With solid dimming, excellent efficiency and plenty of brightness, the newest Cree LED is a light-bulb aisle standout.
Originally a manufacturer of LED components, Cree first caught my attention back in 2014 after the North Carolina-based company started selling light bulbs of its own. That first generation of Cree LEDs performed well in our tests and didn't cost as much as the competition. But that was then -- these days, most of the competition has caught up to Cree's low-cost strategy, and some have even surpassed it.
That's why it's no surprise that Cree's newest flagship bulb, a 60-watt replacement LED that sells in a two-pack at Home Depot for about $8, is its most affordable yet. Cree got there by borrowing a page from the bargain bulb playbook and going with a cheaper, less distinctive design, but fortunately, the performance is still solid. In my tests, the bulb was brighter than advertised and quite good at dimming, too. Most reassuring of all, it still comes with Cree's category-leading 10-year warranty.
At four bucks a pop, it's as close to a sure pick as you'll find in the lighting aisle, and a safe choice for anyone who just needs a quick, easy replacement for a typical household fixture or lamp.
Cree's new LED is housed within a basic frame that makes it more or less indistinguishable from other bargain-priced bulbs like it. There's no metallic trim or extra-glossy plastic like with the last generation, nor are there any fake filaments like you'll see in the growing crop of vintage-style, incandescent lookalike LEDs. Though, notably for Cree, the brand's newest candelabra bulbs are testing out the vintage approach.
Still, none of that matters if you're just going to use the bulb beneath a lampshade. What's more important is the quality of the light once you turn it on. In Cree's case, that light is 843 lumens bright -- a touch brighter than advertised, and plenty bright enough to qualify as a legitimate replacement for a traditional 60-watt bulb.
It's also an above-average color renderer among LEDs, producing visibly redder reds and whiter whites, though the effect wasn't quite as noticeable as what you'll get with the Soraa Radiant LED. That bulb costs more than Cree, but it's still my top pick if you're looking for lights that'll help the colors pop in your kitchen or walk-in closet.
As for color temperature, the soft white version of the bulb that I tested clocked in at 2,685 K, which is just as warm and yellowy as you'd expect. (For no additional cost, Cree also offers a daylight version of the bulb that's rated at 5,000 K for more of a stark, pure white aesthetic.)
Cree's bulb puts that light out from a power draw of 10 watts, which is pretty much the going average for a dimmable 60-watt replacement LED these days. Use it for 3 hours per day, and it'll add just over a buck to your yearly energy bill, whereas a regular 60-watt bulb would add closer to $7 to your bill over the same timespan.
One last point of note: If you use dimmer switches, Cree's bulb belongs right at the top of your list. Performance will vary based on what switches your home uses and a couple of other factors, but it didn't flicker or buzz on any of the switches I tested it with, and on most of them, it was able to dim cleanly down to zero, which is excellent.
Couple that with the bulb's other strengths -- and the fact that you can get it for just $4, which is about as affordable as decent, dimmable 60-watt replacement LEDs currently get -- and Cree's new LED adds up to a surefire value pick in the lighting aisle.
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