Review: LED desk and table lamps

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have been around since the 1960s, when they were put to use providing simple displays in electric components. But the technology has progressed to the point where LEDs can be used as a primary lighting source — not only in our HDTVs and smartphones, but in our homes.

They have incandescent bulbs beat. LEDs are more cost-effective and eco-friendly than both older, filament-based light bulbs and newer compact fluorescents. LEDs last for tens of thousands of hours, they don’t generate a lot of heat, they consume only a few watts, and up to 85 percent of the electricity they draw is converted to light, making them one of the most efficient sources of electric light. They are also versatile in the light they produce, from a soft glow to a sharp, blazing spotlight.

Here, we’ve zoomed in on the “soft glow” end of the spectrum, testing three artfully designed, LED-powered table and desk lamps. All of them use practically no electricity but still provide abundant illumination. There are cheaper LED lamps out there (these range from $80 to over $1,000) but we chose products that put design first, so you won’t offend your Barcelona chair and ottoman set by plopping one of these showpieces on the table next to it.

Energizer Edge Accent Light

There are no power switches to be found on Energizer’s Edge Accent Light ($80). Instead, the sides of the lamp base are all touch-sensitive. One touch and you get the full blast of light from 16 LEDs which kick out a whopping 400 lumens while drawing only a measly 9.3 watts. If anything, the Edge may seem too bright at first. Keep touching the base and the lamp will gradually dim until you find your sweet spot. All of the LEDs are located in the Edge’s short, black base. They’re pointed upwards, so they illuminate the four clear plastic panels from below. The panels glow softly, but the etched dots in the plastic plates show up as a grid of sharply lit pin-points, giving a nice, dramatic effect.

Flos D’E-Light

The minimalist design of Flos’s $396 table lamp — created by French designer Philippe Starck — all but screams ultra-moderne. The chrome-plated, reverse-L-shaped extruded aluminum chassis is about a foot tall, and directly above the lighting element is a 30-pin port for charging an iPhone, iPad or iPod. The 14 LEDs’ power rating of 5 watts belie the amount of illumination they produce. The optical touch power switch can be dimmed to 50 percent with a second touch and powered off with a third. When set to either the 100 or 50 percent level, the lamp offers a rather concentrated beam that’s best suited for a desk or other workspace. And if you put it on a desk, the iOS port sits at eye level, so your phone is within reach.

get-gadget Quality of light is very pleasant. Slick but simple design. iOS dock connector on top charges your handset.

TIRED Lights a small space on a desk, but little beyond that. The iOS connector works great with iPhones and iPods, less so for iPads. Polished chrome shows every fingerprint.

Vibia Mini Sigma Studio Lamp

With a curvy design worthy of the MoMA, the Mini Sigma Studio lamp from Vibia is more sculpture than lighting device (and at $1,460, it’s priced like a sculpture). The Mini Sigma’s single, graceful swoosh of lacquer (in white or black) and metacrylate (a type of plastic) seems to defy the laws of gravity. Integrated into the underside of the nearly 17-inch-tall lamp are five one-watt LEDs. The power switch is hidden in the base. While designed to be used on studio or office desks, the 27-inch width might be an issue on cramped desktops. The very look of the Mini Sigma seems to call for a desk with wide open space. Surprisingly, the array of five one-watt LEDs were rather muted, providing more of a soft glow than anything that could be described as vivid. So, this lamp proves itself to be ultimately more of a sensuous art object than a utilitarian one.

get-gadget Eye-catching design makes your desk look like an art museum. Gravity-defying counter-balanced arm is a marvel.

TIRED Expensive. Impractical as a desk lamp. LED lights are not as bright as expected.

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