Whether you're pimping out a man cave or just want to add mood lighting to your living room - a smart bulb is a simple accessory which can have a big impact. T3.com has rounded up the best Wi-Fi and Bluetooth bulbs on the market, to help you find the ideal lighting setup.
We think is the best smart bulb system you can get. Even if you’ve done the tiniest bit of research into smart lighting, chances are you’ve come across Hue. That’s because Philips is one of the first manufacturers to embrace connected bulbs, and its name has almost become synonymous with the category.
Why do we think is the best smart bulb system? Because the app is very well designed, and it’s compatible with pretty much every other smart home product/system out there, so if you wanted to start adding more devices to your system, like Amazon Echo, or a Wi-Fi camera everything will play nicely.
Philip’s Hue is expensive though, and may not be right for you, so we’ve also reviewed, rated and ranked a number of other smart bulbs.
How to buy the best smart bulb for you
If you're interested in dipping your toe in the smart home segment (before diving in head-first and buying a connected washing machine), we'd suggest getting something small -- like a smart light bulb.
They're not exactly going to change anyone's life, but they're fun little devices which can be tinkered with, and have a surprising number of useful applications.
For example, we have lights come on automatically when we walk in the room, schedule them when we're on holiday, and a set the mood while we're watching a film.
Deciding which smart bulb is right for you is pretty simple - it’s all down to compatibility. If you’ve got an existing smart home system, or a planning on installing one, you’re going to want bulbs which play nice with everything else you own. The main ecosystems to look out for are Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings. The larger brands, such as Hue and LifX have pretty good compatibility across the board, allowing you to create nifty automations.
Alternatively, if you’re not interested in a wider smart home ecosystem, there are some cheaper alternatives, such as the IKEA Trådfri system, which has it’s own app and remote, but doesn’t talk with anything else.
Other things to decide is whether you want colour changing bulbs, or just tuneable white bulbs. Tuneable white bulbs can emit blue-ish whites or yellow-ish whites (which has an effect on productivity and relaxation), and are often cheaper than colour changing bulbs. Question, do you really need purple bulbs? We find colour changing is a gimmick that quickly gets tired, while tuneable white lights have a genuine use.
A bulbs lumen rating is also important to consider. Lumen is a rating of how bright the bulb is, so a larger number here will be more beneficial. This was a big problem with first generation smart bulbs, but it’s getting better now.
And finally, this almost goes without saying, make sure you buy a bulb which fits your lamp socket. Most smart bulbs feature an E27 screw fixing, but some manufacturers such as Philips and Osram offer a wide variety of fixings, including Bayonet, GU10, and more.
1. Philips Hue Starter Kit
The smart bulb even your nan has heard of
The most well-known smart bulb is almost certainly Philips Hue, which has become synonymous with these devices.
The best way to get into the Philips Hue ecosystem is with the starter kit, which comes with three bulbs (screw or bayonet) and the Hue Bridge.
The bridge can be used to connect up to 50 lights to the system, all of which can be controlled from the iOS and Android app. Hue comes with other great features, such as Apple Watch and IFTTT integration, and 16 million colours to choose from.
Hue is also probably the most prominent brand to support Apple HomeKit, so you can control your bulbs using any HomeKit app, and also via Siri. Simply say, "Hey Siri, turn my lights brown." Likewise, Hue is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings.
The only thing that might put some people off is the rather steep asking price. If you want bulbs that only do shades of white, from blue-ish to yellow-ish, the cost is somewhat less, however.
2. LIFX Colour 1000
Bright and colourful with no hub required
LIFX started out life on KickStarter, but now it's a real, genuine product. They do everything a good smart bulb should - voice, smartphone and watch control, multiple colours, and Alexa, Works with Nest and SmartThings integration.
We love the look of these devices, they resemble traditional bulbs, but with a futuristic appeal as well. They're now available in the UK in a new, smaller A19 size, and they're one of the brightest bulbs we've tried at 1055 lumens.
No hub is required, which is a major plus point, the light has built-in Wi-Fi so it connects directly to your router. The app is really well designed, allowing you to control individual lights or groups of lights. You can set up scenes and schedules, to fully automate your smart home life.
They are expensive however, and the connection can be patchy.
3. Ikea Trådfri
If you’re looking for all-singing, all-dancing smart bulbs, the Trådfri range is not it. They are, however, very good smart bulbs with no gimmicks.
What don’t you get? Well, for a start, there’s no colour changing (just tunable white), no support from Amazon Alexa or Homekit, and no automation (just yet).
What you do get is a very affordable system (bulbs start at just £9), very well designed remote, a good quality of light, super-simple setup, and a few different fixings.
You can buy bulbs with a remote, dimmer, or motion sensor, which all work without the gateway, but if you do decide to purchase the Trådfri gateway, you can control the bulbs with IKEA’s simple and intuitive smartphone app.
It’s not the most advanced setup, but it’s neat, simple and intuitive.
4. Osram Lightify
From the people who do the lights for Eurovision!
Osram is a leading manufacturer in lighting -- they did the Eurovision backdrop don'cha know?
The company offer two versions of their connected lights, single colour white bulbs, and multi-colour 'top of the range' lights.
The company also offer a wide range of different connections and shapes, from screw and Par16, to flexible LED strips, garden lights and surface lights.For these to work you'll also need the Gateway, which acts as a central hub. Thankfully, though, the hub doesn’t need to be plugged into your router.
The app isn’t quite as polished as Hue or LifX, but these are more affordable than its competitors.
5. Elgato Avea
Great for mood lighting
Another player in the smart home segment is Elgato, who actually have a whole ecosystem of connected devices named EVE.
Avea, their light bulb, now works with both iOS and Android devices, and as it's controlled using Bluetooth, doesn't require a central hub (which would suck up Wi-Fi bandwidth and take long time to connect).
It works with Apple Watch, and connected instantly thanks to the Bluetooth connection.
We really like the scene settings, which gently cycle through soothing colour schemes, such as a the reds, oranges and yellows of a sunset.
6. Philips Hue Go
Portable complimentary lighting
Maybe you're looking for complimentary lighting? And something a bit more portable? Well the battery powered Philips Hue Go could be perfect for you.
The Go is capable of everything their screw-in light bulbs are (smartphone control, colour changing) -- but with the added benefit of being completely wireless, meaning you can take it around the house and garden (if your Wi-Fi reaches that far).
Battery life lasts around 2.5 hours, and only takes 1.5 hours to charge.
- Check out T3's ultimate smart home guide