11 best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016 UK: Best smart bulbs and smart lighting – PC Advisor (registration)
Installing smart lighting is a simple first step on your way to a smart home. Here we reveal the best smart LED bulbs and best smart lighting for your connected home in the UK in 2015/2016, and explain the benefits of ditching those traditional incandescent bulbs for LED. Also see: Best smart heating systems 2015/2016 UK.Â
Some key benefits to using LED rather than incandescent bulbs are that they use less energy, produce less heat, and last much longer. But smart lighting is also pretty cool, with some of the bulbs we’ve listed below able to set mood lighting for the different rooms in your house, be controlled from afar or scheduled to turn on and off at preset times from your phone or tablet, and even to function as an alarm, gently waking you in the morning. Some of the smart bulbs we’ve listed can even blast out tunes from your ceiling.Â Â
But there are some down sides, too. A problem with LED lighting is that it’s still much more expensive than the technology it replaces. Yes, you’ll make savings on your energy bill and in buying fewer replacement bulbs, but how long will it take you to return your investment and start seeing those savings? That’s not something we can easily answer for you, since it will depend on how much you’re spending on and what you’re using to light your home right now, but you can see how much we’ve managed to save in our article LED vs Halogen: Why now could be the right time to invest in LED bulbs.Â
You can buy LED bulbs on the cheap, but as with any tech you’ll get what you pay for in the quality of light, brightness and coverage. We’d recommend sticking to well-known brands, and looking for those sold with decent warranties. Good returns policies are important, too, since there’s no guarantee that low-voltage LEDs will work on your particular transformers or dimmer switch.Â
Colour temperature and brightness are important for home use. The former is measured in Kelvin, where 2700-to 3000K is a warm white; higher values look cooler and lower values warmer. Brightness is measured in lumens – look to match or exceed that provided by your current bulb. Also see: Best smart switches: Belkin Wemo Insight Switch vs Efergy Ego – how smart is home automation?Â Â
The beam angle determines the spread of light the bulb produces. For replacing spotlights look for around 40 degrees; for replacing incandescent bulbs aim closer to 140 degrees.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Philips HueÂ
Starter Kit costs Â£176 from Amazon UK.Â
The Philips Hue is a remote-controlled lighting system for the home, using standard screw-fit lightbulbs that can be adjusted from a smartphone app.Â
That control extends to brightness, colour and timing – you can set your lights to come on at preset times, or when you approach or leave the home, and even entirely remotely over the internet when you’re miles away.Â
With the system set up, you can have three bulbs in the same room or set in different rooms, although many of the preset lighting schemes use complementary colours so work best with the three bulbs in view together.Â
The Philips Hue has been carefully developed to be a genuinely useful addition to the home. With a little exploration of its possibilities, and some of your own creativity to blend it with your home and lifestyle, it will literally light up your life.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Elgato AveaÂ
The Elgato Avea costs Â£35 per bulb from Amazon UK.Â
It might look fairly ordinary, but the Avea is a smart LED bulb you can control with your iPad or iPhone (Android is not currently supported). In fact, you can control up to 10 of them from a single iDevice, creating different mood lighting for every room in the house.Â
This 7W LED screw-fit bulb has a class A energy rating. You can set a static colour or choose from one of seven themes, which slowly flow through preset colours.Â Â
The Avea also functions as an alarm, turning on at a scheduled time. Rather than blinding you with light and forcing you to hide under the covers it’ll gradually brighten just like a natural sunrise.Â
The Elgato Avea is a good and affordable buy if you want a single Smart LED bulb. You can add to the system too, but the app is a little basic for our liking and the lack of Android support is a shame.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Belkin Wemo LED Lighting Starter SetÂ
The Belkin Wemo Starter set costs Â£79 from Amazon UK.Â
Unlike other smart lightbulbs the Belkin Wemo doesn’t change colour to suit your mood; it’s meant simply as a direct replacement for existing 60W incandescent bulbs, or the energy saving fluorescent equivalent.Â
The kit includes two bulbs: you can choose between bayonet or Edison Screw varieties. Each is rated at 800 lumens, which may not be as bright as your old-school incandescent, but it’s still impressive compared to many competing LED bulbs. You also get a Wemo Link in the pack, which acts as a bridge between the bulbs and your Wi-Fi router.Â Â
You create ‘rules’ for the lamps to work and these can be for them to turn on and off at sunset and sunrise, or at times you choose. They can beÂ individually named and controlled, and you can even set a dimming period so the lamp fades in to your set brightness over a few minutes (or even up to 30 minutes). You can also define a sleep period, so the bulb will turn off after a set time, just like a TV or radio. We like the ability to dim the lights, too – and at set times.Â
The Wemo LED Lighting Starter Set is a good introduction to smart lighting. The app is easy to use and lacks only geo-fencing, and the Link plug has Wi-Fi so doesn’t need to be connected directly to your router unlike Philips’ hub. We’d like to see the price drop, but if you know you’ll benefit from the smart aspects or have other Wemo sensors or gadgets, this is a good choice.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Olixar Light Beats Bluetooth Speaker BulbÂ
A single Bluetooth bulb costs Â£24.99 from MobileFun.Â
A Bluetooth speaker and a light bulb aren’t things you would normally put together, but it’s a combination that really works. Olixar’s Light Beats Bluetooth Speaker Bulb is a very cool gadget, but not unique. Also see the MiPow Playbulb and Sengled Pulse below.Â Â
But we love it. The beauty of pairing light bulb and speaker is that, provided the light is turned on, the speaker is fired up and ready to go. There’s no fiddling with buttons, and no need to charge the speaker or plug it into a wall outlet. You just grab your phone or tablet, connect to the Olixar Speaker Bulb over Bluetooth 4.0, and are instantly ready to blare out music, podcasts and audiobooks from the ceiling.Â
This high up, central position is ideal for rocking out audio without obstruction. Not that this 3W speaker is especially loud, but loud enough – about the right level to create a nice atmosphere and fill the room without annoying those in the flat or room upstairs.Â
The Olixar Light Beats Bluetooth Speaker Bulb is such a cool idea, really useful and a fantastic gift for that person who has everything. There are a couple of down sides, such as its ability to function only when the light is turned on and the fact the speaker will die with the LED, but it’ll outlast any traditional bulb and it could even save you on your electricity bill.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: 1byone Smart LED bulb
The 1byone Smart LED bulb costs Â£24.99 from Amazon UK.
Much like the MiPow Playbulb Color listed below, the 1byone Smart LED Bulb is an LED lightbulb with a built-in Bluetooth speaker. Unlike the Olixar above it will change colour as well as playing music.
We had issues with the poorly translated Chinese app, but once connected you can tap on the Lamp tab and control the colour and brightness. 300 lumens is roughly the output of a 20- or 30W halogen lamp so it’s not bright enough to light a room.
It’s intended more for mood lighting. Compared to a more expensive colour bulb such as Philips Hue or LIFX, and most dedicated white lamps the ‘white’ setting is very cold and bluish. There’s no easy way to get a warm white hue, and even the oranges and yellows are quite weak in comparison to better quality bulbs.
To play music, just go to the Music tab where you’ll find a long list of the music stored on your phone. While the speaker is reasonably loud and can fill an average-size living room, the quality isn’t great. But that’s probably not why you’d buy a colour-changing speaker bulb anyway – this thing is a great talking point.
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Lava BrightSounds portable Bluetooth Speaker and Smart LampÂ
Lava BrightSounds costs Â£39.99 from Amazon UK.Â
Smart lightbulbs are the latest addition to the smart home, but what about when you’re away from home? We love this Lava BrightSounds smart lamp and portable Bluetooth speaker, and reckon it’s one of the best gadgets you’ll take camping this year.Â Â
Okay, so the Lava BrightSounds is not a mains-connected smart bulb like the other examples in this round-up. But it’s dimmable, portable, waterproof, rechargeable, takes phone calls and plays music, and it does use an LED bulb, which makes it longer-lasting and more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. All that makes this the smartest lamp we’ve ever seen. It’ll also make a great addition to a kid’s nightstand, able to allay their fears of the dark and play them lullabies as they gently fall asleep.Â
With a lithium-ion battery inside, this Bluetooth speaker and smart lamp can offer up to eight hours of music playback, or up to 10 hours use as a lamp, all off a three- to four-hour charge from empty. You can also use it while it’s plugged into the mains.Â
We’re pretty taken with the Lava BrightSounds. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re planning a camping or festival trip, a BBQ party in the garden, or even just fancy a cool reading- or night light, this all-in-one Bluetooth speaker and LED lamp is worth a look.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: What else is available? The best of the restÂ
We’ve not yet tested the following LED smart bulbs and smart lighting, but they are well worth a look.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: LIFXÂ
LIFX is a Wi-Fi-enabled multicolour LED bulb that is controlled via an app on your smartphone. It’s reasonably expensive, with a single bulb costing from Â£64.99 at Amazon UK, but many will find it worth the outlay, offering up to 16 million colours and brightness to rival a 75W incandescent bulb. LIFX claims each bulb lasts 27 years and, like the Elgato Avea you can control multiple bulbs, set an ‘alarm’ and soon will be able to dim the lights.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: TabÃ¼Â LÃ¼menÂ
TabÃ¼‘s LÃ¼men is a Bluetooth 4.0- rather than Wi-Fi-connected bulb, which operates at up to 30ft via a mobile app for iOS and Android. You can control up to 10 of these smart bulbs from a single device, and the company claims each will last 30 times longer than a traditional bulb and use five times less power. TabÃ¼Â LÃ¼men lets you control colour and brightness, set a gentle wake-up alarm, and the LÃ¼men will also notify you of incoming calls. Each bulb costs Â£44.95 from Amazon UK; TabÃ¼Â also sells the LÃ¼Mini and LÃ¼men Strip.Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Sengled PulseÂ
Pulse from Sengled is another Bluetooth speaker bulb like the Olixar Light Beats, but with a JBL multi-channel speaker within it is quite a bit more expensive – 179.99 Euro from Sengled, or Â£149.99 from Amazon UK. You do get a pair of bulbs for that price, however, and these JBL bulbs are dimmable.Â Â
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: MiPow PlayBulbÂ
The third speaker bulb in this round-up, the MiPow Playbulb is a Â£59.99 Bluetooth 4.0 speaker bulb that can be controlled from your mobile device. It’s also dimmable.
We’ve reviewed the Color edition of the PlayBulb (read our MiPow PlayBulb Color review), and right now you can scoop some fantastic savings over at GearBest.
Best smart lightbulbs 2015/2016: Insteon LED bulbsÂ
InsteonÂ creates LED bulbs much like Belkin’s Wemo that you can buy in the UK from Amazon for around Â£30 each. These bulbs are white only, but controlled by your phone and dimmable. Plus, Insteon sells a larger bulb for recessed lights.Â
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