Finally light bulb’s Tesla tech gives LEDs a worthy rival

Ever since I improbably started blogging occasionally about light bulbs, I've been waiting impatiently to get a look at the first product from The Finally Light Bulb Company. This start-up company from Cambridge, Massachusetts has decided to bring a Tesla-era lighting technology into the consumer space.

The tech is known as induction or electrodeless lighting. Induction tech is pretty closely related to fluorescent lighting: a magnetic field excites gases in an enclosed tube. Those gases generate UV light, which strikes the phosphor coating on the tube, causing it to glow. (I'm probably butchering the details, so go here for more info.) Induction lighting has been used for years in industrial and commercial settings, where its reliability and efficiency are appealing, but the fixtures have been much too large for use in the home. The folks at Finally have worked to miniaturize induction lighting radically, so an entire assembly will fit into the space of a conventional A19 light bulb.

Finally calls its miniaturized version of induction lighting "acandescent technology" in an obvious play on "incandescent"—and a tip of the hat to the firm's goal, which is to replicate the warm, welcoming light of an incandescent bulb with very few compromises.

Now, I have almost no specific details about how Finally's implementation of inductive lighting works. All I have is presumably a finished product packaged neatly in retail garb. Heck, I'm not entirely sure why I have this bulb apparently before just about anyone else. Probably they sent me one since I kept bugging them about it.

That said, I suspect Finally may have deployed a couple of important tools in pursuit of their goal. One such tool could be a very fast cycle time. Old-school fluorescents cycle at 60Hz, and I believe CFLs generally run at 2KHz. Some induction lights cycle as quickly as two and a half megahertz. Finally may have chosen a relatively high operating frequency in order to ensure solid, steady illumination. Also, Finally was undoubtedly very particular when selecting the mix of phosphors to use, since those determine the spectrum of light emitted by the bulb.

The yellow-striped Finally bulb next to a Cree 4Flow and a conventional 60W incandescent

Whatever else is going on, there's no question that Finally's miniaturization efforts have succeeded. The payoff is a bulb whose shape closely mimics the teardrop profile of a traditional 60W incandescent.

The rest of the Finally Bulb's specs are competitive with the incumbent LED offerings, as well. It generates 800 lumens of light output using only 14.5W, just a touch above the 13.5W power consumption of Cree's TW-Series LED. The bulb's color temperature is rated at 2700K, the same as other "soft white" bulbs, and its $9.99 list price is in the neighborhood of the best LEDs, even if it is a couple of bucks higher than Finally initially projected. The bulb is EPA rated for 13.7 years of operation at three hours per day, which Finally backs with a 10-year limited warranty.

This bulb can go places some LEDs can't, too. It's rated for use in damp environments like bathrooms (though not in direct contact with water), and it can also be used in enclosed fixtures. For most intents and purposes, the Finally bulb can be used just like an incandescent. There is one place where it falls a bit short: it's not compatible with dimmer switches. Finally has said that future "acandescent" bulbs could be made to work with dimmers, but this first product doesn't go there.

The biggest question, of course, is about the quality of the illumination it produces. Finally makes a big claim about how its bulb reproduces that familiar, warm incandescent glow: "Finally, it is the same." That's a tall order since even the best LEDs don't measure up to the full-spectrum illumination produced by incandescent lights.

The Finally bulb's spec sheet says it has a color rendering index (CRI) of 83. That's short of the perfect 100 produced by incandescent bulbs, but it surpasses the 80 rating of the excellent Cree 60W Soft White LED. (Cree's TW Series claims a CRI of 93.) That said, CRI is an imperfect measure, so I wouldn't get too hung up on those numbers.

When I installed the Finally bulb in a lamp and flipped the switch, I was greeted with a bit of a surprise. The product's packaging says it's "instant on and instant re-start," but that summation misses an important reality. The bulb does light up immediately when you flip the power switch, but it only begins at about 50% of peak brightness. The light then ramps up to full brightness over the course of the next five or six seconds, so quickly that the change in luminance is easy to observe. The ramp up is faster than any CFL I've ever seen, but it doesn't match the immediacy of LEDs or incandescents.

In fact, it's hard to tell for sure, but I suspect the Finally bulb may not reach its absolute peak brightness until several minutes have passed. If I'm right about that, though, the effect is pretty subtle.

Get past that one quirk, and the rest of the story is quite good. As you can probably tell from the picture above, the bulb offers pretty much perfect omnidirectional light distribution, with none of the challenges LEDs sometimes face on this front.

The illumination from the Finally bulb is, as promised, warm and inviting. In my view, it's easily superior to any CFL. Each one of my poor friends and family members who I've accosted for an opinion have agreed with that assessment without reservation. The difference is not hard to see.

Stare at a room lit by this bulb a little longer, and you'll notice something unexpected: the light it produces is noticeably pink in tone. If you've experimented with CFL and LEDs, you may have noticed that not every 2700K light source produces the same mix of colors. Many CFLs tend to be predominantly green, and they can cast a sickly pallor across a living space. LEDs aren't quite so skewed, but they tend to be relatively yellow in tone.

Finally appears to have chosen a phosphor mix that emphasizes red. That's an intriguing aesthetic choice. The rosy pink light from this bulb runs counter to the cooler, flatter, and more antiseptic feel of many CFLs and even LEDs. This emphasis on the red portion of the spectrum makes the Finally bulb more appealing in certain ways. Wood tones appear deeper and more pronounced. Skin tones look healthier, too. I haven't yet combined three of them in the fixture above our kitchen table, but I suspect food presentation will be more pleasing, as well.

That said, the green walls of my bedroom take on more of a gray cast in this light, so it's not perfect. If you compare them side by side, the Finally bulb actually looks somewhat pinker than a 60W incandescent, kind of like GE's original Reveal bulbs with the neodymium coating. Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Happily, this product doesn't make the mistake of providing noticeably less illumination than a regular 60W bulb, either.)

Overall, I'd say the Finally bulb's light quality nearly rivals that of my favorite LED, Cree's 13.5W TW Series. I'm not sure I could say one is clearly superior to the other in every way. I do think the light from the TW Series is probably a little more balanced. If I were installing lamps in a room full of wood paneling, though, I'd pick the Finally bulb for that mission.

All in all, then, this is a spectacular start for an alternative lighting technology that's new to the consumer space—and an auspicious beginning for the young company that produced it. If you're into this stuff, you should grab one and try it out. The bulb is worth seeing in action, and you'll surely get some use out of it.

Unfortunately, I don't yet know where you can purchase one beyond the pre-order form on Finally's website. The firm hasn't yet announced a final availability date for its first product or a list of retailers that will carry it. I expect we'll be hearing more on that front soon.  I may have to snag a few more of these bulbs for myself once they become available.

Comments closed
    • ThatStupidCat
    • 5 years ago

    Just saw this and immediately thought of induction cooking. First question is will these bulbs light up if placed near an induction stove like a fluorescent bulb near a power line. And 2nd, can you cook with it if an induction cooking pot is placed on top of the bulb.

    My guess on the first is that it will fry the circuits but the bulb will light up. The 2nd it might be too weak for cooking. What about 10 bulbs? If that works can you imagine celebrity chefs cooking with induction lighting? Never mind. Just getting carried away with funny ideas.

    • tipoo
    • 5 years ago

    I guess I’m just confused by their self professed tesla era tech. 1940 tech? Yipee!

    • mako
    • 5 years ago

    The human eye’s response to brightness is logarithmic, so the bulb could well be ramping for a while.

    Also this is the first time I’ve seen ‘intents and purposes’ used correctly on the internet.

    • just brew it!
    • 5 years ago

    I have to wonder if the high failure rates we’ve seen with CFLs are the result of manufacturing high-voltage electronics on the cheap, and cramming it into a very small space where it is subjected to high temperatures. If so, then consumer induction bulbs may have the same issue when they start manufacturing them in volume. LEDs, OTOH, are inherently low voltage devices.

    Like CFLs, induction bulbs contain hazardous mercury. LEDs contain no mercury.

    Cree has demonstrated that it is possible to tweak LEDs to achieve a decent CRI, and that LED ballasts can be made to play nice with dimmers without driving the cost way up.

    I just don’t see a compelling case for induction bulbs here… am I missing something?

      • albundy
      • 5 years ago

      never had one failure on home depot’s brand CFL’s at a buck a pop. kinda hard to justify paying more for all this new tech that doesnt offer anything significantly better than the 14w/60w rated cfl.

        • just brew it!
        • 5 years ago

        You’ve been lucky then (or I bought before all the bugs were worked out). A fair number of my failed ones were the Home Depot “house brand” as well.

        There’s also still the mercury/disposal issue, although that is largely mitigated if the bulbs actually last as long as they are supposed to since the amount of mercury per bulb is very small.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 5 years ago

          In your first post, you do propose the failure mode is due to manufacturing. When it comes to things plugged straight into line power, there are more variables. You could certainly argue that bulbs should be tolerant of things like line fluctuations, but it’s not as simple as diagnosing, say, a weak PSU in a computer.

            • just brew it!
            • 5 years ago

            Bottom line is, I’ve had many CFLs failures (quite a few of them in the first few months of operation), but only one LED failure so far.

      • cynan
      • 5 years ago

      [quote<]...and that LED ballasts can be made to play nice with dimmers without driving the cost way up[/quote<] Really? If so, that's news to me. I may have to consider replacing some "dimmable" LED pot lights...

        • just brew it!
        • 5 years ago

        Those Home Depot 40W/60W-equivalent Crees seem to work reasonably well with dimmers. The dimming curve isn’t quite the same as incandescents, but unless you’ve got a mix of incandescent and LED being driven off the same dimmer you might not even notice.

    • insulin_junkie72
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<] It generates 800 lumens of light output using only 14.5W, just a touch above the 13.5W power consumption of Cree's TW-Series LED.[/quote<] That's not particularly good in the efficency department. 9-10W for 800 lumens is pretty common in LED bulbs now. The Cree uses more power because it's a high-CRI bulb, and unfortunately a higher CRI currently comes at the cost of higher power usage.

      • Klimax
      • 5 years ago

      Interesting. Seems we don’t use CRI or equivalent at all here. (Or at least never saw it mentioned either on packaging nor in articles) That might explain discrepancy between LEDs here and in NA.

      FIY: for 10W we can get 850lm.

        • insulin_junkie72
        • 5 years ago

        Unless the CRI is particularly good for an LED bulb (greater than 90), it’s rarely mentioned on the packaging, and can take some digging to find. Most common LED bulbs are generally in the 80-85 range or so.

        • epicmadness
        • 5 years ago

        thats due to marketing BS, they favor watts/brightness than CRI, though they do use CRI as a premium gimmick which it isn’t.

    • ChicagoDave
    • 5 years ago

    How do these perform in cold environments? Traditional fluorescent lights typically don’t fare well in cold locations (garages, porch lights) so wondering if these are any better.

    • Aliasundercover
    • 5 years ago

    What does the spectrum look like using a prism or diffraction grating? A CD or DVD makes a convenient diffraction grating.

    Do you get a smooth rainbow like an incandescent? A smooth but slightly lumpy rainbow like an LED? Or bare color spikes like a fluorescent?

      • Generic
      • 5 years ago

      The green walls turning grey observation squares with your impression that the light is pink rather nicely.

      And I too would like to know how the spectrum looks on a CD as Aliasundercover suggested if only out of idle curiosity.

    • Welch
    • 5 years ago

    Im not really clear on what major differences these have over traditional CFL other than shape… If they suffer from warm up times, diminished brightness near the end of their life or changed color as the gases break down then its a deal breaker. They are at least close to a 60w equiv in power usage. This being a first release im hoping to see large strides in efficiency, cost and longevity. At current I dont see any benefits for this bulb over good quality LEDs. The lights (LEDs) in my house are so close or dead on for color that I forget they are LED… how accurate do you really need the colors to be before it doesnt matter anymore? Not being dimmable at this point is also a deal breaker for some and the moisture thing is a flawed pro for the Finally bulb as there are LEDs built for bathrooms and moist enviroments.

    Now… address those small issues, bring the price of these bulbs down to CFL prices (2-3 dollars a bulb) and you have true compeitition for LED technology.

      • Klimax
      • 5 years ago

      Mostly right, just not sure even fixing of those flaws would help. They are still competing with CFL with fast startup times (few seconds) and highly efficient LEDs (10W for 60W equiv.)

      Respectively would compete, if released here. (Seems currently to be NA only)

    • digitalnut
    • 5 years ago

    Does the bulb get warm or hot to touch?

      • Damage
      • 5 years ago

      Yes, it gets hot, but not like an incandescent. More like an LED. A little too hot to handle after a long run, but not scorching.

        • Shinare
        • 5 years ago

        I wonder if we will ever have again a generation of kids that learned “the hard way” to not touch a light bulb until LONG after it has been out.

    • Wildfire
    • 5 years ago

    Based on the industrial induction lighting that I’ve seen to date, one of the biggest issues I’d have with these lamps is that they still contain mercury just like their CFL counterparts. With a (hopefully) longer life than a typical CFL, there would be less waste generated overall, but I think these bulbs would only supplant CFLs if they could bring the price down to $2/bulb.

    • Milo Burke
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]...but I suspect food presentation will be more pleasing, as well.[/quote<] Most prefer to address this at the source: your kitchen.

      • September
      • 5 years ago

      I’m buying three for the kitchen, good point.

        • Milo Burke
        • 5 years ago

        I meant send the meal-preparer (gender non-specific) to a cooking class or something. It was a bit facetious. I guess I was too subtle?

          • oligophagy
          • 5 years ago

          But how can I be sure the cooking classroom will be using acandescent bulbs?

          • Arbiter Odie
          • 5 years ago

          Nah, September was joking too. Both posts in conjuncture made me laugh.

    • jklauderdale
    • 5 years ago

    Any word on the components used in the ballasts? The non-dimming will be overcome eventually but $10/bulb is STILL pricey if the ballasts start to fail after 18months.

    It’s an interesting device but not compatible with my system due to the non-dimming issue

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 5 years ago

    very exciting!!!

    • flip-mode
    • 5 years ago

    Scott,

    It would be pretty cool if you would take your camera and manually set the white balance, in particular, and then also the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and whatever else and then take a picture of the light emitted by each bulb – that would give you some good comparative images that make it easy to see the difference in the character of the light.

      • Duct Tape Dude
      • 5 years ago

      Or even if you got any sort of glass that produces a rainbow, we could compare spectra.

      A perfect prism works best obviously, but plenty of glass things can make a rainbow if you angle it right.

    • Delta9
    • 5 years ago

    The biggest complaint I get from HAM and AM radio loving crowd is that both CFL and LED tech tend to produce a ton of interference or “roaring” on the aforementioned bands. Wonder if these bulbs do the same, maybe Scott could investigate, if the issue seems important to enough people.

      • Goofus Maximus
      • 5 years ago

      At 2 mhz, if poorly shielded, the signals that bulb will interfere with are in the Shortband radio range, but the effect is going to be non-linear in the extreme, since it’s ionizing gases, so the range of frequencies affected could be extreme.

        • willmore
        • 5 years ago

        Are you saying a 2MHz square wave will have a lot of harmonics? Who knew? Oh, yeah, everyone since 1822. Damn you Joseph Fourier!

          • Goofus Maximus
          • 5 years ago

          Well, the nonlinearity isn’t quite a square-wave, but yeah, curses upon Joseph Fourier’s silly simulation of square and saw waves with serial summations of several single sine waves splattered across the spectrum!

    • Deanjo
    • 5 years ago

    I have to say, I’m starting to wonder if Scott’s obsession with light bulbs is healthy. I’ve seen motherboard writeups on TR that have been shorter than his bulb articles.

    • Anovoca
    • 5 years ago

    But will this work in my easy bake oven!?

    • FireGryphon
    • 5 years ago

    Scott, CRI is a measure of how well the light source reproduces color, but is an average. To get CRI there are about a dozen colors that are tested and each color gets a CRI score based on how well it is reproduced. Then the numbers are averaged to give the CRI we see on the package.

    More info at: [url<]http://www.designingwithleds.com/measuring-light-quality-philips-cree-led-bulbs-spectrometer/?PageSpeed=noscript[/url<] With this in mind, I wonder how the Finally bulb matches up. It may produce reds better just like the Cree TW bulb, but with such a low overall CRI, the Finally bulb probably falls short at other colors, making it an interesting but inadequate solution if your goal is achieving the best color reproduction.

      • willmore
      • 5 years ago

      Yep. Some bulbs ‘play games’ with their phosphor mix so that they intentionally get the spectral balance right to hit the more heavily weighted samples in the CRI test. This doesn’t really make them better light sources, it just lets them game the test. So, take CRI values for non-thermal emitters with a huge grain of salt. Like, maybe, a whole cow lick worth.

        • Shinare
        • 5 years ago

        +1 for the cow lick reference. Nice…

        • just brew it!
        • 5 years ago

        Sounds like the CRI needs to be tweaked to penalize bulbs with a high variation of results between the different samples.

    • Chrispy_
    • 5 years ago

    For me, CFL’s stopped being useful when dimmable LED’s came along.

    Cree still leads the way, and they even power my winter commute.

    • Klimax
    • 5 years ago

    Frankly, meh. Late, worse then LEDs we can buy here* and it doesn’t look like it can be sued in many cases. (frequent switching) As for enclosures in bathroom, we have there LEDs too, no problem.

    For 12USD (including taxes) I can have 10W 850lm 270° LED in E27. And it doesn’t look like it will get scaled well to E14 (current max is 5W, ~450lm). Also there are LEDs with 330° for not much more money…

    *Czech Republic

    ==

    If it were here about 2-5 years ago it might have been good alternative to CFLs, but now? Don’t see much point to it.

    • floodo1
    • 5 years ago

    i’ll get in on this. thanks for the tip

    • entropy13
    • 5 years ago

    It’s weird when the closest I can get to having this type of bulb available is when a company in China copies it.

      • UnfriendlyFire
      • 5 years ago

      I’m sure Amazon would have some of those bulbs sometime in the future.

      Heck, you can buy wine from Amazon.

        • entropy13
        • 5 years ago

        If I buy a light bulb worth $10 from Amazon, I’ll end up paying $20 to have it shipped, and $30 to have it “arrive” in the country. Then there would be an “optional” $10 [i<]processing fee[/i<] that will reduce the waiting time from 6 months to "just" 2 months. If I double that particular fee it would be even "faster" at just a 3-week wait. If I want to wait for just 3 days, that would be a $50 [i<]processing fee[/i<].The "waiting time" is from the country's entrypoint (air/water) to my house. So I will be paying $60-$110 for a $10 bulb.

          • FireGryphon
          • 5 years ago

          What country is this?

            • entropy13
            • 5 years ago

            The Philippines.

            In a “per piece” basis I would save more money if I probably buy a thousand of those bulbs, but then for obvious reasons I’d have to spend more money in total. The “fees” doesn’t scale 1:1 anyway, considering there are quotation marks.

            • christos_thski
            • 5 years ago

            Seems like we’ll have to wait for a chinese knockoff in Europe too, no mention of European availability in their site. Cree does not cater to the European market either, sadly.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 5 years ago

    Have they mentioned what price they’re planning to debut an A19 60w equivalent?

    I’m thinking, “Finally! The light bulb that fits my enclosed fixtures and is rated to be used in them.” We don’t have dimmer switches in the house, but we have several enclosed fixtures that only incandescents were really suitable for. If these are reasonably priced and warranty is fair, I’ll be happy to buy a dozen.

    EDIT: Sorry, didn’t see the $9.99. ADD and server patching while I’m reading this. Can’t wait until they make them generally available.

    • Arvald
    • 5 years ago

    Sorry Scott but you are becoming known as a light bulb aficionado and your name carries weight… you are going to get review samples like these. great to see… years before I will buy any

    MadmanOriginal ++ the Light Report ROFL

      • September
      • 5 years ago

      Scott, have you compared the Cree TW to the top Phillips bulbs? I’m not sure which Cree’s I’ve been getting from Home Depot, but the Phillips bulbs from there are consistently better for lamp shades. The Cree’s have found homes in my overhead light fixtures though, so every LED finds a place. Now if I could just find decent 12V T10 wedge LED’s for the 30+ under-counter light sockets I have! (And no, none of the ones for outdoor lighting are any good compared to xeon/halogen color).

    • limitedaccess
    • 5 years ago

    Does the frequency of on/off cycles affect lifespan? Is it more like a LED, incandescent or CFL in this regard?

      • Damage
      • 5 years ago

      My sense is that this should be more robust than a CFL since its electrodeless. The likely point of failure is the ballast electronics. On-off cycles will probably affect the ballast lifespan, I think.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 5 years ago

    The Light Report!

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 5 years ago

    Important question: Do they explode real cool when you smash them?

      • sweatshopking
      • 5 years ago

      AND IS THE GAS INSIDE POISON?

        • Damage
        • 5 years ago

        There is some mercury, but in solid form, not liquid. Apparently there’s so little these are OK to dispose of in a landfill.

          • willmore
          • 5 years ago

          That’s odd. The common fill gas for fluorescent bulbs in called a Penning Mixture.

          [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penning_mixture[/url<] This gas mixture ionizes readily under and EM field. Mercury is included because it has UV light in its emission spectra--which pumps the phosphor in the tube. I'm pretty sure the mercury has to be a gas to do that, though.

            • Anonymous Hamster
            • 5 years ago

            The bulb does cause the mercury amalgam to gassify during operation. They claim that when the bulb is turned off again, the mercury wants to coalesce back into the amalgam.

            • just brew it!
            • 5 years ago

            So don’t break them while they’re turned on? 😉

            • willmore
            • 5 years ago

            So, just like normal flourescent bulbs. Gotcha.

          • just brew it!
          • 5 years ago

          At the end of the day it still works by ionizing mercury vapor though, right? So it can’t *all* be solid. I’m also scratching my head trying to figure out how you get enough vapor to ionize if it is in the form of a solid alloy.

          Edit: Oh, just saw #32’s post.

            • Goofus Maximus
            • 5 years ago

            Apply energy, and matter undergoes phase changes. Solid to liquid to gas. Remove the energy, and the matter phase changes in the other direction.

            I’m still leery of it, and I have more reason, since I’m old enough that most of the fillings in my teeth are amalgam!

          • sigher
          • 5 years ago

          ‘Solid’ mercury? Uhm… You seem to be confused about the material known as mercury (aka quicksilver). It’s liquid under normal atmospheric pressures and inhalation of its fumes can cause adverse health effects with prolonged/heavy exposure even leading to death.

      • Choz
      • 5 years ago

      More importantly, do they light up in a microwave?

        • Goofus Maximus
        • 5 years ago

        Yes. So do flourescents, and even incandescent bulbs. And they all light up because of ionized gases, including the incandescents, which give off an eerie purplish glow. The flourescents (and probably the tesla too) also catch fire in the microwave, so don’t do it! 😉 Every youtube video ends with “It’s on fire!”

        Other stupid microwave tricks you shouldn’t do, include putting glassware in the microwave, after heating one spot to glowing with a torch. Watch as, over time, the glassware turns into a glowing molten mass on the floor of the Microwave.

          • demani
          • 5 years ago

          Why anyone needs to move beyond microwaving Peeps is beyond me…

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