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The best smart light bulbs: Philips, Lifx, and more
Lights are often the first thing people choose to upgrade for a smart home, since they’re both a daily necessity and pretty spectacular when done right. What should you actually consider buying though? We’ve curated a list of some of the best smart light bulbs to help.
With smart lighting, it’s less about specific models and more about what brand and ecosystem you prefer. In that regard, two of the most prominent names in the industry are Philips Hue and Lifx, but there are certainly other valid options.
The best smart light bulbs:
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best smart light bulbs regularly as new ones launch.
1. Philips Hue
With few exceptions, Philips Hue is the best choice for people wanting to upgrade their home’s lighting en masse. Hue bulbs are high-quality and reliable, the latter mostly because of the hub you connect them to. Each Hue Smart Hub (a.k.a. Hue Bridge) supports up to 50 lights, reducing the burden on your Wi-Fi network while enabling functions like remote access. You can alternately add Hue lights to a third-party Zigbee hub, but you’ll lose out on some features.
Hue bulbs are compatible with all three major smart home platforms: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. You can also find varieties to suit just about any budget or fixture, from basic white A19/E26 bulbs to outdoor, candle, and filament designs.
You’ll want to begin with a Starter Kit, which includes a Hub and at least two bulbs. We’d recommend going with White and Color Ambiance bulbs if you can afford them. Should those be too expensive, White Ambiance bulbs produce “shades” of white from a warm orange to a slight blue tint.
Lifx’s smart light bulbs are superficially similar to those from Philips Hue, including compatibility with Alexa, HomeKit, and Google Home. A key difference is that each Lifx bulb connects directly to Wi-Fi, eliminating the need for a hub — just be sure your router isn’t overloaded with other device connections. You’ll want Wi-Fi 6 or 6E to prevent dropouts.
Beyond being hub-free, another perk is color saturation. As nice as Hue bulbs are, Lifx is typically better at bathing a room in color, which can be preferable for things like gaming setups.
We’ve linked a more affordable 800-lumen bulb below, but Lifx’s flagship model (in the picture above) is rated up to 1,100 lumens. The company even offers bulbs intended to improve night vision on security cameras, or reduce bacteria using HEV (high-energy visible) light. Those are overkill for most people.
Should you want a 1,100-lumen option that doesn’t break the bank, go with Wyze. In fact you can get a four-pack of Wyze bulbs for just a few dollars more than one from Lifx, which may make the former an instant buy for some people.
What are you sacrificing to get that price? Well, while Wyze’s bulbs still support Wi-Fi, they’re only compatible with Alexa and Google Home, not HomeKit. Lifx also offers more effects options than Wyze, and its ecosystem is broader, with a longer track record to boot. Wyze is best known for its security cameras.
Nanoleaf Essentials bulbs have a killer feature: Thread, which enables instantaneous response, and avoids burdening Wi-Fi without requiring a hub. Well, sort of — depending on your intended platform, you’ll need Nanoleaf’s Lines, Shapes, or Elements panels, or else an Eero router, a Thread-ready Apple TV 4K, or a HomePod mini. Those products are all compatible Thread border routers.
While Essentials will work with Alexa, Google Home, and even Samsung SmartThings, HomeKit may be the ideal use case. Thread has long been baked in, and if you’re using that platform, you probably already have an Apple TV or HomePod mini working as a Home Hub. If Thread isn’t an option, you’ll have to use Bluetooth.
Note that Nanoleaf is on the verge of releasing Matter-compatible Essentials bulbs, so you may want wait until those are out to maximize platform support. They’re due in the first quarter of 2023.
5. TP-Link Kasa
Kasa’s smart light bulbs strike a nice balance between quality and affordability. Think of them as a workhorse — although they can’t compete with Philips Hue or Lifx, they’ll get the job done. Platform support includes Alexa and Google Home.
You should probably stick with Kasa’s 1,000-lumen color Wi-Fi bulbs (linked below), but you can also get white, filament, and 850-lumen models. Harder to track down is a “warm amber” filament, which looks like it belongs at a patio bar in Austin or Brooklyn.