GE 40W Replacement Vintage-Style Filament LED review: Classic looks but so-so dimming from GE's Vintage-Style LED

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MSRP: $19.98

The Good The GE 40W Replacement Vintage-Style LED does an excellent job of mimicking the glowing filament of a classic incandescent, and it does so in stylish retro fashion. It's also one of the most efficient 40W replacement bulbs you can buy.

The Bad The bulb doesn't quite cast light evenly in all directions, and it doesn't play nicely with dimmer switches, either.

The Bottom Line For classic lighting ambiance, GE's Vintage-Style LED does the job, but there are better bulbs out there if you just need something simple to throw beneath a lampshade.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Value 6
  • Performance 7

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Incandescent light bulbs have largely been phased out in favor more efficient fluorescent and LED options, but there's plenty of lingering nostalgia for the bulbs of yesterday as well as plenty of design applications for that golden glow of a filament.

Enter the filament LED, an emerging trend where LED light bulbs arrange their light-emitting diodes in a way that mimics the look of the classic tungsten filament in an incandescent light bulb. So far, these bulbs have mostly come from smaller manufacturers looking to stand out, but now GE is in the game too, with a new 40W replacement "Vintage-Style" filament LED of its own that sells in a $20 two-pack at Sam's Club stores.

Vintage is the right word for it. In addition to the faux-filaments, you get a classic-styled elongated shape, a candle-like 2,316 Kelvin (K) glow and a subtle sepia tint to the glass. It's a design that does a good job of bringing back a classic aesthetic, and if that's what you're going for, I think you'll be pleased with what you get. But if you're looking for the smooth dimmability of old school incandescents, look elsewhere -- this bulb flickered on every switch I tested it on.

Keeping it old-school

GE's filament-style LED mimics the look of yore by arranging the light-emitting diodes into four vertical columns and suspending them in the center of the bulb using filament-esque wiring. It's a pretty simple trick, but one that works well to give the bulb a distinctive appearance.

Turn the LED on, and you'll see a warm, yellow glow that tilts toward the orange side of things, thanks to a faint sepia tint in the bulb's glass. GE pegs that color temperature at 2,400 K, but I clocked it even lower than that, at 2,316 K. The low color temperature fits the bulb and its faux-filament quite well, giving it a golden glow that works nicely with the overall aesthetic.

GE nailed the classic aesthetic with this modern light bulb.

Chris Monroe/CNET

All of this is to say that if you're buying this bulb for its old-time appeal, you won't be disappointed. It'll definitely lend a vintage feel to an exposed bulb setup.

Of course, there's more to design than how the bulb itself looks. Let's start with brightness. With a light output of 440 lumens, GE pitches this bulb as a 40W replacement LED. The average 40W incandescent puts out about 490 lumens, so it's fractionally less bright than the bulbs it's aiming to replace, but still comfortably in the ballpark.

GE's filament LED vs. other 40w replacement LEDs

GE Vintage-Style Filament LED Osram 40W Replacement LED Cree 40W Replacement LED Philips 40W Replacement LED Ikea Ledare LED
Lumens (measured / stated) 447 / 440 496 / 450 483 / 450 479 / 470 658 / 600
Watts 5 6 6 8 10
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 89 83 81 60 66
Yearly energy cost (3 hr. per day @ .11 kWh) $0.60 $0.72 $0.72 $0.96 $1.20
Color temperature (measured / stated) 2,316 K / 2,400 K 2,561 K / 2,700 K 2,608 K / 2,700 K 2,646 K / 2,700 K 2,632 K / 2,700 K
Other color temperatures (price difference) none 5,000 K (+$1) 5,000 K (+$1) 5,000 K (+$1) none
Color rendering index 80 78 80 80 88
Dimmable range 0.0 - 100% 3.8 - 100% 3.5 - 100% 0.8 - 100% 6.3 - 100%
Dimmer switch flicker/buzz Moderate Light Light None None
Lifespan 15,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours
Weight 1.30 oz. 3.05 oz. 3.70 oz. 4.50 oz. 4.10 oz.
Warranty 5 years 5 years 10 years 5 years None
Price $20 (2-pack) $8 $10 $12 $5

GE's bulb puts out those lumens out from a power draw of just 5 watts -- less than any of the other 40W replacements I've tested to date. What's more, that number might be a bit conservative, as in my lighting tests, the bulb's power draw came in even lower than stated.

That puts the bulb's efficiency right around 90 lumens per watt, which is, again, better than any of the other 40W replacements I've tested. Run the thing for an average of three hours per day, and it'll add just 60 cents to your energy bill each year. A 40W incandescent, on the other hand, would add about $5 to your bill.

GE's filament LED is highly efficient, but it doesn't quite put its light out evenly in all directions.

Chris Monroe/CNET

At $10 per bulb, that gives GE's filament LED a payback period of about two and a half years, after which GE says it should continue to last for at least another decade. That's very good considering that the bulb comes with a five-year warranty, but keep in mind that other LEDs we like -- namely, the Osram 40W Replacement LED -- cost a little bit less. Many of those also boast considerably longer lifespans.

Something else to consider with regard to bulb design is the direction of its light output. GE's bulb puts out light in all directions, but it doesn't quite do so in even fashion -- you'll get more light up above the bulb than you will down below it. That's understandable to a point, as GE looks to have sacrificed a certain degree of omnidirectionality in favor of the bulb's vintage design. Just be aware that there are better bulbs to read beneath.

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