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First look: BlueBulb's iPhone-controlled LED bulb looks to kill light switches

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 
After nearly nine months of research and development, bluetooth lighting startup BlueBulb is finally ready to ship a small batch of initial units to customers in a bid to bring remotely-controlled, multi-color lighting into the mainstream.

While mass production of BlueBulb may be months away, AppleInsider was able to spend some time with one of the first units to roll off the assembly line.

BlueBulb


Introduction



Not quite satisfied with plain white light, BlueBulb uses a unified RGB+White LED array, allowing for a wide variety of color outputs ? one million in all according to founder and CEO Peter Lakits.

Color changing is a neat trick, but the real draw for many BlueBulb users is the promise of a simple to setup iOS-controlled light. Lakits noted that the iPhone is especially well suited for the task, as the handset rarely leaves a user's side.

"It's face-to-face communication," Lakits told AppleInsider, explaining why the firm chose to go with the Bluetooth. "The phone is always with you, even in your bed."

Remote control lighting was once a luxury reserved for pricey home automation systems, but BlueBulb promises to change that by building ad hoc wireless connectivity into every bulb, eschewing the need for a dedicated centralized backbone.

Hardware



The build quality is remarkably stable and polished for an initial production run, though this is to be expected as BlueBulb has gone through thorough testing thanks to a hefty personal investment from Lakits. Constructed out of plastic, the unit is lightweight, but has a solid feel thanks to a large aluminum-alloy heat dissipator, which pulls double duty as a solid housing for the bulb's internal Bluetooth communications components. Lakits said one of the goals with BlueBulb was to keep cost to a minimum while still offering high-tech features.

BlueBulb Side


Like other wireless light bulbs, BlueBulb draws power from a standard light socket, which feeds the comm module and a unified RGB plus white LED array. Because the four LEDs are located in close proximity beneath a single glass seal, the separate RGB hues are more smoothly mixed, allowing for accurate color rendition.

Notably, BlueBulb carries a white LED which, when combined with the light from supporting RGB LEDs, can produce varying color temperatures to suit a user's needs.

"You can soften or harden the whiteness," Lakits said, referring to the gradients of white light offered by BlueBulb. "Sometimes I want a warmer light to relax, or maybe more blue for reading."

Cooling fins run along the side of the bulb, dispersing heat to keep the internal components cool during operation, thus extending their life. In testing, especially when playing with the various color settings, the aluminum had a tendency to become hot to the touch, but the temperature of the plastic bulb covering never rose above nominal levels. In short, the heat sink does its job.

"We faced two major problems with [BlueBulb]," Lakits said, explaining why there will be only two variations of the device at launch. "One is the cooling problem, a 12 watt bulb was just too much."

The second issue, also having to do with BlueBulb's passive cooling system, was how to transmit a Bluetooth signal past the aluminum casing.

At launch, BlueBulb's lineup will be limited to a 6-watt and a 9-watt bulb, each spec'd to 80 Lumens per watt. Our test unit was the latter. Both bulbs fit in common E27 sockets and have a design mirroring their incandescent cousins. Lakits said the company is working on other socket designs, including the GU10 bayonet mount traditionally used for halogen lighting.

Usage



Unlike the Philips hue light bulb, which is controlled over Wi-Fi via a wireless gateway, BlueBulb uses energy-sipping Bluetooth 4.0 technology to make a direct connection with an Apple iOS device. For now, support is limited to the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, third and fourth-generation iPads, and the iPad mini.

A free app is already available in the App Store, which offers a fairly deep feature set with support for color changing, individual control over the white and color LEDs and sleep/wake timers.

BlueBulb App
BlueBulb's control app with pairing mode (left) and user interface (right) shown.


In practice, moving quickly through the palette on the iPhone app generated markedly stepped color changes. For example, when going from blue to green, distinct intermediate colors were easily distinguished instead of a smooth transitional flow from one color to the next. This effect does not hinder usability in any way, and is more of a quibble than a problem.

There is definitely a sweet spot in the middle of "soft" and "hard" white light, with utility falling off toward the two ends of the spectrum. On the warmest setting, light was a bit too diffuse, while the cool blue threw too harsh a light for regular tasks. In between the two, however, there is a large swath of effective color temperatures to play with.

With the BlueBulb's four-LED setup, a single white LED is paired with three RGB LEDs that produce an array of colors. By default, all diodes are set to maximum output, which can create washed out and inaccurate colors. A purple represented on the iOS app may not be the purple produced by the bulb unless the white LED is turned down.

The inclusion of a pure white LED is a clever move, however, as it both boosts the perceived brightness of the color LED and can be used alone to create a pure white light.

The app allows users to control the intensity of the white LED and the bank of three RGB LEDs seaparately. This makes it easier to control the perceived brightness of colored light, though the most vibrant tones were produced with the white LED turned down past 10 percent, consequently limiting usability.

BlueBulb App
BlueBulb's control app with pairing mode (left) and user interface (right) shown.


Connecting over Bluetooth is fast once paired, and latency is definitely not an issue. Color changes are snappy and on/off commands are near instantaneous.

Range appears to be normal, and in testing the unit was available at all points of the house. Transmission distance could be a problem for those with larger homes, however, as the maximum range for the protocol is 50 meters, not including hinderances like walls and floors.

Also, as noted previously, BlueBulb is not connected via Wi-Fi, which means controlling the unit remotely while away from home is not possible. Additional bulbs must be manually paired when purchased, unlike other systems that automatically detect new units via a gateway.

We don't believe these hurdles affect what BlueBulb as a company is setting out to do, which is to build an easy-to-use light bulb that mixes next-generation functionality with a fun, interactive design.

Lakits hopes to first target the gadget-lovers in a first round of funding. Later products will be aimed at a wider audience, and the company already has designs in the works for a multitude of different devices built on the BlueBulb platform.

"We're focusing on the early adopters," Lakits said, "the tech-sensitive society."

BlueBulb Packaging
BlueBulb's control app with pairing mode (left) and user interface (right) shown.


Availability



There are 400 BlueBulbs ready to ship, and those interested in being one of the first to own one can visit the company's FundAnything page. Campaign pricing starts at $59 for a single 9W bulb and tops out at $209 for a pack of four.

Because BlueBulb is using the new funding site to ramp up production, once the first batch is sold, buyers must wait until the $20,000 campaign goal is met before their orders are filled.
post #2 of 65
Not sold on Bluetooth connectivity.
I have Hue in my home and as long as there is a WiFi signal I have control of the bulbs.
I also like that I can remotely turn on and off my lights from anywhere in the world for security purposes.
post #3 of 65
The Wifi version is the lifx. Both look promising. I'll wait a little bit to see which is doing better after the initial first runs of the units. Then after the first major bugs are worked out, then I'll think about changing all my bulbs out to one of these company's smartbulbs.

You don't want to make me curmudgeon, you would not like me when I am curmudgeon.  I go all caps, bold, with a 72PT font and green lettering.  

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post #4 of 65
Note to editor: The Philips Hue does not use WiFi, it uses Zigbee's LightLink profile. In terms of energy efficiency, the difference between Bluetooth and Zigbee is insignificant.

http://www.zigbee.org/DesktopModules/ZigbeeCompanyProducts/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductID=634&Ctrl=ViewProducts

Can you update the story?
post #5 of 65

However, to be fair, the Hue bridge connects to your iPhone via WiFi, but sends signals out via ZigBee. Still, I like that I can control my lights from anywhere and they have an API which means I can make my own light shows with the "Ambify" app!

post #6 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by radioactive76 View Post

Note to editor: The Philips Hue does not use WiFi, it uses Zigbee's LightLink profile. In terms of energy efficiency, the difference between Bluetooth and Zigbee is insignificant.

http://www.zigbee.org/DesktopModules/ZigbeeCompanyProducts/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductID=634&Ctrl=ViewProducts

Can you update the story?

 

Note to radioactive - while the Philips hub uses Zigbee to control the lights, the iPhone talks to the hub via Wifi. :)

 

p.s. Just realized someone beat me to the punch on this. 

 

On a related note, while power is not the differentiating factor between Bluetooth and Zigbee, I do wonder if this approach is limited. After all, there are many good reasons 802.15.4 was developed.

post #7 of 65
I want to see one of these bulbs that's cheaper and colourless. I don't want colours, I want less expensive. And the annoying thing about Bluetooth is I never have Bluetooth turned on on my devices to save power.

What we need in as adhoc wifi lightbulb with an elegantly simple setup. That this still doesn't exist in 2013 is embarrassing for human innovation. Still none of these products interest me. We need more innovation, simpler setup, less colour gimmicks that no regular people want, better software (ugly) and Apple like UX and sensibilities.

Apple should take a stab at this market. That I'd like to see. We need some people with taste and intelligence to take this on. The bulbs should have two settings, one cooler and one warmer, and they should be tested to death to get the exact correct tones of cool and warm.

Every product in this area looks way to similar. Yes, the setup of these bulbs is handier and better, but like I say, I never have Bluetooth turned on and wouldn't leave it on. So I'd be left constantly switching it on an off and at that stage I'd rather just get out of bed and hit the switch.
Edited by Ireland - 5/1/13 at 7:04am
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #8 of 65
Glad to see some competition! I'm sure I'll get something like this eventually--worth it as an entertainment expense!

Brightness per energy used (for both the lighting and the wireless) would be key factors in picking one. I really like what Philips has done, but there's room for options.
post #9 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by radioactive76 View Post

Note to editor: The Philips Hue does not use WiFi, it uses Zigbee's LightLink profile. In terms of energy efficiency, the difference between Bluetooth and Zigbee is insignificant.

http://www.zigbee.org/DesktopModules/ZigbeeCompanyProducts/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductID=634&Ctrl=ViewProducts

Can you update the story?

First post? How's your job at Zigbee or Philips going?
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #10 of 65

Hmm...I wonder if you can change the color of multiple bulbs at the same time.  I'd be interested in the 4 pack if that were the case, though not necessarily for $200.  It kinda looks like you can according to the screenshots?  Would be annoying to have to change the settings on each one individually.

post #11 of 65
Too expensive, too dim, inadequate radiation pattern, poor device support (seriously... ipad1 has bluetooth, etc... there's no reason other than developer cluelessness to limit the app to only the latest devices. Also, there's like a bazillion Androids out there. Derp?)

Other than that, yeah, great.

Someone will eventually get this right. But probably not while LEDs remain so prohibitively expensive.
post #12 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


First post? How's your job at Zigbee or Philips going?

Umm, Zigbee is not a company or product. It's a communication and networking standard. 

post #13 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


Apple should take a stab at this market.

Great then we have rumors of Mac OS and iOS being delayed so the staff could help the lightbulb team.

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #14 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Glad to see some competition! I'm sure I'll get something like this eventually--worth it as an entertainment expense!

Brightness per energy used (for both the lighting and the wireless) would be key factors in picking one. I really like what Philips has done, but there's room for options.

There is room indeed. 

 

One alternative option is to control the switch rather than the bulb. Belkin, as an example, is doing this. Obviously, there limits atomicity of control. But it offers advantages. 

 

Hope this is the beginning of a wave, rather than a transient trend like the Clapper.

post #15 of 65

I can't believe this review doesn't even mention the fact that this bulb will clearly only work in certain, particular, lighting fixtures.  For any fixture where the bulb is visible or partially visible (and I would argue this is something like 60-70% of all lighting fixtures), this thing will mostly show as a giant black blob.  

 

Great. 1rolleyes.gif Just what I wanted. 

post #16 of 65
I thought LED bulbs produce very little heat; that is, after all, one of their advantages. They convert a very high percentage of the energy used to light, not heat. So where does the heat in this bulb originate? Bluetooth?
post #17 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I want to see one of these bulbs that's cheaper and colourless. I don't want colours, I want less expensive. And the annoying thing about Bluetooth is I never have Bluetooth turned on on my devices to save power...

 

I think the reasoning there is that these are decorative bulbs only.  LED bulbs are useless for any kind of serious illumination (despite what it says on the box of millions of "LED flashlights").

 

So the thinking is that if you want to control "real" lightbulbs in your house remotely and don't care about the colour, then the efficient solution is home automation rather than individual bluetooth or Wi-Fi lightbulbs.  For the lightbulb to be able to have the circuitry inside and not overheat, it has to be LED, and LED bulbs are in the "party lights" category, not the "serious lighting" category.  

post #18 of 65

I can't see buying more than a very small number of these bulbs, if any. Every bulb has to be paired with every i-Device. The price is almost 5X what a Cree LED bulb costs at Home Depot. Whole-home automation (including remote management) using Z-wave technology is more interesting--and money better spent, in my opinion. Check out MiCasaVerde.com.

 

The latest technology in LED bulbs to hit the market (such as Cree's) are more energy efficient than CFL (and incandescent of course) but they still generate heat, and heat is an enemy of LEDs. The metal heat sinks with fins on LED bulbs are designed to dissipate the heat that would otherwise dramatically reduce the usable life of an LED bulb.


Edited by Cpsro - 5/1/13 at 8:23am
post #19 of 65

I'm using nine Philips Hue bulbs at home, and they're pretty rock-solid incredible. I don't use the color features much, once I tuned them to the kind of 'white' I prefer in each room, but the remote control, scriptability and gang-control make for a very solid automated system. Being able to turn on "upstairs" with one button (or a cron job) is lovely.

 

I can't imagine wanting Bluetooth. I'd have to be in the house to use it, and probably very close to the bulb in question. We already have regular light switches for that!

post #20 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I think the reasoning there is that these are decorative bulbs only.  LED bulbs are useless for any kind of serious illumination (despite what it says on the box of millions of "LED flashlights").

You haven't checked out Cree brand LED bulbs. These are serious bulbs at an affordable price. Home Depot somehow got an exclusive on selling them. I've replaced nearly every CFL and incandescent in my home with Crees. Cree power consumption measured with a Kill-A-Watt is less than advertised--in other words the efficiency is better than advertised. David Pogue wrote an article about them (and other LEDs) in March. The LED era is now upon us, just be sure to shop wisely because older, less efficient and more costly bulbs are still out there. Yes, some fixtures benefited from having 2 Crees in a Y adapter, but this provides much more light--still with less power consumed--than the CFL it replaced.

 

BTW: The Bluebulb seems unlikely to be as efficient as stated (80 lumens/watt) if any color other than white is selected.


Edited by Cpsro - 5/1/13 at 8:20am
post #21 of 65
I'm worried Anonymous will hack my light bulbs and turn them all black. For the lulz.

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post #22 of 65
People, do your research first.

You may be limited in a few areas with the BlueBulb.
(controlling more than 1 bulb at one time in that 25ft bluetooth range)

This product would go much better if it had home automation possibilities.
(limiting the range of the bluetooth signal on the bulb - walking into the room, and it turning on, once the range depleted signal, 60 second auto shut off)

Philips Hue which I have is a pretty nice product. And the brightness compares.
(600lumens)
The one thing that Philips lacks is application development. They have not updated the app since the beginning of the year. They also do not have weekly timers, it is daily.
With the philips product, you can be away - and turn your lights on when you are away. Which is a great security feature.

Still hoping to see an easier method for home automation!
post #23 of 65
How many years are these going to last, and how long is the warranty? I can hear a giant sucking sound of money with these if they don't last...
post #24 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I can't believe this review doesn't even mention the fact that this bulb will clearly only work in certain, particular, lighting fixtures.  For any fixture where the bulb is visible or partially visible (and I would argue this is something like 60-70% of all lighting fixtures), this thing will mostly show as a giant black blob.  

 

Great. 1rolleyes.gif Just what I wanted. 

Check out Switch Led bulbs. To my eye they have a very elegant design.

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post #25 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post

How many years are these going to last, and how long is the warranty? I can hear a giant sucking sound of money with these if they don't last...
 

LED emitters typically last 50,000 hours. So depending on how much you use the bulb each day it could last for decades. LED bulbs are more like tiny appliances than throw away items.

post #26 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by fyngyrz View Post

Someone will eventually get this right. But probably not while LEDs remain so prohibitively expensive.

LEDs require rare earth metals in production, hence, until more becomes available, the price will stay high, although, considering the amount of LEDs seen in the marketplace today, I would not characterize the cost as prohibitive. LEDs do last a long time so the total cost of ownership is not that bad.

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post #27 of 65

I'm waiting for LIFX. WiFi and no base station. Nice design too.

post #28 of 65

Quote:
Originally Posted by fyngyrz View Post

Too expensive, too dim, inadequate radiation pattern, poor device support (seriously... ipad1 has bluetooth, etc... there's no reason other than developer cluelessness to limit the app to only the latest devices. Also, there's like a bazillion Androids out there. Derp?)

Other than that, yeah, great.

Someone will eventually get this right. But probably not while LEDs remain so prohibitively expensive.

 

When you figure in power usage and lifespan, LEDs can easily cost 5 times less than Incandescents... and depending on the assumptions you make could cost as much as 10 times less. I'm waiting on LIFX. They claim 800 Lumens I think. Nice design. WiFi. No hub. Great looking app. You may be right about radiation pattern though. LED tends to be very focused... doesn't create much spill. But a textured reflector can help. We'll see. I'm going to wait till LIFX is out and see what the reviews are like.

post #29 of 65
How about telling us how bright the light actually is...my big gripe with LED bulbs is they are all pretty much 60W equivalents and 60W is just too dim for many applications around my house - I need 75W equivalents (or 100W) for reading and such.
post #30 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 this thing will mostly show as a giant black blob.  

 

Yeah I know. I wonder why they didn't make the base with white plastic. The programmability is interesting however I can see some issues if not everyone in the home exclusively has an iPhone by their side. For example my housekeeper does not own an iPhone and she needs to turn lights on and off all the time. 

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post #31 of 65
I can't wait to get my LIFX. Everything about the LIFX looks better than both this and the Philips Hue thingy.
post #32 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by fhall1 View Post

How about telling us how bright the light actually is...my big gripe with LED bulbs is they are all pretty much 60W equivalents and 60W is just too dim for many applications around my house - I need 75W equivalents (or 100W) for reading and such.

I can't really see much use in my home either. Mostly I have recessed lighting everywhere and I think those use 100W and my reading chair and desk lamp are halogen. In the dining we have special chandelier bulbs as do the sconces both inside and outside of the house, so I don't know where this would be useful for me.

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post #33 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by fhall1 View Post

How about telling us how bright the light actually is...my big gripe with LED bulbs is they are all pretty much 60W equivalents and 60W is just too dim for many applications around my house - I need 75W equivalents (or 100W) for reading and such.

Use a Y socket adapter for $2 and gang 2 60watt-equivalent bulbs together. You'll have plenty of light then. Cree advertises 9 watts per bulb but measures 7-8 watts. 2 of these bulbs together are significantly brighter than a 23watt CFL.

 

In recessed lighting situations often found in kitchens, try a Philips 424895 (10.5watt) bulb, which directs much of its light downward, compensating well for not producing as much light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb.

 

Home Depot currently sells 6-packs of Cree warm white bulbs for $74.82 ($12.47 each) or individually for $12.97.


Edited by Cpsro - 5/1/13 at 10:08am
post #34 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by stelligent View Post

Umm, Zigbee is not a company or product. It's a communication and networking standard. 
Ah yeah, whatever.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #35 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Great then we have rumors of Mac OS and iOS being delayed so the staff could help the lightbulb team.
Haha!! It's important considering there are many bulbs in every house in the world. Seriously, if Apple solved this they make billions on it and it'd make the world a much nicer place.
Edited by Ireland - 5/1/13 at 10:13am
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post #36 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by jibberjabber View Post

I'm using nine Philips Hue bulbs at home, and they're pretty rock-solid incredible. I don't use the color features much, once I tuned them to the kind of 'white' I prefer in each room, but the remote control, scriptability and gang-control make for a very solid automated system. Being able to turn on "upstairs" with one button (or a cron job) is lovely.

I can't imagine wanting Bluetooth. I'd have to be in the house to use it, and probably very close to the bulb in question. We already have regular light switches for that!

You joined the forum today!?

Waxing lyrical about a product on a review of another product in your first post. I have to assume you work for Philips. Relax, I won't be boycotting your products as they aren't good enough to consider thinking about in that way. And don't try responding, I won't believe anything you say.
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post #37 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takeo View Post

I'm waiting for LIFX. WiFi and no base station. Nice design too.

Yeah, easily the best implementation yet. But not perfect by any means. There needs to be an affordable way to give every LIFX bulb hardware master capabilities, LIFX doesn't have that. Without that it's already too complex for non-geeks, and to inelegant for people like me. Colours are a gimmick, and they are yet again far too expensive. Their app looks streets ahead of the competition in terms of design, though.

But yeah, Philips solution is far worse. You hear that spammers? ;-)

PHILIPS ARE CLEARLY PAYING SPAMMERS TO JUMP ON LIGHT BULB RELATED ARTICLES, INCLUDING THIS ONE. BE WARY!
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #38 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takeo View Post

When you figure in power usage and lifespan, LEDs can easily cost 5 times less than Incandescents.

That's untrue. They are advertised as so many years OR HOURS, whichever comes first. Read the fine print. They last the same as regular light bulbs, perhaps a little longer I'm some cases. We've been using them for years, and since recently regular light bulbs are no longer being sold in Ireland by legal mandate.
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #39 of 65

As far as the lighting brightness goes for those who wish to read- It depends on the light assembly you are using.

I use the hue bulbs in floor lamps with ^ shaped shades, the lighting is bright enough - but you have to remember that LEDs don't produce the same lighting like a normal filament bulb.

The brightness on these is basically like natural sunlight.

post #40 of 65

?

Ok tard. I only joined to comment about this particular device as people are buying these already.

 

As far as the lighting brightness goes for those who wish to read- It depends on the light assembly you are using.

I use the hue bulbs in floor lamps with ^ shaped shades, the lighting is bright enough - but you have to remember that LEDs don't produce the same lighting like a normal filament bulb.

The brightness on these is basically like natural sunlight.

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