LED light bulb reviews

Newer Cree LEDs shine in Consumer Reports’ tests

One of the big reasons to buy energy-saving LED lightbulbs is that they’re supposed to last 23 years or longer when you use them 3 hours a day. So when some Cree LED spotlights died early on in one of Consumer Reports’ tests, the most failures we’ve seen for LEDs, we called Cree and then our lightbulb experts headed back to the lab to test more of their LEDs.

The dimmable Cree PAR38 Bright White LED spotlight replaces a 90-watt incandescent and the package notes it has a 27° beam angle. The model number is BPAR38-1503027T-12DE26-1U100 and we paid $24 apiece at Home Depot. When we spoke to Cree’s Mike Watson, vice president of product strategy, after our initial tests, he said they discovered that the electronics had failed in a small number of these LEDs. “We have a 10-year warranty and we’re happy to take the LEDs back,” he said. “First try to take them to Home Depot and if there’s a problem call 1-866-924-3645, or go to creebulb.com.” He added that the newer LEDs have a minor modification that provides more protection to the electronics.

Our test results of Cree’s modified LEDs

We run a number of tests on our lightbulbs, including frequently turning them on and off to find if that affects their performance. This on/off affects CFLs and incandescents but had never affected LEDs in our tests, until we tested these Cree PAR38 LEDs. Four of the eight died after about a third of the way through the initial test. So we bought more Cree LEDs and found that bulbs made in 2015 have a significantly lower failure rate, only one in nine died, suggesting that these were the modified bulbs.

The date code is on the bottom right of the bulb. Bulbs made in 2015 have a code of 0115 or higher (the first two numbers indicate the week, the next two the year). However, we’re still testing this LED to 3,000 hours to see if the modification also improves life performance. So you won’t see it in the our lightbulb Ratings now.

Walmart Great Value 10W LED Light Bulb (60W Equivalent) review: Brightness to spare with Walmart’s low-cost LEDs

LED light bulbs hit a new milestone this year, with 60W replacements selling for less than $5, no rebates necessary. At that price, upgrading from incandescents is a no-brainer, especially considering that an incandescent will add about $7 to your yearly energy bill, compared to just over a buck from a comparable LED.

One of those low-cost options can be found on the shelf at Walmart. Sold under the “Great Value” brand name, the bulb is a dimmable 60W replacement that costs just $4.88 a piece. At that price, the dimmable bit is perhaps its strongest selling point — comparable low-cost options like the Philips 60W Replacement LED and the GE Bright Stik LED won’t dim at all. The Walmart LED is also noticeably brighter than those two, and it promises a longer lifespan of 25,000 hours.

That’s enough for me to call this bulb a good purchase, but it isn’t a perfect one. Yes, it dims, but it doesn’t dim particularly well, and failed to go much lower than 20 percent brightness on any of the dimmers I tested it with (ideally, you want a bulb that’ll hit 10 percent or lower). It also flickered a fair amount at those lowest settings, which might be another deal breaker if you like the lights down low. Walmart’s LED deserves consideration alongside Philips and GE in that bargain-priced tier, but for smooth, satisfying dimming performance, I’d rather spend a few extra bucks on a bulb like the Osram 60W Replacement LED.

Design and specs

Walmart’s Great Value line of LEDs are actually manufactured by TCP, a brand that’s impressed us in the past. I was impressed again as I started testing out the dimmable 60W replacement Great Value bulb. With 874 lumens to its name, it’s officially the brightest 60W replacement bulb I’ve tested. The 5,000 K daylight version of the bulb does even better, coming in 100 lumens brighter and putting it closer to 75W replacement territory than 60W.

You get that brightness from a power draw of 10 watts. That’s the same as GE Bright Stik and the Ikea Ledare LEDs, but obviously more efficient than either of those two because you’re getting more brightness for the power draw — roughly 87 lumens per watt. The only low-cost LED that beats it in efficiency is the Philips 60W Replacement LED, which also costs $5. That bulb puts out 821 lumens from a power draw of 8.5 watts, giving you nearly 100 lumens per watt.

Walmart’s Great Value LED vs. the competition

Designwise, the bulb is simple and inoffensive looking, sticking to the safe side of LED aesthetics. It’s an omnidirectional bulb, which means that it puts light out in all directions. That makes it a good pick for most general lighting needs, and suitable for something like a bedside reading lamp, where downward cast light is especially important.

The bulb also claims a lifespan of 25,000 hours — well over 20 years if you’re using it for an average of three hours a day. That’s better than you’ll get with most of the LEDs you’ll find priced at 5 dollars or less. The Philips 60W Replacement LED only promises 15,000 hours, for instance, while the GE Bright Stik offers even less at 11,000 hours.

The packaging for soft white and daylight versions of this bulb are easy to mix up — the same goes for dimmable and non-dimmable versions.

Ry Crist/CNET

Walmart backs the longevity claims with a three-year warranty for each bulb. That offers plenty of buying reassurance, given that it’ll pay for itself in less than a year if you’re upgrading from an incandescent. Other options do slightly better, though — you get five years of coverage with the Cree 4Flow LED and the Philips 60W Replacement LED.

Something else worth noting: you’ll want to be careful when you’re making your purchase, as Walmart offers multiple versions of this bulb with confusingly similar packaging. Different color temperatures aren’t color-coded using traditional orange and blue hues, and it’s also easy to mistake the dimmable and non-dimmable versions. Make sure you double-check the packaging before ringing up.

Shedding Light On LED Lights: Leaders In Cost & Performance

Consumer Technology

Published on October 13th, 2015 | by Glenn Meyers

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October 13th, 2015 by Glenn Meyers

Originally published on GreenLivingIdeas.

In this era about driving attention to energy efficiency, few, if any, are going to argue a case against the benefits of using LED lights.

But replacing burnt-out incandescent bulbs with LEDs is no simple undertaking, especially when it comes to price. LED bulbs, built using emitting diodes, although certain to last longer than the Edison-style incandescent bulbs and demand less electricity, are not what you expect to find in the nearest neighborhood bargain basement store.

Another incandescent replacement is the compact fluorescent light, or CFL, which contains mercury, a toxic chemical. Aside from how best to dispose of toxic bulbs when they burn out (recycling these seems to be a myth), the biggest knock on CFLs involves the overall, less attractive light they provide when compared to the old-fashioned incandescents.

The Transition To LEDs

While LEDs today are far less expensive now than they used to be, they still cost considerably more than a 4-pack of the old incandescents, which are being discontinued. To this point, Holly Johnson adds, “And while prices for LED light bulbs were astronomical when we first covered this topic just a few years ago — upwards of $100 for one bulb — you can now pick up a cheap, 60-watt-equivalent LED light bulb for less than $5.”

While Johnson’s staggering price of $100 may seem unreal to some readers, a $50 tab per bulb was not uncommon that long ago. Today, the average is below $10 a bulb, even though certain LED brands cost more.

How LEDs Work

LEDs have traditionally been used in small electronic displays. According to the Lighting Research Center, LEDs are semiconductor diodes, electronic devices that permit current to flow in only one direction. The diode is formed by bringing two slightly different materials together to form a PN junction (Figure below). In a PN junction, the P side contains excess positive charge (“holes,” indicating the absence of electrons) while the N side contains excess negative charge (electrons).

Put another way, LED light bulbs bring together currents with a positive and negative charge to create energy released in the form of light. The result is a fast source of light that is reliable, instantaneous, and able to be dimmed. (CFLs cannot be dimmed.)

“When a forward voltage is applied to the semiconducting element forming the PN junction (heretofore referred to as the junction), electrons move from the N area toward the P area and holes move toward the N area. Near the junction, the electrons and holes combine. As this occurs, energy is released in the form of light that is emitted by the LED.” -Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

LED Lifespan Makes The Difference

Ultimately, what puts LEDs above incandescent bulbs and CFLs is how long they can last. According to Consumer Reports, LED light bulbs can last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours (up to 5 1/2 years), or up to five times longer than any comparable bulb on the market. Just don’t break them or expose them to water.

Buying Energy Star Certified LED Lights

Here’s the lowdown on what ENERGY STAR certification means: Strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lighting products that have earned the ENERGY STAR label deliver exceptional features, while using less energy. Saving energy helps you save money on utility bills and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Energy Star, these certified bulbs

  • Use about 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs
  • Last 10 to 25 times longer
  • Save $30 to $80 in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime
  • Meet strict quality and efficiency standards that are tested by accredited labs and certified by a third party
  • Produce about 70-90% less heat, so it’s safer to operate
  • Can cut energy costs associated with home cooling

These factors stack a pretty impressive reasons for using LEDs.

Top Global Manufacturers Of LEDs

LED candles from Phillips

The Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA) compiled a list of the top 10 global LED lighting manufacturers, according to Economic Daily News. According to Source Guide, there are presently 965 LED manufacturers world The top three are Philips, Osram, and Panasonic.

  • Philips
  • Osram
  • Panasonic
  • Toshiba
  • Cree
  • ENDO
  • Zumtobel
  • Koizumi
  • Iris Ohyama
  • Sharp

LED Pricing

Consumer Reports has written this on LED pricing: “When LEDs were $50 a bulb not long ago it took years to earn back the money you spent on an LED. But now you’ll find LEDs for $10 and less.”

When you start price shopping, keep in mind how many different types of LEDs that are available for purchase. You guessed it: PLENTY!

LED Buying Basics

Your LED light bulb search should be based on what light best provides the amount of light you need. You should also weigh in the color of light you like. Then there are other basics to consider, such as price and the dimensions of the bulb and base.

Using a color temperature spectrum, lights can be all colors. However, the shades of white can range from warm to cool white. The lower the color temperature, the more yellow your white light will appear. This type of light is referred to as soft white. Distinctions like these about user preference will usually do plenty to drive the sale of the LED product, price aside.

According to the , you will find a comprehensive list about the best LED manufacturers, and their product specifications

Warranty & Support: “A good LED light bulb should come with at least a three- to five-year warranty, while the best LED bulbs have up to a 10-year warranty,” states TopTenReviews, who published the Top 10 list below.

The Top 10

Cree 9.5 Watt $9.97

Philips LED 425264 $60.00

G7 Power Incline $19.95

Feit 13.5-watt $22.50

EcoSmart GP19 $14.97

TCP LED 40W $19.99

Sylvania 73014 $9.81

GE 89888 $3.24

Philips 433227 10.5-watt Slim Style $3.00

Lighting Ever 10W 100018 $6.99

Notice first the significantly large difference in pricing on these lights, from $3 to $60. Read all of the print and make certain you are satisfied with what you’re buying.

In the end, LED lighting is an environmentally friendly option that will save you money in the long run. Regardless of what you choose, LED lighting solutions will shine long after incandescent and CFL bulbs have quit working. And you are contributing to green living!

Images: Current LED technologies in one picture via hand on bulb via Cree via Facebook, LED candles via Phillips

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Tags: CFL, Energy Star

About the Author

Glenn Meyers is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he’s been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

GE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED review: GE’s LED: When ‘good enough’ just isn’t good enough

$10 LEDs were unheard of just a year or two ago, but since then, prices have fallen faster than many expected. Now, $10 seems to be the industry’s go-to going rate for 60W replacements, with low-cost bulbs like the Cree 60W Replacement LED and the Philips SlimStyle lining store shelves.

A third big-brand option is GE’S Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED, currently available at Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club stores nationwide at that popular $10 price point. While slightly less efficient than what you’ll get from Cree and not as design-oriented as the SlimStyle, the GE LED still offers reasonable value in its own right, along with a subtle bump in color quality. As a baseline bulb, it’s worth a look.

GE’s LED isn’t the most exciting bulb on the market. It lacks the eye-catching design of the Philips SlimStyle and hasn’t seen the same sort of buzz that the market-moving Cree LED managed to generate last year.

Still, at $10, this is a bulb that merits consideration. With a light output of 800 lumens, it matches the SlimStyle and the Cree LED in terms of brightness — though at a power draw of 11 watts, it’s the least efficient of the three, if only just slightly so.

GE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED Cree 60W Replacement LED Philips 60W Equivalent LED Ikea Ledare LED Philips SlimStyle LED
Lumens 800 800 830 600 800
Watts 11 9.5 11 10 10.5
Efficiency (lumens/watt) 72.72 84.21 75.45 60 76.19
Color temperature 2,562 K 2,669 K 2,584 K 2,632 K (frosted) 2,507 K (clear) 2,653 K
Lifespan 15,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours
Color rendering index 80 80 81 87 80
Weight 4.25 ounces 3.70 ounces 4.55 ounces 4.10 ounces 2.20 ounces
Warranty 5 years 10 years 5 years none 3 years
Price $10 $10 $15 $5 $9

Of those three options, the GE LED also has the lowest color temperature. All three aim for 2,700 K — the yellowy, familiar glow of an incandescent — but the GE LED lands farthest from the target, with a measured color temperature of 2,562 K. If anything, this only serves to give it a slight extra hit of yellow, so if that’s the color you like from your lights, you might actually prefer the GE LED’s tone.

Another spec of note is the bulb’s stated lifespan. Most LEDs claim to last for 25,000 hours — a figure that actually describes the amount of time before the diodes will fade to 70 percent of their original light output. The GE LED, however, claims a 15,000-hour lifespan. At an average of three hours of usage per day, this still means it should last well over a decade — long enough to pay for itself several times over if you’re replacing an incandescent — but that might not be enough for sticklers determined to get maximum value out of their LEDs.

View full gallery Colin West McDonald/CNET

The GE LED comes with a 5-year warranty, and at roughly 36 percent of the bulb’s stated lifespan, that’s a pretty good deal. If you’re replacing an incandescent, the GE LED should pay for itself long before your coverage runs out. Still, if a reassuring warranty is what you’re after, you’ll be much happier with the Cree LED, which comes with a 10-year warranty.

Something else that may be worth considering is how the bulb will perform if used with a dimmer switch. Like most other LED offerings these days, the GE LED promises dimmability, and we confirmed this with a number of different switches, including an older model not rated for LED use. There was a slight buzz in the bulb, the result of electromagnetic interference from the dimming mechanism, but it wasn’t nearly as noticeable as what we heard from the Philips SlimStyle in our recent round of dimming tests.

With its new C by GE hardware, GE takes a different approach to the smart bulb, offering two different models that are designed for different types of rooms. Both are Bluetooth bulbs, so no hub is required to get up and running, and you can control both through a single app.

C-Life is a dimmable “living room” bulb, but it’s not color tunable. It’s preset to 2700K, a nicely warm, incandescent shade of light. At about $15 a bulb, it’s an affordable way to experiment with smart lighting technology. The second bulb is called C-Sleep, and while it looks nearly identical to C-Life, it offers some basic tuning options, with three different color temperature settings. In the morning, the cold light (about 7000K) is designed to energize. A daytime setting offers a relatively neutral, fluorescent-like hue, and in the evening hours, the light warms up further, aiding relaxation and preparing the user for bed. All of this is managed with the C by GE app, which features a configurable “Follow the Sun” system that lets the user set specific times at which the bulbs switch from one mode to the next.

Christopher Null

Neither of the C by GE bulbs will work with conventional or Z-Wave dimmer switches.

As with most Bluetooth bulbs, C by GE bulbs set up very quickly and painlessly. The catch is that the C by GE bulbs are limited in their tenability; as noted, C-Sleep offers just three settings, and C-Life isn’t tunable at all. There’s an argument to be made that having a dozen different white colors available is overkill, but an equally valid one suggests that fine-tuning your lighting environment is a bigger job that ultimately requires more options than C-Sleep can provide.

I was far from enamored with the C by GE control app, which is easy to set up, but which is needlessly convoluted in operation. “Scenes” give you quick control over all of your bulbs, letting you turn bulbs on or off, set individual bulbs’ brightness, and tune the color of C-Sleep bulbs.

The C-Life bulb can be dimmed with its app, but its color temperature can’t be tuned. The C-Sleep bulb is both dimmable and tunable.

You can’t however set C-Sleep bulbs to use the Follow the Sun system within the Scenes system. To turn that option on, you must manage each bulb individually and override any settings it already has. (My hunch is that a future app update will remedy this problem.) C by GE requires an account to use, and control can be shared with up to five users, each requiring an account as well.

C by GE bulbs physically look good, and the light they produce is bright enough and pleasant (800 lumens for C-Life, 850 for C-Sleep). The lack of tunability for C-Life bulbs might be a deal-killer for some users, just as the limited tuning options on the C-Sleep bulbs might be a letdown for those looking for a higher-end solution. The $25 C-Sleep bulb is a relatively affordable option, but compared to $30 for a light like the Philips Hue White Ambiance, it’s not cheap enough to merit strong consideration.

Note:This review supercedes our first look at the C by GE white LED smart bulbs. You’ll find our original opinion here.

Update: We first reviewed the C by GE bulbs on October 29, 2016. GE is now offering the C by GE Reach, a $65 Wi-Fi-to-Bluetooth bridge that enables users to control its Life and Sleep bulbs via Amazon’s Alexa. Support for Google Assistant is planned by the end of 2017. The Reach is also integrated into the C by GE Sol smart lamp. You can read our review of the Sol here.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our for more details.
Photo: Michael Graham Richard

The Future We Want Is Already Here, It’s Just Unevenly Distributed

There’s little doubt in my mind that compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) will turn out to be just a transitory technology. While they are a significant improvement on incandescent bulbs (which are better at producing heat than light), they remain a bit too fragile and hard to dispose of to be the lighting’s ‘holy grail’. Light emitting diode (LED) lights, on the other hand, could very well be the answer we’ve been looking for: They’re very efficient, turn on instantly, last a long time (decades!), and don’t contain easily dispersed toxins (mercury free, lead free, RoHS compliant). Let’s have a closer look at GE’s 9W ‘Energy Smart’ LED lightbulb. Read on for more info and photos.
Photo: Michael Graham Richard First Look at the GE LED Bulb
The first thing that one notices when looking at the GE LED bulb is the strange shape of the heatsink. It’s quite different from the Qnuru LEDs, but it seems to be doing a good job dissipating heat. The first question that people ask me when I show them these bulbs is: “Why do they need a heatsink? Are they that hot?” The simple answer is that LEDs are more heat-sensitive than incandescents, so while they produce a lot less heat, they still need to dissipate it faster to remain at their peak operating temperature.
Photo: Michael Graham Richard

Heat is the Enemy of LEDs
What’s clever about the shape of this heatsink/radiator is that is allows light to escape on the sides and bottom of the bulb, making it a better replacement for a CFL or incandescent bulb (more on that below).


Photo: Michael Graham Richard
Photo: Michael Graham Richard

Some specs:


Photo: Michael Graham Richard

The GE LED bulb has a limited warranty of 10 years, but it’s rated at over 22 years on the box, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if this was actually a conservative number. This means that some of us might be putting our LED bulbs in your will…


Photo: Michael Graham Richard

While GE says the bulb will save you $85 over its life, that’s compared to a 40W incandescent. That number would be lower compared to a CFL, but it could also be higher since in my experience the GE 9W LED can replace a 60W bulb, not just a 40W.

That number will also become much higher in a few years when LED bulbs cost a lot less. If the GE 9W LED was the same price as a CFL, savings over the life of the bulb would make it a great investment, as well as the greenest way to get light other than the sun.

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

Light Quality and Directionality
Above is the GE 9W LED. It’s a ‘warm white’ bulb, and the quality of the light is impressive. I don’t really have anything bad to say about it compared to the quality CFLs that I’ve been using before. There’s no strange red or blue tint to the light and it mixes well with other non-LED bulbs.

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

And this one is the Qnuru 9W LED (warm white version) in the same lamp.

The way the camera adjusts to light makes it a bit harder to see in the photos, but the GE light is more omnidirectional, sending a lot more light downward and to the sides of the bulb. Whether this is a big plus will depend on what kind of lamp you want to use the LED bulb with. If it’s a torchiere, it won’t help much (see below), but if it’s a reading lamp like above, the GE definitely has the advantage.

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

This is the GE bulb in a torch lamp. In person, it’s more obvious than on this pic that a lot of the GE bulb does a good job, but that a more directional LED bulb (like the Qnuru below) would do a better job of lighting the room.

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

Here’s the Qnuru 9W LED bulb in the same lamp. Again, it’s a bit hard to see on the pic, but in person, it does light the room a bit better.

For reviews of other LED lightbulb models, see the links below:

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

See also: Philips AmbientLED 17 Watts LED Lightbulb (Product Review)

See also: Qnuru 6.4W and 9.2W LED Lightbulbs (Product Review)

See also: FIRST Green ‘e-Watt Saver’ 7W LED Lightbulb (Product Review)

See also: Philips AmbientLED 12.5 Watts LED Lightbulb (Product Review)

Price: Right now these bulbs are $50 if you buy them straight from GE. That’s too expensive for most people, but in a few years I’d be surprised if these or similar bulbs weren’t selling for under $5-10.

Thanks to GE for providing the review unit.

If you like this article, you can follow me on Twitter (@Michael_GR) and Stumbleupon (THMike). Thanks.

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Sylvania 60W Equivalent Daylight LED review: A terrific daylight LED (if you don’t need it to dim)

On paper, the Sylvania 60W Replacement Daylight LED is one of the best neutral-toned LEDs we’ve tested. It nails the hot white quality of light that you want from a daylight bulb, it’s tied with Philips for the title of brightest LED in its class, and it’s the most efficient one we tested, to boot.

Dimmable 60W replacement daylight LEDs

It isn’t a slam dunk, though. At $8 each, it’s one of the priciest bulbs we tested — twice as expensive as a comparable Walmart-brand bulb. It’ll still save you money in the long run, since it’ll only add about a buck to your yearly energy bill, compared with seven bucks from a 60W incandescent, but $8 is still an off-putting asking price, especially if you need to replace several bulbs at once.

Its dimming performance also left a lot to be desired. I tested the bulb out with a couple of different dimmer switches, and while I was able to dial it down to an average minimum of 2.1 percent brightness, I wasn’t able to do so without a noticeable flicker. The Cree 4Flow Daylight LED did a much better job, and costs two bucks less per bulb.

Here’s the worst of it in real-time: pic.twitter.com/Um1pYkP8Ij

— Ry Crist (@rycrist) August 26, 2016

Dimming disappointments aside, this is still a well-designed bulb that performed like a champ, especially in my heat management tests. Like most electronics, LED light bulbs will see a dip in performance as they get hot, which is why they typically include things like heat sinks and convection vents in the design. All of them will see a slight dip in brightness in the hour or so after you first turn them on — after that, they’ll stabilize at what’s called the “steady state.”

The Sylvania 60W Replacement Daylight LED was the clear winner in our thermal management tests — it only lost about ten percent of its brightness to heat during ninety minutes of use. That puts it right where you want it, in that green zone.

Ry Crist/CNET

The Sylvania LED had a higher steady state than any other daylight bulb I finished, losing only about ten percent of its initial brightness during 90 minutes of use. That’s an excellent result that speaks to good bulb design, and one that suggests that this might be an especially good pick for use in enclosed fixtures, where heat gets trapped.

All in all, this is a very decent bulb, and a steal if you find it on sale for a few bucks less than the 8-dollar asking price. Still, I can’t recommend it if you use dimmer switches in your home — if that’s the case, go with that Cree 4Flow LED, instead.

Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem continues to expand in unusual directions as more established accessory makers come on board with their own unique solutions, two to three years after the platform’s initial debut. The latest of these Sylvania, which announced a lineup of hub-less HomeKit-compatible lighting solutions late last year — in this case standard white and multicoloured LED bulbs and an LED light strip that are basically HomeKit-enabled versions of smart lights that the company has been making for the past few years.

Today we’re rounding up all three of Sylvania’s new Smart+ HomeKit offerings. The company’s basic entry-level A19 ​Soft White LED Light Bulb ($26) provides simple dimmable soft white illumination, while the A19 Full Color LED Light Bulb ($45) can be adjusted to any colour, much like Philip’s well-known Hue bulbs. Lastly, the Full Color​ LED Flex Strip ($60) is a six-foot flexible light strip that can also be adjusted to any colour or colour temperature. All three accessories use direct Bluetooth connectivity rather than Wi-Fi, but have the advantage of not requiring a separate hub.

Sylvania’s bulbs are a standard A19 size and E26/E27 socket, meaning that they should be usable in any light fixture where a normal lightbulb fits. The basic Soft White LED Light Bulb puts out 800 lumens, or about the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb. The soft white light is dimmable, but is fixed at a colour temperature of 2700 Kelvin. As the name implies, the Full Color LED Light Bulb provides 16 million possible colours as well as white light in adjustable colour temperatures ranging from 2700 Kelvin to 6500 Kelvin, also at up to 800 lumens. There’s otherwise not much to say about the bulbs themselves — screw the into an outlet and they’re ready to go.

The Full Color​ LED Flex Strip provides the same colour capabilities and white colour temperatures as the Full Color LED Light Bulb, but only puts out 400 lumens. The light strip comes in three two-foot pieces that each contain 12 multicoloured LEDs and can be connected together to create a single six-foot 36-LED run. It’s also possible to cut the pieces down to six-inch sections should you be running the light strip in a smaller space, so you can pretty much get the length you want, although of course once a strip is cut you’ll lose the ability to extend that strip further later on, and there’s not really anything you can do with the leftover piece, either. Sylvania sells additional expansion kits if you want to to go longer — runs of up to 20 feet are supported. A power adapter and controller comes with the strip, which is the piece that handles the Bluetooth and HomeKit communications; the strip itself is basically identical to some of Sylvania’s older smart light strips, such as the OSRAM Lightify Flex RGBW, and in fact the pieces are even fully compatible, so if you’ve already purchased an older strip like the OSRAM, you can use those pieces to extend the new HomeKit-compatible LED Flex Strip as well.

Sylvania’s Smart+ lighting products work with HomeKit pretty much exactly as we expected them to. As Bluetooth products, they all paired quickly and easily. The flex strip includes a scannable HomeKit code on the controller, but for the bulbs you’ll need to either type in the printed code from the side of the bulb, or pull out the quick start guide to find the scannable version. One thing we did find interesting is that Sylvania focuses entirely on Apple’s own Home app in its set up instructions, rather than promoting its own app. While Sylvania does offer a standalone app, the company only mentions it as being necessary for firmware updates. Apple’s Home app works perfectly fine, of course, but this is just one of the few instances we’ve seen where a manufacturer isn’t pointing users to their own app. Once paired, everything works great with Apple’s Home app, Siri commands, and other third-party HomeKit apps, with the only caveat being that you will experience the typical Bluetooth latency here. Wi-Fi HomeKit devices respond instantaneously (as do most hub-based devices like Philips Hue and Lutron Caséta), while you may sometimes experience a delay of about half a second when controlling Bluetooth HomeKit accessories. This problem isn’t unique to Sylvania’s lights, but occurs with other devices like the Elgato Eve Switch as well. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s noticeable — give a command to Siri like “turn off the lights” and there will just enough of a delay from your Bluetooth devices to make you very briefly question whether they’re working or not. We find it can be a bit disconcerting, and it’s especially obvious if you’re mixing and matching with Wi-Fi based HomeKit lighting accessories, as on and off commands won’t quite be in sync. It’s also worth noting that the latency usually only occurs when you haven’t accessed the light within the past couple of minutes, so they’re much more responsive when you’re doing things like playing with changing colours or brightness settings, or even quickly toggling them off and back on again.

Bluetooth latency issues aside, however, Sylvania’s Smart+ lights worked very well. We encountered no range issues at all in our home and they were always reachable when we wanted to adjust them. While we’re still not entirely sure these would be our first choice for deployment at scale, it’s pretty difficult to argue with the price or the simplicity of Sylvania’s Smart+ solution here — there are no “starter kits” to purchase up front, so you can get going with a single $26 or $45 bulb and slowly expand from there, and with no hubs to contend with, there’s one less piece of equipment to plug into your router and worry about troubleshooting when your lights aren’t quite working as expected (a problem we’ve frequently encountered with Philips’ Hue system). If you’re looking to get started with HomeKit lighting, this is a very good and cost-effective solution that fits very naturally into the HomeKit ecosystem with minimal effort.

Table of Contents

Our Rating

A- Highly Recommended

Company and Price

Company: Sylvania

Model: A19 ​Soft White LED Light Bulb, A19 ​Soft White LED Light Bulb Full Color LED Light Bulb, Full Color​ LED Flex Strip

Price: $26 / $45 / $60

With its new Smart+ color bulb, Sylvania has jettisoned the Lightify brand (and has stepped away from the Ledvance corporate identity). But while the company has lost some of its branding, its gained something else: support for Apple’s HomeKit system without requiring an external hub.

Functionally, this is nearly the same bulb as the old Ledvance Lightify RGBW. The only difference is that now, if you have an iOS device, you don’t need to buy a standalone hub that plugs into wall power if you want to connect it to HomeKit. This saves some money (the bulb is the same price as the old Lightify) while decluttering your outlets. Of course, HomeKit has its own advantages, too: You don’t have to deal with a standalone app if you want to control your smart lighting from your phone. Add an Apple TV and you can add schedules and control the bulb when you’re not at home. Siri even lets you use voice control if you want to tell the lights what to do.

Christopher Null / IDG

No complaints—at least with the Smart+ lighting quality.

HomeKit aside, the bulb itself doesn’t feature many new tricks.The bulb still has a fairly straightforward, compact, incandescent-inspired design that fits fine in just about any fixture. With 800 lumens of brightness and a 25,000-hour lifespan rating, the technical specs are on par with most high-quality smart bulbs on the market. Of course, the bulb is fully color-tunable and offers separate white temperature adjustments, as well.

Making these settings through the Home app isn’t quite as intuitive as it is on some competing standalone control apps—there’s a lot of extra tapping required—but if you only have basic lighting needs, this isn’t a big deal.

If you want more power, you can use Sylvania’s separate lighting control app—Sylvania Smart Home—to control your lights, or at least you will eventually be able to once its released. At press time, the app still hadn’t been completed, though the bulb hardware is readily available on the market.

Sylvania

“No response” is code for “The bulb didn’t get the command, so nothing happened.”

While connecting it to my iPhone and Apple TV was trivially easy, I did encounter some issues in actually using the bulb on a regular basis. The main one: The bulb would often fail to respond to commands issued through Home, spitting out a no response error perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the time I would try to do anything. There was no rhyme or reason to these errors; they seemed random, whether I was standing next to the lamp or testing from the other side of town. Fortunately, repeating the action I was attempting once or twice would usually get things going, but for even a casual smart bulb user, this could be frustrating to the point of deal-breaking.

As well, the bulb’s scheduling tools never worked once to turn on the light at a pre-determined time, and the iOS scheduling interface isn’t the best on the market, either. Also worth noting:The bulb does not support external dimming, but this feature is front and center in the Home app, where dimming is smooth and responsive. Except, of course, when it doesn’t work at all.

I smell a firmware update in the making….

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Far too many LED bulbs choke when it comes it comes to being paired with a dimmer switch. The problem can be particularly acute when you pair an LED with a smart dimmer. The bulbs I’ve tested—including those advertised as being dimmer compatible—typically sputter, buzz, hum, or fail to work altogether when I install them in a fixture controlled by one of my in-wall Z-Wave dimmers. I was beginning to wonder if I’d need to replace my smart lighting controls with dumb switches as I change over from incandescent to LED lighting when Cree told me they were about to ship a whole line of new LED bulbs that work perfectly with dimmers.

I should qualify that statement to say that Cree has so far provided only a multi-pack of its A19, 60-watt-equivalent bulbs. The company has promised to send a few representative samples of the rest of its new soup-to-nuts line, which Cree’s VP of marketing, consumer products Al Safarikas characterizes as “from A to PAR.”

A complete line-up

Unlike many light-bulb manufacturers that produce LED bulbs in just a few form factors, Cree has come to market with a comprehensive lineup that includes the common A19 bulb reviewed here, a three-way A19 bulb (30-, 60-, 100-watt equivalent), BR30 and BR40 (BR stands for “bulged reflector”), PAR30 and PAR38 (PAR is an acronym for “parabolic aluminized reflector”), and 25- and 40-watt equivalent soft-white candelabra bulbs. Cree is also shipping a series of downlight retrofit kits for screw-base incandescent ceiling cans. (Their advice for retrofitting fluorescent cans with ballasts? Remove and replace the whole can.)

Cree

Cree is shipping a complete line of LED bulbs, including A19, three-way, BR and PAR bulbs, and a candelabra style.

In a product briefing a couple of weeks back, Safarikas boasted of Cree’s 10-year, satisfaction-guaranteed warranty for its entire new line. “Light bulbs are no longer throw-away items,” he said. “They can go in your home and improve your home for decades to come. So we’re taking a page out of the more-expensive bulb-makers’ playbook .

Cree also offers a line of smart bulbs that are equipped with ZigBee radios (we reviewed its Connected Soft White bulb in early 2015). As such, those bulbs are designed to be controlled via a central controller (e.g., a Wink or SmartThings hub, or a more sophisticated control panel from a manufacturer such as Vivint). You can control them with a smartphone, tablet, or a personal computer, but those devices send commands to the hub and the hub sends them to the light bulb. This new line of bulbs must be controlled by the fixture they’re installed in or the switch on the wall that they’re wired to. This significantly reduces the cost of the bulbs, but that savings is absorbed by the cost of the smart switch.

Michael Brown

Three LED bulbs compared to a traditional incandescent. From left to right: A Sylvania incandescent, a C by GE Life smart bulb, a Philips non-dimmable LED, and a Cree dimmable LED.

Smart bulb, or smart switch?

I’ve tested a number of smart bulbs, but I’ve lived with smart switches for nearly 10 years. Smart switches are the way to go. Here’s why: First and foremost, no matter how intelligent a smart bulb might be, it becomes dumb the instant you install it in a fixture that’s controlled by a switch on the wall. If that switch is in the off position, the bulb isn’t receiving any power and therefore can’t be controlled by anything.

Secondly, many smart bulbs—especially Bluetooth bulbs—offer local control only. You can’t control them over the Internet (though this is less true of Wi-Fi bulbs and ZigBee bulbs that are controlled by hubs.) And finally, if the light in question is a chandelier with multiple bulbs, you’ll want all the bulbs to turn on or off or dim at the same time. That’s difficult, if not impossible, to do with smart bulbs and an app.

The review

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks and discuss the A19 soft-white LED bulb that Cree sent for this review. Of the three white-LED bulbs I looked at, Cree’s product bore the closest resemblance to an ordinary A19 60-watt equivalent, incandescent bulb. The C by GE Life came in second, followed by the slightly smaller, non-dimmable Philips A19 60-watt equivalent. The shape of the bulb can impact which light fixtures you can put it in (some lamps have shades that clip to the bulb), and it can also impact the bulb’s ability to project light in all directions.

This chart compares the features in three of the leading LED A19 replacement light bulbs alongside a traditional incandescent bulb.

Cree classifies its bulb as soft white, with a color temperature of 2700K. Of the three bulbs I compared to the Sylvania, the Philips bulb came closest to matching the Sylvania’s color, but the Cree was brighter than the other two, producing 815 lumens compared to 800 lumens for both the GE and the Philips bulbs. That brightness came at the cost of just two more watts than the Philips bulb, however, and the Cree consumed two watts less than the GE. According to the Kill A Watt model P4400 wattmeter I used, the Sylvania incandescent burned 58 watts, the Cree used 9 watts, the GE bulb consumed 11, and the Philips used the least amount of power—just 7 watts.

All three bulbs did a very good job of casting their light evenly and in all directions, and the Cree bulb dimmed smoothly and evenly without making any noise. Being a smart bulb, the C by GE Life can be dimmed via Bluetooth using its app, but it’s completely incompatible with in-wall dimmers. The Philips bulb is dumb, like the Cree, but it can’t be dimmed at all.

Michael Brown

Light bounced off of a metal surface with a satin white finish. From left to right: A Sylvania incandescent, a C by GE Life smart LED, a Philips non-dimmable LED, and a Cree dimmable LED.

If you don’t care about dimming your lights, Philips has the better deal—at least in the short run. You can buy four of those bulbs for about $14, where four of Cree’s bulbs cost $20. But don’t forget that Cree’s bulbs are rated to last more than twice as long as Philips’, and they have a 10-year warranty to back that up. Philips warrants its bulbs for only three years.

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The Ilumi A19 Smartbulb is one of a growing number of Bluetooth-connected lights that doesn’t require a hub. It’s a color-changing smart bulb that you can set to various schedules, sync to the beat of your favorite music, and program to turn on when it sees your smartphone nearby. Unfortunately, the companion app is a bit clunky, and some features, like Music Sync, aren’t very well implemented. At $59.99 per bulb, the A19 is just as pricey as the Philips Hue ($191.91 at Amazon) , which feels more polished and offers a wider range of functionality.

Design and Setup
Made of thick white plastic that curves upward and terminates in a translucent bulb, the Ilumi A19 measures 4.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide. It’s smaller than the similar Nyrius LED ( at Amazon) , which measures an even 5 inches tall and 2.7 inches wide. Both bulbs weigh 7.2 ounces.

The A19 is a 60-watt-equivalent bulb that produces 800 lumens of brightness. That’s brighter than the 490-lumen Nyrius, as well as the 600-lumen Philips Hue. It’s capable of producing white light from 2,000K to 5,000K, so you can dim it, plus its colors look nice and saturated. Despite its brightness—and the bulb is extremely bright if you look directly at it—the A19 was unable to illuminate an entire room in testing, mainly because it doesn’t spread light out. The bulb’s design basically sends light in one direction, though many smart bulbs are designed like this. To fully illuminate all but the smallest of rooms you’ll need multiple bulbs, which can get expensive.

Setting up the A19 is simple. You don’t need a hub, and you can connect the bulb directly to your mobile device via Bluetooth. First, you need to screw the bulb into a lamp with a standard E26 or E27 socket. Then download the free Ilumi app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Any Bluetooth 4.0 device that running iOS 7.0 or later, or Android 4.3 or later, should work. Follow the on-screen instructions, and the bulb will connect to the app. I connected the Ilumi to a Samsung Galaxy S6 ($325.09 at Amazon) in seconds, though a quick firmware update had to take place before I could start using the bulb.

App and Features
The Ilumi app has an overly cluttered interface. All options and settings are located in menus you have to pull in from the left side of the screen, and in order to activate features you need to add them to an Experiences page (more on this in a moment). It’s confusing at first, and the app is a bit slow to respond.

Slide the menu open and you’ll see a Groups page where you can arrange and name bulbs by room. You can connect multiple bulbs to the app at one time, up to 50 in total. The Settings and Support tabs have little to offer aside from links to company contact information and store pages, and the option to upgrade firmware.

You’ll find most of what you can do with the bulbs under the Experiences tab. Like the Nyrius Smart LED, the A19 can sync with any music playlist you have available. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence to show that anything is actually syncing. The A19 seems to pulse to the beat of its own drum, with blatant disregard for the music you’re actually listening to. I wouldn’t set one up for a party anytime soon.

Torch mode detects the presence of your smartphone (via Bluetooth), and automatically turns bulbs on and off when you move near or away from them. You can set start and end times for when Torch mode is active, and you can select the relative distance from which you’d like the bulb to turn on (though you’re limited to the 100 feet or so that a Bluetooth connection provides). Unfortunately, I found Torch mode to be rather slow to react to my presence in testing (which isn’t convenient when you come home to a darkened house), and even if I had the bulb set to a color, like red, in Torch mode it reverts to white.

Most other features are related to scheduling. Wake-Up simulates a sunrise in case you don’t want to use a loud alarm; you can set the time and duration, and what days it repeats. Vacation mode simply turns the bulb on and off to make it look like someone is home while you’re away. The Scene Scheduler activates different scenes at different times of the day. And Circadian mode replicates the sun’s natural light cycle, so the bulb with gradually transition from lighter shades to darker shades. All of these modes work well, though they’re not unique. The Misfit Bolt ($25.00 at Amazon) , for instance, can accomplish most of these functions for a few dollars less.

Ilumi bulbs don’t connect to Wi-Fi, like Philips Hue bulbs, so you can’t adjust them when you’re out of Bluetooth range. Hue bulbs, on the other hand, can be adjusted no matter where you. And Hue supports If This Then That (IFTTT), allowing you to create recipes that automatically control bulbs based on factors like phone notifications or even a change in weather.

Conclusions
The Ilumi A19 is a decent smart bulb, but it doesn’t do enough to separate itself from the competition. And its most unique features, like Music Sync and Torch mode, are underwhelming. If you’re looking to give smart lighting a try, you’re better off saving some money with the Misfit Bolt, which offers a better app and overall performance. And if you’re serious about connecting your home, Philips Hue bulbs are the way to go. They require a hub, but the app is much better and all the additional features you gain are worth it.

Where to Buy

MSRP $59.99

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Further Reading

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  • Philips Hue White Smart Light Starter Kit Is $20 Off at Walmart
  • Philips Hue Play, Signe Can Flood Your Walls With Colorful Light

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Should you get an A19 or an A21 bulb? Check out the differences between an a19 vs a21 bulb first with our comparison guide, so you’ll know which suits you.

A19 vs A21 Bulb | KRM Light+

If you’ve gone over to the light bulb section at the hardware store, you’ve probably seen bulbs with sizes like A19 or A21. What exactly is the difference between these two sizes and how does the size difference affect how you choose anyway?

You may not know it, but size plays a huge role in bulb and socket compatibility. That’s why you need to familiarize yourself with these two common bulb sizes. We’ll be talking about the difference between a19 vs a21 bulb, as well as some of the applications used by A19 vs A21 bulbs.

A19 LED Bulb Reviews

Preview Product Power Price
Great Eagle A19 LED Light Bulb, 60W Equivalent 9W (Soft White)

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SUNMEG 6 Pack LED Light Bulbs 11W (Soft White)

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A19 LED Light Bulbs, 100 Watt Equivalent 11W (Soft White)

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Brightown Edison LED Bulb 6 Pack 6W (Natural White)

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Boncoo Vintage LED Edison Bulb Dimmable 6W (Soft White)

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A21 LED Bulb Reviews

Preview Product Power Price
Great Eagle 50/100/150W Equivalent 3-Way 19W (Soft White)

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Great Eagle LED A21 Light Bulb Dimmable 23W (Bright White)

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LOHAS 150W-200W Incandescent Bulb Equivalent 23W (Daylight White)

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LOHAS 150W-200Watt Equivalent LED Light Bulbs 23W (Soft White)

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AmeriLuck 3-Way 50/100/150W Equiv 20W (Daylight White)

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A19 Vs A21 Bulb Comparison

To start it off, it is first important to know what is a19 vs a21 bulb. As already mentioned earlier, A19 and A21 refer to the size of the bulb. Just to give you an idea, the A refers to a standard size type of lightbulb that is used for most homes. This is the pear-shaped type of lightbulb that uses an E (Edison) sized base. In other words, they come from the same shape type but differ in size.

Comparing the two types of bulbs means that you need to compare the a19 vs a21 bulb shape. From a distance, there may not seem to be any differences between the A19 vs A21 bulb. However, further examination of the bulbs will show you that there is a slight difference in the size of the bulb head.

The A19 A21 Bulb Dimensions Are As Follows:

The A19 has a diameter of 2.375 inches and a height of 4.13 inches. On the other hand, the A21 bulb has larger dimensions of 2.6225 inches in diameter and 5 inches in height.

While size may be the main and most obvious difference between the two bulbs, they also have a difference in power. Now, a bulb’s power is usually measured in lumens. Lumen refers to the illuminating power a bulb emits when you turn it on. Obviously, an A21 bulb will be able to produce a higher number of lumens as compared to an A19 sized one because the A21 bulb has a bigger space for heat dissipation. This is especially true for LED lights of these sizes since LED lights are extremely powerful.

Now that you know the differences between the two, you might be asking if there are any significant similarities that we need to take note of. Aside from the shape, they both use the same type of base for the socket. That’s why you can pretty much use either one for residential purposes like table lamps, ceiling fan lights, basement lights, and the like.

A19 Vs A21 Bulb Applications

Since they have the same base, you may be thinking that it won’t really make a difference choosing between the 2 since they can be used interchangeably anyway. While this is actually true to a certain extent, knowing the differences between an A19 vs A21 bulb will help you work around heat dissipation issues, as well as energy efficiency issues.

As we have already established, the A21 bulb can have a higher lumen level since it has a bigger space for better heat dissipation. Because of this bigger size, manufacturers actually tend to make stronger lights of up to 100W using this size of the bulb. So, if you’re looking for a strong bulb for let’s say, your basement, your lamp, or a big living room lamp, then you might want to use A21 bulbs for these purposes.

However, you may want to take note that this sort of power also comes with a price– energy efficiency. For the most part, A21 bulbs that have added lumen power in it will really result in a higher energy bill. Since most A21 bulbs these days are packed with power, you may want to reconsider using them if you don’t need such strong lighting and if you want to save money. That said, the more energy-efficient option would be the A19 bulb.

Want to know the difference between shunted and non-shunted socket? Read HERE!

Conclusion

As a buyer, you may not really see the significance of differentiating the two, but it will help if you know the pros and cons of the A19 vs A21 bulb. Even though the main difference between the two is really the size, the overall size of the bulb may actually affect the power, as well as the energy consumption of the bulb.

Hence, for those who are very particular with the numbers, you really have to take note of these small details. Taking note of these small things will really be able to help you understand more about your lighting system in the long run.

If ever you’re curious about the two types or if you just want a deeper understanding of them, then always keep our comparison guide in mind.