A Hi-Tech Lamp For Hi-Tech People: Berkeley Lamp II

For the passed several months I’ve been using a gadget that has become an indispensable part of my home office. This gadget enhances my work environment the way no other gadget can. It provides a soothing affect to tired eyes, promotes wellbeing, and I while I can’t swear to it, I believe it stops hair loss and cures chronic halitosis.

OK, the last two was a stretch, but this gadget does make working in a small office a heck of a lot more pleasant. And you’ll never believe what this gadget is; it’s a lamp.

I know, lamps have likely been around humans learned to make fire. There's nothing highly technical about the lamp sitting on your desk. You turn it on, it makes light. You turn it off, it stops making light. End of story.

Ordinary lamps are about as interesting and yesterday's oatmeal. This is no ordinary lamp; it’s a Berkeley Lamp II.

What’s so special about this Berkeley Lamp II?

For starters, it uses energy saving florescent bulbs. According to the specs you can save up to 75% of the energy normally used to produce the same amount of light with incandescent bulbs. And these are not just any old florescent bulbs. There are two, both designed to produce specific types of light. One provides a pleasant yellowish light that simulate sunlight. The other bulb gives a bright bluish light that enhances what we see. You can use either or both bulbs at once, thus giving you a well illuminated work area.

Which leads me to the second great feature; these florescent lights are dimmable!

Turn on either bulb and, once they warm up a bit, you can dial down the light to 20% of full brightness (according to the literature) using the dimming controls on the base of the lamp. It’s a bit freaky to see at first because florescent light is not normally thought of as being dimmable, but it won’t take long before you start wondering why other florescent fixtures aren’t.

You'll want to dim this lamp because the amount of light it produces is formidable. A standard 75w incandescent bulb produces about 1000 lumens (a lumen is a standard unit for measuring light brightness. The higher the lumen rating, the more light there is at a given distance or in a given area).  The 70w florescent bulbs in Berkeley Lamp II each produce well over 4000 lumens. Each! That's a whole lot of light, yet it's not blindingly bright.

The gee-wizardry doesn’t stop there. Full Spectrum Solutions, understanding that their Berkeley Lamps are for people with gadgets and stuff that needs power, wisely added a 120VAC power jack on the lamp’s base. So plug in your iPhone docks, battery recharger, even your laptop. The juice is where you need it.

Then there’s the lampshade. Again, a term that just seems out of place when talking geek-speak, but this lampshade is in two parts; the upper section directs light upward to provide nice ambient illumination, while the lower section, surrounded by a traditional linen shade, focuses light for local tasks.

Berkeley Lamps are made from 100% recycled materials, so it’s green from start to finish.

So, what’s it like to use such a high tech lighting system? A bit strange at first, especially if you are use to standard florescent lighting. The bluish BlueMax bulb is very bright and makes everything, even stuff you’d rather not see, stand out in stark detail. It’s like watching a movie in high definition that you’ve seen before in standard definition. Suddenly there are details - zits on actor’s faces, bugs crawling in the background, trashy bits everywhere- that you hadn’t noticed before because you couldn’t see it before. Seeing that much detail can be both a good and bad thing.

If you do a lot of close up work then the hi-def lighting is the way to go. If, however, you’d rather not see crumbs and dust bunnies hiding in normally shadowed areas then you might want to opt for the yellow light, which provides a nice, almost natural full spectrum of light similar to being out doors on a sunny day. And because the lamp accommodates two bulbs you can use the yellow light in the upper section and the Blue Max in the lower.

The lamp has a very minimalistic design, a black metal base with three black metal poles rising up into a broad linen lampshade. It can work in a variety of decors, but not all. Full Spectrum Solutions offers three shade colors (white, raspberry, and linen) which may help the lamp fit in your room better. I like the way the lamp looks, but some folks won’t and it’s a shame Full Spectrum Solutions doesn’t offer other styling options.

Berkeley Lamp II is physically big and weighty so it won’t work fit in small places or sit on weak tables.

How much does all of this technological lighting goodness cost? List price is a hefty $US329.00, but the company has lowered the price to $US289.00, which is a bit more palatable.

The bottom line is this: If you sit at a desk all day, especially in an area with few or no windows, and you have space for a largish lamp then this light’s for you. The Blue Max lighting makes things amazingly clear, and the pleasing yellow ambient light will keep you from feeling like you are in a cave.

My desk sits right next to a small, south facing window and I get plenty of sunlight. Even so I turn on the Berkeley Lamp, except on the brightest days, because it makes working at the computer a bit less tedious and I find I can concentrate a bit better.

I’m also always cleaning my desk now because I see more dust and other cruddy bits I never noticed before, which, I suppose, is a good thing too.

The price for such premium dimmable florescent lighting is...premium, but I think it’s worth it, which is why I highly recommend the Berkeley Lamp II.

Review ItemBerkeley Lamp II
ManufacturerFull Spectrum Solutions
List Price
Street Price
Minimum Requirements

120V AC

* Note: My rating system goes like this;

  • Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
  • Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
  • Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
  • So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
  • Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.