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Saffron 40W Replacement LED review: This LED's a master of disguise (and little else)

The Saffron 40W Replacement LED is nearly indistinguishable from incandescents, but it gets outperformed by the competition at nearly every turn.

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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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We've seen plenty of evolution in the lighting aisle over the past decade, and that's left some struggling to find bulbs with that old, familiar feel. Enter the Saffron 40W Replacement LED, which houses the lighting technology of today within the streamlined glass curvature of yesterday.

saffron-led-bulb-product-photos-3.jpg
5.3

Saffron 40W Replacement LED

The Good

The Saffron 40W Replacement LED compromises nothing when it comes to aesthetics. It looks exactly like the incandescent bulbs it's designed to replace.

The Bad

Saffron's LED bulb sits at the bottom of the pack when it comes to brightness, efficiency, dimmability and color quality. It also costs more than the competition.

The Bottom Line

Unless you insist on bulbs that look as traditional as possible, there's no reason to choose Saffron over stronger offerings from Philips, Cree and Osram.

It's a design that's sure to please if you're a lover of the incandescent aesthetic you grew up with, and you'll be pleased to hear that Saffron keeps the look-alike act going after the bulb is switched on, as well. But compare this bulb with its less inconspicuous competitors, and you'll see that the classic design is really all it has to offer. By almost every important metric -- brightness, efficiency, color quality, dimmability, you name it -- the Saffron LED lags behind the rest. That makes it a tough sell at $12, especially given that those competitors cost a little less.

Saffron's 40W Replacement LED is an incandescent look-alike (pictures)

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Design

If you're looking for an LED bulb that looks as little like an LED bulb as possible, then look no further. Mixed in with a lineup of incandescents, it's nearly impossible to pick the Saffron LED back out.

It's a design that certainly has me interested. Plenty of consumers favor the simple looks of yesterday's bulbs over the clunky, heat-sink-centric newfangledness of today's LEDs. A light that offers a classic build alongside modern performance is a pretty appealing pitch.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Still, today's LED light bulbs focus on heat management for good reason. Just like with your laptop or your cell phone, LED performance tends to dip as things warm up. Without traditional heat sinks or some other thermal management system, you'd think that something would have to give.

To that end, Saffron's team seems to have dialed the brightness down, rating its LED at 400 lumens instead of the 450 lumens you'd traditionally expect from a 40W replacement. It was even dimmer than that in our test lab, coming in at just 362 lumens. Brightness might not be as important with 40W replacements, which typically work best as accent lights, but still, that number is probably lower than you'd like.

40W Replacement LEDs

Saffron 40W Replacement LEDOsram 40W Replacement LEDCree 40W Replacement LEDPhilips 40W Replacement LEDIkea Ledare LED
Lumens (measured / stated) 362 / 400496 / 450483 / 450479 / 470658 / 600
Watts 666810
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 6083816066
Yearly energy cost (3 hr. per day @ .11 kWh) $0.72 $0.72 $0.72 $0.96 $1.20
Color temperature (measured / stated) 2,947K / 3,000K2,561K / 2,700K 2,608K / 2,700K2,646K / 2,700K 2,632K / 2,700K
Other color temperatures (price difference) 6,500K ($0)5,000K (+$1)5,000K (+$1)5,000K (+$1)none
Color rendering index 7678808088
Dimmable range Not dimmable3.8 - 100%3.5 - 100%0.8 - 100%6.3 - 100%
Dimmer switch flicker/buzz SevereLightLightNoneNone
Lifespan 30,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours
Weight 1.90 oz.3.05 oz.3.70 oz.4.50 oz.4.10 oz.
Energy Star certification NoYesYesYesNo
Warranty 1 year5 years10 years5 yearsNone
Price $12 $8 $10 $12 $5

You'll get well over 100 lumens more from the Osram 40W Replacement LED , which uses the same 6W power draw and, at $8 per bulb, costs $4 less than Saffron. That also makes Osram the more efficient bulb of the two, putting out over 80 lumens per watt compared with just 60 from Saffron.

14 LEDs that shine a light on design (pictures)

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Saffron gets similarly outperformed by 40W replacement LEDs from Cree, Philips and even the Ikea Ledare LED , which sits on its own in a strange middle ground between the 40W and 60W replacement levels. Spec for spec, all of them offer better overall value propositions than Saffron -- though none of them are nearly as good at imitating the physical look of an incandescent.

Can you tell which one's the Saffron LED and which one's the incandescent? Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Performance

The Saffron 40W Replacement LED isn't a bad bulb by any stretch, especially if you're upgrading from an incandescent. I was pleased with both the quality of the light and the accuracy of the color temperature (there's also a Daylight version that shines at 6,500 K). Also, though I definitely wish it were a bit brighter, I wouldn't characterize it as dim, either. As a simple accent light, it'd likely do a fine job.

I was also happy to see that the classic build gives it a clean, evenly distributed light output capable of shining in all directions. Messy, badly aimed light output has been a deal breaker with a few of the LEDs that we've tested, but with Saffron, I had no such qualms.

The Saffron LED's omnidirectional light output shines evenly from all angles. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

That said, Saffron's bulb still sits at or near the bottom of the pack in nearly every performance category. As said before, its brightness disappoints at 362 lumens -- no other 40W replacement we've tested has fallen below 450. At 60 lumens per watt, it ties the Philips and Feit 40W replacements as the least efficient LEDs we've tested. It also has the worst color rendering score -- 76 out of 100 -- of any of the bulbs in our lab.

Another big strike against Saffron is the fact that its 40W Replacement LED is nondimmable. Try and use it with a dimmer switch, and you'll see the sort of strobing shown below in our flicker GIF.

Try and use Saffron's nondimmable LED on a dimmer switch, and you'll get results like this. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Saffron does claim that its LED will last 30,000 hours -- slightly longer than the 25,000 hour lifespan you'll see from most LEDs on the market today, and longer than any of the other 40W replacements we've looked at. That's a small sign of confidence from Saffron, but one that quickly gets undercut by the fact that the bulb only comes with a 1-year warranty. For comparison, you get 5 years from Philips and Osram, and 10 years from Cree.

All in all there's nothing about this bulb's performance that left me truly impressed. For general, household lighting that isn't on a dimmer switch, it'll do the job, but not quite as well as name-brand competitors that cost less straight off the shelf at your local hardware store.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

Plenty of consumers remain hesitant to make the switch over to LEDs, and at least some of that has to do with the way the things look. To that end, I give Saffron credit for making a passable LED that looks more or less indistinguishable from the incandescents that came before it.

Still, the rest of the field isn't that weird-looking -- certainly not enough so for Saffron to justify its underperforming LED on looks alone. All the same, that's what Saffron's offering here, which makes this 40W Replacement LED something of a novelty. At $12 per bulb, I'm not buying.

saffron-led-bulb-product-photos-3.jpg
5.3

Saffron 40W Replacement LED

Score Breakdown

Design 6Value 5Performance 5