Philips Hue is considered by many to be the gold standard of smart home lighting. The company’s portfolio of lights ranges from basic bulbs to fancy light strips that work in tandem with your TV to add another dimension to your favorite movies.
With so many different products and options in the Hue portfolio, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. So, for the last few weeks, we’ve been testing the $119 Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit and the $199 White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit. Both include everything you need to get started automating the lights around your home, and can be an entry point into the rest of the Hue ecosystem.
Here’s what we think after a couple of weeks using both bundles.
The Philips Hue starter kits, while pricey, are worth the entry cost for those who want a good place to start upgrading their home lighting.
The who, what and how Who’s it for: Both Philips Hue starter kits are for anyone looking to get started with a set of smart lights. Both provide a simple entry point into the Philips Hue ecosystem, with four light bulbs and a Hue Bridge to provide better connectivity and more control.
What you need to know: Both of these starter kits include the Hue Bridge and four bulbs, but all Hue Bulbs are not created equal. The four included in the $119 White Ambiance Kit produce varying shades of white light, but don’t support Bluetooth — meaning they need the Hue Bridge to work. The four Bluetooth-enabled bulbs in the $199 white and color ambiance starter kit can be tuned to one of 16 million different colors and can be used without the Bridge as long as you’re in range. Using the included Bridge, however, not only allows you to create groups of lights within your home but lets you control them all from anywhere.
How it compares: Philips Hue is one of the most expensive smart lighting options. For color bulbs, you’ll pay $199 for four of them plus a Hue Bridge. Comparatively, you can get a Lifx Proud Parents Bundle for $89.95 that includes a total of five bulbs, four white and one color changing; no bridge or hub required. If you really want to save cash, Wyze lightbulbs are $14.99 for a two-pack. But it’s Hue’s vast product lineup along with tight integration with smart home platforms and the reliability gained by adding a dedicated Bridge that make it a compelling pick for any smart home enthusiast.
One. It only takes one person to install a Hue light bulb. That’s because the bulbs look like a typical LED bulb with some Hue branding. Once you’ve placed your bulbs in your preferred location, make sure the light switch is turned on, then connect the Hue Bridge to your home’s network.
Included in the starter kit is the power adapter and an Ethernet cable for the Bridge. After installing the Android or iPhone version of the app, you’re walked through the setup process. You’ll need to connect the bridge to your Wi-Fi modem (if you’re out of Ethernet ports we’re big fans of these TP-Link switches).
Once the Bridge is connected to power and your home’s network, the app will look for the Bridge on your network and instruct you to press the button on top of the Bridge. The next step took the most time during our installation — the Bridge will need a software update to bring it current, a process that lasted about 30 minutes despite the app claiming it’d only take 10 minutes. You have to leave the app open for the first few minutes of the update, but after that, it will give you the okay to leave it and do other things on your phone.
Once the update is complete, you can start adding lights to your Hue setup. We suggest doing one bulb at a time, that way you can specifically identify which one you’re giving a name and install location to (like Home, Office, Bedroom, etc). Overall, the process is typical for most smart bulbs and was easy enough to follow, thanks to the in-app instructions.
Philips Hue bulbs are bright and (sometimes) colorful Jason Cipriani/CNN
Whether you pick the standard white ambient bulbs or the color bulbs, you’ll find they provide plenty of light. Both types performed well in our testing and have enough light to fill the corner of a large room. Or, if you install one over your kitchen sink as we did, you’ll have no problem seeing both the sink and the surrounding area.
Here’s how it breaks down based on the starter kit:
The four bulbs included in the white ambiance kit have a color temperature range of 2200K to 6500K, a max of 10W power for a 60W equivalent, and a 25,000 hour lifetime. The four bulbs included in the color and white ambiance kit have a color temperature range of 2200K to 6500K, along with the ability to switch between 16 million total colors. Again, you’ll get 25,000 hours of use out of each bulb, with a power draw of 10.5W, equivalent to a 75W bulb. In simpler terms, those temperature ranges go from a yellow candle-like color to a bright, white color, matching the color temperatures we naturally experience throughout the day during the sun’s natural movement. Another benefit to having an adjustable bulb is that you can tune it to match it to the traditional (read: dumb) bulbs you have in your home.
As for the reason these bulbs have a lower wattage than their equivalents – that’s the beauty of LED lights. They’re far more efficient than traditional light bulbs and don’t require nearly as much energy to put out the same level of brightness. Plus, they last longer.
Well, your imagination is the limit of what you can do once you have a Hue Bridge and lights installed in your home. The basics are there, of course. Turning the lights on and off, adjusting colors, and even messing with the brightness level are all easy enough to accomplish via the app (available for Android or iOS).
Hue works with all major smart home platforms, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings, so you’ll be able to control your lights using your voice regardless of which platform you currently use in your home.. For instance, you can tell Alexa to turn the lights off when you go to bed. Or ask Siri to set the mood for movie night.
Connecting a smart assistant to your Hue account is done in the Settings portion of the app and takes just a few seconds. Just select voice assistant, pick which one you want to enable and then follow the prompts. If you’re activating HomeKit, make sure to have the original box nearby – it has the pairing code sticker inside the box.
The Philips Hue kit has everything you need to install your own smart lighting
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