The LED age disrupted the lighting aisle, but the Finally Light Bulb has its sights set on disrupting LEDs. Using induction tech that dates back to Nikola Tesla, the bulb offers an efficiency upgrade over incandescents, but promises patently better light quality than LEDs or CFLs.
The Finally Light Bulb team glowingly calls this approach "acandescence," but given that it contains mercury, "afluorescence" might have been a better choice. Like many compact fluorescent lights, we found the Finally bulb to be less bright than advertised, and its lifespan and efficiency aren't as good as the common 60W replacement LEDs it's competing against. Unlike many of those competitors, the Finally bulb won't work with dimmer switches, either. What's more, virtually none of our tests supported the bulb's claims of superior light quality.
The killer is the price. At $10 each plus shipping, the Finally Light Bulb is priced unreasonably high for what it really is: a CFL that uses a different mechanic to move electricity into the bulb, where it can interact with fluorescent gas to produce light. Don't be fooled -- this isn't the bulb you've been waiting for.
Disguised by design
The Finally Light Bulb was built by an impressive team of lighting industry veterans, including a former head of development and engineering for Sylvania and a former manager of lighting at GE's Research and Development Center. That's a lot of brainpower and several decades' worth of experience backing this bulb.
Inside of it, you'll find no filament and no diodes. Instead, the Finally light uses electromagnetism to induce an electric current within the bulb, an approach that dates all the way back to the 19th century. This electric current interacts with gasses in the bulb, including mercury, to produce light. Finally claims a light output of 800 lumens from a power draw of 14.5 watts -- not as efficient as most LEDs, but right on par with CFLs, if not slightly better.
Led by an entrepreneur named John Goscha, the Finally team saw demand for an incandescent look-alike, and built their bulb accordingly. Their marketing materials would have you believe that they're the only ones taking that approach (among other eyebrow-raisers), but that isn't the case. Shop around, and you'll find plenty of LEDs and even some CFLs built to mimic the design and shape of classic incandescents, including many that look almost identical to the Finally design.
Turn the Finally bulb on and you'll see a warm, whitish-yellow glow that fades up to full brightness over the course of a few seconds -- a "warm-up period" that's similar to what you'll see with a lot of CFLs (check out the video at the top of the page for footage of what I'm talking about). Finally's engineers tell me that the warm-up period should shorten somewhat over the bulb's lifespan, but still, it undercuts Finally's claim that their product is an "instant-on" light bulb.
Something else the Finally bulb has in common with a lot of CFL bulbs is that it isn't dimmable -- a distinct disappointment given the $10 price tag. Options like the Cree 4Flow LED dim quite well and cost less.
Frightening flicker GIFs aside, the Finally Light Bulb delivers on its promise of incandescent familiarity -- at least on a basic level. To my naked eye, I couldn't see too much of a difference between its light quality and that of the classic, Edison-style light bulb it seeks to replace. I also appreciated the omnidirectional design, which does a very good job of evenly distributing light in all directions, including down. That makes the Finally bulb a perfectly good light to read under.
That last point is an important one. The way a light bulb looks when you turn it on isn't nearly as important as how it makes the surrounding environment look. To get a better understanding of the Finally bulb's true aesthetics, we needed to give it a good, close look in our test lab.
Fluorescence by another name
In a nutshell, a light bulb is just a device that converts electricity into light. Incandescents do it by using the electricity to heat up a tungsten filament until it glows. LEDs do it by powering semiconductor light-emitting diodes housed within the bulb. CFLs do it by exposing the electricity to gasses like mercury, europium and argon that emit light at various wavelengths on the visible light spectrum.
Graph these three approaches out over the visible light spectrum and you'll see three distinct results. Incandescents will show a steady slope that starts light on the ultraviolet end of the spectrum and then maxes out at the infrared end. This infrared light (anything to the right of that rainbow spectrum in the graph below) isn't visible -- it's heat. Unless you're using the bulb in an Easy Bake Oven, it's a waste of energy, and the main reason why incandescents are so inefficient.
Solid-state LEDs will typically slope up as well, but things peak at the yellow part of the spectrum before falling back down. With much less infrared light, the bulbs don't get quite as hot, but they also tend to look a little too yellowish and struggle to bring out red tones, as well.