Philips Hue might be the name that everyone associates with smart lighting, but if there's one company that can truly rival it for the range of products and third-party support, it's Lifx. Founded back in 2012, Lifx was at the forefront of the smart lightbulb revolution and has a long pedigree in producing high-quality lights.
Although it's the range of lighting choices, stretching from traditional bulbs and LED strips to colour-controllable wall tiles, that's likely to garner your attention first, it's the third-party support for Lifx that really stands out.
Compatibility for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple's HomeKit gives you support for the three main voice assistants, but there's also Works with Nest and SmartThings support, as well as IFTTT. Ultimately, no matter what else is hooked up in your home, Lifx should work with your kit, something that not all smart light systems are capable of.
With so much going on, getting the right Lifx bulbs can be tricky, so we've done all of the research that you'll need. Read on to get the Lifx missing manual, everything you need to know about choosing bulbs, getting set up and getting the most out of your smart lighting system.
Lifx: Getting started
Lifx uses good old-fashioned Wi-Fi to connect its smart bulbs to your home network and the smartphone app. All you have to do is hook the bulbs up to your existing light fittings, connect them to your home wireless network, and you're done.
Using Wi-Fi makes things easy to get started with, but there are a couple of things to look out for. First, you need to have a strong 2.4GHz Wi-Fi signal throughout your home; if you have dead spots where wireless won't reach you may need to install an extender or opt for a wireless mesh system. Secondly, Wi-Fi can run into problems with some metal light fittings causing interference.
The only other thing to watch out for is that the smart bulbs have to be connected to a regular light switch, and they are not compatible with dimmer switches. If you have a light fitting controlled by a traditional manual dimmer, you'll need to replace this with a standard on/off switch.
Once hooked up to your home network, you can control the lights' brightness, colours, schedule, smart modes and a whole lot more from the simple app. Although, with Alexa and Google Assistant support baked in, you may find that you don't touch the app very often, using your voice to do most of the work.
Lifx: Do you need a hub?
As all of the Lifx lights use Wi-Fi, there's no need for a separate hub. That saves you around $60 up-front, and the only thing that you need to pay for are the bulbs themselves.
There is a downside to not having a hub, though. First, if you want to use Apple HomeKit, each product has to be individually added to the Home app; with a hub, you just add that, and all connected bulbs are added automatically.
Lifx: Starter Kits
Without the need for a hub, Lifx's kits are comprised of multiple bulbs, although there's not always a saving. For example, one Lifx Mini White bulb costs $24.99 and the pack of four costs $99.96, which is exactly the same as buying four bulbs individually. Shop around carefully to make sure that you're getting the best deal.
Lifx: What to buy and where to buy them
Lifx has its own store for the US and UK, although you can also find products on Amazon. Our advice is to check prices and find the cheapest/best retailer to make your purchase.
Here's an overview of what to look out for when you're buying Lifx products.
Lifx light bulbs
You'll need to look at where your lights need to go and see which lamp fitting you have. As Lifx uses regular bulb fittings, you should be able to do a like-for-like replacement for your original 'dumb' bulbs. In the US you can get E26, E27 screw-in and B22 Bayonet bulbs for light sockets, or GU10s for spotlights. The smaller E14 screw-in socket for lamps is not supported. In the UK, there's the choice of E27, B22 and GU10.
The wider choice comes with the type of bulb. For standard light fittings, the Lifx Mini bulbs are the newest and smallest shape. Each bulb draws 9W of power and can output 800 lumens, which is roughly similar to a 60W incandescent bulb. Each bulb will last 22.8 years, assuming they're used for three hours per day.
Mini bulbs come in three varieties. The Mini White is warm white (2700K) and offers dimming only. Next up is the Mini Day & Dusk, which gives you control of the colour temperature, going from and relaxing 1500K to a bright and intense 4000K. At the top of the range is the Lifx Mini, which lets you choose from 16 million colours, and has a temperature range between 2500K and 9000K.
The Mini and Mini Day & Dusk also have a new Day & Dusk Mode in the app. This changes the temperature of your bulbs and the brightness throughout the day to more accurately match natural sunlight.
The A60 bulb in the UK (A19 in the US) is the older, larger bulb. It comes as a colour changing option only (16 million colours and 2500K to 9000K temperatures). Its advantage is greater brightness, with a power draw of 11W and 1100 lumens (roughly equivalent to a 75W bulb).
The GU10 option is also colour changing only (6 million colours and 2500K to 9000K temperatures). It draws 6W and has a brightness of 400 lumens.
Lifx also does an A60 with Night Vision and BR30 with Night Vision, with the latter a bigger version of the former. Both have the same power, brightness and colour specs of the standard A60 bulb, but can output a 950nm IR light, too. This can extend the effective recording range of any security cameras that you have.
Prices start at $24.99 for the basic Mini White and go up to $79.99 for the A60/A19 with Night Vision.
Lifx LED strips
For mood lighting, Lifx has the Z Starter Kit LED strip ($89.99), an expandable strip of LED lights. You can stick this under cupboards, on kitchen counters or pretty much wherever you want to create an array of lights around a room.
The kit contains two 1m strips, and you can buy additional extension strips to give you more length where you need it. In terms of specs, each strip gives you 1,400 lumens per two metres, and gives you 16 million colours to play with.
If you'd rather have pre-made lights, Lifx has a range of options, too. The Beam Kit ($199.99) lets you tile together strips of colour-changing lights, giving you a fancy way to adorn a wall with your own light art.
Similarly, the Tile Kit ($249.99) gives you a pack of five LED colour-changing tiles, which you can attach to a wall in the pattern that best suits you.
Finally, Lifx also sells its downlights, which fix into the ceiling and give you spotlights. These have the same specs as the GU10 bulbs.
As Lifx uses Wi-Fi, there's is no range of official accessories, such as light switches and motion sensors. This is because these accessories would use too much power to be connected to Wi-Fi all of the time. As the rival Hue system uses the Zigbee protocol, its battery-powered accessories use very little power.
That doesn't mean that you're completely limited, as Lifx bulbs are compatible with SmartThings, so you can control the lights with any compatible controller, such as a motion sensor or switch. And Lifx also works with Logitech Pop and Flic smart buttons. These aren't quite as neat or as powerful as the Hue switches, but they give you some form of manual control.
Alternatively, you can still use your existing light switch. Turning the lights off and then on will return them to their last on state, as set in the app. If you can't reach for your phone or call out for a smart assistant, at least this form of manual control gives you a way of turning your lights on.
Lifx: The app
Lifx has one of the best apps going (Android and iOS), with every feature of the bulbs controllable from it. At a basic level, you can turn your lights on or off, set the dim level, and pick the colour or temperature. Of course, you can do this in your home or when you're away.
Bulbs can be placed into groups, so you can control sets of lights in one go. For more detailed control, you can use colour themes. Effects are a brilliant feature, and range from a simulation of a fire to the Music Visualiser, which uses your phone's microphone to change the light colour and intensity to match any music you've got on: this is great for house parties.
Schedules let you turn your lights on and off automatically, which is great for fooling people into thinking that you're at home when you're not. One feature that we really like is the timed power off, which lets you set how long it should take a bulb to fade off. Ranging between 10 seconds and 30 minutes, the feature can be a great way to help kids get to sleep.
Lifx: Assistants and third party apps
Lifx supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, so there's support for all three of the biggest voice assistants there. If you want to use your voice to control your lights, then, Lifx has you covered.
Lifx also is certified for Works with Nest, so your lights can turn on if your Nest Protect triggers a warning, and you can have lights operate when your Nest Cam detects motion. SmartThings integration lets you build more complex rules, using multiple devices, or simply giving you one app to control everything from.
Of course, there's an IFTTT channel, too, so that you can further automate your lights, say turning them all off when you go out.
Lifx's excellent third-party support means that the options are almost limitless, and you can practically get them to do whatever you want with a bit of thought.
While the main app and biggest third-party integrations give you the biggest range of control, there are loads of other apps that can integrate with your Lifx bulbs. The top pick has to be OnSwitch, which lets you control your Lifx and Hue bulbs all from one place.
Lifx: The competition
Lifx's app is arguably the best in the business, but there's more to a lighting system than that, and other factors may make a different bulb manufacturer a better choice for you.
Hue is the obvious alternative system. It has the same range of third-party support, but it has two main advantages over Lifx: dedicated light switches and motion sensors, and a wider choice of light fittings, including E14 bulbs – check out our comprehensive Philips Hue guide for more details.
The Ikea Trådfri system is also very interesting. It lacks the flexibility of Hue or Lifx, but it is well priced, has a decent range of bulbs (E14, E27 and GU10, but no B22) and dedicated light switches.
Then there are Nanoleaf, Osram, WeMo, Hive, Sengled, WiZ and Elgato bulbs to name but a few. Check out our smart lighting hub page to stay up to date with all the news, reviews and analysis.