In this article we’ll go over the data we collected with our lab-grade spectrometer, my thoughts on each of the three lamps they offer, and which one you might want to grab for yourself.
So let’s dive right in!
Alaska Northern Lights offers only 3 SAD therapy lights, the Aurora LightPad Max or Mini, and the NorthStar.
What sets these lamps out from other brands is their sheer power! All of these claim to output over 10,000 lux at 2 feet! And they do! We’ll go over the data a little later.
Aurora LightPad Mini vs Max
The Aurora LightPad models are the newest offerings from this company and utilize high-quality LED arrays.
Thier both designed to be used on a desk and can be angled appropriately.
To use these you simply long press long press on the front power button to turn them on, and then tap to change the brightness settings, of which there are three.
The Mini is quite a bit smaller than the Max and makes for an excellent travel SAD lamp, however, it is VERY bright for its small size and this can make it a bit uncomfortable to use.
The Mini has 180 LEDs while the Max sports 600 and each one has three brightness settings.
Aurora LightPad Mini
Aurora LightPad Max
Technically, the Mini puts out more lux at 1 foot than the Max, but it’s far too bright to use at that distance, hence the much higher lux per square in. rating, so the Max tends to feel a lot more visually comfortable up close.
Unlike the Aurora LightPad models, the NorthStar utilizes two large fluorescent bulbs instead of LEDs:
Its main selling point is the enormous emission surface area, which allows it to output a very high lux without being very uncomfortable in the field of view.
One of the obvious downsides then is also its enormous size! It also only has a single on-off button and one brightness setting.
Comparing the Data
Let’s go over the data from these three lights now!
Using our lab-grade spectrometer, we took readings of each light over the course of an hour at each brightness setting.
Below is the lux reading from each lamp on its highest setting from 1-3 feet away:
As you can see the Mini is indeed the brightest lamp! However, the Max isn’t far behind and has a distinct advantage due to its much larger size which we’ll go over next since I think it’s an important distinction with these very bright lights…
Lux Per Square Inch
Since the Mini has a surface area of around 24 inches and the Max is around 78 inches, the LEDs are spaced out over a larger area, making it less bright at longer distances, but much more comfortable to be around at full brightness.
Let’s put this into perspective with another graph:
You see, while the Mini is technically putting out about 27% more lux than the Max and around 60% more than the NorthStar, it also feels almost 4.5x brighter than the Max and about 23x brighter than the NorthStar!
The performance is there but man this thing is uncomfortable to look at, in fact you simply cannot look at it, it feels like looking at the Sun when it’s on full blast.
While you can stare right at the Northstar no problem!
And this is why even though the LightPad Max will cost you more upfront, it’s much more pleasant to use and will technically be more effective because you’ll be able to use it longer, and closer at a brighter setting.
Color Rendering Index
When it comes to color quality, none of these lamps are anything to write home about.
The fluorescent-based Northstar performs the worst, no surprise there. But the Max and Mini are fairly subpar at around 80.
This isn’t the biggest selling point for a SAD light therapy lamp, I’ll give them that, but it is slightly disappointing since I am a light snob.
So I just thought you should know.
Last, but not least, we can talk about flicker.
Both of the LED models have an acceptable and safe level of invisible flicker:
Now even though the NorthStar is advertised as having a very high frequency 25,000 Hz ballast, during our testing it did not perform well…
As you can see the Northstar flickers quite a bit at a fairly low frequency, such that it can be caught in slow-motion camera.
So if you find yourself sensitive to flicker like this, I suggest going with one of the other models.
Or any of the other ones in our database!
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for a super powerful SAD lamp that can be effective at long distances, the LightPad Mini would be my recommendation. It’s far too bright to be used on its highest setting up close, so plan to use this at a distance of at least 2 feet. The mini is more like a Spotlight than anything else!
One advantage the Mini has over the other two is its small size, so keep that in mind if you travel a lot.
However, my overall favorite was the LightPad Max. It’s more expensive than the Mini, but it’s so much more comfortable. And to me that makes it worth the extra money, because I’m far more likely to enjoy spending the time in front of it that’s needed.
And if you’re sensitive to bright light or glare, the best option by far is the NorthStar. It’s not quite as effective as the Max or Mini, but it more than makes up for this by spreading out its emission over a much larger surface area!