Summary of Specifications
The Princeton Tec Matrix 2 weighs 5.34 oz (151 g) with 2xAA alkaline batteries and 4.69 oz with 2xAA lithium batteries. It is a 1-LED headlamp featuring a one-watt LED, with batteries in the lamp housing (front). The band is a 1-inch elastic bucket-style headband.
The Matrix 2 has one, full-power lighting mode, operating by an internal switch activated by rotating the lamp housing, as if you were focusing an SLR camera lens. This type of switch can be easily operated with any winter handwear short of thumbless mitt apparel.
Changing the battery is performed by pulling a lever on the molded battery housing with your thumb, and can be performed with bare hands, gloves, or thin mittens easily.
The Matrix 2 has a smoothly pivoting head that can be operated with one hand.
The Matrix 2 is the brightest LED headlamp marketed for specialty outdoors use. The only brighter headlamps are 1- and 5-watt LED lights marketed to the caving community.
Turning this lamp on initially, we thought we received the wrong model. It was our first experience with 1-Watt LED technology, and we thought we were mistakenly provided a halogen lamp. The Matrix 2 shot a bright, white, focused beam that illuminated objects more than 50 m away.
With fresh batteries at room temperature, the Princeton Tec Matrix 2 has an initial center-of-beam brightness of 792 lux at a distance of 2 feet, falling off to 8 lux at 1 foot off the beam’s center – an incredibly narrow beam uncharacteristic of what we’ve seen from LED lights in the past.
In our cold conditions test (center-of-beam brightness at 38 °F), the Matrix 2’s lighting power was 604 lux at 0 hours (fresh batteries), 552 lux at 8 hours, and 0 lux (dead) at 24 hours, a result that is consistent with Princeton Tec’s claim of a 15 hour battery life. The Matrix 2 is the brightest single-LED headlamp in this review.
The Princeton Tec Matrx 2 is not a task light. It is a high-powered navigation headlamp suitable for off-trail and mountaineering use, with good, sustained brightness over the life of the batteries that is achieved without the sophistication and expense of a voltage regulating circuit.
The Matrix 2’s primary weakness is that it lacks a task lighting mode or short-range flood-type LED. While Princeton Tec makes a headlamp that does perform this functionality (the Yukon HL), that model is heavier (8.0 oz with 3xAA alkaline batteries). Our review team felt that Princeton Tec has the potential to be the best all-around performing headlamp for peak-bagging if it had a short range task lighting mode that conserved battery power when needed.
The Matrix 2 offers bright, sustained light that exceeds the performance of many halogen lights. With its 1-watt LED offering up to 12 hours of sustained bright light, it was the only LED headlamp reviewed suitable for serious mountaineering or off-trail navigation requiring long range lighting. The Matrix 2 has one of the best performance to weight ratios of any light we’ve tested. It is waterproof, can be turned on and off with heavily mittened hands, offers simple battery changes, allows for the use of AA lithium batteries for cold weather performance and weight savings, and has a rugged design. With lithium batteries’ flatter discharge curve, the Matrix 2 achieves many of the benefits of a lamp with programmed voltage regulation. At 8 hours, the Matrix 2 was still at 91% of its brightness (similar to the voltage-regulated Photon Fusion with lithium batteries). However, at 8 hours, the Matrix 2 was 2.7X brighter than the Fusion and 2.5X brighter than the Zenix, two other lamps in the same weight class (4-5 ounces). The Matrix 2’s extremely bright lighting can easily be extended to 24 hours by adding only 0.95 oz (27 g) of batteries (2 lithium AA’s).
For having an outstanding performance-to-weight ratio that considers weight, usability, battery life, and light intensity in cold conditions, we are pleased to award the Princeton Tec Matrix 2 with BackpackingLight.com’s 2004 Trail’s Best Award.