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TESTED: An EPIC Comparison of Smart Light Bulbs — Philips Hue versus Belkin WeMo versus LIFX versus GE Link versus TCP Connected versus Misfit Bolt

Epic battle time!  Are you thinking of dipping your toes into home automation this 2015 holiday season?  Smart home lighting is typically the first step people take by replacing a few bulbs in their homes.  But with more and more options available the decision has become increasingly more difficult.  Whether you want a color bulb, or a basic white bulb, there are plenty of reasons to skip certain brands over the other.  Keep reading to decide which bulbs to buy as we compare the Philips Hue versus Belkin WeMo versus LIFX versus GE Link versus TCP Connected versus Misfit Bolt smart light bulbs.

Testing performed here is the culmination of months of on-going experimentation.  With new hardware released constantly some of the items in this review are so new they have been on the market for just weeks, while other devices have resided in our homes for some time.  This review is also not all inclusive, but instead focuses on the most popular products and best brands on the market today.  By omitting those devices with a smaller level of support or sub-par quality we are providing you a curated reviewing, giving consumers what we believe are the best options worthy of your consideration.

FORWARD: Future Proof

Beyond selecting the best quality product, buyers of smart home hardware should also attempt to future-proof their purchases.  Even though new versions of hardware are always on the horizon, it is still crucial to select a brand/eco-system of products that will allow expansion, and potential integration and diversification into other realms.  Make sure the tech you buy today will play nicely with the tech you plan to buy tomorrow.

Perhaps the best two smart home platforms that exist right now are the Apple HomeKit platform, and the Works with Nest (also known as Nest Weave) platform.  Both of these companies, Apple & Nest, are working hard to make integration across various products work seamlessly, and allow people to expand their smart home with ease.  Both companies want to be the central focal point of your future smart home, but each are taking a very unique approach.

Nest is using their current connectivity to create triggers which then allow other interactions to occur between their device and your new products.  One example of this might be having your thermostat automatically turn on when you unlock the front door and enter the house.  Another would be having your nearby lights turn on when your smoke detector senses motion, or flash red if it detects smoke/fire.  Direct relationships like these can exist between devices, and making them happen intuitively is the current goal of the Works with Nest program.

In contrast Apple’s integration is a bit more passive, at least for the time being.  Unlike Nest, who is clearly trying to show off a more cause-and-effect type of tech relationship, HomeKit is really meant to be more of a central nervous system for the actual control of varying devices.  Their primary method of control is meant to be Siri, their voice command system from your Apple devices.  You are able to turn on lights, unlock doors, and more using your Apple iPhone, Apple Watch, or similar Apple product.  And with the release of iOS 9 you can now use triggers to create actions though as I recently reviewed, there are still some limitations.  Where Nest makes these interactions a bit more seamless and hands-off though with limited variation, Apple expects you to program the interactions yourself with a more granular level of control.  In this regard Apple is mimicking existing smart hubs, but using their own cloud and hardware requirements.

If you’re looking to future-proof your tech today, buying devices that work with Apple or Nest’s platforms is one great option.  Another option is to consider a 3rd party smart hub that offers a more broad spectrum of product compatibility.  My three favorite examples of this type of device are the Samsung SmartThings Hub, the Wink Connected Home Hub, and the Staples Connect Hub.  The future of the Wink Hub is in jeopardy, with Quirky’s recent sale to Flextronics of the Wink brand, but their recent blog post indicates they will be moving onward, and upwards.  Staples has done very little to update their platform recently, and while this is what I currently use for my testing, the interface is bland at best, though the service has proven reliable.  Finally, there is the SmartThings Hub, who recently released their newest hub, and a slew of updates, integrations, and even their own new sensors.  All three are viable options.

Another interesting newcomer to the Smart Home arena is the Amazon Echo, which is meant to provide voice commands to control your various devices.  The Echo is not a central hub, but more so is a device which can introduce voice into the smart home, and works with both iOS and Android.  Our favorite part of the Echo is how it can be combined with either the Wink Hub or the SmartThings Hub, making a great team for your smart home.  In the coming weeks I’ll be publishing a review that directly compares Apple HomeKit versus the Wink Hub and the SmartThings Hub.  For the latter, we’ll be teaming that home up with the Amazon Echo to provide is similar levels of performance using localized voice commands.  Stay tuned for more on how to assemble a more complex smart home.

As you read the various reviews below on lighting, try to think about other home automation products that you may desire in the future.  Make sure the bulbs you choose are compatible with a platform you like, such as the Wink Hub or SmartThings Hub or Works with Nest.  Check compatibility on those respective manufacturer’s web sites, to ensure you can grow your smart home over time.  And if you want to use Siri, try to err towards HomeKit compatible products (which in this review is just one option).

We’d love to hear your comments below.  Do you have questions about making two items work together?  Ask us– and we’ll reply quickly!  We love talking tech… but for now, let’s go test those bulbs!


GE Link

Pros: Cons:
  • Low-cost entry-level product
  • Variety of bulb sizes for versatility
  • Bright, clean white light
  • Easily expanded with Wink’s eco-system
  • Friendly user interface in the Wink app
  • Strange sharp-edged streaky beam-pattern
  • No settings for warmth like other white bulbs
  • No bulbs that offer COLOR settings

If you’ve never heard of the GE Link Connected LED Light Bulb line-up, you’re not alone.  They are almost exclusively sold at Home Depot stores due to their relationship with the Wink Connected Home Hub family.  And thanks to a relationship between GE and Wink, these bulbs are most likely on your radar if you are about to purchase a new (or are already an existing owner of a) Wink Hub system.

The GE Link bulbs use a wireless protocol called Zigbee to communicate, and like most of the bulbs here will require some sort of hub to make them work since they lack WiFi.  If you already own a Wink Hub that is the best way to use these bulbs, but for most of you reading this review you probably don’t already have a hub, or maybe aren’t ready to make that purchase until you learn a bit more.  Don’t fret, as there is a really nice GE Link Starter Kit which includes two bulbs, and a miniature version of their hub that you can plug into any outlet, and is quite affordable.  This mini hub does have some future limitations as to the number/type of devices it can control, but for a starter kit, is more than adequate to make your entrance into smart home lighting.  And you can always get full-size Wink Hub down the road, if you want!

Getting started with this kit is relatively easy, simply plugging in the Link Hub, screwing in the two bulbs, and using your iOS or Android smart phone app to get going.  Although the starter kit only includes two A19 bulbs, GE does also offer BR30 bulb and PAR38 bulb options, should you want to add/upgrade down the road.  We tested the lights with our existing Wink Hub and setup was painless.  We’d also speculate they MIGHT work with any Zigbee controller but didn’t test this theory.

SIDEBAR: If you’ve been shopping at Home Depot, you’ve probably also seen the CREE Connected bulbs as well as the INSTEON Bulbs on the same shelves.  We’ve opted to NOT include those two options here for a very crucial reason.  If you’re just getting started, both of them require purchasing a hub that works with their products, and don’t offer what we consider an affordable starter kit.  In the case of the CREE bulbs, any Zigbee compatible hub would work, such as the SmartThings or Wink.  In the case of the INSTEON Bulbs, you must use their propriety system hub, which we also don’t like due to their closed eco-system.  Either way, these products are not as easy to get started with and/or don’t offer any benefits over the other items tested here.  Our suggestion: stick to the products you see here, as they are our top picks.

We like the GE Link bulbs for their entry-level cost, and decent performance.  Brightness on these A19 bulbs was very strong, but they cast a rather strange beam pattern compared to other bulbs, with sharper edges and less softness.  They also had “streaks” in the middle of the beam that came up from the lamp shade, as shown in the comparative photo in the gallery versus TCP.  But they are bright, and for the $15 price offered a good bang-for-the-buck investment/entry.

Dealing with the user interface you get the Wink app/platform, which is what you’re getting into with their starter kit or the hub.  It is easy to use and relatively intuitive, but the level of control isn’t quite as powerful as the SmartThings hub down the road.  Still we liked the colorful, friendly menus, the easy-to-follow setup instructions, and the other on-screen helpful hints that Wink has baked into their software.

There was a time that the GE Link bulbs were the only $15 smart bulb, but that time has passed.  We have some slight concern about Wink’s future, but hope they stick around since their platform is VERY robust, offering integration with a wide variety of other non-lighting products.  If you future home involves a smart garage door, door lock, or similar item, the Wink hub compatible products list is pretty extensive, making these bulbs a great start point.

At this point we would recommend the GE Link bulbs in situations where you already possess a Wink hub and/or you want a low-cost white-only $15 bulb that works nicely with that hub.  But keep in mind they lack a color-adjustable bulb, and no offer no warmth-adjustable options for their white bulbs.  So if you want your first step into smart lighting to have more than just fixed-white brightness, keep on reading!


TCP Connected

Pros: Cons:
  • Affordable entry-level price
  • Variety of bulb sizes for versatility
  • PAR38 Flood is Wet Location Rated
  • Integrates with most ecosystems
  • App interface is simple
  • Requires their hub even when expanding
  • App interface looks and feels a bit dated
  • No setting for warmth like other white bulbs
  • No bulbs that offer COLOR settings

Like the GE Link above, the TCP LED Connected A19 bulbs are most readily seen when shopping at Home Depot, or other similar hardware stores.  And also like the GE bulbs, they come standard in kits of A19 bulbs, but also offer a BR30 bulbs and PAR38 bulbs for those in need.  Additionally, the TCP series of bulbs are white only, without the color options you’ll see from other brands later in this review.

Like the GE Link Starter Kit which includes a small hub in the box, the TCP Connected Starter Kit comes with their own hub, which they call a Gateway.  However, where the GE unit is completely wireless other than power, the TCP Gateway must be plugged by Ethernet cable directly into your home network/router.  Note that you can purchase the TCP Gateway separately, should you desire to not buy their starter kit for some reason (such as going straight to BR30/PAR38 bulbs).  We found that having to plug into your home network by Ethernet makes the TCP system slightly more complex, but hardly what we would call difficult to setup.

For those concerned about future expansion these TCP bulbs are compatible with the Wink Hub, which again is why you’ll find them at many hardware stores.  They can also integrate with a SmartThings Hub, which is what we tested thoroughly (and use daily!).  We love that the TCP bulbs have diverse integration.  In our testing we have motion sensors (from Samsung) that turn on our TCP lights automatically, and it works great.  You can do the same thing with the GE bulbs, with a Wink Hub and compatible motion sensor, too!

But again, all of this is getting ahead of ourselves.  If you’re just getting started in the world of home automation and smart lighting, you’re probably more curious as to why you would pick the TCP bulbs over the GE Link bulbs, or vice versa?

In truth they are both nearly identical.  We like that with the GE Link bulbs tend to be slightly cheaper per bulb.  But we preferred the softer beam pattern of the TCP bulbs over the GE Link bulbs.  Both offered similar rated at 800 lumens of white output, though the GE bulbs were just perhaps marginally brighter.  Furthermore, we don’t much care for the design of the TCP app, but we love having the ability to create schedules, take pictures of your places, create rooms, dim the bulbs easily and be able to make multiple schedules according to specific times, days, and even sunrise, sunset.  Many of these scheduling features are also available with the GE bulbs using the Wink app, though setting up some of it was easier on TCP.

Overall we found the TCP app is great for those who want simple, easy-to-define schedules. We would even recommend this platform for “the parents” (i.e. the Baby Boomer generation), as we don’t think it is as confusing or overwhelming like some of the other apps (we’re looking at you Philips Hue).  Visually speaking the TCP app was not nearly as pretty as the Wink app, but both offered similar usefulness for a just-getting-started system.

If your future smart home should include the purchase of an Amazon Echo, then there is no difference between the TCP bulbs and the GE Link bulbs.  Both will require you have a Wink or SmartThings hub to interface the Echo to the bulbs.  This is not a big deal but it does contrast the Philips Hue system, which can connect directly to the Echo without the Wink/SmartThings extra.  Also take note that the TCP/GE bulbs have no way to be part of a HomeKit setup at this time, which again the Hue can do!  (See more on that later in this blog post)

Bottom line is this: the TCP bulbs are every bit as good (or bad) as the GE Link bulbs.  They both lack white bulbs that can adjust for warmth, and neither offer a color bulb option.  But both have a variety of sizes on the market, making it really a coin-toss between TCP vs GE, with the TCP having that softer beam/light pattern, but the Wink having a more direct connection to a hub that has greater future expandability.  If you are totally new to the market, we might skip the TCP bulbs and go right to the Wink Hub and some GE Link bulbs.

TCP is a good way to get your feet wet, but we can’t help but feel like the other options (below) that are somehow better, even if more expensive.  If you want to start off inexpensively sure white-bulbs are okay, but if you’re willing to spend the extra cash you can get a much more “colorful” experience with your purchase.  Let’s keep going!


Belkin WeMo

Pros: Cons:
  • WeMo products go beyond just lighting
  • Easiest to user interface in segment
  • Affordable middle-of-the-road costs
  • Offer warmth-adjustable bulbs
  • Offer color-changing flexible light strips
  • Offer outdoor garden lighting option too!
  • No bulbs that offer COLOR settings
  • Limited expansion to third party platforms
  • Lack of security within your own WiFi
  • Eco-system feels a bit closed-off

It has been over a year since Belkin International and OSRAM Sylvania formed a partnership for WeMo Home Automation products, and the first products from this alliance have now trickled onto the market over the past few months.  For purposes of our lighting test here, their Belkin WeMo Smart LED Light Bulb will remain the focal point of this segment of our review.  We’ve also included their recently released WeMo LIGHTIFY LED Flexible Strip.  This device comes in direct competition with the Philips Hue strip, both which are very fun to add to your smart home setup.  Look further down, into the Philips section, for our thoughts on that light strip.

For outdoor lighting Belkin WeMo now sells their WeMo Osram Lightly Gardenspot Kit, though we did not test these (maybe next spring?).  All in all the Belkin WeMo lineup continues to grow, and it is one we’re very excited about.  Belkin WeMo offers everything from smart cameras, to smart wall switches, to smart outlets, and even a WiFi-enabled smart Crock-Pot Slow Cooker!!  For this blog post we’ll focus on their two best-selling lighting options, but paint us curious about the rest of their hardware.  If you need other size bulbs, they even offer a Sylvania Ultra IQ BR30 (WeMO compatible).

Like the GE/TCP kits, there is a WeMo Smart LED Lighting Starter Set, which includes two bulbs and a hub.  Their hub is very similar in size and function to the GE Link device, where you simply plug the small power-cube-sized device into an outlet.  Setup is simple, and the app is very easy to follow.  As a matter of fact, the Belkin WeMo app is one of the nicest, cleanest of the bunch here.  This is partially because of the limited function, but also in general is just comes off as more intuitive to use.

If you’re thinking about buying a WeMo LIGHTIFY LED Flexible Strip remember you’ll need their little WeMo Link hub.  Should you not already possess a WeMo Link hub you can purchase a WeMo Osram Lightify Flex RGBW Starter Set, which comes with the hub as well as the light strip itself.  At this point you may have noticed that the price of admission to the WeMo lighting is slightly higher than GE/TCP, but once you’ve got a hub take note that the price per A19 bulb is the same $15-20 approximately.  What you will find missing, sadly, is the lack of any BR30/PAR38 bulbs options at this time that are official WeMo products.  As noted prior, they offer that Sylvania Ultra IQ BR30, but hopefully the OSRAM alliance will bring more added sizes and options to their market offerings soon.

Our initial setup didn’t go so well, with hiccups trying to get the WeMo Link to recognize the bulbs and light strip.  This contradicts our prior WeMo experiences, which have always been very solid.  Once tech support got us figured out we were able to use the app to create timers and functions just like the GE/TCP hardware and apps. In our case, there is (at the time of writing this blog) an iOS 9 error they are working to fix.  We had to setup the WeMo Link with an Android device we had laying around, and then move back over to our iPhone.  This worked, but they hopefully will resolve it soon!!

SIDEBAR: When we purchased our setup, we got the WeMo Osram Lightify Flex RGBW Starter Set which came with the Link hub their system requires.  At the same time we picked up a Belkin WeMo bulb, just one bulb without hub.  Little did we know/realize this was the old bulb.  They are now offering bulbs that are warmth-adjustable, but we’ve only managed to find those as part of their start kits, and only at local big-box stores.  So please note that while we didn’t include testing of this feature, if you want warmth adjustment for your A19 bulbs, they do offer such, just make sure you get the OSRAM Lightify versions.

Belkin’s WeMo app includes things like sunrise/sunset and other features that made the overall experience quite pleasurable.  Overall we’d describe the interface of the WeMo app being colorful like GE/Wink, easy to use like TCP, and generally speaking VERY nice for users of all skill levels.  Generally speaking the WeMo brand products is probably the simplest for newcomers, since the simplicity of the feature set allows the app to be a little more watered down.

For those focusing on future-proof concerns, the WeMo hardware has a direct integration with the Amazon Echo, allowing you the ability to add future voice control without the need for a smart hub (like the GE/TCP bulbs would require).  That means that starting off with WeMo and then moving into the Echo is a simpler experience.  You can also integrate your WeMo hardware with the SmartThings Hub, just like the TCP setup.  So where GE hooks to Wink, TCP & WeMo work with SmatThings, providing future growth for things like motion sensor triggers and the likes.  Without a smart hub, however, you can get some of that control using IFTTT if you want to get crazy with your home automation.  But we’ll admit that for most people the out-of-the-box experience is adequate.

Performance of the lighting gets interesting here, as the rating/lumen output of the Belkin WeMo Smart LED Light Bulb was on par with the other $15-20 bulbs.  For more money you can get their new $30 OSRAM Lightify version which offers a tunable feature where you can set the warmth of the bulb to your specific desires as we mentioned.  This is in contrast to most other white bulbs, which have purely adjustment for brightness and nothing else.  (Note that later we’ll show you a LIFX bulb that offers this same warmth feature, but with more lumen output, for only $10 more, and needing no hub).  This may not be a feature everyone needs, but it does add a layer of adjustability that puts the WeMo on a pedestal over the rest of the entry-level bulbs at this price level.

Belkin is a brand that has been around for ages, and their quality is top-notch.  We loved the whole overall experience, though we would like to see a broader range of bulb size options.  As shown in the photo gallery, the light was nice, bright, soft, and attractive.  We have no issue recommending these bulbs for their price.

One thing we noticed during our testing was that anyone with the WeMo app installed on their smart device who was also connected to your local WiFi would have access to any of your local devices.  This was odd, in a world where most smart home devices require a username and password, that the WeMo would be this open.  This is something we feel needs looked at by the Belkin team, to make more secure in the future.

If you don’t need a color bulb and want a superior app experience, the WeMo Smart LED Lighting Starter Set is a great place to begin.  We loved the color light strips, which I’ll discuss later in the Philips Hue section.  And we like that Belkin is taking smart home products beyond just lighting, offering switches, kitchen appliances, and more.

If you’re torn between TCP, GE, and WeMo, you’ll really need to consider your future plans, and how much more home automation / smart home tech you plan to get.  Belkin’s WeMo lineup brings light switches, smart cameras, and more “cool products” to the same app, which has merits all to itself, even though some of those devices they offer won’t integrate with certain hubs.  And they do really nice integration with the Amazon Echo.

But if you’re still holding out for the bulbs that changes color … just keep on reading!


Misfit Bolt

Pros: Cons:
  • Lower entry cost than other color bulbs
  • No hub required, works with your WiFi
  • Can be controlled by Misfit’s wearable devices
  • App is very attractive, simple & easy to use
  • Poor color saturation across entire spectrum
  • Doesn’t match brightness of the competition
  • No integration with other platforms at this time

When I first heard about the Misfit Bolt Smart Light Bulb I’ll admit it was a surprise.  Why did a wearables company want to make a smart bulb?  They tout some of the special features being the ability to turn your light(s) on with your Misfit wearable device, which I suppose is cool if you want that sort of thing.  Still, I don’t personally see the two overlapping enough to totally make sense.  But who am I to judge?  And when you consider this bulb is $10 cheaper than the other color-changing bulbs, we HAD to review it.

We like it, even though it is a fairly new product that isn’t super well-known.  But this is currently the only bulb from Misfit, so it is a smaller eco-system with, at the time, ZERO integration into third-party apps.  But if you’re not too worried about future expansion, saving that $10 might make sense.  That is, assuming the quality of the bulb is still worthy of the price.  And sadly, it most definitely is not.

We pitted the Misfit Bolt against the new Philips Hue color changing bulbs which are $10 more expensive, and require a Hue hub to work.  Although you get the direct WiFi connection with the Misfit Bolt, that is indeed the only advantage you’ll get with this bulb.  As you can see in the gallery above, the Bolt failed to hit colors accurately, even more so than the Hue.  In all instances the colors were washed out when on full-brightness, making for a rather dismal experience.  When we dimmed the bulbs down to about 50% we managed to get a sharper level of saturation, but still not satisfactory, and then it was also less bright.

We had considered not including the Misfit Bolt, but found the price attractive and the product intriguing.  I found it most odd that the box itself was placed near their fitness bands, rather than with the other bulbs, at my local electronics store.  In the future we expect there to be more integration with other smart home products, so while the Bolt isn’t our top pick right now, you should keep it, and the brand, on your radar.

However, until they can improve the color quality, we’d spend the extra $10 for the very similar LIFX Color 1000 bulbs we test later in this review.  For now, let’s check out some BETTER color bulb options on the market.


Philips Hue

Pros: Cons:
  • Largest bulb offerings in the market today
  • Best integration with third-party apps/hardware
  • New bulbs are bright enough for most (800 lumens)
  • New light strips can be made quite lengthy now
  • HomeKit compatibility is an exclusive in this test
  • Complex app with steep learning curve
  • Limited function with app, have to use 3rd party
  • Color saturation for bulbs remains poor quality
  • Costly investment into ecosystem (not cheap!)

By now you’ve probably already heard of the Philips Hue Bulbs product line.  Philips has a prominent display of their Hue product in most big box stores, typically stocked with dozens of their Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kits.  For quite some time now the Hue lineup has been the benchmark for smart lighting, thanks to Philips being one of the first to introduce color-changing bulbs that could be controlled by your smart phone.

Like the other Starter Kits, you get a couple A19 bulbs and a hub.  And like some of the other manufactures, Philips offers other bulb size options.  What sets the Hue lineup apart is that they offer a wider range of bulb options than most others, as you can see when you shop their products here.  Spot lights and desk lamps are just some of the fun options they offer, but again for our testing here we’ll be focusing on the Philips Hue A19 Bulbs as well as their Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus product.

SIDEBAR: It is important to note that in the Fall of 2015 Philips launched a new lineup of products, updating some of their existing bulbs.  Their old “Lux” branded white bulbs are now called the Philips Hue White, which were bumped up from 600 to now 800 lumens.  The same goes for their color bulbs, which are also 33% brighter and were renamed Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Bulbs.  Furthermore, the new Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus now offers an extension feature, allowing up to 33-feet of lighting!  Our testing here includes all the latest versions of all this hardware, for your benefit. 

If you are going to delve into the the Hue product line, and get their Philips Hue Starter Kit as most people do, you’re spending more than the competition by quite a bit.  Part of this is due to the fact that you’re getting three bulbs, where most other kits only provide two.  But the bigger reason the price is more?  Color.  Getting a color-changing bulb has been the differentiating factor that has made the Hue a top seller in this category.  And up until now nobody has managed to touch Hue in that realm.  But I encourage you to read the next section before you buy, because the new LIFX hardware gives the Hue a run, and maybe even bests it! (you’ll have to read it to find out!)

Still, the Philips Hue is a tried-and-true piece of kit, with solid build quality and an app that works relatively well.  Setup of the Philips Hue Starter Kit is simple, no worse or better than the rest of this group by any major distance.  Follow the on-screen prompts to add new bulbs, and away you go!  We’re not huge fans of the “drop-pins” that the Hue app uses to change the colors of the bulb.  Overall we feel the Hue app isn’t the most intuitive, and in truth, not the most powerful.  We had to use IFTTT to produce some of the triggers and automation we wanted with smart lights, or in some cases, a complete 3rd party app to get the sunrise/sunset features we desired.  Where some of the other apps (TCP, or WeMo) are very simple to use, the Hue app can be quite confusing at first.  But once you master how it works it functions satisfactorily.

Perhaps most importantly about their new products is that the new Hue hub is HomeKit compatible, and that sets it aside in this test as being the only light bulbs that offer this feature.  None of the other smart lighting we tested here works with Apple’s Siri system, so if you’re set on having HomeKit function then this is currently your only option.  Note that Belkin announced plans to add HomeKit months ago, and we suspect brand like LIFX will follow.  But at this time there is no roadmap data from either manufacturer to indicate when this may actually occur.

Due to some product release delays our Hue testing was unable to include new white-only Philips Hue White bulbs.  We did manage to get our hands on the new color bulbs, and even the new Philips Hue Dimmer Switch, as well as the noted Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus.  We suspect most people are interested in the color products, so our focus is primarily there.  We’ve had Hue products for a while, so the first thing we did was compare the new 800-lumens bulbs to the old 600-lumens bulbs.

You can really see the 200-lumen increase in brightness, but the color spectrum remains problematic, with only the red and green colors being accurate.  Blue is always a bit purple, cyan/aqua is always washed out (too white).  Overall the old bulbs versus new only really increased brightness, but provided no better performance than the old Hue bulbs they replaced.  Our comparative photos (old vs new Hue) wasn’t worth showing here, as the only difference on the camera was the brightness.  You’ll just have to take our word for it, they are brighter!

If you’re a current Philips Hue bulb owner, would we suggest upgrading?  If you find your existing setup isn’t bright enough then yes, you’ll get 33% more output.  And if you want HomeKit, the new hub is the only way to get there.  But beyond that, existing Hue bulb owners may not want to spend the money to upgrade just for a little bit more light.  If you have a Hue setup now, the Hub alone is a worthy upgrade, but the bulbs are probably not worth the coin.

As for the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus, the improvement there was not just in brightness, but also color performance, extendability (length), and flexibility.  Right off the bat you’ll notice, when compared to the old Hue light strips, these new guys are indeed far more bendable.  You can wrap them around things more easily, like a table or similar.  But our favorite new feature/option is the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus Extension, which allowed us to finally get the lights near one of our tester’s fireplace to look proper and not fall short of the end edges. (See the photo included in the gallery)

Earlier we talked about the WeMo LIGHTIFY LED Flexible Strip, and that we would compare it to the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus — so let’s do that!  In the Hue gallery (above) you can see a few photos and their captions will help explain what you are looking at there.  For whatever reason the spacing of LEDs from the old-to-new Hue strips has changed.  However, all three strips had very similar overall brightness output.  We found the new Hue strips “spacing” did cause your some vertical strips on the wall during our testing, but pulling the strips away from the wall can help.

Again, if you have existing Hue strips, the new Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus might not be worth the price of admission just to upgrade.  All three strips did a great job hitting color saturation, far better than their A19 bulb counterparts.  This was always the case, even with the older Hue hardware.  And we’d have a hard time really saying that the WeMo LIGHTIFY LED Flexible Strip was greatly any different from the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus.  Frankly we wouldn’t say one is better than the other, at all– and would suggest you simply buy the light strip that matches your planned ecosystem. In the off chance you are shopping exclusively for a light strip option, we’d probably go with the Philips Hue device just because they have a broader spectrum of other fun lighting options you can get down the road.

You’ll need to read the LIFX section below to our final thoughts on the Philips Hue color bulbs, but with their broad variety of bulb sizes and established eco-system, Philips Hue remains one of our favorite options.  And with HomeKit support it was my personal choice for my home in a long-term environment.  Furthermore, Hue has more integration into 3rd party apps and hubs than any other platform out there, so it remains a very future-safe option.  You can also link up to an Amazon Echo directly, no extra hubs needed.

But before you over that Philips Hue Starter Kit make sure you read the next section about the LIFX Color… I promise you, it is worth your time!  I’ll just say that the Hue bulbs are no longer the “only game in town” ….  🙂


LIFX

Pros: Cons:
  • Amazing color saturation accuracy
  • No extra hub required, works with WiFi
  • App is easy to use, generally simple
  • Brightest bulbs we have ever tested
  • Lacking in third-party integration
  • Limited selection of bulb sizes/options
  • White-only bulbs are expensive

Like Philips who recently updated their smart bulbs, the LIFX brand also has some new hardware on the market just in time for the holiday season. Their two primary options are the LIFX Color 1000 A19 smart bulb, and the LIFX White 800 smart bulb, and they just released a BR30 bulb option right as we posted this blog article.  If you can live with just those two sizes then you should definitely give these new bulbs your consideration.

The setup of our LIFX bulbs was an absolute cinch. Download the app, setup an account, plug/screw in the bulb, app finds the bulb, links to your WiFi settings, and you’re all set!  You can name the rooms your bulbs are located, and even name each specific bulb.  In comparison, the Philips Hue setup is no complicated process by any means, but you have the hub, and then you connect your devices.  It’s one small extra step, but one more step nonetheless.

Both Hue & LIFX could be easily set up by a tech novice.  If you’ve ever set up a router, a computer, or a smart phone, you’ve actually set up something that is more difficult than these lights. The app walks you through the process like a reliable tech friend.  It’s easy, convenient and fantastic!

LIFX has made their app a bit more user friendly than Hue, and we’d describe it as being situated somewhere less complex to navigate than Hue, but perhaps not as simple and intuitive as Belkin or Wink.  That isn’t to say it is bad, and actually we quite like the color wheel versus the drop-pins that Hue uses, and such.  And the large size of the menus would be great for people with aging eyes.

Furthermore, LIFX has some simple yet cool effects baked into the app that you can only get with Hue by using 3rd party apps. With LIFX you can have it flicker like a candle, or even have the bulbs change color according to ambient sound/music. That one is a lot of fun for when you want to turn up the music and just dance! You can also use a strobe feature, but this one you need to hold down in order to enact it in case you have any health issues. Again, you can get all of this with Hue, but you currently need third party apps to achieve them.

Both Hue and LIFX have Apple Watch apps, though neither have complications as of yet.  With Hue, you have the same control you have as from your widget on the notification screen. You can only opt to press from a select number of pre-created scenes (10 total and one of which is the all off scene). With LIFX you have a bit more control. You can choose the level of brightness of the bulb, but only with the last scene you were on. You don’t have scene options, sadly, on the Apple Watch app.  (We’ve included a few photos of the LIFX Apple Watch app for your review in the gallery – but we don’t feel these watch features alone are probably deal breakers for anyone).

If you’ve got a huge arsenal of bulbs, you may need a large selection of scenes.  In that case the Hue app is probably better since more scenes appear per page, and multiple pages exist, too.  Though in contrast we felt the LIFX adds more meaningful material on the main app page.  And the LIFX layout is better for those who have trouble seeing or who have sausage fingers. With Hue, you have to move the tiny little pin around to change the colors, which can lag, and be a tedious process.  With LIFX color changes are easier, using a nice big wheel you can spin around, while adjusting the brightness is equally as simple.

During our testing we integrated both the LIFX and Hue with IFTTT.  We found that you can set color and brightness for Hue, but not fade.  Comparatively, you have more control of the LIFX bulbs in IFTTT, including fading.  We also tested the LIFX when connected to our SmartThings hub and it worked every bit as good as Hue, or any other smart bulb setup.  And there is no hub to worry about with the LIFX bulbs.  So if you’re looking for future expansion for your smart home, the LIFX bulbs can be integrated just as much as Hue if SmartThings is your planned hub.

Without a doubt the BEST color bulbs we have ever tested are these new LIFX Color 1000 bulbs.  WOW!!  You can really see those 1,000 lumens pumping out the brightest, most vibrant possible colors.  The LIFX Color 1000 bulbs had a far superior accuracy to the color we selected, no matter what color you choose.  You’ll see a series of photos in the LIFX gallery above, showing this off.  In the past the Hue did a poor job with Blue and Aqua, and their new bulbs were no different.  That was not the case with the LIFX Color bulbs, which were always spot-on!  Not only are they able to provide a pure-blue, they also hit cyan/aqua, the color the Hue has never managed to cover properly.  Kudos, LIFX… you did good!

If you want the brightest color bulb on the market, with the most true-to-life color accuracy, LIFX Color 1000 bulbs are the answer.  But you’ll have to sacrifice options, since they only have a few sizes, and none of the fun “gadget” lights that Philips offers.  We tweeted at LIFX and they assured us more sizes are coming, but provided no time table.  That is good to know, so that you don’t buy into an ecosystem that limits your lighting options.

Down the road if you want Amazon Echo integration you’ll need a smart hub, unlike the Philips Hue which can be bridged directly to Echo.  Still, we tested this by using our Samsung SmartThings Hub and things worked flawlessly, if you’re willing to go that route.  Being able to tell “Alexa” to turn lights on/off with Echo/SmartThings is one way to avoid needing HomeKit, which is something we plan to talk more about in our next blog post.

We also tested the LIFX White 800 smart bulb, which was admittedly a bit less fun than the LIFX Color 1000 bulbs, but equally as important.  Compared to the $15 GE bulbs, the $18 TCP bulbs, or the basic/old $15 WeMo bulbs, the LIFX White 800 adds a “warmth wheel” (that brown colored wheel in the gallery above).  This is something that you can get in the new $30 WeMo bulbs (which we did not test).  But what really makes the $40 cost of the LIFX White 800 worthwhile is the lumen output, which was rated similarly to others but proved to be brighter, and better.  It blows our mind just how much brighter these LIFX bulbs are compared to the competitors.

And with that… let’s do a quick wrap-up!


CONCLUSION: Shedding Light

Simply put, you can’t really go wrong with any of the entry-level options.  If you are totally new to the market, we really liked the Wink Hub and some GE Link bulbs, just because their hub offers a LOT of future smart home options.  We also felt the  bang-for-your-buck white bulbs that are the TCP LED Connected A19 bulbs are also a good place to go, but future expansion still requires some sort of hub, making it just marginally more expensive to expand down the road.  But as these hubs are only $50-100 typically, you may prefer to save that now, and spend it later.

The WeMo Smart LED Lighting Starter Set from Belkin is a reasonable place to start, and they offer Samsung SmartThings Hub integration, making their hardware a reasonable place to go if you like what they have to offer.  We liked their wide spectrum of products, beyond just lighting, which might be attractive for many users who want more from their home right away.

The best, brightest, and most accurate color bulbs are the LIFX Color 1000 bulbs.  And the best eco-system with the most integration and future-proofing would be the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance line of products.  The Hue hardware also adds HomeKit support.

Mixing and matching many of these devices is easy to do thanks to devices like the Samsung SmartThings Hub, which is a personal favorite of ours.  You can also use many of these with the Wink Hub, which remains another great option.  We’ll have a review of both of these hubs, when paired to an Amazon Echo, coming at you VERY soon.  In that review we plan to discuss those pieces of hardware, and compare/contrast them to Apple HomeKit, too!

Still, smart bulbs alone do not make a smart home.  These light bulbs tend to be just a gateway to the next step, such as door locks, motion sensors, or smart cameras.  In future posts we’ll be comparing some of those pieces of kit, providing feedback about our favorites this holiday season, both for a HomeKit, and for other platforms.  If you plan to expand your home, stay tuned here to arijaycomet.com for more curated smart home tech reviews!

Thanks for visiting — sound off below with your comments, feedback, and questions.

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Published by

Ari Jay Comet

Sharing my life experiences. Interacting with technology. Digital self-expression. Binary is black, white, and many shades of grey.

69 thoughts on “TESTED: An EPIC Comparison of Smart Light Bulbs — Philips Hue versus Belkin WeMo versus LIFX versus GE Link versus TCP Connected versus Misfit Bolt”

  1. Just to clarify, both the GE Link and Cree Connected work with SmartThings and Staples Connect.
    Personally I like the Cree bulb, as it’s very lightweight, always cool to the touch, looks more like a conventional bulb and gives of a nice light.

  2. Very informative post, thanks. I haven’t used any of these products, but my concern is that it’s much less convenient to have to perform basic functions via an app, rather than a physical controller. What do you think?

    1. Yes, I agree VERY much. I’m personally not a huge fan of smart bulbs in that they instantly become “dumb” the moment cuts off the power to them by shutting off the wall switch. In that regard I much prefer in-wall switches to bulbs.

      However, those switches tend to be far more expensive than the white-bulb counterparts ($40-60 price range for a decent in-wall controller). But then you get far better control. I have a bunch of Lutron Caseta smart in wall switches at my home:

      http://amzn.to/1GjKMyh

      That is what I would suggest. From there you need a smart hub, however. I’d suggest the Lutron one because it is HomeKit compatible if you use Apple products you can use voice. If you aren’t an Apple user, you may prefer the Wink hub, as it then nicely integrates with other features.

      Let me know if you have other questions!

      1. Switches are much better. However, the smart bulbs can be useful. You can use then in conjunction with a smart switch (turn on table lamps when you turn on the overhead light) and it makes it easier to make sure all the lights are off when leaving the house or going to bed. And at only $10 more than a dumb LED, why not?

      2. This is quite true, if you have a lot of settings like that. We don’t have any table/floor lamps in our house, because it was designed with a lot of in-ceiling cans So we have no need for additional plug-in lights.

        This just goes to show that everyone’s house is different, and their needs and desires are different. That is what is so great- you have options! Bulbs, switches, plug-in modules, etc. And that is what makes it fun, too– making it unique and “your own” 🙂

  3. One more thing to consider is the beauty of the actual bulb. By far the best designed bulb is HUE. I cannot say the same for the new improved white hue that is not in the stores yet because it looks typical. This is especiall true in fixtures where the bulb shows. I have a double bathroom fixture over a mirror and I broke the globe. It is vintage so I am looking for another. But the hue lux bulbs are so great looking , that I can get away with them being exposed and it does not even look like the globe is missing. This is especially true when using modern and mid century modern fixtures and furnishings. And yes it matters tremendously, as far as total design. The lux base is white and the color hue is aluminum tone. Most of the others including LIFX are clunky, with LIFX being the worst. GE is plain ugly. On some of my ceiling fixtures, most LED were too big and round. They fit with the HUE LUX. I am going to buy a few extras for this reason.

    1. That’s actually great stuff Catherine. And I couldn’t agree more. Design of a bulb matters. I have some “dumb” LED bulbs in my kitchen but get compliments on them regularly. In exposed scenarios the style or design / shape matters. Thanks for visiting the site!

  4. Your Welcome! And thanks for your in depth review! I am fairly new to these smart bulbs. I am trying to figure out which ones will play nice together. I have put in for a Hue Bridge upgrade but I may just buy a new hue color starter kit Thinking about Nest Integration, too.

    1. If you have any specific questions let me know. Nest is a great thermostat and has tons of third party integration options. And Philips hue as you’re probably aware does, too. The new hub is great for Apple users like me wanting Siri control. But otherwise isn’t seemingly much different from prior hub. If you like Siri control check out my blog posts about the ecobee3 which is a slick thermostat option too instead of nest. I like it for the ability to see temperatures and additional locations.

  5. You said in this article that HUE was homekit and the only one at the time. Lutron Caseta had a homekit hub first and it worked well with the apple stuff I had in the home. I just wanted to mention that. I also use IP5 Ihome plugs with homekit and the Phillips Hue Hub 2.0…They all work perfectly with Home app for iphone to put everything under one homekit app.

    1. You didn’t read the article carefully enough. The Philips Hue was the first HomeKit bulbs to come to market. If you read my other posts you’ll see I was the “first kid on the block” with HomeKit hardware, you could probably call me the HomeKit Guru!

      So with that said I am well aware of the devices that are, and are not, home kit. Check out this blog post:

      https://arijaycomet.com/2015/11/16/tested-smart-home-automation-comparing-apple-homekit-vs-samsung-smartthings-hub-vs-wink-connected-home-hub-vs-insteon-hub-pro-vs-amazon-echo-vs-belkin-wemo/

      As you’ll see in that article, I have a LOT of HomeKit hardware, and most of it I got right when it was brand new, sometimes even pre-ordered, or purchased the day it came available. So yeah, I kind of know a thing of two about how all this great stuff works.

      I stand by my original statement in this blog post– the Hue remains the only color-changing light bulbs on the market today that are HomeKit compatible. There are other devices that can control your lights (i.e. Lutron) with HomeKit. And there are other hubs that have light bulbs (i.e. INSTEON) that are HomeKit. But the ONLY bulbs that offer color-changing features that are also HomeKit remains the Philips Hue system, as stated in the post. Hopefully that is clear now. 🙂

  6. Hi, I want a colour bulb which I can turn on using an automated timer setting (for holidays etc.). Does the Philips Hue or Lifx currently offer this option? Thanks for letting me know!! Great article btw!

    1. Yes, both work for that. They both allow schedules that set what time the lights turn on or off. You can set the color, how quickly they fade up/down and so forth. Each of them are equally capable for this feature set. Either one would work for you!

  7. Thanks for putting together this comprehensive comparison. I only recently started researching and learning about smart bulbs and related technology and this review has been the most helpful by far.
    Like you, my home has a lot of recessed cans. I live in a row home and a wall switch on the first floor controls 4 lights in the hallway on the second floor and two in the hallway on the third floor. The bulbs on the second floor are PARs and the cans in the third floor have BRs. (There are also wall switchs on the second and third floors that control the same lights.) I would like to be able to turn one or two of these lights on at certain times instead of having them all on or all off. So I guess I’m looking for something that would control individual lights on the same electrical line. I have several LIFX bulbs in another area of my house and although I like them, I think I kind of like the “dumb” LEDs I currently have in the hallways because they seem to be a little brighter. It looks like the Lutron Casetta in wall switch would allow me to dim them, but not control each light individually. I don’t know anything about smart hubs yet. Would a hub allow me to control the site individually? Wondering if you have any suggestions other than putting LIFX or similar bulbs in each can and leaving the wall switch on all the time in order to controlling the individual lights. Thanks!

    1. Great question! And sadly the answer isn’t as easy as you may wish. The only way to control each bulb individually would be smart bulbs. That is an expensive option but provides the most versatility. Not only can each bulb be set as desired, it also means color options if you want.

      I would suggest you check out the first post on the main page of my blog here. Specially look at the Wink hub section. They make a switch ( called Tapt if I recall ) that might be nice for you in that location. It is an ideal option for smart bulb control.

      For cost effective control dimming white bulbs are cheap enough. GE Link bulbs are good and work great with the Wink hub. It provides great future smart home expansion. And putting a smart switch there works nice as you can have switch come on and then set bulbs from there.

      Let me know if you have any further specific technical questions. Based on your want to have granular control of each bulb you will need to leave that wall switch always on, but could put a Lutron Caseta there and control both switch and bulbs with Wink hub. That is my personal suggestion!

      1. Thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely check out the first post on the main page of your blog. I’ll let you know what I ultimately end up doing. Thanks again!

  8. The Philips Hue and the Lifx seem to be the main contenders for me here.
    I do not currently have any bulbs and are looking to buy.

    I like the look of the range of bulbs for the Hue especially for the light strip and some of their wall colouring lights.

    Does the Hue light strip manage to do the Blues that the Hue bulbs badly miss?

    For lamp bulbs it looks like the Lifx is the winner because of the colours, I love blue.

    Is it possible to have both of these makes and control them all from one 3rd party app and make them work together? Could you control them all through Amazon Echo?

    Amazing article, has been so helpful, thank you.

    Glenn.

    1. Glenn, your post does not show up until after I have approved it. This helps me limit spammers who try to post things on my blog that do not belong. Sorry if this caused you any confusion.

      To answer your question, indeed the Hue Light Strip does a great job with the blues, such as royal blue, cyan/light blue, etc. Green is another one that ends up a pale color on the bulbs, but PERFECT on the light strip.

      Quick Link to Hue Light Strip – http://amzn.to/1IpgYM6

      So when it comes to the largest option/selection of sizes, Hue wins hands down. While their bulbs might not offer the accurate colors, their LED strips do. And again, options!

      LIFX is great for their blue accuracy in a standard bulb, however, controlling their bulbs is fairly limited to options right now. LIFX does not have direct support to the Amazon Echo, so if you want to control it with Echo you need to buy a hub that works with it. In this instance since the Wink hub doesn’t yet support LIFX, you would be forced into the SmartThings hub. Which works, but is very complicated to use.

      If you are planning to do just bulbs right now, I’d probably suggest stick with the Hue setup from Philips. If the accuracy of the blues matters that much to you, LIFX hardware is great, but there lacks a central app that can control them all. You would need a SmartThings hub, to control the LIFX bulbs, and then the Echo controls the SmartThings hub. Hope this makes sense, best of luck and happy hunting!

      Quick Link to Hue Starter Kit – http://amzn.to/1Piqad2

  9. Is there a major difference between the original Philips Hue Starter Kit & the newest one? Is it worth the extra $60 for the new one? Thanks!

    1. Depending on which unit you are getting & from where, they increased the bulbs from 600 lm to 800 lm which was a big improvement! This means you get 33% brighter light output.

      Additionally, new kit will include the new hub, which is Apple HomeKit compatible should you want that feature. Some retailers are still clearing out old stock so be careful before you buy as to if it has the new bulbs and new hub.

    1. Yes! The primary ones worth considering (Philips Hue, LIFX, and Belkin WeMo) all offer this feature. My wife & I use this for a light strip in our bedroom which fades up over a half hour gradually in the morning. We love this feature!

      If memory serves me right the Philips and LIFX bulbs could fade over as much as 60 mins, where the WeMo was 30 mins max. Of course firmware / software updates may have changed that.

      Bottom line: yes, they can do what you desire!

      1. If gradual waking is basically all I want a smart bulb for which do you recommend? Or are there other bulbs out there that are cheaper that would do the trick?

      2. If that is all you want, any of them would do the trick. But the Philips Hue links above will give you the most options. Bulbs and strips. Multi color. More integration down the road if you want it. I would probably pick the Philips to start off based on future proof options too!

  10. So I have recently tutored my home and it has morphed into a Harvard scholar. I have an amazon echo that’s integrated into my samsung Smartthings hub, which in turn is connected to my Lifx light bulbs, wemo switches and wemo outlets. It’s amazing.
    The Lifx bulbs are the best on the market and their app is ever involving; integrate it with Smartthings hub and you have a powerful lighting system.
    I use Lifx bulbs for floor lamps and overhead lighting. The wemo outlet is used for my Christmas tree lights and the wemo switches are paired to my ceiling fans. All devices are integrated into my Smartthings hub and then my echo syncs with the hub. What you end up with is a whole house powered by voice, and IFTTT. I can manipulate lights in any room using just my voice.
    If you’re looking for an all powerfull and a Jetson like home you can’t go wrong with my system layout

    1. Sounds like a really nice setup! I’m a huge fan of what the Amazon Echo can do. Have you checked out the Fire TV yet? Look here: http://amzn.to/1IZwxzT – with that device you can use the remote for watching TV to also control your Echo devices. So, assuming your Echo device isn’t near the TV, this gives you another room to easily control — and see things like traffic/weather on-screen, too! Great way to top off your existing system!

      1. I’ll have to check it out. I was actually thinking about getting another echo and putting it in my bedroom. Therefore I would have an echo in my central area and another one in my bedroom so I can have full control over my entire house without leaving a room and enjoy the features i.e. alarms and news that I would find useful when waking up. Add the Smartthings motion sensors and it’s just amazing.

        I am worried that the Google onhub could eventually become the go to for smart homes but it still has a ways to go. Very promising and I’m hoping smartthings will play nicely with it

      2. I haven’t played with the OnHub yet but have read reviews. Sounds like a neat piece of kit, for sure!

        Also, remember that the Echo came with a remote, that can be used in other locations around the house. My suggested Echo setup is the Fire TV (see link sent prior) in the family room, the main Echo cylinder in the kitchen or living area, and then use the remote that came with the device for bed-side master bedroom location. Cheers!

  11. I will definitely check it out. By the way, you did an amazing job reviewing the smart lights. Had I read this article months ago, I wouldn’t have spent months doing my own research. Kudos to you and keep the reviews coming, I’ll continue reading them

  12. Hi – what a great write up!

    I’m just getting started in the world of smart bulbs and I have a very basic question I was hoping you could answer:

    If I take one of these bulbs (specifically Hue or LIFX) and screw it into a light fixture that is controlled by a wall switch, how does that work? I imagine the wall switch has to be in the on position for the bulb to operate. If that’s the case, will I still be able to turn the bulb off via the app even as the wall switch remains in the on position?

    Sorry for the novice question. Thank you!

    1. Your assumptions are 100% correct. You MUST leave the wall switch on all the time, and instead control the bulb exclusively from the app on your smart phone or tablet device. If you turn the switch off at the wall then the bulb will remain permanently off until flip the physical switch again. They make plastic covers to put over the wall switch if you want to prevent people from accidentally turning off your smart bulbs.

  13. Sorry – one more novice question. With either the Hue or LIFX, Will I be able to control the bulbs while I am away from the home, or do I have to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the bulbs are?

    1. Both of the brands that you listed will allow you to control your bulbs remotely. Obviously your home electricity needs to be on, so it won’t work during a power failure, nor will it work if your home Internet goes down. But assuming those typical criteria are met, yes you can control both of them remotely from your phone when not at home.

      1. Thank you yet again.

        A very important feature for me is to be able to set the lights at random intervals or schedules when I’m away from home to give the illusion that someone is still home. It appears as though both the Hue and LIFX allow for something like this, with the competitive edge belonging to LIFX that allows for this capability when paired with A NEST thermostat.

        Again, an excellent piece.

  14. I’m starting at the ground floor here – I don’t own a bridge or any bulbs (though I do have a Nest and a Nest Cam). I care about Siri integration, but not color and the Hue bulbs are simply too expensive for me. The other thing I care about is open-ness, since it seems like none of the manufacturers are capable of making a great app themselves.

    My understanding is that GE Link and CREE bulbs can be used with the Hue bridge. Is anyone using this setup? Can you comment on how well it works and maybe how it compares to other Siri-compatible setups?

    1. You posted twice so I removed one of your comments.

      I’m not using this setup myself so I cannot help directly. But with any luck another reader of my blog will provide you the feedback you desire. I also suggest checking out Reddit. Cheers!

  15. Hue white bulbs have gone down to $14.99 each. It is the new shape and I do not like the design as much as the old one or the color bulb. It is supposed to be brighter and have a bigger radius. There is a problem with Siri Intergraition. Don’t know if it Hue or HomeKit origin. I cannot set up Siri on a second device (iPad). It is constantly trying to sync with iCloud. It is a known issue across the web. I can’t make it work. Siri integration is dicey at best

    1. Wink hub requires Internet to work no matter what. SmartThings will work if the internet goes down though obviously only to local devices. Cloud based devices wouldn’t work even with the ST hub because no net means can’t reach their cloud.

      For smaller hubs like the Philips Hue or Lutron Caseta, again you’ll have local abilities to run triggers, and saved timers still work. But for remote access you’ll need WAN obviously.

      Hope this answers your question. If not let me know.

  16. Really an epic review, thanks for the effort. I was looking into MISFIT’s BOLT and found your post.
    Since I’m still new to this topic, I would love to read your insights for the QUBE Wifi SMART BULB, but it’s not yet available.
    http://www.qube-smarthome.com/
    Regards,
    -Isa

    1. I’ve made an effort to only review items that I can acquire myself at full retail. This allows me an unbiased perspective. Also, as my revenue stream comes via Amazon, I tend to favor products they carry.

      If and when the QUBE reaches retail, and Amazon, I may include it in a future review. Thanks for visiting. Glad you found the site helpful.

  17. Thanks for a fantastic write-up! I am looking to set up a room with lights that will rapidly change colors and also ‘strobe’ with the ambient dance music. If I have 6-8 of the LIFX bulbs in the room will they do that?

    On another note, can you write an article on Google’s Project Brillo/Weave and where some of these products stand with investment related to that?

    1. You should be able to accomplish the strobe with the LIFX bulbs so long as the app does that. In some cases third party apps work better. I know that is the case using hue bulbs with third party apps. It can be done though.

      As for Weave, my time is limited for the blog and I try to funnel down to a certain demographic. As such I usually wait for consumer products before publishing articles. Are there actually any weave devices on the market right now? If so, those are what I would test.

  18. I think you might want to take a look at and test the almond plus. I have it from the advice of another person. But have not really done anything with it. I know it will work with wemo and iris(Lowes system) but that’s about it so far.

    1. Thanks for sharing– had not heard of that product prior. Looks like an interesting piece of kit, but I’m questioning where it really fits into the world. For most people, they could never mount it on the wall as shown, because it still needs to be near your WAN modem and two outlets (one for this, one for the modem). So while they make it look so nice/clean, it would never be quite that attractive on the wall. Secondly, it still lacks very important integrations like Nest or Ecobee, the two most popular thermostats on the market right now. Also missing are Nest Cam, Chamberlain MyQ, Ring Doorbell, Amazon Alex, and many more. These are all part of the Wink system, and some of them are also supported by SmartThings.

      Overall I’d say this looks like a nice and interesting product, but the specs indicate to me it still falls short of the competition. It is smart to make your router and your smart hub the same piece of hardware, so that is nice. But I’d rather have seen them make the control screen more accessible at a wired location, like that of the Wink Relay. However, given my experiences with the Wink Relay (it continues to fail, need reset, and have issues), I don’t get a warm fuzzy when I see Android-OS based devices hanging on my wall, sadly. I may look closer at the Almond+ in the future, thanks!

      1. It does not mount on the wall. Mine is sitting on the other side of the house as an extender for my wifi.
        Thanks for your input. I am far from computer smart. I just found your site the other day. So I am enjoying and reading up on all I can. Trying to get my electric bill down $400 a month is a killer.

  19. This article is such a huge help! Thanks for putting this together.

    I saw a couple mentions that LIFX doesn’t support Amazon Echo, but their site claims it does:
    http://www.lifx.com/pages/alexa
    I’m guessing this is new since the article was written, or maybe there was some issue with it. Is this something you can test?

    I use IFTTT and I’m also going to get an Amazon Echo for my new smart lighting setup (leaning towards LIFX for the direct WiFi and light/color quality). Given that I have these two ways to integrate and control my devices, is there any additional value to having a hub like SmartThings?

    1. You’re correct, LIFX support was added after this this article was published. You should be able to now control those bulbs with Alexa.

      The advantage to having a smart hub such as SmartThings or Wink is that those hubs can control Z/wave devices or similar. For example if you wanted to get some door locks or other sensors to control or trigger things, you’d need a smart hub.

      If all you care about is voice control and you’re happy with the list of devices the Echo handles that is a great place to start. Down the road many users want more and a hub helps connect and automate other devices too.

  20. Fantastic article thank you for the write up! Currently I’m using tcp lights as the go on sale for as low as 9.99 CAD at home depot. I like that the tcp hub can be controlled by the tcp App or wink app. I was wondering if the lifx bulbs work with any hub, but in particular the tcp hub. I see the Philips hue lights and wonder the same thing, if I need to buy their hub or if I can use my tcp one. Any input is appreciated. Thanks!

    1. TCP uses a sort of unique and cheaper protocol, which is sadly not the same. Sow here your TCP Hub can control TCP bulbs, that is all it can do. On the contrary, if you had a Philips Hue hub, their hub can control any Zigbee bulbs. For example, there are bulbs from GE and others, which use the Zigbee standards for communication. Those non-Philips bulbs would still work with the Philips hub. In many cases the Philips Hue system is sort of the best on the market, and the industry standard. But as you noted, the price of the basic white TCP bulbs is one of the best out there. Comparatively, the GE Link bulbs are similarly priced, but would work on the Hue platform.

      LIFX Bulbs are WiFi, rather than any other standard. This means no hub is required. However, if you want to control those bulbs beyond within just their proprietary app, they do offer some integrations. You can find more about that here; http://www.lifx.com/pages/connects-with-lifx

      As you build out your smart home always try to think about future potential hardware purchases. Think about the items you might want down the road, and try to create a roadmap. This will help ensure compatibility between not just the hardware you have today, but the hopeful upgrades to your smart home you may make tomorrow.

  21. Do any of the bulbs speak to indoor vs. outdoor use? My first goal is to automate my exterior lights. I live in Omaha NE which I’d be curious how they hold up to winter.

    1. None of these bulbs (smart) that I’ve come across are actually rated for outdoor use in direct, inclement weather. Most all of the flood lights would be safe to use in a setting like a front porch or similar, where it would be not in direct weather, but enclosed or down-pointing. Again you would want to check with each manufacturer of each bulb perhaps to verify, but most of these are meant otherwise for indoor use.

      For outdoor smart lighting, however, I have come across a few options, depending on your needs, as follows.

      Firstly, there is a really cool intercom light that KUNA makes in three styles, listed here:
      Style 1 = http://amzn.to/1SrGMfv
      Style 2 = http://amzn.to/1YOpMnh
      Style 3 = http://amzn.to/1puWwGa
      That unit has an alarm, motion sensor, microphone, speaker, etc. Friends of mine have one and absolutely LOVE it. I’ve not tested or reviewed one of these simple because my only exterior lighting is hung from above (overhand) not from the wall…. but I’ve heard nothing but great reviews about the KUNA device. So check that out!

      Another outdoor lighting option I’ve seen are pathway lights like these:
      http://amzn.to/1puWHkP
      Those are Osram Lightify and should be compatible with the WeMo system from Belkin. Again a more specific application here, but if you want lights in the ground/garden, these are great.

      Hope this helps in some fashion. Best of luck with your smart home endeavors. Cheers! – Ari

  22. i will like to know if the lifx bulb could anyway be control via a 3rd party homebrige to enable homekit to work. i know they don’t have homekit enable at the moment abut in hoping there’s a work around if any. great post by the way…

    1. I’m not aware of such a hack, but it may exist. Check out Reddit they have some great home automation discussion groups. The data you want is likely to exist there. Good luck!

  23. I love the new Hue package with one bulb and the magnetic wall switch (with removable remote). You do not need a HUB at all, or it will be an addition to the Hub set up. I think you can run 10 bulbs on this switch. This is a great solution to run a group of lights for a basic setup. It solves the problem of folks hitting a wall switch and messing up your app settings. It is also a dimmer, and it remembers the last dimmed setting after turning it off, and then turning it back on. About $35 . The new white bulbs are $15 now.

    I was not impressed with the new, mid priced variable shade, white spectrum bulbs, which are different tones of white. As we know, Hiue does not have a good blue. I like a blue cast in some applications. I took these back because I did not feel the function was worth the money.

  24. another question: what would you suggest as the overall best smart bulb to have at present. i’m leaning towards hue but my feeling is that lifx is great for the amount of lights and true colour it does

    1. You already answered your own question right there. For integrations Philips Hue remains best. For most true color accuracy LIFX was amazing. But for most users for future proof expansion Hue wins much of the time.

  25. do you have a twitter account i can follow you there aswel. happy to have found this post. awesome and really has helped me with all community concerns

    1. My Twitter is: arijaycomet but it has been a while since ant new tech has come out. So my blog has been a bit slow lately I do apologize. Hopefully this fall or winter Some new hardware will come out to review. Ciao!

  26. If I was more into color, I might try other brands besides HUE. I have a friend with ultra modern high end furniture, lots of white, and bright colors and the HUE are great in his place

    I do modern with deco, and some antiques, more muted colors, so the super bright colors are not what I want to see. I like light that makes things and people look good. I am not going for the mod factor. I want a softer look.

  27. Will these smart bulbs work well with the controllers KNX controllers? They seem great for stand-alone smart devices. I am wondering how they can integrate with a range of ther smart devices such a KNX logic module (http://www.offfieldconcepts.com/home-automation/smart-lighting/). Most of our clients here in Nigeria want only one UX for all their smart devices and they prefer them custom-made. The smart home market gets even more complex by the day.

    1. They do not sell that unit here in the USA, so we cannot test it here. You would need to contact the manufacture to find out what brands/bulbs work with their system. If they are smart and open, they can use any Zigbee or Z-wave device. But their website looks like a more closed system. I suggest you contact them directly.

  28. Since it has been a while since this post, with upgrades, how do the Hue and LIFX compare now? Starting off fresh and looking to find color bulbs that integrate easily with the Amazon Echo. Thanks!

    1. After testing the bulbs in this review, the LIFX went to a friend of mine, and the Hue bulbs ended up with me. I’ve setup a HomeKit related home, and my friend went the route of a mix of SmartThings and Wink. She was more accepting of having the LIFX in that scenario.

      There may be some small tweaks from software updates over time, but the physical results would remain unchanged. That said there may have been hardware updates released, but I’m not aware of any.

      Furthermore, I’ve not tested any new bulbs but in unaware of anything that has come to market worth testing. Since I use my own money to test I don’t buy just to compare unless something seems to add value or benefit. If you have any questions about a specific item let me know I’m happy to research it for you.

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