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Nanoleaf Bloom review: Lighten up the room, and your wallet

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The Nanoleaf Bloom calls itself a dimmable light bulb that doesn't need a dimmer. Thanks to clever programming, the bulb will fade up to full brightness over the course of a few seconds after being turned on -- flip the switch off and on at any time during that period, and you'll lock in the light level at that specific point.

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7.0

Nanoleaf Bloom

The Good

The eye-catching Nanoleaf Bloom uses clever programming to dim without the need for a dimmer. It's also the most efficient 75W replacement LED we've come across.

The Bad

The Nanoleaf's dimming trick isn't as precise as more common methods, and might not add enough functionality to justify the price tag.

The Bottom Line

With LED and smart lighting prices continuing to fall, $40 feels pretty steep for a single non-connected bulb, even one as unique as this one.

That's a pretty neat trick from a pretty neat-looking bulb, but you'll have to pony up if you want to try one out. Reserving a Nanoleaf Bloom from the Toronto-based startup's already-successful Kickstarter campaign will cost you $40 -- roughly AU$45, or £25 in the UK. That price is more than twice as much as you'll spend on LEDs from brands like Philips and Cree that boast comparable brightness and efficiency specs.

That $40 price tag is also higher than some of the increasingly affordable smart bulbs we've seen lately, and those offer built-in dimming smarts of their own, along with automation capabilities. It's easy to like the Nanoleaf Bloom, but with competition like that, it's hard to see the value.

The Nanoleaf Bloom LED dims without a dimmer (pictures)

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Available in grey or black (or a variety of colors for bulk orders), the Nanoleaf Bloom sports the same, unique, 3D-printed exoskeleton as its predecessor, last year's NanoLight (now known as the Nanoleaf One). That product ultimately raised well over 10 times its funding goal, and Nanoleaf looks to have the same crowdfunding momentum this year, so it's a design that clearly seems to strike a chord with consumers.

That isn't terribly surprising given the fact that Nanoleaf's light bulbs look utterly unlike anything else in the lighting aisle. There's an audacious quality to the diode-dotted jigsaw assembly, as if you're looking at an early prototype of a futuristic game-changer.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

But from a pricing perspective, the Nanoleaf Bloom is less the bulb of tomorrow than it is the bulb of yesterday. Last year, 75W replacement LEDs were hard to come by, and -- like the original NanoLight -- often fetched prices of $30 or more. Since then, new options have entered the mainstream, and prices have come down considerably. At $40, the Nanoleaf Bloom is priced to compete with last year's LED market, not this year's.

All that said, an elevated price point is justifiable if the product in question offers elevated features, too, and to an extent the Nanoleaf Bloom succeeds in this regard. Beyond the bulb's unique dimming capabilities, the Bloom offers exceptional efficiency, putting out 1,200 lumens from a power draw of just 10 watts. That's dramatically more efficient than the nearest competitors from Philips, GE, and Cree.

I was a bit disappointed by the Bloom's color rendering capabilities, though. Our spectrometer measured its CRI score at 77, which makes it incrementally inferior to the other 75W replacements we've tested. While largely an unnoticeable difference, I still expect a bit better from a $40 bulb.

Nanoleaf Bloom Philips 75W Replacement LED Cree 75W Replacement LED
Lumens 120011001220
Watts 1013.515
Efficiency (lumens/watt) 12081.4881.33
Lifespan 30,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours
Color Temperature (stated) 2,855 K (3,000 K)2,679 K (2,700 K)2,586 K (2,700 K)
Color Rendering Index 778178
Weight 4.45 oz.5.80 oz.8.30 oz.
Warranty 2 years10 years5 years
Price $40$16$20

In terms of lifespan, the Nanoleaf Bloom promises a slightly longer-than-average 30,000 hours, though the 2-year warranty isn't quite as long as what you'll get from a major manufacturer like Philips or Cree, which offers a 10-year warranty on its 75W replacement LED.

The team at Nanoleaf also claims that you'll be able to use the Bloom in enclosed fixtures without needing to worry about the light overheating. In the event that it does get too hot, the bulb will automatically dim down until things cool off. In our tests, this feature never needed to kick in.

There's definitely a slight learning curve with the Nanoleaf Bloom. If you want to take advantage of its dimming capabilities, you'll need to train yourself to execute a well-timed double-flick of the switch during the few seconds as it fades to full brightness.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

As you can probably imagine, this isn't always terribly precise. While testing the bulb's dimming feature out, I never felt quite sure of where exactly I was locking the light level in at. A few fractions of a second is all that separates 40 percent brightness from 80 percent, so if you want something specific, you'll almost certainly end up eyeballing it until you're at "bright enough" percent.

Once the bulb is locked into a steady state, you can do another double-flick to tell the Nanoleaf to start dimming back down. You can lock the light level at any point during this fade-out with the same double-flick technique as before, or you can just let the bulb dim all the way down to its lowest setting, which Nanoleaf calls "Night Mode." Night Mode looks good for exposed lighting, and might work well as a sort of nerdy nightlight, but it isn't quite as dim as I'd like.

You can also enter Night Mode while the bulb is off by flicking the switch three times, on, then off, then on. I appreciate that Nanoleaf gives you two simple ways to get to the bottom of the bulb's dimmable range, as this will probably be one of the most common dimming targets people will be aiming for.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

It's worth noting that the Nanoleaf Bloom won't work correctly with in-wall dimmer switches. When I tested it out on a Lutron model designed specifically for LEDs, the bulb would turn on, but wouldn't recognize the wall switch as I dialed it up and down. It did, however, begin pulsing up and down when I set the wall switch at maximum brightness, which looked a little cool, but probably isn't what you're going for. Additionally, the bulb failed to recognize any of its own double-flick dimming controls.

Nanoleaf's team says that they're working on a version of the Bloom that's capable of detecting when it's being used with an existing dimmer switch, then deferring to those controls, but for now, their product is designed for standard, two-setting switches only. Last year's NanoLight, on the other hand, promises to play nice with existing dimmer setups, though I wasn't able to test one of those out.

The Nanoleaf Bloom also won't work with three-way lamps that are designed to work with bulbs capable of putting out three distinct levels of brightness. It will, however, work with fixtures that are controlled by multiple light switches. The bulb also claims global voltage compatibility (100V to 240V), and comes with either an Edison-style screw-in base (pictured), or a B22 bayonet-style base.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

In the end, the Bloom's unique spin on dimming is intriguing, and I like the fact that there wasn't any buzzing or flickering as I dialed the light up and down. However, it's an imprecise and imperfect solution. If you care enough about dimmable lighting to have an interest in this bulb, then I imagine you also care enough to want greater, more exacting controls than Nanoleaf is offering.

In my home, I have a Connected by TCP Wireless LED Kit (currently a US-only kit), with dimmable, buzz-free bulbs that I can control through a smartphone app or a physical remote. I prefer controls like that to the Nanoleaf approach. The scalability is better with TCP, too -- a two-bulb TCP kit currently costs about $80 at Home Depot, with additional bulbs available for $20. Other smart bulb options like the low-cost GE Link LEDs look promising, too.

If you're willing to spend a little extra on a quirky-looking conversation starter of a bulb, the Nanoleaf Bloom certainly has its charms. Ultimately though, I think there's better value to be found elsewhere.

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7.0

Nanoleaf Bloom

Score Breakdown

Design 9Value 5Performance 7