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This is a review of the Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2 series grow lights. Enjoy!
Black Dog LED is one of the most popular LED grow light brands on the market today. This is no easy accomplishment considering the plethora of LED companies competing for the grower’s dollar. Black Dog LED entered the game early and therefore has had sufficient time to develop and test their grow lights. Six years later, they are still going strong, proving to be one of the top LED grow light innovators.
LED technology can change quick, so staying on top of these changes is important. Black Dog LED took notice of these changes and updated their popular PhytoMAX series to the PhytoMAX-2 series late-January 2017. A few of the noticeable changes from the PhytoMAX to the PhytoMAX-2 series includes:
Black Dog LED kept the same light models for their PhytoMAX 2 series. The series includes:
This review of the PhytoMAX-2 series will not cover a specific PhytoMAX-2 fixture, but instead, I will review the entire series with an occasional mention of the individual models.
So, read on to take a deep dive into the PhytoMAX-2 series and determine which PhytoMAX-2 LED grow light is right for you. It may not be the one you think.
Black Dog incorporates the highest-quality, latest-technology, top-bin LEDs into their PhytoMAX-2 series. All of the PhytoMAX-2 lights use 5-watt diodes spread evenly over the PCB, ensuring even light distribution and coverage. This design eliminates hot spots and leaf burn, compared to other LED grow lights, which contain fewer more powerful LEDs over the fixture and can lead to hot spot issues.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 diodes on PCB board
5-watt diodes allow the perfect mixture of canopy penetration and efficiency. Some growers claim 3-watt diodes lack the punch needed for optimal penetration. Furthermore, high wattage diodes over 5-watts can give off too much heat and reduce the lifespan of the LED. And it can be a challenge to manage the additional heat given off by these high-powered diodes. The heat generated by Black Dog LEDs 5-watt diodes is properly transferred to the fixtures heatsinks and blown away from the fixture (more on this in the section titled Heat Management).
Black Dog LED hand-picks the diodes from the industry leader for the given wavelength. For example, they might source their blue LED chips from Cree and their red LEDs from Osram. I think their decision to source the LEDs from different manufacturers is a good move—it allows them to incorporate the very best diodes into the fixture for optimal efficiency and light intensity, which ensures growers are receiving the very best diodes.
The typical lifetime that one can expect from these diodes is a minimum of 50,000 hours. Different color LEDs have different rated lifespans, with some wavelengths rated at 65,000 or more. This is the standard for almost all of the LED on the market today. This doesn’t mean the the LEDs will burn out after 50,000 hours, but instead, the luminosity will drop to 70% of the original rating, rendering the fixture into a questionable usage state. Though the grow light can still be used after 50,000 hours it is not recommended since the efficiency and light intensity will not be ideal for sufficient plant growth. Yet, 50,000 hours is nearly 10 years of growing, so grow on.
The different models of PhytoMAX-2 contain a different number of LEDs to reach the stated intensity for growing in the recommended footprint. In order of series, the PhytoMAX-2 fixtures contain 84, 168, 252, 336, and 420 diodes, respectively.
Optics, or beam angles, are an important consideration because they determine how the light is transmitted to the plant. Either the light beams out at a wide angle or it can radiate toward the plant at a narrow-angle. Secondary optics are often used for narrow-angle transmission, which can increase PAR levels and penetration.
One feature that stood out to me on the PhytoMAX-2 series was the decision by Black Dog LED to not use secondary optics on their lights. Black Dog LED only use primary glass lenses on their PhytoMAX-2 lights. The lack of secondary optics appears in contrast to what many of the manufacturers are doing these days on their LED grow lights. Yet, a significant portion of the light can be lost when using secondary optics due to reflection and refraction losses. Therefore, primary lenses are more efficient than secondary lenses. Hence, Black Dog LEDs decision to not use secondary lenses.
What are primary lenses? This is the glass that is coated onto the LED during the manufacturing process. Combined with the 5-watt diodes, the primary lenses allow the intense light that exits the diode at 90° to mix evenly over the light footprint, while providing high PPFD.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 light distribution pattern
The advantage of the primary lenses also comes into play when using more than one PhytoMAX-2 unit. When the lights are setup next to each other for a larger grow, the footprint’s edges allow even blending. Compare this with some of the other LED grow lights on the market which use secondary lenses to concentrate the light in a circular or oval shape below the light fixture. Placing a few of these units together will cause a hot spot where the two light patterns meet.
Another method that Black Dog LED used to increase their light intensity by 60% was to eliminate the glass plate that was covering the entire bottom of the fixture. While the glass plate provided protection, it also decreased the light transmission. Eliminating this glass plate increased light efficiency by a whopping 8%! A smart move, if you ask me.
Some manufacturers, like many of the Chinese LED grow light brands from Ebay or Amazon, will state the LED wattage in the title of the grow light. Does this mean the grow light draws that many watts or is this the equivalent HID fixture wattage? It’s confusing and misleading. I have recently seen an LED grow light on Ebay advertised as 1000 watts. There is no possible way the LEDs are being powered to their full capacity otherwise they would burn out in no time. Though 100 diodes multiplied by 10 watts is 1000 watts, the fixture is maybe drawing half of this wattage.
Black Dog LED is very honest about their fixture wattages. They make it easy to know the total wattage draw of each fixture by naming the series in conjunction with wattage draw of each fixture. The wattage draw for each fixture in the series is as follows:
As you can see, the fixtures draw slightly more wattage than the name of the fixture suggests. Again, this is the actual wattage drawn by the entire unit as measured at the wall.
Black Dog LED also lists the LED wattages for reference. This is the number of LEDs on the fixture multiplied by the diode wattage. For example, the PhytoMAX-2 200 contains 84 LEDs. At 5 watts each, the total LED wattage of the fixture is 420 watts. However, the true wattage of the fixture is only 210 watts. This suggests that Black Dog LED is driving the diodes to an average of 50% of their potential. Underdriving LEDs is important in reducing heat load, extending the lifetime of the LED and increasing diode efficiency.
Wattage can be a useful metric for comparing LED grow lights, because it is roughly related to a fixture’s light output. I say roughly because PPFD is the best metric. In essence, assuming all things equal, more power equals higher light intensity.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 1000 (click photo to learn more)
Wattage is also important because it will determine how much heat the fixture will emit. Taking the PhytoMAX-2 1000 as an example, the fixture draws 1050 watts, which is a similar power draw as a 1000 watt HPS (HPS fixtures draw between 1040-1060 watts due to the ballast). Therefore, the light fixtures will have a similar heat load. At 3.41 BTUs/watt, the PhytoMAX-2 1000 will exude 3,580.5 BTUs of heat into the grow environment.
The upside to this large heat load is that Black Dog recommends keeping the grow room temperatures at 9-10° degrees warmer than an HPS grow room since LEDs lack the forward heat that HPS bulbs beam toward the plants. The extra boost in temperature helps moderate and regulate plant physiological processes. Indoor plants requiring a lot of light (you know what plant I am talking about!) grows best at about 85°F, assuming an adequate amount of light and CO2.
In this case, you might be thinking: what is the point of LEDs if you are not saving money on electricity? Well, the PhytoMAX-2 1000 has a maximum flowering footprint of 6.5’ x 6.5’, compared to a 1000 watt HPS which has about a 4’ x 4’ flowering footprint. The PhytoMAX-2 1000 can sufficiently cover 26.25 sq ft more space than a standard 1000 watt HPS grow light.
Spectrum is one of the most important considerations when choosing an LED grow light. If the spectrum is lacking, plant growth and flower size/quality will be too.
Black Dog LED developed and refined their proprietary Phyto-Genesis Spectrum® over the last 6 years. They claim their spectrum will outperform HPS, MH, CMH (LEC), induction, fluorescent, and "white" "full-spectrum" LEDs in equal wattage tests. Though I can’t put their claim up to the test myself, there have been plenty of other growers who have grown with their lights and can back up these claims.
The Phyto-Genesis Spectrum® is a true full-spectrum, ranging from 365nm (UV) to 750nm (IR). The spectrum is designed for lush growth and optimal flowering.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 Phyto-Genesis Spectrum®
In addition to targeting the photosynthetic and carotenoid peaks with blues and red, the spectrum also includes UV-A and NIR (near infrared). Ultraviolet light has been shown to increase THC, CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, antioxidants and pigmentation. UV light also maximizes trichome production and makes plants more resistant to pests and diseases. Near infrared light boosts photosynthetic efficiency via the Emerson Effect.
Black Dog LED slightly changed the Phyto-Genesis Spectrum® for the PhytoMAX-2. The spectral curve below is the original PhytoMAX spectrum.
Image: Original PhytoMAX Phyto-Genesis Spectrum®
I layered the original Phyto-Genesis Spectrum® on top of the new Phyto-Genesis Spectrum® to determine what Black Dog LED changed in the spectrum (below). The bright pink line is the PhytoMAX-2 spectrum, while the light purple line is the original PhytoMAX spectrum.
Image: Phyto-Genesis Spectrum® layered
Comparing these two lines, there are a few notable differences. The biggest difference is perhaps the boost in blue in the 440-460nm range. Increased blue decreases internodal spacing and directs more of your plants' energy to flowers and leaves instead of the stems. Also, more deep blues (around 410nm) and more UV-A were added.
Secondly, Black Dog LED increased the greens and yellows by a factor of 2 or 3. Greenlight creates a more natural viewing light to help see the true colors of the leaves. Black Dog LED states that after your eyes adjust to the Phyto-Genesis Spectrum®, your plants will appear very natural, allowing easy determination of plant health. What’s more? Some studies and observations show that green light can increase photosynthesis.
There was also a change in the red-orange part of the spectrum around 630nm. The likely reason for the shift has to do with efficiency. The new red-orange peak is closer to the actual chlorophyll peak, leading to an increase in photosynthetic efficiency at this range.
Finally, the new spectrum’s NIR peak is also around 720nm as opposed to 745nm for the old spectrum. However, the difference between these NIR wavelengths is mostly negligible.
One point that I would like to make about this series spectrum is that it does not contain UV-B. Not many (save a manufacturer or two) companies include UV-B diodes into their fixtures, since they are expensive. Black Dog LED spectrum has about 2.5% UV photons (by photon count) or 4.6% UV by energy of light; this is slightly less than the Sun's spectrum at noon, but over a 12-hour day is more UV energy than plants would get from the sun.
Black Dog LED considers the lack of UV-B to be a benefit since UVB degrades materials and can cause cancer. UV-A offers all the same plant benefits (increases resin production, affects photosynthesis) without these drawbacks.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 400 and 600
I admit that Black Dog has one of the best spectrums out of any other LED grow light on the market. Yet, the downside of the spectrum is that it is a single spectrum. Growers are not able to adjust or dim the spectrum for different stages of growth. Dimming is useful for saving money on electricity during Veg since the plants need less light during this stage than they do in flower. The upside to the lack of dimming or spectrum control is that the plants in Veg will end up growing more rapidly with the extra light.
Black Dog LED makes a good point regarding their choice for a single spectrum. They claim that the spectrum eliminates growth stalling associated with spectrum changes. When growers switch from MH to HPS, this shocks the plants and they respond by slowing down their growth while adjusting to the new light spectrum. Similarly, this same stalling can occur when growing under blue-shifted LED grow lights then shifting quickly to a red-shifted spectrum without allowing the plants to adjust. Plant shock is not an issue with Black Dog LED’s single spectrum.
Photosynthetically active radiation, or PAR, is the second biggest consideration when choosing an LED grow light.
Another thing that I like about Black Dog LED is that they publish the average PAR data for all of their lights over different distances. They don’t use lumens or any other irrelevant measurement of growth potential. PAR is reported in Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density, or PPFD. This is the amount of light photons striking a given area every second.
As we have seen, due to the lack of secondary lenses, the PhytoMAX-2 series distributes the light more evenly than other grow lights out there. While the PPFD may be slightly lower in the center of the footprint than some other grow lights that use secondary lenses, the light is spread out more evenly throughout the entire footprint. This creates a fairly even PPFD map and makes for a smaller variance in their average PPFD readings (see image below).
Image: PhytoMAX-2 800 PAR map
Why is average PPFD important? Many LED companies will sometimes only state a single PPFD number, but will not tell you where it comes from. We can only assume it is a PPFD reading taken at the center of the light footprint at a given distance. This is not an accurate representation of the fixture’s grow potential because it does not tell you how powerful the light is outside of the center of the light. Black Dog LEDs average PPFD measurements are a true representation of their light’s ability to do work on your plants. However, for reference, Black Dog LED also publishes the PPFD taken at the center at specified distances (below).
Image: PhytoMAX-2 PAR readings at center
Black Dog LED reports the smallest, medium, and largest footprint for each light in the PhytoMAX-2 series (see chart below). Using these footprints, you can determine the average PPFD your plants will be receiving. Smaller footprints will concentrate the light and lead to larger yields (bigger flowers), while larger footprints will spread the light out, decrease the fixture’s intensity and lead to smaller yields (smaller flowers).
I also like the fact that Black Dog LED displays the photon flux of each fixture at the UV range (<400nm), PAR range (400-700nm), and IR range (>700nm), so you know how much light energy is radiating from these wavelengths (below).
Image: PhytoMAX-2 PPF readings
Black Dog LED has gone the extra mile to provide a chart on the expected footprint coverage given a particular PPFD. This is great, because it is very useful and I have never seen any other company do this before. The chart can be useful when planning out a grow space. For example, assume you are shooting for 500 PPFD in a 5’ x 5’ space. The chart says that the best light would be the PhytoMAX-2 800. Or if you already have a fixture, you might want to know the PPFD that you are getting in your given footprint. Pretty handy!
Image: Footprint coverage for average PPFD
Remember, you should only increase PPFD beyond a particular point, if you increase your temperatures and CO2 accordingly. Using a PhytoMAX-2 800 in a 4x4 space will give you an average of 700 PPFD, but your plant may not be able to use all of that light if your temperatures are too low and your CO2 levels are suboptimal. Black Dog LED recommends additional CO2 supplementation at about 600 PPFD or more. But you can probably get away with 900 to 1000 PPFD.
Overall, the PPFD levels for the PhytoMAX-2 series is sufficient for optimal growth and flowering. When used correctly, you can expect excellent growth and large yields.
The coverage areas for the PhytoMAX-2 series are larger than the original PhytoMAX series and are on par with the expected footprints given the relative wattage of each fixture. As I showed you in the last section, the coverage area can vary depending on the PPFD levels you are shooting for. The coverage area also depends on mounting height, with lower PPFD at higher heights and higher PPFD at lower mounting heights.
The PPFD for the different mounting heights for each light can be seen below.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 PPFD values at given footprints
Black Dog LED created a coverage area map for each of their lights for Veg and Flower. Note, a larger coverage area for Veg since plants do not need as much light to grow in this stage as they do in flower.
Maximum Veg footprints for each PhytoMAX-2 grow light:
Maximum Flower footprints for each PhytoMAX-2 grow light:
Since the Veg and the Flower footprints in these charts are the recommended maximum coverage areas, you will attain higher PPFD if you move the light closer to the plants. Of course, this will decrease your footprint, so be aware of this fact when planning out your grow space.
Image: PhytoMAX 2 400 footprint, mounting height and PPFD
The PhytoMAX-2 series is a significant upgrade in light intensity from the original PhytoMAX series. Black Dog LED claims the PhytoMAX-2 series exudes 60% more light than the original PhytoMAX series and therefore is able to cover a larger footprint. For example, the original PhytoMAX 800 covered a 5’x 5’ (25 sq ft area) for flowering. Yet, the PhytoMAX-2 800 covers up to a 6’ x 6’ (36 sq ft) flowering area. That’s 11 extra square feet of coverage.
Comparing the PhytoMAX-2 1000 (1050 watts) to a standard 1000 watt HPS, a 1000 watt HPS covers a 4’ x 4’ area (or 5’x 5’ if you want to stretch it). The PhytoMAX-2 1000 covers up to a 6.5’ x 6.5’ area and therefore allows 17.25 sq ft more grow area than the HPS over a 5’ x 5, and 26.25 sq ft more grow area than the HPS in a 4’ x 4’.
The best PhytoMAX-2 light for your needs will depend on how large (or small) your grow space is. Don’t buy a larger fixture than you will need or you will be wasting electricity and potentially harm your plants. But also don’t skimp and buy too small of a fixture or your plants will be starving for light.
In general, it is wise to use several smaller fixtures to cover a large area, as opposed to using fewer large fixtures, since you will get more even coverage. Smaller fixtures are less powerful, so ensure the fixtures will be providing enough PPFD to your plants.
You will want to be careful when mounting Black Dog LED’s more powerful fixtures, such as the PhytoMAX-2 800 and the 1000. You will want to maintain an adequate distance between the plants and the fixture in order to attain the desired coverage area and mitigate the risk of burning your plants. These lights are not to be placed within inches of your plants like some of the other grow lights on the market.
One of the best features of a PhytoMAX-2 grow light is the heat management system. Black Dog LED has done a great job of moving the heat from the LEDs and into the grow environment.
The heatsinks on the new PhytoMAX series are massive. The larger fixtures have some of the biggest heatsinks in the entire grow light industry. To give you an idea of the size and weight, the PhytoMAX-2 1000 dimensions are 21” x 21” x 7” and weighs 53 lbs. A lot of the weight of the PhytoMAX-1000 is due to the heatsinks. Large heatsinks are needed to transfer the heat given off from the 420 5-watt diodes.
Image: Black Dog LED heatsink (coins for size comparison)
The PhytoMAX-2 series contains ultra-quiet, long-life fans with a rated lifespan of 70,000+ hours. These are some of the best in the industry—many other grow lights use cheap fans that can go out after a few thousand hours.
The fans are located on the side of the unit and draw in air from the other side of the unit, across the heatsinks, and out the other side.
Many other LED grow lights have the fans on the top of the light. I am pretty sure that Black Dog LED placed the fans on the side of the unit so growers could mount the light closer to the ceiling if needed, without restricting airflow. They could have also chosen this design since it allows the pass-through of air from one side of the light, over the heatsinks and out the other side.
Image: Black Dog LED fan clearance
As I mentioned previously, some of the larger Black Dog LED units will emit a lot of heat since they are drawing over 800 watts or 1000 watts, respectively. I enjoy the sheer power of these larger units, but they do put out a decent amount of heat. Just because they are LEDs, it does not mean that they don’t emit heat. Be cognizant of the heatload of the larger fixtures and adjust your grow room environment accordingly.
The PhytoMAX-2 series is well constructed and this is noticeable as soon as you pick one up. It is solid, sturdy and would do some serious damage if you threw it at someone. But I don’t recommend this.
The glass plate that once stood in front of the LEDs has been removed in the new series, so the fixture is less fragile than before. Yet, you would still want to be careful to not bump the front of the fixture where all of the LEDs and circuitry reside. Too hard of a bump on a corner could damage the board.
Image: Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2 600
The new fixtures are designed and assembled in Colorado, USA. The original PhytoMAX series was designed in the USA and assembled overseas.
The PhytoMAX-2 series is ETL certified to UL safety standards. It is also CE certified for the European Union. The fixtures also hold an FCC certification (electromagnetic interference limits) and are RoHS compliant (hazardous substance compliant).
In summary, the lights are safe to use in a home or commercial application in the US and Canada.
Black Dog LED claims a 6-12 month average return on investment. Since this is too short of a time period to assume it is strictly from energy savings, it must be from additional revenue from increased yield.
Hang it up. Plug it in. Turn it on. It's that simple. There is no additional preparation or setup required.
The PhytoMAX-2 series contains a flexible driver rated for 120VAC or 240VAC. The unit is shipped with a 120VAC power cord, so if a 240VAC cord is needed, it will need to be requested.
Hanging height varies for each of the different lights and for the vegetative and flowering footprint. As stated previously, ensure you have enough clearance to hang the PhytoMAX-2 grow light in your grow room or tent. You can use the flowering footprint sizes for vegetative growth, although you may need to increase fertilizer and CO2 to make full use of the extra light if you are Vegging in an area smaller than the medium recommended flowering footprint.
Image: PhytoMAX-2 hanging instructions
All PhytoMAX-2 lights come with a limited lifetime warranty. In the rare and unfortunate event that something happens with your PhytoMAX-2 grow light (at no fault of your own), Black Dog LED will be able to repair it within 45 days from receipt of the defective product for the first three years after purchase. Between 3 and 5 years, the customer will be responsible for labor associated with repairs and Black Dog LED will be responsible for the cost of parts. After 5 years, Black Dog LED will offer repair services or parts as long as parts are available. The cost of repairs and parts after 5 years are the sole responsibility of the customer.
Black Dog will pay for return shipping and shipping for any repairs within the first 12 months. After 12 months, the customer needs to pay to ship the defective unit back for repairs. And when Black Dog LED sends the light back to you, they will only cover up to $50 of the shipping charges.
Black Dog LED offers a 90-day return policy on their PhytoMAX-2 lights. This is a generous and exceeding common return policy for an LED grow light. However, only one light can be returned per customer and it must be returned in “as new” condition. A 10% restocking fee and the cost of shipping the light to the customer is deducted from the refund when returning a light.
Image: Components included with the PhytoMAX-2 series
If you are interested in more than one unit, please contact LED Grow Lights Depot for the best pricing (email here or call 971-266-0352).
All said, the PhytoMAX-2 series is a BUY!
Why? The PhytoMAX-2 series contains top-bin high-power 5-watt diodes, an improved spectrum, large heatsinks, advanced cooling fans, and an extended warranty. Most importantly, the fixtures sufficiently cover their claimed footprint with a good amount of PAR needed for lush growth and quality yields.
I like that Black Dog LED is honest and they provide a lot of data to backup their claims. I am especially impressed by the plethora of PAR data. Very helpful stuff!
I have yet to hear of one bad review of the PhytoMAX series. My only gripe is the high price point, especially for the larger fixtures. However, for units that are drawing 800 and 1000 watts, the cost per watt is comparable with many of the other leading brands on the market. In my experience with using LED grow lights and helping customers chose a grow light fixture, you get what you pay for. A quality grow light will cost you a bit, but it is better to pay more upfront on a quality fixture than pay half the amount on a mediocre fixture that is bound to give you issues in a year or two.
I can’t tell you exactly which PhytoMAX-2 series grow light to purchase since the right light for you depends on the area you need to cover and what you can afford. You can purchase a more powerful light to cover a smaller footprint and expect larger yields, or you can purchase a less powerful light, use it in that same footprint and expect slightly smaller yields. Of course, we all want to maximize our plant’s growth and flowering potential, but sometimes our budget can limit our wants and desires.
At the end of the day, I give the PhytoMAX-2 series a 9/10.
View the PhytoMAX series now:
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Or email us here or call us at 971-266-0352 to learn more or get the best deals on PhytoMAX-2.