We first saw the Philips living Colours in 2006 when it was still a concept design and fell in love instantly. It looked fantastic and was such an exciting idea. A couple of years later in 2008 we saw the commercialized version and it looked a little grim. It had lost a lot of it’s initial charm and was a shadow of it’s former self. now another two years later in 2010 I’ve actually gotten my hands on one of the commercial units courtesy of Philips themselves and it’s become clear that I was both right and wrong.
Let’s start with the form factor. It’s effectively an egg. this makes it a little awkward to position in a room but it makes sense once you get used to it. the lamp is more of an object and is designed to reflect light off of walls or ceilings, not to be a direct source of light, so you can’t try and use it like, say, a conventional reading lamp. I found it worked best as a bed-side lamp or alternately as a mood light in a living room. It’s very much an object d’art and clearly designed to be placed somewhere that it can look pretty but not exactly be directly functional in the same way you might treat a conventional lamp.
It’s beautifully designed and constructed. It has great build quality and attention to detail worthy of fetishization. The details in material, assembly and overall product quality are admirable. This isn’t some cheap plastic colour lamp as we were worried it might be. It actually radiates with a sense of quality rather than disposability. It’s just regrettable that it doesn’t have some kind of mounting bracket option so I could be more creative with my use of it.
The remote is a different matter. For one thing it can not be controlled without the remote. If you lose the remote, break it, or it simply runs out of batteries then you’re out of luck if you want to do anything with the lamp. The remote inexplicably uses 3 AAA batteries (an odd number of an odd battery type). Why it couldnt simply use two AA batteries as is relatively standard is a mystery. It also took me a while to even figure out how to get the batteries in the remote – and I’m quite the gadget guy! Once you’ve got that set up you can set the lamp to any hue you like along the colour wheel, as well as adjust saturation and brightness levels. You can even put it on an undocumented automatic colour cycling mode by holding the power-on button for a few seconds.
Nevermind the batteries though, the remote feels relatively cheap and lackluster. Sure it works, and it actually works well with touch-sensitive and relatively intuitive controls but it’s just missing something. What might be nice is the ability to control the lamp without this remote. It uses a wireless control system, so it would be great if I could link it with my Philips alarm clock to have it light up my environment when it’s time to wake up. Perhaps even gradually with the colors of a sunrise. Imagine the possibilities. Instead I’m stuck with this one, proprietary remote. One of these can control multiple Living Colours lamps in synchronization but I would still like more flexibility.
Overall it’s hard to deny that it’s a quality product, extremely well built and with so much care and attention that you can tell it’s very existence is someone’s labor of love. It’s not quite the original concept but it retains the main points without sacrificing too much. The main concerns are that the remote hasn’t been treated quite as attentively as the lamp itself, and that it would be nice to have more flexibility in how the lamp is actually used in the real world. The price is still a bit on the expensive side but now that I see the lamp up close it becomes justified pretty quickly – It’s a high end product and a quality production in every respect. well done Philips, this is a good start and I’d love to see this further developed (and available for purchase in Canada!), along with some of your other concepts.