We're back with an updated LED Grow Light Battle for 2020. This year we've updated the SPYDR and Gavita models and included an additional fixture, the ChilLED Growcraft. We compare all these against the reigning champ, the Growers Choice ROI E-680.
In 2020, the decision is harder than ever before. Happy Hydro's Updated LED Grow Light Battle puts the following four lights to the test:
Welcome to the New Era of LED Grow Lights
The LED grow light industry has gotten to a point where it can finally deliver the same quality to the small scale grower as it does to large commercial operations. Most importantly, it can do so without breaking the bank.
As many will recall, it wasn't all that long ago that small to medium to sized growers were priced-out of quality LED lighting options. Unless you had bottomless pockets, you couldn't afford to shop for LED grow fixtures.
It's not the case today, with a recent series of high powered LED lighting options targeting the small-time operation. Today, LED grow lights are well worth the investment.
These fixtures have come down in price but crucially still deliver the high-quality performance expected from commercial installs. These options are an affordable and approachable fixture for even the home grower.
We'll break down the most critical specs of each light in a side-by-side comparison. It's an LED light battle for the small to medium-sized cultivator.
Spoiler Alert: Even a year later, the Growers Choice ROI E-680 is Still Our Top Pick
For the home hobbyist or small scale craft cultivator, there are a few notable LED grow options now (if you need help with grow light specifics, this grow light resource is a good place to start) Of particular note is the Growers Choice ROI E-680 fixture. It's a unique collaboration between two industry leaders (TSL Horti Tech and Grower's Choice) and one which dominates its competition.
Without getting ahead of ourselves, the ROI E-680 fixture holds up in nearly every category worth comparing — especially if you consider your budget. It clearly meets or beats conventional lighting when it comes to performance, and as we'll see, the ROI E680 beats most of the LED options as well.
In our experience, the Growers Choice fixture's price point, output, efficiency, and features make it a clear choice for any operation.
But don't take our word for it.
To highlight just how this affordable option compares to other LED grow lights within the same category, let's put it in a battle with the Gavita 1700E, the ChilLED Growcraft X6, and SPYDR 2i.
- Best Price: Growers Choice ROI E-680 at $899
- Second Place: ChiLLed Growcraft X6 at $999
- Runner Up: Gavita 1700e at $1,299.00
- Last Place: SPYDR 2i at $1,500.00
Let's be honest. Your grow light decision ultimately comes down to budget restraints. What is the highest quality product with the best output your budget can afford?
The more expensive end of the spectrum lies the Gavita 1700e ($1299.00) and the SPYDR 2i ($1,500.00). Both are improved fixtures from our original LED Grow Light Battle from 2019. Both have the same PPF 1700 µmol/s, but the Gavita has nearly 50 percent more diodes. The Gavita also uses the Philips Advance driver, whereas the SPYDR driver is an inferior brand. The Gavita is the clear winner for pricier models — but is this high price point worth it?
Our favorite and the clear winner when the price is the concern is the Growers Choice ROI E-680. It is one of the most affordable LED grow lights on the market today, without compromising on the specs. Pictured below.
At $899, it's a fraction of its competitors' cost, but it doesn't compromise on efficiency, performance, or specs. It has an equal PPF to the more expensive models at 1700 μmol/s, uses Osram Top Bin Diodes and an ultra-efficient driver.
The slightly more expensive ChiLLed Growcraft X6 is a hundred dollars more and has nearly the PPF efficiency (1647 μmol/s). However, it is a DIY kit that requires you to build it on arrival. Not every grower has the time or desire to construct every LED light in their grow room.
But maybe the price difference has to do with the light spread? If we break down the price of each LED grow light by bar, what does that look like? Despite the lights varying between 6 to 8 bars, the winner is still clear:
- Growers Choice ROI E-680 $112 per bar (8)
- Gavita Pro is at $162 per bar (8)
- ChiLLed Growcraft X6 $166 per bar (6)
- SPYDR 2i $250 per bar (6)
Output and Efficiency
- Best in Class: SPYDR 2i (1700μmol/s and 2.7 µmol/j)
- Runners Up: Growers Choice ROI E-680 (1700 μmol/s and 2.6 µmol/j) and Gavita 1700E (1700 µmol/s and 2.6 µmol/j)
- Last Place: Chilled Growcraft X6 (1647 µmol/s and 2.6 µmol/j)
With all the advances in LED grow light technology, it's come down to a game of numbers. Which brand can pump out the most intensity with the highest efficacy? Why don't we let the numbers speak for themselves?
As the name suggests, the Gavita 1700E produces 1700 µmol/s (but this is only a slight increase from the Gavita Pro 1650 model) and an efficiency of 2.6 µmol/j. Fixture pictured below.
The SPYDR 2i has an output at 1700 µmol/s, and an industry-standard efficiency rating of 2.7 µmol/j. But if you remember correctly, the SPYDR grow light is also the most expensive on our list.
The Chilled Growcraft X6 kit claims a minimum of 2.66 μmole/j for full system efficacy but may reach upwards of 3.13 μmole/j. Its output is the lowest of the group, at 1647 µmol/s. Fixture pictured below.
And the Growers Choice falls within the top-tier industry-standard of efficacy with 2.6 μmol/j and an output of 1700 µmol/s
This time around, all the lights in our LED light battle all fall within the 2.6 to 2.7 µmol/j range, which isn't a big difference. So the final decision is all pending statistically insignificant changes in efficacy compared with outputs. Who wins?
In terms of LED grow light output and efficiency, the SPYDR 2i wins this round. After all, it has the best efficiency in the pack. But, with the numbers so close in this category, is the $1500 price tag worth it?
We'd say that for a fraction of the price, the ROI E-680 beats out its competition. It has the same output as the SPYDER (1700 μmol/s) and an excellent system efficacy of 2.6 μmol/j.
- Best in Class: Grower's Choice ROI E-680 and Gavita 1700E
- Runners Up: SPYDR 2i and ChilLED Growcraft X6
Although an important category, this is perhaps the least controversial of the comparisons we are making here. Why? Because all the LED grow lights we are comparing here are all designed to cover a similar size plot of 4'x 4'. In a side-by-side comparison of these four fixtures, they will all cover this area.
The Gavita 1700E comes with a suggested coverage area of a small 4' x 4' plot, but depending on the supplier, some claim upwards of 6'x 6' flower. If you are keen on the Gavita, plan for a single fixture to efficiently cover 5' x 5' in flower, and 6' x 6' in veg.
The SPYDR 2i, in ideal circumstances, will also cover a 4'x 4' canopy. There were fewer exaggerated claims about the canopy coverage at the time of writing, but some reviewers did suggest a you could stretch it to 4' x 4.5' in veg. See picture below.
The ROI E-680 and the ChilLED Growcraft X6 fixtures have similar coverage. The ROI E-680 has suggested footprint is 5'x 5' in veg and 4'x 4' in flower. For the ChilLED fixture, best to stick with 4' x 4.'
- Best in Class: Growers Choice ROI E-680
- Runners Up: SPYDR 2i and Gavita 1700E
- Last Place: ChilLED Growcraft X6
For some time, scientists have known how the light spectrum is just as crucial to prolific harvests as light intensity. We go into full detail here, but the key takeaway from this article is how cannabis requires different spectrum's of light during various growth stages. The vegetative stage needs between 400 to 500 nm (e.g., blues, violets, etc.), and flowering requires 600 to 730 nm (e.g., reds, infrared's, etc.).
Out of all three LED grow lights in our side-by-side comparison, Growers Choice pumps out the broadest spectrum of light, especially in the blues, violets, reds and infrared's, which matter. According to an analysis, the ROI E-680 generates a high output between 400 to 430nm and then a very impressive output from 560nm to 700 nm. This spectrum easily satisfies the requirements of each stage of a plant's growth cycle.
The Growers Choice ROI E-680 fixture contains three specific diodes that spit out this large spectrum: warm white, cool white, and 660-nanometer (deep red). This full-spectrum allows your operation to thrive from vegetative, through flower and into the harvest.
How do the other options compare in this category? The Gavita 1700E, ChilLED Growcraft X6 and the SPYDR 2i perform better than any HID variety but do not stack up against the spectrum of the ROI E-680.
The SPYDR 2i has decent coverage between 580 to 680 nm, but it has spotty performance below 500 nm (see below). Not that impressive if you consider the price point.
The Gavita 1700E has improved deep blue spectrum but inferior red coverage, varying between 600 and 700 nm. It's not as consistently strong in the spectrum as the other contenders (see below).
And in the last place comes the ChilLED Growcraft X6. Although it has good spikes in the deep blues and reds (see below), it doesn't quite reach the cross-spectrum consistency you will need for peak potency and flower production.
- Best in Class: Grower's Choice and SPYDR 2i, lowest hang height of 8"
- Runner Up: ChiLLed Growcraft X6, lowest hang height of 12"
- Last Place: Gavita 1700E, lowest hang height of 24"
All four LED grow lights on this list are passively cooled LED light bars. This means the heat considerations are minimal. They have no reflectors and have a significantly lower profile than traditional grow light options.
Additionally, this means no monstrous HVAC and cooling systems to keep the environment stable and safe — instant space savings on this point.
The ROI E-680 fixture requires at most 12" between the canopy and the fixture (although some growers report as little as 8"). Making this fixture ideal for indoor growers super-short of vertical grow space. Like all grow lights of this caliber should, it importantly comes with an onboard dimming function.
The ChiLLed Growcraft X6 requires a minimum of 6" of headspace above the fixture and a recommended hang height between 12" to 24" above the canopy. It has a dimming range of 5 to 100 percent, which will impact the hanging height.
The SPYDR 2i has the lowest recommended hang height of only 8". It also has a recommended headspace of 6" above the light. The manufacturer also strongly suggests "at least one ft3/S of airflow to ensure efficient cooling. Proper air flow will also increase the maximum suitable operating temperature and help extend lifetime of system."
Unlike every other grow light competing in this challenge - it doesn't have an onboard dimmer. So not only are you paying $1,500 for the fixture, you'll need to shell out $120 for an added feature. We'd say it's not worth the money for the extra 2" of space this grow light offers.
A Gavita 1700E claims it needs to hang between 24" to 36" from the canopy for maximum area coverage. But in vegetative, some sources claim it may require up to 48" of headspace during vegetative stages. As with the SPYDR 2i, it also doesn't come with a dimmer.
As per Gavita, "Dimmable up to 50% without loss in efficiency when used with the Gavita E-Series LED Adapter." Of course, the adapter comes with an additional cost of roughly $150.00. So not only does this fixture need the most amount of space, but it also means shelling out more money for the dimming feature.
When price and other features are considered, the winner in the space category is clear: Grower's Choice ROI E-680. Its lowest recommended hang height is only 8", it has an onboard dimming function, and it's the cheapest light of the bunch.
Side Note: Is Heat Ever Worth Considering with LED Fixtures?
As an aside, depending on the setup, there may be circumstance-specific heating considerations. LED lights, even those with passive heat dissipation features, still produce some heat.
This could mean you'll need a proper cooling system. If you have tight space restrictions (for example, in a grow tent), don't completely ignore the heat produced by LED grow lights.
A Few Other LED Grow Light Highlights
Of course, well beyond the light spectrum, output, and budget comparisons outlined here, each LEG grow light has several additional features that may help you with your decision-making process:
- Growers Choice ROI E-680: 3 year warranty
- ChiLLed Growcraft X6: 3 year warranty
- SPYDR 2i: 5 year warranty (purchased)
- Gavita Pro 1700E: 5 year warranty
- Growers Choice ROI E-680: IP65, ETL, CE
- SPYDR 2i: ETL, IP66, UL 8800, UL 1598 Wet Location, DLC
- Gavita Pro 1700E: DLC, FCC and UL8800 compliant, IP66 wet rated, CE and CB compliant, IP56 wet rated in Europe
- ChiLLed Growcraft X6: 33.85 lbs
- Gavita Pro 1700E: 28.4 lbs
- Growers Choice ROI E-680: 30 lbs
- SPYDR 2i: 27 lbs
As a bonus, both the Grower's Choice ROI E-680 and ChilLED Growcraft X6 qualify for free shipping, as these are both Happy Hydro products. The Gavita 1700 E and the SPYDR 2i may require additional shipping charges, depending on the supplier.
If you enjoy having full control over growing conditions, you'll want to add The Grower's Choice Master Lighting controller to your order. Take control over many essential aspects, including HID Dimming, LED dimming, Light Cycle, Temperature, and Sunrise/Sunset modes. All in a control system with a simple user interface.
A Clear Winner: the Grower's Choice ROI E-680
For most cultivators, three categories make an LED grow light feasible: output, efficiency, and price. Other features and specs are helpful but don't ultimately sway the final purchasing decision.
It's in these three categories that the ROI E-680 shows up. It's the best bang per buck, with superior output, industry-standard efficacy, and all for the lowest price point. Furthermore, its affordability still comes with many (if not more) of the additional features you love to see in a grow light, including dimmers, uniformity of PAR, and the option of advanced controls.
The team behind the Grower's Choice ROI E-680 has figured out how to make a great product at a reasonable price point. Growers buy based on results, and this fixture delivers far above its competition.
Click here to see more pictures & information about the ROI-E680.