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AA Recommends: These are the smart lighting brands you want
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when researching a new product you’re interested in buying. How do you know where to get started, what brands to trust, and even what models to consider? That’s where we come in. The AA Recommends series brings you our favorite brands across a wide variety of product categories from smart bulbs to memory cards, backpacks, and beyond. These are brands and products recommended and used regularly by our team, based on their personal votes and recommendations.
A quick look around the web or a big box store might turn up a dozen or more smart light brands, but there are really only a few brands worth getting. Many of the cheaper or more obscure options have wonky apps or just aren’t that reliable. There are a few emerging brands that aren’t bad per se, but they don’t have the track record or the sheer amount of different bulb sizes and varieties as the competition.
With that in mind, these are the top brands the Android Authority team highly recommends.
Philips Hue is clearly the team favorite. Nearly half of those who participated in our internal poll owned and recommended Philips Hue. It’s not just us, as Philips Hue is repeatedly at the top of best smart bulb lists and is easily the most recognizable smart lighting brand among consumers.
What makes Hue so great? Hue bulbs are easy to set up, reliable, and come in plenty of different sizes and types. The Philips Hue ecosystem is also the most flexible when it comes to 3rd party support, playing nice with tons of other smart devices including smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. Philips also has a wonderfully intuitive app that makes it easy to change colors, set up automated schedules, and more.
In the past, the only real weakness of the Hue family was that it absolutely required a hub to work. That’s no longer the case, as newer Hue bulbs now work with Bluetooth and therefore don’t necessarily need the hub. That said, you’ll need to look carefully when you buy to make sure you are getting the right bulb. Keep in mind that the new bulbs don’t require the hub but are still compatible with it. There’s no need to invest in a hub if you simply want to experiment with smart lighting by buying a bulb or two, but using a hub makes it much easier to control whole-home smart lighting systems.
Looking to get started with the Philips Hue ecosystem? Here are a few of our top recommendations:
- Philips Hue Starter Kit – This kit comes with the Philips Hue bridge as well as three color bulbs. It’s the perfect starting point and you can easily buy and add on more white or color bulbs as needed.
- Philips Hue Color bulb (Bluetooth enabled) – This is the latest generation model Color bulb, which no longer requires the hub but still plays nicely with it. If you don’t have a hub you absolutely will need this model of bulb. It’s also a bit pricey, as a 2-pack typically runs around $80.
- Philips Hue White bulb (Bluetooth enabled) – This is the latest generation White model, which no longer requires the hub but still plays nicely with it. If you don’t have a hub you absolutely will need this model of bulb. White bulbs are also fairly cheap anymore, with a single bulb going for under $15.
- A refurbished kit of 4 white bulbs (Hub required) – In most cases we recommend getting the newer Bluetooth bulbs, even if you already have a hub. That said, Hub users can sometimes find these older bulbs for much cheaper. Here we have a pack of 4 white bulbs for $35, which brings the price to around $8.75 apiece. Perfect if you want some basic bulbs for closets and other rooms where color bulbs aren’t needed.
Above as the best options for just getting started, but if you want to take things further Philips has filament style bulbs, smart candle-style bulbs, light strips and more. You can check out some of their other great products here.
LIFX is probably the second most well known smart light brand, though it isn’t quite as popular as it once was. LIFX offers a variety of bulbs and light strips. The biggest advantage to LIFX over Hue was the lack of a hub, but nowadays Hue also has options that ditch the hub requirement. There’s actually only a few of us on the team that regularly use LIFX, myself included. While I personally use Hue bulbs for most of my house, I have a few LIFX bulbs in specific rooms as they tend to a bit brighter and have a few other tricks Hue doesn’t handle as well.
LIFX bulbs aren’t particularly cheap and tend to be better for use in specific scenarios as opposed to a whole-house lighting solution. Still, it’s a solid option for those looking for Hue alternative that offers a similar experience in terms of price, reliability, and flexibility of bulb models and types.
Here are a few specific LIFX products we recommend:
- LIFXA19 LED Color Light Bulb – This is basically the default color bulb. It supports Alex, Assistant, and Homekit out of the box, with many 3rd party apps and services also supporting it. This is the version I personally use in my office lamp, just because I like the shades and brightness of LIFX bulbs over Hues, even if I prefer Hue’s whole-home experience overall.
- LIFX + A19 Wi-Fi Color LED Smartbulb – The LIFX+ bulb does everything the standard model does but adds infrared light technology, allowing it to have night vision that is perfectly paired with security cameras.
- LIFX LED Light Strip – Want to highlight your desk with color? Maybe a window sill for Christmas? The light strips offer endless possibilities and are modular so you can string several together via extension strips. The newest version offers a few new features including Homekit support and a few other extras for $90. If you want to save a little, the older model is also still available and works great, while coming around $20 less.
While those are a few of our most recommended LIFX products, you can check out their whole lineup here.
Anker-owned Eufy doesn’t have the brand power that Hue or LIFX has, but it makes up for it with pricing. While Eufy’s white bulbs aren’t any cheaper than Hue lights, the Eufy color bulb costs significantly less than the competition. A few of us have used Eufy bulbs before, typically for reviews and such. While they might not be as full-featured, they make great value options and are actually reliable. That second point is key because often cheap smart bulbs are cheap in every sense of the word — not so with Eufy. It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t need a hub to use Eufy bulbs.
Here are the best Eufy smart lighting products we recommend:
- Eufy Lumos Smart Color Bulb – $25 for a color bulb is a great value, but reliability and ease of use are just as important and this bulb has this in spades. While the app isn’t as good as Hue or LIFX, it’s much better than most budget options. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on color bulbs, you can’t go wrong here.
- Eufy Lumos Smart White Bulb – The white bulb is actually only around a dollar or two cheaper than Hue’s Bluetooth bulb, making it a bit harder to recommend than Eufy’s color option. Still, if you don’t want to mix ecosystems and are already buying Eufy color bulbs, it’s worth considering.
- Eufy Smart Plug – With a smart plug you can turn a traditional lamp into a smart one, minus features like color changing and dimming. At $13, this is a pretty affordable option and can also be used for things like Christmas trees, turning off/on a living room fan, and other creative uses that go way beyond controlling a lamp.
Those are three of our top picks, but be sure to check out Eufy’s other smart lighting options here.
Yeelight is quickly becoming one of the more popular smart lighting brands due to its aggressive pricing, while still offering similar features in a very reliable package. For those that aren’t familiar with the brand, it is actually part of the Xiaomi Mi family. Xiaomi is known for disrupting several product categories by introducing aggressive products, especially its Xiaomi phones which are sold throughout parts of Asia and Europe.
Here’s just a few of our favorite Yeelight products:
- Yeelight smart bulb multicolor – Priced similarly to Eufy’s color bulb, the Yeelight bulb offers support for Alexa, Assistant, and offer 15 million color options. We personally prefer the Yeelight’s app over Eufy’s though they offer similar features.
- Yeelight light strips – Similar to what you’d get from Hue or LIFX, Yeelight’s option is a bit more affordable. You still get features like Alexa and Assistant support, too.
- Yeelight Candela – This one is a bit different. It’s a portable smart light that looks a lot like a camping lantern if you ask me. It’s battery-powered and yet still works with Assistant or Alexa.
For more from Yeelight, check out this page.
While the first four options on the list offered more traditional lighting experiences, Nanoleaf is more about decor.
- Nanoleaf Aurora/Rhythm – this is the model our team is most familiar with, as many of us have used or even own Aurora tiles. These triangular tiles are really fun, allowing you to make modern light-based art or just a big Triforce like I did with mine. The Aurora also has a Rhythm kit that sets the tiles’ pattern to music.
- Nanoleaf Canvas – These tiles are quite similar but are smaller and square. They also include the music/rhythm features built-in. Honestly, that’s the biggest difference when it comes to features, so it all comes down to if you want to work with triangle shapes or squares.