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 the Feit bulb which is 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. Barely-detectable EMI.
Sunbeam/L'Image 9.9W (High CRI)
We've only seen this bulb for sale at Costco. Its dimmer compatibility list has a short 11 models on it, but it did dim well with our electronic low voltage dimmer (no flicker/silent), even though our dimmer was not on the list. One advantage to this bulb is that its minimum start temperature is -40C. The bulb's price of $5.10 is very low for a 25,000 hour, 9.9W bulb. We have not yet tested the manufacturer's claim of 90 CRI, but by eye, the bulb looks great. The bulb seems to have a "two stage" start, and is at half brightness for a few milliseconds when first turned on. Minor amount of EMI. Overall an excellent bulb.
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.
Feit 3000K 9.5W
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. After a few days, we decided we liked it better than 2700K. This bulb dims with a slight but relatively nonobtrusive buzz.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Update - Noma 810 Lumens 3000K 8.5W 25000 hr bulb
More details to follow when I get the time - but suffice to say this bulb is pretty great. Haven't tested it with dimmers yet.