Philips Hue Smart Lighting REVIEW
It’s not just about colourful lighting, but an explosion of smart and colourful ideas around the home writes Philips Hue fan PAT PILCHER.
From $19.95 (Hue white filament bulb)/$109.95 (Hub)
Smart lighting is one of the first things people buy after getting an Amazon Echo, Siri or its Google equivalent. You’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss with smart lights is about, but there are some compelling reasons for smart lighting’s wild popularity.
With smart lighting, you can bring any colour you want from a palette of millions into your home. Jazzing up your home lighting to match your mood opens up some cool possibilities.
Perhaps the most widely known brand of smart lights is Philips Hue. Not only are they supported by virtually all smart home ecosystems, but they also have one of the widest ranges of smart lights available. If you’ve got a lighting need, the chances are good that there is a Philips Hue light that’ll fit the bill, which is something most other competing brands can’t match.
Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Riveting writing on music, tech, hi-fi, music, film, TV and other cool stuff. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
So, how does Hue work? The secret sauce to most Hue setups is the Hue Hub, a small squarish puck that plugs into your router and has a button on its top (which, when you press it, pairs it with hue bulbs). The hub uses low power Zigbee wireless to communicate with connected Hue smart lights, and each Hue light will connect to Hue lights nearest to them as well, allowing you to cover your entire home and a good chunk of your outside property with ease. The downside to this approach is that the hub is an added cost and takes up an Ethernet port on your router. You can get around this by using newer Philips Hue bulbs that are Bluetooth connected and don’t need a hub.
Driving a Hue setup is done using the Hue app (Android/iOS/Windows/Mac). The Hue app is super-intuitive, allowing you to change colours and brightness on groups of bulbs or on a bulb-by-bulb basis. If that is too fiddly, hundreds of pre-set scenes can be saved to the app and used instead. As well as the Hue app, dozens of third-party Hue apps are available for most operating systems.
The variety of different Hue bulbs available is impressive. From standard indoor bulbs (with Edison screw or bayonet fittings), Hue bulbs can be had as downlights, spotlights, and light strips (which, when paired with the Hue HDMI adaptor, will shine on-screen colours from your telly onto the wall behind the TV). Then there’s the Hue outdoor range. This consists of weatherproof low voltage bollard type lights, all the way through to spotlights, and mains powered outdoor lights.
Getting up and running with Hue lights in your home/garden is dead easy. After installing the Hue app on a phone/PC/Tablet, you’re prompted to tap a button on the Hue hub to connect your Hue bulbs. All Hue bulbs can be grouped into rooms, and each bulb has a descriptive name. Colours are selected from a colour wheel, while brightness is chosen using an on-screen slider. Once your bulbs are set to the colours that give your room or garden the look you’re after, you can save colour and brightness settings as a pre-set scene that can be recalled for later use.
As cool as that sounds, you can also drive Hue bulbs using Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, or Alexa. Saying “Alexa, turn on downstairs bedroom lights” and having your Hue bulbs gently glow up into the last pre-set colour and brightness level feels magic. If that were all, it’d be cool, but there’s more. So much more.
With IFTT.com, all sorts of really nifty tricks are possible with Hue lights. Want the Hue lights to illuminate as it gets dark? No problem, create an account on IFTT.com, and you’ll get guided through a near idiot-proof (well, it worked fine for me) setup process. Do you want your Hue lights to flash in your favourite team’s colours when they score a goal? Easy-peasy. My favourite IFTT.com trick is having nominated Hue lights switch on if my smartphone is detected within 11 metres of my home between 5 pm and 9 pm. It makes navigating my dark garden path a hell of a lot safer.
Philips also has a bunch of cool features baked into the Hue app. If you’re heading away on holiday, you can set the Hue bulbs in your house to make it look like you’re still at home by lighting up specific rooms on a semi-random basis designed to mimic how you’d normally use your lights. The Hue Labs part of the app also has a bunch of nifty experimental features that can greatly extend the usefulness of your Hue lights.
There are a few catches with Hue. For a start, they command a steep price premium, and as mentioned, you need to fork out extra money to buy the Hue Hub. There are cheaper smart bulbs available, but few are as easy to set up and use, and virtually no other brand has such wide support or a bigger range of lights available. Because of this, Philips Hue scores an effortless 10 out of 10.