If you want the best smart lighting for your home, you’ll find it here. Whether you want white, dimmable lights or colour mood lighting that you can control from your phone – or even smartwatch – there are options here. We also explain the benefits of ditching those traditional incandescent bulbs for LED.
Your buying guide for the best smart lights in 2017
Smart lighting is undeniably pretty cool. Some of the bulbs we’ve listed below can 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.
With growing support for smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home you can even use voice controls to turn smart lights on or off, dim them, or change their colour – the sort of brilliant smart home feature that is entirely unnecessary but spectacular fun once you have it set up.
Smart lights come with different fittings, including the UK bayonet type as well as E27 screw (and some come with adapters to fit both), although it’s hard to find smart bulbs which use the common GU10 spotlight fitting.
All smart lights (certainly all those we’ve seen) use LEDs. Some key benefits to using LED rather than incandescent bulbs are that they use less energy, produce less heat, and last much longer.
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?
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. The brightest we’ve seen is LIFX’s 1100 lumen bulb.
Philips Hue Starter Kit
Philips Hue is one of the best-known smart lighting systems. The starter kit comes with three standard screw-fit lightbulbs that can be adjusted from a smartphone app, and a hub which has to connect to your router.
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.
With the system set up, you can have the 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. You can controll up to 50 bulbs, which should be plenty even for the biggest homes.
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. And like LIFX below, you can control your Hue bulbs with Amazon’s Echo.
Read our full Philips Hue review.
TP-Link has come in at the more affordable end of the smart lighting spectrum, offering a selection of four different smart bulbs all below £50/$50.
Best of all, the TP-Link bulbs don’t require any sort of smart hub to function, so there’s no need to buy a starter kit or pay extra for a hub – once you buy a bulb, that’s it, making these an especially good choice for anyone who only wants one or two smart lights, and not a whole house worth.
You can set a schedule and control colour, brightness, and white light tone (depending on model) using TP-Link’s Kasa app, but there’s also full support for Amazon Echo, Google Home, and IFTTT to create more complex commands and sequences.
All of the bulbs other than the cheapest LB100 model also come with energy monitoring, so you can see how much energy you’ve used and plan your usage accordingly.
Connectivity is reliable, with only one brief network drop in our testing time, and our biggest complaint is that at just 800 lumens these aren’t the brightest bulbs around – but they should be enough to suit most uses.
LIFX Smart Bulb
LIFX makes a range of Wi-Fi-enabled LED bulbs which are – as you’d expect – controlled via an app on your smartphone. There are multicolour (including white) and dedicated while bulbs available in both E27 and bayonet fittings.
The Generation 3 lamp outputs 1100 lumens, and the LIFX + is the same but also incorporates infrared LEDs which shine at night to light up the room for your security cameras.
LIFX bulbs are reasonably expensive, with a single Generation 3 costing £59.99 at Amazon UK, but you can get bulk discounts if you buy direct from LIFX. Shipping is a flat rate of $20 but you’ll save around £60 in total if you buy four at once. The latest LIFX + bulb costs £79.99 from Amazon. No hub is required as the Wi-Fi-equipped bulbs talk directly to your router.
Many will find it worth the outlay, as the bulbs offer excellent light quality, whether colour or shades of white, and note that the colour bulbs also do the full range of white shades.
We particularly like the fact that the app separates whites and colours and you can adjust the colour temperature to mimic natural light at different times of day. If you have more than one bulb you can group them and either synchronise the colour and brightness, or use one of the ‘themes’ which sets their colours and brightness independently.
Grouping lights also makes it easier to control the bulbs from an Apple Watch or Android Wear device. On the Apple Watch you can only turn them on, off and adjust brightness: it isn’t possible to change the colour, unfortunately. You can also control the lights via the Amazon Echo.
LIFX also supports IFTTT. The latter means you can get the lights to turn on automatically when you arrive home, and turn off if you leave as well as plenty of fun things such as making them flash blue when you are mentioned on Facebook, for example.
Lightwave is a smart lighting solution that’s a bit different to the others in this round-up, since it requires you to replace your light switches rather than the light bulbs themselves. It is ideal for homes with multiple spotlights that would otherwise be incredibly expensive to individually replace, and also means that when one bulb blows you can just buy a regular replacement.
To set up Lightwave you need to purchase the £89.99 Web Link hub, which manages your various Lightwave kit, and you can then add on as many or as few Lightwave devices as you like. Each light switch costs from around £35 (see the full range at Maplin, but shop around for best prices).
The Web Link will also manage other smart home devices from the company – you can set up devices that control your hot water and individual room heating, motion detection, and the opening and closing of blinds or curtains. You can also install smart switches on your plug sockets that allow you to turn on and off power when required.
Lightwave has a companion app through which you can turn on and off the switches from your phone or tablet, and through which you can set up schedules or timers that are ideal if you are going on holiday.
It also integrates with IFTTT, which allowed us to control the system through both an Android Wear watch and Google Home.
Nanoleaf Aurora Starter Kit
The Nanoleaf Aurora is something a little different: a set of connected, Wi-Fi enabled wall-mounted light panels that can be used to set a variety of different patterns and sequences.
The accompanying app allows you to set the colour of each of the nine panels independently, or set all the panels to cycle through a colour palette, using one of a few different flow patterns. You can also vary brightness and speed – right up to an epilepsy-threatening max.
Creative types can create their own palettes and effects to save to the system, while the less inspired can use the pre-installed selection, or download a few more within Nanoleaf’s app. There’s also IFTTT and Alexa support so you can control the Aurora with your voice, use it as a light alarm, or set it to respond to various triggers.
Assembling the panels is astonishingly easy – they just click together, and you can expand the nine in the starter kit with three-panel expansion packs. They attach to the wall with double-sided scotch tape, included in the pack, so feel very sturdy when attached but shouldn’t take too much work to take off the wall and move around.
The networking side of things is a little less reliable though – our Aurora has dropped from our Wi-Fi network a few times already, and occasionally refused to re-connect. We’re hoping this aspect of the product improves, because when the Aurora works it’s one of the most stylish smart lights around.
LIFX’s latest light is an LED strip called LIFX Z. We’re covering this separately from the other LIFX bulbs in order to do it justice.
The starter kit includes the power supply and separate small controller box, to which the strips connect. You get two 1m strips in the box, and additional strips (you can have 10 in total) cost £29.99/$29.99 each. There’s also an expansion kit which comes with four strips, but this a little harder to find in stock.
What’s impressive is how bright these strips are – much brighter than Osram Lightify or Philips Hue, and with far better colour reproduction than the cheap strips you can buy from, say, eBay. Plus, like other LIFX bulbs, they don’t require a hub, so can work on their own as long as they’re in Wi-Fi range. Plus, each strip supports 8 colour zones and you can either choose a ‘theme’ or ‘paint’ your own colours using the app.
Thanks to separate white LEDs, the strip also creates fantastic white light. You can choose from 2500-9000K, which is a huge range covering very warm white to cold bluish light.
The strips will adhere to most flat surfaces, are water resistant and bend vertically. However, it’s awkward to make them go round corners or install in a bay window as they’re not flexible horizontally along their length.
Hive Active Light
Brilliant principally because anyone with a Hive Hub can start adding smart lighting from just £19 or $24. You can get the starter kit if you don’t already have a Hive Hub, but if you already have Hive installed in your home then you can also pick up individual bulbs.
The Hive Active Light Colour changing bulb is an easy and smart way to introduce lighting into your smart home environment.
The coloured bulb is arguably more of a gimmick and something you might not use day to day, but the Cool to Warm White bulb is easy to recommend, as being able to change the colour temperature of the light is a very handy feature.
The Elgato Avea might look fairly ordinary, but the Avea is a smart LED bulb you can control with your iPad or iPhone. Plus Android support was added in early 2016. You can control up to 10 of them from your phone, creating different mood lighting for every room in the house.
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.
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.
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.
Read our full Avea review.
Belkin Wemo LED Lighting Starter Set
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.
The kit includes two bulbs: you can choose between bayonet or 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.
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 be 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.
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.
Read our full Belkin Wemo LED review.
This Xiaomi Yeelight bulb – which suffers from confusing branding as it doesn’t use a Yeelight app – uses Wi-Fi.
What’s more confusing is the sheer number of Xiaomi and Yeelight apps to choose between on the App Store. Once you’ve figured out that you need the Xiaomi Mi Home app, things get easier, although you do have to create a Xiaomi account and we couldn’t select the UK or even Europe as the region where you’ll use the lamp.
As for the bulb itself, it’s well made and looks stylish. The 600 lumen output isn’t the brightest, but it’s more than acceptable for the price. We’re not fans of the app, which doesn’t allow you to choose a colour as precisely as some rivals, and there’s still some Chinese notification pop-ups, such as the one which tells you a firmware update is available: thank goodness for Google Translate.
A handy feature is the ability to set a default brightness and colour to use when the main light switch is turned off and back on again.
Thanks to both white and coloured LEDs, the lamp can produce good whites, from warm to cold, and a decent range of colours. However, as mentioned, the imprecise colour selection in the app means you can’t always get exactly the shade you want. But at less than £20 per bulb from GearBest (which supplied the light for us to review), it’s a cheap option.
Lava BrightSounds 2
Smart lightbulbs may be 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.
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.
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.
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.
Read our full Lava BrightSounds review.
Yeelight Bluetooth Lamp
Yeelight is a small company which was funded by Chinese phone giant Xiaomi. You can buy its smart light bulbs from Amazon, although the range available in the UK and US is smaller than in China.
We tested out the Yeelight Lamp, which has its own dedicated app and can only be controlled within Bluetooth range. For many people this is better than Wi-Fi as there’s no setup, no account needed: you just scan, pair the lamp and start using it.
The Yeelight Lamp is well made and has an opaque shade so you can’t see any of the LEDs inside. Handily, you can control it using the two buttons on top, and you simply drag your finger around the circumference to increase or decrease brightness.
It gives off a top-quality light (it claims to use Osram LED chips), whether you choose a shade of white or colour. It’s not the brightest, but it’s intended to be a bedside lamp, not to light a whole room. You can change the hue and brightness from the app as well as setting timers for it to turn off after a delay.