Cree Connected Max Smart LED review: Cree ups its game

The lighting mavens at Cree are pushing further into the smart home with the launch of the Cree Connected Max line, a series of bulbs available in both dimmable (but not tunable) white and color-changing options. Color bulbs are available in BR30, PAR38, A19, and (unusually) A21 form factors. The tunable white is only available as an A19 bulb.

Today we look at the color A19 bulb, which serves as both a full color-changing bulb and a tunable white bulb. The bulb offers a now familiar, traditional design, with a large heat sink and an Edison style globe on top, roughly the same size as a typical incandescent. The bulb draws 9 watts and offers 800 lumens of brightness, making for a 60-watt incandescent equivalent.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart bulbs, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

The bulb sets up initially via Bluetooth, but operates only on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band. Initial configuration went quickly via the Cree Lighting mobile app, and I encountered no issues with installation. I especially appreciated its detailed setup process, which walks you through its various configuration modes instead of leaving it all for you to discover later.

Christopher Null / IDG

Cree’s “follow the sun” mode can be infinitely fine-tuned.

Those modes include “light to sleep” and “light to wake” modes, which slowly fade out or in at bedtime and the waking hour respectively. There’s also a “follow the sun” mode which adjusts the color temperature throughout the day to keep you energized in the morning and relaxed after hours.

Naturally, there’s a full range of tuning options to play with, including a white color temperature range of 2200K to 6500K and a capable dimmer. As well, an intuitive color wheel makes it easy to light the room for a holiday—and the bulb’s colors are impressive in brightness and vibrancy.

A full range of scheduling and timer options are available, and the app connects with both Alexa and Google Assistant to let you control the bulb via voice.

For the most part, the bulb is responsive, though I did encounter more than a few brief disconnects, stutters, and delays during my testing, but rarely did I have to wait more than a few seconds for things to right themselves. That’s all perhaps to be expected given the pricing of this bulb at all of $10, which is definitely on the budget side (though not the least expensive model on the market, even among name brands). Despite some minor bugginess, it’s definitely worth the outlay.

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