Dec. 16, 2013 at 8:13 PM ET
The $13 Cree bulb is long lasting, comes with an unmatched 10-year warranty, dims without any flickering or buzzing, and can easily replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
A good LED bulb needs to replicate an incandescent bulb as closely as it can while keeping energy use low. It needs to cast light in all directions (not just a spotlight on one area), handle odd fixtures like ceiling fans and track lighting, and emit a warm white light. The Cree ticked off all of those boxes. While other LED bulbs tend to focus light in one direction, the Cree spreads it out in a spherical shape. It worked well in all the fixtures we tested it on and handled a variety of different dimmer switches without a hitch — a feat that isn’t as common as you’d think in LED lighting. There is also no noticeable noise while the bulb is running — another rarity — even if your ear is a foot away.
Sal Cangeloso, editor at ExtremeTech and Geek.com called the Cree "the best choice overall." Rich Jaraslovski at Bloomberg said he replaced the incandescent in his bedroom lamp with a 60-watt Cree equivalent and "couldn't tell the difference." Sean Hollister at The Verge also appreciated its similarity to traditional incandescents, saying: "Cree’s bulb [looks] like a traditional incandescent, with a nice warm glow..."
The only downside is the color index, a measurement for how well a bulb displays the full spectrum of color. Incandescent bulbs typically show the complete spectrum and tests run by Popular Mechanics put them at 100 on the index. In comparison, the Cree scores 80. But while it may not show the complete spectrum, it shows enough of it and only uses 1/6 of the power.
The Philips L-Prize was our previous pick and is still pretty well known in LEDs, but to get one that has the same capabilities as the Cree will set you back double the price with only a 6-year warranty. It also has a spotlight configuration so light isn’t spread evenly in all directions. Plus, there’s a slight but noticeable lag before it lights up.
To read more about the best LED bulb, check The Sweethome's guide.
The Sweethome is a leaderboard of supplies for your home where each pick is systematically chosen after a dozen hours of research, expert interviews and tests.