Light it up: The best Alexa smart bulbs

Let Alexa light up your life with our pick of the best compatible bulbs

The best Alexa smart bulbs

Maybe you've just jumped into the world of Alexa with the new Amazon Echo Dot. Maybe you're an old hand with Amazon's assistant, but you've finally decided to smarten up your home's lighting.

Alexa just so happens to be the best assistant for controlling a smart home, and one of the most magical ways to dive into the smart home is smart lighting. Simply speak and your lights flicker to life. It never gets old.

Read this: The best smart lights you can buy

There are a number of really good smart bulbs out there, but which ones work with Alexa? Even more importantly, which ones are actually worth your time and hard-earned cash?

Fear not, for we have tested out a number of smart bulbs that work with Amazon's famous digital assistant. We'll get into those in a moment, but first…

Alexa smart bulbs: Things to consider before buying

So, Amazon's got this fancy Echo called the Echo Plus, which has a Zigbee receiver built into it. This means that certain smart home devices – like lightbulbs – won't need their individual hubs if you've got an Echo Plus.

So from the get-go you can lower the long-term costs by opting for the Plus – but mind, there are a couple of catches.

The first is that you lose out on some features. For instance, if you use a Philips Hue bulb with an Echo Plus you won't need the Hue Hub, but you will lose out on things like building scenes and syncing your lights to your movies and other entertainment.

The other catch is the technology the bulbs use to connect. There are two main ones in the world of smart bulbs: Wi-Fi and Zigbee. Wi-Fi bulbs are the mavericks of the smart bulb world; they don't need a hub to function, but they're also relying on Wi-Fi to stay connected.

One of the big new features coming to the Echo Plus is the ability for it to control your smart home products should your internet go down. That wouldn't be possible with Wi-Fi bulbs. However if you don't have a Plus, getting a Wi-Fi bulb would be easier on your wallet.

It's a trade-off. You get more features with Zigbee-enabled bulbs, and you'll get even more features if you pony up for each bulb's specific hub (like the Hue Hub for Philips, or Hive Hub for Hive, etc).


Light it up: The best smart bulbs for Alexa

Philips Hue

From $14.99 up to $200+, Amazon | meethue.com

Philips is the biggest name in smart lights, and it shows. The company easily has the best selection of bulbs and fixtures in the smart bulb game. There are simpler, regular bulbs, there are candle-like bulbs, and then there are the fixtures.

There are a number of light strips – both outdoor and indoor – that you can get. There are fancy lighting fixtures that'll recess into your ceiling. There are lights you need pros to install. There are lamps. There are lights that look just like giant lightsabers. You name it, Philips probably has it.

It's all a bit overwhelming, but you'll also get superb light quality. White temperatures go from 2200K to 6500K with over 16 million colours to choose from. They're also packed with tricks, from creating custom scenes to syncing with your entertainment.

In our experience, we've found Hue to be the best at working with the Echo Plus. You just twist it in, turn on the plug and ask Alexa to discover your new devices. You won't get all the flexibility of the hub, but you will get to use a pretty great bulb regardless.

If you don't just want to be stuck in the wide world of Alexa, there's also the Friends with Hue platform, which includes IFTTT, Xfinity and Logitech. Specifically, you can use IFTTT to do some pretty rad things, like sync your lights to your favourite sports team. Or maybe light up the room blue when it rains.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, E26/27, E12/14, B22, GU10, PAR16, mains.

the ambient verdict
Philips Hue
There's a reason why Amazon bundles a Hue bulb with the Echo Plus: it's still the best smart lighting system you can get. For the most part, you're getting a feature-packed bulb, but if you opt to use the Plus as your hub you are losing out on a handful of them. Still, Hue is your best choice.
PROS
  • Bundled with Echo Plus
  • Excellent number of options
  • Easy to set up
CONS
  • Hub required for all features
  • Can get expensive
  • Default scenes won't go away


Light it up: The best smart bulbs for Alexa

Lifx

From $24.99 up to $249.99, Amazon | lifx.com

If Philips is the Goliath of smart home lighting, Lifx is the David. What started as a crowdfunding darling is now a fully-fledged smart light company with a number of good options.

You've got over 16 million colours, brightness at 1,100 lumens, and over 1,000 shades of white. Those colours can get pretty luscious, and to our eye they're as good – if not sometimes better – than Hue's. The best part though is that there's no hub – that's because Lifx bulbs are connected using Wi-Fi. To connect them to Alexa, all you'll have to do is boot up that Lifx app, connect your bulbs and then make sure your Amazon and Lifx accounts are connected. Then your lights will be ready to use.

Unlike Philips Hue, you will get a number of interesting features like scenes and entertainment syncing without having a hub. Unfortunately the Lifx app isn't quite as smooth and bug-free, either.

The biggest benefit to the Lifx #nohub life is that those of us without an Echo Plus can get a seamless lighting experience. This is especially handy if you've just got an Echo Dot and you want a smart light to use it with.

As for the lights available, you've got your standard set of bulbs and then you've got the more compact and affordable Lifx Mini bulbs. The company has also started to look at fixtures, taking a turn toward light panels with the Tile and Beam.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, E26/27, E12/14, B22, GU10, mains.

the ambient verdict
Lifx
Lifx is a solid second choice in the world of smart lighting. It offers a number of benefits over Hue's system, like the lack of a hub. The app isn't quite as good as Hue's redesigned one, and it's a big buggy for things like the Tile or Beam, but the entire Lifx experience is a good one. It does work with Wi-Fi, so you non-Echo Plus folks need not worry.
PROS
  • Doesn't need a hub
  • Great quality lighting
  • Good colours
CONS
  • Expensive
  • Setup can be annoying
  • Flat headed design is odd


Light it up: The best smart bulbs for Alexa

Sengled Element

From $9.99, Amazon | sengled.com

If you're looking for a very affordable set of bulbs, Sengled's Element line is a pretty good option to pair with Alexa. They do start at just $10 for a soft white, after all.

Bur you do get what you pay for. They're pretty standard, with 800 lumens of brightness and a colour temperature of 2,700K. However, where they succeed is that these Zigbee-based bulbs can work with all sorts of hubs.

If you don't want to use Sengled's tiny hub, you can use your Echo Plus. If you don't have a Plus, you can even use your Samsung SmartThings or Wink hub if you've got one of those. However, there is a drawback with Sengled's Zigbee support – the bulbs aren't Zigbee repeaters.

That means that if your home is larger the bulbs won't boost the Zigbee reception, which means it might be difficult for your to connect to your Hub. That certainly happened in our test home. The Sengled bulbs were too far away from our Echo Plus, and unless we wanted to rearrange our Echo setup, we just had to bite the bullet and use the Sengled hub.

In fact, setup was probably the most frustrating of the bunch. The company doesn't provide too much information in the box, so you might end up having to figure out how to set up your bulbs with Alexa all by your lonesome.

On the bright side, Sengled has a number of bizarre bulbs coming. There's a speaker bulb that syncs to your music, and there's also a motion sensing bulb that'll turn on a light when it – you guessed it – senses motion.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, E27/27, E12/14, mains.

the ambient verdict
Sengled Element
Sengled is definitely the best option if you're looking for something a little more affordable. For as little as [currency usd="9.99" gbp="12.99"] you can get a dependable and well-featured bulb. Plus, you don't need a specific hub, saving you even more money if you've got SmartThings or an Echo Plus. Setup can be frustrating though, especially in larger homes.
PROS
  • Cheap
  • Doesn't need a specific hub
  • Bizarrely wonderful bulb options
CONS
  • No Zigbee repeater
  • Badly designed app
  • Annoying setup


Light it up: The best Alexa smart bulbs

Ikea Trådfri

From $6.99, Amazon | ikea.com

Ikea's making a play for the smart home, and it starts with its Trådfri smart lights. Cheap and cheerful, Ikea's platform doesn't offer the array of features you'll get from Philips Hue or Lifx, but they will slip in nicely to an Alexa home.

The range of bulbs has grown since launch too, and bundles of accessories start from $19.99 while bulbs, or standalone A+ Energy LEDs bulbs start from just $6.99.

Setup is a bit fiddly with Trådfri, but if you follow the instructions you should be fine. If you want to connect your lights to Alexa you will need the $29.99 gateway. Once you're set up, you can control your lights with the power of voice, using Alexa to turn them on/off, adjust brightness, or even change the color. And if you don't want Alexa at all, you can just control the bulbs using a connected steering devices.

Ikea's range is ideal for people who aren't too fussed about having a huge array of colors or more advanced features. Alexa integration does enhance the "smarts" somewhat but there are still limitations, with a platform trailing behind Hue, Lifx and others on this list. The low cost is appealing though and you can add more steerers and accessories, including motion sensors, should you want to take things further..

Compatibility: Android, iOS, E26/27, E12/14, GU10.

the ambient verdict
Ikea Trådfri
Ikea’s smart home bulbs are very much a work in progress with their buggy app and flaky performance but, at the prices the Swedish smart home giant is knocking them out for, these are a serious contender to their more established neighbours. They’re far from perfect but they do work well most of the time, with the odd hiccup here and there.
PROS
  • Cheap, cheap, cheap
  • Works without hub/app
  • Zigbee/Alexa/Google/HomeKit
CONS
  • Buggy
  • Limited shades/colours
  • Fiddly pairing to Gateway process


Light it up: The best Alexa smart bulbs

Hive Active Light

From $17.99, Amazon | hivehome.com

Hive's smart light platform has evolved since we first started testing it, from playing a supporting role in Hive's smart home ecosystem to a smart light platform in its own right. Hive's white and color bulbs can be controlled using the Hive app, but they also play nicely with Alexa (and Google Assistant). You will need a hub to make this happen, but the fact they run on Zigbee mean they're less prone to outages.

Without smart assistant support, Hive's lights have some decent features such as Recipes for automating actions. Meanwhile new additions to the lineup, such as the latest dimmable GU10 bulb (£15 each, coming to the US soon) are decent value for money. In fact, with Hive bulbs starting at $17.99 each, cost is one of the most appealing factors.

Couple that with the ability to run Philips Hue bulbs in your Hive setup, and (especially if you already own a lot of Hue bulbs) you've potentially got a fully flourished smart light setup for a very reasonable price.

Alexa will let you do all the usuals - turning lights on/off, dimming - as well as color control if you have the right bulbs for it.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, E26/27, E12/14, B22, GU10, mains.

the ambient verdict
Hive Active Lights
Hive has taken an add-on feature to become a leading smart lighting platform in its own right. It’s cost-effective, built on stable, easy-to-use technology, features a good range of bulb fittings and options, and plays nicely with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
PROS
  • Good value
  • White, colour and GU10 bulbs
  • Simple to set up
CONS
  • Requires hub
  • Can be a little slow
  • Slow roll-out to the US


Light it up: The best smart bulbs for Alexa

Wiz

From $54, | Amazon | wiz.world

The small Belgian upstart is looking to unseat the others on this list, and it wants to do this by essentially making its bulbs the most technology-packed it can. For one, you're getting bulbs with 64,000 whites and over 16 million colours.

You're also not going to need a hub, as these bulbs work on a Wi-Fi connection that's encrypted and uses an anonymous sign-in method to keeps your credentials out of the cloud. Wiz is also taking advantage of having a Wi-Fi connected bulb by making it as easy as possible to share your bulb setups with other people.

Your app will also save multiple locations so you can control bulbs for your home, your vacation home and office in the same app. There's also 2MB of memory on each bulb so that Wiz can pre-load different scenes. Using Wiz with Alexa is about the same as using Lifx. In fact, if you rename all your bulbs like we do you might even forget which is which.

The one big downside here is that it's difficult to get your hands on Wiz bulbs affordably. If you're in the EU, you can get Wiz bulbs for as little as €27. But if you're in the US, for example, you'll get them for $54 and up. The company does also partner up with OEMs to sell their wares, but it is difficult to get your hands on them, especially as they're very similar to Lifx in concept but more money in some territories.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, E27, E14, A19, GU10.

the ambient verdict
Wiz
Wiz is a small Belgium smart bulb option, but it is a worthy one. Placing a premium on the hardware inside the bulb and the ability to share access to your bulbs is good, but the bulbs remain hard to purchase if you're outside Belgium or the rest of the European Union. The fixture options aren't exactly the best either.
PROS
  • No hub required
  • Easy to share access
  • Encrypted connection
CONS
  • Expensive outside EU
  • Feels like Lifx Light
  • Not many fixture options


Big savings on Alexa compatible devices

Dot + Ring Alarm pack - $80 off
Dot + Ring Alarm pack - $80 off
Amazon
$239.99
SmartThings ADT - $450 off
SmartThings ADT - $450 off
Amazon
$99
Fire TV Stick + Echo Dot - save $20
Fire TV Stick + Echo Dot - save $20
Amazon
$79.98
Amazon Cloud Cam - Buy 2 save $40
Amazon Cloud Cam - Buy 2 save $40
Amazon
$199.98

TAGGED   amazon   lighting

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