Ikea Trådfri smart lighting review

Certainly cheap, but will these bulbs make you cheerful?

Ikea Trådfri
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Ikea is moving into the smart home, and that includes taking on the likes of Philips Hue and Lifx with some smart lights of its own – Trådfri.

Trådfri actually covers the entirety of Ikea's smart home line, which includes smart plugs, motion sensors and more. The Swedish furniture maker launched its smart lights in 2017 and has since expanded the lineup with more bulbs, accessories and integrations.

Missing manual: Everything you need to know about Ikea Trådfri

Then there's the price, which is where Ikea is going for the jugular. We've been testing out the whole kit to see if Ikea's smart lighting deserves a spot alongside the biggest players. Here's our full verdict.

Ikea Trådfri review

Ikea Trådfri: The range

While the Trådfri brand doesn't have the sort of range of bulbs Philips Hue or Lifx does, it covers the basics. In an actual retail store, you'll find the smart lights in one corner of the lighting department, though they're not particularly well labelled (at least not in the store we went to).

Multi-colour and white spectrum bulbs are available in E27 sizes in the UK and E26 in the US, with white spectrum E14/E12 bulbs available too, though only with a screw fitting (no bayonet here). GU10 spotlights and flat light panels are also available, so you should find something to fit most scenarios.

Ikea also sells several accessories. You've got a remote control (like a portable light switch), a dimmer switch, and a motion sensor – all of which can be paired to individual bulbs and used out of the box.

Ikea Trådfri review

However, to really put the smarts in these smart lights, you need to add a gateway that plugs into your router. That gateway lets you control bulbs from the mobile app, put them into groups and so on. Without the gateway, you're just using each bulb with a specific accessory (each switch or sensor can pair with 10 lights).

Ikea doesn't really explain that very well, or the fact that you can control Trådfri bulbs through a Philips Hue Bridge rather than the Ikea gateway. There's Zigbee support here as well, so you can also use an Echo Plus as your hub if you prefer.

Ikea Trådfri review

Ikea Trådfri: Setup and features

Speaking of Ikea not explaining things very well, the Trådfri range isn't the easiest to set up. You'll get there in the end, but the instructions aren't the most comprehensive we've ever seen – smart home novices might get quickly confused.

The remote accessories, or "steering devices" as Ikea calls them, are key. You need a motion sensor, a dimmer, or a remote to add anything to your gateway, via a pairing button. So you plug the bulb in, open the app, pair the steering device with the gateway, then pair the steering device with the bulb. And repeat.

Ikea Trådfri review

If you don't have a gateway, you can just pair the steering device with the bulb (and up to nine others). When you actually get the hang of it, it's not too confusing a process, but it feels like there are more steps than necessary.

When you do get everything up and running, it all works as advertised, and is very responsive. The supplied mobile app sticks to the basics but is easy to get around, letting you control colours, on/off states and brightness with a tap.

Ikea Trådfri review

Unfortunately there's no remote access from outside the home available: for this you need to connect Ikea's bulbs up to Alexa, Google Assistant or HomeKit. You can schedule lights to go on and off at certain times inside the Ikea app, however.

What you won't find is the kind of granular or smart control lights from Philips Hue or Lifx offer. The colour and scene selection is more limited, for example, and you can't randomise the on/off times for your lights while you're on holiday.

Ikea Trådfri review

Ikea Trådfri: Integrations

You can connect Trådfri bulbs to the major platforms of the moment: Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. Those integrations work pretty well too.

Read this: How to connect Ikea Trådfri to Apple HomeKit

We were able to add our Trådfri lights to an existing Google Home setup no problem at all, and quickly decided that the Google app was better at controlling everything; it all works very smoothly, with added voice commands. These integrations help make up for some of the shortcomings of the Trådfri range, once you've got past the setup phase.

Read this: How to connect Ikea Trådfri to Google Assistant

There's no built-in support for the excellent IFTTT, but you can hack something together through the other integrations (Ikea hasn't released a Trådfri API yet, the coding interface third-party developers need to make their own integrations).

It's really the same story with integrations as it is with the other aspects of the Trådfri range: Ikea is lagging behind its big name rivals at the moment, so if you need extra bells and whistles, maybe look elsewhere. But for the basics on the cheap, they do well.

Ikea Trådfri: Value for money

Not everything about Ikea Trådfri bulbs impresses, but the price certainly does: bulbs cost as little as $7.99, so you don't have to fork out as much as you do for the equivalent kit from Lifx or Philips Hue.

The Trådfri bulbs aren't quite as smart as their rivals, but you might consider the price trade-off worth it. With support for Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit here, you don't necessarily have to go through Ikea's own rather bare-bones app once you've made the initial connection – those integrations paper over some of the cracks in features and functionality.

Like any other tech purchase it's a balance between price and performance. Accessories like the gateway and motion sensor significantly undercut the Philips Hue equivalents, so we'd say the value-for-money proposition is slightly better.

It's also worth mentioning Ikea does some smart plugs as well, which give you a way of adding some of your dumber devices at home to the same overall setup as your Trådfri bulbs.

Ikea Trådfri
Trådfri covers the basics of smart lighting well enough, though there are limitations, and it's clearly behind Philips Hue and Lifx. The low cost is definitely in Trådfri's favour though, and the accessories (remote, dimmer, motion sensor) give you more options if you want a very small-scale smart bulb setup without a hub. Trådfri bulbs aren't the best smart lights around, but they'll suit some.
  • Nice and cheap
  • Decent accessory choice
  • Zigbee/Alexa/Google/HomeKit
  • Setup is fiddly and confusing
  • No advanced/remote features
  • More bulb choices would help

TAGGED    smart lighting

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