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Christmas Gift Guide

Which LEDs render colors like these?

60W Incandescent

60W Incandescent

60W Incandescent

Cree 60W Replacement LED

Cree 60W Replacement LED

Cree 60W Replacement LED

Cree TW Series 60W Replacement LED

Cree TW Series 60W Replacement LED

Cree TW Series 60W Replacement LED

GE 60W Replacement LED

GE 60W Replacement LED

GE 60W Replacement LED

GE 60W Replacement CFL

GE 60W Replacement CFL

GE 60W Replacement CFL

GE Reveal LED

GE Reveal LED

GE Reveal LED

Ikea Ledare LED

Ikea Ledare LED

Ikea Ledare LED

Philips 60W Equivalent LED

Philips 60W Equivalent LED

Philips 60W Equivalent LED

Philips SlimStyle 60W Replacement LED

Philips SlimStyle 60W Replacement LED

Philips SlimStyle 60W Replacement LED

As consumers grow increasingly aware of the differences among their lighting options, we're seeing more and more of a demand for bulbs that produce vivid color quality. Some bulbs, like the Cree TW Series LED and the GE Reveal LED, are explicitly marketed for their color rendering capabilities. Which ones produce the most striking shades? We've put together the following untouched shots lit by the various lights we've looked at so far to help you decide for yourself.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

We'll start with a plain, old 60W incandescent bulb.  Incandescents will typically do a great job with color rendering.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Here's a closer look at those M&Ms.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

And here're the color rendering results from our lab, color by color. Extremely solid numbers across the board, making for an average in the high nineties.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Next up is Cree's 60W Replacement LED, which averages a CRI score right around 80.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Looking closer at the candy, we can see that the bowl looks a bit yellow.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

The red score (column number 9) actually drops into negative territory. This isn't unusual -- most standard LEDs will struggle to clear single digits when it comes to rendering red.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Let's move on to Cree's TW Series LED. The "TW" stands for True White -- this bulb promises a CRI score of 93.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

That white bowl certainly looks truer than before, doesn't it?

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Here's the hard data. Cree filters out some of that yellow light, then amps the wattage up to make up for the loss in brightness. This adds up to bulb that's just as bright as before, but better at rendering colors such as red.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Let's move from Cree to GE. Here's those same M&Ms lit by the GE 60W Replacement LED.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

All in all, not bad. This bulb scores in the low 80s and offers very even color-rendering performance.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Looking at the numbers, that red score is still low, but it's actually decent compared to those of most other LEDs. All of the colors score just slightly better than average.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Here's something different -- a 60W replacement CFL.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

The candy looks colorful, the bowl looks white... it's not nearly as bad a result as you might have expected. CFL quality has come a long way in the last few years, particularly from big manufacturers like GE that have a lot invested in the technology.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Aside from the lousy red score, the numbers are actually fairly solid and on a par with most LED offerings.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

All right, back to LEDs: Here's GE's take on the high-CRI bulb, the GE Reveal.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Like the Cree TW Series, the GE Reveal boasts a CRI score in the low 90s -- though it doesn't compensate for the filtered light like Cree does. This makes for a bulb that isn't quite as bright as it probably should be.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Still, it's hard to complain about those colors. Score for score, the GE Reveal is is one of the best LED options for color rendering -- just look at that red score.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Here's a look at the bargain-priced Ledare LED that you'll find at Ikea. It isn't as bright or as efficient as the competition -- but it does boast a very attractive CRI score of 87.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

That's a good looking bowl of candy, right there.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

The hard data looks good, too, with several impressive scores adding up to that 87 average.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Now, it's Philips' turn. Here's their standard 60W equivalent LED. Looks a little bit yellowish to me.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

A closer look at those candies -- hungry yet?

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

And here's the graph, with scores that average out to 81. Not bad, not great.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Finally, let's take a look at what the Philips SlimStyle LED is capable of.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Taking a closer look at the bowl reveals that the SlimStyle isn't quite as bright as the standard Philips LED. It also looks to have a slightly higher CRI rating.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

The data seems to confirm this last part, with slightly higher scores with several key colors, including red, yellow, and dark blue.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET
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