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8 best smart lights: A bright idea for your connected home

Voice and app control means you don’t even need to get off the sofa

David Phelan
Friday 04 February 2022 12:47
<p>Dim the lights for instant ambience or switch things up with colours, patterns and light shows  </p>

Dim the lights for instant ambience or switch things up with colours, patterns and light shows

Smart lights bring real convenience, enabling you to turn them off and on from your phone or with your voice. You can transform the atmosphere from bright to cosy in seconds, or turn on the house lighting from the other side of the world.

There are smart light bulbs, which are the easiest to install as they simply replace the existing bulbs. There are also full-on smart lights which can replace table and floor lamps, for instance.

If you have other smart gadgets then they can work together, so that on a voice command like “film night” you can dim lights, close the blinds and turn on the TV. Imagine saying, “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light”, so you can traipse across the room with your arms full of laundry if the switch is on the far side, say.

Since most smart lights exclusively use LED bulbs, there are power savings to be made compared to regular incandescent bulbs too. Some systems connect straight to the broadband router wirelessly, while others need a bridge unit.

How we tested

We tested for ease of use, how simple it was to set up the lights, and whether the need for a hub or bridge complicated the set up process. We also looked at how quickly they responded to voice commands where appropriate, as well as app controls – faster over wi-fi, slower over Bluetooth was the rule here.

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Since most stated lifetime claims were 15,000 hours or more, we weren’t able to test this (yet!), but we considered how effectively they changed colour, brightness or warmth, for instance. We also judged how bright they were and if they were suitable for taking the place of incandescent bulbs. Spoiler: apart from the Nanoleaf tiles, which are more decorative than illuminating, they were all decent replacements for regular bulbs.

The best smart lights for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Philips Hue white and colour ambiance starter kit: £169.99, Philips-hue.com
  • Best for simplicity – LIFX A60: From £39.82, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best ecosystem – Hive active light A19: From £29, Hivehome.com
  • Best for design – Nanoleaf shapes: From £89.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget smart light – TP-Link kasa: £18.88, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for cleanliness – LIFX clean: £69.99, Lifxshop.co.uk
  • Best value – Nanoleaf essentials A19 E27: £17.99, Nanoleaf.me
  • Best stylish lighting – Philips Hue ST64 E27 filament edison: £19.99, Philips-hue.com

Philips Hue white and colour ambiance starter kit

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

  • Dimensions: 109cm x 6.2cm
  • Life of bulb: 25,000 hours
  • Brightness: 806-1,100 lumens

Philips is the leader when it comes to smart bulbs. The company has been making smart lights longer than most, for a start. It has a wide range of options and this starter kit is a great choice for first-timers. There are three bulbs and the Hue bridge, which is needed for most setups. The bulbs are capable of 16 million colours, so you can choose exactly the shade you like. The kit also comes with a battery-powered light switch that can be mounted on the wall, which is handy if you are away and someone in the house is not so tech literate. You can expand the range as you are ready, with dozens of bulbs able to talk to the same Hue bridge.

LIFX A60

Best: For simplicity

Rating: 8/10

  • Dimensions: 11.5cm x 6.2cm
  • Life of bulb: 25,000 hours
  • Brightness: 100 lumens

LIFX bulbs have the considerable benefit that they work without the need for a bridge unit. This simplifies things and brings down the cost. As with Hue, there are different versions of LIFX bulbs including the innovative LIFX clean, which kills bacteria (more on that later). Despite the simplicity, there’s plenty of sophistication here. Controls include on and off, brightness, colour change and the creation of patterns and light shows.

Hive active light A19

Best: Ecosystem

Rating: 7/10

  • Dimensions: 13cm x 6cm
  • Life of bulb: 25,000 hours
  • Brightness: 800 lumens

If you have Hive equipment in your home, such as Hive active heating 2, this dovetails perfectly. If you don’t, you need to get a Hive hub as well as the bulbs, which costs an extra £80 and connects by cable to your broadband router. The bulbs come in different versions and fittings, so you can choose ones that are just dimmable, or go for full-colour bulbs if you prefer. They are very easy to set up and have decent features: you can set them to turn off and on to mimic what it looks like when somebody’s home. The app is comprehensive and straightforward, and even works with Philips Hue bulbs, which can be added to the app, but you need the Philips Hue bridge, too.

Nanoleaf shapes

Best: Design

Rating: 7/10

  • Dimensions: 23cm x 20cm
  • Life of bulb: 25,000 hours
  • Brightness: Not stated

Nanoleaf’s smart lights are completely different from other lights. They are wall tiles which connect together in whatever shape you like. There are various different shaped tiles to choose from, from triangular to hexagonal. Kits come with different numbers of tiles – four, nine or 15, for instance. They’re not cheap, so building an expansive panel can get pricey. There are foam fixing pads to attach them to the wall in your chosen pattern. Although they don’t have the range of features found on other smart lights, they are an entertaining and attractive decoration.

TP-Link kasa KL130

Best: Budget smart light

Rating: 7/10

  • Dimensions: 12cm x 6cm
  • Life of bulb: Not stated
  • Brightness: 800 lumens

There’s no need for a hub with this bulb, as it connects straight to your broadband router. It’s a dimmable colour bulb, but it also comes in a warm white colour as well, which is cheaper. Like most bulbs here, it’s controllable via your voice if you have a smart speaker. It responds to Alexa and Google Assistant, but not Apple’s Siri. It also has a very fast, easy set up – just screw it into the light socket, download the Kasa app and follow instructions. The app includes energy usage figures too, which is useful.

LIFX clean

Best: For cleanliness

Rating: 8/10

  • Dimensions: 12 x 6 cm
  • Life of bulb: Not stated
  • Brightness: 1,200 lumens

The chunky LIFX clean works like other smart bulbs, with simple usage through a smartphone app, but it has an extra capability: it can emit High Energy Visible (HEV) light which can kill bacteria on the surfaces it falls on. HEV light is bluish and needs to be shining directly on the area you want to clean – the nearer to the surface, the better it disinfects. You could leave it on overnight, for instance, to disinfect a surface or your keys or wallet. Then, during the day, it would work like a regular smart light. LIFX bulbs are compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa, but unlike some lights, it works with Apple’s Siri, too. Rest assured that HEV light is considered safe for humans and pets.

Nanoleaf essentials A19 E27

Best: Value

Rating: 8/10

  • Dimensions: 11cm x 6cm
  • Life of bulb: Not stated
  • Brightness: 1,100 lumens

As well as its unique wall covering lighting, Nanoleaf also makes bulbs and a light strip. The A19 E27 is capable and effective, but much cheaper than comparable rivals like Philips Hue. The bulb has a distinctive look, in the form of dodecahedron rather than a globe, since you ask. It even includes Thread compatibility, which means it has greater communication capabilities with certain smart speakers like the HomePod mini. It also connects via Bluetooth, though it’s not quite as quick to respond this way. It’s compatible with Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa, but not Google Assistant.

Philips Hue ST64 E27 filament edison

Best: Stylish lighting

Rating: 8/10

  • Dimensions: 13.5cm x 6cm
  • Life of bulb: 15,000 hours
  • Brightness: 550 lumens

If you like the convenience of a smart light but want the vintage look of a filament bulb, this is a neat way of getting the best of both worlds. It has a soft white light (a colour version wouldn’t look like a filament bulb, would it?) and can be connected by Bluetooth. However, for full features, a Hue bridge is needed, which is sold separately. The Bluetooth app controls up to 10 bulbs, but up to 50 with the bridge. Although this isn’t a colour bulb, it is dimmable.

The verdict: Smart lights

Philips Hue smart lights are the most advanced and capable ones around, so the Philips Hue white and colour ambiance starter kit is a good place to start. For simplicity, the LIFX A60 and its clever LIFX clean stablemate are also well worth considering.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on smart tech, try the links below:

Brighten up your abode with the best floor lamps and our round-up of the best lampshades

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