The Best Christmas Lights

The Best Christmas Lights

Our pick

GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

The best holiday string lights

These lights have a color quality that nearly matches that of traditional incandescents, but they’re safer and more durable, and they should last at least 10 years.

Buying Options

$20 from Lowe’s
GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

The best holiday string lights

These white lights, available on a strand of 100, nearly match the look of traditional incandescents, but they’re safer and more durable, and they should last at least 10 years.

Buying Options

$20 from Lowe’s

Like all LED models, the GE Colorite lights are safer, more durable, and longer lasting than traditional incandescent lights, and they barely draw any electricity at all. Among the LEDs we looked at, we found that the GE Colorites’ hues of warm white and especially multicolor closely matched those of traditional incandescents. They also have a tidy wire that doesn’t curl or twist, simplifying the task of draping them through a tree or storing them in the off-season. The bulbs should last for at least 10 holiday seasons, and you can replace individual bulbs if they go out (or you can just leave those; the rest of the strand will stay lit). Although you can use the Colorites outdoors, we think they’re best for indoor use, since the bulbs aren’t completely watertight. Overall, these lights offer better benefits and have fewer drawbacks than any other indoor lights we tested.

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Runner-up

Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights

Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights

For cooler tones

The color quality of these lights (particularly the warm white) isn’t as good as that of the GE strands, but they’re still better than the rest.

Buying Options

$10 from Christmas Designers

The GE lights have sold out quickly the past few years, so if that happens again, we recommend the Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights (available in warm white, multicolor, or solid color). In our tests the multicolor lights looked as good as the GEs, while the warm white lights had a cooler tone that was a little further from the coziness of an incandescent.

Also great

Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Multicolor Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights

Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Multicolor Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights

The best outdoor lights

These lights are bright, durable, and completely waterproof, with thick and sturdy wires that retain their shape and won’t unravel in the wind and rain.

Buying Options

$10 from Christmas Lights Etc

For outdoor use, we recommend the Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights, available in white, multicolor, or single color in a variety of lengths and bulb spacings. These lights offer all of the benefits of LEDs as well as a design that makes each bulb impervious to moisture for weeks in the snowy, sleety, rainy outdoors—we confirmed that by leaving a lit set submerged in a water-filled bucket all day. We liked the warmth of the color, the bright light output, and the manageable wires. Due to the unusual design of the wide-angle bulb, the brightness of each changes dramatically depending on where you’re standing, giving the lights texture and depth when they’re draped over a tree or twisting around a porch post. Because they’re likely to be exposed to harsh exterior conditions, these lights have a shorter lifespan than indoor LEDs, but you can still expect six or seven seasons out of them. The only major drawback is that they’re a bit too bright for indoor use. Pro lighting designers and other experts have consistently named this particular type of bulb as the ideal choice for outdoor holiday-lighting displays. If the Christmas Lights Etc lights aren’t available, Christmas Designers makes a similar string light that’s just as good but a little less bright.

Also great

Christmas Lights Etc Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights

Christmas Lights Etc Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights

The best incandescent lights

These warm incandescents look classic, but they’re less durable and less efficient than our pick, and they won’t last as long.

Buying Options

Buy from Christmas Lights Etc

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $11.

Last, if you’re not ready to give up the unique warm twinkle of incandescents for an indoor tree, Christmas Lights Etc’s Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights are our favorites. These mini-light sets emit the warmest overall light, and like our other picks, they have an easy-handling wire. They also cost less than an LED strand, but they’re not as durable, they’re less efficient, and they won’t last as long—you can expect 2,000 to 3,000 hours of use, versus an average life of 20,000 hours for our pick. That’s just the bulb life, too, not even taking into account how fragile and easily breakable an incandescent filament is.

Also great

GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs

GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs

The best color-changing option

With eight lighting settings—including pulsing, blinking, and always-on, in white or multicolor—these lights are versatile, but the colors aren’t the brightest or boldest.

Buying Options

$33 from Lowe’s

If you can’t decide between white or multicolor lights, the GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs offer the best of both worlds. A small control box near the plug lets you choose white, multicolor, or both, in a variety of flashing and steady lighting options. The colors aren’t as good as what you get with a dedicated white or multicolor string light set, though; the white in particular is more neutral and bland than warm, and the green is somewhat lime-like. But we think that’s a fair trade-off for their flexible usage. One thing to keep in mind: Although the lights themselves are generally safe for outdoor use, the control box can malfunction in the wrong conditions, so try to plug it in somewhere that’s safe and dry.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

The best holiday string lights

These lights have a color quality that nearly matches that of traditional incandescents, but they’re safer and more durable, and they should last at least 10 years.

Buying Options

$20 from Lowe’s
GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multicolor Miniature Lights

The best holiday string lights

These white lights, available on a strand of 100, nearly match the look of traditional incandescents, but they’re safer and more durable, and they should last at least 10 years.

Buying Options

$20 from Lowe’s

Runner-up

Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights

Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights

For cooler tones

The color quality of these lights (particularly the warm white) isn’t as good as that of the GE strands, but they’re still better than the rest.

Buying Options

$10 from Christmas Designers

Also great

Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Multicolor Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights

Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Multicolor Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights

The best outdoor lights

These lights are bright, durable, and completely waterproof, with thick and sturdy wires that retain their shape and won’t unravel in the wind and rain.

Buying Options

$10 from Christmas Lights Etc

Also great

Christmas Lights Etc Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights

Christmas Lights Etc Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights

The best incandescent lights

These warm incandescents look classic, but they’re less durable and less efficient than our pick, and they won’t last as long.

Buying Options

Buy from Christmas Lights Etc

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $11.

Also great

GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs

GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs

The best color-changing option

With eight lighting settings—including pulsing, blinking, and always-on, in white or multicolor—these lights are versatile, but the colors aren’t the brightest or boldest.

Buying Options

$33 from Lowe’s

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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