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Light Bulbs

Philips' newest LED light bulb dims without a dimmer

The new Philips SceneSwitch LED changes between three brightness settings each time you flip the switch.

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Philips

Dimmable light is a nice little luxury for modern living spaces, but it typically means hardwiring special switches into your walls or upgrading to smart bulbs with app-enabled dimming. Now, Philips thinks it has an easier solution: LED light bulbs that switch between three brightness settings each time you flip the switch.

They're called SceneSwitch LEDs, and they're intended to be an affordable, no-hassle means of adding dimming to just about any fixture in your home. Philips isn't confirming pricing just yet, but an out-of-stock listing at Home Depot for a similar-looking SceneSwitch LED with a daylight setting prices a standard 60W equivalent at $9 -- about AU$12 in Australia, or roughly £7 in the UK.

With the SceneSwitch LED's plug-and-play approach, all you'll need to do is screw one in. From there, the brightness will cycle between 100, 40 and 10 percent brightness each time you flip the switch off and then back on. Specifically, that comes out to 800, 320, and 80 lumens, or the rough equivalent of a 60W bulb, a weak 40W bulb, and an accent/mood light, respectively.

You'll notice a subtle shift in color temperature, too, with the brightest setting in coming in at a yellowy default of 2,700 K, and the dimmest setting clocking in at an orangey 2,200K.

Essentially, it's the same effect you'll get with a traditional three-way incandescent. The difference is that incandescents like those use two separate filaments inside the bulb -- one for the lowest setting, another for the middle setting, and both at once for the brightest setting. That requires you to use them in a special socket with an extra electrical contact. That isn't the case with these SceneSwitch LEDs: They'll work anywhere, with any common on/off switch.

It isn't the first LED to offer built-in dimming trickery. The unique-looking Nanoleaf Bloom LED took a similar approach back in 2014 -- it gradually fades to full brightness when you first turn it on, and by flipping the switch off and on during that fade, you can lock in a lower light setting. That bulb impressed us, but was tough to recommend at $40 each (about AU$55/£30). A similar LED that costs a lot less sounds pretty appealing to me.

In addition to the standard A-shaped, 60W-equivalent version, Philips says that spotlight and flame-shaped SceneSwitch LEDs are on the way this fall. That'll bring candelabras, sconces and recessed lighting fixtures into play, and help shore up the "add dimming to any fixture in your home" part of the pitch.

Philips tells us to expect to start seeing the new SceneSwitch LEDs in the US on August 1, a few weeks after they're slated to arrive in Europe and the UK. You can expect a full review just as soon as we're able to get our hands on one.

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