Starting a new smart home? Then smart bulbs should be top of your shopping list – and they don’t come better than the Philips Hue kit. These are the best smart light bulbs you can buy.
Remember those lights that you could activate with a clap of your hand? Or marvelling at that relative’s home that had dimmer switches for all the lights? Philips Hue is that idea on steroids.
Connecting to your home network most-commonly over Wi-Fi and pairing with smartphone apps or voice assistants, Philips Hue bulbs, in both their color changing and white-light-only variants, let you add personalized lighting around your home. Want some low, warm mood lighting for the bedroom? An energizing bright white for the study? Or even multi-colored lights that pulsate in time with your music for a party? Philips Hue bulbs let you do all that.
Working with physical smart switches alongside high-tech connected devices, Hue lights (thanks to accompanying apps) can be configured to work in any way you choose, limited only by your willingness to experiment – and your imagination.
Philips Hue Color Ambiance Smart Bulbs review: Design and build
- Practically identical to a regular bulb
- Estimated 15,000 hour bulb life
- Many different fixture types available
Ever seen a regular lightbulb? Of course you have! And Philips Hue lightbulbs look very similar, if a little larger to accommodate the extra connectivity tech packed in. Even with their extra heft, they’ll fit most light fixtures, with different models available in GU10, B22, E27, bayonet and E14 fittings.
Though we’re looking at the Color Ambience bulbs specifically here, there’s a wide range of Philips Hue bulbs and lighting accessories on offer, from white bulbs to warmer white Ambiance bulbs, to the LED Lightstrip Plus to lamps and garden-ready fittings, too. There are even filament bulbs now if you’re after that retro look. All offer dimming capabilities, can work with accessories like physical connected light switches and the bulbs have lengthy estimated life spans of 15,000 hours.
While older Hue bulbs work via the ZigBee smart home standard that lets connected gadgetry talk to each other (and thus requiring a Hue Bridge box, available with most Philips Hue starter kits), newer bulbs now come with Bluetooth compatibility, making for a quicker set up process. The drawback of using Bluetooth connectivity however does limit the range of accessories that will work with the bulbs, making the purchase of at least one Hue Bridge box recommended.
Philips Hue Color Ambiance Smart Bulbs review: Features
- iOS and Android apps
- Third-party developer support
- Philips Ambilight TV compatibility
Philips Hue bulbs use iOS and Android apps for their set-up processes, which take just a few minutes to carry out once your lights are plugged in. It’s here that you can pair them with your smart home control system of choice, be that Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings or Google Assistant. You can, of course, simply control them with the app without tying them to one of the aforementioned smart home ecosystems – but making them work in unison with other connected gadgets and voice assistants around your home is part of the fun of smart lighting.
And smart lights are fun. Philips’ own apps have relatively extensive controls – you can change brightness, color, set wake up sunrise and sunset sleep timers, and group bulbs into rooms for one-touch control over all of them at once. The app is also location aware, and can be set up to turn lights on or off when your device approaches home. You can also control the lights remotely – useful for giving the appearance that you are at home while on holiday, for instance.
Pair the bulbs with numerous third party apps and the possibilities get even wilder. IFTTT (If This, Then That) compatibility can let you set up Rube Goldberg-style chains of events, for instance turning on the hall lights automatically when a nearby connected motion sensor is triggered. There are also apps that can set bulbs to color change in time with the beat of music, or following the colors of onscreen movie action.
In fact, if you’ve got one of Philips’ nifty Ambilight TVs (which beam colors from their rear onto the walls behind them that match what’s happening on screen), you can pair the Philips bulbs with the TV to make them do the same, turning your viewing room into an immersive cinema experience.
Philips Hue Color Ambiance Smart Bulbs review: Performance
- Easy to set up
- Works flawlessly, 99 percent of the time
It’s rare to have any connectivity issues with Hue bulbs and, as they’re connecting to standard lighting fixtures, they can be controlled by a regular light switch as well as by app or voice assistant, meaning they’ll still work even if your web connection fails. However, though it’s uncommon, they can sometimes get a bit confused – but that’s often just as likely the fault of another component of a complicated smart home group set up. For 99 percent of the time, Hue bulbs work like a charm.
Hue bulbs, like the energy-saving bulbs that have been popularized over the past decade, tend not to be blindingly bright, but are always comfortable and warm to live with. Any additional impact their connected nature has on your electricity bill tends to be negligible, too.
Should I buy Philips Hue Color Ambiance Smart Bulbs?
The answer is almost certainly yes. The Philips Hue system is reliable and versatile, and is ever improving as its developer partnerships and ecosystem widens.
Where the competition has an advantage is with price. There are competing brands, like LIFX, TP-Link and even IKEA, which all offer similar products at more aggressive price points. But few are as reliable, as easy to set up, or as simple to integrate with a wider smart home system as the Philips Hue kit is.
What you may also want to consider though is feature lighting. Products like the LIFX Tile or Nanoleaf let you create attractive color patterns with modular tiles that adhere to your walls, for instance. If you want an arty statement piece for your home, they too are worth a look – but are best used for decoration rather than as practical lighting.