Thursday, March 23, 2023

Best Smart Bulbs 2020: Illuminate Your Life With These Top Picks

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There are plenty of awesome smart home gadgets that can give your place some high-tech flavor, but few have the flare of smart bulbs. Kitting your house out with smart bulbs is not only a handy way to help lower your power bill, but also a delightful way to keep the aesthetics of your home fresh.At the very minimum, a smart bulb will enable you to control it remotely, so you can turn it off if you accidentally left the house with it still on. Some will let you set schedules or integrate them with smart home automation, so they can automatically turn on when you get home or automatically turn off when you leave. Many also include multiple white color temperatures and can include a full spectrum of colors. This can let you go for vibrant white during the day, a calm glow in the evening, or rainbow hues during a party. You can also simulate a sunrise on some smart bulbs if you find waking up to a traditional alarm too jarring.

We’ve picked out a variety of smart bulbs at all price points, so you can find the lights you need for your bedroom, party room, bathroom, and every other room in your house.

TL;DR – These are the Best Smart Bulbs

1. Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance

Best Smart Bulb

Our Pick

Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance

On Amazon

Philips Hue is probably the best-known name in smart lighting. It got in the game early, and today has an impressive lineup of bulbs and fittings to choose from. And when you’re ready to go beyond the standard bulbs, there are more interesting fixtures and accessories, such as the Hue Dimmer Switch or the Hue Lightstrips.

Hue lights offer a large gamut of features such as color control, scheduling, and integration with third-party apps. It’s platform-agnostic too, working with HomeKit, Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and more.

However, you’ll want a Hue Bridge for the full effect. Yes, its latest lights offer Bluetooth as well – a great way to trial Hue if it’s your first time – but the range of features is more limited. Hue’s White and Color Ambiance bulb is a great place to start.

2. Sengled Color Changing Light Bulb

The budget choice

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Sengled Color Changing Light Bulb

On Amazon

Sengled offers a more wallet-friendly option. Most of its bulbs require a hub, although it now offers its white, ‘daylight’, and color bulbs in Wi-Fi versions that talk directly to your router.

The app is good enough and gives you all the expected features, but it’s not as fully rounded as Hue or Lifx. The same goes for the quality of the bulbs themselves, which also aren’t quite as bright. We do like the power consumption tracker that lets you see how much energy your individual bulbs are using.

Alexa and Google Assistant support are here, but no HomeKit.

3. C by GE Full Color Direct Connect Smart LED Bulb

The best without a hub

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C by GE Full Color Direct Connect bulbs are a bit on the pricy side, but they can save you a chunk of money if you’re looking to set up just a few bulbs. That’s because these bulbs can connect directly to your Wi-Fi network without the need for an additional hub. If your Wi-Fi ever misbehaves, they also support a Bluetooth connection that you can use as a backup.

These bulbs offer a complete smart light experience. You get the option to set the bulbs to a full range of colors or go with a tunable white that can range from warm to cool color temperatures. You can set the bulbs to run on a schedule, make custom scenes, and even control them with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. These will make for a great option if you’re just starting to dabble in smart home devices and home automation or if you have a smaller living space. If you’re planning to go big, then a hub-based solution may prove cheaper in the long run.

4. Yeelight LED Bulb 1S

Cheap but plenty functional

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Yeelight LED Bulb 1S

On Amazon

Yeelight’s smart color LED bulb almost sounds too good to be true: no hub, low price, a good color temperature range, and integration with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit. And yet, it delivers, with a fantastic smart bulb that should have Hue, Lifx, and company watching their backs.

The app has features like scheduling and timers, with good responsiveness overall. The bulbs are plenty bright too – 800 lumens – and the color bulb offers 16-million hues. It doesn’t support as many third-party platform integrations as Philips Hue, but Yeelight ticks a lot of the right boxes.

5. Wyze Bulb

For the absolute basics

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Wyze wants to lower the price of entry to the smart home, and its smart light does exactly that. $8 a bulb or $30 for four. It’s hard to argue with that.

But despite costing a fraction of the price of some rivals (looking at you, Hue and Lifx) Wyze’s Wi-Fi bulbs offers all the basic features you’d expect and doesn’t require a hub to get going. That means app control for adjusting temperature, setting schedules, and turning your bulbs on/off when you’re out of the house. They also integrate with Alexa and Google Assistant.

The problem with Wyze it that it only has one white bulb right now, with no color options.

6. Nanoleaf Rhythm Edition Smarter Kit

Best for decorating your home

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Nanoleaf Rhythm Edition Smarter Kit

On Amazon

If you don’t want to be confined to light sockets and traditional bulbs, the Nanoleaf Rhythm Edition Smarter Kit can get you set up with smart light bulbs that give you tons of flare. The kit includes a bundle of triangular LED panels, each of which can glow at 100 lumens. They also support a wide color temperature range and a full 16.7 million colors.

With the kit, you can arrange the Nanoleaf panels how you like to make custom shapes. And, you can set them to change their colors based on music or sync to the colors on a video display. They have such a wide range of compatible devices that you’ll likely find an easy way to combine them with your other devices. Gamers can even use them with Razer Synapse. While this kit will start you out with 15 panels, you can add more later, including different shapes from Nanoleaf.

7. Peace by Hampton

Best Smart Bulbs to Buy in Bulk

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Peace by Hampton

On Best Buy

If you know you want to buy a huge stack of smart bulbs, Peace by Hampton bulbs are a solid bet. You can get a pack of four bulbs for $60, letting you easily outfit a whole room with smart bulbs, or you can get several packs to tackle the whole home. You won’t be adding just any old bulb to your home with these picks either.

The Peace by Hampton bulbs connect over Wi-Fi like many smart bulbs, giving you remote control of them with your phone, and they support Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant for voice controls from a wide range of devices. These bulbs offer a wide range of white color temperatures, letting you dial in the lighting for calm evening hues or energetic daylight. They also support a full range of colors, so you can get much more elaborate with your in-home color schemes.

8. Nanoleaf Essentials A19

Best Smart Bulb for HomeKit

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Nanoleaf Essentials A19

On Apple

Nanoleaf makes some premium and expensive lighting products, but it also has a much more affordable solution available. The Nanoleaf Essentials A19 bulb costs just $20 but provides plenty of brightness, full color control, and works with Apple’s HomeKit.

The bulbs themselves use Bluetooth to connect to controllers, which can include your phone or a separate Nanoleaf control unit. They can also connect directly to a compatible border router, like the HomePod mini, using Thread, which provides more reliable control. Once you’ve got the Nanoleaf Essential A19 bulbs set up, you can enjoy a broad range of colors and calm white light in the evenings or brilliant white in the daytime, even letting the bulbs flow between color temperature automatically based on the time of day.

What to look for in a smart bulb

Smart lighting can really change your home life, but with so many available options out there it’s important to first do your research. The first port of call is to check that the base fittings are correct for your home. Luckily, many smart bulb manufacturers make a variety of different fittings. Here’s what else you need to think about.

Hubs, Zigbee and Z-Wave

The above bulb recommendations can be split into two camps: those that require a hub, and those that don’t. If they don’t, that means they’re either connecting to your router using Wi-Fi or to your phone with Bluetooth.

If they need a hub, then in all likelihood the bulbs are running on Zigbee or Z-Wave. For the uninitiated, these are two wireless protocols that function like mesh networks. The benefit is that Zigbee and Z-Wave networks are more stable and avoid putting more strain on your Wi-Fi.

But Wi-Fi bulbs are growing in popularity due to the fact they don’t need a hub and can connect directly to your router. The main drawback here is connectivity – you need to have a strong Wi-Fi signal wherever your bulbs are, which mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi extenders can help. However, be careful not to overload the home network with all of your lights.

Finally, some bulbs come with Bluetooth. Hue now sells its bulbs with Bluetooth built-in, giving you the choice of controlling them just from your phone. The obvious drawback here is that you lose that control when you leave the house, and the overall range of features is thinner.

Your platform of choice

As well as how your bulbs connect, you need to think about your smart home platform. Do you live in an Alexa home? Worship at the altar of HomeKit? Make sure any smart lighting you buy plays nicely. Most work with Alexa and Google Assistant, but a smaller number are HomeKit-friendly.

Brightness, temperature, and dimming

Not all smart bulbs are born equal. Color temperature within white bulbs – letting you shift from a colder white to a warmer yellow – is an important feature. Not all white bulbs support color temperature, and of those that do, the range can vary.

Finally, do you want your smart lights to be dimmable? Chances are the won’t work with an existing in-wall dimmer in your home, but some smart light brands now sell dimming accessories. Worth thinking about. Of course, you’ll be able to dim with the app/voice controls in most cases, but sometimes you just want a good old fashioned light switch.

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Hugh Langley is a tech journalist who’s fascinated by wearables, health tech, the smart home, and more. You can find him tweeting (often nonsense) over at @hughlangley.


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