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Nostalgia is big business these days, and even your light bulbs want in. Enter a growing crop of "vintage" LEDs with fake filaments meant to mimic the old-school look of yesteryear's incandescents. Distinctive yet efficient, these classic-looking bulbs want to bring early 20th century lighting into the early 21st century.
Feit has been especially aggressive here, with a wide assortment of vintage-style LED bulbs eating up a good-size chunk of the lighting aisle at Home Depot. The newest among them offer improved designs with filaments twisted into spirals, helices and other artistic patterns meant to dial up the nostalgia. And, sure enough, they look pretty darned good.
None of them are as bright as a standard, household bulb should be, but that's sort of the point here. The idea isn't to hide them under a lampshade for practical lighting, but to show them off in exposed bulb setups. You want to be able to look at them and appreciate them without squinting.
For setups like that, they're some of the best-looking bulbs you can buy, and with prices ranging from $8 to $12 each, they aren't unreasonably expensive. That, coupled with relatively strong dimming performance and the efficiency you'd expect from LEDs, makes them an easy recommendation.
First things first, let's talk specs, starting with the centerpiece of Feit's vintage-styled lineup, an $11 elongated 6.5W LED that claims a light output of 250 lumens. I clocked it well above that figure in CNET's lighting lab, with a final reading of 326 lumens -- less than you'd expect from the sort of 40W bulb you might use in an accent lamp, but still bright enough to serve as a functional decoration.
I tested a few of Feit's other vintage-style bulbs, too, and all of them came in over spec. A classic, A-shaped LED that costs $10 and claims a light output of 125 lumens actually measured in at 147 lumens. Similarly, an $8 candelabra LED with a stated light output of 125 lumens actually came in at 152 lumens.
Still, none of those are as bright as more traditional-looking bulbs, and they're not as bright as competing vintage-style bulbs, either. For instance, GE offers an elongated glass LED with a fake filament -- it doesn't look quite as distinctive as the Feit bulb, but it puts out 447 lumens, enough to call itself a legitimate 40W replacement. An A-shaped vintage-style LED from Philips does even better, putting out 855 lumens. That bulb comes in a $12 two-pack, making it a much better value than the $10 A-shaped Feit LED.
Like those competitors, the Feit LEDs each create the appearance of an old-school tungsten filament inside the bulb by arranging the light-emitting diodes into tiny strips. That Feit thought to bend those strips into more artistic designs seems a little obvious in hindsight -- I'll bet that Philips, GE and others are wishing they'd thought of it first. I also appreciated that each of Feit's bulbs did a surprisingly good job of casting light out evenly in all directions, without too much shadowy "texture" to the light (a problem I saw with both the GE and the Philips bulbs).
The color temperature is another important part of the nostalgic design. No problems here, as Feit gave each bulb a nice, low, orangey glow of 2,150 K (the A-shaped bulb I tested uses yellow-tinted glass, and claims an even lower color temperature of 2,000 K). I measured all of them within 20 degrees Kelvin of their target temperatures, which is an excellent and accurate result.
I also made sure to take a good look at the dimming capabilities of each bulb. Like the old-fashioned incandescents they imitate, vintage-style LEDs like these look great when you dim them down low. That makes dimming a key performance metric -- and, all in all, Feit's bulbs did a great job.
Each of the three I tested was able to dim smoothly down to total darkness on every dimmer switch I tested, which is very good. The elongated LED only emitted about 70 percent of its total light output at the max setting on two of the newer, slider-style dimmer switches I tested, but I can forgive that since it's about 30 percent brighter than advertised to begin with, anyway.
I did notice a slow and very slight flicker from all three bulbs at low settings, though. It wouldn't be enough to annoy me, but it was enough to be noticeable, and enough to keep me from saying that they aced the test.
These bulbs aren't bright enough to merit a spot beneath your bedside reading lamp's lampshade, but that's not what they're intended for. For exposed bulb setups where the aesthetic is more important than the light output, they'll do the trick, and they'll perform well on dimmer switches, too.
At $11, the price of that elongated LED is a little high, but not unreasonably so -- and if you're choosing it over an actual incandescent, you'll earn a lot of that money back in energy savings over the long run (at three hours of use per day, it'll add just 78 cents to your yearly energy bill, and it's rated to last well over a decade). As a decorative, artsy accent bulb, I think it's a pretty good-looking pick.