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Which LED bulbs are best for eye-popping color quality? (pictures)

Your LED options keep improving -- but which ones will make the colors in your home shine brightest? Take a look at our comparison shots and judge for yourself.

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Ry Crist
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1 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Which LEDs render colors like these?

As consumers grow increasingly aware of the differences among their lighting options, we're seeing more and more of a demand for bulbs that produce vivid color quality. Some bulbs, like the Cree TW Series LED and the GE Reveal LED, are explicitly marketed for their color rendering capabilities. Which ones produce the most striking shades? We've put together the following untouched shots lit by the various lights we've looked at so far to help you decide for yourself.

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2 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

60W Incandescent

We'll start with a plain, old 60W incandescent bulb.  Incandescents will typically do a great job with color rendering.

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3 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

60W Incandescent

Here's a closer look at those M&Ms.

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4 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

60W Incandescent

And here're the color rendering results from our lab, color by color. Extremely solid numbers across the board, making for an average in the high nineties.

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5 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Cree 60W Replacement LED

Next up is Cree's 60W Replacement LED, which averages a CRI score right around 80.

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6 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Cree 60W Replacement LED

Looking closer at the candy, we can see that the bowl looks a bit yellow.

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7 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

Cree 60W Replacement LED

The red score (column number 9) actually drops into negative territory. This isn't unusual -- most standard LEDs will struggle to clear single digits when it comes to rendering red.

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8 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Cree TW Series 60W Replacement LED

Let's move on to Cree's TW Series LED. The "TW" stands for True White -- this bulb promises a CRI score of 93.

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9 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Cree TW Series 60W Replacement LED

That white bowl certainly looks truer than before, doesn't it?

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10 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

Cree TW Series 60W Replacement LED

Here's the hard data. Cree filters out some of that yellow light, then amps the wattage up to make up for the loss in brightness. This adds up to bulb that's just as bright as before, but better at rendering colors such as red.

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11 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

GE 60W Replacement LED

Let's move from Cree to GE. Here's those same M&Ms lit by the GE 60W Replacement LED.

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12 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

GE 60W Replacement LED

All in all, not bad. This bulb scores in the low 80s and offers very even color-rendering performance.

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13 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

GE 60W Replacement LED

Looking at the numbers, that red score is still low, but it's actually decent compared to those of most other LEDs. All of the colors score just slightly better than average.

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14 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

GE 60W Replacement CFL

Here's something different -- a 60W replacement CFL.

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15 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

GE 60W Replacement CFL

The candy looks colorful, the bowl looks white... it's not nearly as bad a result as you might have expected. CFL quality has come a long way in the last few years, particularly from big manufacturers like GE that have a lot invested in the technology.

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16 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

GE 60W Replacement CFL

Aside from the lousy red score, the numbers are actually fairly solid and on a par with most LED offerings.

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17 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

GE Reveal LED

All right, back to LEDs: Here's GE's take on the high-CRI bulb, the GE Reveal.

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18 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

GE Reveal LED

Like the Cree TW Series, the GE Reveal boasts a CRI score in the low 90s -- though it doesn't compensate for the filtered light like Cree does. This makes for a bulb that isn't quite as bright as it probably should be.

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19 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

GE Reveal LED

Still, it's hard to complain about those colors. Score for score, the GE Reveal is is one of the best LED options for color rendering -- just look at that red score.

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20 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Ikea Ledare LED

Here's a look at the bargain-priced Ledare LED that you'll find at Ikea. It isn't as bright or as efficient as the competition -- but it does boast a very attractive CRI score of 87.

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21 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Ikea Ledare LED

That's a good looking bowl of candy, right there.

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22 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

Ikea Ledare LED

The hard data looks good, too, with several impressive scores adding up to that 87 average.

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23 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Philips 60W Equivalent LED

Now, it's Philips' turn. Here's their standard 60W equivalent LED. Looks a little bit yellowish to me.

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24 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Philips 60W Equivalent LED

A closer look at those candies -- hungry yet?

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25 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

Philips 60W Equivalent LED

And here's the graph, with scores that average out to 81. Not bad, not great.

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26 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Philips SlimStyle 60W Replacement LED

Finally, let's take a look at what the Philips SlimStyle LED is capable of.

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27 of 28 Colin West McDonald/CNET

Philips SlimStyle 60W Replacement LED

Taking a closer look at the bowl reveals that the SlimStyle isn't quite as bright as the standard Philips LED. It also looks to have a slightly higher CRI rating.

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28 of 28 Ry Crist/CNET

Philips SlimStyle 60W Replacement LED

The data seems to confirm this last part, with slightly higher scores with several key colors, including red, yellow, and dark blue.

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