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Cree Vintage-Style Candelabra LED (60w equivalent) review: Skip Cree's old-timey candelabra LEDs if you use dimmer switches

They're pretty and efficient, but they flickered too much when we tried to dim them.

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Ry Crist
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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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By this point almost all of the major lighting manufacturers -- Philips, Feit, GE, Ikea, you name it -- have embraced the growing trend of "vintage-style" LED light bulbs. With fake filaments composed of tiny light-emitting diodes instead of the old, inefficient tungsten of traditional Edison-style lights, the bulbs combine old-school incandescent appeal with new-age energy savings. Head to the light bulb aisle at your local hardware store, and you'll be surprised by how many manufacturers are planting their flag in the trend.

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7.3

Cree Vintage-Style Candelabra LED (60w equivalent)

The Good

Cree's new candelabra LED is plenty bright, and it casts clean-looking light in all directions (including down). Use it to replace a comparable incandescent bulb, and you'll earn your money back in energy savings in about nine months.

The Bad

Each bulb I tested flickered noticeably during our dimming tests, and you might notice a slight buzz, too. The overlapping filament design is also a little busy-looking.

The Bottom Line

These bright, efficient bulbs are a fine choice if you like the look -- but seek something else if you use dimmer switches.

The big exception is Cree -- or at least it was. After sitting the vintage trend out for the past two years, the North Carolina-based lighting brand finally dipped its toes into incandescent-ish waters by releasing a new line of candelabra LEDs with glass bulbs and fake filaments. That's a contrast to the rest of the Cree lighting lineup, which distinguishes itself with plasticky, low-cost design and an emphasis on dimming and color quality.

At roughly $9 for either a 40W or 60W replacement two-pack, Cree's vintage-style candelabra bulbs look nice and they're just as bright and efficient as advertised, but I was disappointed with their dimming performance. Each one I tested gave off a visible flicker and an audible buzz when I tried to dim them using standard dimming hardware -- and I tested several, including both the 60W and 40W replacement versions. That obviously isn't an issue if you don't use dimmer switches in your home, but if you do, I'd recommend going with something else.

LED 101: Your cheat sheet for the light bulb aisle

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From a design perspective, Cree's new candelabra bulb represents a nice step forward from the bulb that came before it. That last-gen, TW Series model was a bulkier bulb with an ugly base at the bottom that blocked most of the downcast light. That's not a problem with the new vintage-style model -- it looks much more like a traditional light bulb, and casts its light out evenly in all directions. 

The fake filaments are arranged sort of like a teepee, which is a little odd and busy-looking, perhaps (especially with the added print on the glass bulb), but I appreciated that they didn't get in the way of each other too much and cast obnoxious shadows as a result. Still, the light spread isn't quite as clean-looking as you'll get with a vintage-style bulb that arranges its filaments into outward-facing spirals, like you'll get with GE and Feit. I'll take that approach over Cree's teepees any day.

The 60W replacement version of Cree's candelabra bulb is rated at 515 lumens bright. That's an accurate claim, as I clocked it at 520 lumens using our lighting lab's spectrometer and integrating sphere setup. That number falls to 350 lumens with the 40W replacement version and 220 lumens with the 25W replacement one. All three are available in both yellowy, soft white versions rated at 2,700K, as well as daylight versions rated at 5,000K that shine at more of a natural white. For this review, I tested the soft white versions.

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On the left, a GE Reveal incandescent bulb with exceptional color rendering capabilities in front of a royal purple wall. On the right, the Cree LED in the same spot, shot with the same exposure settings. Cree's light distorts the color of the wall behind it, but only just slightly.

Ry Crist/CNET

As for efficiency, Cree's 60W replacement bulb consumes just 5.3 watts, which means that it puts out an impressive 98 lumens per watt -- slightly better than the 40W and 25W versions. Use it an average of three hours per day, and it'll add about $0.64 to your energy bill each year. For comparison, an equally bright 60W incandescent would only put out about 9 lumens per watt, and would add about $7 to your energy bill each year.

At about $9 for a two-pack, that means that each Cree 60W replacement candelabra LED would pay for itself in just 258 days, provided you're using it to replace a comparable incandescent. From there, it'll keep shining and saving you money for well over a decade, because it's rated to last 13.7 years and comes with a 10-year warranty. Most incandescents will only last a year or so before burning out.

I also took a look at the bulb's color-rendering capabilities, which determine how accurate it will make the different colors in your home appear. Cree has long hung its hat on this metric, but I've also seen a lot of the vintage-style bulbs I've tested struggle with it, since many of them aggressively push the light's tone into the orange part of the spectrum in order to achieve that classic, candle-like glow.

Fortunately, Cree's bulb held up. I tested it alongside a GE Reveal incandescent with exceptional color-rendering capabilities, and while the Cree LED cast a slight yellow tinge over everything that I didn't get with GE, the difference was more subtle than you'll see with the average LED. If the GE bulb is a 100, the Cree bulb is a 90, and that's a good result.

Less good? The bulb's dimming capabilities. This is another spot where Cree hangs its hat, and other current-gen Cree bulbs, including the brand's standard 60W replacement LED, were able to ace my tests by dimming down nice and low on all of my test switches, and by doing so without flickering or buzzing.

I can't say the same for the candelabra LEDs. They dimmed smoothly down to zero on all three of my switches, which is excellent, but they didn't do so without flickering noticeably at medium settings. I could hear an audible buzz, too, which would only amp up if you were using several of them at once in an overhead chandelier. 

Both problems stem from electromagnetic interference from the switches, and I'll bet that the bulb's vintage design is to blame. Sometimes, when you care less about aesthetics, you have more room to protect against issues like those in your design. And, like I said, the other, more basic-looking Cree bulbs performed much better in the same tests.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

Aesthetics matter with candelabra bulbs since you'll often use them in fixtures that leave the bulbs exposed. If you like the way Cree's bulbs look, then you'll probably be very happy with them -- especially if you're looking for inexpensive ways to reduce your home's energy costs. At $9 for a two-pack, Cree's candelabra bulbs fit the bill pretty well.

Still, I wouldn't recommend them if you use dimmer switches due to the flicker and buzz I encountered in my tests. In that case, I'd actually recommend Cree's previous-gen candelabra bulbs -- they were my top dimming pick from my last rundown of the candelabra category, and they're still available online via Home Depot.

Want to know more about vintage-style LED light bulbs? Click here.

So you still aren't using LED light bulbs...

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cree-candelabra-led-product-photos-1
7.3

Cree Vintage-Style Candelabra LED (60w equivalent)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Value 9Performance 6.5
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