Best smart bulbs for your connected home

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Smart light bulbs—LED-based bulbs that can be controlled by a hub or smartphone app—are no longer a new idea. What is new is how far this technology has come since its advent just a few years ago. Also new: Products like the Nanoleaf Light Panels—a system of interlocking LED panels that let you decorate with light—fundamentally change the light-bulb concept.

To save money on your holiday shopping, see our roundup of the best Black Friday deals on smart lights, security cams, and other smart home gear

SMART BULB BUYER’S CHEAT SHEET

Smart LED bulbs aren’t quite a commodity, but they are getting close to maturity as far as the market goes. Today’s bulbs are more compact, much brighter, have better color representation, and, for the most part, feature control apps that do more than ever and are easier to set up. Prices have also come down, with some no-name color-tunable bulbs now available for less than $10 each. (Buyer beware: You get what you pay for.)

Updated on November 4, 2020 to add our review of the revamped Philips Hue Iris. This smart mood lamp ups the brightness of the original, improves its translucent light diffuser and spiffs up the power cable, while adding a Bluetooth radio in the bargain. A cinch to set up and compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and (if used with a hub) HomeKit, the Iris makes for an easy and inexpensive way to warm up a room.

[ Further reading: A smart home guide for beginners ]TABLE OF CONTENTS

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White LED bulbs are smart, too

With their rainbow of hues and myriad party tricks, color LEDs get all the press in the world of smart lighting. It’s fun stuff, but the reality is that most of us will rarely find much of a need to turn all the lights in the house blue or red—unless it’s time to celebrate our team winning the World Series. Even then, you’ll probably want to turn them all back to white after the celebration.

White light is also important in its own right, as today there is plenty of science to show how various shades of white—with variations in color temperature—impact our psychological state. Cool light that’s closer to blue has an energizing effect, and is best in the morning. Warm light is relaxing, and is best after the sun goes down.Note, however, that not every white LED smart bulb is color-temperature-tunable. Check out the specs before you buy.

White smart bulbs downplay the party features that are a staple of color-tunable bulbs. On the other hand, white smart bulbs are less expensive than color bulbs, making it more affordable to roll them out in multiple rooms.

We’ve tested just about every color and white LED smart bulb on the market. You’ll find links to all our reviews at the bottom of the page, and we’ll update this story as new models are introduced.

Best color LED smart bulb

Read TechHive’s reviewSee It

No one does smart lighting better than Signify’s Philips Hue, and adding Bluetooth while keeping Zigbee makes it cheaper and a whole lot easier to get started.

Philips was one of the first players in this market, and the company’s experience shows. Physically, its Hue Color and Ambiance bulbs haven’t changed much since their introduction in late 2012, but the latest generation lasts a lot longer and the company has added a Bluetooth radio that obviates the need for the Philips Hue Bridge (but most smart home denizens will want the Bridge anyway). The Philips Hue ecosystem is the industry’s deepest and broadest, including not only bulbs of every shape and size imaginable, but also indoor and outdoor fixtures as well, including the Philips Hue Calla pathway light and the Philips Hue Lily outdoor spotlight, both of which we like very much.

Runner-up

Read TechHive’s review$59.50See Iton Amazon (Prime Eligible)

LIFX’s top-of-the-line bulb gets even better: It’s brighter with a slightly smaller physical profile.

LIFX is a very strong competitor in the smart lighting space and comes a very close second place in our roundup. LIFX no longer has just A19 and BR30 form factors to offer, and we really like its unique  LIFX+ (which has an array of infrared LEDs that will help your home security camera see in the dark), but Philips still delivers much more diversity in its ecosystem and universe of third-party support.

Best white LED smart bulb

Read TechHive’s review$19.99See Iton Philips Hue

No one does smart lighting better than Signify’s Philips Hue, and adding Bluetooth to the existing Zigbee control makes it cheaper and a whole lot easier to get started.

Our choice won’t surprise anyone who’s been following this market. Philips dominates this space and is also our top pick for best color LED smart bulb. The latest Hue bulbs can be controlled via Bluetooth or Zigbee (the latter requires the Philips Hue Bridge), they deliver high-quality light, and are backed by a strong warranty. We received the BR30 form factor for our review, but the bulb is also available in A19, candelabra, and even with vintage-style LED filaments.

Runner-up

Read TechHive’s review$23.13See Iton Amazon (Prime Eligible)

LIFX’s pint-size bulb arrives in a non-tunable, white-only model, but drops a ton of features along the way.

If you want a smart white-only bulb that doesn’t require a smart home hub, the LIFX Mini White is a great choice. While it’s slightly dimmer than the full-size LIFX bulb, it produces a 60-watt-equivalent 800 lumens.

Best budget-priced smart bulb

Read TechHive’s review$7.99See Iton Wyze Labs

This ultra-affordable smart bulb doesn’t have every bell and whistle, but it’s an amazing value if you’re just looking to cover the basics.

Wyze Labs consistently impresses us with its low-cost products for the smart home. Sure, their low-cost Wyze Bulb is only a tunable white (not full-spectrum color), and it’s the only smart bulb in the Wyze ecosystem right now (you can pair it with a Wyze motion sensor, or control it with Alexa or Google Assistant), but it’s a quality smart bulb that costs only eight bucks. Anyone who’s just looking to dip their toe in the smart lighting pool would be crazy to not give this bulb a shot.

Best smart bulb to pair with a security camera

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