I knew I was ready to switch to LED grow lights, but I had no idea which ones.
I was using two 1000 watt MH and HPS lights in a 4 by 8 foot tent, so I wanted lights that could replace these. Or at least come close, since 2000 watts was more light than I needed in that space, to be honest.
I'm sure you're familiar with the problem I was facing. A huge number of options, most of which are pretty terrible. After weeks of research, I narrowed my choice down to four lights. One was the Black Dog PhytoMAX-2 600 (link goes to product page).
Actually, I was looking at the 800, but the 600 is closer to the other lights I considered in terms of price and performance, so I decided to review it here. Everything but specific numbers like price, coverage area, wattage, etc. is applicable to the entire PhytoMAX-2 line of lights (PhytoMAX-2 1000, PhytoMAX-2 800, PhytoMAX-2 400, and PhytoMAX-2 200).
Out of all the lights I reviewed, this was the best one in terms of performance for money spent.
But I ended up buying Kind LED lights instead.
Note: this was a while ago. Today, I would choose this light, as it has been recently updated (Feb 2017), but the Kind has not in many years.
Read on to find out why and if this light is the right one for you (hint: there's a good chance it is).
Read the rest of the Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2 600 review:
Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead)
Actual Wattage and HID Equivalent
Unlike other manufacturers, Black Dog uses the actual wattage in their product names. Thus, the PhytoMax-2 600 actually consumes 630 watts and is equivalent in output to the "1000 watt" lights of other makers, like the Kind K5 XL1000 or the California Lightworks SolarStorm 880.
While other manufacturers claim their lights are equivalent to a 1000 watt HPS bulb, most growers get slightly lower yields with LED light. In reality, those LEDs are closer to a 900 watt HPS system. The PhyoMax-2 600 is a brand-new light and is easily equal to a 1000 watt HID system.
At 630 watts, this light consumes less power than its competitors, at first glance. But Black Dog lights do not have a customizable spectrum or even separate modes for veg and bloom. As a result, they consume 630 watts no matter the grow cycle, while competing lights consume less during vegging and cloning, when plants don't need as much light. Black Dog have a good reason for doing this, but more on that below in the section on spectrum.
Overall, I find Black Dog's honesty refreshing. And it also means that this light delivers exactly as promised. You get the equivalent output of a 1000 watt HPS light. If you want more power, the PhytoMAX-2 800 and the PhytoMAX-2 1000 will both outperform a 1000 watt HPS light by a lot (equivalent to 1300 watts and 1600 watts respectively).
Black Dog PhytoMAX-2 600 LED Grow Light Spectrum
Black Dog LEDs feature their Phyto-Genesis Spectrum™, which they developed after more than 6 years of extensive research. It includes light from 365 nm to 750 nm. That means it has all the wavelengths from UV-A to IR—basically every color of light plants need during any stage of growth.
This spectrum does not include any UV-B light, but not many LED lights do (California Lightworks is the notable exception). But it is easy enough to just buy a separate fluorescent bulb if you want your plants exposed to UVB light.
Black Dog lights do not have separate modes for veg and bloom. Switching from one spectrum to another in the middle of a grow causes growth stalling. The change in light shocks the plants and they stop growing for up to 2 weeks. This happens when you change spectrum on an LED light or when you switch from metal halide to HPS.
To avoid growth-stalling, Black Dog's Phyto-Genesis Spectrum™ was designed to work equally well during vegging or flowering. The drawback is that the light uses full power all the time, even when your plants don't need that much power.
During the vegging stage, plants don't need as much light (and even less if you're cloning) and many other manufacturers take advantage of this by dialing back the power in veg mode. This saves you money.
Which option you prefer is really a matter of choice. One shortens your grow time by up to two weeks and saves you on nutrients, electricity, etc. as a result. The other saves you money by using less power and emitting less heat during vegging.
As for the effectiveness of Black Dog's spectrum: it has outperformed every other type of light (HPS bulbs, standard MH bulbs, light-emitting ceramic MH bulbs, induction bulbs, fluorescent bulbs and "white" LEDs) in equal-wattage tests.
In other words, this light will best a 1000 watt version of every one of those other types of light.
PAR and Coverage Area
Black Dog does not give PAR ratings for their lights. PAR values are often quite misleading and do not give an accurate picture of a light's ability to grow plants, so I understand where they are coming from.
They do give a value for total photon flux of 961 umol per second. This is a more accurate measure of a light's power throughout the coverage area. If you compare it to competitors, you get higher average PAR values across the entire coverage.
Black Dog fixtures distribute their light much more evenly throughout the coverage area, so while you get less power in the center than some lights, you get more power on the outside of the coverage area and more average power overall.
As for the size of their coverage area, Black Dog is very honest here, too. A lot of manufacturers tend to exaggerate their lights' coverage a bit when it comes to flowering, so I'm happy to see accurate information here.
This light will give you a 5 by 5 foot coverage area during flowering and a 6.5 by 6.5 foot coverage during veg. Most 1000 watt LED lights can flower a 4 by 4 area, so this light does better.
More importantly, as mentioned above, you get a very even coverage. Most LEDs have very powerful light in the center, but the intensity drops off considerably around the outside of the coverage area.
This light has much less variation in intensity. Plants on the outside get almost as much light as those in the center. You get more even growth and don't need to rotate your plants as much. You also avoid hot spots and leaf-burn.
A common complaint about most LED lights is poor canopy penetration. Most LED diodes simply don't give you the same penetration as a powerful 1000 watt HPS bulb. This was actually my biggest worry in switching to LED.
That's not an issue here, though. Black Dog use only 5 watt chips in their lights, which means they have the intensity to penetrate deep into the canopy, just like HPS light. The reason other manufacturers don't use 5 watt chips is heat. I'll talk about that below in the appropriate section.
Overall, the PhytoMAX-2 600 offers the best combination of coverage and canopy penetration among all 1000 watt LED grow lights.
LED Type and Configuration
As mentioned, Black Dog use all 5 watt diodes and this light has a total of 252 of them. They use the top brand of LEDs available for each specific wavelength, which includes Cree, Osram, etc.
It is the 5 watt diodes that make Black Dog lights more powerful and efficient than competing lights. These diodes are intense and penetrate as deep into the canopy as HID light.
Their main drawback is heat, which is why most manufacturers still use weaker 3 watt diodes. But Black Dog does an exceptional job when it comes to heat management (more on that below).
Like most LED lights, the Black Dog diodes are rated for 50,000+ hours of use.
This is Black Dog's biggest advantage, as their advanced heat management is what allows them to pack their fixtures with powerful 5 watt diodes and not suffer the consequences of their increased heat output (shortened LED lifespan and, of course, the need to cool your grow room).
To deal with the heat from the 5 watt diodes, Black Dog uses larger fixtures and the biggest heat sinks in the industry. They combine those with efficient long-life fans that are rated for 70,000+ hours (most competitors use cheap fans that are generally the first component to fail).
What it all comes down to is a heat output of 2148 BTU. That is lower than most competing lights, despite using 5 watt diodes. It's pretty incredible, to be honest.
I probably could have skipped this section altogether for this light. You just need to hang it (hangers included), plug it in and turn it on. That's it.
Since the PhytoMAX-2 600 does not have separate modes for veg and bloom, there's no need for a control panel or a remote control.
I run my lights off 240 volts, so I would actually need to get a separate power cord for this light (it ships with a standard 110 volt cord). Here is some info you might need (more specs on the product page):
- Input voltage: 100 to 250 volts AC
- Amperage: 5.3 amps at 120 volts; 2.6A at 240V
- Output temperature: -4~104°F (-20~40°C)
- Operating frequency: 50/60 hertz
The PhytoMAX-2 600 measures 18.75 by 18.75 by 5.13 inches and weighs 32 pounds. The weight surprises some people when they first pick it up, although it is actually lighter than many comparable lights.
When you buy a PhytoMax-2 600, you also get heavy-duty, easy-to-use 8-foot ratchet hangers and a standard 8-foot 120 volt power cord. You can run this light at 240 volts, but you would need a separate power cord. Longer cords are also available (10,15 or 25 feet for 120V; 20 feet for 240V).
When you buy a Black Dog light, you also get a 5-year warranty. In the first 3 years, Black Dog will pay all repair costs. From 3 to 5 years, they will pay for the parts, but not the labor. After 5 years, they will only repair the unit if parts are available and the customer has to pay all costs associated with the repair.
Furthermore, the customer has to pay to ship the unit back for repairs. Black Dog will pay to return it to the customer, but only up to $50. The customer pays any costs above $50. Overall, this is one of the best warranties in the industry.
They also offer a full 90-day money back guarantee, but it is only good for one light per customer. You also have to pay the shipping charges to return the light as well as a 15% restocking fee. This is a better return policy than most companies, but lags behind Kind and California Lightworks.
Pros and Cons
- Powerful 5 watt diodes provide canopy penetration similar to HPS
- Great heat management increases LED lifespan
- Great spectrum for both vegging and flowering
- Large coverage area with even light distribution means no hot spots and leaf burn
- Can't change spectrum (this could be a pro, depending on your perspective)
- Warranty and return policy not as great as they could be (but still better than most, to be fair)
The PhytoMAX-2 600 costs $1899. This price is the highest among the lights I was considering (the California Lightworks SolarStorm 880 at $1799, the Kind K5 XL1000 at $1695 and the NextLight Mega at $1525). This is another reason why I ended up getting the Kind lights.
You can actually get this light for even less at the moment.
We are trying to see how many people buy the Black Dog PhytoMAX-2 600 after reading this review, to see if it's worth paying to get more reviews like this written.
To accomplish this, we'll be offering a special discount code for a week or two until we've collected enough data. The code is 'blackreview' and can only be found right here (so good job for reading this far!).
Enter 'blackreview' in the discount field during checkout to get an additional $300 off the PhytoMAX-2 600 (so you pay only $1599). Please don't share this code, since it would impact our data collection.
If you are interested in the more powerful PhytoMAX-2 lights, please contact us and we can give you a larger discount on those.
Summary of Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2 600 Review
The PhytoMAX-2 600 will give you the best results in its class, thanks to the 5 watt diodes and Black Dog's great heat management. You'll get better growth, higher yields and a shorter grow cycle.
The big drawback for me was the lack of control over the spectrum. This light doesn't even have a switch for separate veg and bloom modes. Of course this may be a positive for some, since it means a shorter grow cycle.
The lack of UVB light may be an issue for some people as well. Personally, I'm not convinced that UV-B light makes that big of a difference, but even if it does, you can always just buy separate bulbs.
If you don't mind the lack of UVB light and don't care about having control over the spectrum, then this is the best light out there.
If either of those things are important to you, your decision becomes more difficult. This is a better light in terms of performance, but the California Lightworks SolarStorm line has UVB light and separate veg and bloom modes. The Kind K5 line has a fully customizable spectrum.
It is that customizability (along with the return policy) that swung my decision in favor of the K5 XL1000. Nevertheless, I was very close to going with Black Dog (the PhytoMAX-2 800) and I highly recommend this light, or any other PhytoMAX-2 light.
They are, quite simply, amazing.
Check out the product page or simply