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Better colors from high-CRI LEDs?We put Cree and GE to the test to find the best bulb for eye-popping color quality.
[MUSIC]. Hey I'm cnet's Ry Crist. We've got the lightbulb testing box out today so you know what that means. We're testing out lightbulbs. And specifically we're looking at bulbs that have high CRI numbers. That stands for color rendering index. And it represents the bulbs ability to make colors look correct. So a bulb with a high CRI should do a good job making your red look red, green look green, et cetera et cetera. Specifically we're looking at the Cree TW series LED and the GE Reveal LED. Both of these have high CRIs in the 90s and they're hoping to offer the same amount of color quality that you'd get from your old incandescent bulbs like this one. So lets kill the lights for just a second, switch our setup and now here we've got a bowl of nice tantalizing M&Ms sitting under a 60 watt incandescent bulb, just a typical normal light. Produces colors well, you can see that these all look the way they should. They look appetizing, looks colourful, it's bright. Now we're gonna switch it out and see how the other bulbs compare. First up is the Cree TW series 60-watt replacement LED. Now this is an 800 lumen bulb that uses 13.5 Watts to put out that same amount of light and you can see the color looks pretty good. I'm not sure I'd say it's as good as that incandescent light. Incandescence CRI number probably would be somewhere around 99. This is a CRI of 93, so maybe not quite as colourful a bowl of M&Ms, but still a pretty darn good-looking one. Now we've got the GE Reveal LED in place and you can see the candy still looks great but it's a little less bright. The amount of light coming out of this bowl is not the same as Cree. My shirt kind of fading more to black. It's not quite as wide a pool of light and that's because it doesn't have as many Watts. It's not putting out as many lumens. It's only 570 lumens as opposed to Cree's 800. And that's kind of below what you want from a 60 Watt replacement. The reason for that is because both of these bulbs, both Cree and GE are filtering out part of that yellow light in order to give a more even distribution of the spectrum and the colours. The Cree bulb amps up the wattage a little bit ,and that makes up for the lack of brightness with some extra power and you get the right amount of light. The GE doesn't do that. The GE Reveal just filters that light out and doesn't compensate so you get a dimmer bulb. That said, these colors look pretty good. And as you continue testing it, we found even better results in some of our other photograph tests. You can take a look here at some of the sample images from our comparison gallery. The GE reveal did a really nice job, the colours all look vivid and they look correct. There's something yellowy about that Cree light. It's not filtering out quite as much of that yellow light. And if you look at the spectrometer graphs from our testing that holds true, you can see that. Take a look at this graph for instance, now this might look a little unwieldy but, these are just lined represent the amount of light that each bulb is putting out over different parts of the spectrum. So, right in middle of there, those big humps you see, those represent the yellow part of the spectrum. I thought the yellow light these balls are putting are quite a lot. And if you look there's that weird kind of W shaped dip for each bulb. That's the light that's being filtered by each bulb. That light's not getting out of the bulb, it's not effecting the color and that's why they have higher color rendering index numbers. But if you look, the GE Reveal's W dip right there, it goes a lot further down than the Cree bulb. The Cree isn't filtering out as much of that yellow light and that's exactly what the photographs show. Also, one other thing we wanna notice, is that the Cree line goes a lot higher, and that's those extra Watts. The area under those graphs, under those lines, that's the amount of brightness your getting, and so the Cree is amping up the wattage. It's going a little higher. It's giving you more brightness, so when it filters some of it out, it's still giving you the correct amount. That's the thing that GE doesn't quite get right. I wish it was a bit brighter. Overall, both of these bulbs did a great job. The Cree TW's got the better price point, a longer lifespan, and a much better warranty. But the GE Reveal, despite being a little bit more dim, it's the bulb with better colour rendering. It does a better job making those colors pop and look accurate. So that's the most important thing. Give it your consideration. For cnet, I'm Ray Crist. [MUSIC]