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Philips unveils the SlimStyle LED Bulb (hands-on)

Philips is thinking outside of the bulb for the next generation of LED lights. Does this new design make sense?

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
3 min read

UPDATE: The SlimStyle LED is available now at HomeDepot.com for a price of $9.97 per bulb. It arrives in stores March 1st.

Consumers looking for new lights in wake of the looming phase-out of 40- and 60-watt incandescents are going to have a new option next month, as today Philips introduced their new SlimStyle 60-watt replacement LED.

Shop for Philips SlimStyle LED bulb (10.5 watt, Soft White)

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The Philips SlimStyle LED reinvents the light bulb (pictures)

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Using just 10.5 watts to give off 800 lumens, the SlimStyle LED offers the usual upgrade in energy efficiency, but the true story is the shape of the thing. Unlike traditional bulbs, it's flat, with a string of LEDs arranged into a horseshoe that arcs out from the base of the bulb. The new shape is designed to do a better job of dispersing heat than traditional LEDs, and eliminate the need for weighty aluminum heat sinks.

Unlike other LEDs, you won't find any metal heat sinks at the SlimStyle's base. Colin West McDonald/CNET

So far, Philips is being tight-lipped about how it'll price the SlimStyle LED, but without those heat sinks, the light should cost significantly less to manufacture. That could lead to savings at the cash register on top of the long-term savings you'll see in your energy bill. In addition, the SlimStyle LED was designed to meet or exceed Energy Star standards, and has already been submitted for qualification. If Energy Star certifies the light, then consumers living in regions that offer energy rebates can expect additional savings. (Slashgear reports that the bulb will retail for "around $9 apiece," with that price planned to drop as low as $3 after energy rebates. Philips is yet to confirm this.)

The SlimStyle LED glows at a color temperature of 2,700K, giving it a warm, soft white tone. For comparison's sake, we screwed one in alongside Cree's 60-watt replacement LED, our current LED of choice. The two bulbs boast similar stats, though the SlimStyle is slightly more natural and less yellowy in tone than the Cree (the difference is more pronounced on-camera than it is to the naked eye).

The SlimStyle LED (right) compared with the Cree 60-watt replacement LED (left). Colin West McDonald/CNET

The clearest difference in what you'll get from the two bulbs comes with directionality. Both bulbs claim to be omnidirectional, meaning that they cast light evenly in all directions, and with the classic shape of its bulb, this is certainly true with Cree. With the SlimStyle, however, you'll notice distinct dim areas to each side of the LED's arc. The effect is especially noticeable if you use the SlimStyle under a lampshade. This isn't to say that the SlimStyle couldn't light up a room, but it is the type of thing that some users might find distracting.

Another key difference between the two bulbs is the warranty. Philips offers three years of limited coverage, while Cree offers an industry-leading 10. Three years is better than anything you'd expect from an incandescent bulb designed to last a year at most, but for an LED that promises to last over 20 years, it's a little underwhelming, and certainly nowhere near as reassuring as what Cree is offering.

In the end, it'll all come down to the SlimStyle's price point. If the absence of heat sinks is enough to keep the cost per bulb somewhere around $10 or less, then the SlimStyle LED stands to make a lot of sense -- particularly to consumers who are making first-time upgrades from newly obsolete incandescents, and who aren't looking to spend very much in the process. Any higher than that, though, and it'll be tough to imagine why you'd go with Philips over the $12.97 Cree bulb.