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Battle of the connected LED light bulbs: Cree Connected Soft White vs. GE Link

Michael Brown | Jan. 21, 2015
LED light bulbs are far more energy efficient than incandescent models, Cree and GE now make them more convenient, too. But which is the better bulb?

But the real savings doesn't come from the $3.73 (or the $3.54) difference in annual energy costs, it stems from the fact you'd need to replace the Reveal bulb two dozen times over the lifetime of a single LED bulb. Where the Reveal is rated to last 0.9 years, Cree and GE say you can expect one of their LED bulbs to last 22.8 years. Lighting a room 3 hours per day for 22.8 years with a Reveal bulb will cost $141.40, but it will cost only $52.36 with the Cree and just $48.03 with the GE Link. That's a lifetime savings of $89.04 or $93.37 respectively (although that doesn't include the cost of the hub, which can be used for many things other than lighting control). In either case, the Cree and the GE Link bulbs will pay for themselves several times over--that's assuming, of course, the lamp they're in doesn't get knocked over in a pillow fight, smashing the bulb to smithereens in the process.

So which bulb's better?

Aesthetically speaking, GE's Link bulb looks much prettier than the Cree--at least before its lit. And its clear glass dome contributes to its heft (6.2 ounces compared to just 2.0 ounces for the Cree bulb), giving you the feeling that you're getting more for your money. The Cree looks and feels cheap, with its dome being constructed from translucent plastic, with horizontal vents perforating its base and top and a seam appearing when its lit.

Don't be fooled by appearances. LED light is highly directional, and while the LEDs in the GE Link are arranged in two half circles, much of the light they produce shoots straight up. An arrangement of baffles inside the Cree bulb distribute the light much more evenly, giving the bulb an omnidirectional property the GE lacks. And while both bulbs are described as "soft white," the light pass through the Cree's translucent plastic looked softer than what radiated from the GE. My wife also preferred the light the Cree bulb cast.

Those are necessarily subjective opinions, of course. You might well prefer the look of GE's bulb, and it does have a slightly lower cost of operation. Before you plunk down your pennies for either bulb, you'll want to know about one significant limitation that impacts both: Neither of them can be dimmed using a conventional dimmer switch. You can dim them with the Wink app (as well as arrange bulbs into groups and schedule them to turn on and off automatically), but those things will necessitate your pulling your phone out of your pocket and launching the app. If you want the ability to do all that from either the wall or your phone, you'll need a connected dimmer switch and a conventional dimmable LED bulb.


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