We decided to compare the top bulbs from the top manufacturers. We chose candidates by looking at results from internet polls, and comparing them with bulbs easy to find at national retailers. Our LED Bulb Reviews
are elsewhere on the blog. Here is a summary of our tests, ranked in our order of preference. All bulbs are 800-815 lumens, and 2700K, except for two of the Feit bulbs which are 3000K.
Philips 9.5W Warm Glow
As usual, Philips' latest light bulb is in first place for our favourite. This is a pretty great bulb that dimmed silently or nearly silently depending on the dimmer. Not only did it dim smoothly with no flicker, its colour temperature dropped just like an incandescent bulb.
We've only seen this bulb for sale at Costco. This bulb appears slightly warmer than 2700K. Its dimmer compatibility list has a short five models on it, but it did dim relatively well (slight buzz) with one of our dimmers, even though it was not on the list. One advantage to this bulb is that its minimum start temperature is -40C. The bulb's price of $5.66 is very low for a 25,000 hour, 9W bulb. The packaging of this bulb is nearly identical to the 11W version. Shop carefully.
Feit 2700K 9.5W Enhance (High CRI)
We find it difficult to visually tell the difference between 80 and 92 CRI, but our camera could. It is suitable for use in fully enclosed fixtures. This excellent bulb was disappointing only in its greater-than-average electromagnetic interference.
This bulb is only rated for an oddly specific 10,950 hours instead of 25,000+ like much of the rest of the bulbs we tested. However, this is offset by its lower power consumption and lower purchase price. The bulb appears slightly brighter than 2700K. If you don't plan to dim your bulbs, and don't have a Costco membership for the Sunbeam 9W, you may wish to choose this one due to its lower initial cost. This bulb produces a barely perceptible buzz, but is imperceptible from more than a foot away. Also has a slight flicker upon turning on, but then is flicker-free.
Feit 3000K 9W
We bought eight of these bulbs for $24.99 at Canadian Tire. The light produced by this bulb is very obviously different from a 2700K bulb, so don't expect to mix them like you can with halogen and tungsten. Everyone in our test group thought light produced by this bulb looked like daylight. We became accustomed to it after a few days. If you like cooler bulbs, go for it.
EDIT: We discovered all of these bulbs have a sporadic annoying flicker. We no longer recommend them.
Feit 3000K 9.5W
Light seems identical to Feit's 9W bulb. Unlike the 9W, this bulb dims (slight buzz) and is rated for 25,000 hours.
At first glance the light produced by this bulb looks like its 9W cousin. Its dimmer compatibility list is slightly longer. Its minimum start temperature is -20. It is not rated for damp locations. We don't think its $0.33 lower purchase price offsets the additional 2W power consumption. The packaging of this bulb is nearly identical to the 9W version. Shop carefully.
Philips SlimStyle 10.5W
This is the first LED bulb that we ever tested that produced good quality light for a relatively low price. We still think it produces good quality light, but its 10.5W power consumption, poor performance with dimmers, and unusual shape, will prevent us from buying more, now that better bulbs are on the market.
Cree 4Flow 11W
The is the first Cree bulb we've owned that actually looks good enough to not be relegated to our outside fixtures where we don't have to look at it. Unfortunately, the electromagnetic interference it generates is still higher than the competition, as is its 11W power consumption. This combined with its relatively high purchase price will keep us from buying more. One advantage to this bulb is that it may be used in fully enclosed fixtures. This bulb dims well (barely perceptible buzz). The Cree 4Flow is the most expensive bulb over 10,000 hours that we tested.
Bulbs that we expect to test in 2016:
Sylvania's 9.5W 11,000 hour bulb.