Smart Light Bulb Reviews - Wireless Connected LED Lights

When the world went from candles to the electric lightbulb it revolutionized the way we live and work. The world became better educated and more productive thanks to the inexpensive provision of clean electric light on a global scale. Today, if you look at the Earth from space, you can tell how advanced a country is by how lit up it is at night. Artificial light is one of the keystones of civilized life.

The technology of light bulbs had stayed essentially the same since the early days of Thomas Edison and his contemporaries. They became brighter, smaller, and longer lasting, but the basic principle of how they operated was unchanged. An electric current would flow through a highly resistant wire inside a vacuum. The electricity would then be converted to light and also heat. Lots of heat. Light bulbs are actually pretty inefficient and waste a significant amount of the electricity they consume as waste heat. This heat also wears the light out over time and eventually the wire or the glass bulb will fail.

Things began to change at the end of the last century and the early years of the 21st century. Fluorescent light technology, which had only really been viable in a long tube form factor, starting finding its way into so-called “energy saver” bulbs. These bulbs used much less power power and don’t generate nearly as much heat. They lasted much longer as well, which offset their slightly higher price.

All the while another light technology has been on the up-and-up – LED lighting.

LEDs have really been killing it technology-wise and now you can get super bright LED lights that fit existing light sockets, make very little if any heat, and will last for years. The thing is, LED technology is much more compact than the system they fit in requires. So companies have figured out that you can stick all sorts of other electronics into the space left where the bulb would have gone. Speakers, WiFi repeaters, and more are now able to integrate with LED lights. I’ve put together a bunch of these guys down below and tried to figure out if they are worth the asking price. The ones I think are the best are highlighted at the top and the rest are in no particular order.

Top Pick: Philips 456210 Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Bulb Starter Kit

Ah yes, seeing the Philips brand on home electrical stuff puts me right into my comfort zone. This is, of course, a package that contains not only a single bulb, but is actually a starter kit to get you up and running with their home lighting control system.

This system is compatible with both Apple Homekit and Amazon Alexa, so you can play out your Star Trek fantasies by voice-controlling the light settings – something that’s sure to impress members of the opposite sex.

In the box you get three A19 Color Hue bulbs and one controller. Once you have this kit you can just add or replace more bulbs to expand the control to new rooms or lamps.

The bulbs themselves are nice and conservative in their design. They look sleek and professional and they’ll never draw attention to themselves when off, so that’s ten out of ten in my book.
When it comes to lighting there is basically nothing that these guys won’t do. You can use Siri to switch between the stored “scenes” where each bulb remembers its relative setting. So you could go “Hey Siri, romantic lighting” and then it would change to that preset.

The key to all of this is the Philips Hue Bridge. This is the bit that wirelessly connects to your router and then relays commands to the lights in your house. While this kit starts you off with three lights, the bridge can handle up to 50 lights in total. I think that will cover most people who are not millionaire mansion-dwellers.

It has a bunch of smart features such as geofencing or times programming where you can create the illusion that people are home during the times you are away. You can set the light to switch on when you arrive home and to turn off when you leave. There is a fine degree of control available here.

For the price this starter kit represents heaps of value. This is the closest to a proper home automation lighting kit I’ve seen for a reasonable amount of money and with lots of actually useful features. The fact that it is compatible with two of the latest and most popular home automation protocols only cements that opinion.

I have no hesitation in recommending this as an elegant, affordable, and simple solution to the question of home lighting automation. The only negative I can think of is that this locks you into Phillips’ proprietary technology, but I don’t think that the company is going anywhere soon.

Second Pick: LIFX Color 1000 A19 Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb

If the Phillips technology lock-in doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to route the lights through your WiFi, then this light from LIFX may be just what the doctor ordered.

Now, it is a bit pricey so it doesn’t work out to be as cost effective as the hub+lights approach, but on the other hand each Color 1000 has its own WiFi built in, which means there is no single failure point for all the lighting. That’s something to think about.

The Color 1000 is a pretty versatile little device. It’s capable of 16 million colors and 1000 different shades of white. I can’t seem to find any info on whether it supports 50 shades of grey though.

It can be both app and cloud controlled. It interoperates with the Nest smart thermostat and will also work with Alexa voice control.

There’s a long list of timing and behavior options for these lights and I really think LIFX is at the forefront of smart consumer lighting.

LIFX seems to be really on the ball too when it comes to sorting out issues. These lights have a full guarantee, and bug fixes to the software in each bulb is done automatically via the app or a desktop computer updater program.

People who have bought the light are really happy with it and agree that the setup was a breeze. If you don’t plan on having a gazillion lights and don’t mind the extra cost, this is an excellent choice for light automation.

Top Budget Choice: GE Link, Wireless A19 Smart Connected LED Light Bulb

Good old GE could not be left out of the latest trends in home lighting, and so we have this A19-sized LED smart bulb.

This has to be one of the most affordable options on a per-bulb basis. Of course, you must have a Wink hub in order to actually control these lights. So the best case for this is a situation where you want to control many bulbs, which will cut down on the overall cost.

This particular model can’t do much though. There’s no color change or anything like that. This is a direct drop-in replacement for a standard soft white 60W incandescent. I also cannot find any indication that this particular light is dimmable or not, so it is safer to assume that it is not.

It looks like this has also sold by the truckload. The GE products are not as advanced as the Hue line from Phillips, but you can’t look past such an affordable entry into home lighting automation. You can literally buy two to three times as many bulbs compared to products from LIFX and Phillips.

This is my budget choice. Solid, affordable, and high quality.

Top Innovation Pick: Sengled Boost Dimmable LED Bulb with Integrated WiFi Repeater

When I saw the product description for this LED lamp I had one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments. While it’s cool to have speakers and Bluetooth color-changing abilities, this product from Sengled has something really useful – a WiFi Repeater.

In case you don’t know, a WiFi repeater is simply a range extender for your current WiFi router. You put it near the edge of your good WiFi signal range and it will give you more range by relaying or boosting the data signals.

This means that you can now spread your WiFi all over your home; no more struggling with one bar of WiFi in far-off rooms. What’s even better is that this bulb costs less than most dedicated repeaters, and it doesn’t look unsightly or need extra power or any of the other things that make traditional repeaters such a pain in the back.

It’s not some wimpy WiFi either – this supports wireless speeds up to 300Mbps. Not too shabby at all.

Let’s not forget about the fact that it is also a remote-controlled LED light. You can dim and toggle each light either individually or as a group via Sengled’s app on either iOS or Android.

The negatives are not many and most of them apply to all WiFi repeaters. One issue is that the light must be on in order for the repeater to work. It would have been nice to have the option of turning the light off and keeping the extended WiFi signal.

The other issue has to do with placement. If the bulb you want to replace is in a recess that is going to block WiFi radio waves then obviously it’s not going to do a great job of boosting your signal. So metal lampshades, recesses in walls, and so on are not going to be great choices.

Other than that this is a simple to setup device that does do much that is cool, like change color, but it does something that is very useful and will make your life less frustrating.

Toprime Bluetooth Smart LED Light Review

The LED smart light market is flooded with brands that no one outside of Asia has ever heard of. I suspect that these bulbs are much easier to manufacture than traditional light bulbs, and companies that make other electronics now suddenly find they have the right equipment to enter this market.

Toprime is one such company – never heard of them until now. This bulb that they have on offer has been made to look the part of a traditional bulb almost exactly. Although it really doesn’t matter because no one looks at a light and most of the time they are hidden behind glass or a shade. Still, it looks nice and modern. Most importantly it does not look cheap, which is good because you are dropping almost forty bucks on a light.

So the Toprime has RGB+W ability. Basically this means you can make it any color you want or just switch it to white if you don’t feel like wasting your life away tuning the exact shade of a bulb. I kid, I kid. Actually, RGB ability has a practical use. You can have different settings for late night illumination or you can tune the color to better match things like the wall colors.

The built-in Bluetooth speaker is something I see more and more often now. Look, the sound quality is not going to be great, but it’s actually pretty useful to connect things like home automation systems with voice feedback. It’s also a minimalist way to port digital radio or other non-music audio to rooms without cluttering them up. It’s not about great quality audio, but about getting audio into rooms that otherwise would not have it.

However, the people who have used it are pretty happy with the sound quality. One user had the brilliant idea of installing it in his basement workshop, a place he does not have the space to put down a speaker.

The app is apparently functional, but a little clunky. On Android it has to be side-loaded, since it does not seem to be on the Play Store yet. Once you get it installed, though, everything seems to be plain sailing from there on.

Honestly, I think this product is pretty amazing given that it has RGB and a speaker. LED tech is pretty mature, so I don’t really have concerns about reliability, not that I can find any reports with issues. I’d recommend this product and I would (and likely will) spend my own money on it.

Philips 455394 Hue Wireless Dimming Kit

Sometimes we want something smart, but not all that smart. This dimmer kit provides you with wireless control over Hue bulbs with a simple plug-and-play switch. In the kit you get one of the excellent Hue bulbs and one switch. You can add another nine bulbs for a total of ten lights all controlled from this one simple switch.

Later, when you feel like going “fully smart” you can simply buy a Hue Bridge and the lights that you have already invested in will work with them immediately. It really is a nice soft entry that won’t be too hard on your wallet, and in the meantime you can enjoy smarter lighting without the hassle of additional wiring or professional installation.

The switch lets you switch the lights on and off and adjust the brightness – all you need in one particular room.

Greenwave Reality TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit

TCP is one of the other main players that have thrown their hats into the smart lighting ring. Like the systems from Phillips and GE, their lights all connect to a gateway device that relays commands from other systems such as the Wink Hub, or to and from smart devices like Android and iOS phones and tablets.

TCP is really pushing the amount of individual control you have over each light. From your phone or tablet you can change the brightness, timing, and per-room settings.

The bridge itself connects physically via network cable to your router, so there is little chance of the sort of connectivity drops that we still experience with WiFi.

TCP’s systems supports open protocols and there is a lot of scope for integrating other types of internet devices in the future.

Even if you don’t want to go through all the tablet and smartphone stuff you can still control the lights through the gateway by using an included remote.

Really, the ambition and forward-looking attitude of TCP is to be admired, but based on what customers are saying the execution of the product does not quite live up to the vision that TCP had for their product. On top of this, it seems that they are removing the more open attitude to integration with other home automation systems via software updates. This is pretty troubling, especially since that is one of their main selling points. If TCP really is removing the more open integration functionality, that amounts to a bait and switch in my mind. I don’t have a problem with a company creating a proprietary solution, but I don’t like the idea of being told I’m getting an open system and then having it taken away.

Morjava BL-08A Bluetooth Bulb Speaker

Oh look, another light with a speaker built in. I’ve said my piece about BT speakers in smart lights above, so this review will build on what I’ve already had to say.

I really like the look of this bulb. It has a sort of hip vibe to it. It’s RGB and it uses Bluetooth 4.0, so it will cause less battery drain on your phone or tablet and pretty decent specs with low power consumption overall.

I really don’t have much to say about this speaker, it seems to do what it advertises, it doesn’t hook into a larger system, and it can be fun and useful to the right person. That’s about it.

Philips 798835 Hue Go Personal Wireless Lighting

The Hue Go (Hugo?) is a very interesting product to me. One of the main disadvantages of smart lights, when you think about it, is that they are fixed. Normally you wouldn’t care if a portable light had wireless control, since it is always in reach by definition, but the way that the Go has been implemented makes perfect sense to me.

Its portable nature, while still being connected to the Hue network, means that you can have a personal light that will respond to your voice commands and can be set to do things like start up in the morning to wake you or any other appropriate use you can think of. Of course, to make full use of it you’ll need the Hue bridge, so this fits best into an existing Hue setup.

It has millions of possible colors and 300 lumens of light, which is pretty darn bright. Battery life is rated at about 3 hours, which is not brilliant, but long enough to be useful, especially if you take the time to charge it when not in use. It is also quite pricey, but then again this is a high-end device.

The Hue Go is not for everyone, but you can’t deny that the idea of a portable light that is hooked into your home automation system is both cool and intriguing. If you can see yourself putting something like the Hue Go to good use then this is one of the best quality examples you are likely to see.

Let There Be Light!

I think that the last nail is being hammered into the coffin of incandescent and even fluorescent lights as we speak. LED lighting is paving the way to flexible, energy efficient artificial light that can adapt to how we want it to be rather than the other way around.

Adding these smart home automation features to the mix is just the delicious cherry on top. Sure, lights may not be the sexiest thing we can think of to automate and tech-up, but light is so fundamental to our everyday quality of life that there is no way to ignore it. These products give me real hope that one day light will be something intelligent that lives alongside us and actually makes our lives more comfortable. It’s definitely a bright future.