Smart light bulbs
Philips Hue vs other smart lighting systems
By Martin Pratt
Article 3 of 3
Philips Hue are the most popular smart light bulbs, but are they any better than bulbs from Hive, Ikea, LIFX and Osram? We take a look.
When they were first released in 2012, Philips Hue smart light bulbs were one of the earliest examples of the new technology. Now they are one of the most popular smart devices around, and a great introduction to the ever-expanding catalogue of internet-connected tech. Do they deserve their popularity, or would you be better off choosing a bulb from one of Philips' competitors?
We've tested Philips Hue bulbs as well as those made by Belkin, Hive, Ikea, LIFX, Osram, TP-Link and WiZ, to see what, if anything, sets Hue bulbs apart. Below, we compare features and our own test scores, to see which bulb is the shining light atop the smart-bulb throne.
To see which models we recommend and which we don't, head to our guide to the best smart light bulbs.
Everything you need to know about Philips Hue bulbs
Hue has been on the market for six years, and Philips offers a comprehensive range of bulbs, from basic white to colour-changing ones that can react to what's on the TV. There are also several colour-changing lamps.
- Philips Hue White - these bulbs can be dimmed using the app, but you can't adjust the colour temperature or the colour.
- Philips Hue Ambiance - these white bulbs can be dimmed, and you can adjust the colour temperature from a warm yellow light to a colder white light.
- Philips Hue Colour Ambiance - at the top of the range is the Colour Ambiance bulb, which can change colour completely. So you can have red when you're watching a horror film, and a soothing blue for afterwards when you need to calm your fraught nerves.
The Hue app on your phone allows you to set schedules. You could have it so that the lights come on when you're due home from work, for example, or have them set to turn on and off while you're on holiday to simulate someone being in the house.
They also work with a range of smart hubs, including voice-activated ones such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. You could say: 'OK Google, dim the lights in my living room,' rather than reaching for your phone.
Hue bulbs also have a pleasant wake-up feature that slowly turns the lights on in your bedroom to rouse you gently from sleep.
All very good, but most other smart bulbs can do near enough the same thing, so we'll need to look to our independent lab testing to find out whether the Philips Hue bulbs are more impressive when it comes to light quality, ease of use and how well they safeguard your privacy.
Philips Hue vs Belkin, Hive, Ikea Tradfri, LIFX, Osram, TP-Link and WiZ
Here's a quick rundown of how different smart light bulb brands compare on key specifications. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. 800 lumens is roughly equivalent in brightness to an old-style 60W bulb.
Smart bulb specifications
You're more likely to get features such as the ability to control your bulbs away from home with pricier bulbs, but you can always mix and match, topping up with cheaper bulbs.
To see how all these bulbs measure up when we tested them on features, setup, privacy and light output, check our smart light bulb reviews.
Smart light bulb brands compared: what do Philips Hue rivals offer?
Hive is better known for its thermostats, but it makes a whole range of smart tech, including plugs, cameras, sensors and light bulbs.
You can get white bulbs, bulbs with adjustable colour temperature, and bulbs that can change colour. You'll need a hub to control the bulbs from your phone, and it's the most expensive of the models we've tested, at £80. It's only compatible with Amazon Echo.
Hive doesn't make any spotlight bulbs yet, but its standard bulbs are available with bayonet or edison fittings.
To see if Hive's bulbs are a worthy edition to its smart home range, click through to our full Hive smart bulb review.
Ikea's range of Tradfri bulbs includes spotlight as well as conventional bulbs, but they are all simple dimmable bulbs, with no option for colour temperature or colour-changing versions.
They require a hub to work, and it is currently a closed network, which means you won't be able to use a smart hub to control the bulbs, or set up routines that makes them come on when motion sensors are triggered.
Ikea has said it is planning to update the bulbs in the future to work with smart hubs, but these aren't your best option if you have a Samsung SmartThings hub, an Amazon Echo or another hub at home already.
Should Ikea stick to furniture? Read our full Ikea Tradfri review to find out.
Like Philips, LIFX has a large range of bulbs, including spotlights and conventional bulbs. You can choose from white and colour-changing bulbs, and they need a hub to be connected to your router in order to work.
They are compatible with a range of smart hubs, and you can control them with your voice if you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
LIFX also makes a night-vision bulb, which functions in the usual way with the added benefit of helping infrared security cameras see better in the dark.
For our definitive verdict of LIFX smart bulbs, head to our LIFX Generation 3 review.
Osram calls its smart bulb system Lightify, and there are dimmable white bulbs, colour-temperature bulbs and colour-changing bulbs to choose from.
You'll need a hub, although it doesn't need to be wired to your router, and it will work with other smart hubs if you want to set up routines or control the bulbs with your voice.
You can choose from spotlight bulbs as well as conventional bayonet and edison cap bulbs.
Read our Osram smart light bulb review to see if Osram's years of bulb-making experience have paid off.
To compare results for bulbs from all these brands, and discover our top picks, head to our guide to the best smart light bulbs.