, as it was previously. For £135.99 you can get a package with the 906B light, remote, extension cable and a helmet mount included, saving you eleven quid.
The major update of the MJ-906B over the MJ-906 is the addition of a smartphone app, connected to the light via Bluetooth. A generous summary of the app functionality would be 'Could Do Better'. Magicshine require you to give them your email address so they can send you a code to activate the app. The app is confusing - I kept getting lost as to exactly where the setting I was after resided. The app lets you set up 'scenes', and to scenes you add modes - constant/flash/strobe etc, with customizable intensities, that you can then cycle through by pressing the button on the head unit. So you could possibly create a scene where you had a 100% blast, a 20% flash, a 10% constant beam, etc. I went with a simple constant 100% / 20% high-low beam scene for night rides, plus a 100%-50%-20% flash scene for daytime road riding. To change scene you need to use your phone's app - unless you constructed a mode that included all possible options you can click through. But then you'll have lost a likely most-useful high/low beam setup. If you go for the Bluetooth remote, you can change between modes - high / medium / low etc - but you can't change between 'scenes' - that still requires connecting the app. This is most annoying, as there's a redundant button on the remote previously assigned to switching the rear light on or off. Hopefully, a future firmware update will add this functionality and greatly improve the user experience.
Adding to the frustration of the remote experience is that having opened the app, connected to the light and change scenes, you have to remember to disconnect from the light, as the light can't talk to the app and the remote at the same time. Most annoying when you've changed scenes, stowed your phone away and put your gloves back on to ride off, to then realise your phone is still connected to the light. You can get the remote connected again by unplugging and reconnecting the light from the battery, but this really shouldn't be necessary
Sometimes the light often didn't automatically connect to the app even when visible in the 'Bluetooth devices' list. In comparison to other Bluetooth-enabled bike lights I own such as the excellent See.Sense ICON, the experience was not consistent. I applied a firmware upgrade to the light via the app which seemed to improve things, so time will tell if Magicshine use that functionality to improve app-light connection stability or the overall user experience.
On the trail brightness isn't the be all and end all and we've tested many lights with much lower output than this that use reflectors and lenses to really do something with the light that is being generated by the LEDs. The MJ-906 lacks that, it just puts out a blob of light with no focus which really becomes irritating especially when things become technical.
There appears to be lots of light, sure - but probably 90% of it is wasted. On 100% during night-time riding the 906B was no noticeably better than my ageing 1000-lumen eBay light. The Magicshine's broad beam lost photons horizontally and vertically, with no focus spot in the target riding zone. Indeed, the amount of peripheral light de-sensitizes perception in the focus zone where you need it most. I wasn't comfy riding faster than about 18MPH, on- or off-road.
The MJ-906B has an indicated maximum-power runtime of 1hr 12 minutes. I found it would run on 100% for 1 hour 35-ish minutes before a sudden switchoff - kudos to Magicshine for taking a conservative line on battery capacity, not so much for giving no useful warning of shutdown.
The light button glows orange when the battery level hits 30% - but this seems dependent on the battery drain at the time, and is hard to pick out against a high-beam output. Switching to low beam from high, the low-level warning on the button went out - therefore fooling me that I had more than 30% remaining. There's no in-your-face while-riding warning of really low battery charge apart from pressing the button on the back of the battery where there are three green LED's - when battery level is critically low, the last green LED flashes. This sort of cliff-edge shutoff is possibly deadly, having no warning or graceful degradation of light level. Making the light either flash or degrade the output would be a simple software implementation, and I'd hope they will remedy this as soon as possible.
Charge time is totally dependant on the output of your charger, but based on a conservative 400mAh you can expect it to take 13 hours - or two and a half hours if you have a 2-amp charger.
In summary the Magicshine MJ-906B is a fair amount of headline lumen for your pound, but suffers from a poor physical lens design that places light where you don't need it, and numerous app/usability flaws. Whilst the latter might be addressed by updates, the issue of no focused spot permanently restricts a rider's useful potential speed unless a second light is used.
You might also like:
- Review - Exposure Six Pack front light
- Review - Xeccon 1300R front light
- How to set up your bike for winter
Really interesting review, but I would really like to see some photos of the beam in action taken from behind the hndlebars.