It seams like every smart home device manufacturer has a smart bulb or two in the range now. But Philips Hue is arguable the one that started the wide-spread Smart Home lightning revolution with their ads being seen everywhere over the last couple of years. That is actually the reason I got into the whole Smart Home craze, a simple promotion that let me buy a Philips Hue bulb on Amazon for just £5 ($6.50 for you Americans). As it was limited to one per customer, I actually had to ask my friend to get me another one as I liked it so much. Two years later and all of the lights in my house that have an interchangeable bulb are now using Philips Hue. But is Philips actually the best at the game? Let me walk you through it.
Range of Bulbs Available
Let me start of with the reason most people would say that Philips Hue is the best choice, at that is the huge range of bulbs available. While looking at most manufacturers, I can usually only see an option of one or two bulbs available with the choice of either a classic Bayonet (B22) fitting or the more wide-spread screw type connection (E27). Meanwhile, Philips Hue offers a mind boggling range of 48 different bulbs including anything from a B22, E27 or even the smaller E14 standard or the GU10 in-ceiling mounted bulb. In addition to individual bulbs, the hue line-up also consists of a number of complete light fixtures and LED-strips, at the time of writing, that’s 242 different SKUs available on their website. For this reason alone, I would consider Hue to be the best when it comes to building a complete smart home lightning set-up.
High Cost to Get Going
The reason I used the pricing as my second section is that it’s probably the darker side of the Hue ecosystem. Unfortunately, Philips has positioned the Hue line-up as a premium offering, therefore the cost to kit-out the whole home in Hue bulbs is a significant investment for most people. The Hue range is split into three distinct bulb types with each coming at a different price point. Let us take the standard E27 bulb for example, it can be bought in three different variants: White for £14.99, White Ambience for £24.99 and the White & Colour Ambience for a whopping £49.99. With a lot of competition offering colour bulbs for £10 – £25, the Hue bulb is definitely positioned as a premium offering. While a single bulb is nice to have, most people will want to expand the ecosystem in order to get the full benefit. In order to get the full experience of controlling bulbs from anywhere using your smartphone, you have to purchase the Philips Hue Hub for an additional £49.99. So let us do a quick calculation.
Most people, will slowly expand the ecosystem to cover the whole house. I will use a 3 bedroom house as an example. An average three bedroom home will probably have around 15 ceiling bulbs with some rooms having multiple bulbs in a single fixture. If you wanted to have every single bulb be colour capable, that’s a whopping £749.85 or almost a thousand dollars, plus the Hue Hub and you have yourself a thousand dollar light setup. Mind you that doesn’t’t include any smart light switches or outdoor lights you might want to add. Thankfully, these bulbs are often available on sale at Amazon or can be bought in multipacks that will save you a few pounds/dollars here and there. But is worth it for the whole system?
Although the cost of the Hue ecosystem is substantial, the functionality and seamless operation of it, more than make-up for for the initial outlay. When setting up Hue bulbs, you are welcomed by a refreshingly simple interface that makes it easy to get going. Once you’re setup, you can manage the whole home from a simple yet powerful app. You can separate bulbs into rooms as well as zones. If you’d like to create a zone for the downstair or upstairs, you can. This allows you to synchronise a wide array of bulbs to work together. Creating beautiful gradients within a room or zone is seamless and you can select from pre-made gradients with titles like Savanna Sunset or Arctic Aurora or you can create your own gradients based on colours you like or from an image that you like.
The ecosystem is further enhanced by accessories offered by the Hue brand as well as automations and integrations with other ecosystems. Philips offers a range of accessories like wireless remotes that you can place on the wall or have on your coffee table (or my favourite, the bedside table) or motion sensors. In fact, the motion sensors developed by Philips are so good that they often beat out all of the competition in response times and accuracy. The mobile app lets you automate many aspects of your home lightning. Some examples include turning the light on at sunset or turning them off at sunrise, you can even be waken up by a light which slowly increases brightness as you get closer to waking up. All of the automations can be further enhanced by the fact that the Hue hub can be connected to all of the most popular home assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple’s HomeKit which lets you seamlessly manage your lights with your voice or from you iPhone’s command centre.
As with any product, the build quality of it is probably the most important aspect. Thankfully, none of the Hue products disappoint in that aspect. The build quality of the bulbs is brilliant, being built of high quality plastic, they will last for a long time especially with the stated 25,000 hours lifespan or as Philips puts it, approximately 25 years before they go bad. All of the bulbs that I have tested give out a lot of light, enough for just about any room which isn’t a warehouse. All of the accessories are just as high of a quality. While they might not have the expensive metal feeling of metal, you cannot fault them when they only cost £19.99 for a remote. Wireless communisation reliability is something that certain smart home products struggle with, but with the Hue products, I always get a split second response. The range isn’t an issue either as each bulb is designed to extend the network coverage of the Zigbee Light Link wireless network. Likewise, the mobile app is made to a very high standard as stated above.
Is the Philips Hue ecosystem perfect for everybody? Maybe not. Is it worth investing in? if you are willing to spend a bit extra on a premium lightning system, then definitely. Hue bulbs are probably the best on the market when it comes to range of products on offer as well as built quality. Therefore I would not hesitate in recommending these to any of my friends. I would go as far as giving them a perfect 5 star rating. If you are tempted, then just go ahead and try them out, especially as you can often find them discounted on Amazon as well as many other popular electronics retailers.