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Cree 100W Replacement LED (2018) review: Not the best 100-watt replacement LED, but the best for dimmers

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The Good Cree's 100W replacement bulb is bright and efficient, and it dimmed silently and without flicker on every switch we tested it with. It also offers a modest bump in color quality, and comes with a best-in-class 10-year warranty.

The Bad The bulb only dimmed down to an average minimum of 17.1 percent across all of the switches I tested. It was also a little less efficient than competitors that cost half as much.

The Bottom Line It isn't the best value, but this is still a well-rounded bulb with no real weak spots, and a great choice if you need your lights to dim.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Value 6
  • Performance 8

The North Carolina-based lighting manufacturer Cree has a pretty consistent track record in my LED tests, and its newest line of LEDs put an emphasis on brightness and quality of light. Potentially, that makes Cree's newest 100W Replacement LED -- the brightest standard-shaped bulb that it sells -- a pretty appealing pick at $13 each. That's several dollars less than the last version of the bulb, which I liked quite a bit.

Sure enough, the new version performed pretty well in my tests -- but it isn't without a few faults. The LED's 1,606 lumens are as bright as you'd want from a 100-watt-level light bulb, but not as bright as the 1,650 lumens claimed on the box, and not as bright as I saw from the 100-watt replacement version of the GE Relax LED. While it will only add $2 to your yearly energy bill (for comparison, an old-school 100W incandescent will add $12), Cree's bulb was still slightly less efficient than cheaper alternatives from brands like GE, EcoSmart, Utilitech and even the Target store brand.

Cree's bulb offers a slight uptick in color quality compared to the average LED, but it isn't as striking as our top color quality pick, the 100-watt replacement GE Reveal Bright Stik LED.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Cree also emphasizes color quality in this newest line of LED light bulbs, with a color rendering score of "85+." I did indeed notice a slight uptick in its ability to make whites look white and colors look vivid and true, but it wasn't as dramatic of a jump as you'll see from LEDs with color rendering scores up in the 90s, like the GE Reveal line.  

Still, this is a recommendable bulb -- even among worthwhile competition that costs less. The reason? Dimming. Many of the bulbs I tested gave off an annoyingly noticeable buzz as I tested them with the various switches of our dimming rig. Not the Cree LED. It was a near-silent performer on each switch I threw at it, including an old rotary dial that isn't even designed for LEDs. I didn't notice any flicker, either.

That said, I was only able to dim the Cree LED down to an average minimum of 14.1 percent, which isn't terribly impressive. I much prefer bulbs that can dim down below 10 percent, or better still, 5 percent. The lowest I was able to get the Cree LED on any of the switches was 8.8 percent. For something that goes a little lower, consider the 100-watt replacement version of the Philips Warm Glow LED. It was the runner-up in my dimming tests, and while it buzzed a bit on that rotary dial, it also dimmed silently down to about 6 percent on the more modern dimmer switches.

In the end, this is a superb all-around LED that doesn't have any major weak spots, and that makes it a pretty dependable pick for just about anyone in need of a bright light bulb. At $13, it isn't as good of a value as the surprisingly strong Utilitech 100W Replacement LED, which sells in a two-pack at Lowe's for less than $10, but it's still worthy of consideration.

For more on bulbs like this one, be sure to check out our overview of the best 100-watt replacement LEDs, which we'll update regularly as new reviews come in.

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