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    Here's A Bright Idea, Investing In Some Smart Light Bulbs

    Reinventing the light bulb? Whose bright idea was this?

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    These are boom times for smart-home technology, particularly for smart lighting. Nowadays you’ve got smart light bulbs that’ll do your illuminated bidding, from changing colors and dimming on command to syncing up to match your mood or leisurely pursuits.

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    In short: Smart bulbs are a good time, and only when you’re able to control the light like a supreme domestic being can you understand how practical they can be.

    Where to begin your smart lighting journey, however, depends on your ambition, and that’s what makes this review slightly different than others we’ve done. While we tested all light bulbs for brightness, usability, ease of setup, and sheer convenience, we also put a lot of consideration into functionality and home setups.

    Editor's Note: We're currently updating these picks! Check back soon for more.

    Eufy Lumos Tunable White Smart Bulb


    Whether it’s just a few connected bulbs or a full-blown lighting system, what they say about smart light bulbs is true: They’re the easiest way to up the IQ of any home, and the good news is they’re more accessible (read: affordable) than ever.

    Case in point: Anker’s smart-home brand Eufy and its Lumos smart bulb collection. When compared to our $$ and $$$ picks, the Lumos Tunable White Light Bulb is nothing particularly fancy, but it does offer dimming, scheduling, and temperature-tuning features, plus an easy-to-use app and compatibility with your voice assistant of choice — all without the need of a hub.


    Here’s something to keep in mind about smart lighting from the get-go: Some smart bulbs require a hub, a dedicated device that allows all your smart-home devices to communicate together. Other bulbs, like those from Eufy, work by connecting straight to Wi-Fi. There are pros and cons to both, but generally speaking, hubs provide better reliability and more control and customization. They do, however, cost a pretty penny — while bulbs that connect via Wi-Fi are affordable and easy to install but rely entirely on the strength and bandwidth of your home network.

    So if you live in a small home or apartment with no spotty areas, or if you’re venturing into this space knowing you’ll only ever want to replace two or three bulbs, Eufy makes sense both functionally and economically. But if you know you’ll want to replace every fixture in your abode at some point down the line, we recommend scrolling down to our $$$ pick, the Philips Hue Starter Kit, which comes with a proprietary hub that’ll set you up with a better foundation to run a large-scale operation.


    For most home situations and introductory needs, though, Eufy should do the trick. And while we’re partial to recommending the tunable white for its simplicity and reliability relative to its low cost, Eufy also peddles a wallet-pleasing soft-white variant ($11), as well as a color variant ($55).

    As far as actual light quality is concerned, Eufy shined brighter than all other bulbs we tested in this price category, which included bulbs from Minger, MagicLight and GE, to name a few. We’ve gotta be honest: The budget price range left a lot of be desired, with most options unable to provide decent lighting across a standard-size living room. And don’t get us started on cheap color-changing bulbs. “Harsh,” “nightmarish,” and “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, my eyes!” — these are at least three ways our testers described them.


    Maybe you already own a Eufy robo vacuum or a Eufy security camera. Maybe you didn’t know Eufy made either of those things. Either way, you’ll be able to control the brand’s mini-ecosystem of smart-home products via a delightfully simple companion app. Like other light bulbs with built-in Wi-Fi, setup is as easy as 1-2-3: Screw it in, turn it on, and pair it with the app. If you’ve got Google Assistant or Alexa and prefer controlling the light with your voice, you can do that too. Sure, the features are basic, but that’s the point of this budget-friendly range. The tunable 800-lumen white bulb is dimmable and you can change the color temperature, but there are no features beyond native on-off scheduling. So make no mistake: This smart bulb’s convenience is in how it can be turned on and off remotely via the app or your voice.

    Some smart-home enthusiasts seem convinced that Philips Hue is the *best* option out there, but if you’ve got modest lighting needs, we say the Eufy Tunable White Light Bulb is a great choice that provides superb brightness for the price and just enough control to turn your home into a smart one.

    Get it from Amazon for $14.

    Kasa Multicolor Smart Light Bulb (KL130)


    You may know TP-Link for making some of the best Wi-Fi networking solutions in the business. Turns out they make excellent smart light bulbs, too! Like Eufy, TP-Link’s smart-home brand Kasa offers a lineup of Wi-Fi-connected smart bulbs with full color and temperature control through a companion app. But unlike Eufy, Kasa provides a more versatile ecosystem thanks to the brand’s lineup of popular Wi-Fi smart plugs and IFTTT compatibility — but more on that later.


    So you wanna get fancy and add a pop of color to your home? Our $$ pick, Kasa’s KL130 Multicolor Smart Light Bulb, has you covered. Out of all the mid-priced lights we tested, this bulb casted the most pleasant glow, with a rich but not-too-rich color saturation that didn’t make us not want to dig out our eyes after a few hours. Rounding out Kasa’s bulb offerings are the dimmable and soft-white versions that we believe, when linked all together, make for the best smart home lighting solution without going all in.

    Kasa may not have as many lighting options as Lifx, our $$ and $$$ runner-up, but none of our testers felt particularly compelled to spend over $200 on tile lights. Plus, at full price, Lifx’s flagship multicolor bulb costs more than Kasa’s, and our testers couldn’t find a reason to crown Lifx a winner, especially when adding the convenience of Kasa’s companion app into the equation.


    The key to a good smart bulb app is speed — how quickly you can navigate through menus or sub-menus to perform a desired function — and Kasa ticks this box, no question. Easy enough for anyone to manage, the app gives users the power to schedule lights and set scenes in an instant. In addition to on/off scheduling, scene-setting, and energy monitoring, the Kasa Smart app also boasts an Auto-White feature, which automatically sets your bulb to mimic natural light patterns throughout the day. The app also lets you “group” light bulbs and other smart Kasa products together, which now includes a well-reviewed security camera and a whole host of popular indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi plugs that’ll turn any home appliance into a smart one (we’re partial to the Kasa Smart Plug Lite).

    Another perk Kasa has over most smart lighting systems is IFTTT compatibility, meaning you can automate your lights to behave in certain ways based on your needs and home setup. If you’re wondering what the heck that means, you’re not alone. IFTTT, short for “If This, Then That,” it just another way to give you more control of your smart home. Basically, the free service allows you to manage simple if/then statement for all your connected devices. For example, you can input something like “If it’s 7 p.m., then turn on the porch light,” or “If my doorbell is pressed, then flash the living room lights.”


    We know what you’re thinking: “It’s smart. We get it. But what about light quality?” We’re happy to report that Kasa performs as advertised. The 800-lumen bulbs we tested were bright and responsive, and the color quality was more or less on par with our $$$ pick. We should note that the KL line is a welcome update to Kasa’s original LB line, which is still available but seeing a slow phase-out. According to the company, the new KL bulbs are 10% slimmer and shorter than the LB line, and we’ll add they 100% look and feel like a more substantial product.

    If you’d like to light up a couple of rooms in your home, spending the extra money is worth it. With Kasa, you get distinguished light quality with a few more extras, and a solid ecosystem worth growing into. All in, Kasa’s KL smart light bulb line is perfect for anyone enthusiastic about smart lighting. And though it won’t provide everything our $$$ pick does, the ecosystem is surprisingly robust.

    Get it from Amazon for $30.

    Philips Hue Smart Bulb Starter Kit


    Philips Hue smart light bulbs prove that sticker shock is real, especially when you look at how much it would cost to put them in all the rooms of your home. But there’s a reason why the Hue system is trusted by everyone from Wirecutter to Business Insider. It works with everything. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Home Kit — no matter which major company you’re building your smart-home ecosystem around, Hue will fit right in, and it won’t drag down your Wi-Fi network while doing so, either.

    When figuring out whether a certain smart-home product would be right for you, there’s a mental checklist to tick off: Does it work with Android or iOS (or desktops)? Does it work with Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant? And does it have the capability to be expanded in the future? With Hue, the answer to all these things is a resounding yes! It works across different software and voice platforms and even has expansion capabilities with other third-party apps.


    Let’s address the Hue bridge hub first, because you’ll definitely need one. While smart bulbs that piggyback on home Wi-Fi networks (see: our $ and $$ winners) are an attractive budget solution, bulbs that require hubs, like Philips Hue, are for folks who prize scale and reliability. Let’s put it this way: Smart TVs, computers, phones, voice assistants, among other electronics, all fight for your router’s attention (read: bandwidth). Add in a host of smart light bulbs, and you’ll quickly notice a downgrade in service.

    But since Philips Hue works on its own mesh network, it’s much more stable, and results are seamlessly instantaneous. To communicate with others light bulbs and smart-home devices, the Hue bridge uses the Zigbee protocol, a term you may have already come across in your smart bulb research. It’s just the underlying language the hub is using to talk to the bulbs, and what allows you to schedule and synchronize lighting alongside your smart household appliances.


    A starter kit gets you a Hue bridge, plus your choice between a few different configuration packs. We recommend the four-bulb white and color ambiance kit, but you’ve got options (the Hue White and tunable Hue White Ambiance packs are naturally slightly cheaper upfront). Once you’ve got the bridge set up, it’s smooth sailing from there. Once screwed in, bulbs are set up automatically and seen by the app once the single button on the hub is pressed. All in, Philips Hue can control up to 50 light bulbs, no problem.

    After a Hue bulb is connected and configured in its native app, there are plenty of presets and options to play around with, including preset lighting scenes to accommodate reading, cooking, or partying. One of our favorite advanced options is a timer that can flash lights in a specific room when a timer has finished. All this, of course, comes from years of honing a vast ecosystem, of which we should note is worth exploring once you’re ready. Hue offers more lighting options than just bulbs! Think lighting strips, ceiling fixtures, and even portable smart lights.


    Beyond first-party software options directly from Hue, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of third-party software options that can control your bulbs and add-in things like music syncopation. Not cool enough? There’s an app called Sync My Lights that will match the bulb color to your movie choice and change colors to match the movie scenes. The app Visualfy will let you use your bulbs to create visual alerts for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. You can even sync your lights to match, say, the Golden State Warriors’ game as the action unfolds on the court — incredibly cool.

    Point is, in addition to quality lighting, you’re paying for an ecosystem that is massive and doesn’t lock you in to a certain phone or software platform. In terms of quality and functionality, there’s no hesitation: Hue delivers on its smart lighting promises, and proves that the future is, indeed, bright.

    Get it from Amazon for $170.