Philips Hue is the granddaddy of the smart lighting gang. Long before Lifx, Ikea, Sengled and the like arrived on the scene, the company, which changed its name from Philips Lighting to Signify, was offering up an array of connected lightbulbs that could be controlled from an app on your smartphone ‚Äď the first Hue bulb was switched on way back in October 2012.
But while those rivals are now good-quality, easy-to-use, genuine alternatives, Hue remains the undisputed heavyweight king in an ever-expanding division. For many people, Philips Hue will be the first name that they come across when equipping their smart homes.
However, a happy house of Hue isn‚Äôt necessarily the easiest thing to achieve. Sure, it‚Äôs as simple as screwing in a lightbulb to get started, but there is now a such a huge range of Philips Hue bulbs to choose from, as well as a plethora of accessories and extras - and a seemingly never-ending array of features and specifications - that it can be a bit daunting to get started. And we‚Äôve not even mentioned ecosystem syncing with the likes of Works with Nest, Alexa, HomeKit and Google Assistant.
Big verdict: Philips Hue review
Luckily, you don‚Äôt have to do the difficult Philips Hue research, as we‚Äôve done it for you. Read on for our Philips Hue missing manual ‚Äď your essential guide to getting up and running and getting the most out of your smart lighting system.
How to set up Philips Hue
We won‚Äôt get too bogged down in tech here, but, essentially, a Philips Hue setup (as with most other smart lighting systems) uses Wi-Fi and Zigbee wireless signals to connect however many smart lighting devices you want (well, up to 50) within your own system, which you control using an app, or a physical remote.
What you need to know is that you can connect a load of smart lights (into the regular bulb sockets in your house, or just simply plugged in) and you‚Äôll be able to control their brightness, their colors, the time they come on, the way they react to other smart tech in your house, and a whole lot more within a very simple app. In fact, thanks to the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, you may find you hardly use the app at all ‚Äď and instead your house‚Äôs lighting will be controlled just with your voice, but we'll come on to that more in the next section.
How to set up a Philips Hue Bridge
- Plug the Hue Bridge into a power socket and hook it up to your router via ethernet cable.
- Proceed once the four lights on the Bridge light up.
- Go to Settings > Hue Bridges > Add Hue Bridge in the Philips Hue app.
- Follow the setup instructions.
How to set up a Philips Hue bulb
- First, make sure the Philips Hue Bridge is all set up.
- Go to Settings > Light setup > Add light.
- Hit 'Search' or manually add the serial number listed on the bulb.
- Follow the setup instructions, from which point you can name your light and put it into Rooms.
Philips Hue: How to set up without a bridge
A Philips Hue system generally consists of the Hue Bridge and at least one Hue bulb. Technically, you don‚Äôt actually need a Philips Hue Bridge ‚Äď you can just use a Hue Dimmer switch ‚Äď but you‚Äôll be limited to just a simple dimming light situation, for up to 10 bulbs, and that‚Äôs hardly embracing the smart home revolution, is it?
If you've got an Echo Plus or second-gen Echo Show, both of which are essentially Zigbee hubs, you also won't need the Hue bridge to use your bulbs. However ‚Äď there‚Äôs a small disclaimer here. While these Echo devices do indeed offer more than the basic Dimmer switch control, it‚Äôs still not the full Hue bells and whistles. You‚Äôll need a Bridge ‚Äúto unlock the full Philips Hue experience‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Signify's words, not ours.
Without a Bridge, you‚Äôll be missing out on key features such as lights auto on/off when you enter or leave your home, smart switches and sensor controls, wake up and sleep routines, custom scenes, syncing your lights with music, video and gaming, and access to third-party apps. If you're okay with the basic integration, follow the steps below on how to set up Hue without a bridge.
How to set up Philips Hue with Alexa
- Make sure your Philips Hue light is turned on and ready to connect.
- Download the Philips Hue Skill on your Alexa device.
- Then say, "Alexa, find my devices" and wait for 45 seconds while the assistant scans the area for any new devices.
- Once a bulb is discovered, you can connect it up through the Alexa app and control it manually or through your voice. Just make sure to name it something easy to say.
- Whether you have a bridge or not, you can control your lights using just your voice. Try a command such as, "Alexa, turn bedroom light to 50%".
Philips Hue: Starter Kits
Starter Kits offer a mix of the Bridge and different types of bulbs ‚Äď there are 11 different options available in the UK, six in the US. Prices start from $69.99 for a Kit that comes boxed with the Bridge and two warm-white lightbulbs. At the other end of the spectrum (spectrum, get it?) you‚Äôll get a Bridge, a Dimmer switch and three multi-coloured lights for $199.99.
Whatever you opt for, it‚Äôs a simple case of plugging in the Bridge, connecting it to your router using Ethernet, and adding the bulbs you got from the Light setup section of the app. You‚Äôll have to press the button in the middle of the Bridge every so often ‚Äď such as when you want to sync up with Alexa ‚Äď but that‚Äôs about as much hassle as there is. Just leave your regular old light switches turned on and turn yourself over to a new way of controlling your house‚Äôs lights.
Philips Hue: What to buy and where to buy them
There is an absolute plethora of Philips Hue kit currently on sale ‚Äď more than 80 different packs and devices at the last count. In the US, Signify has a dedicated Hue Store where you can buy the latest lights and accessories, while in the UK your best bet is Signify's official storefront on Amazon. Here‚Äôs a rundown of what to look out when shopping for the best new Hue lights and devices‚Ä¶
Philips Hue lightbulbs
The first thing you need to decide is where you want your Philips Hue lightbulbs to go and then check the light fittings for those places. Hue bulbs are like regular lightbulbs ‚Äď they will screw into pretty much any light fitting or lamp in your house.
The good news is Hue has you covered, and there‚Äôs a range of sizes and shapes for screwing your bulb in. In the US you can pick up E26, E12, BR30 and PAR16 screw-in bulbs and GU10 bulbs for your spotlights. In the UK, the names are slightly different but the options are pretty much on par. It‚Äôs E27 and E14 for your light sockets with screw sockets, GU10s for your spotlights and also the old-style B22 Bayonets as well, if that‚Äôs what you need.
The next thing you need to consider is bulb shape. There are regular round lightbulbs, candle shaped bulbs, flat bulbs for ceilings and also slick-looking curved ambience bulbs too. Most of these are available across the range of fittings mentioned above.
Finally, and the biggie ‚Äď you need to decide on colours. With Hue, there‚Äôs a choice between white, white ambience, and white and colour ambience. The last one is the flagship of the range, offering a staggering 16 million colours and shades. White ambience gives you more control over the shade and temperature of your white light (2200K-6500K) and plain old white doesn‚Äôt have different temperatures but is still dimmable like every other Hue bulb.
With all Hue lightbulbs ‚Äď all LED bulbs, obviously ‚Äď you‚Äôll get 25,000 hours of life from a 9.5-10W maximum output. You can buy bulbs in single, double or different sized multipacks, depending on your location, with prices starting from $14.99 for a single white bulb to $39.99 for a solitary colour ambience one.
Philips Hue lamps and light fittings
Rather than making your existing light fittings and lamps more connected, Hue also offers you the opportunity to go all out smart with lamps and light fittings designed to totally replace your 20th century lighting. In the UK, there are almost 50 different shapes and sizes to choose from; it‚Äôs around half this number in America.
There are wall lights, table lamps, spotlights, suspension lights, ceiling lights, runner lights, recessed lights, mirror lights ‚Äď you name it, Signify has got it. Prices start at $34.99 and go well above $353.74 depending on your d√©cor preferences.
Signify is looking to do something a little different with its lamps. It already knows people love creating ambience with its bulbs, and now it's making lamps entirely dedicated to ambience with the Play and Signe lines. The Play is pretty much a light bar that projects onto a wall, while the Signe looks more like a Lightsaber-inspired lamp.
The Play will set you back $69.95 a pop - in the UK it's ¬£119.99 for a Play light bar double pack. The Signe comes in two sizes. It'll be $169.99 for a table version and $249.99 for the floor-based version.
One of the coolest ways to light up your house with Philips Hue is using the colored Lightstrips. These thin strips can be hidden under kitchen counters, behind couches, around skirting boards ‚Äď pretty much anywhere you want ‚Äď and they add an array of futuristic looking lights around your home.
More recently, Signify has also announced outdoor versions of the Lightstrip - perfect for Christmas or Halloween. They're water resistant and stick to your path via clips rather than sticky tape. Makes sense, as they have to be out in nature's glory.
You plug one end into your mains socket and then 1m or 2m strips can be joined together to form a chain as long as 10m. Don‚Äôt worry if you can‚Äôt get an exact fit ‚Äď they can also be cut to size.
The Lightstrip starter kit with a plug is $89.99 and you can get extension kits from $29.99. As for the outdoor versions, they're more expensive: The 80-inch version will go for $89.99 while the 197-inch version will go for $159.99.
Philips Hue's new outdoor smart lighting launched last summer. The range consists of wall mounts, bulbs, spotlights and the already-mentioned Lightstrips. The Philips Hue Lily, which comes as a starter pack consisting of three spotlights and is designed to highlight design features in your garden and illuminate flower beds and plants. It's $279 for that starter pack, additional extensions will be $79.99.
Next up is the Philips Hue Calla (640 lumens, like the Lily), which is a path lighting option that will cost $129.99. The base pack includes one bollard, additional ones will set you back $89.99.
If you're looking for wall mounted fixture lighting then you'll be interested in the Philips Hue Inara ($49.99, 800 lumens), Lucca ($59.99, 800 lumens) or Ludere ($129.99, 2600 lumens). Philips also has a dedicated outdoor bulb - the white PAR38 ($29.99 each or $49.99 for a two-pack, 1300 lumens). Signify has doled out information on UK availability and pricing so as it's announced we'll keep you posted.
Philips Hue Adore is its bathroom specific range of smart lighting. The star is the ¬£229 Adore White lighted mirror which has a ring of white LEDs and can be controlled by Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit or a dimmer switch. It also has IP44 dust and water resistance. No US price or availability yet.
Also in the range: the Adore Bathroom spot light, the Adore Bathroom mirror light and the Adore Bathroom ceiling light. They're all white lighting, no colours, with chrome metal finishes and IP44 water resistance.
Philips Hue Accessories
Right, so you‚Äôre all kitted up with the lights ‚Äď you just need a way of controlling them. The app is obviously your best bet (more on that next) but there are physical controllers too.
We‚Äôve already mentioned the Hue Dimmer switch $24.99 up top, but if you want something smarter then you‚Äôll be looking at the Hue Tap switch $49.99. Working off kinetic energy ‚Äď no batteries required ‚Äď the Tap switch lets you choose your four favourite scenes anywhere, at the touch of a button. You can stick it on a wall or use it as a remote control.
Finally, there‚Äôs a Hue Motion sensor which turns bulbs on based on movement. It costs $39.99 and has a daylight sensor so you can choose to only have it operational when it‚Äôs dark.
Philips Hue: The app
Earlier on we mentioned that the Hue Hub is the brains of the operation, firing out the signals to all the connected bulbs. If that‚Äôs the case then the app is the imagination. It‚Äôs where everything is created before the Hub tells the bulbs what to do. The best part? Signify is continually updating the app with new features.
Within the app you can group bulbs into rooms, create colour scenes, design routines, start timers, add security setups and a whole host more. It‚Äôs also where you add new lights to your Hue system.
You‚Äôll use the app to turn lights on and off, change colours and brightness and you can even control your bulbs when you‚Äôre away from your house if you‚Äôve created a Hue account and logged in within the app. The app even knows if you‚Äôre home or away, so it knows if you‚Äôve left the lights on by mistake (or whether to turn them on as you arrive home). Available on iOS and Android, there are also neat smartwatch equivalents for wrist-based controls.
There's also the new Sync App, which is for Windows 10 PCs and Macs running macOS Sierra. Basically, the app analyzes the content you're watching and will sync up your lights so that you can be surrounded with colour. The effect is almost like the movie or TV show you're watching is trying to burst out of the TV.
The feature is mostly limited now. You'll need to hook up your TV to your PC via HDMI, Chromecast, AirPlay or Miracast. The company is talking to streaming companies to make this more of a thing, as the light sequences run on scripts designed by Signify in advance.
Philips Hue: Syncing with smart assistants
Here's the thing: You don't need that app as much as you once did. And that‚Äôs because of Philips‚Äô Friends of Hue program. Hue has always been open with the likes of IFTTT, Logitech and Xfinity but has added Nest, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa to the mix.
This means not only voice controls for turning your lights on and off, but extra security measures like having all of your lights turn on if motion is detected by a certain camera, or having your lights all turn red if your Nest Protect detects Carbon Monoxide.
Using HomeKit or IFTTT you can also create elaborate scenes across all of your connected tech such as having your temperature set to your perfect sleeping level, while at the same time having your lights turned off, your blinds closed and your security alarm armed.
The scenarios are seemingly endless and Hue is easily one of the most supported smart home platforms ‚Äď you‚Äôll struggle to find connected kit that doesn‚Äôt play nicely with it.
Philips Hue: Tips and tricks for getting more
Because Philips Hue has been around for a while, and because the platform is so open, there‚Äôs a heck of a lot more you can do with your bulbs outside the official app and ecosystem.
As well as the official app you‚Äôll find a tonne of third-party Hue apps across Google Play and the App Store ‚Äď more than 700, in fact. Most are rubbish ‚Äď that‚Äôs always the way with an open API ‚Äď but there are a few gems that add features to the mix that the official app doesn‚Äôt allow for. Top picks include Hue Disco for adding some colour to your house party and OnSwitch for grouping your Hue bulbs with your Lifx ones in the same app. Check out our guide to the best Philips Hue apps for more.
Here‚Äôs something you won‚Äôt read on the Signify‚Äôs website (actually you will, but you‚Äôll have to do some digging) you don‚Äôt actually need Philips Hue bulbs in order to have a Philips Hue system.
Philips Hue is part of the Zigbee Light Link standard protocol and, as such, Zigbee Light Link compliant products and devices work with the Hue Bridge. It can be a bit fiddly, but you can get cheaper bulbs such as Ikea‚Äôs, GE‚Äôs and Osram‚Äôs all set up on your Hue system. Take a look at our how-to set up Ikea Tr√•dfri on Philips Hue guide to learn how.
The coolest things about Hue lights is that you can do a lot with them. Want them to sync up with the weather? You can do it. Want to take advantage of the Hue Sync app to make your movie experience more fun, it's easy to learn how.
Philips Hue: The competition
Philips Hue might be the leading light in the smart lighting world, but there are plenty of smart lighting alternatives now on sale.
Lifx is the most obvious pretender to Hue‚Äôs crown ‚Äď it‚Äôs a bridge-less system that offers and app that (dare we say it?) is slightly better and easier to use than Hue‚Äôs, with cheaper price points and an ever-growing army of bulbs and accessories. Watch this space for sure and check out our comprehensive Lifx guide.
The Ikea Tr√•dfri range turned up at the smart lighting party in early 2017 and, while there aren‚Äôt many bells and whistles just yet, smart assistants, coloured bulbs and increased compatibility are all beginning to arrive ‚Äď and as mentioned above, you can even get Ikea‚Äôs cheaper bulbs playing nicely within your Hue setup.
Other names vying for space in an ever-expanding smart lighting arena are Nanoleaf, Osram, WeMo, Hive, Sengled and Elgato. Check out our smart lighting hub page to stay up to date with all the news, reviews and analysis.