So, I've had a Finnex 24/7 for about a week and a half now, and while I've spread around a few bits of technical measurements, I think it is time to collect everything, and add on my subjective impressions into a review.
So, subjectively, looking at the light itself, it is clearly based on the ideas that went into the stingray's design. A simple, thin, black metal bar suspended on clear plastic legs. However, this fixture is a bit different from the stingray. First, it is clearly quite a bit wider. Also the top metal wraps all the way down the sides, creating a smooth front edge, while the stingray has a "stepped" edge. In addition to the wire for the power cord, a wire sticks out the other end with an infrared reciever on the end of it. This should allow you to place the sensor whereever you need it. It comes with a bit of stick-tape velcro to help mount it. However, I have found that the tape doesn't stick particularly well to the front edge of the fixture (which is convenient for my tank).
Here's some comparison shots of my 30" 24/7, 30" planted plus and 20" stingray (click to view larger):
So, one of the first things I did with the fixture was to put it on a stand, stick a par meter under it just close enough to make "max" register as 100 PAR (7.5"). I specifically chose 100, as it should allow anyone to treat these readigns as a percentage, and use that to scale numbers meaured for "MAX" mode at any given depth. I then used a time-lapse recording app and an old iphone to record a video of how the PAR varies over time in 24/7 mode. Note the meter used is a hoppy 2015 DIY PAR meter that he made made by modifying a LUX meter with a different sensor and recalibrating it.
You can see the raw video here: note the timestamp in the lower right is aligned within a minute or so of what the fixture is set to.
I then went through the video and extracted the PAR readings at 15 minute intervals, creating a graph of how the PAR varies over time. Creating this little graph.
edit: 5/31: The text data used to generate this graph can be found attached to this post:
Finnex Planted+ 24/7
I next made some quick in-tank par measurements with the fixture on MAX, using the same Hoppy meter. Due to obstacles of the setup, I couldn't measure directly under the fixture, hence my 1" offset. Regardless, these are a few numbers you can work with to give you some rough ideas:
depth/offset 1" 6"
12" - 75
16" - 65
18" - 48 45
20" - 45 40
Note: I found Max, Sunny and 3pm to all be exactly the same light level, and confirmed this in a few exchanges with Finnex. Apparently some early firmware versions had sunny at 80%, but this was decided to be confusing.
Note2 9/23/2015: These numbers are measured in-water. Finnex has released PAR charts for some of their other products that were measured in-air, which will read lower (air-water boundary focuses light, increasing par). If you want to compare it against models, this is very close to the Planted+ light level, maybe a tad brighter. The Planted+/Planted 24/7 are brighter than the Stingray and Fugeray original, but not as bright as the Ray2 in the general sense. The 30" Ray2 is a bit of an oddball since it is really a 24" fixture.
I also made some power usage measurements, which you can find over here:
Finnex Planted+ 24/7
So, I did a one-week growth experiment. This is in my 36 gallon tank with a glass versatop on it, I run low-tech + 5ml CO2 booster daily, overstocked with fish, and EI low-light fertilizers with half-dose KNO3 and extra K2SO4.
Some of the growth is hard to judge as they plants are laying differently in the currents, but there are a few good indicators. One is the rotalla on the left, in front of the filter intake sponge. The other is the crown of willow hygro on the right. Notice how in the second shot, it is now shadowing the front-right side (and causing the camera's white balance to change). Please forgive some of the scaping, my 8 year old has some input in the tank design.
After one week:
At this point, I'm not noticing any algage issues, or snail explosions (another indicator of algae growth).
Operating the fixture:
Using the remote is for the most part striaght forward. Aim the remote at the fixture, press a button, and voila. The fixture also briefly blinks whenever it registers one of your button presses, as sometimes it can be hard to tell if your button actually had any effect.
There are a few more steps when dealing with 24/7 mode. To enter 24/7 mode, you hit the 24/7 mode button, then one of the time buttons (to set the time) and press 24/7 again.
However, if you forget to press 24/7 again, two things happen. First, the fixture doesn't progress in time, it just stays at the color of the time you set. Second, the fixture won't allow you to press any non-24/7 buttons. If you press "max" or "sunny" it just ignores you. Only the 24/7 buttons and the power button will register as best I can tell. If you find your fixture ignoring you, press the 24/7 button and see if that corrects it.
Also, as we all already knew, the 24/7 mode itself doesn't have any adjustability beyond changing the fixtures idea of what time it is... Once engaged, it does what it is programmed to, and doesn't offer any customization.
The bottom section of the remote allows you to create custom colors. There are 4 channels, white, red, green and blue, and each can be set in 10% increments from 0% to 100% brightness, which offers you 10,000 possible light settings total (some more useful than others).
When you create a custom color, just press one of the M1-M4 buttons to store it, and then you can recall it at any time just by hitting that button again.
However, this brings up another pitfall. If you tinker with the color buttons and don't want to save your color, make sure you don't try to jump to one of your memory settings, that will over-write the existing setting. Instead jump to something like "cloudy" or "max" before going to one of your stored presents.
Of course I took the fixture apart a bit, although I don't suggest doing so yourself. The wires are actually quite short and it is difficult to get things apart without straining the wires.
Regardless, here's a picture of the controller board. The build quality seems reasonable for typical commercial work. There is some skewing is visible on one of the resistors right-of-center (black thing with 103 on it), and the solder flow on the right pin of the crystal (large metal can on the left) is a bit uneven. None of this is particularly bad, it is just minor imperfections. All of the connections appear to be solid, and none of the work is shoddy by any stretch of the imagination.
Also, another thing I noticed is the whole board is coated in a thin layer of conformal coating. Notice how the 2 transistors over by the wires on the right look wet? This is good as it protects the board somewhat from water, a real danger in aquarium use. However, it also means modifying the board in any way is more difficult, for anyone who was thinking of doing such things.
So, after a week of using 24/7 mode, I like it, at least on my 20" deep tank. If you've got a noticeably shallower tank, the 24/7 mode may be too much light for you, but I don't really have a good way of testing that myself. Anyway, I find myself liking the fact that the aquarium is at least lit well enough for me to watch the tank in the morning and late evening, but the light isn't on very strongly at these hours, not enough to cause any major algae issues.
- I generally like the light level choices and colors for 24/7 mode.
- excellent value, bright, adjustable, and not expensive
- Bright fixture with customizable colors at a low price
- 24/7 mode is a bonus
- slick looks
- stands taller than older Planted+, getting better light spread.
- build quality is reasonable, even in places most don't look.
- blinking on button press makes it easy to be sure your command registered, but makes the fixture somewhat Arduino+IRRemote automation unfriendly.
- Sunny appears to be duplicate of MAX, making the buttons redundant.
- Moon mode is brighter (by PAR) than cloudy, which is not intuitive
- Getting in/out of 24/7 mode can be confusing if you forget a button press
- Easy to accidentally over-write one of your memory buttons if you are tinkering with light settings.
Things I wish the fixture had, but realize would have raised cost (Hey, I can dream can't I):
- Ability to limit the peak brightness of 24/7 mode (I probably don't need this, but shallower tanks might)
- Ability to bypass the blinking when commanding with the remote
- An indicator light in the IR pod telling us 24/7 mode is actually running (which could also be blinked instead of the whole fixture).
- Included free European sports car
Price point and competition
It is obvious that Finnex made some trade-offs to keep the cost of the fixture down. The current price at Amazon is right around the same price as the original Planted+. Admittedly the Planted+ has 660nm red LEDs in it, while the 24/7 uses more normal RGB LEDs with a 620-630nm red component, but adding the microcontroller and its software is a major price driver too.
Competition wise, this fixture is obviously priced to compete with the Current USA Satellite+, at least looking at prices on Amazon. The 24/7 offers higher light output, and the 24/7 mode, but with fewer dynamic modes (ie: only one storm mode instead of Current's 3).
Current USA's Satellite+ Pro model appears to offer an even brighter light, with a customizable day/night timer built in, but that day/night timer only has 2 programmable levels, day and night, with a fixed 15-minute ramp between the levels at your chosen time. This offers you more control, but no constantly-changing "day cycle". This fixture is also around twice the price of the 24/7.