Following on from our recent unboxing review, we’ve now had chance to install our XR15w over the test tank, hook it up to one of EcoTech’s ReefLink wireless controllers and have a good old play with the various settings and functions on offer. In this review we’ll detail exactly how we’ve integrated it onto the test tank, and evaluate the units capabilities in a real hobbyist setting.
So the first thing we needed to do with our unit was to mount it, and to achieve this we decided to use a custom-cut sheet of glass to support it from underneath. Although any of the EcoTech mounting systems would have been fine for our tank, the other light we are currently testing (an AI Hydra 26) wouldn’t fit with this system so we needed something universal. A sheet of 6mm glass fitted the bill perfectly being suitably rigid, inexpensive and resistant to heat and moisture. Adding some supports at each end of the pelmet allowed for his sheet to rest flush with the pelmet top and the width of the glass itself blocked any direct fish escape routes while allowing for easy access to the tank simply by sliding it one way or another (important in this system as it is viewable from both sides). As an added benefit the glass, combined with the small size of the light itself, gave superb top down viewing opportunities. Although at about 6” the light is a little closer to the water surface than EcoTech recommend, we didn’t think this would be an issue, indeed if anything, the glass underneath should reduce the intensity somewhat (and anyway, we would be running at a low intensity to start with). We did consider having a hole cut or drilled to match the TR lens aperture but at the end of the day, it was nice to be able to slide the light around on the glass above the tank and we estimates that any reduction in light efficiency would be negligible. Actually, this allowed us to highlight certain corals and to prevent one small area from being subject to the highest intensity constantly. We imagine part of the reason for this height recommendation is also to protect the unit from water splashes so in this case the glass protects the unit anyway. During the first few days we monitored the heat of both the unit and the glass, and found no issue. The XR15s cooling system draws air in from the upper sides and expels it out through the fan upwards, so the glass underneath has no impact on this system. Even at 6” above the waterline, the unit illuminates our substrate effectively at 24” depth (albeit at fairly low PAR). It’s certainly enough to keep our substrate dwelling LPS visibly illuminated and, so far, healthy. Higher up, the light spread is comparatively smaller but this fits perfectly with the roughly triangular bommie which is crowned with several SPS colonies.
Once in place, connecting the Radion is a simple affair and can be done in stages, or all at once. We chose to connect the light as ‘stand-alone’ first and ran it for a few days controlling it entirely manually. For this purpose, the 3 buttons on the unit are used to power on/off the tile, to switch between lighting preset colour mixes and to either raise or lower the intensity. To have the unit running automated in this way you would just need a timer connected to the plug. Skipping the USB connection method, after a few days we connected our ReefLink controller and after successfully linking this controller into our Broadband router, following the simple step-by-step instructions, we were ready to set-up an EcoSmartLive account. We did also have to run a couple of firmware updates first but no issues there. Overall the process was very straightforward and user friendly although we would advise you ensure you have the latest versions of the major internet browsers installed. Creating our account was simple and the account registration and activation was achieved within minutes. Initial set-up of our profile was also extremely user friendly and it wasn’t long before we started to unlock the full potential of the light.
The EcoSmartLive interface is very clean and clear and makes the creation of complex light cycles very easy once you become familiar with it. In terms of spectral output, the interface offers complete control over the XR15s 8 channels so you can tune the colour of the light to your own tastes. If you don’t want or need such control, there are also presets to choose such as 20k, 18, 14k, 12k and 10k. Through the addition of control points on the timeline it is possible to ramp the unit up and down, and even to ramp from different spectral profiles. This of course allows for the traditional blue period at the start and end of the day with perhaps a whiter spectrum during the day, and maybe a ‘warm glow’ sunset.
Actually, the light even comes with ramping presets for a number of different scenarios. These can be used as they are, or modified. On top of this, real-time weather, lightning, cloud cover and moonlight is easy to add, as is an acclimation period during which time the lights are dimmed, slowly building up to the final intensities as set on the timeline. On this subject, this light really is very bright both visibly, and it has a high PAR output. For this reason, we decided to slowly build up to a maximum of 70% intensity over a 4 week period using the acclimation function. This was perhaps the one area that we found rather confusing indeed it’s important to realise that if you set your lights to say, 70% output on the timeline at a colour temperature of 20K, and then add an acclimation reduction of 50%, the light will only output 35% intensity at the peak of the cycle, at least at the start of the acclimation period anyway. This means that, particularly during ramp periods, the channels which already have reduced output (white, red and green in the case of the 20k preset), are not likely to illuminate for most of the ramp period as their intensity will be below 5%. As an example, let’s say that under the 20k preset, the white channel operates at 20% intensity (compared to the blue channels which run much higher). If the overall intensity is set to 70%, the white channel is actually already only working at 70% of 20% – so 14%. Reduce the overall intensity of that preset down to less than 25% (as you would while ramping up or down) and the white channel goes down to less than 5%, at which point it will turn off completely. It is important to realise this when you look at this light as the combination of effects given by ramping, preset outputs, overall intensity and acclimation can be more complex than one originally realises. Before we forget it’s also worth mentioning the EcoSmartLive App can downloaded onto our Android or iOS device. Provided your router is left turned on and you have an acceptable data signal, this allows you to control your XR15 from technically anywhere in the world anda gain allows extensive control over the light.
In terms of problem, other than getting used to the control options initially, we had virtually no issues. We did have a period where the EcoSmartLive interface went into offline mode despite both the ReefLink and the XR15 apparently being connected, and with our network being running. After a little experimentation, we found restarting the XR15 seemed to resolve the problem and it only happened once. It’s worth noting that the transformer also runs quite hot so we’d recommend this part isn’t located in a confined space.
So in conclusion, overall the XR15w impressed us from the moment we opened the box. Presentation, build quality and the quality of the components (ie LEDs) is top notch. The unit is almost unbelievably tiny and featherlight relative to the amount of light it produces. In terms of appearance, this also has got to be THE most desirable unit on the market right now and coupled with the ReefLink, the same can be said of its overall functionality. We would just say though that if you are new to LEDs take note that controlling this unit is a fairly involved process and demands you get to grips with some moderately complex concepts if you want to use the unit to its full potential. That said, the unit is perfectly capable of illuminating even high demand species over a 60cm square footprint, and down 60cm. Actually, rather than worrying about providing enough light, it is more likely that you’ll need to gradually increase the intensity of the unit so you don’t provide too much light, and burn your corals. Raised up to around 10-12” above the water level, the light could even be used on lower demand systems.