Think the best smart lights have to come as a bulb? Think again: the LIFX Tile is as much decoration as it is lighting fixture, letting you add bold connected lighting splashes of color to the walls of your home simply and quickly.
Yes, lights can illuminate the darkness, can give you a glow to read by or to work to. But with the advent of smart, connected lighting that hook up to apps and your home Wi-Fi connection, you can now have lighting that’s more than just a utility – it can be a fully fledged decorative piece of art too.
That’s what the LIFX Tile sets out to be. Coming as a pack of five square LED lighting pads that work in unison with an app controller, the LIFX Tile safely adheres to your wall, and can be arranged in any manner you see fit – from the literal pattern you place on the wall, to the customizable colors you pick to be displayed on them.
With an RRP of $249.99 (though you’re regularly able to pick it up much cheaper), the LIFX Tile is one of the more expensive smart lighting kits you’ll be able to find. But, when you consider that it’s as much a capable, illuminating lighting fixture as it is a design piece, that cost quickly justifies itself.
LIFX Tile review: Design and build
- Square shape allows for many arrangements
- Easily (and safely) affixes to the wall
- Cable management could be better, and set up smoother
Built from LED panels rather than traditional bulbs, the LIFX Tile comes as a set of five slim squares that can be stuck to your wall. They come with a set of adhesive Command Strips that securely fasten them to your walls without the need for nails or fixtures but, crucially, can be removed without damaging the surface underneath them. While they’ll lose their stickiness if you reuse them, it does mean you can easily adjust them a couple of times if you don’t line them up perfectly first time.
Each tile measures (in inches) 7.87 x 7.87 x 1.37, and they can be placed anywhere on your wall as you see fit – providing that’s within the reach of the one foot three inch cables that connect each individual tile, and the six foot six inch power cable that connects them all to a power outlet.
The flexibility of the cable lengths gives you plenty of options as to how you’re going to place them on your walls. But note that the white cabling will be visible unless you place the squares side by side. Excess cabling can be hidden in a cable-management system built into the back of each tile, but we found it difficult to fully hide them completely away. The cabling is fine and unobtrusive, but they might be a bit more of an eyesore if you’re placing them on anything other than a white wall.
Plug the power cable in and hook it up to a wall outlet and the lights will fire up, but for precise control over colors, brightness and other nifty features, you’re going to need to make use of the Android and iOS apps.
Actually connecting the LIFX Tile to your home network can be a frustrating exercise, however. For starters, they’ll only work on the 2.4Ghz band b/g/n connection, with 5GHz not supported. We found the Android app sometimes couldn’t recognize them straight away. Secondly, as you can tweak the color of each tile individually (and you can put each square up in any placement you see fit) you’re going to have to teach the app which specific square is which as part of the set-up process, with the lights flashing as you tap corresponding squares in the app. You can then drag them around to make them match whatever pattern you’ve stuck them up on your wall as.
It’s not a seamless process then, but once everything’s up and running, the LIFX Tile is a joy to play around with.
LIFX Tile review: Features
- iOS and Android apps
- Works with voice assistants
- A great range of preset color patterns and customization options
The LIFX Tile isn’t unique in being a decorative piece of wall lighting – the Nanoleaf Canvas and Tile’s own Beam are similarly artistic in nature. But we’d argue none are as customizable or packed with as much creative potential as the Tile. Capable of glowing in 16 million different colors, each of the five tiles has 64 individual zones that can display a separate color.
You’ve many options as to how to set up these lighting zones, too. As with practically all smart lighting, you can of course tweak brightness and color temperature – from soothing warm lights to focus-driving cooler lighting. But if a spark of creativity takes you, you can “paint” each square using the app’s color wheel and by shading them in with a finger in the app, seeing your changes instantly reflected by the colors of the squares on your wall.
If you’d rather play with presets, there are many to choose from, ranging from soothing “Hygge” pinks and roses to burning sunsets or festive greens and reds. The colors selected for each tile can be made to blend into each other, or act as solid, distinct blocks for a bolder statement on your walls.
Once you’ve got the color scheme set to your preference, you can then apply optional effects to the LIFX Tile. There are settings to make the tiles flicker like a candle, or strobe, for instance. They’re mostly a novelty, but we had fun with the option that makes the lights pulse in time with music heard from our mobile device’s microphone – a great party trick.
More useful is the ability to program a night and day cycle into the LIFX Tile. The smart lighting can be used to simulate an early sunrise in the winter, for instance, or to tweak the color temperature over the course of the day from when you want to focus on work to unwind in the evening, without you having to manually alter the settings each day.
As for your wider smart home ecosystem, the LIFX Tile played nicely with every smart home brand we had in our possession. As such, you can use all manner of voice assistants, from Amazon’s Alexa to Google’s Assistant to Apple’s Siri and HomeKit, to activate and tweak the settings of the LIFX Tile via voice activation alone, while you can also place the LIFX Tile into smart home groups and routines so that it can be triggered simultaneously with other connected devices – or smart lighting systems – around your home.
LIFX Tile review: Performance
- Comforting light and bold patterns supported
- Relatively stable connectivity
Though its installation can be a bit finicky, the LIFX Tile otherwise performed stably once fully set up in our home. It responded swiftly to voice commands, is easy to tweak the colors and settings for, and never appeared in danger of slipping off the wall.
On the rare occasion where it couldn’t communicate with the app, that was usually as a result of a fault of our home router, rather than the lighting array itself. The one time the LIFX Tile did become unresponsive, simply unplugging it and plugging it back in fixed the problem, without losing the lighting selections we’d decided upon.
Could the LIFX Tile be a replacement for a traditional light in your room? Potentially a lamp, yes, but unless the space it’s lighting is particularly small, it’s probably not going to be bright enough to be the sole light source in a room. Its 34 watt peak brightness is solid, and it’s definitely a wonderful way to add a little ambience to your room, but it’ll work best as a complement to other fixtures around your home.
Should I buy LIFX Tile?
If you’re looking to get creative with your smart lighting, we’d recommend the LIFX Tile heartily. It’s fun to play with, and gives off a good glow. It’s not as expandable as competitors like the Nanoleaf Canvas, and it is expensive, but we’d argue it looks better. Get through a finicky set-up process and it’s then a lovely, eye-catching addition to your walls.