The LIFX Beam takes the principles of the best smart light bulbs – wireless connectivity, customization options and remote control – and puts it in a super-cool strip-like lighting array. If you’re bored of bulbs and want to give a design-led flourish to your walls, read on.
Smart lighting lets us go one better than merely illuminating a room. By connecting to Wi-Fi and using color-changing LEDs, it can be used to add artistic flourishes to the rooms of your home. And, if you’ve got more than one connected gadget indoors, or a smart-speaker or assistant on your phone, they can be controlled even without the need for a switch.
The LIFX Beam fits into that more artistic realm of smart lighting. Coming as six thin strips that connect together and can be placed on a wall, the Beam can be customized with all types of color settings and mood themes, via an app or voice-activated smart controller like an Alexa-powered Echo speaker.
With an RRP of $199.99 however, it’s up there with the more expensive options when it comes to smart lighting. Keep in mind that, while bright, it’s not ideal for being the one source of illumination in a room, and that you could (for instance) get several Philips Hue bulbs for the same price. However, it’s a great option if you’re looking for something a little more stylish.
LIFX Beam review: Design and build
- Strips can be arranged in straight, L or T-shaped arrangements
- Sticks to the wall with effective and safe Command Strips
- Set up is a little fiddly
LIFX has made it as easy as possible to get the Beam set up and working, providing everything in the box you’ll need to get them on your walls and glowing away quickly.
In the box you’ll find six plastic LED strips, measuring (300 x 35 x 20mm), and a corner piece for arranging the strips into right-angled patterns. All parts connect together with a magnetic fastener, including a wired power supply that connects to an end piece. Using the straight pieces and corner tile, you can create straight beams of light, L-shaped arrangements and T-shaped angles.
LIFX encourages you to plan out what shape you want to put on the wall before you get started, and potentially to even have a spirit level ready if you’re looking for exacting straight lines. And with good reason – the Command Strips, adhesive pads that come with the Beam, are super sticky, and may not be so easy to move about once placed on the wall. For what it’s worth though, Command Strips are designed to be kind to your walls, so even if you do need to remove them, they shouldn’t take paper or paint with them (even if they’ll lose their stickiness a little).
Needing a wired power supply means you can’t put these strips absolutely anywhere in your home, and note that they all components have to line up and physically touch each other – you can’t leave any gaps between them. But with an 8.2 feet power cable, there’s enough flexibility to place them around the place with a reasonable degree of flexibility.
LIFX Beam review: Features
- iOS and Android apps
- Can be controlled with voice assistants
- Clever pattern and wide-ranging color options
Once you’ve got the physical installation covered, the LIFX Beam is finished off with a quick set up through its iOS and Android apps. With no need for a separate bridge, the Beam connects over Wi-Fi (802.11n, 2.4GHz), and is usually quickly recognizable by your phone.
With so many options on how to place the individual pieces, the app also needs to be taught which piece has ended up where on your wall, which it does by making them flash as you tap and move corresponding icons in the app.
Being a thin strip of light, as opposed to the blocks like the LIFX Tile or modular shapes like the Nanofleaf Canvas, the LIFX Beam is better suited as accent lighting rather than as its own centerpiece on a wall – we’ve enjoyed placing it around picture frames and door frames for instance. But with 16-million color options, it’s still highly customizable, and gives off a welcoming glow.
As well as being able to tweak brightness and color temperature – ranging from soft warm lights to sharper cooler lighting – you can also “paint” individual sections of the Beam using the app’s color wheel. You simply drag your finger across a representation of the Beam within the app, and you’ll see the corresponding colors instantly added to your real-life Beam unit, with options to blend and fade your selections, or leave them as stark and distinct areas of color.
If you’re not feeling quite so creative, or would rather see what the experts have come up with, there’s a ton of preset themes to pick from. Approaching winter? Fire up the green and red ‘Holiday’ theme. Want to chill, Scandi style? Tap on the ‘Hygge’ setting. There’s something for every occasion or mood.
After you’ve settled on the colors you want in that moment, you can get even more playful with a range of special effects that the LIFX Beam offers. Most are just for novelty value – there’s a candle-like flame-flicker effect, and a ‘Spooky’ setting that randomly flashes the light with the intent of giving you a jump scare. If you’re having a party, it’s worth trying the music-oriented effect, which uses your app device’s microphone to pulse the lights in time with the beat of whatever you’re listening too.
It’s not all silly tricks though. There’s a very useful scheduling function that can be used to apply different levels of brightness, color temperature or on/off day night cycles to the LIFX Beam. You can have the lights come on as an early morning wake up call, for instance, or gradually go from an energizing work-day cool color to a relaxing warm for the evening, using the app’s intuitive calendar and timing system.
If your home is already kitted out with other connected gadgetry, the LIFX Beam should slip right in without too much difficulty. It’ll respond to Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri and Samsung SmartThings commands, and can easily be configured to work within groups, triggering multiple gadgets with a single command. There’s also support for IFTTT (If This, Then That) app programming, letting you assign rules that make the Beam react automatically based on your preferences – perhaps to fire up when a Wi-Fi motion sensor is passed, for instance.
LIFX Beam review: Performance
- Adds some flair to your walls
- Connectivity issues intermittently appeared with Alexa
Everyone who has visited and seen the LIFX Beam has asked about it – a sure fire sign of a hit when it comes to spicing up your interior decor.
It’s many settings are easy to navigate, its color options bold and varied, and its set up is, for the most part, relatively easy. When on, it adds a welcome glow to its surroundings, even if it’s not ideal as a singular, lone light source. However, it’s comfortable to read by providing you’re close to it, and its energising modes do help to lift a tired brain.
Connectivity 99 percent of the time is stable, but we did experience a few drop outs where our home’s Alexa system couldn’t find the Beam and interact with it. It was a rare issue, and one fixed easily by pulling the power at the wall and letting the Beam reboot.
Should I buy LIFX Beam?
Being a slim-line light source, the LIFX Beam is one of the more unusual smart lighting options on the market. It’s versatile and good-looking, and is a great way to highlight key areas of your rooms.
It’s not cheap – you could pick up a handful of competing smart light bulbs for the same price. But as a standalone source, not requiring an extra fittings, it’s a lovely addition to a home.