Cree adds floodlights to its LED lineup (hands-on)

Cree's new PAR38 LED boasts 1,500 lumens, can survive being rained on if used outdoors, and costs less than similar bulbs from larger manufacturers.

Ry Crist

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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Watch this: Taking a closer look at the new Cree PAR38 LED bulb

Cree, the upstart LED lighting manufacturer headquartered in North Carolina, is again expanding its portfolio of bargain LED bulbs. The company's latest offering is a new line of 90W replacement PAR38 bulbs designed with spot, flood, and outdoor lighting applications in mind. The new LEDs will offer two beam angle options, output 1,500 lumens from 18W of power usage, and retail for $24.97 at Home Depot.

That price makes Cree's PAR38 LED more affordable than comparable LEDs from competing manufacturers, which typically cost at least $30 or more. While not a huge price drop, it's considerable news for anyone looking to replace a whole home's worth of the bulbs.

Meet Cree's rugged new LED (pictures)

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The "PAR" in PAR38 stands for parabolic aluminized reflector, which simply means that there's metal beneath the diode that catches any downward directed light and reflects it back up and out. This makes for a bulb that shines a bright, focused beam straight outward -- the same approach used by the headlights in your car. The 38 refers to the approximate diameter of the bulb, in eighths of an inch.

Cree's PAR38 comes in two varieties, each with its own beam angle. Consumers looking for track lighting and other types of focused, spot-style display lights will want to stick with the 27-degree-beam-angle model. For a broader pool of light that's better suited for general-purpose lighting and recessed fixtures, a bulb with a 47-degree beam angle is also available.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

In addition to being UL Rated for dampness survival, Cree's new bulbs are wetness-rated, too. That means that they should be able to stand up to direct contact with water, making for a more dependable source of outdoor light.

Cree is also touting the bulb's lightweight design, which the company claims makes the PAR38 weigh less than similar bulbs thanks to a thermal management system that uses less metal. The bulb weighs 11.8 ounces, which is heavy when compared with bulbs that use a more traditional shape (almost twice as heavy as Cree's own 100W replacement ).

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Compared to the competition, Cree's PAR38 LED looks like a brighter option. A comparable 90W replacement PAR38 LED from Philips retails for $32.97 and only puts out a disappointing 950 lumens from 18W. Bulbs from TCP and EcoSmart also have significantly lower light outputs than Cree's bulb.

Like the rest of Cree's LEDs, the PAR38 bulbs promise 25,000-hour life spans and come with a 10-year warranty. Though they aren't expected to start showing up on store shelves for another few weeks, interested consumers can order them online starting today from HomeDepot.com.

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