Best Smart Light Bulbs 2021: Review of Philips Hue Lightbulbs, TP Link - Rolling Stone
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The Best Smart Light Bulbs You Can Control From Your Phone

Get more control over your lighting, and maybe even save some money over time

Philips Hue

Philips

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If you want to convert your home into a smart home and don’t know where to start, my suggestion is to start with a smart light bulb. These light bulbs slot into your existing fixtures like regular bulbs, only they can be controlled from your phone. You can also set them to a timer, adjust settings and brightness levels, and even turn them on and off using just your voice.

The best smart light bulbs will be something you use every day, and if you’re just starting out with smart home technology, they’ll give you a taste of how other smart home accessories may fit into your life.

The only thing you’ll need to take advantage of their best features is a strong internet connection. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your first light bulb, you can start adding more into different rooms around your house, or delve even deeper into the world of smart lighting.

What Are The Best Smart Light bulbs?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right smart light bulb for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Smart-home integration: All smart light bulbs can be controlled by using an app on your phone (iOS or Android), but most of them can also work with a smart home hub, like Amazon’s Echo line, Google’s Nest line, or Apple’s HomePod. These hubs allow you to turn your lights on and off using only your voice for a totally hands-off experience.

Color temperature: One of the biggest advantages to using a smart bulb is that most of them allow you to change their color temperature. Most people have heard of blue light, which is given off by your smartphone, computer, or TV, and may disrupt your sleeping cycle. Changing your bulb’s color temperature allows you to reduce the amount of blue light it emits, which will be easier on your eyes (and brain) at night.

Requiring a hub: Some smart light bulbs can be used straight out of the box, but the more sophisticated ones require you to connect a “hub” into your WiFi router with an Ethernet cable, and plug it into an outlet.

Energy savings: All of the smart light bulbs on our list are energy-efficient LED bulbs, which require less energy to power on, and last longer than traditional bulbs too. You could also save money on energy bills by setting timers to automatically switch off your smart lighting, say, during the day or after a certain time at night. Use your phone to monitor energy usage and stay in control of your bills. Because you’re able to set them on a timer, and check to see if they’re on or off after you leave the house, smart light bulbs may actually help you save a little money on your energy bill each month.

1. Philips Hue Starter Kit

Editor’s Pick

Philips Hue Bulbs

Amazon

Philips’ Hue line of smart light bulbs helped define this category, and its starter kit is still the way to go if you want the best of the best.

Let’s get its big caveat out of the way: In order to use Philips’ Hue bulbs, you need to connect its Hue hub (included in this starter kit) to your WiFi router. It’s a minor annoyance, but the trade off is worthwhile for what you get.

This starter kit includes the Hue Hub, three white and color ambiance smart light bulbs, and a “smart button” (light switch). The bulbs can be changed to one of sixteen million colors, and you can even create custom “scenes” that recreate the lighting conditions from a photo in your library (think sunsets from your last vacation). The smart light bulbs can also be set to automatically change their color temperature over the course of the day.

You can control the smart light bulbs through the Philips Hue app on your smartphone (iOS or Android), or through Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Nest hubs, Apple’s HomeKit (HomePod or Siri), Microsoft’s Cortana, and more. This smart functionality is enabled by the Hue hub. You also have the option to get a Hue Smart Dimmer Switch, which allows you to control the smart light bulbs with a physical switch, just like traditional ones.

Philips’ Hue Starter Kit is the ultimate way to add smart light bulbs to your home. Having to use an external hub is a little annoying, but you only have to set it up once. One hub can be used to control up to 50 Hue lighting devices, so expanding your smart lighting setup is actually very simple.

Buy: Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit at $225.52

2. TP-Link Kasa Multicolor Smart Light Bulb

Best Multicolor Bulb

Kasa Smart Bulb

Amazon

The ability to change a smart light bulb’s color temperature is great, but this one from TP-Link allows you to change it between dozens of different fun colors.

Color changing is its standout feature, but TP-Link’s Multicolor Smart Light Bulb has some other distinct advantages over many of the other options in this guide. You can control it using a smartphone app (iOS and Android), Amazon Echo, Google Nest hub, or Microsoft Cortana, which is built into many Windows laptops. You can set it on a timer to gradually wake you up in the morning, or slowly dim at night, reminding you to go to bed.

The best reason to choose this light bulb over the rest is that it fits into a larger ecosystem of smart devices offered by TP-Link. This includes other smart lighting accessories, and smart outlets. Unfortunately, TP-Link’s smart light bulbs also only work on 2.4Ghz WiFi networks, which shouldn’t cause too much trouble, but may lead to a longer setup process

Buy: TP-Link Kasa Multicolor Smart Light Bulb at $11.98

3. Nook Smart Light

Most Energy Efficient

Nook Smart Lightbulb

Nook

Lowering your electricity bill, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the most compelling reasons to upgrade your light bulbs to smart bulbs, and Nook took that mission to heart.

The company says its light bulbs are up to 80% more energy efficient than a standard set without taking a hit on brightness. Nook didn’t have to cut any other features to achieve this impressive stat, either. You can control these bulbs using either Alexa or the Google Assistant, and they don’t require a hub to set up or operate. These smart light bulbs can be set to one of 16 million colors

Nook says its bulbs can last up to 20,000 hours before burning out, so you shouldn’t have to swap them out for several years. If you’re tired of replacing your light bulbs, and want a set that can actually help pay for themselves over time, a two-pack of Nook’s Smart Lights is our choice.

4. GE Lighting Speaker Light Bulb

Most Innovative Design

GE Lighting Speaker Light Bulb

Amazon

GE’s smart light bulb has a built-in speaker, so it can provide both light and sound.

Instead of setting it up through an app, you pair your phone to the LED+ Speaker bulb over Bluetooth. The bulb will automatically connect with your device when you turn it on, and you can start playing music or podcasts within seconds of flipping the switch.

I’ve had the opportunity to test three of these bulbs out for myself, and have been impressed by their surprisingly good audio quality. The bulbs are a fair bit bigger than a traditional LED light bulb, but they still fit in a standard fixture. The coolest feature is that you can connect up to 10 of these bulbs at a time, and play the same music throughout your house.

GE has developed a stealthy way to create a wireless sound system that requires absolutely no cables. These light bulbs only have on real downside: They’ll automatically route audio from your phone even if you’re wearing a pair of wireless earbuds. This is something to look out for if you’re trying to be quiet at night, or while someone you’re living with is working.

They’re also the “dumbest” bulbs in our guide, because you can’t change their color temperature, or control them using an app. You can connect and disconnect them manually through the Bluetooth settings on your phone, but that’s about it. Still, it’s pretty impressive to have a totally hands off audio system built into the infrastructure of your home.

Buy: GE Lighting Speaker Light Bulb at $27.99

5. Ring PAR38 Smart LED Bulb

Most Powerful

Ring PAR38 Smart LED Bulb

Amazon

Ring is known for its smart security equipment, but it’s recently rolled out a line of smart light bulbs, and we’re recommending the PAR38 Starter Kit if you need a lot of light.

Each bulb in the kit produces 1200 lumins of light, which is equivalent to a 120W light bulb, which is to say they get super bright. I’ve tested these bulbs for myself, and was able to replace two traditional bulbs with one of these. In the end, and the room I installed them in was a lot brighter than it was before. Ring says you can use these lights indoors and outdoors, but I’ve only tested them indoors.

You can set up and manage these light bulbs using the Ring app (iOS and Android), which makes it easy to control their brightness, or put them on a schedule. You can’t control their color temperature, though, and you’ll need a Ring Hub, which is included in the starter kit we’re recommending. Luckily, the hub is small, and it can be connected to your router over Wi-Fi instead of requiring a cable. The hub should still be close to your router for the strongest connection, though.

If you need incredibly bright smart light bulbs, or want a pair for outdoor use, we recommend Ring’s PAR38 Starter Kit.

Buy: Ring PAR38 Smart LED Bulb at $69.99

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