Hands-on Gear Review

Princeton Tec Byte Review

Princeton Tec Byte
Price:  $23 List | $12.62 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Solid trail finding for such a lightweight and inexpensive package
Cons:  Sub-par battery life
Bottom line:  A light package that is easy on the wallet.
Editors' Rating:   
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Measured Max Beam Distance:  39 m
Claimed Distance:  30 m
Measured High Mode Run-time (ANSI):  1.9 hrs
Manufacturer:   Princeton Tec

Our Verdict

Of all the truly compact lights we tested (sub 70g: Black Diamond Gizmo, Black Diamond Ion, the ultralight Top Pick winning Petzl E+Lite, and the Byte), the Byte was the highest scoring overall. It is a solid performer, especially considering that it only costs $20 and is so small. It didn't win an award only because the Petzl Tikkina performed so well, also for $20. If you are counting every gram and don't want the diminished beam power of the featherweight Petzl e+LITE, the Byte is a great buy.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier

Last Updated:
May 10, 2015

While the ultralight weight of the Petzl E+Lite won our Top Pick award, the Byte feels a little more durable for heavier use.

Performance Comparison

The Byte is a compact and inexpensive headlamp with a decently bright beam.
The Byte is a compact and inexpensive headlamp with a decently bright beam.

Trail Finding

The Byte boasts a very respectable trail finding score for such a lightweight headlamp, and especially one that only costs $20. Another $20 light that weighs the same, the Black Diamond Gizmo, emitted far less light, as you can see in the beam comparison photo below.

Beam Distance Photos

Princeton Tec Byte
Black Diamond Gizmo

Close Proximity

The Byte's close proximity score is also pretty good. It's not quite as good as the Black Diamond Gizmo as you can see below.

Close-proximity Beam Pattern

Princeton Tec Byte
Black Diamond Gizmo

However, it isn't far behind another budget choice, the Petzl Tikkina.

Close-proximity Beam Pattern

Princeton Tec Byte
Petzl Tikkina

Battery Life

Battery life in the Byte is not exceptional, especially for a headlamp that does not have a powerful beam. Part of the reason the Tikkina and the Black Diamond Cosmo score higher is they have much longer battery lives, which is to be expected from small lights that don't have heavy lumen output.

In high beam mode, the Byte lasted 1.9 hours in our tests using the ANSI standards. This is way behind the e+LITE (9.4 hours) but slightly better than the much brighter Fenix HP25R (1.8 hours). The low beam claimed run time of 96 hours is pretty good, but we did not test low mode run times to confirm it. The e+LITE has a claimed low beam runtime of 70 hours and the Fenix claims 206 hours in low mode.


This Byte's brightness score is not that exceptional, however we did find the Byte to be a little brighter than its other lightweight, $20 competitors. We measured its max beam distance as 39m, beating the Energizer 3 LED (33m) and e+LITE (28m).


In a field of nearly 30 headlamps, the Byte is near the podium as one of the most compact and lightest weight models we tested. It is by far the smallest headlamp to still pump out a truly useful trail-finding beam. It weighs in at 64 grams on our scale, compared to the e+LITE at 30 grams and the Energizer 3 LED at 78 grams.

The compact headlamps we tested  from left to right: Black Diamond Gizmo  Petzl E+ Light  Princeton Tec Byte  Black Diamond Ion.
The compact headlamps we tested, from left to right: Black Diamond Gizmo, Petzl E+ Light, Princeton Tec Byte, Black Diamond Ion.

Ease of Use

The button is intuitive and easily takes you through the various light functions. It works surprisingly well with gloves on for such a small headlamp.

Best Applications

Because this light is so small and inexpensive, it lends itself to many applications. It's the size that you can permanently leave in your daypack as an emergency light. At $20, it is also a great headlamp to keep permanently in the glove compartment or in the kitchen drawer. It's great for after work runs where you might take longer than expected and spend the last few minutes out at dusk.

Princeton Tec Byte in action around a desert campfire. The compact size  ease of use  and inexpensive cost make the Byte a contender for simple applications like this.
Princeton Tec Byte in action around a desert campfire. The compact size, ease of use, and inexpensive cost make the Byte a contender for simple applications like this.


You get a lot of performance for $20 with the Byte. The light is relatively powerful and the package is quite compact. This was a strong contender for Best Buy winner. Only the stiff competition in the battery life category held it back.


This is a headlamp worth consideration. A close competitor is the Black Diamond Gizmo, which is nearly the same size and weight. The Gizmo has a better close proximity beam but the Byte blows it away in beam power and trail finding. The Energizer 3 LED scored higher and has a street price of just $12. That said, the Byte is available at more retailers and can often be found on sale for a similar price. The Petzl e+LITE, which is a third the weight of the Byte but is not nearly as powerful, is another top contender. All four of these headlamps have their own advantages, so it comes down to how you most often use the headlamp. The Energizer is the value champ and the e+LITE is the featherweight, but the Byte just might the best best combination of the two.
Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier

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Summary of All Ratings

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