North Carolina-based industrial lighting manufacturer Cree has only been selling residential LED light bulbs for a year and a half, but that hasn't stopped it from establishing itself as a brand to be reckoned with. The 40W and 60W replacement LEDs that served as the company's debut bulbs quickly became bestsellers in the lighting aisle, thanks to aggressive pricing and a generous 10-year warranty.
Cree took a similar approach with the next bulb they released, a BR30 floodlight LED. At a time when LEDs were still essentially priced as luxuries, the Cree BR30 came in right under $20 -- still far pricier than incandescents, halogens, and CFLs, but reasonable enough to spur sales all the same.
Now, over a year later, the lighting landscape has changed, with new competitors filling the shelves and prices falling to their most affordable levels yet. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Cree's BR30 -- and neither has its $20 price tag. With intriguing LED alternatives like the Philips SlimStyle BR30 and even superior ones like the GE Reveal BR30 available for less, Cree might be behind the market here, an unusual position for the LED upstart. Until they catch up, buying the company's flagship floodlight just doesn't make much sense.
Aside from its shape, the Cree BR30 LED doesn't differ much from the design of the original Cree LEDs. Take a cursory look at the bulb, and you'll find the same white body with the Cree logo, those same, fin-like heat sinks around the bulb's collar, and the same rubbery coating over the glass.
Designed to replace 65W incandescent floodlights of the same shape, the Cree BR30 LED puts out 650 lumens worth of light, with anything over 600 lumens being sufficient. That light shines out at the same, golden-hued 2,700 K as the original Cree LEDs using a stated power draw of 9.5 watts.
On paper, these are all perfectly good specs for this sort of bulb. That 9.5-watt power draw gives it an efficiency rating of 68 lumens per watt, same as the Philips SlimStyle BR30 and slightly less than the Philips WarmGlow BR30, which puts out 77 lumens per watt.
Another nice spec is that 10-year warranty, which Cree wisely extended across its entire portfolio of consumer LED offerings. For a time, that 10-year figure was unmatched in the industry, and managed to provide some reassurance to LED longevity skeptics. Now, however, we're starting to see other major manufacturers like GE taking Cree's cue, with decade-long warranties of their own.
Cree BR30 LED
GE Reveal BR30 LED
Philips SlimStyle BR30 LED
Philips WarmGlow BR30 LED
Efficiency (lumens / watt)
Color temperature (claimed)
2,690 K (2,700 K)
2,752 K (2,850 K)
2,696 K (2,700 K)
2,730 K (2,700 K)
Color rendering score
Energy Star Certified
In front of our spectrometer, the Cree BR30 LED performed very well. That 650-lumen figure looks to be more or less right on the money, as we were able to rate it right around 655. The color temperature was also quite accurate, falling just ten degrees shy of that 2,700 K target.
In terms of color rendering, the Cree doesn't promise anything higher than average LED performance, with a CRI score of 81. This score, an average of several scores that represent how accurately the bulb illuminates specific shades, includes the same low score on reds that we've seen with other Cree bulbs, something that holds it back a bit when it comes to color accuracy.
To test this out, we set out a colorful photo shoot, lighting each setup with each of the LED floodlights we tested. With its boosted color rendering score, the GE Reveal was the clear winner, with the Philips WarmGlow, the Philips SlimStyle, and the Cree BR30 finishing more or less tied for a distant second. To judge the results for yourself be sure and check out our full gallery of color rendering comparison shots.