Welcome to T3's Philips Hue Festavia review. I've been using the Festavia for a few weeks now and, after setting these string lights up and using them in my own home, this is my considered take on what they deliver and how good a purchase they are.
T3 first reported on the Festavia back in November this year, where we were enthused by the smart home lights as they filled a gap in Hue's smart home lighting offering. In the real world, though, does the Festavia live up to Hue's excellent reputation as the maker of the best smart bulbs in the world? Read on to find out.
Philips Hue Festavia review: price and availability
The Philips Hue Festavia price is $159.99 / £139.99 / €159.99, with the product technically launching on 15 November, 2022. However, at the time of writing this review, the Festavia is completely sold out and new units are now "coming in 2023", meaning there will be no festive cheer delivered by the Festavia this year for people who are interested in them.
My take on the Festavia's price is that it is really high. For example, I can get a 20-metre set of color-changing string lights for under £10/$10 at Amazon right now. Yes, sure, these string lights aren't smart home compatible and don't offer graduated light zones, but they absolutely can change through a good selection of colors and offer lighting effects, too.
So, when you consider the Festavia cost £139.99, which is £129.99 more than that, you really do have to ask yourself if having a Hue-connected set of string lights is worth the extra money, as the Hue product is a 1,291.391 per cent increase on the price.
The fact that Festavia also cannot be bought right now, certainly for RRP, puts a dampener on its launch, as it is a product that cannot be bought. Hopefully, Hue will increase its production volume dramatically going into 2023.
Philips Hue Festavia review: setup
Take the Festavia out of the box and you're presented with a 20-meter set of string lights wrapped in a spool around a cardboard holder. The lights unravel easily and the cardboard holder is robust, meaning it can be easily re-used.
The Festavia is powered by a 40W inline power supply, which takes the form of a medium size black rectangular box. This isn't particularly far down the string from the power plug, though, so if you're hanging the lights then you need to make sure the plug socket is close enough to prevent the box from having to be suspended.
Plug the lights in and power them up and you get to see the Festavia's 250 LEDs lit up, as well as their design. The LEDs have a circular, flat-tipped design and, like the Festavia's cabling, are held in black-colored sheaths.
The gap between each LED is pleasingly short and the design of the sheaths means the lights don't get stuck together easily, which is handy when installing them in your chosen location.
To be clear, though, the Festavia is only available in a 20-meter length and only with black cabling and sheaths.
With the lights powered on you can then open the Philips Hue app on your smartphone device and activate the Festavia. These activate like any Hue product in its smart lighting ecosystem – you simply click find new product in the app and the string lights are automatically found.
Once found you can name the lights, add them to any lighting zone you wish, as well as customise their color, theme or effect (more on that later).
I had the Festavia set up in mere minutes. Hue has really nailed making it super easy to plug new lighting into a Hue smart home setup, and to my mind it is a best-in-class experience.
With the Festavia installed into my Hue network of smart lighting products, I then proceeded to physically install the lights in the roof of my garden pub, supporting them with cable clips and hooks. The idea is that they bring festive cheer throughout the holiday season whenever I'm down there, which will be a longer period of time than my Christmas tree is up.
All in, it took about 10 minutes to go from product-in-box to fully installed and set up Festavia string lights. I guess this could be an even shorter period of time if you decide to use the Festavia on a Christmas tree. I'd say the setup was very easy across the board.
Philips Hue Festavia review: performance
As you would expect from a color-changing Philips Hue product, the Festavia can be programmed via the Hue app to display any color you can think of. And, as there are actually three gradient LED zones on the 20-metre string light, you can actually have three different colors of lights on at any one time, moving say from blue to yellow to red.
Selecting these colors in the Hue app is easy, with three balloons sat over a color palette letting you just drag and drop to alter the color on the fly. You can also modify the brightness of the LEDs, too.
Now, here, I have to say that while I found the Festavia LEDs to be perfectly bright in darker environments, I did not think they were terribly bright when turned on during the day, and noticeably dimmer than the peak brightness of my non-smart home string lights.
It's not as if you can't see the colors or the lights on at all during the day, far from it, they just don't have that twinkle that traditional string lights do.
In my garden pub I cycled through a wide selection of colors on the Festavia and I thought the LEDs displayed them accurately. I also selected some of the more wintery, festive lighting themes, which are pre-programmed patterns, and I thought they looked very classy, with subtle mixtures of festive colors.
As well as solid colors and themes, the Festavia also can be programmed with an 'Effect', which included at the time of review, 'Candle', 'Fireplace' and 'Sparkle'. These add an element of movement and live-ness to the lights, with colors and brightness of individual LEDs changing constantly to replicate the effect chosen.
Once more, you can alter the brightness of these live effects, which I did to the maximum as that way the effect is most noticeable. I particularly liked the fireplace effect, which glowed and flickered red, orange and yellow. I even put a Netflix fire on the TV to give the effect from the Festavia even more visual power.
Lastly on effects and performance, as with other Hue lights, if you want you can sync these lights to pulse in time with music (as I've written about before multiple times). That's not really my bag but I can imagine it working well at a Christmas party, or indeed any party, as these are string lights that can be used all year round. The feature is there if you want it.
Philips Hue Festavia review: verdict
Ok, there you go, that was my Philips Hue Festavia review. I hope you found it useful in determining what this product delivers in the real world.
My feelings on the Festavia are really split down the middle. One half of me rightly admits that Hue has made the best set of smart string lights in the world, with a well-made product offering lots of lighting customisation and options. It does so, too, in a product that is very easy to set up and syncs perfectly into the Hue ecosystem of smart lights.
However, the other side of me finds the Festavia's price really expensive, like to the extent where I would never buy them at that price. When you can get a long-lasting, color-changing, effects-loaded set of string lights in the same 20-meter length as offered by the Festavia for under ten notes, that price point of $159.99 / £139.99 / €159.99 feels very, very hard to justify to me.
That said, though, as the Festavia is currently sold out maybe other people don't think like I do, and find that price approachable. Only you can speak for yourself here.
It's not just the price, though. I didn't find the Festavia incredibly bright during the day, either, and despite their robust build quality, they are for indoor use only, restricting their potential usage scenarios.
There's also the fact that the Festavia only comes in a 20-meter length and black cable option to consider, too. Other traditional string lights are purchasable in various lengths and cable colors.
Altogether, therefore, I do recommend the Festavia but only really to well-heeled shoppers with existing Philips Hue lighting setups who have to have fine control over the colors of their string lights, or advanced features like music syncing. For all other people, the sub-£10/$10 set of string lights is almost certainly the better buy.
I think if Hue can iterate on the Festavia and produce a new model next year that is brighter and/or cheaper, as well as available in more lengths and cable colors, then it will be on to a winner.