/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Philips 100W Equivalent Soft White (2700K) A21 Dimmable LED Light Bulb review: The Philips 100W Equivalent LED gets edged out

Ryan_Crist2.jpg

If you're looking to replace a 100W light bulb, you'll find several LED options at prices that aren't nearly as unreasonable as they were just a year or two ago. The current crop, including the Philips 100W Equivalent LED, hovers right around the $20 price point.

philips-100w-led-product-photos-6.jpg
7.8

Philips 100W Equivalent Soft White (2700K) A21 Dimmable LED Light Bulb

The Good

The Philips 100W Equivalent LED is a very solid, Energy Star-certified bulb that boasts impressive specs and exceptional dimmability.

The Bad

Cree and GE's bulbs are both equally impressive, if not more so -- and each one costs less.

The Bottom Line

Unless you find it on sale, this likable Philips LED can't quite offer the value of its competitors.

Initially priced at $25, Philips' LED has since been marked down a few bucks to $22, which is still slightly more expensive than what you'll see from competitors like GE and Cree. Philips justifies that by claiming an extra 80 lumens' worth of brightness over those two, along with superior dimming capabilities. However, our tests didn't reveal any noticeable difference in either brightness or dimmability. That, along with the fact that Philips offers half the warranty that you'll get with GE or Cree, makes this bulb difficult to recommend.

philips-100w-led-product-photos-4.jpg
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Design

Philips' 100W Equivalent LED shares the same, flat-topped build of its smaller siblings in the 60W and 40W categories, but sets itself apart with a unique design that splits the bulb into three sections separated by deep channels. This helps keep the heat buildup at bay, something that gets especially important when LEDs start putting out this much light.

Even with the emphasis on thermal management, the bulb gets hot to the touch after just a few minutes of use, which isn't unusual for a 100W replacement LED. As such, Philips recommends not using it in an enclosed fixture -- if you do, you'll risk shortening the bulb's lifespan.

That lifespan is rated at 25,000 hours, the same as the other 100W replacement LEDs I tested, with the exception of Utilitech. That lifespan comes out to 22.8 years if the bulb is used for an average of 3 hours per day. Philips warrants the bulb for the first five of those years, while GE and Cree both offer ten-year warranties.

25,000 hours is the longevity benchmark for Energy Star certification -- the Philips 100W Equivalent earned certification over the summer, as did the GE LED I tested. Cree's bulb isn't certified yet, but it meets the criteria -- Cree's team tells me they expect it to be certified in the near future.

Cree 100W Replacement LEDGE Energy Smart 100W Replacement LEDPhilips 100W Equivalent LEDSylvania 100W Replacement Ultra LEDUtilitech 100W Equivalent Warm White LED
Lumens 16001600168016001600
Watts 1816191916
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 891008884100
Estimated yearly energy cost $2.17 $1.93 $2.29 $2.29 $1.93
Color temperature (stated / measured) 2,700 K / 2,663 K2,700 K / 2,602 K2,700 K / 2,628 K2,700 K / 2,664 K3,000 K / 2,999 K
Lifespan 25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours18,000 hours
Color rendering index 8081808385
Weight 5.80 oz.5.65 oz.8.50 oz.11.45 oz.7.80 oz.
Warranty 10-year10-year5-year5-year2-year
Price $20 $21$22 $22 $17

Philips claims a light output of 1,680 lumens at a golden hued 2,700 K from a power draw of 19 watts. That makes it good for about 88 lumens per watt -- an impressive number, but not as impressive as GE and Utilitech, which both manage to put out 100 lumens per watt.

Those 1680 lumens are a slight step up from what you'll get with GE, Cree, or any of the other bulbs we tested. With brightness being one of the first things you want from your home lighting, that number would appear to give Philips an edge, albeit a minor one.

However, the engineers at Energy Star test bulbs out for themselves, posting the full specs for every LED they certify online. On Philips' listing, Energy Star rates the bulb at 1,620 lumens -- not 1,680. While an extra 80 lumens is just barely enough to make a noticeable difference, an extra 20 lumens is largely insignificant. We wanted to know which number had it right.

philips-100w-led.jpg
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Performance

From a simple eye test, the light put out from the Philips 100W Equivalent LED doesn't differ much from its nearest competitors, the Cree and GE 100W replacements. Side by side, the three have nearly identical glows, all of them boasting similarly warm tones. That isn't surprising, given that all three are rated with the same 2,700 K color temperature. When tested, each one erred low, on the yellowy side.

Remember, though, that Philips claims to put out 1,680 lumens to Cree and GE's 1,600. That's a pretty minuscule difference, but it's one that should be noticeable if you're looking closely for it. The problem is that I couldn't notice it.

cree-vs-ge-vs-philips-100w-led.jpg
The Cree, GE, and Philips 100W replacement LEDs. Ry Crist/CNET

Testing bulb brightness gets a bit tricky. In addition to measuring color temperature and color rendering scores, our spectrometer can take luminosity readings from a given light -- but those readings are easily skewed by things like viewing angle and distance. To get numbers you can rely on, you need something called an integrating sphere.

An integrating sphere is really just a big, hollow ball with a special, reflective coating on the inside. You place the bulb in the middle with the spectrometer peeking in. With a "baffle" between the light and the spectrometer blocking a direct, inaccurate reading, the spectrometer will instead read the luminosity of the light that's bouncing around inside the sphere. If calibrated correctly, this should give you an accurate read of how many lumens a given light source gives off.

Of course, integrating spheres like the ones used by Energy Star and UL are terribly, terribly expensive. So, in lieu of buying one, we built our own.

integrating-sphere.jpg
Our newest toy. Ry Crist/CNET

This wasn't a quick undertaking -- we researched our options for months, speaking with various industry experts to get the best sense of how to pull it off. Finally, led by intrepid technical editors Jared Hannah and Steve Conaway, we started putting the thing together.

The result is a gigantic and hollow styrofoam sphere with a few carefully-applied coats of special, reflective paint on the inside. We're still working to calibrate it as precisely as possible, but have already seen results that look to be within roughly a 1 percent margin of error.

Looking at the 100W replacement LEDs we tested, Philips actually scored the lowest in our sphere, with a score that fell just shy of the 1,620 lumen spec from Energy Star. All four of the other bulbs we tested came in at least slightly higher, a result that lines up with what we see when we compare the bulbs side by side.

That isn't necessarily a bad result -- anything over 1,600 lumens is perfectly adequate at the 100W replacement level. However, it does undercut the notion that Philips' bulb offers extra brightness over the competition.

The Philips LED doesn't flicker one bit when the light is dimmed down. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Something else I took a close look at was how these bulbs performed with dimmer switches. Though many bulbs are listed as "dimmable," some won't dim down as low as others. You also might encounter flicker and buzz due to electromagnetic interference from the dimming mechanism. When I tested dimmable 60W replacements, the Philips bulb was a clear standout, making it easy to recommend for anyone who likes the light dialed down low.

The 100W version of the Philips LED is equally impressive, with zero flicker, zero buzz, and a minimum lumen output that's slightly lower than GE or Cree. However, GE and Cree's LEDs still did well. Unlike their 60W counterparts, neither one flickered or buzzed on any of the switches we tested them with. That makes Philips' dimming performance less of an important factor.

philips-100w-led-product-photos-1.jpg
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Conclusion

The Philips 100W Equivalent LED is a good bulb with solid across-the-board specs. It's bright, it's efficient, it's dimmable, it's omnidirectional, and it comes with a respectable 5-year warranty. At a price of $22, you could certainly do a lot worse.

The problem is that there's some very good competition in this class, including a very efficient GE bulb and a Cree LED that breaks the $20 price barrier. Both of those cheaper options keep up with the Philips LED at every turn, and surpass it in a few key spots, including the ever-important length of warranty. The Philips 100W Equivalent LED is good, but you can do better if you shop around.

philips-100w-led-product-photos-6.jpg
7.8

Philips 100W Equivalent Soft White (2700K) A21 Dimmable LED Light Bulb

Score Breakdown

Design 8Value 7Performance 8