The Finally Light Bulb promises superior light quality, but the numbers don't support the claims.
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.
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.
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.
The strangest graph of the three is the fluorescent graph. No smooth slopes here -- instead, you get jagged spikes, each one representing a specific gas that's interacting with the electric current in the bulb to produce light at a specific part of the spectrum. They also tend to peak at yellow, though you'll often see a lot of green, too. Without a continuous slope, you'll often also lose out on brightness.
The Finally Light Bulb most closely resembles the fluorescent graph, which isn't at all surprising given that it's essentially doing the same thing. Again, all of those jagged spikes represent the different gasses interacting with electricity and producing light at different parts of the spectrum. Finally's engineers told me that the induction approach gives them more flexibility with how they use these gasses, and the graph backs that up -- there's a greater variety of spikes at play.
|Finally Light Bulb||GE 60W Replacement CFL||Philips 60W Replacement LED||GE Bright Stik LED||Cree 4Flow LED|
|Lumens (measured / stated)||589 / 800||565 / 800||821 / 800||786 / 760||835 / 815|
|Efficiency in lumens per watt (measured / stated)||41 / 55||38 / 53||97 / 94||79 / 76||76 / 74|
|Yearly energy cost (3 hr. per day @ .11 kWh)||$1.74||$1.80||$1.02||$1.20||$1.32|
|Color temperature (measured / stated)||2,582 K / 2,700 K||2,529 K / 2,700 K||2,701 K / 2,700 K||2,830 K / 2,850 K||2,617 K / 2,700 K|
|Other color temperatures (price difference)||None||None||5,000 K (+$0)||5,000 (+$1)||5,000 K (+$1)|
|Color rendering index||78||70||80||81||80|
|Dimmable range||Non-dimmable||Non-dimmable||Non-dimmable||Non-dimmable||5.6 - 100%|
|Dimmer switch flicker/buzz||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||None|
|Lifespan||15,000 hours (13.7 years)||8,000 hours (7.3 years)||11,000 hours (10 years)||15,000 hours (13.7 years)||25,000 hours (22.8 years)|
|Weight||3.65 oz.||2.65 oz.||1.80 oz.||1.60 oz.||1.90 oz.|
|Energy Star certification||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Warranty||10 years||3 years||3 years||5 years||3 years|
If you haven't figured it out, what I'm getting at is that the Finally Light Bulb is, for all intents and purposes, a CFL. It's a compact bulb that uses fluorescent gas to produce light. It has mercury in it, meaning that you'll need to be careful cleaning up after a broken one. Once it burns out, you'll need to take it to a recycling center (or drop it off at a retailer with a bulb recycling program).
And, like many CFLs, it isn't as bright as claimed. The surgical spikes in that graph come at a cost, as the gap in between each one represents a gap in light output. Sure enough, the Finally bulb clocked in at 589 lumens when we tested it out in our integrating sphere, well beneath the claimed 800 lumens.
Its color rendering index score (CRI) leaves a lot to be desired, too. The CRI is sort of like a grade point average for colors. The higher the score, the better the bulb is at making colors look vivid and true.
Finally claims a CRI score of 83, but we measured it a little lower, at 78. That's better than most CFLs, which commonly score around 70, but not as good as most LEDs, which usually score at least 80. Some, like the GE Reveal LED, the Cree TW Series LED and the Ikea Ledare LED -- which costs just $5 -- manage to do even better.
Those M&M pictures up above paint a pretty clear picture of what I'm talking about. Of the four bulbs shown, the Finally bulb looks the worst to me, and the farthest from what you'll get under a 60W incandescent. For a closer look, including similar pictures for a number of other bulbs, check out our full gallery of CRI comparison pics.
There are still a few redeeming qualities at play with this bulb. As said earlier, it excels in directionality, with even light distribution from all angles. It's also not susceptible to heat buildup in the same way that a lot of LEDs are, which means it'd likely work well in an enclosed fixture, where heat can't escape.
There's also some redemption on the color quality front, specifically with regard to skin. Whereas the Finally bulb finished dead last in our M&M test, it was actually one of the frontrunners when we conducted a similar test using our hands as points of comparison. Only the incandescent bulb and the GE Reveal LED looked better, and only very slightly so.
If you take another look at that graph of the Finally bulb's light output, you'll see that one of the tallest spikes sits on the left, right above the purple part of the spectrum. I suspect that spike is at play with skin tones -- as CNET Appliances producer Tyler Lizenby smartly pointed out, photographers will often use magenta-tinted filters in order to help complement skin tones both light and dark in their photographs.
I'm also a fan of this bulb's 15,000-hour lifespan. Though not as good as the 25,000 hours you'll get from some LEDs, it's still almost twice as long as you'll see from the average CFL. The fact that Finally offers a 10-year warranty with the bulb -- 73 percent of its total lifespan -- is another strong point, and good reassurance for a bulb that doesn't have Energy Star double-checking the longevity claims.
In essence, the Finally Light Bulb is a long-lasting CFL with a good-looking design -- but with overstated brightness and color quality, it isn't a bulb I'd recommend. There are just too many shortcomings. It isn't dimmable. It isn't as bright as it should be. The light doesn't instantly reach full brightness when you turn it on. It didn't pass our color-quality tests, or the eye test. It isn't as efficient as lower-priced LEDs. At $10 (plus shipping), it just doesn't add up.