The Evolution LED may be just another Chinese black box OEM LED but dang it sure does look good over a tank. With 119 one watt LEDs and a 2:1 ratio of blue to white LEDs, the Evolution delivers respectable PAR numbers from a peak of 230 umol in the center down to 90 umol in the corner of an 18 x 24″ tank. Furthermore, with over a hundred single LEDs the light field is very evenly spread over the area of the tank. What we found particularly interesting about the Evolution LED is that it appears to be using “cheap” white LEDs that aren’t a pure white, more like a little yellowish, but this really just helped with the color rendition in the warmer side of the double rainbow spectrum.
Now for the reality check: the Evolution LED is only $300 but it hits this price with many compromises. Sure you can turn the whites off with the press of a button, leaving only the blues, but the Evolution has very dodgy heat management in place. Instead of flanking the LED panel with a nice sized aluminum heatsink which would add cost, the heatsink is thinner than a cutting board and it is actively cooled. No fewer than three large fans blow air on the puny heatsink in order to keep the LEDs at a lowered operating temperature. Not only are the three fans louder than a high end computer gaming rig but what happens when the fans become clogged with dust, or the heatsink gets gunked up and no longer transfers enough heat to the air?
Case in point is that the Evolution LED is designed, like so many other OEM LED boxes, to be riding the very edge of performance as if it was going to spend it’s life operating in a laboratory setting. Especially in a dusty and salty environment the Evolution LED will likely need bi-annual cleaning to keep the “cooling system” from failing due to crud build up. If the $300 Evolution can do a solid two to three years before the LEDs are really degraded it could be a good value and long-term investment. Better yet we’d like to see someone mod these boxes with a larger heatsink and more efficient and quieter fans. A hundred dollars worth of performance tweaks could make these black box OEM LEDs a real value. The Evolution LED is available from ReefKoi and there are plenty more pictures after the break.