There are many kinds of smart lighting. Nanoleaf makes really fun decorative panels that can pulse and change color 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.
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 colors 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 favorite 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 color 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?
That depends on what you’re buying. A White and Color starter kit with two color changing bulbs, a Hue bridge and a smart light switch will currently set you back about £110; a pair of white bulbs is about £23, a pair of GU10 spotlight bulbs £59.99 and a pair of color changing standard or candle bulbs around £80. Colour-changing table lamps are around £189, floor lamps £279 and outdoor light strips about £170. A Hue Play kit including HDMI sync box and a gradient light strip for a 55-inch TV is about £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.
Also read: What is a smart light switch and why should you get one?