Being that you're a reader of light bulb reviews, I'm going to assume that this likely isn't the first you've seen of the Cree 60W Replacement LED. By most accounts, the bulb was the rookie of the year in 2013, with impressive specs, a generous warranty, and a low price point that forced the rest of the field to play catch up.
Cree's been building off of that success in 2014 with an expanded lineup of residential LEDs for North American consumers, including brighter bulbs, new shapes and designs, and even a long clamored-for three-way LED. As for the 60W replacement that started it all, Cree cut its price even further, down to $10. Even now, with more options -- and more legitimate competition -- than ever before, Cree's original LED remains one of the top standard bearers of the lighting aisle.
The Cree 60W Replacement LED features a design that's focused on familiarity, which puts it right in line with the rest of Cree's residential lighting lineup. Cree isn't trying to rock the boat with an outside-the-box bulb design like the one you'll get with the Philips SlimStyle, and that might help the 60W replacement seem more accessible to fans of incandescents -- if not slightly disappointing to to design-minded amateur futurists.
Still, it's obvious from looking at this LED that it isn't an incandescent. The conspicuous collar of heat sinks around the neck of the bulb is arguably an eyesore when compared with other bulbs that sport more modern, more streamlined designs.
The look of the bulb is likely a moot point if you're going to use it behind a lamp shade, but if you're looking for an LED that'll fit into an exposed bulb aesthetic, something like the Philips Clear LED might be a better choice.
That said, there's a lot more to light bulb design than aesthetics. Removing the Cree's rubbery globe reveals a tower-like fixture, with the yellow diodes serving as the windows. This is a design departure from much of the competition. The standard Philips 60W Equivalent LED keeps its diodes flat against the bottom of the bulb, for instance.
This tower approach might help the Cree LED achieve its omnidirectional light output, although competitors who keep their diodes in bed at the bottom don't seem to have much trouble with directionality, if any. The more likely benefit is a cosmetic one -- with the diodes extended up into the center of the globe, the light source more closely resembles an incandescent filament.
Another cosmetic concern involves dimming performance. Most bulbs -- incandescents included -- will flicker and buzz to a certain extent when used with in-wall dimmer switches. Cree's LED is no exception. While not nearly as bad as some of the worst offenders we discovered in our recent roundup, there's still a faint, noticeable buzz, along with a small amount of flicker when you dim the Cree LED down past 50 percent brightness.
The Cree 60W Replacement LED puts out 800 lumens using 9.5 watts, giving it a very impressive efficiency rating of 84.21 lumens per watt. That's better than any other 60W replacement bulb that we've tested.
The light that Cree's LED puts out is rated at 2,700 K -- the same low, warm color temperature as you'll get with a standard incandescent. When we put that figure to the test in front of our spectrometer, we got a reading of 2,669 K, which is closer to the mark than any of Cree's closest competitors. Shining the Cree LED over a piece of paper for a quick eye test confirms that the color temperature is more or less spot on.