Ge basic led bulbs

Ge basic led bulbs DEFAULT


*Some exclusions apply, like if you want light after sunset.

UPDATE: I’m not giving up!  Stay tuned for Part 2.

If you found yourself befuddled trying to buy a light bulb lately, as I often have, this post is for you.  It is also for the architects I was swapping “light bulb aisle war stories” with yesterday.  And for the Houzz reader who asked what should have been a simple question.  I hate buying light bulbs.  And this is my job.

I spent thirty minutes in the light bulb aisle at my local Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse today attempting to buy the “right” 60-watt-equivalent light bulb.

Thirty minutes.

With a calculator and a clipboard.

Just looking for a decent replacement for my beloved 60-watt incandescent light bulb.

Lowe’s helpfully narrowed down their selection recently to one brand- GE.  While other retailers offer multiple options from a handful of companies, this one-manufacturer-approach should simplify the selection process.  I decided to make it easy on myself and eliminate spot lamps, PAR bulbs, vintage-style bulbs, reflector bulbs, and everything that was not attempting to be a plain old ordinary light bulb.   I also looked only at options labeled 60-watt equivalent; no 75w, 100w, or 3-way.

That narrowed the playing field to eight choices.  EIGHT CHOICES FOR A BASIC LIGHT BULB FROM ONE MANUFACTURER IN ONE STORE.   Okay, enough of the all-caps type.  If you can hear me right now, you’ll sense the frustration boiling over and steaming out of my ears.  If I start to add in options from other stores and other manufacturers, I could end up with dozens (and likely hundreds) of choices for this one silly bulb.

I was on a mission, and I brought my clipboard.


I wrote down the product line, cost-per-bulb, and every lighting fact and energy fact I could find on the packaging.  I could write another post about how the most important information (color rendering quality, lumen depreciation over life, color consistency over life, photometrics, and other esoteric facts) are not even on the packaging.

First, I eliminated three options I could see no solid reason to buy.  If you really love this stuff, read why at the end of the post.

Then I brought four LED bulbs and one Halogen bulb home to test.  It just so happens that I have a handy four-bulb assembly that makes this easy.  This is one of the joys of being a lighting designer, and why I need a bigger garage.


From the left, I tested four LED bulbs from GE:

  1. GE Classic LED (frosted, soft white)
  2. GE Relax LED (frosted, soft white)
  3. GE Reveal LED (labeled their best)
  4. GE Refresh LED (frosted, daylight)

Ah, who would not want to feel classic, relaxed, revealed, and refreshed?  I should go into marketing.  Names aside, the above photograph shows that Classic and Relax are a little warmer (more yellow), while the Reveal loses some yellow and the Refresh goes blue.

The Refresh bulb is exactly the wrong thing to use in the late afternoon and evening.  Since that is when I use my lighting at home the most, I took that bulb out and put in the GE Halogen bulb, which is essentially an incandescent bulb that is slightly more efficient.


The Halogen bulb on the far right is Gold Standard of Good Lighting, according to most.  The problem is that burns out thirteen times faster and costs five times as much to operate than the three LED bulbs.   So I just used it as a benchmark.  In this case, all the bulbs were reasonable (the color is exaggerated a bit in the photograph).   But before I made my final answer, I hooked them up to a dimmer.


This is where most LED bulbs fail miserably.   While the Halogen bulb on the right, our benchmark, dims very smoothly to very low levels and shifts warmer in color temperature, all of the LED bulbs just get “grey.”   The only bulb of the three that dimmed to respectably low levels was ironically the least expensive, the GE Classic LED (frosted). And every single LED bulb buzzed and hummed when dimmed.  All of them.

That’s right- Lowe’s did not offer a single LED option that could be mistaken for incandescent.  Not one.  So what’s a guy to do?

  1. For spaces and lamps that I do not dim frequently, I might buy the GE Classic LED (frosted) bulbs.  They are very affordable, have a decent white light, are low wattage and were the longest lasting of the options.
  2. Keep using Halogen in the fixtures I dim very low, like my dining room chandelier.  I would gladly pay more for an LED that dims low and warm and does not buzz, but I have yet to find it.
  3. Keep shopping, sigh.  We have the technology to make a longer-lasting, smoother-dimming, warm-glow, color-shifting bulb that can be whatever we want it to be at any given moment, but I am not ready to fork over $100 per bulb.  Not yet.

Well, folks, that’s all the time I have this week for buying a (grit teeth and growl or hurl expletives at the world) light bulb.   Maybe in 13.7 years when all of these burn out there will be a better option.

UPDATE: Coming soon, I’ll post Part 2.  Two more stores and another bag of bulbs later, will I find a contender?  Or will I need to go to Part 3: The Internet??

Not satisfied?  The only real way to know is to do what I just did- buy the top contenders and test.  Good luck!



If you are curious, here are the options I eliminated the following from my testing:

  • GE Basic LED.  Unbelievably, these bulbs lasted half as long as the other LEDs yet COST MORE than the “Classic” line.  I’m not sure why- I this is a top-selling item because it is labeled “Basic,” and we all want that.  So they marked it up a bit more, cut the life in half, lowered the lumen output, and are making a killing on these.  Skip them.
  • GE Reveal Halogen.  This saves a few watts on the original, but the LED version will pay for itself in less than a year of use and will last 13 more years.   I don’t see a reason to buy these anymore.
  • GE Classic LED, Clear.  These look familiar, with clear glass and LED “filaments” inside.  They dim better than most, but the clear option nearly doubles the cost from the frosted version.  I do not see a reason to buy these, either.

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Published by davidwarfel

Converging Lighting & Learning for a Brighter Future View all posts by davidwarfel

  • We’ve added several new dismissals to the Competition, and updated the what to look forward to section with the models we plan to continue testing over the next few months.

February 22, 2021

If you want basic light bulbs that look great and will save you money in the long run, there’s no reason not to choose LED bulbs—they look as good as incandescents and are far more energy-efficient. We recommend Cree’s Exceptional Light Quality line of A19 bulbs. For general-purpose lighting, look for soft white LED bulbs, available in 60 W and 40 W versions. And for a whiter, cooler light for working, get Cree’s daylight LED bulbs, also in 60 W and 40 W versions. The Cree bulbs also function well with dimmer switches, neither flickering nor buzzing, and their color accuracy brings out the best in your decor, furniture, and food, improving the ambiance of your entire home.

Everything in your home looks great under the light of these bulbs, which have a high color accuracy that made fruits and decor appear natural and realistic in our tests. Unlike some LED bulbs, the Cree bulbs could dim all the way to zero without flickering or buzzing. Both the Soft White and Daylight versions performed equally well across all our tests. Cree’s bulbs have a 10-year warranty—the longest we’ve seen—and they are affordable, too.

If our pick is unavailable, we recommend Feit Electric’s basic, dimmable bulbs, including the Soft White and Daylight 60 W Equivalent Dimmable A19 Light Bulb. Both produce crisp color accuracy that’s as good as or better than that of the Cree bulbs, and they are just as easy to find online or in stores across the country. The Feit bulbs also offer smooth dimming without flickering or buzzing, although these could not continuously dim at the absolute lowest levels as well as the Cree bulbs. At around $2.50 a piece (depending on how many you buy) with a five-year warranty, the Feit bulbs are a cost-efficient way to brighten up your home.

Everything we recommend

Why you should trust us

Who this is for

We generally recommend LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs if you’re shopping for any light bulbs, regardless of whether you’re furnishing a home or replacing a burned-out pantry light. LED bulbs are better for the environment and your budget. They’re significantly more efficient and longer-lasting than CFL, incandescent, or halogen bulbs, so this ultimately saves you money over the life of the bulb. They’re also much less prone to breaking than the fragile filaments that comprise their incandescent counterparts. Many LED bulbs are actually made of plastic, which makes them safer to touch and more durable when you’re screwing them in or accidentally knocking them onto the ground, like we’re constantly doing—oops. (Don’t worry, that’s fine, because they’re LED.)

The Department of Energy estimates that LED bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, while also lasting up to 25 percent longer—leading to serious savings over time. A Bush-era regulation would have required inefficient incandescents to be phased out, by 2020, in favor of bulbs like LEDs that reached a certain threshold of energy. As of this writing, this regulation is still being contested at the federal level, although some states have gone ahead and implemented their own standards—such as California’s Title 20—that largely favor the cost and efficiency of LEDs.

Meanwhile, LEDs have entered the mainstream, with more affordable, widely available options in most bulb shapes and base types, and manufacturers have even embraced lighting trends like Edison filament bulbs. The best LED bulbs now have high color accuracy and warmer color temperatures that mimic the effects of incandescents. And as of 2020, the average LED bulb costs around $3—still slightly more than an incandescent, but undoubtedly a better long-term value once you factor in the energy savings and longer lifespan. These products are here to stay, too: According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, LED bulbs account for about 70 percent of the shipments in the general service lamp category, as of September 2019.

If you’re making the switch to LED bulbs, you’ll want to make sure your fixtures and switches are compatible. We tested bulbs using several types of dimmers and found that dimmers designed for LEDs really make a difference in a bulb’s performance. With compatible dimmers, our picks dimmed all the way to zero without plateauing and didn’t flicker, buzz, or hum—but with other dimmer styles, the same bulbs didn’t work as well. You can check whether your fixtures are compatible if you know the make and model (this blog from has some helpful tips), or get a dimmer switch (we like Lutron’s in-wall or lamp options).

How we picked

Four of our picks for best LED lightbulb laying side by side on the floor with their bulbs facing the camera.

We set out to recommend a satisfying and reliable LED version of your basic replacement light bulb. There’s no single perfect light bulb for every lighting situation, so we looked for a line with options for color temperatures and brightness levels to offer flexibility for different preferences or applications. We considered these factors when choosing which bulbs to test:

Shape, base, and materials: Light bulbs come in many shapes and sizes, and they have different types of screw-in bases. We narrowed this guide’s focus to the most common type, an A19 shape with an E26 base. This chart shows all of the shape and base styles, ranging from candelabra to trendy globe G-shape bulbs. Bulbs can be made from plastic or glass. GE’s Mathew Sommers said there isn’t much practical difference between the two materials for 40 W or 60 W bulbs, but that plastic bulbs can be better for higher-wattage bulbs. He told us that people (and companies) generally go for whatever is most affordable.

Brightness level options: LED bulbs labeled “60 W–equivalent” are bright yet subtle enough for most scenarios, although many people prefer 40 W–equivalent bulbs for places like a bedroom, where a softer glow helps make the space feel relaxed. Even though we measure LED brightness in lumens, which describe how much light a bulb puts out, people are so used to describing light bulb brightness using watts that most brands categorize bulbs using a wattage equivalency. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires brands to label all LED bulbs with a lighting facts label, which includes the bulb’s brightness in lumens and how much energy it uses in watts. Here’s an estimate of how LED wattage equivalents convert to lumens:

40 W = 450 lumens
60 W = 800 lumens
75 W = 1,100 lumens
100 W = 1,600 lumens

Dimmability: We chose to test only dimmable bulbs, because they offer a better ability to customize lighting to suit your mood, and also to future-proof your purchase. An LED bulb should last for years—manufacturers promise at least 10,000 hours of continuous use per bulb, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy estimates at least 25,000—so it’s wise to choose dimmable bulbs, in case you change your fixtures, move, or upgrade a lamp or switch (for example, with a Lutron dimmer). Dimmable bulbs work fine in a non-dimmable fixture; the reverse is not true.

Color temperature choices: We sought a bulb line with a range of color temperatures. Color temperature is measured in kelvin, and cooler light has a higher value, ranging from 3,600 to 5,500 K, while warmer light ranges from 2,700 to 3,500 K. Most brands describe 2,700 K temperatures as “soft white,” 3,500 K as “bright white,” and 5,000 K as “daylight,” with some in-betweens. People may prefer cooler light for bathrooms, kitchens, workspaces, and garages, and they may prefer warmer light for bedrooms and sitting areas.

People may prefer cooler light for bathrooms, kitchens, workspaces, and garages, and they may prefer warmer light for bedrooms and sitting areas.

High CRI and R9 values: CRI (Color Rendering Index) measures color accuracy relative to incandescent bulbs, or natural daylight. Although LEDs still can’t match incandescent bulbs, which have a CRI of 100, they’ve improved significantly in recent years. A CRI of 80 is now standard for LED bulbs. Higher is better, and great LED bulbs should accurately render colors. Lighting designer Geoff Goral told us that CRI as a metric has come under fire for measuring bulbs based on how well they portray pastel colors (instead of more saturated colors). Some bulbs now also list an R9 value, which indicates how well a bulb depicts red tones (making art, food, and people look better and less washed-out).

Compatible with enclosed fixtures: Not all LED bulbs will work with enclosed fixtures; we looked for bulbs that do. We limited our search to bulbs meant for indoor use, but some indoor bulbs will have a weather rating that allows them to be used outdoors as well.

Up to current regulations: California adopted Title 20 regulations, effective January 1, 2018, which outline strict energy-efficiency requirements for light bulbs and restrict which bulbs can be purchased in the state. To shop for compliant bulbs, use a search filter at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Low price: If you’re furnishing a home or even a rental, the price of light bulbs can quickly add up. We calculated costs per bulb and looked for the most affordable options.

Long warranty: Because LED bulbs are designed to last for thousands of hours and many years, we favored bulbs with longer warranties. LED bulbs don’t burn out—as they age, they fade and lose color accuracy.

No noise: Good bulbs shouldn’t flicker, buzz, or hum. GE’s Sommers explained that poor-quality drivers—the electronic part of the bulb that converts power to your home—or incompatible dimmers can cause these effects.

With these criteria in mind, we looked for new and notable bulbs in reviews from Digital Trends, Lifewire, and New York Magazine (many of the reviews were outdated or listed unavailable products). We read about what makes the best LED bulbs, from sources including Energy Star, Popular Mechanics,, and We scoured the available bulbs on retailers like Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe’s; compared offerings from brands like Philips, GE, Feit, Cree, AmazonBasics, Sylvania, and Eco Smart; and also considered bulbs from niche brands like Soraa and Green Creative.

How we tested

We decided to test 40 W–equivalent and 60 W–equivalent bulbs, in soft white and daylight color temperatures, both in a real-world scenario at home and in a lab setting, with specialized equipment and help from lighting designer Geoff Goral at the Lighting Design Alliance in Long Beach, California.

We mostly wanted to test for color accuracy. That’s because even though a bulb can have a high CRI value, design variations make each bulb show colors differently, and many manufacturers do not include information on a bulb’s R values, which describe how a bulb shows more saturated colors. We also wanted to test for dimmability, because LED bulbs often struggle to dim completely and sometimes won’t work with older dimmers (resulting in unpleasant flickering, buzzing, or humming).

We weren’t as concerned with measuring other specs. The LED light bulb industry is closely regulated by the IES, or Illuminating Engineering Society, and the Department of Energy. The FTC now requires that manufacturers label all bulbs with a lighting facts sheet that outlines a bulb’s lifespan, brightness, and color temperature.

For the apartment tests, we set up a colorful, fruit-and-flower-filled still life scene on a kitchen table. Then, we screwed each bulb into an overhead fixture that was plugged into a Lutron dimmer, noting whether bulbs buzzed or flickered, how well they dimmed, and how well they showed colors. We conducted all tests in the late afternoon and with other lights turned off for consistency. We took photos of the scene under the light of each bulb using a manual white balance to compare colors and brightness levels. Our photo editor adjusted the exposures and white balances for consistency among photos with 60 W and 40 W bulbs, and we compared the photos.

Our testing set up for this review: A dimmer box with four switches on it, several LED lightbulbs, and a notepad with notes.

Although these tests were interesting, they were inconclusive and subjective, with observations we couldn’t quantify. So we asked the Lighting Design Alliance’s Geoff Goral for help. Wirecutter editor Tim Barribeau brought 21 bulbs to Long Beach, California, where Goral measured and compared each bulb for color accuracy, dimmability, and relative brightness levels. Goral used an illuminance meter, to measure how much light emanated from a bulb onto a surface, and a spectrometer, to read the spectrum of light from each bulb, to see how much light was in each wavelength and measure color values R1-15. To test for compatibility and to calculate how dim the bulbs could get, Goral tested each bulb in a dimmer box with four styles of dimmers—ones designed for LED, incandescent (TRIAC), MLV, and ELV, all of which Lutron explains in detail.

With Goral helping us interpret the test results, we compared the bulbs’ performance and came away with conclusive results.

Our picks: Cree 60 W Equivalent Soft White and Daylight A19 Dimmable Exceptional Light Quality LED Light Bulbs

Our top picks for best LED lightbulb, the Cree 60W Soft White and Daylight bulbs.

Cree’s 60 W Equivalent A19 Dimmable Exceptional Light Quality LED Light Bulbs in both Soft White and Daylight versions performed better than any other bulbs in our tests. These bulbs accurately show colors, and have high CRI (Coloring Rendering Index) values, so your bananas will look yellow and your apples red. Unlike other bulbs, the Cree LED bulbs are able to dim all the way to zero on an LED dimmer. This line of bulbs also has the longest warranty of any brand we found.

We wanted to recommend a line of great bulbs from one brand to make outfitting a whole house with lights less complicated, and Cree offers standard LED bulbs in 40 W–, 60 W–, and 75 W–equivalent brightness levels with soft white, bright white, and daylight color temperature options. All of these bulbs are Title 20–compliant and available for purchase in California, while equivalent bulbs from GE and others are not. After observing how well Cree’s 40 W and 60 W bulbs performed in our tests, we feel confident recommending other LED bulbs from this brand as well.

A lamp with a Cree 60W bulb lighting a table with a Wirecutter mug, a stack of books, and a small plant on it.

The Cree 60 W–equivalent in a 5,000 K daylight color temperature. Photo: Sarah Kobos

A lamp with a Cree 60W bulb lighting a table with a Wirecutter mug, a stack of books, and a small plant on it.

The Cree 60 W–equivalent in a 2,700 K soft white color temperature. Photo: Sarah Kobos

A lamp with a Cree 40W bulb lighting a table with a Wirecutter mug, a stack of books, and a small plant on it.

The Cree 40 W–equivalent in a 5,000 K (daylight) color temperature. Photo: Sarah Kobos

A lamp with a Cree 40W bulb lighting a table with a Wirecutter mug, a stack of books, and a small plant on it.

The Cree 40 W–equivalent in a 2,700 K soft white color temperature. Photo: Sarah Kobos

The 40 W and 60 W Cree bulbs have a CRI rating of 90, one of the highest out of all the bulbs we tested—and far closer than LEDs in the past have come to mimicking that incandescent-quality glow. We found that the Cree bulbs had the best color fidelity—colors as they appear in real life. The 60 W Cree bulbs had the highest R values in our tests, so they still show saturated colors well (the 40 W bulbs were also among the best for color accuracy).

A bowl of fruit lit by the Cree 60W LED light bulb at 5,000 K daylight color temperature.

The Cree 60 W–equivalent in a 5,000 K daylight color temperature. Photo: Sarah Kobos

A bowl of fruit lit by the Cree 60W LED light bulb at 2,700K soft white color temperature.

The Cree 60 W–equivalent in a 2,700 K soft white color temperature. Photo: Sarah Kobos

The still-life fruit scene set up in the apartment looked like we had dialed up the contrast with an Instagram filter without opting for a preset—just slightly enhanced. Colors under the Cree Daylight bulb looked crisp and clean without being too blue-tinged or blown out: The tiny buds on broccoli florets were nicely defined, and white stripes stood out against the fuschia skin on a Graffiti eggplant. Under the Cree Soft White bulb, apples and lemons looked like slightly golden versions of themselves.

In our dimmer tests, the Cree bulbs were some of the only ones that could dim all the way to zero without plateauing, flickering, buzzing, or humming. By contrast, almost all of the other bulbs we tested had issues with various dimmers. Although the Cree bulbs worked with incandescent dimmers, they performed the best on LED-compatible (or CL) dimmers. The Cree’s superior dimming capabilities were noticeable even in our apartment tests; they dimmed lower than any other bulb using just a Lutron dimmer.

The Cree 60 W–equivalent in a 5,000 K daylight color temperature. Video: Sarah Kobos

The Cree 60 W–equivalent in a 2,700 K soft white color temperature. Video: Sarah Kobos

The Cree bulbs are an affordable option for furnishing a home, and prices will likely decrease over time. At the time of writing, prices range from about $3.50 to $4 per bulb. Cree also offers a 10-year warranty—the longest we’ve seen for bulbs—in case bulbs fade before their advertised lifespan.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

We previously recommended Cree bulbs, and we received some reader feedback about bulbs that burned out after just one or two years. Because of Cree’s long warranty and its available customer service (compared with, say, that of AmazonBasics), we are comfortable recommending this brand, despite some problems. The experts we spoke with all commented on how LED technology has progressed, so we’re hopeful that the most recent iteration of Cree bulbs will hold up better. We’re using these bulbs in our own homes and will continue to assess their performance over time.

Cree sells bulbs in 2-packs; we wish it offered greater quantities at lower prices.

Runners-up: Feit Electric Daylight and Soft White 60 W Equivalent Dimmable A19 Light Bulbs

If Cree LED bulbs are unavailable or you prefer slightly warmer colors, we recommend the Feit Electric Soft White and Feit Electric Daylight 60 W Equivalent Dimmable A19 Light Bulbs. These bulbs are rated at a 90+ CRI, compared with the Cree’s standard 90 score; it’s a subtle difference, but if you place the bulbs side by side, you’ll notice the Feit bulbs are just a bit more radiant. However, this also means that as the Feit bulbs dim lower, they appear brighter and slightly more yellowish than the Cree bulbs, which might not be ideal for every setting. These lights did plateau (as in, they stopped their continuous rate of dimming) as they dimmed near zero percent. But otherwise, they worked almost as smoothly and well as the Cree bulbs. If you’re fine with (or even prefer) that trade-off, the Feit bulbs are a good option when the Cree aren’t available. They’re easy to find online or in stores, and typically cost anywhere between $2.50 and $3 apiece, which is about average for LED bulbs. They’re also fully compliant with California’s Title 20, and come with a five-year warranty; that’s only half the warranty on the Cree bulbs but otherwise fairly standard.

What to look forward to

After a year of being trapped inside our homes, however, it seems these color-changing bulbs are catching on—and might have some real value after all. “People are looking for ways to get the most out of their spaces to transition from work/school to relaxing all using the same spaces, especially with Covid,” Dana Knight, Senior Director of Global Marketing at Feit told us over email. So we decided to take another look at these kinds of bulbs, as well as several other new bulbs that offer smart-like functionality without any actual connectivity.

If you’re interested in Smart LED lighting that can be controlled through your voice assistant, we have more details in a separate guide. If there are any other new LED bulbs that we’ve missed—either from brands you’ve seen in your local stores, or models that boast new features or technologies—please let us know in the comments section.

The competition

In 2021, we tested and dismissed several LED bulbs with non-smart, non-standard features such as color-switching abilities or built-in speakers.

Despite what its name implies, the Feit 60-Watt Equivalent A19 Air Purifier Bulb OM60 doesn’t actually “purify” the air. Instead, it functions more like an ionizer. Some people claim there are benefits to negative ion diffusion; the EPA says it’s “relatively ineffective in removing large particles,” and can actually produce some slight ill effects if not used in moderation. Either way: there’s no meaningful air purification going on here, although the bulb itself is otherwise fine.

We previously recommended Philips’s basic, dimmable bulbs—the 60 W Equivalent A19 LED with Warm Glow and the 60 W Equivalent A19 Dimmable Energy Saving LED Light Bulb Daylight, as well as the equivalent 40 W Soft White and 40 W Daylight options—as our runner-up picks. We still think they’re pretty good overall, but they’re not as readily available in stores as the Cree or Feit bulbs. The Soft White bulbs also come with a “Warm Glow” feature, which increases the bulb’s color temperature as it dims. Some people might prefer this aesthetic, but it also causes the bulb to lose color fidelity as it dims, bathing your decorations or the contents of your dinner plate with an exaggerated amber glow.

GE makes several bulbs with proprietary technology that alter color representation: the Reveal, the Relax, and the Refresh. These bulbs were fine, but they didn’t stand out in our tests, and they’re a little more expensive and have shorter warranties. The GE Reveal has a colored film over the bulb to create more color contrast. It made colors appear more saturated in our tests, which we liked. But it flickered when paired with incandescent or MLV dimmers, and it didn’t dim very low. This bulb also doesn’t meet Title 20 requirements and isn’t available in California. The GE Refresh bulbs use proprietary technology to make colors either warmer or bolder, to create more contrast. They also didn’t dim well in our tests.

The Philips SceneSwitch claims to create a dimming effect without a dimmer, by changing between three color temperatures. But in tests it didn’t always switch accurately, and when we placed it on a dimmer, it buzzed audibly (and was the only bulb to do so.) Reviews also mentioned that if you use multiple SceneSwitch bulbs, they sometimes won’t sync up, resulting in different bulbs with different color temperatures.


  1. Geoff Goral, senior lighting designer at Lighting Design Alliance, email and phone interviews, January 14, 2019

  2. Mathew Sommers, Consumer Innovation manager at GE, phone interviews, December 18, 2018

  3. Dr. Scott Brodie, ophthalmologist at NYU Langone Health, phone interview, November 29, 2018

  4. Sal Cangeloso, author, phone interview, October 2, 2018

  5. Amber Beck, public information officer and spokesperson at the California Energy Commission, phone interview, December 21, 2018

  6. LED Lighting: A Primer to Lighting the Future, Sal Cangeloso, July 1, 2012

About your guides

Anna Perling

Anna Perling is a staff writer covering kitchen gear at Wirecutter. During her time here, she has reported on various topics including sports bras, board games, and light bulbs. Previously she wrote food and lifestyle pieces for Saveur and Kinfolk magazines. Anna is a mentor at Girls Write Now and a member of the Online News Association.

Thom Dunn

Thom Dunn is an associate staff writer at Wirecutter reporting on HVAC and other home improvement topics. Sometimes his curiosity gets the best of him, such as when he plugged a space heater and a Marshall guitar amp into the same power strip. Pro tip: Don’t do that.

Further reading

  • The Best Smart LED Light Bulbs
  • The Best Christmas Lights

    The Best Christmas Lights

    by Doug Mahoney and Thom Dunn

    Our recommendations for indoor, outdoor, LED, and incandescent Christmas lights.

  • Smart Lighting Made Simple

    Smart Lighting Made Simple

    by Rachel Cericola

    If you want to make the jump from dull lighting to smart lighting, here are some easy ways to get started.

  • The Best Smart Outdoor Lighting for Backyards, Pathways, and More
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I've always been a stickler about light quality. It's just one of the (many) things I will happily blame on my decorator mother, who exclusively used pale pink incandescent bulbs in my bedroom as a kid. (There's a reason why they're such a cult favorite.) Spare me anything that promises to make whites seem extra-bright or mimic real daylight; I just want a bulb that makes the room (and, preferably, the people in it) look pretty.

Naturally, that meant that the eventual transition to LEDs wasn't easy for me. (Don't even get me started on CFLs.) After a period of hoarding incandescents (I know, I know!), I finally decided to get on the energy-efficient train, and began testing out different kinds of LEDs. Inevitably, I'd be disappointed by the not-quite-right light they gave off—too cold, or bright, or dim, or just weird—and go in search of something better.


GE Relax 4-Pack 60 W Equivalent LED Bulbs


Then, few years ago (and probably in the midst of a way-too-deep dive into light bulb reviews on Wirecutter or Consumer Reports), I ordered a pack of GE's Relax LED bulbs on Amazon. Part of the same HD product line as GE's "color-boosting" Reveal bulbs (which I'd always found slightly too harsh), the Relax bulbs promised similar color- and contrast-enhancing properties, but in a "warm, soft white" hue that's "perfect for comfortable moments and cozy spaces."

I swapped them in for the bulbs in my living room lamps and was pleasantly surprised. While most of the other warm-hued LEDs I'd tried were either still too blue or overcompensated with a slightly yellowish cast, the Reveal bulbs were a near-dupe for classic soft white incandescents—warm, but in a flattering, non-yellowy way. Since then, they've become the only type of bulb I'll use in my apartment. While GE recommends using them specifically in bedrooms, family rooms and dining rooms and saving the more "energizing" Reveal bulbs for kitchens and baths, I use the Relax version literally everywhere. (I mean, I want to be relaxed in the kitchen, too!)

So what makes the Reveal bulbs so good? First of all, there's the color temperature. The temperature of light is measured in kelvins; the lower the number, the warmer the light, and vice versa. The EPA sorts LED bulbs into three color categories: soft white (a.k.a. warm white, 2200K–3000K), bright white (or cool white, 3500K–4100K), and daylight (5000K–6000K). The Relax bulbs clock in at 2700K—a nice glow, but not quite amber.

Anton Payvin/Getty Images

Then there's the CRI—or color rendering index—part of the equation. CRI measures the accuracy of artificial lighting, with the maximum CRI of 100 being equivalent to a classic incandescent bulb. Those super-unflattering florescent lights in your office likely have a CRI in the 60s or 70s; most LED bulbs currently on the market are in the 80s. All of GE's HD bulbs, though, are in the 90 range, with the Relax bulbs at a CRI of 92.

What does that mean? GE Lighting senior product manager Preston Render likens the company's high-CRI lighting to watching a TV show in HD. "They offer greater color contrast and boldness over the average bulb, so the colors and features in every room can look even better," he explains. "Lower-quality products typically have a whiter/bluer color, so they don't do a very good job representing the color they shine on."

All of this is to say that my evangelizing for GE Relax bulbs isn't based solely on personal preference—there's some actual science to back it up! And did I mention they're cheap, too? A pack of four on Amazon will set you back around $9, or $2.25 a pop, which is pretty good for a bulb that comes with a 5-year warranty.

Oh, and one last thing: No matter how good your bulbs are, there's nothing worse than an overly-lit room, so please, for the love of God, put your lamps on dimmers (it's not that hard, I promise).

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Emma BazilianSenior Features EditorEmma Bazilian is a writer and editor covering interior design, market trends and culture.

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GE Relax, Refresh, and Reveal LED light bulb reviews: Two of these dumb bulbs are terrific

GE has appropriated the phrase “high definition” from the TV industry and applied it to a new line of dumb LED bulbs. The word “dumb” isn’t meant to be derogatory here, it’s just that these bulbs don’t have the electronic components that would enable them to be directly controlled by a smart home hub or a smart phone. Pair them with a smart switch and you’ll be in business.

So how can high definition be applied to light? GE explains that its Relax, Refresh, and Reveal bulbs “have a higher CRI, or Color Rendering Index, than standard LED bulbs. Which means they deliver greater color contrast and boldness than an average light bulb.”

ge relaxGE

Color Rendering Index is a real thing, and it’s defined by a measurement that describes the spread of the spectrum of the light source. This is a separate measurement from color temperature, which most bulb shoppers understand well. You can think of color temperature as a goal, and CRI as a measure of how closely the light comes to meeting that goal. High-CRI lights minimize spikes outside of the wavelength of light they’re supposed to be emitting, while low-CRI lights emit more light all across the spectrum.

CRI is rarely denoted in consumer lighting products, though sometimes it is described in spec boxes by the term “color accuracy,” which is a consumer-friendly name for a CRI measurement that maxes out at 100. Incandescent and halogen bulbs have great CRI, in the high 90s–which is why rooms look so nice under their light. Typical LED bulbs, on the other hand, tend to have CRI around 80, which is why they often look so unimpressive.

So: GE’s HD bulbs have a higher CRI. How much higher? The bulbs don’t say on the packages, but a GE rep says the bulbs score “high 80s to 90.” It’s ultimately up to your eye to decide just how HD these HD bulbs are.

Three shades of HD lighting

GE’s HD bulbs come in three flavors, each of which is a 60-watt equivalent.

Relax is a warm bulb tuned to 2700K and emitting 800 lumens. It is designed for bedrooms, dining-, and living-room situations where you want those soft, orange-hued tones.

ge refreshGE

Refresh is the cool bulb. Tuned to 5000K, it also emits 800 lumens. As expected, it is geared toward laundry rooms, the garage, and the home office; places where you want bright and “energizing” light that approximates daylight.

GE’s third bulb, Reveal, is tuned to 2850K, it emits just 570 lumens, though like both Relax and Refresh it draws just 10.5 watts of power. GE touts this as its “best light,” designed for places were “clarity matters most;” i.e., the kitchen or the bathroom. Pay attention, though, because Reveal isn’t just an HD bulb, it’s an HD+ bulb, which promises “exceptional color contrast and boldness plus radiant whites.”

Each of the bulbs boasts a 15,000-hour lifespan and carries a five-year limited warranty. The physical form factor is identical for Relax and Refresh—both looking like slightly-squished versions of standard incandescents. Reveal is just a bit larger and more rounded, like a standard incandescent.

Look into the light

As for the quality of the light, there’s no denying that GE knows what it’s doing. It’s difficult to accurately describe higher-CRI vs. lower-CRI light, but compared to other LEDs at the same color temperature, I found both Relax and Reveal to be prettier and simply more appealing to the eye. I was particularly drawn to the Relax bulb. The 150K difference may sound small, but it makes a difference, with Reveal offering clearly whiter color. The lower brightness is also evident, and while it works fine in the bathroom, in a larger kitchen it simply might not offer enough light.

Refresh is indeed incredibly cool, its blue-tinted brightness making you feel like you just stepped into a Wal-Mart. It’s hard to feel comfortable in light at this temperature, and perhaps that’s the point. The laundry room and garage are designed for completing specific technical tasks, after which the light gets turned off. I found it a harder sell in a home-office environment, with its light more anxiety-creating than energizing.

ge revealGE

That said, from top to bottom these lights are stellar, with light hues both crisp and pure. They’re perhaps not quite as clean as an incandescent, but notably better than bottom-shelf LED bulbs. As well, I had no trouble using any of the bulbs on a wired dimmer switch, though the overall range of levels from brightest to dimmest wasn’t very much.

GE’s press materials quote a suggested retail price of $4 to $5 each, with the bulbs sold in two-packs, but you’ll save a bundle buying the Relax bulbs in eight-packs for about $21 on Amazon. Street prices for Reveal, for whatever reason, are considerably higher. None of the GE HD line can compete with fluorescents on price, but if you’re upgrading your home to “dumb” LED bulbs, Relax and Refresh should merit strong consideration.

Correction: This article was updated on June 20 to remove a reference to neodymium being used in the manufacturing process.

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  • GE Lighting Relax HD (two-pack)

    The go-to bulb in the GE HD collection, offering soft, warm, and crystal-clear light quality.


    • Compact bulb with top-notch quality
    • Attractive pricing


    • Need to buy in bulk to get the best price
    • You might never notice the “HD” features
  • GE Lighting Refresh HD (two-pack)

    If you’re looking for a cool temperature bulb, Refresh offers crisp, blue light at a reasonable price.


    • Just as bright as the Relax HD
    • Great, compact form factor


    • Cool blue light takes some getting used to
    • Slightly more expensive than the Relax HD for some reason
  • GE Lighting Reveal HD (single-pack)

    Lower light output and a much higher price limit the GE Reveal HD's appeal.


    • Bulb shape is identical to that of an incandescent
    • Lower luminosity might be preferred in some locations


    • Much more expensive, but far less bright than Relax and Refresh
    • Slightly cooler temperature is readily noticeable and can be less appealing

Christopher Null is a veteran technology and business journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive, PCWorld, and Wired, and operates the websites Drinkhacker and Film Racket.


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How To Choose GE LED Bulbs

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