There are many kinds of smart lighting for your smart home.
Nanoleaf makes really fun decorative panels that can pulse and change colour with your music. Ikea’s indoor and outdoor smart lights are typically elegant and affordable. Govee makes fun and funky smart lights at rock-bottom prices. And Philips Hue which remains the de-facto smart lighting choice
If you can imagine it, there’s a Hue for it. A light strip on the back of your TV that syncs with movies, TV shows and video games? Filament-style lightbulbs with LED energy efficiency? Colour-changing wall washers that redecorate your room at the touch of a button? Outdoor lights of every shape and size? Big lights, little bulbs and everything in between? That’s Hue.
If you’re considering taking the plunge with a Hue system, here’s what you need to know.
What’s so great about Philips Hue?
Hue was largely responsible for making smart lighting popular. Its bulbs and lights are excellent and very energy efficient, its app is particularly good and it plays nicely with multiple smart home systems. More of that in a moment. The app makes it easy to create complex light scenes involving multiple bulbs and lights, and to switch between them instantly. If you’re in a rental, it means you can dramatically redecorate your home with light instead of incurring the wrath of your landlord. The new Tap Dial Switch is a brilliant piece of tech that’s recently been launched for physical control of your devices.
With the Hue app, you can set up clever routines for your lamp: in the bedroom, you can have it wake you up by gently increasing in intensity before switching off when it’s time to go to work; in the living room, you can have it turn on when you arrive home. When you’re listening to music, you can switch to disco lighting (hey, nobody’s watching). Or you can set a mood by letting the colours slowly change, mimicking the glow of candles or a log fire.
What’s bad about Philips Hue?
It’s one of the most expensive options for pretty much any kind of setup, whether that’s replacing your kitchen downlighters or extending the colours from your TV to fill your walls. But that said, it’s often the only option for those things. Philips’ range of lights and bulbs is truly massive and getting larger almost by the week.
How can I use Hue smart lights in my home?
We’ve invested pretty heavily in Hue lights so we’ll talk you through our setup. In our living room we have Hue bulbs in all the table lamps, floor lamps and hanging lamps, so we can change the mood of the room in a second with our voice assistant: “Hey Siri, turn the reading light on” or “Alexa, set the lights to Book Time”. We’ve also got an automation that turns some of the lights on at sunset.
We also have a Hue Gradient Lightstrip on the back of our TV, connected to a Hue Play HDMI Sync box. All our consoles and TV devices are connected to that, so whatever is on-screen is passed through the Hue box so the light strip can match it. This is hands down our favourite Hue feature.
We also have Hue lights in other rooms, so when we come home a cheery “I’m home!” lights our way from the front door to the living room, while a “turn the lights off everywhere” makes sure everything is dark when we go to bed. We also have a motion detector in the hallway that turns a light on if one of the kids is up and about in the middle of the night. Last but not least, we have one of the new Hue light strips to put on our Christmas tree so we have smart lighting for Santa too.
And that’s just scratching the surface. We could use location services so our Hue lights turn on when we arrive home and turn off when we leave; the Hue Sync app to make our lights pulse along with our music; outdoor lights to wash our home with colour and provide mood lighting for social occasions; replacement bulbs to turn our dull old kitchen downlighters into something more colourful; and the IFTTT (If This Then That) app to create all kinds of exciting automations. In the past we’ve also used third party apps to create Hue lightning storms and spooky scenes for Halloween.
What do I need for Hue lights?
To begin with, all you need is Wi-Fi or Bluetooth the latest generation of Hue bulbs will happily work without a hub and you can control them with the Hue app. However, for the fun stuff or to integrate with your existing smart home setup, you’ll need the Hue Bridge. This is sold in every Hue starter kit as well as separately, and it’s a little box that plugs into a spare port on your broadband router. It then connects your Hue bulbs and devices to your network and unlocks all their power – such as syncing with Spotify or automatically running certain light scenes at certain times.
What smart home systems is Hue compatible with?
With the Bridge installed, pretty much all of them: Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings and the new Matter standard. That one’s particularly important because it’s a new standard that’s designed to get all smart home kit to talk to all other smart home kit without you having to worry if it wants a Google or an Apple or an Amazon device to talk to.
How much does Hue cost?
It depends on what you’re buying. A White and Colour starter kit with two colour changing bulbs, a Hue bridge and a smart light switch will currently set you back about $100/£110; a pair of white bulbs is about $20/£23, a pair of GU10 spotlight bulbs $60£60 and a pair of colour changing standard or candle bulbs around £80. Colour-changing table lamps are around $199/£189. A Hue Play kit including HDMI sync box and a gradient light strip for a 55-inch TV is about $400/£390.
These are on the high side compared to rivals, but as long-time Hue users we’ve never had a single issue with build quality or longevity, and Hue’s sociability makes it really easy to add to and control with your smart home app or smart speaker.
We’d strongly recommend buying Hue bulbs and devices during big sales events, because they’re always discounted then – with a few exceptions, such as the Play HDMI box that never seems to be anything other than full price. Check out the latest Philips Hue discounts.
The top Philips Hue products to buy today
Philips Hue Signe Gradient Lamp
Assuming you don’t live in a castle, a smart lamp is the perfect accompaniment to any room.
With the Philips Hue Signe Gradient Lamps you can set the mood by blending millions of colours for the exact effect you’re looking for, or just relax with a warm or cool white light. It can also flash, or dim and brighten at slower rates – ideal for convincing your neighbours you’re conversing with aliens.
Available in Floor and Table versions, the Gradient Lamp offers up to 16 million colours. You can control it via Bluetooth using the free Hue app, available on Android and iOS. If you have a Hue Bridge (see right) it also becomes compatible with Google, Amazon and Apple systems, so you can operate it with voice commands. Throw in a Hue Play HDMI Sync Box (£230) and you can even sync up your lights with what’s on TV.
You don’t need one, but the Hue Bridge unlocks the power of your Hue smart lighting gear. With a Bridge connected to your router, you can set up all sorts of routines and automation – grouping your lights so they react together and controlling your lights from your phone anywhere with an internet connection.
B22 Smart Bulb
This versatile little bulb is available in 800, 1100 and 1600-lumen versions. As well as this B22 type, it also comes with E14, E27 and GU10 fittings. It can output coloured, warm white and cool white light, and is controlled through the Hue app. It’s also compatible with the usual smart assistants.
Tap Dial Switch
This wireless light controller can be mounted on the wall, and the circular dial can then be taken out so you can use it elsewhere. Available in black or white, it will control up to three rooms or zones, both indoor and outdoor. It’s completely wireless, so can be mounted anywhere with no special skills required.
Lightstrip Outdoor (2m)
A snake-like strip of light is a great way of personalising your outdoor space. Have it shine brightly along a garden path, light the way to your garage or illuminate your porch. Also available in a 5m length (£190), this outdoor lightstrip offers instant wireless dimming and is, of course, weatherproof.
Bloom table lamp
This quirky little lamp is great for setting the mood. It can be used as a standalone item or as part of an existing Hue system.
Lucca outdoor wall light
Extend your smart lighting system outdoors, including geofencing skills, with this wall light. You will need a Hue Bridge.
This ceiling light gives a soft upward glow and a powerful downward light. It’s ideal over a table, and you can adjust the warmth of its white glow.