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GE Bright Stik LED review: Edison be damned: GE's cheap new LED bulb isn't a bulb at all

The "Bright Stik" is an odd-looking, low-cost lighting option that you can buy right now for a few bucks apiece.

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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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It's been a busy year in the lighting aisle, with the debut of new, low-cost LED light bulbs that promise to cut your home's power draw without breaking the bank. The newest, from GE, is the Bright Stik LED, which bucks the bulb altogether in favor of a push-pop-shaped build. The cost: $10 for a three-pack (a GE representative tells me that they don't plan on selling the bulbs individually just yet).

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7.8

GE Bright Stik LED

The Good

GE's innovative-looking Bright Stik LED casts a warm, omnidirectional glow that works well for basic household lighting. The 5-year warranty is one of the best you'll find at this price point.

The Bad

The Bright Stik LED isn't quite as bright or as efficient as its main competitor, the $5 Philips 60W Replacement LED.

The Bottom Line

At $10 for a three-pack, the Bright Stik LED is a compelling value pick in the lighting aisle.

Like the other major player on the cheap end of the spectrum, the Philips 60W Replacement LED , the Bright Stik offers a pretty compelling value proposition. While a 60W incandescent will add about $7 per year to your power bill, the 10W Bright Stik will add just $1.20. Spend $10 on that three-pack and use them for a year, and your total cost is $13.60. Spend a buck on three incandescents, and you'll end up spending another $21 over the course of the year -- and then you'll need to replace them, since that's about as long as they last. The Bright Stiks will last well over a decade.

There are a few trade-offs, though. The Bright Stik isn't quite as bright or as efficient as other LEDs and, like the Philips bulb, it isn't an option that'll work with dimmer switches. Still, it's a very solid fit for basic lighting setups, and at a cost of about $3 per bulb (or, um,"Stik"), it's a very solid value, too. If I just needed to replace one light, I'd probably stick with Philips, but if I'm replacing my bulbs in bulk, I'm going to give the Bright Stik some serious consideration.

GE's new LED really Stiks it to ya (pictures)

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A strange design (that doesn't matter)

The GE Bright Stik isn't the first big brand LED that wants you to think outside the bulb. For over a year now, the flattened-down Philips SlimStyle LED has been selling on Home Depot shelves, and its success might serve as proof of concept for the odd-looking Bright Stik LED. You'll soon see the two selling side-by-side in the Home Depot lighting aisle.

Still, the SlimStyle LED at least attempts to approximate the overall silhouette of a light bulb (from certain angles, anyway). With the Bright Stik LED, you're all in on newfangled design, no incandescent nostalgia necessary. Whether or not that's a good thing is entirely up to you.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We're probably missing the point, though. Bulb or no bulb, the Bright Stik is still, well, a light bulb. In most cases, you're not going to see the thing after you screw it in and lower the lampshade. The form factor really doesn't matter much in and of itself.

What does matter is how that form factor impacts the quality of light, which is where my concerns lied as I prepared to test the Bright Stik out. None of that cylindrical plastic is angled downward, the way the bottom half of a spherical bulb is. I wondered if that might keep the Bright Stik from casting the sort of downward light people typically prefer to read under.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case. With the LED hidden under a lampshade, I couldn't distinguish the quality of the Bright Stik's light from any other standard, omnidirectional bulb.

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On the left, the GE Bright Stik LED. On the right, the Philips 60W Replacement LED. Both cast plenty of downward light. Ry Crist/CNET

That applies to the look and feel of the light, too. At 2,850 K, it's as warm and yellowy as you'd expect from a standard, household light (a 5,000 K "daylight" version is available, too, for an extra buck). The 760-lumen light output -- while a bit short of the ideal 800 lumen benchmark for a 60W replacement -- is plenty bright for most basic needs.

Really, the only difference this design makes is on GE's end -- the slimmed down figure makes it a breeze to package the Bright Stik, and easier for GE to ship them in bulk (especially when packaged three at a time). All of that helps shave cents off the upfront cost, and there's nothing to not like about that.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Budget-priced performance

The GE Bright Stik holds its own when compared with LEDs that cost two or three times as much per bulb, but not without a few compromises. As said before, at 760 lumens (we clocked it a little above that, at 786), it's a bit less bright than most other 60W replacement options. It's also not the most efficient LED money can buy, with a 10W power draw and a good-not-great efficacy score of 79 lumens per watt.

The Bright Stik is also non-dimmable, which might make it a non-starter if you like being able to dial the lights down low. Try dialing the Bright Stik down, and you'll see quite a bit of flicker -- it just isn't built to handle common dimmer switch mechanics.

Budget-friendly 60W replacement LEDs

GE Bright Stik LEDPhilips 60W Replacement LEDIkea Ledare LED (frosted)Cree 4Flow LEDPhilips SlimStyle LED
Lumens (measured / stated) 786 / 760821 / 800658 / 600835 / 815815 / 800
Watts 108.5101110.5
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 7997607676
Yearly energy cost (3 hr. per day @ .11 kWh) $1.20 $1.02 $1.20 $1.32 $1.26
Color temperature (measured / stated) 2,830 K / 2,850 K2,701 K / 2,700 K2,632 K / 2,700 K2,617 K / 2,700 K2,653 K / 2,700 K
Color rendering index 8180888080
Dimmable (measured range) NoNoYes (6.3 - 100%)Yes (5.6 - 100%)Yes (11.1 - 100%)
Dimmer switch flicker/buzz N/AN/ANoneNoneModerate
Lifespan 15,000 hours11,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours
Weight 1.60 oz.1.80 oz.4.10 oz.1.90 oz.2.20 oz.
Warranty 5 years3 yearsnone3 years3 years
Price $10 (3-pack)$5 $5 $8 $9

That's the same trade-off that you'll get with its main competitor, the $5 Philips 60W Replacement LED . Both are non-dimmable, low-cost options, though they're separated by a few fine points. The Philips bulb is brighter and more efficient, while the Bright Stik lasts longer, and offers a longer warranty. Both bulbs are brighter than the underwhelming 658 lumens that you'll get with the $5 Ikea Ledare LED , though to that bulb's credit, it offers a surprisingly high color rendering score of 88, and works with dimmers, too.

On the GE side, the color rendering score sits at 81, a point better than Philips. The color rendering index is a scale from 0 to 100 that tells you how good a light source is at making colors look accurate and vivid. Higher-scores are better, so GE gets the edge here, but it's a largely indistinguishable one -- anything less than 85 is more or less par for the course as far as LEDs are concerned.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

None of these specs jump off of the page. Category for category, the Bright Stik sits in the middle of the pack, or towards the bottom. Still, there are no glaring shortcomings, either. I wish it were brighter, but it's bright enough. I wish it were more efficient, but it's efficient enough. I wish the color rendering score were higher, but it's high enough.

The number that matters is the price, and that's where GE has the real edge. No other big brand LED on sale today can claim an upfront cost that's locked in as low as the Bright Stik. It also offers the longest warranty we've seen from any LED priced below the $10 level. The Bright Stik might not outperform its competitors, but it beats all of them outright when it comes to value.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Stiking the landing

In the end, I think the Bright Stik's value is going to win out with consumers. At $10 for a three-pack -- just over $3 per bulb -- there's not much stopping them from giving it a shot. And, unless those consumers are expecting dimmability, I don't see much of anything that's going to leave them disappointed.

Spec for spec, there are better bulbs out there. I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for spending an extra $2 for the uptick in brightness and efficiency that comes with the Philips 60W Replacement , and spending a little more still for a dimmable bulb that dims well, like the Cree 4Flow LED or the Osram 60W Replacement LED , makes sense, too. But dollar for dollar, the Bright Stik raises the bar on value. It's going to be a contender.

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7.8

GE Bright Stik LED

Score Breakdown

Design 8Value 9Performance 7