Are Smart Bulbs Actually Worth It? Absolutely. Here Is The Best One

Are Smart Bulbs Actually Worth It? Absolutely. Here Is The Best One

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(CNN) —  

Swapping standard lightbulbs for smart bulbs — ones that link directly to smart ecosystems to remotely control lighting — is perhaps the simplest step in the path to “smartening up” a home. CNN Underscored spent the last few months testing 10 top-rated smart bulbs, judging them based on how each was to set up, brightness and color options and reliable connections to smart home systems. And all that testing led to one clear winner:

The Wyze Bulb Color marries affordability and functionality like no other bulb we tested, boasting simple and instantaneous controls (be it through the Wyze app or through various smart assistants), thousands of color options and different light temperatures when casting white light.

Jake Krol/CNN

Wyze smart bulb

The Wyze Bulb Color ticks all the boxes you want from a smart bulb, outpacing all other bulbs we tested — no matter their price point.

The Wyze bulb produced colors accurately — meaning, for instance, reds didn’t veer into pinks or oranges, which we confirmed using a color sensor — and shifted between brightness levels in a way that outmatched even the Philips Hue option that’s triple the price. Thanks to a high level of brightness, the Wyze was also able to paint the wall in a fashion that normally requires a bulb plus lightstrip configuration. And if you prefer a white light, you have the option to adjust the temperature, changing the resulting light from warmer, orange glows to cooler, more natural white light.

Jake Krol/CNN

Wyze smart bulb

From unboxing to controlling the light, Wyze was as uncomplicated as a regular old lightbulb. We simply screwed the bulb into a fixture, opened the Wyze app to complete the setup — and that was that. In use, the app acts as an easy-to-navigate control center. Tap the Color Bulb to turn it on and open the dedicated control panel, then choose a shade from the color wheel filled with thousands of options. The Bulb Color is really responsive to the commands, taking less than a second to register and then render specific controls. We didn’t encounter any delays with controlling the Wyze Bulbs, though your home’s Wi-Fi network may affect these speeds.

Wyze

Wyze smart bulb app

Pairing the bulb to Alexa or the Google Assistant was equally seamless, allowing us to easily control features through the respective apps (Alexa or Google Home) and through the smart speakers themselves. So all it took to change the vibe of a room was asking Alexa, for example, to change the light’s color.

Jake Krol/CNN

Wyze smart bulb

Wyze does not offer pairing to Apple’s HomeKit, though. So if that’s a must for you, we suggest the Nanoleaf Essentials Bulb, though it does trade Wi-Fi connectivity for Thread (a mesh network that neither bogs down nor hogs up your Wi-Fi). You’ll need a HomePod Mini or a 2021 Apple TV 4K with the new Siri Remote, as these act as a Thread Router. The Essentials Bulb offers bright and vibrant colors along with quick controls via the Home app or Siri on your Apple device.

Over four months, CNN Underscored put 10 smart bulbs to the test.

Jake Krol/CNN

Upon receipt of each bulb, we closely examined and timed how long the setup took. We tested each bulb in several fixtures — a traditional table lamp, above-counter hanging fixtures, tall floor lamps and individual receptacles — noting how well each bulb could cast light and retain its connection. We tested how long it took for a command to be registered and how quickly a routine would engage. When it came to Alexa, the Google Assistant or Siri, we tested each bulb with all ecosystems that it could integrate with. Lastly, we took a closer look at the included warranty to see what would be covered.

LIFX A19 White ($9.99; amazon.com)

LIFX’s A19 White bulb is a pretty simple and standard bulb. Setup was quick, a bit longer over the Wyze Bulb, but we didn’t have any major connectivity issues with it. Like with Wyze, you’ll need to make your own LIFX account to get it set up. As a white bulb, it can’t create colors, but it does let you switch the temperature of the white. Overall, it’s a pretty standard white bulb with connectivity for the three major ecosystems: Amazon, Google and Apple.

LIFX Mini ($29.99, originally $34.99; amazon.com)

The LIFX Mini is a tiny bulb that can still create a lot of light and not sacrifice the quality of it. Like the LIFX A19 White above, this does support Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, with no hub required as well. We just think you’re paying a premium for a slightly smaller build when you could opt for a Wyze Bulb two-pack for cheaper.

Nanoleaf Essentials Bulb ($19.99; nanoleaf.com)

If you have a HomePod Mini and want to use HomeKit as your smart home ecosystem, the Essentials Bulb makes a lot of sense. It won’t clog up your Wi-Fi network, as it uses (and did we mention strengthens) a Thread network for reliable connectivity. It’s Apple only for now, though, and that limits it a bit. Still, the quality of light and brightness is on par with our top pick.

Kasa Smart Bulb ($14.99, originally $21.99; amazon.com)

Kasa’s Smart Bulb is a pretty run-of-the mill bulb. It also works with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant out of the box,

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