8 Best Smart Lights for 2022

Smart home devices are everywhere, and smart lights that you can control and automate, via voice commands or a smartphone or other smart device, are one of the easiest ways to jump on the bandwagon. If you’re in the market for a smart bulb or smart switch and leaving your old lights behind, you’ll have more options than ever when shopping. Plus, increased competition means there are plenty of affordable options to choose from.

Best Smart Lights for 2022

How affordable? You can build a complete smart lighting system with super cheap white light smart bulbs for under $10, color-changing bulbs for under $15, solar-powered outdoor smart lights for under $35 each, plus dimmable smart bulbs. Light switches and nifty new light fixtures are under $50 each. Willing to splurge a little? Clever pieces with names like Nanoleaf also promise to cover your walls in color.

The bumper crop of smart bulbs only hits November, when GE and Cree Lighting’s hubless lights hit stores. In the case of Cree Lighting, that included color-changing bulbs for just $10 and an extra-bright 100-watt replacement version for $13.

All of these options mean you have plenty of products to choose from once you’re ready to upgrade your smart home system with smart lights, and that’s where I come in. Whether it’s smart LED bulbs, wall panels, strip lights, a smart lamp, a smart switch, bluetooth bulb option, or whatever you’re looking for, I’ve tried a lot of them. Here are my top update recommendations.

1. Wyze Bulb

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Pros:

  • At just $8 each, the Wyze bulb works with Alexa, Google, and IFTTT, and you don’t need a hub to use it. The bulb itself is brighter than advertised, and the app has useful features like views, shortcuts, and a vacation mode.

Cons:

  • The bulb doesn’t dim like some of its competitors, and it doesn’t support Siri voice control via Apple HomeKit. Although you can schedule automatic light changes at specific times, the app won’t allow you to schedule light changes at sunrise or sunset, nor will it allow you to enable slow fades.

Bottom line:

  • It’s the best-value smart bulb I’ve tested, and it’s a perfect pick if you use Alexa or Google Assistant to control your smart home.

That bulb is the Wyze Bulb from Wyze Labs, a Seattle-based start-up founded by a team that met while working at Amazon. The company is committed to controlling profit margins and removing “channel fat” by selling products directly to consumers online.

It’s clear with the Wyze bulbs: At $8 each, plus a few bucks for shipping, it’s about a third of the cost of comparable Philips Hue bulbs. And, as the little Editors’ Choice badge indicates, the Wise Bulb isn’t just a great deal, it’s also a great product.

For starters, the Wyze bulb is brighter than advertised and brighter than its main competitors. And since the bulbs use built-in Wi-Fi radios to send their signals, you won’t need any additional hub hardware to connect to your router, Alexa, or Google.

Just screw it in, turn it on, and use the app to sync with your home 2.4GHz network That being said, the app is easy to use and has useful features like a light timer and vacation mode auto lighting that makes it look like you’re home when you’re not.

There really isn’t much to dislike about this thing. It doesn’t dim like the competition and doesn’t currently support Apple HomeKit, which means you can’t control it with Siri. That’s really all.

I’m even a fan of Lightbulb’s privacy policy, which uses plain language to describe the company’s data protection practices (briefly, Wyze Labs stores your email and password for device usage as well as logging in and out of apps.

Data that are used to maintain and improve their services. (Wyze uses “commercially reasonable security measures” to protect that data, does not sell your information for marketing purposes, and may remove that data from the Wyze cloud at any time).

To put it more clearly, Wyze Labs doesn’t collect information it shouldn’t, and it doesn’t do anything to violate your privacy or jeopardize the security of your home.

The bulb exceeded my performance expectations when I tested it using our light lab’s spectrometer and integrating sphere. The packaging promises 800 lumens of brightness, which would put it on par with a standard 60W bulb.

I measured its default daylight setting at 921 lumens. When I turned it to a soft, warm white setting of around 2700K, it put out about 880 lumens. Both numbers are noticeably brighter than the stated specifications and brighter than the maximum setting of any other white-light smart bulb I’ve tested except for the Cree Connected LED, which tops out at 894 lumens.

As I mentioned earlier, my only complaint here is that the bulb doesn’t dim like the competition. At the app’s 1% setting, the Wyze bulb puts out about 86 lumens. Similar bulbs I tested from GE, Lifx, Sylvania, and Philips Hue were able to dim to 15 lumens or less. This a small gripe, but worth mentioning for those who prefer lights they can turn down as low as possible.

From there, I tested the Bulb’s integration with Alexa and Google Assistant. Both require you to share your Wyze login details with Amazon and Google via the Alexa and Google Home apps. Once you do, you’ll be able to control the bulbs alongside your other Alexa or Google Assistant-compatible devices via the app or via voice commands. Both integrations ran smoothly as I spent time playing with them.

Connect your Wyze account to the free IFTTT online automation service and you can activate your lights with other IFTTT-enabled devices. It’s not as advanced as Lifx’s IFTTT channel, which lets you activate things like fades and slow blinks, but at least you can trigger your Wyze bulbs to turn on or off, or go to a certain brightness or color temperature. Settings. . A simple example of how you can use this: an IFTTT applet that turns on a Wyze bulb every time your Amazon Echo’s morning alarm goes off.

The Wyze app gives you a few options for scheduling light changes. For starters, you’ll find a little timer feature when you select your bulb or a group of bulbs in the Wyze app; You can use it to turn the lights on or off after a certain time. You can also schedule automatic light changes to occur at specific times through the Wyze App Shortcuts feature found at the top of the app’s home screen.

I’d like it better if both the timer and automatic light change were in the same place in the app. Initially, I assumed that the timer was all there was and bypassed the automation option of the shortcut function entirely. I’d also like to point out that none of the options currently allow you to trigger light changes at sunrise or sunset, nor do they let you dim the light gradually.

Still, it’s a great smart bulb by all accounts and part of an emerging family of budget-priced smart home devices that already includes the well-reviewed camera and $20 Wise Sense security suite. No Wyze news yet There are no plans to add smart lights or HomeKit support in the works, but this little platform is off to an awfully good start, and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. Watch it grow In fact since this review was first published at the end of July, Wyze has already launched a new budget smart plug.

The real question is whether any of the competitors can match Wyze’s standards because the bar is set so high here. Until it does, and you don’t want the kind of advanced features and integrations you’d get with a name like Philips Hue or Lifox, consider the Wyze first before spending more on other smart lights that do the same basic things.

2. Philips Hue White Floodlight LED

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Score one for the rumor mill: Philips Hue Bluetooth bulbs are officially a thing, and starting today they’re available wherever Hue products are sold.

For years, Philips Hue smart lights have used the ZigBee wireless protocol to communicate with each other and with the Hue Bridge that controls them and acts as a ZigBee translator for your router.

Earlier this month, rumors began circulating that Philips Hue parent company Signify was working on new Hue bulbs that added Bluetooth compatibility; Bulbs like these allow you to bypass the Hue bridge entirely and pair directly with your phone instead. These rumors seem to have been confirmed now.

“With our Philips Hue Bluetooth Smart Lighting, we’re making it easy to experiment and have fun with lighting in the home,” said Jasper Vervoort, Business Head, Home Systems and Luminaires for Signify’s Philips Hue team. “All you need is the smartphone you already have.”

Signify is launching its three main smart lights in a traditional A-shaped design and BR30-shaped reflectors – a total of six new Bluetooth Hue bulbs. The price is the same no matter your needs. Standard plain white bulbs are $15 each, “white ambient” bulbs that let you adjust the color temperature of the white light are $25 each, and full color-changing versions are $50 each. They’re the same price as previous versions that only included ZigBee radios, so you won’t pay extra to add Bluetooth.

Notably, this is the first Signify to offer a floodlight version of the standard $15 Hue White LED. That bulb is already one of our favorite standards among A-shaped smart lights, so the new $15 Floodlight version should be a welcome (and overdue) addition to the lineup. Previously, your cheapest Philips Hue spotlight option was the White Ambiance BR30 LED, which retails for $45 for a 2-pack. The new Bluetooth versions will also continue to sell for the same $45 2-pack.

The addition of Bluetooth, in fact, means you can control these bulbs straight out of the box from your phone — no Hue Bridge required — but you won’t control them through the regular Hue app. Instead, you’ll use a new, simplified, Bluetooth-specific Hue app. It allows basic control of your lighting, such as turning things on and off, adjusting color and brightness, and saving and activating scenes.

The new app doesn’t support high-end features like Hue entertainment lighting zones that sync with your TV, Google Assistant wake fades or the ability to control lights via IFTTT or Siri commands via Apple HomeKit. If you want to try any of these you need to get a Hue Bridge.

“We’re confident that once you get started, you’ll want to keep exploring what else Hue can do,” said Vervoort.

Adding the Hue Bridge allows users to control the bulbs beyond the limitations of Bluetooth range (about 30 feet or more). However, Hew Bridge isn’t your only option. Signify says the new Bluetooth Hue bulbs can pair directly with Google Home smart speakers and Google Nest hubs, as well as select Amazon Alexa devices, specifically the 3rd-gen Echo Dot, 2nd-gen Echo Show, and the First. – and the second-generation Echo Plus. Adding Signify, and direct connection support to other Echo devices will come later.

Signify also says that pairing Bluetooth bulbs with Alexa will be especially easy if you buy them on Amazon from the same account that’s connected to your Echo speaker. Just screw in the bulbs and turn them on, and Alexa will automatically detect them.

If not, you’ll need to ask it to “discover new devices”, which takes about a minute A pretty minor benefit, all things considered, but still notable at a time when smart lights are struggling to play nice with the most popular voice assistants.

The Philips Hue team tells me that other Bluetooth Hue bulbs are in the works for 2019 and 2020. This coincides with reports of new vintage-style Philips Hue filament LEDs and an updated version of the device. The Philips Hue Go laptop is in the works for this fall. The Hugh team hasn’t confirmed any of this yet, but IFA, the European tech expo where Signify usually likes to present new products, is about two months away. I imagine we’ll know more soon.

3. Lifx Mini Wi-Fi Smart Bulb

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It has been a very busy year for Lifx. After introducing support for Apple HomeKit and its accompanying Siri controls, the color-changing smart lighting brand has expanded its lineup to include several notable new products, including Lifx Tile Wall Panels, Lifx Fixed Light Strips Beam, and three new “Lifx Mini”. Smart LED bulb.

Pros:

  • The Lifx Mini puts out plenty of light and offers all the colors, features, and integrations found with standard-size Lifx bulbs at a lower cost.

Cons:

  • At $45 each, the color-changing mini bulbs are still terribly expensive, and the design still doesn’t put out enough light. The pairing process recently revamped to align with HomeKit, is a bit more confusing than it should be.

Bottom line:

  • These are great smart bulbs, but it’s hard to justify splurging unless you can find them on sale.

These three bulbs include a fixed white-only bulb for $25, a “day and disc” tunable color bulb for $30, and a full-color changing bulb for $45. This makes them the least expensive Lifx offering to date.

Still, I would have liked to see a bigger price cut. Yes, $45 is a step in the right direction from the $60 you’d still have to spend on a full-size Lifx color changer, but it’s hardly an apples-to-apples comparison because that bulb is noticeably brighter.

The best comparison is probably that mid-level day and night bulb: it offers the color-changing Lifx Mini, the same Wi-Fi radio, the same apps, the same software, the same HomeKit support, Google, IFTTT, and Alexa, and the same form factor. Same simple light glasses. The only difference is obviously that the color-changing bulbs have RGB diodes. These diodes cost Lifx pennies a piece, but are they worth the 50 percent price increase? Do not add anything.

Color-changing smart bulbs are always expensive, often prohibitively expensive. HomeKit-compatible color changers from Sylvania and Philips Hue cost $45 and $50, respectively, so the $45 Lifx Mini fits the bill — and that’s the rub. At the right price, it could have lived up to its Mini moniker and helped bring the price of the attached color down to a more reasonable and attractive level. Instead, it’s just another expensive, color-changing light bulb.

The original Lifx flat-top bulb promises to put out over 1,000 lumens at maximum brightness. The new Lifx Mini is comparatively more modest, promising 800 lumens with a power draw of 9 watts, which is as bright as you’d expect from a typical 60W incandescent and uses less than a sixth of the power.

Aside from that 3500K default setting, the Lifx app offers 15 other white light settings ranging from 2500K candlelight to 9000K icy blue white. But none of them are as bright as the default settings. . Test either extreme and the bulb will put out 450 lumens at full brightness, close to what you’d get with a 40W bulb.

As for colors, you still get 360 of them, each appearing as a single degree on the app’s color wheel. To choose a shade, simply turn it on; From there you can dim it up and down using the big ball in the middle, or adjust a small slider at the 12 o’clock position to add white diodes for a more pastel look. It’s accurate, intuitive, and comfortable to use: my favorite color-changing interface of all the smart bulbs I’ve tried (and yes, I still like it a lot better than the Hue).

And, just like the Lifx bulbs that came before it, those colors look great. I measured the brightness and accuracy of a variety of them and found no noticeable weak spots. As color changes go, Lifx bulbs are as good as they always come.

This brings us to the new spare bulb design. It’s a bit of a funky look, and perhaps not as stylish as its flat-top predecessor, but it does a slightly better job of projecting light evenly in all directions. However, it is still not perfect.

Like the original, the sides of the bulb do not extend beyond the base of the bulb, meaning very little light is angled downward. The previous bulbs were bright enough to make it a moot point, but with the mini, you may notice that it doesn’t cast light as low as the older bulbs. It’s not ideal if you’re trying to fall under it.

I’ve been using a few Lifx bulbs in my own home for a few years now and have appreciated the steady stream of incremental improvements to the app. These are usually small, subtle changes meant to fine-tune the experience: adding timed fades, for example, or the newly added ability to change lighting through pastel shades. It’s a conservative approach that keeps things fresh and fun without compromising which makes it a good app to start with.

With that being said, there are some big additions to the app this year. The first is a feature called “Day & Dusk,” and any color-changing Lifx light can take advantage of it, not just the $30 bulb that lives up to the Day & Dusk name.

What Day and Evening offers four lighting presets intended to simulate the natural progression of light throughout the day. There’s a “Wake Up” preset that emits neutral daylight to help you feel less hungry in the morning, presets for “Day” and “Night” that match the progression of sunlight, and a “Nightlight” preset. It’s a dull, dull-feeling orange glow while sleeping.

Turn on the feature and your lights will automatically turn on any day you choose from one of the four presets you’ve turned on. The Lifx app even shows a small color-coded line graph of how the light will perform throughout the day based on your settings. It’s a great visual and clever way to make automatic lighting a little more intuitive.

However, Day & Dusk still needs a little work. For example, you can’t adjust the color or brightness of those four presets (at least, not yet), and while you can choose a start time for each, you can’t activate different presets on different days. For example, if you want to turn on the night light setting every night, but only turn on the wake-up lights on weekdays, you can’t.

Another big change to the app is how it deals with lighting, at least on iOS devices. Previously, your Lifx bulb would broadcast as a Wi-Fi network when you first turned it on; To connect, he simply joins the network and lets the Lifx app finish syncing everything. Now, instead of showing up as a Wi-Fi network, you can connect to, HomeKit-enabled Lifx lights, like the Mini, will show up in your iPhone settings as a device you can add to your existing Wi-Fi network.

In other words, Apple is doing what the Lifox app would normally do by connecting the light to your home network. From there, it will appear in the Lifx app as a bulb on the local network. To finish pairing, you can “claim” the light to connect it to your Lifx account and control it from anywhere, or you can finish pairing with HomeKit.

Lifx tells me the change is to improve the pairing experience using Apple’s onboarding protocol, but it’s worth noting that not all Lifx bulbs use this protocol. First- and second-generation Lifx bulbs don’t work with HomeKit, and oddly enough, neither do the excellent Lifx Z color-changing light strips, which launched just a few months before HomeKit support was announced as an upcoming feature.

The app still connects to those lights the old-fashioned way, which means there are now two onboarding mechanisms built into the app, along with an in-app option to pair your bulb with HomeKit. In any case, it’s probably a bit more confusing than it should be, but at least it all works.

4. Lifx Z Multi-Color LED Wi-Fi Light

 

 

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Lifx is one of the best choices in the color-changing smart bulb category, but it never offers color-changing light strips as you’ll find in Philips Hue or Osram Lightify. That recently changed when Lifx introduced “Lifx Z,” a set of multi-colored LED strips that you can place under cabinets or behind your TV.

They connect directly to your router using Wi-Fi, just like Lifx bulbs and even allow you to “paint” each strip with multiple colors – something you can’t do with Philips or Osram.

Pros:

  • The Lifx Z light strips don’t require a bridge or hub connected to your router, and they allow you to “paint” multiple colors on the strips, two distinct advantages over the Philips Hue. They also work with IFTTT, Nest, SmartThings, and Amazon Alexa.

Cons:

  • The controls for that color paint feature are quite incomplete, and you can’t save any of your custom patterns for later use. There’s no way to animate its light patterns, and there’s no Apple HomeKit support.

Bottom line:

  • Like most color-changing lights, these strips are a fun and affordable smart home novelty.

Getting started with Lifx Z strips is pretty easy. Connect your strips together and then plug them into the power adapter and plug in (it can handle a total of 10 strips). The Lifx app will prompt you to connect to the Wi-Fi signal they are broadcasting; Once you do, it will connect them to your home network and you’re good to go.

You can use the Lifx app to change the color (or color temperature, if you prefer natural white light tones) of the strips. The app treats them just like any other light bulb, so if you want to group them with other Lifx products or include them in one of your scenes, you can.

The only difference when applying with strips is that you’ll notice a horizontal line above the color wheel. As you turn the dial, that line shows you the current color of your strip, but its true function is revealed when you tap the “Themes” section of the app.

Lifx themes are really just color theme groups. Tap one of these themes—“Exciting,” “Intense” and “Hanukkah” are just a few examples—and all selected lights will change to a random color from that group. That’s not very useful if you’re only controlling one bulb, but with the Lifx Z, you’re actually controlling multiple “zone” lights—eight for each one-meter strip in your setup. Touch a theme and each zone will change to a random color, which really enhances the effect.

The real novelty here is that you can “paint” any color on the strips. Select a color from the top of the Themes tab and drag it over the horizontal line that represents your strips. The app will apply that color to any section of the strip you drag it over and even blend adjacent areas with transition tones. This is an absolutely awesome feature, and something you can’t do with Philips Hue light strips.

However, it is not perfect. The controls are quite imperfect, which is mainly because the “brush” you paint with is a relatively large circle. On top of that, the more strips you connect, the more zones the app will compress into that horizontal line. Your targets get smaller and smaller, but your brush stays just as thick.

Another big problem: you have no way to save a custom color pattern, nor can you create your own color theme. What you can do is save your light strips as part of a scene, but if you activate that scene the strips won’t go back to your pattern, they’ll just pick the pattern’s dominant color and apply it.

Outside of the app, you’ll enjoy the same third-party integrations as the rest of the Lifx line. You can use the free online automation service IFTTT to trigger lighting changes using any IFTTT-enabled product and service. You can add light strips to a SmartThings-connected home setup.

You can also sync the light strips with an Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker for voice control via Amazon’s virtual voice assistant Alexa. In other words, you have plenty of options to make the Lifx Z part of a larger ecosystem of smart home devices.

5. Lutron Caseta In-Wall Wireless Smart Lighting Kit

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Pros:

  • Lutron smart in-wall switches are reliable performers that work with Alexa, Nest, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, and more. Lutron’s well-designed app is easy to use and offers many useful features, including geo-fencing, scene management, and a security mode that will help you feel like you’re at home when you’re not.

Cons:

  • Lutron won’t let you schedule your lights to dim or turn off for custom times, and the Lutron bridge requires a wired Ethernet connection to your router.

Bottom line:

  • These are the best-performing and most feature-rich smart switches available today, and they’re worth the money if you’re serious about connected lighting.

A two-switch starter kit with mandatory Lutron jumpers retails for $190, which certainly isn’t cheap, especially considering that Belkin’s WeMo light switches cost around $50 and require no jumpers. However, after extensively testing both options, I am convinced that Lutron is the better option and worth the extra money.

It’s a smart light that looks like a clear Editors’ Choice winner for the truly smart and connected home
In terms of looks, the Lutron has landed right in the smart switch sweet spot. Available in a variety of colors and shades, each switch looks appropriately elegant but understated enough to match most home decor.

That balance also applies to the way you use the switches. Pressing the top button turns the lights on to full brightness, while the bottom button turns them off Buttons in the middle allow for fine adjustments. Smooth, smooth dimming from one setting to the next makes each light feel like a high-tech luxury fixture, yet the controls are perfectly familiar to anyone who’s used a run-of-the-mill dimmer switch before.

Installing the switches is a piece of cake until you feel comfortable closing the switches. All you need is a screwdriver and a few minutes to make a change. Simply connect the three wires (line, load, ground), then screw the switch in place, place the motherboard on top of it, and turn the switch back on.

From there, you’ll plug the Lutron Bridge into your router via an Ethernet cable and connect using the Lutron app on your Android or iOS device. Then you add one switch to each bridge (each bridge can handle up to fifty devices) by holding down a button when prompted by the app. If you’re just talking about the two-switch starter kit, it should take you about 30 minutes, if not less, to get it up and running.

Cassetta switches communicate using Lutron’s proprietary “Clear Connect” wireless protocol, a radio frequency designed for reliability and to minimize interference. The bridge’s job is to act as a translator between the switch and your home network. You can use the Wink Hub to control your Caseta appliances, but you’ll lose Apple HomeKit support.

Lutron declined to share any details about ClearConnect transmissions and the steps it takes to protect customer data, but the nearly 60-year-old company has a good track record on the matter. A spokesperson added, “Lutron’s first principle is customer care. Lutron meets and/or exceeds industry standards for the safety of our products and the protection of our customers.”

The Lutron app stands out for its speed, with a clean and well-organized design and customizable themes. You can tap to control individual lights directly from the home screen or set up preset lighting “scenes” to activate later with a tap. Those scenes can also include Lutron’s Serena Shades if you have them.

The Lutron app prompts you to name each light as you add it to your setup and allows you to group multiple lights into rooms and zones. The naming is useful if you plan to control your lights using Siri commands: ask to turn off the kitchen light or the downstairs light and you’ll know what you’re talking about.

To that end, you’ll also find all your lighting controls in Apple’s Home app on iOS devices. The Home app lets you transfer individual lighting controls directly to your iPhone’s Control Center; Just swipe and tap to turn things on and off without opening an app

Beyond turning things on and off, Lutron’s app offers a few extra features that do a good job of setting it apart from the competition. A Geofence mode lets you schedule your lights to turn on and off automatically whenever your phone enters and leaves the area around your home.

A “Smart Away” feature can automatically turn lights on and off at night to make it look like you’re not home. Integration with popular smart thermostats like Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell will let you adjust the temperature from the Lutron app. None of this is complicated and everything worked fine in my tests.

There’s really only one feature that’s conspicuously missing from Lutron’s app, and that’s custom fade duration. You can schedule and automate the light changes, but you can’t control how quickly the lights turn on or off. This is a disappointment if, like me, you enjoy lights that can slowly dim in the morning to help you get out of bed.

Lutron’s Cassetta switches are certainly pricey, especially when you compare them to Belkin’s popular Waymo Light switches, which cost around $50 each. But Lutron’s switches enjoy some significant advantages over Belkin’s, which are enough to make up for their extra money.

Let’s start with the big one: Lutron dimmer switches will actually dim your lights. Belkin’s Waymo Light switches won’t: they’re either on or off, with no settings in between This is a huge advantage for Lutron.
Support for three-way switches is another. Let’s say you have a light above the stairs that is connected to two switches: one at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. It’s called a three-way switch, and if you want to upgrade it, you can’t use the Belkin Waymo Lite Switch — it only works in a single-switch setup.

Lutron doesn’t have the same problem. You can install a Caseta switch at the top of the stairs, then a wall-mounted Lutron Pico remote below, and add everything to the app (Lutron’s $190 starter kit includes two Pico remotes, and additional ones cost about $25 each).

Finally, although I’ve already mentioned many of them, the depth of Lutron’s features and partnerships really can’t be overstated. A good example is a recent integration with Sonos that lets you embed your playlists into your Lutron scene.

Lutron has gone so far as to develop Sonos-specific hardware, including an audio version of its Pico remote, and it lets you trigger those audio-enabled scenes using Alexa commands. In other words, the Lutron team isn’t just ticking boxes when integrating with third parties, they’re actually putting those partners to good use.

Outside of Belkin, your other smart switch options include options from GE/Jasco, Quirky, and SwitchMate. Neither offers the same depth of features and controls you’ll find with the Lutron. The iDevices Lite Switch, which has yet to be released, is another option we’ll be keeping an eye on.

Like Lutron, it will offer support for both Alexa and HomeKit, but at an expected retail price of $100 per switch, it will be more expensive.

Light control is critical to the modern smart home, and Lutron’s cloud-connected light switches do the job exceptionally well. Easy to set up, program, and use with a variety of popular platforms including Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Wink, Sonos, and more. They’re more advanced than any other smart switch on the market and deserve to be an Editors’ Choice winner.

At $190 for a two-switch starter kit and about $60 for each switch after that, Lutron certainly isn’t your cheapest option, but keep in mind that Lutron often runs deals and specials designed to entice you to buy (as of the time of this posting ), Amazon offers a starter kit for just $160). Even at full price, these switches are worth the money if you’re serious about smart lighting.

6. Nanoleaf Hexagons

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Pros:

  • Attractive design
  • Removable mounting plate
  • Infinite options for animated effects
  • Best smart lighting music sync mode
  • Supports screen mirroring effects via Razer Synapse
  • Perfect integration with Apple HomeKit, it is also compatible with Google Assistant

Cons:

  • Application is very complex
  • Unreliable integration with Alexa

Now, Nanoleaf has another new set of wall panels that will launch online in early September, with it expected to be available in stores by October. This time they are six-sided, named “Nanoleaf Shapes – Hexagons”, and sold in a seven-panel starter kit for $199. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I’m finally trying them out in my own home.

I say “eventually” because, as much as I’ve come to appreciate the bold innovation of Nanoleaf lights, I’ve never been tempted to buy them. The Toronto-based company’s spunky panels make perfect sense as high-tech decor for a kid’s room or bedroom, or perhaps as a backdrop for a budding Twitch streamer, but other than that, bringing them into your home feels like a Jetsons-esque compromise of modernity. With levels that are still not quite common.

But vibrant, eye-catching colors, easy to mount, and the same impressive list of features and integrations as before, including the cool Music Sync Beat mode, touch sensitivity, and voice control via Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. The hexagons make the pitch better than any panel made of Nanoleaf. A few unexpected issues with these connections give me pause, especially for Alexa users, but if you’ve been staring at your wall for the last five months or so and feel like mixing things up, these great-looking lights probably are. The panels fit the bill.

From snowflakes in science and nature cameos to the molecular makeup of graphene at Saturn’s north pole, the six-sided regular polygon is a suitably geeky choice for Nanoleaf. In architecture, hexagonal grids are as functional and structurally sound as possible, which is why you see them appearing in everything from hives to blast shields. Grids like this are also popular board game fodder, thanks to the multiple touchpoints available in each space. Anyway, it’s late and I’m having fun looking up hexagon info.

Whether you prefer hexagons over triangles and squares is entirely up to you, as Nanoleaf plans to continue selling the old panels alongside the new ones. All three are functionally identical, except that the triangles are not touch-sensitive and require a separate plug-in to enable Music Sync Rhythm mode. Still, there are a few subtle changes with Hexes that make them the best of the three.

The biggest change is the way you drive them. Nanoleaf asked you to apply adhesive tabs to the back of each panel and stick them directly to the wall, making them difficult to rearrange. With Hexagons, each panel now snaps in and out of its own small mounting plate attached with an adhesive tab. That means you can remove a wall panel separately from the mounting plate; From there it’s much easier to move the sticky tab out of the panel.

The connectors joining each panel are also now different. Before, they looked like double-sided lightning sockets that slide into small slots on the edge of each panel, like the ones that hold together Ikea furniture. With Hexagons, you get new plug-style connectors on the back of the two panels you’re joining.

The result is that the setup feels tighter. Obviously, it’s a more hands-on process than just changing a light bulb, but it’s a lot better than before, and you’re less likely to break the wall if the panel falls off. I’ll also add that the Nanoleaf app layout builder, which allows you to arrange your panels in the app and then see how they’ll look on your wall using augmented reality, is a nice and useful touch during setup.

Another thing to remember with these new connectors is that they are new standards. In the future, Nanoleaf plans to add other “shapes” to the collection, with plans that will let you mix and match different shapes on your walls. The old triangles and squares are not seen on that ride, as they each use the old slot-style connectors.

Hexagons are Nanoleaf’s best-designed light panels to date. Each one is nice and big, enough to fit your whole hand with your fingers spread. This makes it easier to tile things across the wall than with smaller, square-shaped canvas panels, and unlike those canvas panels, the light isn’t split into weird-looking quadrants (although the corners are definitely a bit rounded).

Speaking of those square-shaped predecessors, the hexagons ditch the ugly tactile buttons that mar the canvas panel’s clean design and ease of use. Instead, you plug in a small, unobtrusive control bar with physical buttons on either side of any panel. That controller houses the system’s Wi-Fi radio and the microphone it uses to sync the lights to what you’re listening to. It can support up to 500 panels at once.

Meanwhile, connect a separate 42W power supply to the other side of the panel to power up to 21. At 2W per panel, Hexagons continues Nanoleaf’s tradition of efficiency, from its days selling ultra-efficient 3D-printed LED bulbs. In fact, if you ran all 7 panels in the Hexagon Starter Kit at full power for a full year, 24/7/365, it would add about $13.45 to your energy bill. For comparison, a single 60W incandescent bulb will add less than $60 to your bill over the same period.

One last note on power usage: running things at 100% is complete overkill. Each panel offers an impressive burst of brightness at the highest settings, enough that I have a hard time imagining many cases where you’d really want to radiate that much light off your walls. In my tests, the ambient sweet spot was much closer to 25% brightness: bright enough that colors still look great, but dim enough that the panels don’t look distracting or uncomfortable.

The first thing I did after gluing a total of 10 hexagonal panels to my bedroom wall was to make sure Rhythm Mode, my favorite Nanoleaf feature, was still working as before. The feature uses a microphone built into the controller bar to translate sound into light patterns that dance across the panel in different ways depending on the preset scene you’re using. All the processing happens right there at the wall without the need to send the audio to the cloud, which keeps latency nice and low and is good for your privacy too.

Sure, the feature still works like a charm, especially if you have a stereo or smart speaker. Call up your favorite playlist with one of those beat-moving presets and voila, you’ve got your own little disco going. I cooked up some Bowie and had a field day trying out different presets to find the ones I liked best, and if you want you can create your own presets with the exact colors and animations you want.

You do all this using the Nanoleaf app on your Android or iOS device. The app’s home screen offers basic power and brightness controls, with multiple lists of scenes to try out, a variety of animated scenes, beat scenes that use the microphone, and an instant game mode that takes advantage of the fact that each panel is touched.

Sensitive If you go to the Discover tab, you’ll find an extensive catalog of user-generated scenes that you can tap to try out. If you find one you like, you can download it for free, rename it, and even change its settings. Do you want to create your own scene from scratch? The app lets you do that too.

Tap the three dots in the top right of the home screen to navigate to the device settings for your panels, and you’ll find a few other cool features to play with, including an auto-brightness mode that uses an ambient light sensor. bar. The control automatically adjusts the brightness of the panel within a custom range based on how bright the room is.

I set mine to automatically adjust between 10-50% brightness and it worked perfectly. You can also customize touch controls on panels, for example, swipe a panel to increase brightness, double-tap to turn it on and off, or swipe right to go to a new view.

If you’re an Apple HomeKit user, you can also turn on Touch Actions, which let you wake up other HomeKit-enabled devices with a tap, double-tap, or long press. With up to three automation per panel, smart home enthusiasts can have a lot of fun. The only downside is that you need a HomeKit hub — a dedicated, always-on Apple TV, Apple HomePod, or iPad — to use them.

All of this helps the dashboards feel fresh and highly customizable, but it’s not as intuitive as I’d like. Every screen in the Nanoleaf app seems to pack more information into a frame than necessary, and simple tasks like adjusting the color scheme in a scene feel unnecessarily tedious. Simplified step-by-step tools will be a great help for creating simple scenes.

Fortunately, Nanoleaf’s integration with voice assistants and third-party smart home platforms means you don’t have to rely entirely on apps to control these things. A quick voice command to Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant will do the trick, and it’s easy to schedule them to turn on and off or change scenes at specific times.
But those connections weren’t always perfect.

At one point, the panels became unresponsive to the Google Home app and I had to wait a few minutes before the connection returned. Then there was Alexa. Shortly after connecting, Amazon’s assistant seemed to forget to control the panels entirely. It will ask to change brightness or jump to a new view and I hear that my command is not supported. A similar message appeared in the Alexa app, where controls for hexagons also failed.

After a day or so, things started working again, but it must have been weird that the panels (and my home Wi-Fi) were otherwise working perfectly. At the end of my testing, connecting to Apple HomeKit and Siri were the only ones that didn’t give me any problems.

Perhaps these issues were simply a result of the fact that Hexagons is still in pre-release for a month or so. With this type of integration, there are always a lot of small bugs to fix. But the hexagons are virtually identical to other Nanoleaf panels that have supported these integrations over the years, so I’m definitely surprised things weren’t more seamless here. A setback, perhaps, but worth mentioning.

7. Lutron’s new switch solves a big smart bulb

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Upgrade your bulbs to smart bulbs, and you’ll be able to automate them using voice commands, control them from your phone, or turn them on, off, and dim. Great! The problem? Literally, none of this will work if the light switch is off, and learning to leave the switch in the on position is completely counterintuitive, especially for children and guests.

It’s one of the smart home’s longest-standing pain points, but now Lutron’s light switch masters have a stylish and affordable solution that looks like a strong early contender for the smart home gadget of the year.

Available for pre-order now and set to ship later in June, the solution I’m talking about is called the Lutron Aurora, and it’s a $40 smart dimming dial that pairs with Philips Hue smart bulbs and other ZigBee 3.0 smart lights. What’s especially clever about it is that you don’t plug it into the wall where the light switch once was. Instead, snap it into place above the switch, which locks the switch in the on position.

From there, give it a touch to turn the bulbs on or off, or twist them to dim them up or down. Lutron claims you can install it in under two minutes.

“Lutron is pleased to join Philips Hue’s ‘Friends of Hue program and offer this unique wall-mounted smart lighting control that enriches the Hue experience,” said Matt Swatsky, Lutron vice president of mid-market residential business. “The Aurora Dimmer makes using Philips Hue smart bulbs and accessories easy for everyone in the home.”

And, after doing a test myself, I can confirm that Aurora is really easy to install and use. Just be careful not to push the dial too hard on the motherboard during installation; Doing so may bend the plastic trim inside.

That’s a minor detail, though, because I love everything about Lutron’s approach here. For starters, the Aurora gives you a physical point of control on the Philips Hue dimming curve, doubling down on smart lighting, a major selling point of smooth, flicker-free dimming. Also, Aurora uses ZigBee to send its signals. This means it will keep working even if your Wi-Fi ever goes down.

Speaking of Zigbee, you can pair the Aurora with a Zigbee-speaking Hue Bridge using the Hue app, or you can pair it directly with your Hue bulbs—no bridge required. Aurora’s box instructions require you to turn the lights on and off several times in 15-minute pairing mode. From there, a few taps on Aurora will create a direct connection to your light.

And by the way, it should also work with other non-Hue Zigbee 3.0 bulbs, though Lutron currently says that “compatibility testing with other Zigbee 3.0 certified bulbs is underway.”

As for the battery, the Aurora is powered by a single CR 2032 coin cell battery that Lutron claims will last at least three years before needing to be replaced.

Aurora isn’t the first Friends of Hue accessory to simplify smart bulb controls directly on the switch. Late last year, I used RunlessWire’s Click Smart Switch, formerly known as Ilumra. This switch uses EnOcean energy-harvesting technology to power itself with each button press, so you don’t have to plug it in, although you’ll need to remove the old switch first.

This makes the Aurora the easier of the two, as you don’t have to close the switch box to install it, although I should note that the four-click buttons can be used to trigger specific hue scenes, like the Philips Hue Tap. , another Hue remote that saves energy and doesn’t require batteries. With Aurora, you only have one button – if you have a Hue bridge, you change the setting or scene where the button will turn on your bulbs – but most will probably want to keep it basic. Functionality disabled.

I’d like the Aurora better if it cost a little less ($30 seems closer to the magic number to me), but $40 still seems like a fair ask for people who want to get rid of a common smart lighting problem. I’ll continue to test it some more to see if I can find any connection or battery issues, but right now it looks like the Lutron is the winner here.

8. Ring’s new smart outdoor security lights

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The right outdoor lighting can act as a good theft deterrent, so it makes sense that we’ll see some overlap between smart lighting and do-it-yourself smart security systems.

Enter Amazon-owned Ring, maker of the popular Ring video doorbell and independent Ring camera. With camera-equipped floodlights already in the product catalog, it wasn’t much of a leap for the brand when it introduced an entirely new line of smart outdoor lights at CES in January. Even better: they were the most affordable ring devices yet.

With a wide range of battery-powered options (and a few corded options too), the lineup offers enough versatility to bring a little more light to the dark spots outside your home. And, with motion sensors built into each light, Things can trigger your Ring cameras and video doorbells to start recording whenever there’s unexpected activity.

Not surprisingly, the motion-sensor lights also work with Amazon’s artificial intelligence assistant, Alexa, allowing you to turn them on and off with a quick voice command. There’s no support for Siri or Google Assistant right now, though — Ring tells me it’s “excited to bring HomeKit and Google Assistant support and other cool integrations” — but didn’t offer a timeline for when we should expect it.

Ring’s outdoor lights start at just $18, which is much more affordable than the Philips Hue Smart Outdoor Lights and the separate, standalone Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor accessory that activates them. However, the Ring Lights aren’t as stylish or feature-rich. In fact, some of the new ring lights are downright ugly in my opinion.

Still, the ease of installation, low cost, and inclusion of motion sensors in each light makes them an attractive option for security-conscious smart homes, and they proved reliable and easy to use when I started testing them.

A great draw of Ring Smart Lighting is that these lights are very easy to install for the most part. This is especially true of battery-powered lights: scan a QR code on the back of the device with your phone’s camera, insert the battery, find the light in the Ring app to pair with the Ring Bridge, tap its name, and add it to “backyard” or “deck.” Assign to a group and then find a place for it. Placement is easy with the ring path light, which you can take anywhere on the ground; For mounted lights, you’ll need to drill holes and screw them in place.

However, I have some picky eaters. First, no light comes with the battery. It’s just trying to keep ring entry costs down, but it’s annoying nonetheless, especially the spotlights, reflectors, and path lights, each of which run on D-cell batteries. Second, motion sensors and stoplights don’t come with adhesive tabs or some other way to attach them to your home without screws. If you want to attach them to a brick or stone, you will have to figure it out yourself.

Speaking of transient lighting, this is probably the worst design of the bunch. It’s too big and heavy, a bit unsightly on the eyes, and doesn’t have a removable screw plate like other ring devices, which is surprising to me.

This means that instead of screwing one screw in at a time through the holes in the separate baseplate and then snapping the fixture into place at the top, you screw in both screws first, letting them hang slightly before hanging the whole light. Street. above them. This makes it very easy to misplace these screws or end up with a crooked light, so you’ll probably want to keep a level or tape measure handy.

I don’t think it’s fair to expect sleek, high-end designs from budget smart lights, but some of the Ring’s lights qualify as eyesores. Apart from the giant step lights, I’m mainly talking about the battery-powered spotlights, which look especially dated in white plastic.

Perhaps I like the black version better, but given the relatively good looks of the Ring’s doorbell, I was disappointed that the brand basically didn’t put any effort into style here. Many people would probably prefer a smaller design to their exterior lights, but the cheap look of step lights and spotlights doesn’t seem like it will blend in with the most decor, it seems like it would really stand out, and not in a good way.

I like ring road lights. These are the best-looking lights of the bunch and are reasonably priced at $30 each. Plus, since you nail them to the ground with no wiring required, they’re the easiest ring lights to start with. For my money, this is the first of these motion-activated lights to get if you’re interested in the Ring platform, especially the starter kit with two road lights and a bridge for $80.

At 80 lumens each, they’re not very bright, but they’re functional and bright enough to keep you from hitting a branch or a hose when you get home late from a long day of work.

An example of how you can use it. Let’s say you have a pool behind your house and a ring window camera is monitoring it, but the distance to the pool is too far to trigger the camera to record reliably. You can put a path light next to it and tell the camera to activate if it detects movement; If you have small children, this can be a great extra layer of protection.

Each path light is powered by four D-cell batteries that should last about a year. Ring tells me solar-powered path lights are in the works, but no word yet on when they’ll arrive or how much they’ll cost.

The Ring Smart Lighting isn’t terribly sophisticated in terms of intelligence, but the controls are adequate and easy to use. You can use the Ring app to turn individual lights or groups of lights on and off. Turn them on and they’ll automatically turn off after 1, 5, 10, or 15 minutes to save battery power. Each device has ambient light sensors to keep them from turning on during the day, which you can disable if you want.

You can set the light to turn on when motion is detected from the light’s own motion detector or from one of your other lights or the camera’s motion detector. When the first path light along your walkway sees you coming, for example, you can turn on all your path lights. Those motion detectors can also trigger your ring cameras to start recording.

All of this — the app, Alexa control, motion detection, ambient light sensor — worked well in my initial tests, and you have enough control over how the lights behave to change things to your liking. You can adjust motion and light sensitivity, you can view each device’s event history to see when motion was detected, and can set time intervals when you don’t want motion alerts. Another option: you can temporarily silence those speed alerts for up to 2 hours

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