Philips SlimStyle BR30 LED review: Philips' new SlimStyle LED takes after its sibling
Philips raised plenty of eyebrows when it introduced the original SlimStyle LED earlier this year. Months later, the company followed suit by announcing an LED floodlight that borrowed both the SlimStyle's name and its flattened-out approach to bulb design.
Something else the SlimStyle BR30 LED is borrowing from its predecessor is a slimmed-down price point. Due on Home Depot shelves this month at a retail price of $13 each, Philips' flat-minded floodlight will be one of the most affordable BR30 LEDs on the market. For that reason, I think it's a viable lighting-aisle option, in spite of a few notable shortcomings.
With its lanky build, the Philips SlimStyle BR30 certainly manages to stand out from its LED competitors. With a design that eliminates the need for bulky heat sinks, it weighs in at just three and a half ounces -- less than half the heft of some competitors, like the GE Reveal BR30 LED.
Turn the SlimStyle on, though, and you'd never guess it was such an oddly shaped floodlight. It casts the same wide, downward beam of light as an incandescent floodlight, and one that's practically indistinguishable from other BR30 LEDs. In terms of aesthetics, the radical design isn't coming at expense of the light quality.
Like the original SlimStyle, the new BR30 sports a body and bulb made entirely of plastic. This makes it a little less likely that a dropped bulb will break, but purists might find themselves missing the glass.
As for the SlimStyle's specs, it puts out 650 lumens of 2,700 K light from a power draw of 9.5 watts. That comes out to roughly 68 lumens per watt, which is perfectly decent for an LED floodlight, if not a touch lower than I'd like. Philips' own WarmGlow BR30 LED puts out 730 lumens from those same 9.5 watts, bumping the efficacy up to 77 lumens per watt.
Still, like all LEDs, the SlimStyle BR30 offers a clear efficiency upgrade over comparable 65W incandescents and halogens -- enough so that Philips expects it to earn Energy Star certification within the next few months. If that happens, users living in regions that offer energy rebates for high-efficiency lighting could see that $13 price tag decrease even further.
The SlimStyle is rated to last 25,000 hours, the same as essentially all of the major LED competitors. However, the SlimStyle's three-year warranty isn't as good as the five years you'll get with other Philips LEDs, or the ten years you'll get with the Cree BR30 LED and the GE Reveal BR30 LED.
|Philips SlimStyle BR30 LED||Cree BR30 LED||GE Reveal BR30 LED||Philips WarmGlow BR30 LED|
|Efficiency (lumens / watts)||68||68||53||77|
|Color temperature (claimed)||2,696 K (2,700 K)||2,690 K (2,700 K)||2,752 K (2,850 K)||2,730 K (2,700 K)|
|Lifespan||25,000 hours||25,000 hours||25,000 hours||25,000 hours|
|Weight||3.5 oz.||6.4 oz.||7.6 oz.||4.8 oz.|
|Energy Star Certification||Submitted||Yes||No||No|
With the SlimStyle in front of our spectrometer, we found that it had one of the most accurate color temperatures of any bulb we've ever tested -- just four degrees shy of its claimed 2,700 K. That makes it just as warm and yellowish as the incandescent you might be replacing.
We verified the SlimStyle's stated color rendering score of 80, which puts it on par with the average LED in terms of how vivid and accurate it'll make your colors look. For a BR30 LED with more of an emphasis on color rendering, consider the GE Reveal, which boasts a score of 89.
We were also able to verify the SlimStyle's low 9.5W power draw, though our equipment also picked up on a slight downtick in brightness from the stated output of 650 lumens. While only a difference of a few dozen lumens, it might still be a noteworthy factor for consumers who are especially concerned with the brightness of their bulbs.
Another brightness consideration we examined was with the SlimStyle's performance on an in-wall dimmer switch. We tested a variety of models, and found that at full blast on all of them, the SlimStyle would only put out about 89 percent of its total brightness (a little over 550 lumens). Ideally, you want your bulbs to meet 100 percent of their potential when the dimmer is dialed all the way up.
At the opposite end of the dial, the SlimStyle fared much better. Most LEDs will cut out at a certain point as you dial the light down, but the SlimStyle was able to dim smoothly down to zero. That bottom row of the above chart shows equally exposed, untouched photos of each of the dimmable BR30 LEDs we looked at, as dim as we could get them without the light turning off altogether. Clearly, with a light output of just six lumens or so, the SlimStyle was the winner.
Dimmable range is only part of the story, though. In-wall dimmer switches will lower the light by flashing the bulb on and off faster than the eye can see, which averages out to light that isn't as bright. This can cause electromagnetic interference in the bulb though, which in turn, can cause them to flicker and buzz.
When we tested A19 shaped 60W replacement LEDs, the original SlimStyle was one of the worst offenders with regards to flicker and buzz, and unfortunately, its big brother isn't much better. On every dimmer we tested it on, the SlimStyle buzzed audibly, though not quite as loudly as the original. We also noticed plenty of flickering, especially on an older dimmer switch intended for incandescent use only.
In fairness, almost all of the BR30 LEDs we tested seemed to struggle not to flicker on dimmer switches, with one major exception. The GE Reveal BR30 LED put out steady, uninterrupted light, no matter which dimmer we used it with. It's hard to tell save for the slight wiggle we added, but the above image is a GIF of the GE Reveal animated using the exact same process (and on the exact same Leviton dimmer switch) as the GIF of the SlimStyle.
In the end, I think the SlimStyle's flicker issues are a pretty clear deal-breaker for anyone looking for a bulb to use with in-wall dimmer switches. If that's the situation you're in, spending the extra $4 per bulb on the GE Reveal seems worth it to me.
The final test that we run involves heat, and the bulb's ability to manage it over time. LEDs, like phones, laptops, and other electronics, will see diminished performance as their operating temperature rises.
With LEDs, this translates to a very slight, barely noticeable downtick in brightness during the first 30 minutes of use, as the bulb heats up. After that, the bulb will plateau at a "steady state" thanks to its heat sinks or whatever other thermal management process it uses. The higher the steady state, the better the thermal management.
In the SlimStyle's case, there are no heat sinks. Philips claims it doesn't need them, as the distribution of the diodes is designed to do a better job than other LEDs at dispersing the heat generated within the bulb.
This was the same claim made by the original SlimStyle LED. When we tested that bulb out, we found that it did indeed manage heat better than the competition, with performance that plateaued at a higher steady state than any other 60W replacement we reviewed.
The SlimStyle BR30 can't make that same claim, though. With our spectrometer's eye trained on each bulb, we're able to watch how heat affects performance over time, then graph the results. As you can see by the red line representing the SlimStyle, it did an adequate job, plateauing at around 92 percent of the bulb's initial power output.
That 92 percent figure is roughly the same point at which the original SlimStyle plateaued. However, the standard seems to be higher with BR30 LEDs, as 92 wasn't as good as the other Philips bulb we tested, nor was it better than the GE Reveal BR30 LED, which did the best job of all.
In each case, the downtick in brightness is barely noticeable, if at all. It's also important to remember that bulbs are rated for brightness and efficiency after reaching their steady state, which means the specs on the box should all be accurate even after they've gotten warm.
The real takeaway has to do with enclosed fixtures, where the heat can potentially build up in excess. In cases like this, a bulb with a higher steady state is probably your best bet, and, unlike its predecessor, the SlimStyle BR30 can't claim a higher steady state than its competitors.
The odd design aside, the Philips SlimStyle BR30 LED looks like an appealing value pick. At a price of $13, it's priced at least a few dollars below any of the major competitors. Like its little sibling, it isn't a good choice for anyone using dimmer switches, and I wish it were at least slightly more efficient -- but flaws like these are easier to forgive when you're saving money.
Still, given that you'll potentially be living with this purchase for the next few decades, I think it makes sense to consider spending the extra cash on a bulb that offers a little more. The $18 GE Reveal BR30 LED seems like an especially good deal to me with its impressive performance on dimmers, significantly longer warranty, and dramatically enhanced color rendering capabilities.