Review: Cree LED Light Bulb

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I never thought I’d review a light bulb.

That’s because until recently, there’s really only been two choices for your household light bulb needs:  Do you want to continue using the century-old standard light bulb or switch to a newish compact fluorescent light bulb?  The standard light bulb will work in just about any fixture for a low upfront cost, though they are extraordinarily inefficient.  The CFL is a little more finicky. If you want one for a dimmer or an outside fixture or whatnot, you have to make sure you get one made for that purpose. The upside is that over the life of the bulb you should save money as they only use a fraction of the energy (not to mention make Captain Planet happy).

Back when Congress mulled forcing the light bulb industry to shift towards an all CFL market, the issue became very political, very quickly. CFLs were called inferior, part of a left-wing conspiracy, and even poisonous. Foes of the technology said they were too slow to warm up to full brightness. The light was unnatural. If broken you have to call 9-1-1. Of course, those concerns were all overblown. Some of the complaints were based on first generation models that were no longer on the market, others were flat out lies.

The biggest knock against CFLs, though, was that a lot people who tried them out just didn’t like the light. Which is a shame, because they were largely responding to color temperature, which is easy to account for. If you replace ANY bulb with another that’s a different color temp, the light will look “off.”  It’s not because one color temp is better or worse than another, it’s simply because it’s different. (That’s why its generally a good idea to replace all the bulbs in a new home when you move in, before you get used to any rooms in a certain kind of light.) A lot of these people wouldn’t have been so displeased by the CFL experience had they made sure to match the color temp of the new bulb to the old one.

The PR damage against CFLs might be too great to ever overcome, though, no matter how mature the technology gets. It’s a good thing, then, that the next generation of light bulbs is upon us: The LED bulb. They look (a little) more like standard bulbs. They (theoretically) last for decades as opposed to years. They use even less energy and tend to be more universal than CFLs. And they cost roughly $1,000,000 per bulb.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but they are still definitely in the “early adopter” phase. A 60w replacement bulb will run about 20 bucks in most places (though, yes, you can find them cheaper if you shop around).

When we moved into our house, I decided to forgo LED bulbs this go around because of the price (we need to buy A LOT of bulbs on a budget).

Then, this past weekend, I saw a Cree 60w equivalent bulb at Home Depot. It sells for $13. Still not in CFL territory, but this was by far the cheapest I’d seen yet for this wattage. I figured I’d give a try.

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My only problem: How do you review a light bulb? Do I go all technical and measure its output and spread as scientifically as possible then compare it to other bulbs? Or do I just plug it in and see if I like it?

I opted to do a little of both (though mostly the latter). I stuck it in a fixture with a CFL of a similar color temp.

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CFL is on the right. LED is on the left.

Note: These photos aren’t meant to represent the actual light in any way. I don’t have the photography skills to approximate what the human eye sees, particularly for a light bulb test where you need to adjust the settings greatly just to avoid an overexposed picture.

I almost went blind taking this photo.

I almost went blind taking this photo.

The photo below is my best attempt to show a CFL and the LED side-by-side over a neutral background.

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Because the color temps are similar, the light blends very well.

The photo below, though, shows what happens when you mix two light bulbs with DIFFERENT color temps:

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This is a “daylight” bulb in the same fixture as a “warm white” bulb.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that color temp is FAR more important than bulb technology when it comes to matching light.

The next test was… an audio test? Yep. I had read complaints about an LED bulb that Best Buy sells. Some people thought it “buzzed.” So I put the Cree in a fixture all by itself, turned off all other electronics in the room, and let it warm up. There was no buzz that I could hear.

So it passed my light test, mixing well with my current bulbs. It also passed my sound test. Any other tests? Durability? Well, it says it’s “guaranteed” to last for 10 years… So I’ll let you know if it dies before then. Check back in a decade or so. Until then, I can heartily recommend the Cree 60w replacement bulb. For the time being, it’s the best value in the LED market. If you have a fixture that’s really hard to change, I think it’s well worth the extra money.

Cable Boxes are Evil

From 1950 to 1980, watching TV was super easy: All you had to do was remember what time your favorite shows would be on and then turn a knob to tune in.  So simple.  The process required less than 0.0000001% of your brain power, freeing America to do some pretty cool things during that time span, like walk on the moon, march for civil rights, and impeach a president.

Then came a wolf in sheep’s clothing that sought to annihilate the elegant simplicity of TV watching: The Cable Box.   Sure it came with dozens of enticing channels, but it rendered useless the TV’s own dial and it made hooking up a VCR a complicated mess.  It also made life hell for every 10 year old boy who was forced to become their home’s I.T. guy.

Fortunately, electronics manufacturers saw a need for simplicity, and they started sticking cable tuners right into a multitude of devices. The result:  cable-ready TVs & VCRs that relegated cable boxes only to those who desperately needed to buy pay-per-view programs (i.e. boxing & porn) or unscramble premium channels (i.e. less interesting boxing and simulated porn). Thus the 1990’s became the golden age of cable: 60 to 70 additional channels, no special box required.  With that hassle eliminated, America saw it’s greatest decade of prosperity since the end of World War II.   We even had time to impeach another president.

But then the cable companies fought back. “Sure you can get up to 70 channels with no box,” they said in a dark alley behind the middle school, “but that’s BASIC cable. Wouldn’t you like something better? Something DIGITAL?” Ooh, digital cable. Hundreds of channels! Better sound and video quality! The ability to watch movies on demand! “Sounds great!” we shouted, “but what’s the catch?”

“That’s the best part,” they responded. “There isn’t one!”

Ah, but there was.

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10 Observations About Hulu Plus on the PS3

Hulu's App for the PS3

1.  My computer has been hooked up to my living room TV for a while now, so Hulu is no stranger to my big screen, but the PS3 interface is a much more natural fit for TV shows than a web browser.   Overall, it feels nice and polished, and using it is a pleasant experience.

2. When you start watching a TV show on the PS3, then switch over to watching it on another device, you can pick up right where you left off. Very nice touch.

3. If you have multiple Hulu-friendly devices, Hulu Plus is well worth the ten bucks a month for the added accessibility alone.

4. On the other hand, if you don’t have multiple Hulu-friendly devices, it’s a waste of money.   If you have no need or desire to watch Hulu on anything but your computer, Hulu Plus isn’t for you.  Aside from a back catalog of just a few shows you might actually watch, Hulu Plus offers little you can’t get on Hulu’s free regular service (actually it offers less — see #5).

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