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Home / Apple / Philips Hue Bluetooth + Zigbee smart bulb review: The best smart lighting has improved (but no less expensive)

Philips Hue Bluetooth + Zigbee smart bulb review: The best smart lighting has improved (but no less expensive)



Yes, you can control the latest Philips Hue bulbs with just your smartphone or smart speaker via Bluetooth, which saves you buying Hue Bridge. But without having the bridge, it very much limits your choices.

Being a smart, talented home enthusiast with smart lighting in every room of my home, I sometimes forget that not everyone is interested in diving right into the depths of the pool. So I have two different recommendations for the latest generation of Philips Hue smart bulbs: For enthusiasts like me I say go for it! For people who just want to dabble in smart lighting, I say there are cheaper alternatives if you are convinced that you won't wade deeper into the smart home water.

The quality of light these new Hue bulbs produce is as good as the bulbs that came before, and they have a new feature the others did not: support for Bluetooth as well as the more robust network protocol Zigbee. This change means that you can control these new bulbs with smart device (or smart speaker) without having to also buy the Philips Hue Zigbee-to-Wi-Fi bridge.

  hue br30 bluetooth ] Michael Brown / IDG

Signify now delivers its next-generation Philips Hue bulbs in BR30 (shown here) and A19 form factors, but the entire line will eventually support Bluetooth in addition to Zigbee.

On the one hand, it's great for dummies because it will save them at least $ 50 (MSRP for Bridge is $ 59.99, but it's often on sale and it costs even less when bought in a bundle with the bulbs). On the other hand, you can buy a full-color smart bulb like the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi bulb (model KL130) for about the same price ($ 29.99 for the A19 style) that Philips expects to pick for its tunable – White bulbs (you can change the color temperature of Hue White Ambiance bulbs from warm white to cool white, but you do not get the rainbow colors). If you don't mind adjusting the lamp's color temperature, the dimmable Philips Hue White bulbs cost $ 14.99 each, which is about $ 5 less than what TP-Link expects to pick for their dimmable whites pears. [19659002] Wi-Fi bulbs like the TP-Link KL130 (and LIFX Smart Lighting Lineup) also provide another advantage. If you are not using the bridge, Philips Hue means the bulb's reliability in the relatively short range of Bluetooth that you and your smartphone must be in the same room as the bulb you want to control. The same goes for an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker. A Wi-Fi bulb, on the other hand, will be limited only by your router. And if you have a good mask, it should be anywhere in your home.

Are the bulbs really all you ever want?

But before you conclude that Wi-Fi smart bulbs are the way to go, ask yourself if you think you would like to go further in pursuit of a smart home. The Philips Hue ecosystem is bigger and wider than any other smart light family on the market; it includes not only the A19 bulbs you want to install in lamps and pendants, but also BR30 (curved reflector) downlights you want to install in roof boxes, PAR (parabolic reflector) bulbs, GU (glass reflector with U-shaped, dual-pin base) bulbs and a variety of other custom shapes and sizes, including lights designed to complement the TV show's experience. TP-Link has LED strip lights and BR30 downlights – and that's it.

Philips also offers Hue-based lighting fixtures for both indoor and outdoor installations, including landscape and track lighting. There is also a whole collection of accessories, ranging from indoor and outdoor motion sensors to portable switches – and it's just the Philips Hue branded product collection. (An accessory you can use without having the Hue Bridge is the Hue Dimmer Switch.) Explore the Hue program's friends and find dozens of third-party products. No competitor comes close.

  philips color tone with bluetooth Michael Brown / IDG

The A19 version of Philips Hue smart light does not look different from previous generations. The only difference is the addition of a Bluetooth radio.

None of these options are affordable, but each unit we have considered to date has been of very high quality. (I should also note that while the entire Philips Hue line finally has Bluetooth features, only the A19 and BR30 form factors have it today.)

One of the features that links many of them These first and third party products together are an addiction to the Philips Hue Bridge. If you do not have one, you are limited to distributing about 10 of the new generation bulbs, you cannot mix new and old bulbs together and you are barred from integrating most of the cool and otherwise-Hue compatible products with them. But if you just want to distribute one or more smart bulbs without making a big commitment, these bulbs will do it for you. And if you decide to put the bridge down the road, Philips has also covered you there.

  philips hue bridge Signify

Trust me, you want the Philips Hue Bridge rather than later. [19659021] Very easy installation

Since you do not have access to all the Philips Hue features without the bridge, Signify developed a new version of its app tailored for Bluetooth SKU (it is called Hue Bluetooth and it is available for Android and iOS). Once you have installed the app on your smartphone or tablet, Philips Hue Bluetooth bulbs are a breeze to install. It doubles if you buy them from Amazon: Use them with an Echo smart speaker, and if the email address associated with your Amazon account is the same as the one you use for your Philips Hue account, the bulb will automatically pair with the echo It is in the same room (within 30 feet) less than a minute after the bulb is turned on.

In my experience, Alexa announced that she had given the new bulb a name ("First Light") and added it to her repertoire before I even signed up for the Hue Bluetooth app. The name Alexa gives the bulb won't necessarily be the same as what you want to see in the Hue app, but you can easily change it in both places so they match.

  philips hue bt app Michael Brown / IDG

You can control all Philips Hue bulbs at once – turn them on or off or mute them – or you can control them individually. But you can't allocate them rooms without having the bridge.

However, this type of direct compatibility is first limited to the 3rd generation Echo Dot, the 2nd generation Echo Show and the 1st and 2nd generation Echo Plus. Once set up, you can talk to some echo or the Alexa app on the smart device to control the light (though it will be the echo that is in the room with the bulb that at least controls it). Google Assistant and Google Home Smart Speakers are also supported, but you must record the bulb through Google's home page in the usual way. If you want to use Apple's Siri to control the bulb, you need the Hue Bridge.

You can use voice commands to turn the bulb on and off, change the color temperature (in my case, "set the first light to a warm white" or "put the first light to a cool white"), change its absolute color ("set first light to green ", for example) and change the brightness (" weak first light to 45 percent "). When you turn the bulb off, it will keep the same setting when you turn it back on.

Limitations

One thing you can't do with voice commands puts the bulbs into light scenes. You need to launch the app if you want to light "Frosty Dawn", "Midsummer Sun" or any of the other preset light scenes available in one of the Hue apps. You can also use the app to create and save your own lighting scenes. The effect these scenes have on the various light forms will of course vary with their abilities. If you choose the "Honolulu" scene, the white and color razor of a reddish orange glow at about 40 percent brightness, but the white light will only adjust to a very warm white with 40 percent brightness and the white lamp will only dim to its value.

Remember that you must be in Bluetooth range to control the bulbs with your smartphone. Philips says you have to be within 30 feet and in the same room as the bulb, but I experienced longer range using my Google Pixel 2 XL and managed to control the lights from an adjoining room. The mileage may vary.

Transfer of bulbs to Hue Bridge

  transfer hat bulbs from bt to bridge 0 Michael Brown / IDG

It is pushbutton easy to transfer control of Bluetooth / Zigbee bulbs from the smart device to the Philips Hue Bridge .

When you get a taste for what smart lighting can do for your home, you want to add more of it, where you will quickly hit the 10-bulb boundary that Bluetooth imposes (you can control up to 50 Hue bulbs with the bridge and you can add more bridges to your network if you have more than 50 bulbs). Fortunately, Signify makes it very easy to transfer previously installed bulbs from Bluetooth control to the Philips Hue Bridge. When you have the hardwired bridge to the router, simply open the Hue BT app, click Transfer to the Hue Bridge button, and then click I have a bridge button on the next screen . Tap the physical button on the bridge itself and the app transfers the Bluetooth lights you choose (some or all) to the bridge. The whole process took less than five minutes to transfer the four bulbs I tested.

One of the many benefits of using the Hue Bridge is the ability to assign Hue light bulbs to rooms so you can control all the lights in one room at the same time, turn them all on or off at the touch of a button, all of them with one simple slider, or insert a lighting scene into the app. Having the bridge also allows you to establish space-based routines (including a geofencing setting that will set your lights to a scene as you go to another scene when you return home); set your lights to work on a schedule or a timer; check your lights while away from home; and much more.

A worthy successor in the Philips Hue line

Signifies Philips Hue bulbs are by far the most expensive smart bulbs you can buy, but they are also the most skilled and no bulbs we have tested, producing higher-quality light. And it claims that the Hue ecosystem is bigger and more complete than any other smart lighting system you encounter.

Adding Bluetooth makes it easier and cheaper to get started with Hue lighting because it saves you the cost of the bridge, and you can still control them with Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands (using compatible smart speakers ). But the bulbs themselves are no less expensive than the previous generation. And most people want the bridge in the end anyway, it just offers too many attractive benefits. Fortunately, Philips makes the transfer almost easier than initially setting up the bulbs on Bluetooth. So is the new generation worthy? Absolutely.


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