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Ikea Ledare LED review: Ikea's bright idea: Bargain-priced LEDs (no assembly required)

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If you haven't heard, LED prices are trending downward, with many popular bulbs starting to sell for less than $10 each in the US. Ikea recently decided to take things even further, cutting the price of their 40W and 60W replacement "Ledare" LEDs down below $5 -- a move that seems likely to help sway the minds and wallets of the last of the LED holdouts.

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Ikea Ledare LED

The Good

Ikea's Ledare LEDs offer an appealing design and excellent color-rendering capabilities at a very attractive $5 price point.

The Bad

The Ledare LEDs aren't as bright or efficient as their competitors, and they don't come with a warranty.

The Bottom Line

There's enough quality with these low cost bulbs to keep them from feeling cheap, which makes them an excellent value option.

Purists, however, might be justifiably skeptical. With diminished brightness, lower efficiency, and no warranty whatsoever, these bulbs aren't exactly no-compromise -- and they don't boast nearly as attractive a price point in Australia or the UK, where Ikea sells them for AU$10 and £7 each, respectively.

Still, Ikea wisely seems to be emphasizing aesthetics with the Ledare LEDs, and that, coupled with unmatched value in the US, makes them a potential best buy for millions of consumers. If you're in need of new bulbs and you live near one of Ikea's megastores, you might just want to pencil a few Ledare LEDs onto your next visit's shopping list.

A close look at Ikea's low-cost LEDs (pictures)

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Design

The Ledare 60W replacement LEDs come in two equally priced varieties: one with a frosted bulb, and one with a bulb that's clear. The clear-bulbed version offers a view of the diodes inside -- they sit beneath a bowl-like fixture which reflects the light up and out in 360 degrees.

The two globe varieties are the only real difference between the two models. Both put out the same amount of light using the same amount of power. We did, however, notice a slight improvement in directionality with the frosted globe, which suggests that it helps to diffuse the light more evenly.

The clear bulb and the prismatic effect of its interior design make for a version of the Ledare somewhat reminiscent of the soon-to-be-released Philips Clear LED . Though not quite as eye-catching as that bulb's sparkling design, the clear Ledare might still be an attractive option for anyone looking to fill an exposed bulb aesthetic.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

As for the bulb's engineering, the Ledare uses 10 watts of electricity to put out 600 lumens, a number that falls shy of the 800 lumens you'd typically expect from a 60W replacement. It's also not as efficient as other LEDs, which are often capable of doing more with less. The Cree 60W Replacement LED , for instance, puts out 800 lumens using 9.5 watts.

Still, like those other bulbs, the Ledare promises a significant efficiency upgrade when compared with incandescents. That's probably good enough for consumers who don't want to split hairs, but the bulb's dimmer-than-average light output might be a tougher sell.

Another engineering factor worth considering is the bulb's dimming performance. The Ledare claims full compatibility with built-in dimmer switches, and sure enough, both versions worked with every switch in our lab when we tested them.

Which LEDs flicker the least? (pictures)

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Compatibility isn't the end of the story, though. In many cases, electromagnetic resistance generated by the dimming mechanism can cause dimmable bulbs of all kinds to buzz and flicker as you dial the light up and down.

The Ledare was no exception. Both the clear and frosted versions of the bulb produced a slight buzz on each of the dimmers we tested, and also a very slight flicker when dimmed down below 50 percent (you can check out our full set of flicker grids for a closer look at dimming performance).

To be fair, both the buzzing and flickering were minor, and certainly not as noticeable as the worst performers from our recent round of dimmability tests. Still, if you're looking for an LED to use with an in-wall dimmer switch, I'd recommend spending the extra money on the Philips 60W Equivalent LED , as it dimmed flawlessly when we tested it out.

One last thing worth considering is the bulb's warranty -- the Ledare offers none. This puts it in stark contrast with the competition, particularly Cree, which warranties its LEDs for 10 years. Bulbs like those might seem like significantly better deals to consumers who aren't yet sold on LED longevity claims.

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The Ledare's brightness is more in line with a 40W replacement than a 60W replacement. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Performance

At 600 lumens, the Ikea Ledare LED sits closer to the 450 lumens you can expect from a 40W replacement than the 800 lumens you'll typically get from a 60W replacement -- at least on paper. I was eager to screw one in and see for myself how bright it was, or wasn't.

As it turns out, the numbers don't lie. Compare the Ledare LED with the 60w and 40w replacements from a brand like Philips or Cree, and you'll find that its light output falls right in the middle, and perhaps slightly closer to the 40W side of things.

Ikea Ledare 60W Replacement LEDCree 60W Replacement LEDPhilips 60W Equivalent LEDPhilips SlimStyle LEDGE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED
Lumens 600800830800800
Watts 109.51110.511
Efficiency (lumens/watt) 6084.2175.4576.1972.72
Color temperature 2,632 K (frosted) 2,507 K (clear)2,669 K2,584 K2,653 K2,562 K
Lifespan 25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours15,000 hours
Color rendering index 8780818080
Weight 4.10 ounces3.70 ounces4.55 ounces2.20 ounces4.25 ounces
Warranty none10 years5 years3 years5 years
Price $5$10$15$9$10

Ikea balances this underwhelming brightness by dialing up another key lighting spec -- the CRI number. The CRI, or color rendering index, measures how accurately a light source will illuminate colors. A bulb with a higher CRI number should do a better job of bringing out the natural tones and colors in your home.

Most LEDs score somewhere around 80 out of 100, but the Ledare LEDs claim an impressive score of 87. That puts them just south of high-end bulbs like the Cree TW Series LED and the GE Reveal LED, which both claim CRI scores in the low 90s.

Which LED bulbs are best for eye-popping color quality? (pictures)

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If you look back to the four-way comparison shot above, you can definitely see that the Ikea LED's color quality looks a little more natural and less yellow than either of the Cree bulbs, and more in line with what you'll get from an incandescent.

Taking a closer look at the bulb's color rendering capabilities confirms that it offers a legitimate upgrade over much of the competition. Putting a bowl of peanut M&Ms under the Ikea light produces color accuracy that falls almost directly in between what you'll get with a standard LED and what you'll see if you use a high-end light like the GE Reveal that promises an especially high CRI score.

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For the price, the Ledare LED offers excellent color rendering. Colin West McDonald/CNET

In addition to testing out the Ledare's color-rendering capabilities, we took a close look at its color temperature, a term which refers to the specific tone of the light itself. Both the frosted and clear versions of the Ledare LED are rated at 2,700 K, which puts it squarely on the warm, yellow end of the spectrum.

Interestingly, the frosted version gets a lot closer to the target, with a measured color temperature of 2,632 K. The clear version was barely able to register above 2,500 K, though the high CRI seems to keep the yellows in check.

The Ikea Ledare LED will lose a small amount of its brightness in the first 45 minutes of use, then level off. This isn't uncommon with LEDs.

Our final piece of performance testing looked to examine the bulb's light output over time. Reading up on the bulb, I had seen some comments that suggested the Ledare seemed to grow dimmer while in use. This isn't unusual -- all LEDs will see a very slight downtick in brightness during the initial 30 to 45 minutes after being switched on, which is exactly what you get with the Ledare LEDs.

The reason for this slight drop in brightness has to do with the heat produced by the bulb, which affects the performance of the hardware inside. Just like with a phone or a laptop, the hotter things get, the more performance suffers.

The initial drop in brightness is just the bulb responding to the initial rise in heat. Once the temperature stabilizes after that first half hour or so, the brightness will stabilize, too, which is why you don't see a brightness change from 45 minutes to two hours in the timelapse GIF posted above. It's also worth noting that Energy Star requires lighting manufacturers to measure and rate the light output of their bulbs in the"steady state" after the initial dropoff, so you shouldn't ever get shortchanged from the number of lumens printed on the box.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Conclusion

At less than $5 per bulb, the Ikea Ledare LEDs represent a very solid value option in the ever-evolving lighting landscape. I'm not a fan of the diminished light output or the lack of a warranty, but given that the bulbs cost less then half of what you'll spend for a quality competitor like the Cree 60W Replacement LED, it's hard to take Ikea to task. Factor in the focus on color rendering, and you've got a low-cost lighting option that doesn't quite feel cheap. If that's not Ikea's MO, I don't know what is.

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Ikea Ledare LED

Score Breakdown

Design 8Value 10Performance 7