The latest product to hit my review desk and put me one step closer to total smart home control is the Philips Hue White and color ambiance Starter kit. We unboxed this kit a while back, I’ve used it for a bit now, so it’s time to give you my thoughts. If you want the TL;DR version, I’ll go ahead and tell you this now – Hue is friggin awesome. But if you prefer more detail, keep on readin’ and we’ll go over everything from head to toe.
Before we begin, huge thanks are in order for the folks at Philps for sending the starter kit our way to help out with our ‘Best Smart Home Products of 2017‘ series. And while we’re still evaluating products, the list would absolutely be incomplete without mention of Hue. It’s just that good.
Hue is friggin awesome.
Smart Philips Hue E27 LED bulbs
Philips Hue is extremely efficient, in terms of power consumption.
These particular Hue bulbs have an A60 form factor (110mm tall and 62mm wide) and come with an E27 screw base (medium Edison screw) fitting, meaning they’ll work in most standard light sockets you already have in your home. I’ve got one in a ceiling fan light and two in regular floor lamps.
Philips Hue is extremely efficient, in terms of power consumption, as the bulbs use just 9 watts of electricity to output a ton of lumen or brightness. To better explain, a standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb produces about 800 lumens. Not only can Hue put out the same amount of “bright”, but it requires far less power to do so.
Hue has a beam angle of 160° +- 20° and is capable of outputting over 16 million colors, including all shades of white, from warm to cold white. They’re also dimmable, but you’ll need to use the Hue app to do so. Furthermore, there are a ton of 3rd-party apps and services that play well with Hue, thanks to Hue’s open source development platform. A sure “win, win” for developers as they can build their own apps for customizable control.
Most importantly, you won’t have to worry about your Hue lights burning out quickly. They have a lifetime span of 25,000 hours, and should last you a good 10-15 years, depending on use.
The Hue Bridge is where all the “magic” happens.
The Hue Bridge is where all the “magic” happens. Hue bulbs will turn on without a Bridge connection, but that’s literally it. As I said before, you need the app to dim the lights and/or change colors. The Hue app communicates directly with the Bridge, which then passes the commands on to the bulbs themselves.
The Bridge is 100mm in diameter and 25mm tall, making it nice and small. It doesn’t take up much space on the coffee table where we keep ours, right next to the router for easy Ethernet port access.
The Bridge operates on a 2400–2483.5 MHz frequency band, consumes 250mA max power and can control a maximum of 10 accessories and a whopping 50 Hue light bulbs. Just a side note, however: each extra bulb will set you back $49.99. At that rate, it’ll cost you $2,500 just to max out on bulbs. You’d better bring a wallet-full of cash if you decide to get crazy with it. If you’re a lottery winner, you can also add additional Bridges to your network and continue to expand as needed.
The Bridge’s power adapter consumes 100–240 V AC / 50–60Hz of electricity and outputs 5 V DC 600mA. In standby, it is responsible for 0.1W max.
Getting up and running with Hue is a breeze. Of all the smart home products I’ve been testing, this was the easy one to get set up, so far. You simply connect the Bridge to a power outlet, plug one end of the included Ethernet cable into the Bridge and the other end into your router.
From there, you’ll need to download and install the Philips Hue app from Google Play to complete setup. The app guides you through the process of adding lights and creating room and groups. Here’s a link for you.
Where the fun begins…
We’ve gone over all the technical stuff, so let’s get into the fun stuff, shall we? After you’ve added all of your lights to the Hue Bridge, it’s time to start customizing. Again, all of this is done from within the Hue app. Here’s a look at each tab and what it does.
I’m starting with the Settings tab, and so should you. That’s where you can set up bridges, rooms, lights, and accessories. You can also update the Bridge’s firmware, which I highly recommend doing. This will ensure you’re running the latest software for your Hue system and that it’s working as intended.
The “Home” tab provides an overview of all of your lights. Here, you can turn them all on and off, or control each room individually. Sliding left or right on a room dims or fades the brightness, and tapping on a room allows you to change colors or use pre-set ‘Scenes’. Scenes are combinations of colors, grouped together into themes.
Routines are all about automation. You can set your lights to turn on when you’re coming home or turn off when you’re leaving. The Hue app uses GPS location services to determine where you are and when to trigger Hue actions. You can also set your lights to turn on and off (“Wake up” and “Go to sleep”) at certain times of the day. Moreover, you can create custom Routines and timers, based on your needs.
The next tab allows you to log into your Hue account. You’ll need an account to be able to control your lights from any network connection. Enabling this makes it so you can control your lights, even when you’re not at home.
Friends of Hue
Friends of Hue is a list of services that Hue is compatible with. This includes all the major players, like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Nest, IFTTT, SmartThings, Comcast XFinity Home, and Logitech. In fact, Philips Hue works great with the Harmony Companion, which is the last product to hit the review desk.
Apps we like
This tab is essentially for the discovery of new apps to use with your Hue lighting system. We’ll have a round-up of the best Hue-tastic apps on Google Play in the coming weeks, but for now, I highly suggest you give Hue Disco a look. It’s an awesome 3rd-party app that syncs your Hue lights with music using your phone’s microphone to detect beats.
Hue Labs is an awesome way to try out new formulas and functionalities and provide feedback to the Hue development team. Some of the available labs include Multi-user geofencing, TV mimicking, advanced presence mimicking, personal wake up, and more.
You guessed it – this is where you’ll find news about the Hue app and Philips Hue in general.
Wrap-up and final thoughts
Philips Hue is absolutely awesome. In fact, I can’t find much to say bad about the starter kit or the bulbs themselves, except it’s all a bit pricey. Remember, we’re talking about $50 per light here. That’s a pretty penny for most. However, if money isn’t an issue, you’re doing yourself an injustice if you don’t buy into smart lighting, and more specifically, Philips Hue. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks again to our partners in crime over at Philips for the opportunity to review this awesome technology!