GE 5W Vintage Style LED Light Bulb review: Nifty nostalgia from GE's latest vintage-style LED bulbs

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The Good GE's new line of vintage-style LED light bulbs are brighter than advertised, and all three versions that we tested aced our dimming tests. The spiral filament inside of the bulb looks great and also puts out clean light in all directions.

The Bad You'll find better vintage-style values if you shop around, including bulbs that cost a fourth as much. And, though the effect is more restrained than with similar bulbs, the tinted glass of GE's bulbs might make for light that's more yellowy than you'd like.

The Bottom Line At about $10 each, these bulbs are a great way to create an old-school, semi-industrial aesthetic -- especially if you use dimmer switches.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Value 6
  • Performance 8

"Vintage-style" LED light bulbs are bringing an old-time aesthetic back to the lighting aisle. Inside each one, you'll find decorative filaments that are actually just light-emitting diodes (LEDs) arranged into lines. They look like old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with twisty, eye-catching filaments when you turn them on, but they only use a fraction of the wattage.

The latest among these lighting lookalikes is a new line of vintage-style bulbs from GE. Available in a variety of shapes, each one features sepia-tinted glass and a fake filament twisted into an artsy spiral. None of them is bright enough to serve as a primary light source on its own -- instead, they're designed to serve as retro accent lights for exposed bulb fixtures. Prices start at about $10 each.

I tested three versions of the bulb -- classic, elongated and globe-shaped -- and found them all to be both brighter than advertised and good on dimmer switches, too. I also appreciated that GE labels them using their actual wattage (5W) instead of using misleading terms like "60W replacement" that can fool consumers into thinking that the bulbs are brighter than they actually are, a trick that's all-too-common in the vintage category. Most other vintage style bulbs cost a little less, but GE's good-looking LEDs are still a pretty decent pick if you're looking for a unique aesthetic from your lights.

Those spiral "filaments" are really just thin strips of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Chris Monroe/CNET

The spiral filaments inside GE's new vintage bulbs borrow a trick that I first saw with Feit, which sells similar bulbs with double helix-style filaments. Not only does the spiral look appealing, but it also ensures that all of the diodes are shining straight out of the bulb, making for a clean, even dispersal of light. Other vintage-style bulbs that arrange the filaments into multiple columns or the like will tend to cast ugly shadows when those filaments get in the way of each other. Not so with GE.

GE's vintage style bulbs come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but they all take the same basic approach.

Chris Monroe/CNET

It's worth reiterating that these lights aren't very bright. Each one claims a light output of just 250 lumens -- barely half of what you'll get from a typical 40W accent bulb. That's understandable for vintage bulbs like these that are designed to be looked at when they're lit up (and again, good on GE for playing it straight on the packaging), but it's still something to be aware of before you buy one.

That said, in my tests, each of the three bulbs came back comfortably brighter than claimed -- 300 lumens for the classic, A-shaped bulb, 312 for the elongated bulb and 281 for the globe-shaped version. If anything, that 250 lumen figure is a conservative one, and that's a good thing -- an extra 50 lumens goes a long way with dim, decorative lights like these.