Christmas tree shopping can be challenging. With the wide variety of trees available, how do you find the best one for you? And what’s the difference between trees from big-box stores like Target and specialty brands like Balsam Hill? 

To help answer your questions, we invited some home décor enthusiasts to compare and review Christmas trees. First, they picked a Balsam Hill artificial tree. Then they chose a big-box store tree of the same height and type.  

Casey Finn of The DIY Playbook reviewed 7.5’ pre-lit Balsam Fir trees from Balsam Hill and a big-box store. Kierste Wade of Old Salt Farm compared a 7’ Frosted Balsam Fir tree from another retail store with Balsam Hill’s 7.5′ Frosted BH Balsam Fir. Read on for a summary of their opinions on Balsam Hill vs Target— who does better Christmas trees? 

Realism of Foliage 

One of the first things that Casey noted was that the foliage of her big-box tree had the same green hue all throughout. In contrast, the color variations on Balsam Hill’s True Needle™ foliage more closely resembled that which you’d see on natural trees.  

Side-by-side set up of Balsam Fir trees from a big-box store and BH
Casey Finn of The DIY Playbook highlighted the lifelike color of the BH Balsam Fir tree needles (right)

Both reviewers added how more realistic their Balsam Hill trees were. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that the tree is composed mainly of a single type of foliage. In contrast, the big-box tree has a mix of foliage varieties which does not occur anywhere in nature.

Pro Tip: One of the factors to consider when you shop for a faux tree is needle quality. How realistic are the needles? If you want a traditional look, opt for a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) tree. But if you want one that’s more lifelike, consider a tree with PE (polyethylene) needles.

Quantity of Needles and Branches

A side-by-side view of the trees showed a stark difference in fullness. After fluffing, the branches of the Balsam Hill tree thoroughly covered the trunk. The big-box tree, on the other hand, displayed noticeable gaps.  

Target vs Balsam Hill flocked Christmas trees
Kierste noted that difference in appearance between her 7.5’ Balsam Hill tree (right), which had more branch tips than her 7’ big-box store tree. Photo courtesy of Old Salt Farm

Apparently, the number of branch tips contributes a lot to getting the dense look that many love. Kierste noted that her 7.5’ Balsam Hill tree had more than 5,700 branch tips. Her 7’ big-box store tree had 1,419 branch tips, and this made it appear much smaller despite being only 6” shorter. 

Lighting Features

Casey compared her pre-lit Balsam Fir trees and observed that the Balsam Hill tree shone brighter. A look at the light counts reveals that the Balsam Hill tree has 900 lights, while the other has 500.  

Target vs. Balsam Hill Christmas tree with lights 
Comparison of pre-lit trees from a big-box store and from Balsam Hill (right). Photo courtesy of The DIY Playbook

Another important point of comparison is the type of lights on the trees. All the big-box trees are fitted with traditional incandescent lights while Balsam Hill trees have Candlelight™ Clear LEDs. These LED lights emit a warm glow just like incandescent lights but are much more energy-efficient. 

Pre-lit frosted Balsam Fir from Target and Balsam Hill
Kierste’s BH frosted tree (right) features LED lights compared to the big-box store tree’s incandescent lights. Photo courtesy of Old Salt Farm

Pro Tip: The two main light types available are traditional or incandescent lights and the newer LED lights. LEDs are more energy-efficient and durable.

Exclusive Accessories and Inclusions

Our reviewers were pleasantly surprised to find that their BH trees came with many various accessories. The on/off foot pedal proved to be a very convenient way to control the lights. With this built-in switch, there’s no need to reach around the tree to plug and unplug the cord.  

Pedal light switch for pre-lit Balsam Hill trees 
Most pre-lit trees from Balsam Hill come with a convenient on/off foot pedal. Photo courtesy of The DIY Playbook

The two pairs of protective gloves helped make the job of shaping their Balsam Hill trees easier and more enjoyable. 

Gloves that are included as accessories for Balsam Hill trees
Gloves protect hands during tree fluffing. Photo courtesy of Old Salt Farm

Our reviewers were delighted that their Balsam Hill trees came with storage bags. In fact, there were three bags—two for the tree sections and one for the metal stand and accessories.  

Balsam Hill tree storage bags and accessories 
Storage bags to keep trees and accessories safe during the off-season. Photo courtesy of Old Salt Farm

The other brands didn’t offer a warranty so Balsam Hill’s 3-year warranty was another big plus for the home decor enthusiasts. This covers the tree frame, foliage, hinges, and stand. It also covers the repair or replacement of lights. 

Conclusion

When it came to comparing Balsam Hill vs Target, reviews ended with the former as the preferred tree, mainly for its realism and accessories. After seeing the big difference between Balsam Hill and a tree from a big-box brand, the reviewers realized that it’s truly worth investing in a specialty artificial Christmas tree.  

For more tips on choosing your holiday centerpiece, read this artificial Christmas tree buyer’s guide.   

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