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The 6 Best Artificial Christmas Trees of 2023

Nov 18, 2023

After new tests, we’ve added new picks: the King of Christmas 7-foot King Noble Flock Fir and the Puleo 7.5-foot Pre-Lit Aspen Fir (277-APG-75C7).

We’ve set up enough artificial Christmas trees to know that with care, decoration, and attention to detail, many of them can look beautiful. National Tree Company’s 7.5-foot Feel Real Downswept Douglas Fir stands out as a realistic, competitively priced, versatile, and attractive option that we recommend first among the dozen-plus trees we’ve tried since 2016. But with experience, we’ve also come to recognize that there’s no single “best” artificial tree out there. Our goal is to introduce you to reliable manufacturers, and our picks are among their best examples.

Realistic, full, generously sized, and versatile, this LED-lit tree can switch between all-white and multicolor modes, and the lights connect as you put the sections together.

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Compared with both pricier and cheaper trees, National Tree Company’s 7.5-foot Feel Real Downswept Douglas Fir strikes a good balance of cost, realism, and ease of setup. With nearly 2,000 lifelike polyethylene branch tips, surrounding a core clad with less-realistic PVC “pine needles,” this tree has a construction similar to that of other high-quality artificial trees. Yet with a higher-than-average proportion of those lifelike branches, the Downswept Douglas Fir creates a more convincing illusion of a living fir. The 750 built-in LED bulbs fill its branches nicely, and the lights can switch from all white to multicolor to a mix of the two, giving the tree an uncommon versatility. Also, while some trees require you to hunt down the light strings’ plugs among the foliage and manually connect them, this tree has a trunk-mounted PowerConnect system, which automatically does the job for you when you stack its three sections together. At 7½ feet high and almost 5 feet across, the tree is generously proportioned; it will fill the corner of almost any living room. Finally, it’s widely available, easy to set up, and competitively priced. (For smaller homes, we recommend the 6½-foot version.) As with most artificial trees, this model takes up a chunk of storage space in the off-season, even when it’s disassembled.


Offering exceptional realism, Puleo’s Royal Majestic Douglas Fir comes with warm, clear incandescent lights—the kind that keep working even if one bulb goes out.

Right out of the box, without any of the branch fluffing that all artificial trees require, Puleo’s 7.5-foot Royal Majestic Douglas Fir Downswept Tree looked so lifelike that a staff writer walking by commented, “It looks like a real tree.” Puleo augments its realistic polyethylene branch tips with subtle color variations—like lighter-green ends simulating new growth—thereby creating one of the most convincing illusions we’ve seen on any artificial tree. This tree’s lights connect automatically via wiring in the sections of trunk, so setup is easy. Unlike the lights on all of our other picks, however, the ones on this tree are traditional incandescents, not LEDs, and they come only in clear. But if you prefer the warmer glow of incandescents, that’s a feature, not a bug. And even if one bulb burns out, the rest of the bulbs keep working (unlike with some incandescent Christmas lights).

In addition to having realistic needles, the King Noble is also flocked—covered in artificial snow. It’s lovely, especially set against a dark nighttime window or in an unlit corner.

The King of Christmas 7-foot King Noble Flock Fir is a so-called Euro-style tree, with fewer, more naturalistic branches than you find on plump, symmetrical American-style trees. It also has a realistic coating of artificial snow, or flocking, which looks spectacular. The 1,163 branch tips are enough to give this tree a rich appearance while leaving extra room for an abundance of ornaments (a reason Euro-style trees are increasingly popular), and its 500 white micro LED lights illuminate the “snow” to great effect. The lights connect automatically when you stack the tree’s three sections together, sparing you the chore of finding and manually connecting plugs among the foliage. They can also toggle (via a foot pedal or the included remote control) from steadily lit to a slow fade-in and fade-out to a variety of blinking patterns. The included gloves and tree bag make setup and storage easier.

More lights, more realistic branch tips, more money: For a long-term investment, Balsam Hill’s most popular “species” is hard to beat.

Compared with National Tree’s Downswept Douglas Fir, Balsam Hill’s 7.5-foot Fraser Fir Flip Tree Color + Clear LED has a greater proportion and higher number of realistic branches, which makes it appear more lifelike, especially from across a room. It also has more lights (1,320 versus 750), creating an opulent display that our testers universally preferred. Like those on the Downswept Douglas Fir, the lights on this tree connect automatically via plugs within the trunk, and they too can switch between clear, color, or a mix of the two. We particularly appreciate that this tree’s base has wheels, a unique feature among our test group, because they make it much easier to move the tree into place and back into storage. The “flip” function simply tilts the lower section of the tree upright during setup, so you don’t have to lift it into place yourself; this is another welcome feature, since the tree weighs 78 pounds in total. Like the less expensive trees we tested, this one still requires you to put in some time arranging and perfecting it to make it look its best. But it delivers a level of fullness and realism that’s truly stunning.

Trees like this Puleo, with a sparser, shaggier look, are trendy, and the larger gaps between their branches make it easier to hang and show off ornaments.

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Like the King of Christmas King Noble Flock Fir, Puleo’s 7.5-foot Pre-Lit Aspen Fir Tree is a Euro-style tree, with fewer branches than you find on American-style trees. (It is not flocked with artificial snow, however.) The resulting larger gaps between branches make it easier to hang and display ornaments. And when there are fewer branches, the setup process is faster, since it takes less time to fluff the whole tree into shape. This tree’s 700 white incandescent bulbs have a warmth that LED bulbs struggle to match, and a single blown-out bulb won’t make the whole string go dark (unlike with older incandescent lights). Its 1,319 branch tips are especially realistic, fading from lighter-green “new growth” at their ends to dark green at their bases (just like on live trees), and a brown (rather than the usual green) “trunk” adds to the illusion. One minor drawback: You have to manually plug the light strings together, a fussier method than with the in-pole connections we favor.

Artificial trees offer a lot of versatility, as this space-saving version of our pick proves. If you don’t want a tiny tree in a small room, consider a slim model with a minimal footprint.

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National Tree Company’s 7.5-foot Feel Real Downswept Douglas Fir Pencil Slim is a great choice for small spaces, like a foyer or a compact apartment, or as an accent tree (in a pair flanking a fireplace or doorway, for example). At just 32 inches wide, this tree is barely half the width of the Downswept Douglas Fir on which it’s based. It has the same type of realistic branches (just fewer of them), and its 300 LED bulbs can shine in white, multicolor, or a mix of the two. Due to the pencil shape, this tree looks like no living pine that we know of, but when it’s lit and decorated, it’s pretty in its own right.

Realistic, full, generously sized, and versatile, this LED-lit tree can switch between all-white and multicolor modes, and the lights connect as you put the sections together.

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Offering exceptional realism, Puleo’s Royal Majestic Douglas Fir comes with warm, clear incandescent lights—the kind that keep working even if one bulb goes out.

In addition to having realistic needles, the King Noble is also flocked—covered in artificial snow. It’s lovely, especially set against a dark nighttime window or in an unlit corner.

More lights, more realistic branch tips, more money: For a long-term investment, Balsam Hill’s most popular “species” is hard to beat.

Trees like this Puleo, with a sparser, shaggier look, are trendy, and the larger gaps between their branches make it easier to hang and show off ornaments.

May be out of stock

Artificial trees offer a lot of versatility, as this space-saving version of our pick proves. If you don’t want a tiny tree in a small room, consider a slim model with a minimal footprint.

May be out of stock

May be out of stock

Our crash course in artificial Christmas trees began in 2016, when I visited a fake-tree-manufacturer’s New Jersey headquarters. Since then we’ve shopped for trees online and in person at several big-box stores, and we’ve tested various trees over the years. We also spent hours examining trees at House of Holiday (New York City’s largest holiday shop), whose owner, Larry Gurino, “love[s] to geek out over artificial trees.” Senior editor Courtney Schley has interviewed the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents artificial-tree makers, to understand the industry itself, including the manufacturing processes, sales and design trends, and statistics. For the 2019 version of this guide, senior editor Harry Sawyers spoke with three major tree manufacturers to identify the latest offerings and track new developments in the fake-tree world. In 2021, I spoke with three manufacturers, two of them new to us. Reporting this story has confirmed that these products have a higher environmental cost than live trees, which is a concern for many, including me. I’ve been on Team Live Tree basically since birth, on a Christmas Day some years ago.

Some people like a really full tree, broad and thick with foliage; some prefer a slimmer, sparser look. Height, budget, and lighting preferences also vary (pre-strung or bare; LED or incandescent; clear, colored, or the option to toggle between them), and tree manufacturers address this by offering an incredible array of options on many of their designs. If one of our picks catches your eye but isn’t quite perfect, look around the manufacturer’s site—you’ll likely find the tree you have in your mind’s eye.

The best way to think about who should get an artificial Christmas tree is to compare the benefits and drawbacks of fake versus live trees.

Durable: A good artificial Christmas tree can last a decade, whereas live trees last a single season.

Cost-effective over the long term: Up front, artificial trees are much more expensive than live trees. In 2020, a live tree on average cost $80, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents the live-tree industry. (In 2021, prices rose by 5% to 10%, according to a spokesperson.) But at that average, a $400 artificial tree pays for itself after five years, and the best of them can last years beyond that.

Low maintenance and low stress: You don’t have to water a fake tree or shimmy underneath the thing to secure it in its stand. You don’t have to get to the live-tree lot early enough every year to hunt for a “good” one or schlep it home from a cut-it-yourself farm (traditions that plenty of people enjoy, of course). Having the tree at home and ready to go when Thanksgiving wraps up means one fewer errand and one less expense at a busy, budget-straining time of year.

Safer: A 2019 New York Times article noted that around 160 home fires a year involved Christmas trees, but the National Fire Protection Association reported that “a disproportionate share of Christmas tree fires involved natural trees.” Also in 2019, researchers for a local CBS news station based in Washington, DC, attempted to set an artificial tree on fire (video) with a lighter, but they didn’t succeed until they poured around a gallon of gasoline over it. In the same test, a healthy and well-watered live tree caught on fire immediately but eventually went out (though it’s important to note that the test tree had no ornaments or lights and stood against a concrete wall). By contrast, in an NFPA video, a dry, unwatered live tree burned furiously. The NFPA also found that Christmas tree lights were the cause of close to half of all Christmas tree fires (PDF). Be sure to check any tree lights for exposed wires, and never hang ornaments directly on the wires because the weight or the sharp points on a hanger can compromise the wires’ protective coating.

Not messy: A fake tree won’t scratch up the roof of your car in transit or cover your hands in sap when you’re moving it or setting it up. A fake tree doesn’t shed, and it wouldn’t leave a sad trail of needles if you were to you drag it out of the house after New Year’s Day.

A pain to store: Storage is the most important reason to skip a fake tree—if you don’t have a garage or basement where you can fit a heavy box the size of a water heater in the off-season, forget it. On top of the bulk, an artificial tree often won’t fit back into the large box it came in. And if you keep yours in an uninsulated space, both heat and dampness can damage it and shorten its lifespan. It seems wise to protect your investment with the minor additional cost of a dedicated storage bag, such as the Elf Stor Premium Christmas Tree Bag (a well-reviewed item we have not personally tested over the long term).

Not beautiful out of the box: With a fake tree, setup is hardly effortless, as we saw consistently during our firsthand tests. Once you get a live tree back home and secure it in the stand, you just need to put its best face forward, and it looks realistic automatically … because it is, in fact, real.

Not 100% realistic: Even the highest-quality fake trees still don’t appear truly lifelike viewed up close. They can be quite similar to the real thing, but their plastic branches usually have a uniform appearance and a strange shine that tells the eye they’re unnatural. That said, from a distance, they can look very, very good.

Odorless: Fake trees lack the sweet piney aroma that many people associate with Christmas.

There’s also the question of whether fake trees or real trees are better for the environment. The conclusion we reached is that live trees are considerably better in that regard. But buying a fake tree every 10 years is a drop in the environmental bucket compared with the ecological cost of other, everyday consumption (gasoline, food, electricity, plane travel, and so on).

You can find plenty of great artificial trees these days, in dozens of “species” (assorted firs, spruces, redwoods, and pines), multiple heights and girths, colors, and lighting styles. For this guide, we defaulted to the most popular choices (as determined by our research into sales trends), in a quest to come up with a tree type that would please the most people. Our interviews with National Tree Company and the American Christmas Tree Association yielded a few key facts about trends in the industry. The 7½-foot size is the most popular, since ceilings in US homes are usually 8 feet high. So our picks reflect that.

After years of testing trees in every price bracket, in 2021 we decided to stop recommending trees at the lowest pricing tiers. The problem isn’t their lack of realism—we found that even the fakest-looking trees were attractive once they were lit and decorated. Instead, it has to do with their long-term decline. The cheaper construction shows when you’re setting up trees and packing them into storage, since needles shed, branches break, and the overall look goes from passable to ragged over several years. Artificial trees have a significant environmental impact and can’t be recycled. So we decided to recommend only those models that you can reasonably expect to last for a decade or more because they’ll spread their impact out over time. For anyone to stick with a fake tree that long, it has to be impressive to start and then remain that way through annual wear and tear.

This change required us to set our sights only on the most convincing, lifelike artificial trees, which usually carry a correspondingly high price tag. When we began this research several years ago, we were surprised to find how much a good fake tree cost. And we had an eye-opening shopping experience again in 2021, as tree prices rose across the board (subscription required) due to the widespread supply-chain issues affecting deliveries from China, where almost all artificial trees are made.

Cost and realism go hand in hand on artificial trees. Using molds often taken from actual branches, artificial-tree manufacturers shape polyethylene (PE) to produce highly realistic branch tips. But a higher percentage of polyethylene generally means a higher price, and, as with real trees, bigger sizes come with bigger costs. Well into the 2000s, the only material that manufacturers used in artificial trees was polyvinyl chloride (PVC). On most trees now, PVC appears primarily as the obviously fake, tinsel-like filler branches near the tree’s trunk. Those branches aren’t prominently visible, but they do add visual density—helping to give the impression of an especially “full” tree. PVC is cheaper to produce than PE, and it’s also a lot lighter. In looking for trees that had a good mix of realistic PE tips and internal PVC filler, we were really seeking models that balanced realism, cost, and weight.

On the topic of PVC: The use of lead as a PVC stabilizer was once a genuine health concern, but this is no longer an issue in most artificial trees sold in the US, according to National Tree Company and the American Christmas Tree Association (the latter of which represents artificial-tree companies).

Pre-lit trees make up 90% of the artificial trees sold in the US, according to the American Christmas Tree Association, with most of those studded with energy-saving and durable LED bulbs. We looked for pre-lit trees that had roughly 100 bulbs (or more) per foot of tree height; fewer than that can make the lighting appear sparse. To cover everyone’s tastes, we looked for trees that could switch between all-white and multicolor lighting. We didn’t prioritize flashing light patterns or other visual effects. As House of Holiday’s Larry Gurino told us, “Most people don’t use them—they just want to see them [advertised] on the box.”

Virtually all contemporary artificial trees have branches permanently mounted on hinges on the center pole. Thanks to this design, they unfurl into place quickly when you set them up. We avoided the outdated designs that have you snap individual branches into sockets on the center pole one by one (a time-consuming and fussy process).

Finally, we looked into smart trees that folks could control via their phones, whether they’re traveling or just want to eliminate the inconvenience of turning their tree on and off manually every day. But the best way to do this currently, as is the case with most basic home goods, is to use a reliable plug-in smart outlet and control the tree through that.

A smart plug boosts the IQ of un-brainy devices like lamps, fans, or string lights, letting you schedule or control them by app or voice commands.

For the 2019 version of this guide, we brought in eight trees of various styles and levels of realism and had a diverse group of Wirecutter folks—writers, programmers, business managers, our editor-in-chief—set them up in our office in Long Island City, New York. I participated in the setup of each tree, to get firsthand experience with all of our contenders. And we invited everyone in the office to share their preferences and impressions of the trees over the course of two weeks.

Here’s what we learned:

In 2020 and 2021, with office access restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we tested a more limited number of trees on our own, primarily aiming to diversify our range of recommendations. We did the same in 2022, adding a couple of on-trend “Euro-style” trees (meaning sparser and shaggier), which leave more room for ornaments and make it easier to hang them. Again, however, our goal in this guide is at least as much to identify high-quality manufacturers as it is to choose the “best” trees. Tastes, space restrictions, and budgets vary. Manufacturers offer multiple styles. And all of our picks come in multiple versions (width, height, lighting options, and so on). So if you see something you like but that isn’t your perfect tree, poke around the manufacturers’ websites. You’ll probably find just what you want.

Realistic, full, generously sized, and versatile, this LED-lit tree can switch between all-white and multicolor modes, and the lights connect as you put the sections together.

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National Tree Company’s 7.5-foot Feel Real Downswept Douglas Fir (PEDD1-D12-75), with dual-color LEDs, is our pick among artificial Christmas trees. We’ve seen much pricier trees that look somewhat more realistic, as well as much cheaper trees that look reasonably lifelike. But the Downswept Douglas Fir strikes a sweet balance of price, realism, and ease of setup. After it’s fluffed, this tree is especially full and lifelike, and its generous, 59-inch girth will fill most living rooms. The lights can switch between multicolor and a beautiful champagne white (plus multiple combinations of color and white and flashing or “sparkling”) to match a wide range of tastes. And in an unusual touch for a tree of its price, the light strings connect automatically when you stack the tree’s three sections together, thanks to cables and plugs that run through the “trunk.” That’s much easier than the tedious traditional process of hunting down bare plugs among the foliage and manually hooking them together. Finally, the tree is widely available: If you’d like to see it in person, Home Depot, Kohl’s, and many holiday stores typically carry it.

With 1,867 lifelike polyethylene branch tips, the Downswept Douglas Fir is thickly foliated, and it shows no gaps after fluffing. At 37% polyethylene, it has a higher proportion of realistic foliage—and a lower proportion of fake-looking PVC—than many trees in its price range. Note, however, that the price of the Downswept Douglas Fir can vary considerably among retailers: We’ve seen it listed for as low as $375 and as high as $1,000; seasonal demand and availability pressures can cause huge swings. It may ease the sting if you remember that you’re making at least a 10-year investment.

Like the vast majority of contemporary pre-lit trees, the Downswept Douglas Fir features LED bulbs rather than traditional incandescents. They last longer and run cooler, and (in the Downswept Douglas Fir’s case) they can toggle between multicolor, all-white, a mix of the two, and blinking and sparkling variations thereof. We think the ability to switch between color and all-white modes is a genuine strength of this tree. You could use all-white for a more sophisticated look during a grown-up holiday party, for example, and use the multicolor mode when the mood is more festive. Or you could do something different from year to year so that the tree doesn’t seem like the same one every Christmas. And with 750 bulbs, the Downswept Douglas Fir meets our recommendation of 100 bulbs per foot of tree height. Fewer than that can look sparse, but the Downswept Douglas Fir’s lights are sufficient in number and evenly placed.

The Downswept Douglas Fir’s all-white settings give off a subtle straw-gold tone (versus pure white), which many of our staffers praised. And its multicolor settings, while brighter than those of traditional incandescents, are not harsh and cold, like on some LED Christmas-tree lights. The choice isn’t just white or multicolor, either: You can also select a Mardi Gras–like mode, with white, green, and pale purple lights. And when we selected the “sparkling” mode on the white bulbs (with some bulbs gently fading and then re-brightening), several people gasped in surprise and delight. There are some forgettable blinking settings (where the bulbs shut on and off as if someone were flipping a light switch). But all in all, the versatility of this color-change mode makes it an excellent feature worth seeking out—on this or any other National Tree species—because it really sets the tree apart from the pack of more-basic alternatives. Upon seeing this tree, even a committed fan of incandescent bulbs with no gimmicks happily admitted that these are some wonderful effects.

Connecting the light strings is simple on this tree. On some artificial trees, you have to find plugs among the foliage (not easy, since the plugs and wires are green, like the foliage) and manually connect them. But the Downswept Douglas Fir features National Tree’s PowerConnect system: The wires connect automatically when you stack the tree’s three sections together, via sockets inside the “trunk” (see the GIF above). That’s a huge plus. National Tree does make a version of this tree without PowerConnect: the National Tree PEDD1-312LD-75X, a model we cover in more detail in the Competition section. (Unfortunately, this tree usually doesn’t sell for a lower price.)

The Downswept Douglas Fir’s branches are all permanently mounted on hinges on the center pole—a design common to modern artificial trees (older artificial trees required you to attach branches individually via sockets). And like most trees this height, this one comes in three sections. As you stack the sections, the branches fold out under their own weight. You do, however, have to fluff them, a tedious task that can take an hour for one person working alone.

National Tree Company offers a warranty for its realistic pre-lit trees taller than 6½ feet (including our pick), and it covers manufacturer defects for five years from the date of purchase. The LEDs are covered for three years. You need proof and the date of purchase to file a claim, and you need to have treated the tree and lights with reasonable care to have your claim approved.

Accidents do happen, though, like the time editor-in-chief Ben Frumin’s robot vacuum severed a section of his Downswept Douglas Fir’s electrical cord, after gobbling up several inches of the cord near the light-controlling foot pedal. All it took was one call to customer service, a $15 charge, and 48 hours before Ben had a replacement cord in hand and the tree was merry and bright once more.

The lights are well designed, but should you experience any issues, the included troubleshooting tips (PDF) are easy to follow. An internal shunt in each bulb continues the flow of electricity if a single bulb goes out, so the rest of the strand won’t be affected; if you notice a single dark spot, simply swap out the unlit bulb with one of the included replacements. If a section of a light string malfunctions, the culprit is usually a single bulb that came loose, whether it has burned out or not. A light tester can help you find the problem bulb without having to remove and replace each one. Should an entire string go dark, it likely means that a fuse in the plug has burned out, and all of the National Tree Company picks in our guide come with replacements for those, as well. Again, follow the included instructions (PDF) for guidance. If all of these options fail, customer support is on hand to help (though we’ve found it becomes extremely difficult to get through to a live agent as the holidays get closer). The earlier you set up your tree, the better.

One last thing: If realism isn’t your cup of tea, or if you simply prefer the Jet Age look, we recommend National Tree’s 7.5-foot Winchester White Pine (WCHW7-300-75). Even our staffers who prefer live trees thought it was beautiful. Its all-white branches, trunk, and glitter-dusted all-PVC needles give it a pretty, crystalline look when the lights are off. And with the lights on, all of those reflective surfaces make the tree glow from within. While green foliage simply disappears into a dark silhouette once the lights are on, the Winchester White Pine transforms into a snowy lantern when lit. The effect is especially striking in a dark room or in a corner that doesn’t receive a lot of natural light in the daytime.

As we have learned from experience, the major drawbacks to owning this tree—or any artificial tree of a similar size—are all about storage.

People often overlook the fact that they’ll need to store an artificial tree for 10 or 11 months out of the year, House of Holiday’s Larry Gurino pointed out. And, he added, lack of storage space is the main reason that city and apartment dwellers favor live trees. (He also noted that when live trees get thrown out, they often become free mulch for public parks—in effect, they’re recycled.) So unless you have lots of storage room in your place, a live tree may make more sense.

And even if you have room to store an artificial tree, bear in mind that, as Gurino noted, it won’t easily go back into its original box: “Once you fluff it, it’ll never fit exactly.” But if you have ample storage space, you don’t have to keep a tree in its original box. Rather, Gurino said, the main thing is to keep it covered and dry. You can separate the sections and flatten the branches as compactly as possible, or you can keep it whole. Just don’t store it somewhere it will be trampled or moved a lot. And a climate-controlled space (converted basement, storage closet) is always preferable to an uninsulated attic or garage.

Offering exceptional realism, Puleo’s Royal Majestic Douglas Fir comes with warm, clear incandescent lights—the kind that keep working even if one bulb goes out.

If you’re looking for a terrifically realistic tree at a good price, the Puleo 7.5-foot Royal Majestic Douglas Fir Downswept Tree (RMDD-75QC8) is a great option. Its polyethylene branch tips exhibit subtle variations in color, becoming lighter green at their ends, just as living branches are lighter at their ends, where new growth occurs. It’s a remarkably convincing technique—upon seeing the Royal Majestic for the first time, one Wirecutter writer simply said, “It looks like a real tree.” The tree has a generous 1,860 of the realistic tips, too, just shy of the Downswept Douglas Fir’s 1,867. The Royal Majestic has another feature that we value highly: As on the Downswept Douglas Fir and many of our other picks, its lights connect automatically when you put the tree’s three sections together, so you don’t have to hunt for plugs amid the greenery. However, the Royal Majestic is available only with clear lights, and they’re incandescent rather than LED, which makes this tree less versatile than our top pick. But the lights are at least of a more modern kind—if one bulb goes out, the rest of the string stays lit; this eliminates one big drawback to old-style incandescents. If you prefer clear lights to colors, and if the warm glow of incandescents is a plus in your book, this is a tree to consider strongly.

Besides being realistic, the Royal Majestic is notably easier to fluff than other trees we’ve tested. Its branches are made with memory wire—Puleo calls it Insta-Shape—and in theory they spring into place when you set up the tree for the first time. Other companies have a similar option; for example, the Balsam Hill Fraser Fir Flip Tree, our upgrade pick, has what the company calls Pre-Fluffed branches. But Puleo’s worked better in our testing. We spent just 10 minutes or so fluffing the Royal Majestic, whereas the Balsam Hill took almost an hour. (In fairness, the Balsam Hill also has 1,564 more branch tips to attend to. But if the ratio of tips to fluffing time were equal, it should have taken just 20 minutes.)

The pole-connecting lights (Puleo calls the design Sure-Lit) also make setup easier, just as on many of our picks. This point was highlighted by the fact that the Royal Majestic we tested turned out to be a warehouse model from a prior year, with lights that had to be manually connected. That led to an irritating half-hour game of hide-and-seek as we searched for the pine-green plugs among the equally pine-green foliage. Puleo’s vice president of marketing and sales, Chris Kelly, assured us that all of the Royal Majestic trees arriving in stores this year have the Sure-Lit feature but are otherwise identical to the tree we got. If you decide to buy one, however, remember to look closely at the label or product description: Some older models may still be on the shelves.

The incandescent, clear-only bulbs are the Royal Majestic tree’s only major drawback. If you prefer colors, you’ll have to unstring the lights the tree comes with and string your own—there is no unlit version of the tree. On top of that, incandescents do not last nearly as long as LED bulbs do. The inevitable burnt-out bulbs won’t ruin the look of the tree because, unlike with older incandescents, they won’t make the rest of a string of lights crap out. And Puleo supplies a generous number of replacement bulbs and fuses (though these are, annoyingly, tightly taped in small packets to the strings; you have to find them and snip them off carefully, so as not to nick the wires). On the plus side, this tree has 800 lights, exceeding our 100-per-foot-of-height rule of thumb for a well-lit tree. And incandescents have a soft warmth that LEDs can’t match. If that sounds like what you want, you’ll be pleased with the Royal Majestic tree.

In addition to having realistic needles, the King Noble is also flocked—covered in artificial snow. It’s lovely, especially set against a dark nighttime window or in an unlit corner.

The King of Christmas 7-foot King Noble Flock Fir is a Euro-style tree—sparser and more naturalistic than densely branched American-style trees. And it’s also flocked: made to look as if it’s been dusted with snow via a coating of white, foam-like material. In contrast with our expectations, it looked absolutely lovely after we set it up, especially against a dark background (such as a window at night), when the tree seems almost to glow. It has 1,163 branch tips and comes with 500 white micro LED bulbs that connect automatically when you put the three sections together via the company’s Power Pole technology. The lights can be set to glow steadily, gently cycle from dim to bright and back, or blink, and they can be controlled via an included remote control, in addition to the foot pedal on the cord.

Euro-style trees have become trendy in the 2020s, according to Sol Lakein, the company’s chief operating officer. (We heard the same from reps at Puleo and Balsam Hill.) The relatively sparse foliage leaves larger air gaps than what you find on densely branched American-style trees. That makes it easier to hang ornaments, and it shows them off to better effect, too.

Setting up the King Noble Flock Fir was easy, thanks to the Power Pole connections and somewhat low—but still ample—number of branch tips; it took only about 30 minutes to put the tree together and fluff it. Predictably, a small amount of the flocking shed during the process, but a quick vacuum took care of this. That small task finished, we were left with a convincing illusion of a snow-covered live tree. Lakein told us that flocking is “kind of a specialty of ours,” and having seen an example firsthand, we wouldn’t argue.

King of Christmas almost exclusively does direct sales—98% of its business, according to Lakein. But it maintains an Amazon Store, “mostly for some small items,” like wreaths. In our experience, direct sales make customer service more reliable than it is for trees purchased from a third-party retailer. The reviews we’ve read on the King of Christmas site bear this out, with multiple mentions of fast delivery and helpful assistance with purchases. (Balsam Hill also does direct sales only and gets solid reviews for its customer service, and Puleo and National Tree’s direct-sales service is also well regarded. However, they can all be hard to reach during high-demand periods as Christmas approaches.)

As a nice touch, the King Noble Flock Fir comes with a pair of gloves, to protect your hands during the fluffing process, and a storage bag, for packing the tree away later (much easier on you and gentler on the tree than cramming it back into a box). If the snowy look is your thing, we’re confident you’ll be delighted with this tree.

More lights, more realistic branch tips, more money: For a long-term investment, Balsam Hill’s most popular “species” is hard to beat.

If you want one of the very best artificial trees available, we recommend the Balsam Hill 7.5-foot Fraser Fir Flip Tree Color + Clear LED. It’s a huge step up in price from our top pick, but you definitely get more tree for the money: 1,320 white and multicolor lights (versus our top pick’s 750) and 3,424 branch tips (almost double our top pick’s 1,867). And you’ll also have an easier time setting up this tree, in comparison with most others. This one is a real investment, but it’s spectacular.

Any properly fluffed tree, from the cheapest to the most expensive, looks very good when decorated and lit—all of the foliage fades into a dark, tree-shaped silhouette, and your eyes land on the bright lights and glinting decorations.

The Fraser Fir delivers Balsam Hill’s full set of premium features, including those high bulb and branch counts. This is what the company calls a “flip tree”: Instead of having separate bottom and middle sections that you have to stack manually, this tree combines them into a single section that flips upside down on an axle for storage (allowing the branches to flop against the trunk) and upright for display (with the branches falling into position under their own weight, as they do on all modern fake trees). So setup is easier and a bit quicker, but the chief advantage is that you don’t have to lift the lower two-thirds of the tree into place yourself—all told, the tree weighs 78 pounds, so doing so would take some strength. The flip mechanism also allows Balsam Hill to put the tree on built-in casters, which make moving it into place easier. Balsam Hill offers a nearly identical (in terms of branch-tip and light bulb numbers) non-flip version, which usually sells for several hundred dollars less. So if you have the necessary muscle, you can save a bit of money with this one (it doesn’t have wheels, however). But even though all of Balsam Hill’s Fraser Fir models have “Pre-Fluffed” memory-wire branch tips, we found that they didn’t work as advertised: It still took an hour to fluff the flip tree we tested.

Due to the high bulb count, the Fraser Fir appears opulently lit compared with our other picks. We think the dual-color LED version of the tree offers the best value over the long term: Not only do you get the long-lasting durability of LEDs, but you also have the versatility to switch colors on all of the tree’s lights if you want to change the look from white to multicolor or a mix of both. Balsam Hill trees come with two boxes of replacement bulbs, in case of individual blackouts. And, per the included troubleshooting tips, if an entire section of the tree doesn’t light up, you just gently turn the “trunk” back and forth a bit at each contact point to make sure the pole-to-pole connection is secure. We’ve yet to see a review from anyone who experienced unsolvable light issues, but should it happen to you, reach out to customer service. Balsam Hill covers the tree with a three-year warranty.

When we viewed our test models as plain green trees, in natural daylight and with the tree lights off, the artificial Fraser Fir looked quite convincingly like the real thing. It also looked particularly great when lit and decorated, thanks to its extremely full appearance and the huge number of bulbs. The caveat here is that you often can’t truly appreciate the realism: Any properly fluffed tree, from the cheapest to the most expensive, looks very good when decorated and lit—all of the foliage fades into a dark, tree-shaped silhouette, and your eyes land on the bright lights and glinting decorations.

One last point: You can operate the Fraser Fir’s lights using a small remote control. By contrast, with most pre-lit trees, including the Downswept Douglas Fir, you have to use a button on the power cord. But the Fraser Fir has such a button, too, which is good for peace of mind. With this handy remote, you don’t have to root around behind the tree when you want to change the lighting modes. However, we could easily imagine it getting lost or simply malfunctioning over the decade or more that the tree should last. Take care to keep the remote stored in a safe place in the off-season.

Trees like this Puleo, with a sparser, shaggier look, are trendy, and the larger gaps between their branches make it easier to hang and show off ornaments.

May be out of stock

Sparser, naturalistic “Euro-style” trees are increasingly popular, and Puleo’s 7.5-foot Pre-Lit Aspen Fir Tree (277-APG-75C7) is a terrific—and very reasonably priced—example. With 700 warm white incandescent lights and 1,319 branch tips, it presents beautifully after being fluffed. The branch tips fade from pale green at the outer ends to dark at the base, an eye-fooling detail that mimics the coloration of live trees, and the brown trunk (as opposed to the typical green) adds to the illusion of reality. The incandescent lights are the modern type—a blown bulb doesn’t cause a whole string to go dark.

Joe Puleo, the company’s owner, explained that designers and homeowners have come to appreciate the sparser Euro style because ornaments stand out better than they do on densely foliaged trees. And since there are fewer branches to get in the way, the ornaments are easier to hang. Also, because there are fewer branches, you’ll spend less time fluffing the tree; we fluffed the Aspen Fir in about half an hour, versus an hour or more with our fuller picks.

Several people spontaneously complimented the Aspen Fir’s looks when we set it up in the Wirecutter office, both for its overall form and its specific branch and trunk details. In addition to being attractive, it’s also sturdily built—not a single needle broke off during the setup. This bodes well for the tree’s longevity (as long as it’s properly stored in a tree bag in a dry, climate-controlled space, as all artificial trees should be). One minor complaint: The light strings have to be manually connected, since they don’t automatically connect through the pole when you put the three sections together. Finding the plugs among the foliage is a bit challenging, and figuring out how to connect them in the proper order took some trial and error. It’s not nearly enough of a hassle to dissuade us from recommending the Aspen Fir, but we hope Puleo will offer a pole-connecting version in the future.

Artificial trees offer a lot of versatility, as this space-saving version of our pick proves. If you don’t want a tiny tree in a small room, consider a slim model with a minimal footprint.

May be out of stock

May be out of stock

The National Tree Company 7.5-foot Feel Real Downswept Douglas Fir Pencil Slim (PEDD4-392D-75) with Dual Color LED Lights is a great option for small spaces, such as a foyer or a compact apartment. It’s similar in construction to our top pick, the Downswept Douglas Fir, with a rich mix of realistic polyethylene branch tips and fake PVC filler branches. And it uses the same dual-color LED lights—only this tree has 350 bulbs, not 750, because there’s a lot less tree to cover. At just 32 inches, this tree is barely half as wide as the 59-inch Downswept Douglas Fir. So it doesn’t look like any pine you can find in nature; it’s more like a cypress. But that also means it can fit in spaces where a full-width tree can’t.

Placed side by side against our other picks, the Pencil Slim looks bizarre, and among our staffers it was nobody’s first (or second, or third) choice. But once we set it up on its own and decorated this tree, it still looked more than realistic enough. And as is true of our other picks, once the lights are turned on, the tree itself disappears into the background; all you see are the lights and the glimmer of the decorations. This unusual shape also proves a broader point that we kept coming across in our research: Whatever size, shape, height, or style of tree you need, you can usually find a pretty good model to fit the bill.

We’re highlighting this model in particular because its lights (along with the branch-tip construction) are the same as those on our pick, the popular and widely appealing Downswept Douglas Fir. The lights have the same multiple colors and patterns (nine in total) that our staffers found so charming, including all-color, all-white, and the “sparkling” mode (some bulbs gently dim and rebrighten). Again, this tree has fewer of them (350 versus 750), but the Pencil Slim still looks fully lit because those lights are spread among a lot less foliage. As always, you have to fluff the Pencil Slim tree to make it look good. But the process is much faster due to the tree’s narrow shape.

We were excited about a 7½-foot version of the Home Decorators Collection Twinkly Swiss Mountain Fir Christmas Tree. It’s one of a number of new trees, from several manufacturers, that come with app-controlled LED lights you can program directly or set to multiple preprogrammed patterns—pushing their abilities beyond the seven or eight presets that most white-plus-color trees come with. From what we’ve found through reporting, people are now using trees with this feature as non-Christmas decorations, setting them to Halloween colors when it’s time for trick-or-treaters, for example, or to team colors for sporting events. Sadly, the tree itself was a disappointment; compared with our picks from National Tree, this one had a higher proportion of cheap-looking PVC branches. And the finer polyethylene branches tended to break off during routine, delicate handling. We do love its Twinkly smart lights, though, enough so that we’ve added them to our guide to the best Christmas lights. The 600 prestrung Twinkly bulbs are the Home Decorators tree’s most valuable asset (they retail on their own for several hundred dollars). You’re better off buying the lights separately and adding them to a tree of your choice.

The National Tree Company PEDD1-312LD-75X (a former pick in this guide) is a great tree, but we made a mistake about one feature when we previously recommended it. This model lacks the company’s PowerConnect feature, which has the lights connect when you attach the central pole. Instead, with this tree you have to manually connect standard plug connectors near where the segments of the tree come together. It’s workable, but the PowerConnect feature is even better, and our top pick has that. And unfortunately, this more basic version does not usually sell for a lower price than our pick.

Frontgate mostly competes with Balsam Hill in the premium category, as it focuses on super-realistic and super-expensive trees. Their specs—and prices—are impressive. In 2021, we tested one of the company’s Fraser firs and found its build quality and realism equal to that of the Balsam Hill Fraser Fir we recommend. You won’t go wrong with any of Frontgate’s offerings, but they are pretty limited, especially if you want something other than clear-only lights: Frontgate offers only a few indoor trees (or an outdoor tree) with a multicolor feature.

Home Accents Holiday, a Home Depot house brand, is generally oriented toward inexpensive, less-realistic trees. Its 7.5-foot Dunhill Fir Unlit model was our former budget pick, and it looked nice once it was strung with lights and decorations, despite having no realistic needles. But we no longer recommend inexpensive trees of this sort, because they tend to wear out within a few years and need replacement—adding to your out-of-pocket costs as well as to the environmental cost of producing fake trees.

There are many, many more competitors than what we describe here. If you can’t find one of our picks or a comparable tree from the makers listed here, you can still get an excellent tree. Use the criteria we outline in How we picked, especially regarding branch-tip count, material, and lighting. Once trees are fluffed, lit, and decorated, they can all look great in their own way.

Between artificial and live trees, which is greener? You may not be surprised to learn that within the industry, there’s no consensus answer: The American Christmas Tree Association and the National Christmas Tree Association, which represent the artificial-tree and live-tree industries, respectively, both claim the “greener” title.

But an in-depth 2007 life-cycle study on the subject gave the edge firmly to live trees, finding that an artificial tree would have to be used for 20 years before its carbon impact fell below that of buying a live tree annually over the same timeframe. A more recent look at the topic reached similar conclusions.

Artificial trees are manufactured mostly in China, where environmental laws tend to be less stringent. In addition, the study did not take into account the environmental cost of producing the raw materials—steel and plastics—that the trees are made of, nor the cost of shipping them across the ocean, noted Travis Wagner, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Southern Maine. Lastly, artificial trees cannot be recycled because it’s too difficult to separate the various materials. So they wind up in landfills when they reach the end of their working lives.

Live trees can be sustainably farmed and harvested, they absorb carbon while growing, and they provide some measure of wildlife habitat. Although live-tree farms do contribute to the consequences of fertilizer and pesticide use, they add value to land that might otherwise be valuable only to developers. At the end of their lives, live trees can be “recycled” in a number of ways, such as by being turned into mulch, used to stabilize sand dunes, or even submerged in lakes to create fish habitat.

But as the 2007 study pointed out, driving a gas-powered car just a few hundred miles produces more greenhouse gases than producing a typical artificial Christmas tree. So compared with the cumulative environmental cost of everyday activities and consumption, your fake tree isn’t much more than a blip. Still, taking care of it and extending its life is a way to minimize its environmental impact.

Lead serves as a stabilizer in some forms of PVC. The one serious study (PDF) we’ve seen on artificial Christmas trees, published in 2004 in the Journal of Environmental Health, found that the lead levels and risk of lead exposure were generally very low, and well below federal guidelines at the time. A few models were outliers, however, and one slightly exceeded the federal limits. Lead exposure occurred in two ways. One is direct contact with the branches, as may occur when people are setting up the trees and decorating them. The other is contact with PVC dust beneath the tree, the result of physical decomposition of the “pine needles”—a particular concern for crawling infants. Significantly, new trees (new in 2004, that is) generally showed much lower levels of lead than trees manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s. The authors concluded that while the proportion of trees made with lead-stabilized PVC had “decreased only modestly” in the 20 years preceding 2004, “the amount of lead stabilizer used has apparently been reduced to a much larger extent,” suggesting a long-term trend toward low-lead or lead-free artificial trees.

We raised our concerns with the American Christmas Tree Association, which stated in response that leaded PVC is no longer used at all in its members’ products. We also asked National Tree Company about its products specifically, and representatives confirmed that the company uses entirely lead-free PVC. We have no reason to doubt those claims. But since no federal standards or tests for artificial-tree materials exist, we have no independent data to confirm or contradict them, either. In general, it seems wise to wash your hands after setting up and decorating your artificial tree, as well as to prevent kids and pets from playing underneath it or (obviously) chewing on the branches. But the risk of lead exposure from a contemporary artificial Christmas tree is likely to be minimal to nonexistent.

This article was edited by Harry Sawyers.

Tim Heffernan

Tim Heffernan is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter and a former writer-editor for The Atlantic, Esquire, and others. He has anchored our unequaled coverage of air purifiers and water filters since 2015. In 2018, he established Wirecutter’s ongoing collaboration with The New York Times’s Smarter Living. When he’s not here, he’s on his bike.

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Durable: Cost-effective over the long term: Low maintenance and low stress:Safer:Not messy:A pain to store:Not beautiful out of the box:Not 100% realistic:Odorless: