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Cree 60W Replacement LED review: Value shines with the Cree 60W Replacement LED

This high-efficiency bulb offers outstanding value, but the competition might be starting to catch up.

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Ry Crist
Ryan_Crist2.jpg

Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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5 min read

Being that you're a reader of light bulb reviews, I'm going to assume that this likely isn't the first you've seen of the Cree 60W Replacement LED. By most accounts, the bulb was the rookie of the year in 2013, with impressive specs, a generous warranty, and a low price point that forced the rest of the field to play catch up.

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8.0

Cree 60W Replacement LED

The Good

Cree's flagship 60W Replacement LED boasts satisfying performance, exceptional efficiency, and an industry-leading 10-year warranty.

The Bad

Cree's LED isn't quite as bright as the comparable Philips LED, and it buzzes noticeably on dimmer switches.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for value in the lighting aisle, look no further -- this LED leads the pack.

Cree's been building off of that success in 2014 with an expanded lineup of residential LEDs for North American consumers, including brighter bulbs , new shapes and designs , and even a long clamored-for three-way LED . As for the 60W replacement that started it all, Cree cut its price even further, down to $10. Even now, with more options -- and more legitimate competition -- than ever before, Cree's original LED remains one of the top standard bearers of the lighting aisle.

Shining the spotlight on Cree's 60W Replacement LED (pictures)

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Design

The Cree 60W Replacement LED features a design that's focused on familiarity, which puts it right in line with the rest of Cree's residential lighting lineup. Cree isn't trying to rock the boat with an outside-the-box bulb design like the one you'll get with the Philips SlimStyle, and that might help the 60W replacement seem more accessible to fans of incandescents -- if not slightly disappointing to to design-minded amateur futurists.

Still, it's obvious from looking at this LED that it isn't an incandescent. The conspicuous collar of heat sinks around the neck of the bulb is arguably an eyesore when compared with other bulbs that sport more modern, more streamlined designs.

The look of the bulb is likely a moot point if you're going to use it behind a lamp shade, but if you're looking for an LED that'll fit into an exposed bulb aesthetic, something like the Philips Clear LED might be a better choice.

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With the globe removed, you'll find a tower-like fixture, with the diodes extended away from the bulb's base. Colin West McDonald/CNET

That said, there's a lot more to light bulb design than aesthetics. Removing the Cree's rubbery globe reveals a tower-like fixture, with the yellow diodes serving as the windows. This is a design departure from much of the competition. The standard Philips 60W Equivalent LED keeps its diodes flat against the bottom of the bulb, for instance.

This tower approach might help the Cree LED achieve its omnidirectional light output, although competitors who keep their diodes in bed at the bottom don't seem to have much trouble with directionality, if any. The more likely benefit is a cosmetic one -- with the diodes extended up into the center of the globe, the light source more closely resembles an incandescent filament.

Which LEDs flicker the least? (pictures)

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Another cosmetic concern involves dimming performance. Most bulbs -- incandescents included -- will flicker and buzz to a certain extent when used with in-wall dimmer switches. Cree's LED is no exception. While not nearly as bad as some of the worst offenders we discovered in our recent roundup, there's still a faint, noticeable buzz, along with a small amount of flicker when you dim the Cree LED down past 50 percent brightness.

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Cree's LED has a slightly less yellow tint than the comparable Philips LED. Ry Crist/CNET

Performance

The Cree 60W Replacement LED puts out 800 lumens using 9.5 watts, giving it a very impressive efficiency rating of 84.21 lumens per watt. That's better than any other 60W replacement bulb that we've tested.

The light that Cree's LED puts out is rated at 2,700 K -- the same low, warm color temperature as you'll get with a standard incandescent. When we put that figure to the test in front of our spectrometer, we got a reading of 2,669 K, which is closer to the mark than any of Cree's closest competitors. Shining the Cree LED over a piece of paper for a quick eye test confirms that the color temperature is more or less spot on.

Cree 60W Replacement LEDPhilips 60W Equivalent LEDPhilips SlimStyle LEDGE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED
Lumens 800830800800
Watts 9.51110.511
Efficiency (lumens/watt) 84.2175.4576.1972.72
Color temperature 2,669 K2,584 K2,653 K2,562 K
Lifespan 25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours15,000 hours
Color rendering index 80818080
Weight 3.70 ounces4.55 ounces2.20 ounces4.25 ounces
Warranty 10 years5 years3 years5 years
Price $10$15$9$13

For those who like their light more on the hot end of the spectrum, Cree also sells a "Daylight" version of the 60W replacement that costs a dollar more and carries a color temperature of 5,000 K. This gives the light a bright white appearance that borders on bluish. If you aren't a fan of that sort of hot, white light, then you'll want to be sure and shop carefully -- the two bear packaging that's nearly identical, and typically sit right next to one another on the shelf at Home Depot.

In addition to color temperature, we also make sure to test the color rendering capabilities of each bulb that we review. Unlike color temperature, which indicates the tone of the light itself, color rendering refers to the light's ability to accurately illuminate the natural colors of other objects. A bulb with a high color-rendering score should be able to make reds look red and blues look blue better than one with a low color-rendering score would.

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Almost all LEDs struggle with red, but Cree struggles more than most. Ry Crist/CNET

This "color rendering index," or CRI score, is actually an average of several different scores for several different tones. Incandescent light scores very well across the board, and pure sunlight scores a perfect 100.

LEDs, however, tend to have more difficulty getting that sort of universal color quality. The weak point is almost always red tones, and that's certainly the case with Cree's LED, which put up the worst red numbers from any of the bulbs we've examined. In the graph above, column number 9 represents its score with pure red, and as you can see, it's pretty abysmal.

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

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This isn't to say that a bowl of red delicious apples illuminated by the Cree bulb would suddenly look blue, but their particular shade of red likely wouldn't look quite as vivid or accurate as it would under a bulb with a better CRI score.

For some, this is likely a minor, unnoticeable quibble, but for those concerned with color quality, it could be a reason to go with another bulb. The GE Reveal LED boasts especially strong CRI performance, as does Cree's own TW Series LED -- both score in the 90s, and might merit consideration.

Like the majority of LEDs on the market, the Cree bulb promises a lifespan of 25,000 hours -- well over 20 years if used for an average of 3 hours a day. Cree takes things a step further, however, by backing that lifespan up with a 10-year warranty. That's twice as long as what you'll get from Philips or GE -- both of which make 60W replacements that cost more than Cree's does.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Conclusion

Overall, the Cree 60W Replacement LED offers outstanding value, and lives up to its reputation as a lighting aisle best buy. At $10 each (or lower, if you live in an area that offers energy rebates), you'll be getting a reliable, high quality light that's designed to last decades and warrantied accordingly. The value grows exponentially if you're upgrading from incandescents -- swap out just a few bulbs, and you'll make a noticeable dent in your monthly energy bill.

All that said, Cree's original LED isn't in quite as dominant a position as it was in last year, when the lack of affordable competition made it all but a no-brainer. Since then, prices have fallen faster than anticipated, and the emergence of bulbs like the low-cost Philips SlimStyle (and even $5 LEDs at Ikea) have given consumers more options worth considering, not to mention new, design-minded LEDs like the Philips Clear , which seem to hold some distinct appeal of their own. Cree is still a pack leader -- but the race is getting increasingly tight.

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8.0

Cree 60W Replacement LED

Score Breakdown

Design 7Value 9Performance 8
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