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TechnologyTell Review: Cree Connected LED bulb

Sections: Green Home Tech, Lighting control, Reviews, Smart Home

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I’m a big fan of Cree. I love their stuff, although it’s mostly been related to top-notch flashlights. And while I had been aware of the company’s emergence into the home-lighting market, I just recently decided to check out what they’ve got going on. So how does Cree’s latest version of their A19-shaped LED bulb do? Read on to find out!

Design & Connectivity

Cree’s latest version of their connected soft white LED bulb is incredibly lightweight. Like, seriously. Leave it to Cree to spin the LED bulb on its head with less material, comparable (if not better) durability, yet equal lighting output.

Cree LED connected bulb soft white box

Lightweight, translucent, vented

I was, for the briefest of moments, slightly put-off by the plastic exterior as I removed this LED bulb from the package. But then I remembered how much glass and ceramic has been destroyed by my hands (slippery dishes, I swear), yet plastic still survives. And my Galaxy Note 4 is encased in plastic. So there.

Normally, it shouldn’t make a difference one way or another. Once a bulb has been installed, how often are you going to have to think about touching it again until it dies out? Exactly.

But, for the sake of argument, if you’re one to frequently play musical chairs with illumination devices, this Cree LED bulb is far cooler to the touch than its glass counterparts (even its own). It’s likely due to the open, vented design as well as the thermal properties of the plastic material.

The most brilliant aspect of this Cree LED bulb is its polyamorous nature. Why create your own wireless hub when you’re fully compatible with all the other, sexy players out there. Cree bulbs party just as well with Wink or ZigBee certified hubs. And since I already own and use (daily) the Belkin WeMo lighting kit, the Cree LED was ready to go.

Now, my WeMo link hub was supposed to detect the Cree LED bulb immediately. But it was also having other, strange issues for a couple of days before I yanked it from the wall and plugged it back in. Problems solved. The Cree LED bulb connects to the WeMo hub just the same as if it were made by Belkin. Except that you don’t get an image icon. But you do get to name it. And that’s it. Once you’re beyond this part, you’ll forget about the cuckoo in the nest.

Belkin WeMo App

Not much has changed with the Belkin WeMo app since my initial review. It’s still as slow and in need of a facelift as ever. But once you get past that, the app lets you toggle on/off, adjust the brightness, and include it in rules for automatic operation.

So if you’re using the WeMo equipment and app, the Cree LED bulb acts like a Belkin one. I’m sure that using the Cree bulb with any other system has it mimic the host and follow suit with native control.

Performance

If you haven’t caught up to speed with these modern bulbs, now’s the time. Watts? Irrelevant. What counts is the brightness (in lumens) and how the light appears (temperature from warm to cool). I compared the Cree connected LED (815 lumens) to my Belkin (800 lumens), TCP connected A19 (800 lumens), and a typical CFL bulb (850 lumens). Each of these bulbs are rated 2700K for temperature.

Keep in mind that the way the lights appear to the human eye and to the digital camera eye are a little different.

Cree LED connected bulb light comparisons

(left to right) Belkin LED, Cree LED, TCP LED, standard CFL bulb

In terms of temperature, the Cree LED bulb blended in equally (both separate and juxtaposed ) with all the other bulbs. It may not be totally evident from the photos, but it all felt fine to the eyes. While the photos show the TCP bulb to be a bit brighter than the other connected bulbs (Belkin & Cree), in actuality they were all the same. I’ll go ahead and blame my imprecise camera and lamp positioning. However, the trio of wireless LEDs were indeed brighter than the standard bulb, even though it’s rated with 50 more lumens.

Cree LED connected bulb comparisons

(left to right) Belkin LED, Cree LED, TCP LED, standard CFL bulb

Although the photos show both the Belkin and Cree bulb as uneven, the reality is that only the Cree bulb left a mottled pattern on the wall. The Cree bulb’s cutout vents at the top are fully responsible for this. Excluding that one central spot, which fades some by distance, the rest of the Cree LED bulb’s dispersion is smooth and even.

As for heat, the Cree LED bulb wins by a mile. Although the TCP and Belkin bulbs are easy to handle at the tops, you still want to keep fingers away from the necks. Cree’s design is all plastic with additional heat vents down towards the plug; all of it is safe and cool to the touch, even after the bulb has been on steadily for hours. In fact, you can feel the heat radiating out from the top of the Cree bulb if you hover your hand over it while it’s on.

Verdict

The biggest loser? It would be the CFL bulb. It was the least bright and the most hot of the four. Plus, it’s chock full of mercurial not-so-goodness.

As for this latest Cree connected LED bulb, the performance is excellent, so long as the unevenness from the top isn’t a deal-breaker. Brightness and color are spot-on, and the heat-dissipating lightweight body feels like a feature bonus. But the major appeal of this LED bulb is going to be compatibility and price. Cree plays nice with Wink and ZigBee certified hubs, providing easy integration and operation.

Plus, you can pick up this latest Cree bulb from Home Depot for less than the competition and have it last just as long.

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