GE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED review: GE's LED: When 'good enough' just isn't good enough
There's nothing wrong with this bulb, but that's the best thing we can say about it.
$10 LEDs were unheard of just a year or two ago, but since then, prices have fallen faster than many expected. Now, $10 seems to be the industry's go-to going rate for 60W replacements, with low-cost bulbs like the Cree 60W Replacement LED and the Philips SlimStyle lining store shelves.
A third big-brand option is GE'S Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED, currently available at Target, Walmart, and Sam's Club stores nationwide at that popular $10 price point. While slightly less efficient than what you'll get from Cree and not as design-oriented as the SlimStyle, the GE LED still offers reasonable value in its own right, along with a subtle bump in color quality. As a baseline bulb, it's worth a look.
GE's LED isn't the most exciting bulb on the market. It lacks the eye-catching design of the Philips SlimStyle and hasn't seen the same sort of buzz that the market-moving Cree LED managed to generate last year.
Still, at $10, this is a bulb that merits consideration. With a light output of 800 lumens, it matches the SlimStyle and the Cree LED in terms of brightness -- though at a power draw of 11 watts, it's the least efficient of the three, if only just slightly so.
|GE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED
|Cree 60W Replacement LED
|Philips 60W Equivalent LED
|Ikea Ledare LED
|Philips SlimStyle LED
|2,632 K (frosted) 2,507 K (clear)
|Color rendering index
Of those three options, the GE LED also has the lowest color temperature. All three aim for 2,700 K -- the yellowy, familiar glow of an incandescent -- but the GE LED lands farthest from the target, with a measured color temperature of 2,562 K. If anything, this only serves to give it a slight extra hit of yellow, so if that's the color you like from your lights, you might actually prefer the GE LED's tone.
Another spec of note is the bulb's stated lifespan. Most LEDs claim to last for 25,000 hours -- a figure that actually describes the amount of time before the diodes will fade to 70 percent of their original light output. The GE LED, however, claims a 15,000-hour lifespan. At an average of three hours of usage per day, this still means it should last well over a decade -- long enough to pay for itself several times over if you're replacing an incandescent -- but that might not be enough for sticklers determined to get maximum value out of their LEDs.
The GE LED comes with a 5-year warranty, and at roughly 36 percent of the bulb's stated lifespan, that's a pretty good deal. If you're replacing an incandescent, the GE LED should pay for itself long before your coverage runs out. Still, if a reassuring warranty is what you're after, you'll be much happier with the Cree LED, which comes with a 10-year warranty.
Something else that may be worth considering is how the bulb will perform if used with a dimmer switch. Like most other LED offerings these days, the GE LED promises dimmability, and we confirmed this with a number of different switches, including an older model not rated for LED use. There was a slight buzz in the bulb, the result of electromagnetic interference from the dimming mechanism, but it wasn't nearly as noticeable as what we heard from the Philips SlimStyle in our recent round of dimming tests.
The other dimming concerns to keep in mind are flicker and dimmable range. With the first, the GE LED did quite well, showing next to no flicker as I dialed the light level up and down with each of our setups. The dimmable range was much less satisfying, though. I wasn't able to dial the light down below 30 percent or so with any of the dimmers. Many consumers, myself included, will prefer a light that can dim down a lot closer to zero before cutting out.
What this all boils down to is that the GE LED's specs don't show any glaring weak spots, but they also don't give it any clear advantages over the competition. It's a great option compared to the bargain brands that you might find on the bottom shelf -- but so are the LEDs from other major manufacturers like Philips and Cree. Compared to those bulbs, it's hard to find a reason to recommend GE.
The one area where GE might be able to claim a slight advantage would be color quality, as measured by the CRI number. The CRI, or color rendering index, measures how accurately a given light source is able to render specific colors. Put simply, a higher CRI score means better-looking colors.
Like the Cree LED and the Philips SlimStyle, the GE LED claims a CRI score of 80 out of 100. However, that score represents an average of several scores, each one pertaining to a different shade. That means that different bulbs can take different routes to get the same score -- which in turn means that one 80 might look slightly better than another 80.
That's exactly what you get with the GE LED: a slightly better take on 80. Compare the GE LED with the Cree LED, for instance, and you'll notice less overpowering yellows, more natural whites, and slightly more vivid colors. In the end, it's a pretty tiny difference, but it's still a difference. For someone with artwork on display or a particularly colorful interior design aesthetic, I think it might be just enough to tip the scales in GE's favor.
Still, I have to believe that a consumer like that would want to spend a few extra dollars on a high-CRI bulb like the Cree TW Series LED or GE's own Reveal LED. Both of those boast CRI scores in the 90s. There's also the $5 Ikea Ledare LEDs which boast an impressive CRI score of 87 -- though they aren't as bright or efficient as what GE is offering, and they don't come with a warranty.
The GE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED is a tough bulb to criticize. As a base-line LED at that attractive $10 price point, it offers very decent value -- especially if you're upgrading from an incandescent.
Still, the competition in the lighting aisle is getting increasingly fierce, and GE hasn't done enough to set its bulb apart. The Cree LED offers exceptional efficiency and comes with an industry-leading 10-year warranty. The Philips SlimStyle has an innovative design, solid specs, and an especially tempting price point. Even the less dim, less efficient Ikea LEDs can claim surprisingly high color-rendering scores and a dirt cheap price point of $5. GE's LED looks unambitious by comparison, which makes it difficult to recommend.