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‚Ä¶
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 ‚Äď like lightbulbs ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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).
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 ‚Äď both outdoor and indoor ‚Äď 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.
- Bundled with Echo Plus
- Excellent number of options
- Easy to set up
- Hub required for all features
- Can get expensive
- Default scenes won't go away
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 ‚Äď if not sometimes better ‚Äď than Hue's. The best part though is that there's no hub ‚Äď 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.
- Doesn't need a hub
- Great quality lighting
- Good colours
- Setup can be annoying
- Flat headed design is odd
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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď you guessed it ‚Äď senses motion.
Compatibility: Android, iOS, E27/27, E12/14, mains.
- Doesn't need a specific hub
- Bizarrely wonderful bulb options
- No Zigbee repeater
- Badly designed app
- Annoying setup
Ikea's making a play for the smart home, and it starts with its Tr√•dfri 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 Tr√•dfri, 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.
- Cheap, cheap, cheap
- Works without hub/app
- Limited shades/colours
- Fiddly pairing to Gateway process
Hive Active Light
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.
- Good value
- White, colour and GU10 bulbs
- Simple to set up
- Requires hub
- Can be a little slow
- Slow roll-out to the US
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 ‚ā¨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.
- No hub required
- Easy to share access
- Encrypted connection
- Expensive outside EU
- Feels like Lifx Light
- Not many fixture options