GE Link Connected LED review: The price is right for GE's smart bulb

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.1
  • Features: 8.0
  • Usability: 5.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good GE's affordable Link LEDs boast a strong range of smart features, along with some impressive lighting specs.

The Bad Wink's software is still buggier than we'd like, with numerous glitches compromising an otherwise attractive platform.

The Bottom Line These low-cost bulbs definitely merit consideration, especially if you've already bought into Wink. We aren't sure we'd outfit a whole house with them, though.

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If you need evidence of the rapid evolution we've seen in both the lighting and smart home markets, look no further than the GE Link LED. With Zigbee-powered wireless smarts built right in, each bulb costs just $15. A year ago, that would have been a fair deal for one of its non-connected counterparts.

The Link LED is built to integrate into Wink's emerging smart home platform, which means it'll work with other Wink-approved gadgets -- a fairly wide lineup including the likes of Quirky, Dropcam, Honeywell, Lutron, and even competing smart bulbs from TCP and Philips Hue. Couple that with the low cost of the Wink Hub that controls it all, and you're looking at a pretty compelling foundation for the smart home.

That said, I'm not convinced that Wink is ready for primetime. Product after product, we've come away with the same complaint: glitchy software. Despite getting some things right, the Link LEDs were no exception, causing plenty of headaches during the testing process. There's still a lot to like about them, and at that price point, I think you can definitely afford to try one out. However, I also think I'd wait for Wink to polish the user experience a bit more before buying in too heavily.

ge-link-led-23.jpg
Ry Crist/CNET

Performance and design

GE's Link LED isn't designed to blend in with the bulbs that came before it. With its clear globe and exposed hardware, it makes no attempt to pass itself off as an ordinary light, which is the recent approach we've seen many LED competitors take. Even compared to other smart LEDs like the Philips Hue Lux, the Connected by TCP LED, and the Belkin WeMo LED, the GE Link is the bulb that looks the most conspicuous.

Like those other smart options, the GE Link promises to last 25,000 hours, and offers around 800 lumens of light output at a warm, yellowy color temperature. GE gets there using 12 watts, which is slightly less efficient than the competition, but still a worthy upgrade over incandescents.

GE Link LEDs Connected by TCP LEDs Philips Hue Lux LEDs Belkin WeMo LEDs
Lumens 800 800 750 800
Watts 12 11 9 9.5
Efficiency 67 lumens/watt 73 lumens/watt 83 lumens/watt 84 lumens/watt
Color temperature (stated) 2,830 K (2,700 K) 2,603 K (2,700 K) 2,640 K (2,700 K) 3,058 K (3,000 K)
Lifespan 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours
Color Rendering Index 90 80 79 88
Dimmable Range 10.2 - 100% 1.2 - 100% 0.5 - 100% 3.8 - 100%
Remote No Yes ($20) Yes ($60) No
Bulbs per kit 2 2 2 2
Price per bulb $15 $20 $30 $30
Price per kit $50 $80 $100 $100

Something else the GE Link LED shares with its competitors is smart dimming capabilities, which simply means that you'll be able to dial the light up and down through the Wink app. However, the Link LED doesn't dim down quite as far as the others, which were able to get as low as 0.5 percent of initial brightness before shutting off. We couldn't get the Link LED down any lower than 10 percent, which was a bit disappointing. I also noticed more lag than the competition as I dimmed the light up and down.

In other basic spec tests, the Link LED did much better, most notably in our color rendering tests. In front of our spectrometer, the Link LED registered a very impressive score of 90 out of 100. A high score like that means that the GE Link LED will illuminate colors more accurately and vividly than much of the competition.

ge-link-led-cri-graph.jpg
The Link LED offers outstanding color rendering for the price. Ry Crist/CNET

That score of 90 is better than any other smart LED we've tested, and just a few points shy of the LEDs that sit atop our color rendering leaderboard, the Cree TW Series LED and the Editors' Choice-winning GE Reveal LED floodlight. Neither of those bulbs is smart, and the GE Link LED costs less than both of them.

The bottom line is that the GE Link's lighting specs are surprisingly good given how much you'll pay for it. If you took the smarts out, it would still be a fairly competitive 60W replacement LED.

ge-link-led-18.jpg
The Wink app won't let you dim the light down any lower than 10 percent. Ry Crist/CNET

Smart features

Still, lighting specs are only half of the story here. The GE Link is built to compete with other connected LEDs, so you'll want to be sure and factor in the smart features and the usability of the app before making a buying decision.

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