We've just got our sticky mitts on Petzl's new for winter 2016 Nao+ headtorch and thought you might like a sneaky hands-on preview as Mordor-like winter gloom draws in...
At first glance the Nao+ is reassuringly familiar. Same casing and lay-out as the original Nao and the follow-up version 2. The obvious visual difference is a sort of 'red nose' casing around the upper light sensor, a red battery box and an orange headband cord. Otherwise it's basically the same.
Dig deeper though and there are some changes. Claimed maximum power is up from 575 lumens to an even more serious 750 lumens. Beam range is a claimed 140m. And improved efficiency means an estimated burn time of 6.5 hours at full whack when using Reactive lighting settings. Plus the battery box now has a rear-facing red LED for added visibility. Finally that orange cord is now elasticated shock-cord rather than static as before.
The biggest departure is that while the Nao+ is programmable like its predecessors, instead of using the desktop Petzl OS software, it uses bluetooth connectivity to connect to a new Petzl smartphone app called MyPetzl Light, which promises to allow instant control of output and profiles on the move.
Finally, price if you were wondering, is £145 with the torch set to reach the UK in December 2016.
Two Lighting Modes
In terms of lighting, things are the same, but different. It still has two modes: the Reactive Lighting one, where the top sensor adjusts output according to how much it decides you need at any point and seamlessly adjusts things to suit.
And the fixed mode where it works just like any other headtorch. One reason for the latter is that the reactive mode doesn't deal well with some situations, snow for example, or fog.
Lots More Light
What's different is that there's a whole lot more light. Up to 750 lumens says Petzl. And thanks to advances in LED bulb efficiency you also get better burn times. There are still two beams, one a spot, the other a broader flood variant. First impressions are that the Reactive system is as seamlessly efficient as ever and this torch is very, very bright when it needs to be.
What's completely new for Petzl, is a red LED housed in the battery box which can be used in either blinking or flashing mode to improve rear-facing visibility. Somewhat perplexingly though, there's no obvious switch for it... which brings us neatly to the MyPetzl Light app for iOS and Android smartphones...
MyPetzl Light Smartphone App
Where the new Nao+ is completely different from the previous Nao is that while it's programmable, it no longer uses Petzl's desktop Petzl OS interface. Instead Nao+ connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth which allows you to change settings at will and adjust light output 'in real time'.
It's an interesting idea and the app itself looks slick and professional. To use it, you simply start up the MyPetzl Light app then switch on the light to connect. After which you can tweak the settings, choose a new lighting profile to suit your activity - mountaineering, trail running or whatever - and even adjust beam strength in real time.
'And while the bluetooth has been specced to minimise power drain on the torch, it still means you need a smartphone on hand if you want to change the red light setting. We reckon that's a little bit too clever for its own good.'
We had some initial issues pairing the lamp, but once that was sorted we were impressed by the level of control you get.
You can check, for example, how much battery charge you have left and what your remaining burn time is. The 'Live' screen's an interesting one too, giving you the option of altering light output to give a pre-set burn time.
We suspect though that many users will either not bother with the app. Or use it more simply to select one of the pre-set user profiles like multi-activity, trail-running, mountaineering or mountain biking.
You can customise these to suit your personal preferences if you choose, but so far we've found the stock settings work well enough for us at least.
Finally on the app front: as far as we can tell, it's the only way of switching the rear red light on and off. No clicking a switch and turning the light on as you hit tarmac for example, you have to use the app.
And while the bluetooth has been specced to minimise power drain on the torch, it still means you need a smartphone on hand if you want to change the red light setting. We reckon that's a little bit too clever for its own good. A simple switch would be quick and easy to use on the hoof.
Not a deal-breaker by any means, but an arguably unnecessary complication.
The original Nao, particularly in its 575-lumen version, was already one of the best fast-moving, high-power head-torches out there and the new Nao+ is even brighter and with impressive claimed burn times too.
The biggest difference though is that smartphone control. The Nao was already plenty bright, but the MyPetzl Light app means you can customise the settings on the fly. We suspect it's one of those things that some users will love and others will simply ignore, but we'll let you know how we get on.