Why Do Lights Flicker On Camera

By | 13/11/2022

Information technology wasn’t easy to pick out these specific models from the seemingly space selection of Christmas lights in the world. But we reached our conclusions with the input of several people who alive and breathe lights: Ben Orr, owner of Northern Seasonal Services, who has been professionally installing vacation lighting in the Chicago area since 2005; Jason Woodward, the director of sales and marketing at Christmas Designers, a retailer specializing in holiday lighting; John Strainic, GE’due south general manager of North America consumer lighting; and Anthony Krize, vice president of Nicolas Holiday, the make-direction company for GE’south Christmas lights.

Nosotros besides enlisted the aid of professionals in our testing process to help u.s.a. appraise the color quality of each string light prepare. In previous years, we consulted Susan Moriarty, executive creative director and founder of the Boston-based creative bureau The Discourse Studio, who has 20 years of experience as an art manager, designer, and photographer. For our most recent round of testing, we relied on the eyes of Bridget Collins, the interim lighting and projections supervisor at the Tony Accolade–recognized Huntington Theatre Company, a Boston theater where guide co-author Thom Dunn was a writing fellow from 2015 to 2017, equally well every bit Ari Herzig, a professional person lighting and projections designer.

Many different kinds of Christmas string light bulbs are bachelor, and many people already know what they like—even if they don’t necessarily know that a blazon of light is called a C9 or an M5 or annihilation else. For this guide, however, we focused on the standard nonblinking miniature (or T5) lights. These are the small, traditional, candle-shaped Christmas lights that nigh people are used to. Every bit this DIY Network article says, even though larger bulbs are growing in popularity, “mini lights take been by far the most popular during the past decade,” and we confirmed this in our conversations with Jason Woodward of Christmas Designers and Anthony Krize of Nicolas Vacation/GE Brands. During our research, we too found that blinking lights stand for a very small minority of the available lights, so nosotros stayed with the type that remains lit at all times.

The earliest Christmas lights were incandescent—that is, they got their glow from a heated filament inside the drinking glass bulb, like any other commercial light seedling. This component creates a prissy, warm radiance in the room that many people associate with the holiday season. Since the early 2000s, however, LED Christmas lights have become increasingly popular, and they’re often easier to notice now than the traditional incandescent ones. LEDs tend to price more than their incandescent counterparts, but they also last longer and employ a lot less electricity, and thus produce less oestrus, which makes them safer overall. Every bit Jason Woodward from Christmas Designers told us, “The benefits offered by LEDs are most as significant as the benefits that incandescents provided over candles.” Some people are understandably hesitant to use LEDs—older or poorly fabricated LEDs can sometimes be as well brilliant or cause a kind of nauseating strobe consequence. But the technology has advanced enough in contempo years that we feel confident recommending them. All the same, we still sought out some incandescent options for people who adopt that traditional warmth.

Many LED Christmas lights tin work well indoors or outdoors. For outdoor lights, our experts directed usa toward a specific style of LED: v-millimeter broad-angle conicals. The bulbs on these lights are stubby and don’t have the homespun look of the small-scale drinking glass candle found on other mini lights. They are much brighter than regular mini lights (both LED and incandescent), and the unique shape of the bulb adds depth and complication to the lights’ appearance. As lighting installer Ben Orr of Northern Seasonal Services told u.s.a., this shape allows the strand to “refract the low-cal and create a cool look depending on the bending of view.” Orr continued, “It appears that some are brighter than others and it adds contrast.” He added that 5 mm wide-angle lights are more often than not his favorite light. And Christmas Designers, in a video defended to the bulbs, says these lights are “past far the most popular set we sell.”

Simply as with regular LED bulbs, the color of the calorie-free is a business concern. We effigy that if yous’re reading this guide, yous’re probably interested in replacing an onetime set of incandescent lights—merely even if y’all want something more efficient and durable, you probably don’t desire to surrender the traditional lights’ familiar warm glow. Unfortunately, that is an issue with LEDs.

Both Orr and Woodward warned us that LEDs but practise not look like incandescents. Due to improvements in technology, many companies industry a warm white color that, depending on the quality of the LED, can closely mimic just not fully achieve the pinpoint sparkle of an incandescent. Orr stressed that “LED technology varies throughout the industry, and a warm white from one supplier can vary in hues and color drastically from another.” He even suggested buying strands from a few unlike manufacturers to compare them and see which hue you like best before making a large purchase—once you observe something you lot like, he said, purchase from only that manufacturer. Our testing confirmed that there is a tremendous multifariousness in LED colour hues, from the fantastic to the terrible.

In selecting the strands we wanted to test, we searched all of the larger online retailers (Amazon, Dwelling Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Walmart). Orr told us that he purchases his lights from a specialty retailer, and so we also looked at lights from Christmas Designers, Christmas Lights Etc, and Christmas Lite Source. These specialty retailers bargain only in Christmas lights and focus on the needs of the professional, though they certainly have no problems with a regular shopper purchasing from them. Each store seems to accept its own in-firm brand of lights, and so y’all won’t see them selling Martha Stewart or GE lights. We’ve found that these companies are extremely knowledgeable well-nigh lighting, and in general their items are very nice.

Nosotros dismissed companies that had overall poor reviews (Vacation Time), strange or incomplete seedling selections (EcoSmart), or suspiciously low pricing (Abode Accents Vacation). Other companies, such as Hometown Evolution and AGPtek, autumn more than into the general exterior-decor category and don’t have a wide selection of Christmas lights. AGPtek, in particular, deals only in solar-powered or battery lights, which are more than of a specialty particular, and nosotros wanted to concentrate on general tree and outside lighting.

Four large cardboard boxes on a wooden floor, filled with, and surrounded by, Christmas string lights.

Set to brainstorm testing.

Photo: Doug Mahoney

Since 2014, we’ve tested dozens of cord light sets in both white and multicolor, including standard T5 LEDs, incandescents, and 5 mm wide-bending conical LEDs. For our almost contempo tests in 2019, nosotros looked at 11 sets of white lights, eight sets of multicolor lights, and ane set of color-changing lights. To evaluate all of the sets, nosotros wound and unwound them and bundled them around a home, including wrapping them effectually poles and draping them over railings—basically, we tried to employ the lights how they’re intended to be used.

We so took them to a dedicated black-box theater space at the Huntington Theatre Visitor in Boston, which has transferred numerous plays to Broadway and London’s West Terminate. We set up all the light sets in a pure black space and evaluated them for color temperature and accuracy with the help of the company’s theatrical lighting supervisor, Bridget Collins. (In previous years we’ve relied on similar outside expertise from Susan Moriarty, executive creative manager and founder of The Soapbox Studio, too in Boston.) Afterward, we tested the weather impermeability of each set by sinking the lights into a v-gallon bucket of water and leaving it exterior in the cold pelting overnight (the temperature didn’t drop below freezing). Although this examination is a bit farthermost, information technology’s certainly possible that whatever set of outside lights will end upwardly in a pool or draped in a gutter.

Overall, we found that the wire quality has a lot to practise with the success of a strand of lights. Some of the tested lights had tidy, close-knit strands of wire, while others were loose and messy. Some wires needed untwisting before apply, like an former phone cord, and still others continued to accordion back on themselves no affair how we tried to stretch them out and lay them flat.

Our option

GE was the first company in America to sell Christmas cord lights, and we remember it nonetheless makes the best ones overall. GE’s Free energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights are bachelor in multicolor and warm white, and they offer all the benefits of LED lights, including loftier durability, zero oestrus output, and a long life expectancy. They as well produce a warm radiance that closely resembles the classic glow of incandescent bulbs. There’s no noticeable flicker equally on some other LED lights nosotros tested, which were either too tedious or glaringly vivid and gave us a headache when they moved. The GE Colorite lights are also well-made and durable, with a tightly wound wire that maintains its retentiveness while nevertheless being easy to drape on trees or railings (plus, it’s harder to tangle). GE has relied on the same Christmas lights manufacturer for more than forty years, and that full-blooded—and quality—shows. It doesn’t hurt that the lights are widely bachelor online and in stores, as well.

Two strands of multi-colored Christmas tree lights resting parallel on a wooden surface.

GE’due south incandescent (superlative) and LED (bottom) strands.

Photo: Doug Mahoney

When information technology came to color temperature, the Colorites were the clear winner in our tests. The warm white and multicolor strands both gave off a warm tone that was closer to the overall await of an incandescent strand than what we saw from any of the other LEDs we considered. It’south not a 100% perfect match from up close, of course—the diode illuminates the entire colored bulb from sure angles, unlike in incandescents, which have a pinpoint filament that creates a twinkly, sparkly wait. Notation, all the same, that we fabricated this distinction while specifically looking for differences between the bulbs: Once we were about v anxiety away, it became extremely difficult to tell these LEDs autonomously from the strand of incandescents, and we would exist happy to light upwardly our home with them.

From left: the Christmas Designers warm white incandescents, the GE Colorite warm white LEDs, and the Christmas Designers warm white T5 Smooth LEDs. Notice how the GE LEDs match the colour of the incandescents but not their distinctive and even sparkle. The Christmas Designers LEDs have a cooler color and shine a little brighter.

Photograph: Doug Mahoney

We likewise liked that the GE Colorite wire strands were piece of cake to manage. In our tests, they were tidy and had a nice flex. Out of the box, the lights unraveled nicely. And unlike other brands nosotros tried, they needed no twisting on our part to stretch and flatten them out. They’re durable enough overall that they should be able to withstand the annual boxing and unboxing process without a hitch.

Instead of having a detachable bulb and a separate socket as an incandescent does, these bulbs encase a light-emitting diode in a block of molded plastic. The upshot however looks like a traditional Christmas light, but information technology’s harder to knock a seedling out of committee. Although we don’t advise that you jump rope with your strands of LED lights, we practise believe that they will be able to handle a drib.

We recommend the GE Colorite lights for indoor use, but they survived our outdoor durability tests, as well. If you do stop up breaking a bulb, the Constant On feature ways the other ones will stay lit until you replace information technology, which is besides possible. When nosotros asked Jason Woodward of Christmas Designers about the lifespan of indoor LEDs, he told us, “Loftier-course LEDs oasis’t been around long plenty to really know how long they will last on an indoor application, only it should be at least ten years.” That longevity should be good news for anyone who has always pulled out their incandescent lights from the previous year, found a bunch of them mysteriously one-half-working or suffering from also many blown bulbs, and concluded upward throwing several away.

Like other LEDs, the GE Colorite lights emit zip estrus when lit, and then you can sleep easy while they’re lighting upwards your desiccated tree on New year’due south Eve. Incandescents, on the other hand, produce heat and can get quite hot—although newer incandescents are highly unlikely to ever commencement a tree fire, they could requite an unsuspecting toddler quite a jolt. The Colorite sets have such low energy use that you lot can string together upwardly to 25 of them without a problem (and even that’south pretty ambitious for almost homes). The GE Colorite LEDs are besides rectified (sometimes called “total wave”), which means they blink fast plenty that they shouldn’t have any of those nausea-inducing flicker problems that some other LEDs have. This ways you can utilise them with a dimmer or a lighting controller, too.

The GE Colorite lights generally cost around 20¢ per calorie-free, which is right where most expert-quality LEDs land. They’re sometimes sold online under the name Nicolas Holiday, but don’t worry, they’re however the same lights. Either way, they’re a great value for their immovability and longevity; at that place are sets that nosotros bought in 2014 that are still going stiff, although the wire strands have loosened a bit.

Although the GE Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights impressed us more than the others in both quality and overall colour, we did notice a few drawbacks to these lights.

First, they don’t have stackable plugs, the kind of pattern where the male plug has a female person outlet on the back side of it. With stackable plugs, yous can piggyback multiple strands directly on the same outlet—a useful feature for outdoor displays where yous might exist lighting, for example, bushes in contrary directions on either side of a single outlet, merely less of a necessity indoors. The lack of such a plug pattern could brand for a crowded wall outlet, only a small power strip volition solve the problem. Yous can still attach the Colorite strands end to terminate, just equally y’all would whatever other fix of Christmas lights.

A close-up of two different plug types on two different strands of Christmas lights. The plug on the left is marked with blue painter's tape.

The GE Colorite strands take a regular plug (left), whereas many competitors, including our runner-up pick, the Christmas Designers T5 Shine LED Christmas Lights (right), take a stackable plug. The stackable design allows you to have multiple strands on a unmarried outlet.

Photograph: Doug Mahoney

Christmas-light purists may be dismayed at the look of the regal GE Colorite bulb. In our tests, on the incandescent strands the majestic bulb was a deep reddish-pinkish color, but on the Colorite strand it was a bright, vivid imperial that was slightly lavender and almost a little “cartoony.” Once the strands are wound effectually a tree, we don’t think most people will pick up on this difference, but if you’re colour sensitive, it’s something to be aware of. Our runner-up lights don’t take a royal bulb, and so they don’t have the same issue.

Finally, we’ve discovered that Christmas lights are manufactured on a seasonal basis, and so when they’re gone, they’re gone. For the past few years, these GE lights accept sold out in early Dec and remained unavailable for the balance of the season. Unfortunately, this too ways that, if you accept to await a yr to buy another set, the color temperature might not match exactly to the lights you bought last yr. This can be peculiarly noticeable with white bulbs. “The reality is that Christmas light set making is not a year round production run and you are non getting LEDs 12 months a twelvemonth from a supplier on that rolling, consistent basis,” Anthony Krize from Nicolas Vacation, who oversees the GE brand, told u.s.a. over email. So while a single set of Christmas lights volition await consequent, you lot may notice slight variations across dissimilar sets from different years (although they should all still fall within the “warm white” color range of 2700 to 3200 Kelvin).

Runner-up

If the GE Colorites are unavailable, we besides like the Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights, which are available in warm white, multicolor, and solid color. In our tests, the Christmas Designers lights were very similar to the GE Colorites only slightly less bright and less warm. This was true for the white lights every bit well as the multicolor lights, especially the yellow and orange (the Christmas Designers lights don’t have a majestic seedling). The wires that connect these lights are also tightly wound, which makes them simply as like shooting fish in a barrel to wrap up as they are to unravel and maneuver effectually a tree. On average, the Christmas Designers lights are more than expensive than the GE ones, but they’re well-made and durable, and the company offers bulk discounts, which can outset to even things up depending on the size of your club.

The most obvious way that the Christmas Designers lights stand out from GE’s Colorites is that they have a stackable plug with both an input and output, which allows you to start multiple strands of lights from the same outlet. Unlike the GE Colorites, the Christmas Designers bulbs are made of a single piece of molded plastic. The upside is that this design makes it even harder for dirt and h2o to infiltrate the seedling and damage the circuitry; these bulbs are probable to be even more resilient outside than the GE bulbs. The downside is that, if a bulb does pause, you won’t be able to replace it (but the residuum of the string volition nonetheless piece of work). Otherwise, the LEDs independent within that plastic bulb offer nevertheless benefits as the LEDs from GE—low energy utilisation, no oestrus output, and a longer life overall.

Christmas Designers lights are also uniquely available in solid-color strands in addition to the standard warm white and multicolor. They may be a better selection if you’re looking to customize a display with greenish, reddish, blue, or pure white lights. This is because the company mainly sells to professional installers, although regular-shopper sales have increased significantly in recent years. As Jason Woodward, the company’s director of sales and marketing, told u.s.a., “The quickest growing part of our business are the residential, what I call our ‘Christmas enthusiasts’—people who are tired of the Big Box retail junk and are looking for a pace upwardly, something that will terminal longer and look practiced.” If you’re looking for that kind of sturdy construction—or if the GE Colorites are sold out, which tends to happen closer to the holidays—the Christmas Designers T5 lights are a great culling.

Also great

The Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights give off a bright, warm color that is particularly perfect for the outdoors, whether you lot’re decorating a window box, a tree, a wreath, a railing, or a roofline. Christmas Lights Etc—not to be dislocated with Christmas Designers—also focuses largely on pro installations and thus offers a broad variety of lighting options, including white, multicolor, and solid single colors, with different bulb quantities and spacings. Similar other LEDs, these lights toll more than incandescents, but because they’re specifically designed to withstand long-term exposure to moisture, your investment volition be protected if they cease up dropping into a puddle or a wet gutter while braving the elements in a cold, moisture December. They also take a make clean and tight wire, which in our tests made handling, hanging, and storing them like shooting fish in a barrel. And considering their electric requirements are so low, you can connect a whopping 43 strands and run them on a unmarried outlet earlier worrying virtually tripping a billow; this design reduces the demand for extension cords, which can exist a big hidden price with larger outside displays. These Christmas Lights Etc outdoor lights are slightly brighter than our previous selection from Christmas Designers, but the 2 are otherwise similar—if you observe the Christmas Designers version bachelor in a colour you adopt or at a ameliorate toll, go for it.

The odd, stubby shape of the v mm wide-angle bulbs gives these lights a distinctive appearance. In add-on to the fact that they’re already brighter than many regular LED mini lights, these wide-angle bulbs as well emit a dissimilar level of brightness depending on the angle from which y’all view them. In the correct situation, this design can nearly replicate the “twinkly” look of incandescent lights that many people savor.

Two strands of blue Christmas lights with, each with differently shaped bulbs, setting parallel to each other on a wooden surface..

The Christmas Designers 5mm Broad Bending Conical LED (a quondam pick, superlative) and the GE Colorite LED (bottom). Notice the unusual shape of the broad-angle bulb and likewise how the bulb and socket are molded into a single piece, making such lights ideal for exterior utilise.

Photo: Doug Mahoney

The Christmas Lights Etc wide-angle lights take what are called molded bulbs—that is, each seedling is a completely sealed, jumpsuit unit. There is no separating the bulb from the wire, and thus no way for moisture or crud to piece of work into the socket, which makes them even ameliorate suited for outdoor displays. We tested this blueprint by submerging the lights in a saucepan of water outdoors overnight, and at no point did the lights show any sick effects from the test. However, this molded design also means that you can’t supercede an individual light if any of them fail (although the residuum of the string will keep working). Overall, we think this is a worthwhile trade-off for a bright fix of lights that is probable to last fifty-fifty longer than other LED cord lights. Only try not to step on the bulbs, and you should be fine.

Lit multi-colored Christmas lights submerged in a bucket of water.

The Christmas Designers wide-angle multicolored lights, at some point during hour six of existence fully submerged in a saucepan of water. We put the Christmas Lights Etc lights through the same examination in 2019, and they survived just besides.

Photo: Doug Mahoney

Like the other lights from pro-installer brands, the Christmas Lights Etc broad-angle LEDs accept a corking wire. In our tests, they were piece of cake to unravel and didn’t become tangled up like other, lower-quality lights such equally the ones from Home Accent Holiday; in fact, the Christmas Lights Etc outdoor lights come in a balled-up clump when they arrive in the parcel. (We still propose you wrap them up somewhat carefully when you’re washed with them, just to prolong their life.) The neat organization of the wires gave our test strands a high-quality experience, which likewise gave us confidence that they’d keep running for years regardless of the weather condition or (most) other abuse they might suffer. These lights don’t have issues with flickering, fifty-fifty when used with dimmers.

If y’all have great ambitions for your Christmas brandish, Christmas Lights Etc too offers a bulk disbelieve for its outdoor lights—the more you buy, the less you pay for each individual set. Although you lot tin use these as indoor lights, we personally found them a bit too brilliant, and both of the lighting professionals we consulted, in different years, agreed: Susan Moriarty from The Discourse Studio said, “I don’t want to accept to wearable sunglasses while I’m looking at my Christmas tree.” If you like your tree to exist peculiarly vivid, these Christmas Lights Etc lights are a great option, but we recommend that you purchase a single strand first and see for yourself before yous take the plunge.

If past some risk the Christmas Lights Etc outdoor lights are unavailable, Christmas Designers sells almost identical strands of 5 mm broad-bending bulbs in white, multicolor, or solid single colors that are a footling dimmer but otherwise but equally good.

Besides great

LED Christmas lights are better for about people because they’re more than efficient and more durable, only if you tin can’t lose the distinctive and traditional look of incandescents for indoor utilise, we recommend Christmas Lights Etc’s Articulate Christmas Tree Mini Lights. These lights offer a noticeable divergence in color quality—they’re not the brightest, but they have a sure warmth and radiance that even the best LEDs struggle to match. It’s the kind of color temperature that immediately sparks memories of cold winter evenings by the burn (or the dive bar). The heated filament inside the seedling gives them that starry sparkle. Still, it’s also designed to vesture out over time to the betoken of self-destruction.

In our tests, the wires on the Christmas Lights Etc incandescent lights were tight and organized, and in one case we stretched them out, they lay flat and straight with no problems. Incandescents will never concluding as long as LEDs, but the wiring and wrapping on these brand them feel sturdy and resilient enough to last for several seasons. They fifty-fifty survived when we submerged them in a h2o saucepan and left it outdoors overnight, although nosotros notwithstanding don’t think they’re the all-time choice for outdoor utilise—it’s too easy for water and clay to get caught in the sockets. If anything does go wrong and a bulb breaks or dies, incandescent lights are easy and affordable to supersede: At this writing, they’re about 10¢ a bulb, which is most half as much equally a single LED seedling. Incandescent lights also use more energy, so you can connect only up to five strands of the Christmas Lights Etc incandescents as opposed to 20-plus strands of LED cord lights. But if a bulb does get out, the rest of the strand remains lit.

Like most items from Christmas Lights Etc, the incandescent strands are available in a diverseness of bulb spacings and colors, including multicolor and solid single colors. (Nosotros tested only the standard clear white lights.) If they’re unavailable, our previous pick from Christmas Designers is similar and still very skillful, although that company no longer sells a warm white incandescent option.

Upgrade pick

If you desire the almost robust outdoor Christmas lighting possible, and you’re willing to put in a lilliputian DIY piece of work, we recommend the Pro-Christmas C9 Lite Line Kit, which comes with everything you lot need to create a fully customized C9 light display for your home. C9 lights utilise an E17, or “intermediate” bulb base, which makes them smaller than a standard lightbulb, but larger than a candelabra or your average Christmas lights. These bigger bulbs are bachelor in a diverseness of colors, which ways they work just every bit well for summer patio mood lighting every bit they practice for wintertime holidays. In addition to the bulbs themselves, the Pro-Christmas C9 Light Line Kit besides comes with an empty socket string or wire plus several vampire plugs (although you lot tin buy all these parts separately besides, for maximum customization). Information technology’south a surprisingly easy setup process, too—all you accept to do is cutting the socket string to whatever length you need, then snap the vampire plugs on the end of the wire and plug them in just similar you would with any other lite strand. You tin screw in whichever C9 bulbs you desire to use at whatever given fourth dimension; you tin can even bandy out different colors to adapt the dissimilar seasons. If anything goes wrong, they come with a 3 year warranty, likewise, although that’s based on an assumption that you’re only using them for 90 days per year (all the more reason to change out the bulbs to fit your seasonal display!). If you don’t similar the twinkly effect produced by the faceted C9 bulbs, Pro-Christmas also sells smooth bulbs with the same socket size; you can fifty-fifty mix-and-match or try out different bulbs on the same socket string to outset. If you lot don’t like the colors from Pro-Christmas, or you prefer incandescent lights, Opticore C9 bulbs are just about every bit good, and work on the aforementioned empty socket strings.

The idea of messing with electrical wiring might be (understandably) daunting for some people. Only what sets the Pro-Christmas Light Line Kits autonomously from other C9 bulb sets is just how easy they are to fix-up and apply. Y’all don’t take to worry about stripping the ends of the wire, or wrapping the positive/negative ends around the proper leads. You tin can just trim the socket strings with a standard set of wire cutters. Even the vampire plugs are easy to use, despite their strangely scary-sounding proper noun. All you have to do is place the wire in the plug, and so slide the top piece on. The metal “vampire” teeth will automatically cut through the insulated casing to make contact with the wire inside, and voilà—you’ve got yourself a freshly trimmed Christmas lite strand with a plug on either end (these plugs are available in both male or female ends, and you can cord several socket lines together, just every bit you would with other Christmas lights). Y’all don’t fifty-fifty have to worry about excess wiring, or haphazardly draping your light strands to contain them in a specific spot on the house. If you mess up the cutting, or anything changes, you can always add on another plug end and expand your strand from at that place. Christmas Designers has some handy videos that could help troubleshoot whatever problems, besides as a dedicated client support center—another feature that sets them apart from the competition.

The C9 bulbs from Pro-Christmas come up in the total range of basic colors—carmine, orange, yellow, green, bluish, and purple—besides as the standard cool and warm whites. You can mix and lucifer these on your empty socket strand as yous please. The colors aren’t quite as warm as what you’d get with an incandescent seedling, but they’re however bright, rich, and assuming, with none of that obnoxious buzzing or blinking that you lot go from cheaper LEDs. You tin even ready them on a dimmer without whatsoever of that awful flickering either. Because LEDs require less heat than incandescent bulbs, these Pro-Christmas C9s are able to use a shatter-resistant plastic housing, which ways you don’t have to worry well-nigh a gust of wind causing tiny shards of glass to smash against your home—e’er a bonus. They too accept an Ingress Protection rating of 65, which ways they’re grit-tight and able to withstand water jets from whatever direction (within reason). They’re slightly more energy efficient than other like C9 lights we tested, too, with each private bulb simply pulling about a half watt of electricity. This isn’t a huge deviation compared to other models similar the Opticore bulbs, which merely used 0.eight watts, just it’s nevertheless worth pointing out—that’due south not a lot of free energy for a very bright bulb.

All of the pre-made Pro-Christmas Light Line Kits available from Christmas Designers have faceted bulbs, with clusters of flattened surfaces that crusade the calorie-free to reflect in a sort of gem-like shimmer. The facets on the Pro-Christmas lights too go all the mode down to the base, making them stand out from C9 bulbs we tested from Minleon and Brightown, which had about ⅛” of smooth plastic most the bottom. While we recall this twinkly effect is a nice touch, we recognize that not everyone wants that same textured lighting on their home. Fortunately, the visitor also sells the same colors a la menu—minus purple—equally standard smooth bulbs, which work on the same empty socket lines, whether you lot buy them individually or every bit part of that pre-fabricated kit.

A smart phone using an app to program a nearby lit multicolor length of Twinkly Generation II Smart RGB-W LED String Lights, our upgrade pick for best Christmas lights.


Photograph: Michael Hession

Upgrade choice

The Wi-Fi–enabled Twinkly Generation II Smart RGB-W LED Cord Lights are the most robust and versatile Christmas lights nosotros’ve ever tested. They’re also the about expensive. Simply if you’re truly serious near Christmas—and possibly other holidays too—a Twinkly ready is worth the cost (the price-per-bulb also drops significantly if you lot upgrade to the 400-calorie-free set). Other companies, including GE, accept tried to create color-changing lights, but none of them have come close to what Twinkly has done with these lights: 16
one thousand thousand
color choices that can exist practical to a potentially endless number of patterns and lighting effects, all of which can be controlled and customized through an app. You lot’re non express to the standard solid-white or multicolor options that blink on and off—you lot can create a pulsating glow, or alternating flickers of different colors, or even a scrolling movement with the colors of your favorite sports team. With one tap, yous tin can set your lights to mimic the glimmer of falling snowfall or the swelling of a fire or even the Italian flag (the company is based in Italy; but you can hands sub in a different flag too). While the applied science isn’t admittedly perfect notwithstanding, information technology’s still pretty impressive and offers much wider versatility than standard Christmas lights. They’re besides atmospheric condition-resistant, so they tin work indoors or outdoors; nosotros tested them outside for a full twelvemonth and were impressed with how well they endured through tape-breaking rut, pelting, and cold.

The Twinkly setup procedure is fairly simple and straightforward, at least as far as it is with any smart-home device. Download the Twinkly app, and it walks yous through everything you need. In case your dwelling house Wi-Fi network doesn’t reach out to where you’ve set them upwards, the lights even come with their own built-in (internet-less) Wi-Fi network so you can withal control them through the app. Once they’re ready, yous have the option to “map” your Christmas lights by property up your telephone photographic camera to them like y’all’re taking a picture. Yous can exercise this ii-dimensionally (if your lights are on a railing, for case), three-dimensionally (all around the Christmas tree, for instance), or not at all. The app intuitively identifies which bulbs are where and uses this data to plot customizable animations across your calorie-free display; you can even choose
one
individual light to make a different color from the rest. Equally professional lighting/projection designer Ari Herzig told us, “You’re non paying for the lights—you’re paying for the software.” They besides told u.s. that a like process on a standard professional lighting board would probably take about four to vi hours.

A room decorated using Twinkly Smart String Lights, including a Christmas tree with red and white lights forming a candy cane twist, plus a red and white design on the mantlepiece.

A mix of preset and programmable patterns lets you customize the await of a tree in whatever way imaginable—why end at hanging candy canes when you can make the unabridged tree a giant candy cane?

Photograph: Twinkly

While this mapping process is a remarkable technological achievement, it’s likewise somewhat cumbersome and unreliable. It gets confused if there are other lights nearby—including other Twinkly sets—and sometimes misinterprets reflections on the drinking glass on a light bulb. Infinite restrictions might force yous to map at awkward angles, too, which also disorients the software. The user interface for the mapping feature is similarly confusing. Be warned: The app will rotate and permit you to map your lights in mural mode, just then it compresses them dorsum into a confusingly squished portrait mode view. Yous tin’t zoom in to get a closer look at the private bulbs in a cluster of lights, either. We’ve seen tremendous improvements in this characteristic since we started testing the Twinklys in 2020, just they withal have a ways to get. Unless you’re very particular about some highly specified lighting animation plans that you lot’ve devised, y’all can still achieve a lot with this. And fifty-fifty a pretty-good mapping is going to look cooler than anything you would achieve with an analog light display.

As with whatever new applied science, the personalized customer service you get from a specialized retailer can save you lot from some serious headaches. Christmas Designers fifty-fifty has a dedicated team to walk y’all through any setup problems you might encounter. If you do end upwards purchasing through a big box shop like Amazon, nevertheless, Twinkly does have a back up section on their website too. On the bright side, once your Twinklys are ready, you don’t take to practice it again; Wirecutter product manager Samuel Roth has been using the same mapping setup for 3 years, despite some initial frustrations.

You can opt for static colors, animated color changes, and other effects, spread beyond a near-infinite array of options—Twinkly claims a full of 16 1000000 color choices.

Video: Michael Hession

If you don’t desire to deal with the mapping process, the default Twinkly lighting options are still robust plenty that you likely won’t go bored. There are pre-programmed light animations that mimic falling snow, fireworks, sliding doors, spirals, and even crazy lines and snakes (a single off-color trail of lights moving through an otherwise solid-colored sea), and you tin can choose just about any color you can fathom—or at to the lowest degree whatsoever color y’all can option out from the colour wheel with a carefully pointed finger. Depending on the effect, you tin can also customize the speed and brightness of the movements or changing colors, and whether or not the lights stay lit, or pulsate, or flicker, et cetera. The app has a “store” where yous tin can download new furnishings, too. You’ll even find some vacation-specific offerings there, such as pulsing hearts, prancing reindeer, countdowns and fireworks to ring in the New year, and a roving Bat-signal for Batman 24-hour interval — although you’ll probably demand several sets of Twinklys with perfect spacing and platonic viewing angles if you truly wish to strike fear in the hearts of any superstitious or cowardly criminals. Similarly, things like “Santa’s Magic Sleigh Run” will work better when they’re set up on an actual Christmas tree. Think of each light as a pixel: more of them will requite you better resolution and a clearer image.

Some of the Twinkly furnishings also come with a music sync option that uses the built-in mic on your phone. The company sells a separate music dongle as well, which lets you sync multiple strands together, using an algorithm that learns the rhythms of a song in real fourth dimension. Like the rest of the Twinkly software, this is simultaneously imperfect and withal far more impressive than information technology has whatsoever right to be. You lot probably don’t need to invest in this feature, however, unless y’all’re really into serious multimedia displays.

Custom-mapping via the Twinkly app lets you designate sure colors for specific parts of the tree. Getting this to function perfectly tin exist tricky, but when it works, it’southward amazing.

Video: Michael Hession

Every bit far as color fidelity goes, the Twinkly lights are generally phenomenal. Information technology’s difficult to give specifics—nosotros couldn’t exam all 16 million color options—but the fact that you can select a custom shade and brilliance already sets them apart from other Christmas lights. Our only real complaint was the “pure” white, which is glaring at full brightness and sometimes flickered or buzzed when used in conjunction with certain effects (notably with the horizontal flag result). Luckily, this is easy to avert: Merely open the colour selector in the app, choice a shade of yellow or bluish (depending on your preference for warm or cool white), then elevate the blackness-white slider down so it’s nigh all the way to the white side of the spectrum, just non quite. (We actually appreciated the fact that nosotros could create a custom warm white tone based on our personal preferences, too.)

Unlike nigh Christmas lights, the Twinkly lights tin’t piggyback on i another to create longer strands. They’re also wired in a Y shape, with the plug extending from the eye, with the lights split up evenly to the left and right from in that location. This is dissimilar from what most people accept come up to expect with Christmas lights, and it might actually assistance them fit better on some houses. The only downside is that it’south harder to brawl them up for storage without tangling the ii artillery together. Merely if you lot wrap the ii ends separately—or simply never take your Twinkly lights down—you should be fine.

Like with the mapping feature, the app in general could use a footling UI improvement. The customization options aren’t always consistent; and whichever custom settings you salve on your device aren’t accessible from, say, your spouse’due south device, fifty-fifty if yous log into both apps with the same account Both the app and the lights occasionally crash every bit well, though information technology’south non articulate whether this is a RAM upshot, a software problems, or just a result of an overeager Wirecutter tester deliberately trying to break something. Sometimes your Twinklys will even glitch chop-chop back-and-forth between two different settings, which can exist annoying, disconcerting, or worse, specially for people with photosensitive weather condition or who are decumbent to seizures. This is a rare occurrence that only tends to happen when you’re messing effectually with the settings, and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to remedy by applying a new setting or just resetting the lights. But it’south something to be aware of. Fifty-fifty with these glitches however, the Twinkly engineering science is still quite impressive and it’due south likely to go along getting better with each successive firmware update. Later a year of testing, we’ve seen the app go through a lot of updates and improvements; while it’s all the same not perfect, it does keep getting better. The Twinklys are supposedly compatible with Alexa and Google Habitation likewise, simply the integration isn’t very reliable withal either. Nosotros think you’re better off simply using a smart plug or the app’s own built-in scheduling function.

The Twinkly lights are non only an excellent selection for Christmas, but they’re a fantastic tool for lighting design overall. At around $125 for 250 lights, they may seem like a steep investment (the 400-count set is a amend deal at effectually $175). Simply the engineering science will keep improving, and they also provide y’all with a year-round decoration that can be customized for any occasion, and still concord upwards against the rain, sleet, or snow. And that ways y’all tin can impress the neighbors even more, without any additional setup or cleanup. We left our lights upwards on our outdoor patio for a full year, and not only did they agree under extreme weather, only we also had several strangers tell usa how much they looked forward to our light displays. This happened one day when the Twinkly app was existence particularly glitchy and frustrating. An elderly man told us that he walked by with his dog every mean solar day, and he actually thanked us for giving him something to wait frontward to during the long COVID winter. It was a nice reminder that sometimes information technology’s worth enduring a trivial buggy software.

When we commencement began testing C9 bulbs in 2022, nosotros as well looked at lights from Opticore, Minleon, and Brightown. The Opticore bulbs were pretty similar to our Pro-Christmas picks, and would brand a cracking alternative if those aren’t available. The company also sells incandescent C9 bulbs that look pretty skillful, so if your heart is set on that analog warmth, then Opticore’s the mode to become. The Minleon lights were also pretty comparable to the Pro-Christmas bulbs, and would make a fine replacement if no Pro-Christmas lights were available; our only real complaints about the Minleons were that the colour temperature was slightly libation, and that the faceted pattern on the bulbs stops about ⅛” from the base, making for a mildly clumsier twinkling effect. Finally, the Brightown bulbs both looked and felt like cheap LEDs that we bought off Amazon, which is precisely what they were. That company sells incandescent C9 bulbs also, simply we wouldn’t recommend them unless you savour the occasional pop! of a glass seedling randomly exploding.

We also tested the GE Energy Smart C9 String Lights, which were perfectly fine, but that’south about it. Though the bulbs were technically the same size every bit other C9s we tested, these lights were more akin to the GE miniature light strand we recommend as our top option. Instead of screw-in bases with an empty socket string, the bulbs come up pre-fastened to a wire on a spool. Y’all tin all the same technically replace the lights, merely only with the included GE-brand replacement bulbs that come up in the kit. This also means that you tin can’t cut the wire to a custom length to fit our dwelling either; in fact, we found the wire wrapping to be surprisingly sloppy, especially compared to other GE lights we’ve tested in the past. (In our experience, a shoddy wire tends to be a bad omen.) These lights weren’t quite equally bright as the other C9s nosotros tested, either, although the color quality was still up to the standards nosotros’ve come to expect from GE. Finally, the warm white GE lights failed later on i night of use. Nosotros couldn’t tell if this was due to conditions, or an electrical trouble, or but a random fluke. But either way, information technology wasn’t a positive experience.

In 2021, we tested the GE StayBright Wide Angle Warm White LED String Lights, which are like to the other wide-angle “fairy lights” nosotros’ve tested from Christmas Designers and Christmas Lights, Etc. Nevertheless, the bulbs are only 3mm wide, rather than 5mm, which makes them feel less bright, fifty-fifty though they’re more than closely spaced than the other wide-angle lights we recommend. Nevertheless, the color quality is nice, and they’re certainly well-fabricated lights, with a sturdy and a 2-year warranty. If yous can’t find wide-bending lights yous similar in stock from Christmas Designers or Christmas Lights, Etc., these are a good culling.

Although we’re typically skeptical of those smaller in-business firm brands, we decided to effort the Target-exclusive Wondershop Warm White and Multicolor LED lights because they’re made past Philips, a company that’s earned its reputation. Unfortunately, these lights don’t alive up to that reputation. These glaring LEDs vibrated, stuttered, and buzzed so much in our tests that just a few minutes with them left usa feeling lightheaded and nauseous. Even if all other Christmas lights were sold out or backordered, we still wouldn’t recommend these.

We previously recommended the GE Color Option Multi or Warm White Multi Office LEDs equally an also-great pick for people who want color-changing versatility. While they’re still a good option, they’re nothing compared with what Twinkly is offer. A small control box near the plug lets you choose between eight settings: white, multicolor, or both, in a variety of flashing and steady lighting options. Even so, the colors aren’t as expert as what y’all get with a dedicated white or multicolor string light fix; the white in detail is more neutral and bland than warm, and the light-green is somewhat limelike. And although the lights themselves are more often than not condom for outdoor use, the control box can malfunction in the wrong (read: wet) atmospheric condition. But, if you lot want the basic functionality of colour-changing lights without spending $100-plus dollars, and don’t mind a few more compromises, the GE Color Pick lights are still a prophylactic bet.

The Christmas Designers 5mm Wide Bending Conical LED Christmas Lights were our previous choice for outdoor lights. The colors were slightly less brilliant than those of the five mm wide-angle lights from Christmas Lights Etc in our tests, and the wiring is thicker, but they’re otherwise nearly identical. If the Christmas Lights Etc v mm wide-angle outdoor lights are unavailable, or you find the Christmas Designers lights at a better price, they’re a slap-up alternative.

Nosotros also used to recommend the Christmas Designers Incandescent Christmas Lights. However, the visitor no longer carries a warm white incandescent pick. If you lot’re looking for multicolor or solid-single-colour incandescents, they’re nevertheless a great option.

Christmas Lights Etc also makes a slightly larger version of its outdoor 5 mm wide-bending lights. In our tests, these were somewhat dimmer—the yellow and orange lights were a bit dull, and Bridget Collins, the lighting supervisor at the Huntington Theatre Visitor, described the white lights equally “wimpy”—simply they were otherwise comparable.

We tested several white and multicolor sets from Home Accents Holiday, which Home Depot carries exclusively. The incandescent lights were fine but ultimately failed our immovability exam, leaving a large chunk of the string unlit after we submerged them in water overnight. The standard Dwelling house Accents LED Lights produced a nauseating flicker, particularly when they moved. The Abode Accents Holiday Smooth Mini Super Brilliant Constant On lights, discontinued as of 2020, glared painfully. Overall, the construction and wiring on all of these lights was sloppy and shoddy, and they just looked bad.

You lot tin can observe varying opinions on how many lights to use for your tree. In our interview, GE’south John Strainic suggested 100 lights per vertical human foot. Merely 100 lights per foot strikes us equally a lot, and nosotros imagine that the result would be a particularly festive tree.

The box that the tested Brite Star lights came in goes a little lower, giving a number of 600 lights for an 8-human foot tree (or 75 per foot). And this lighting computer from Christmas Light Source indicates that 250 to 400 mini lights volition low-cal an 8-foot tree.

You take a couple of unlike ways to apply lights, simply i method in item gets a lot of praise. It involves putting the lights on from bottom to top, doing so vertically, going in and out as you move up. This technique puts the lights deep in the tree and creates depth and a warm interior. You lot can find more information from Real Unproblematic. (If that approach sounds besides radical, you can just exercise it the traditional way past circling the tree, working from bottom to top.)

  1. John Strainic, general manager of North America consumer lighting, GE, interview

  2. Jason Woodward, director of ecommerce, Christmas Designers, interview

  3. Ben Orr, owner, Northern Seasonal Services, interview

  4. John Riha, Buyers’ Guide For Outdoor Christmas Lighting, DIY Network

  5. The Art of Christmas Tree Lighting, Real Simple

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-christmas-lights/