Cree 11W LED with 4Flow Filament design (soft white) review: Cree's new LED offers upfront incandescent appeal

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The Good The Cree 4Flow LED sports an appealingly familiar design, and offers better brightness and dimming performance than its predecessor.

The Bad Cree shortened its trademark 10-year warranty down to 3 years for this bulb. It's also slightly less efficient than the original.

The Bottom Line This simple, low-cost LED is a strong performer with plenty of upfront value.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Value 8
  • Performance 8

Everything old is new again. Case in point: Cree's new LED, built to imitate the incandescents of old as closely as possible. It's an understandable addition to Cree's lineup, given the recent changes to the lighting landscape. With phased-out incandescents gradually disappearing from store shelves, more and more consumers simply want to be able to find something familiar.

Consumers want bulbs that are affordable, too, and to this point, Cree's new LED costs just $8 -- its cheapest yet. That's not a huge price drop from the brand's original LED -- at $10, that bulb boasts slightly more efficient performance and a much longer warranty. That LED isn't going anywhere, and I think that it might still be the better overall value. Still, if you've been holding out for a solid performing, low-price LED that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, this might be the bulb you've been waiting for.

Ry Crist/CNET


LEDs have been trying to imitate incandescents for years now. First it was light quality, with LEDs of all sorts quickly keying in on a satisfying, yellowy color temperature of 2,700K. Then, we saw bulbs with diodes strategically placed to mimic an incandescent's filament, along with designs that tried to hide the unsightly heat sinks.

Cree's new LED takes another step, ditching the heat sinks altogether in favor of a convection-based build -- Cree dubs it "4Flow." As the LED generates heat, it pulls cooler, ambient air into the bulb, venting out the hot stuff in the process.

This allows for a streamlined build that bears the exact same silhouette of a traditional, A19-shaped incandescent light bulb. Gone, however, is the glass used for the original Cree LED's bulb. Instead, the new LED is built entirely out of lightweight plastic (much like the flattened out Philips SlimStyle LED , which also features a design devoid of heat sinks).

Gone as well is the 10-year warranty, which up until now, Cree has included with all of its consumer bulbs. You'll only get three years of coverage with the 4Flow LED, a cost-cutting decision that Cree tells me it aimed squarely at consumers who simply want the best upfront value at the register. For people who look at lights as more of a long-term investment, the original 60W replacement LED -- and its 10-year warranty -- will remain on sale.

The dichotomy between upfront and long-term value deepens when you compare the new bulb's efficiency specs with those of the original. With a light output of 815 lumens, the new LED is incrementally brighter than the last one, but with a power draw of 11 watts, it's also slightly less efficient.

Cree 4Flow LED Cree 60W Rep. LED Philips 60W Rep. LED Philips SlimStyle LED GE 60W Rep. LED Ikea Ledare LED (frosted)
Lumens (measured* / stated) 835 / 815 746 / 800 864 / 830 815 / 800 805 / 800 658 / 600
Watts 11 9.5 11 10.5 11 10
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 74.09 84.21 75.45 76.19 72.72 60
Estimated yearly energy cost $1.33 $1.15 $1.33 $1.27 $1.33 $1.21
Color temperature (measured / stated) 2,617K / 2,700K 2,669K / 2,700K 2,584K / 2,700K 2,653K / 2,700K 2,562K / 2,700K 2,632K / 2,700K
Lifespan 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 15,000 hours 25,000 hours
Color rendering index 80 80 80 80 80 88
Dimmable range 5.6 - 100% 6.8 - 100% 0.7 - 100% 11.1 - 100% 10.4 - 100% 6.3 - 100%
Weight 1.90 ounces 3.70 ounces 4.55 ounces 2.20 ounces 4.25 ounces 4.10 ounces
Warranty 3 years 10 years 5 years 3 years 5 years none
Price $8 $10 $15 $9 $13 $5
*Lumen measurements include a margin of error of +/- 5%.

You're absolutely splitting hairs here, but compared with the original Cree LED, the new model will add, on average, an extra 18 cents to your yearly energy bill. So, while the new bulb is $2 cheaper at the register, the original would be less costly in the long run, making up that $2 difference after about 11 years of usage.

Cree's new LED is dampness-rated for light outdoor use, so it should work fine as a porch light so long as your fixture doesn't leave the bulb completely exposed to the rain. Cree's team also claims that the bulb is safe to use in enclosed fixtures, though if things get too hot, you might shorten the bulb's lifespan somewhat.

During our initial 60W roundup, the Philips SlimStyle LED left us the most impressed when it came to heat management. From our initial spectrometer readings, the Cree 4Flow LED seems to be right on par with that bulb, which is encouraging, and also not terribly surprising given the similar builds.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET