Model: LED Desk Lamp
Compatible: All iPods, iPhones*
Satechi LED Desk Lamp
While most of Satechi's Apple-ready accessories haven't appealed to us, and some have been downright questionable, we've hoped for some time that it would release something new and great. Now, the company has debuted something very close to that mark: the LED Desk Lamp ($150, aka Smart LED Desk Lamp), which combines a very good and relatively affordable tabletop light with a USB port capable of charging iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Though there are some non-trivial caveats users should consider before making a purchase, the LED Desk Lamp has won a space in our crowded office, and will work pretty well as both a lighting and charging solution during Apple's continued transition to the Lightning standard.
By comparison with the FLOS/Philippe Starck D’E-light we reviewed last year, Satechi has taken a substantially different approach with the LED Desk Lamp. While each design was intended to be minimalist, FLOS chose expensive-looking materials, grafted a Dock Connector plug onto the top of the lamp, and seriously limited both its range of motion and light output. Apart from the odd sight of an iPad or iPhone sticking out of the top of a light, it was a sexy, professional design worthy of Starck’s reputation, but not universally practical, and very pricey.
The LED Desk Lamp trades D’E-light’s chrome for glossy black or white plastic, wisely moves the charging functionality to the unit’s base, and adds two joints to the light system so that it can be tilted and turned to your chosen position. Satechi includes a more powerful 1,000-1,200 Lux lighting array that’s capable of shifting through four different white balance modes, and like FLOS, uses capacitive buttons as a modern control system. So despite considerable conceptual overlap between these accessories, the LED Desk Lamp does a lot more for a much lower price, and will prove practical for a wider variety of people. That said, it also uses more common materials. The black plastic model we tested began to show dust immediately, but the while plastic model is likely to be less susceptible to that issue. Both have the sort of neutral design that will look nice pretty much anywhere.
From our perspective, the LED Desk Lamp’s best feature is the versatile LED lighting system, which uses separate sets of white and amber LEDs to offer four different color modes. Reading mode (4300K-5300K) uses bright white and medium amber LEDs to reduce eye strain, Study mode (6000K-7000K) uses bright white and dim amber LEDs to “increase attention and concentration,” Relaxation mode (2500K-3300K) uses bright amber and dim white LEDs to “promote relaxation,” and Bedtime mode (2500-3300K) uses only amber LEDs to produce a soft light for “deep sleep.” As well as these options work as pitched for a desk or nightstand, photographers with white balance-challenged cameras may appreciate them even more. We’ve seen quite a few lights that shift through bright, unnatural colors for fun, but very few that let users play with warmth and coolness like this. The lighting is more than respectably bright, with a handful of adjustable brightness settings for each mode, and the LEDs promise 40,000 hours of life with only 9 Watts of power consumption. There’s also a timer, which can turn off the lamp automatically after an hour of inactivity.
While the LED Desk Lamp’s turn and pivot system could benefit from even softer, more fluid hinges, it succeeds in both versatility and stability. The bottom hinge lets the lighting system turn 130 degrees, with 90 degree tilting capabilities, while the top hinge offers 140 degrees of additional tilt. Any position you choose is stable, and although some are impractical for anything but storing the LED Desk Lamp or reducing the space it consumes, the lamp’s raw 32.6” height and 17.6” width can be tweaked considerably for personal preferences thanks to the hinges. We had no problem finding good positions for use in different tabletop locations; the base’s wall adapter and charging ports both can be left facing backwards, reducing the visual impact of their respective cables.
Satechi’s approach to Apple device charging isn’t ideal, but it’s not bad for a company’s first stab at the concept in a lamp. As suggested above, there’s a single USB port on the back of LED Desk Lamp’s base, ready for you to connect a self-supplied Lightning or Dock Connector to USB cable—a DIY solution we wouldn’t have endorsed before Apple starved developers for Lightning connectors, making cabled charging at least temporarily necessary for new iPad, iPhone, and iPod users. The problem with Satechi’s approach isn’t primarily that you’ll need to lay your device down on your desk or nightstand, but rather that the port supplies an unusual 700mA of power: enough for full-speed iPod charging, but short of full-speed iPhone charging, and so far short of full-speed iPad charging that tablet users probably would only want to use this for overnight recharges or occasional top-offs. While the LED Desk Lamp will work with all of Apple’s devices, and the 700mA power is just enough to prevent iPads from displaying the “Not Charging” notification, this accessory really should have been built with additional recharging capabilities.
Overall, Satechi’s LED Desk Lamp delivers a good experience for its $150 “regular” asking price, and is particularly appealing at the company’s current $100 “special” price. If you’re looking for a desktop lamp, you’ll find that this one offers enough brightness and color-shifting functionality to justify the price tag, with the USB charging capabilities coming as a very real bonus. Our hope is that Satechi will run with this concept and release additional lamps with more USB power, different designs, and superior hinge components, because what’s here is a solid start, and we could easily see future models appealing to an even wider variety of users.