The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit-powered lighting

Buyers guide: We review the latest and greatest smart light bulbs

The best smart light bulbs
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Investing in some smart light bulbs is an ideal first step to creating a smart home ecosystem. Smart lighting, especially when coupled with a smart speaker, can be a seamless way to control your home - and make for some very cool experiences.

And it's not all just Philips Hue nowadays. There are plenty of alternatives in a plethora of sizes, shapes, colors and styles, from a huge array of different brands.

Rather than picking individual devices for this smart lighting buyer’s guide, we’ve instead picked what we believe to be the best smart light platforms – you’re much more likely to go all-in with one particular system rather than scatter various brands across your home - but don't worry, we'll discuss individual bulb choices too.

Jump to the information you need

The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit powered lighting

Best smart bulb: Philips Hue

Buy now: Amazon | From $14.99 up to $200+

E26/27, E12/14, B22, GU10, PAR16, Bluetooth, mains.

Philips Hue is the smart lighting granddaddy – the first Hue bulb was switched on back in October 2012. It’s the original and it’s still the best in our eyes.

While the best route is still to get a Philips Hue Bridge (which comes in the starter kits) you can go hub-free - but you'll be more limited. Signify now sells Bluetooth versions of Hue, which are less expensive and talk directly to your smartphone. That means you lose control when you leave the house, but when you're home you can still enjoy Alexa and Google Assistant control, along with other tricks (although you won't be able to use routines).

The quality of the light – both on the white and color bulbs – is superb, with white temperatures between 2200K and 6500K and over 16 million colors on offer. You’ll struggle to find a light fitting that isn’t catered for, either, and Philips also makes its own lamps and light fittings with Hue built in – there are almost 50 different shapes and sizes to choose from.

The Hue app is clean and you can even control your bulbs when you’re away from your house if you’ve created an account and logged in within the app. The app even knows if you’re home or away, so it knows if you’ve left the lights on by mistake (or whether to turn them on as you arrive home).

The scenarios are seemingly endless and the simplicity of Hue working in tandem with platforms like IFTTT and Logitech, along with Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa, is one of the reasons it’s the starting point for many people’s smart home setups.

What we love

  • Comprehensive range
  • Seamless integrations
  • Huge Hue community

What we don't love

  • Need a hub for full experience
  • Quite pricey
  • App is a bit cumbersome

Get the verdicts: Philips Hue review | Philips Hue Bluetooth review | Philips Hue Filament review

Best smart bulbs

Runner-up: Lifx

Buy now: Amazon | From $24.99 up to $249.99

E26/27, E12/14, B22, GU10.

The platform that started life originally as a Kickstarter project, Lifx is now a worthy rival to Philips Hue, with 16 million colors – 1,000 shades of white alone – and Wi-Fi bulbs with maximum brightness at 1,100 lumens. Best of all, Lifx bulbs don't need a hub.

That’s right – all you have to do to get some Lifx into your life is to screw one of the bulbs into a light socket and you’re good to go. Lifx lighting has Wi-Fi built in so it can speak to your smartphone app or your smart speaker directly. Setup is about as easy as gets in the smart lighting world.

The Lifx range of bulbs is ever-growing – we had a mixture of white, color, Mini and lightstrip models on test – and each one behaved as well as the last, with minimal fuss pairing not only with the superb Lifx app, but also with an array of smart assistants to choose from.

The light quality is great with Lifx; 2500 – 9000K white light on the top models and that Hue-matching 16 millions colors, and while some people were put off by the flat head bulbs of the original line-up, the new Mini range do look a lot more like ‘real’ light bulbs, albeit with a reduced and fixed (2700K) white light quality.

Where Lifx outdoes Hue, in our opinion, is with its integrated features when it comes to pre-set configurations and effects. Sure, Hue has an ecosystem of third-party apps that let you do pretty much anything you’d want from your lights – but Lifx puts neat functionality at the front and centre of the app.

Lifx taps into all the major smart home setups – Alexa and Google Assistant integration is mega easy but, HomeKit is a bit longer-winded – especially if you bought your Lifx bulbs pre-HomeKit compatibility went live and you have no sticker to scan. If this is the case (as it was for us) you’ll have to go through a painful reset option to virtually get that HomeKit code.

Bulb for bulb, Lifx is actually a shade more pricy than Hue but, don’t forget, you don’t have to shell out for a separate hub to make it all work.

What we love

  • No hub or extra gear required
  • Full list of integrations
  • Great selection of bulbs

What we don't love

  • Bulbs alone can be more expensive than Hue
  • Some setup niggles

Read our full Lifx Mini review.

The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit powered lighting

Best without a hub: Eufy Lumos

Buy now: Amazon | From $15.99


Eufy's line of Lumos smart bulbs were already pretty good, but they got a lot with Lumos 2.0. Why 2.0? They're smaller - making them a better fit for tight spaces - and come with an improved Wi-Fi connection.

Right now, there are just two 2.0 options: white and, er, white. One of those is tuneable though. And if you want color, you can still pick up the version 1 color bulb - just be aware it's a little bigger.

But enough about size: Eufy's appeal lies in the price - starting at $16 - and the fact you don't need a hub to use them. That's right, it's all done over Wi-Fi, so you can simply control your Eufy bulbs from your phone - or using Alexa or Google Assistant.

That means you'll want to ensure you have good Wi-Fi coverage across your home if you plan to fill it with Eufy bulbs. And how do they perform? Really well, from our testing. Eufy's bulbs were both responsive and reliable.

Where they lose points, though, is in their limited features. You can schedule the lights to come on and off, but you can't set the brightness within the schedule. You can also adjust the brightness in the app and using Alexa/Google Assistant.

Setup could be simpler, and sadly this isn't one for the HomeKit crowd. But that's as far as the complaints go. And if they do disappoint, at least you didn't break the bank.

Eufy proves that cheap smart lighting doesn't have to suck, and while you don't get the full package of smarts and integrations you'd get with Hue, there's enough here to satisfy many - including Alexa/Google Assistant integration. They're also very reliable bulbs - so long as your Wi-Fi coverage is good.

What we love

  • Reliable
  • Alexa/Google Assistant
  • New smaller bulbs are great

What we don't love

  • Small range
  • No Lumos 2.0 colour bulb (yet)
  • Setup can be glitchy

Read our full Eufy Lumos review.

Best smart bulbs

Best budget pick: Sengled Element

Buy now: Amazon | From $9.99

E27/27, E12/14.

Sengled’s been in the smart light game a while now, and while it's not technically the cheapest on this list (that title goes to Wyze) it has a wider range of affordable options. At $9.99 for a single A19 bulb - in either ‘soft white’ or ‘daylight’ flavors - this is a really cheap way in.

Even better, you don’t necessarily need the Sengled hub to use these lights. If you have an Amazon Echo Plus, Samsung SmartThings hub or a Wink smart hub, you can power them with those via the power of Zigbee. Otherwise you’ll need to pick up the Sengled hub, but you can nab that with a couple of bulbs in the starter kit for $40.

Sengled has also added support for Alexa and Google Assistant control. For Alexa you can do this by connecting your Echo Plus directly to the bulbs, but for Assistant you’ll need to go via a hub, whether that’s the Wink, Samsung SmartThings or Sengled’s own.

With an output of 800 lumens and a color temperature of 2,700K, the lights are about what you’d get from a standard household bulb. If you get the Sengled hub, there’s a separate app you can use to control your infantry of smart bulbs - up to a maximum of 64.

Sengled makes a strong value proposition with its smart lights - and delivers. It's not a clean sweep: HomeKit support would be nice (it's probably coming) and as these are Zigbee end devices, larger homes might need a signal boost. But the fact it works with hubs outside of Sengled's own scores it a lot of extra points.

What we love

  • Cheap
  • Simple setup
  • Can work with other Zigbee hubs

What we don't love

  • No HomeKit support
  • Color bulbs not sold separately

The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit-powered lighting

Best white-only bulb: Wyze Bulb

Buy now: Amazon | $7.99

Compatibility: E26.

Wyze has quickly made a name for itself as the maker of incredibly affordable, yet very good smart home gadgets. That doesn't stop with its $8 smart bulb, which performs many of the tasks other bulbs on this list do while costing less. You also don't need a hub to use it, meaning the grand sum of running one of these bulbs is – yep, $8. Did we mention the price yet?

Right now there's only a white bulb on offer - if you want any hues beyond "slightly warmer white" you won't get them here. But that one bulb shines bright, maxing out at 800 lumens, and as well as the color temperature (which runs 2700k-6500k) the brightness can be adjusted – just note that it doesn't go as dim as other smart bulbs.

For our money, it's the best value white-only bulb you can pick up right now, particularly as you don't need a hub – just connect them to your Wi-Fi and you're away.

The Wyze Bulb works with Alexa and Google Assistant, but Wyze has its own automations (called Shortcuts) and scenes in the app, which you might find more useful if you plan to use Wyze's lights with its other products, like the Cam or Sense. No HomeKit here though.

What we love

  • That price
  • Works with Wyze Shortcuts
  • Easy to set up and use

What we don't love

  • No color option (yet)
  • No HomeKit
  • Smaller brightness range than others

Read our full Wyze Bulb review.

The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit-powered lighting

Best Google Assistant smart bulb: C by GE

Buy now: Amazon | From $24.99

Compatibility: E26.

After various iterations on the name, C by GE is the company's latest line of smart bulbs and includes a full color bulb, a tunable white bulb, and a soft white bulb - all in A19 and BR30 sizes. But the major standout factor is that these bulbs carry the "Made For Google" label.

While they also play nicely with Alexa and HomeKit, the experience overall is much better if you're a Google Home user. That's because these bulbs are only "hub-free" when used with a Google Home. If you want to control it with Alexa or HomeKit remotely, you need a hub, C by GE switch, smart plug or the C-Reach bridge.

In sum, without being on Google's platform, the C by GE isn't for you. If you're still here, then here are the specs: 800 lumens for the tunable while, with color temps between 2000k and 7000k. The full-color bulbs are less bright – 760 lumens in A19 and 700 lumens in the BR30 bulb.

While you'll have access to Google's Routines in the app (along with voice and remote control), you'll get more options by using the C by GE app, including sleep/wake options, scene setting, and better automations. It's not a great app... but it works.

What we love

  • Simple setup
  • Made for Google
  • Bright whites

What we don't love

  • Need hub for out-of-home/voice control
  • Limited options with Google Home
  • Weak colors

Read our full C by GE bulbs review.

The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit powered lighting

Best for customization: Nanloeaf

Buy now: Amazon| From $195.99


Nanoleaf is a modular lighting system, letting you stick panels together to create interesting and unique lighting on your walls. There are two version of Nanoleaf's Lego-like lights, the triangular Light Panel and the newer, square Canvas.

Once you've arranged them into your desired pattern, you can use the app to customize each panel to change colors and create movement patterns.So if you want to arrange your cool blue lights to transform into purple, and then red, and then yellow, have at it. If you want a giant peace-sign that flickers like a rainbow, go for it.

In the (albeit quite expensive) starter kits you’ll get nine panels and a base station, but you can buy extra panels to keep expanding the design. They connect together using a clip-in, SIM card-esque, chip and stick on the wall using supplied sticky tabs. They weigh hardly anything so there’s no need for screws.

Once arranged, you just use the app to scroll through different themes – some static, some rotate – and you can even design your own using the easy-to-use creators tool. There's also a feature called Rhythm Edition, which means that the Light Panels can sync up with your music, creating a physical visualizer for your wall.

HomeKit integration is strong – with scene selection made easy on iOS devices – and there's Google Assistant and Alexa voice commands on offer too so you can ask for your favorite scenes.

What we love

  • Loads of fun colors
  • Rhythm and Interactive work great
  • App is packed with scenes
  • Potential to add more panels

What we don't love

  • Some setup issues
  • Expensive for some
  • Mild connection dips
  • Could have better voice control

Read our Nanoleaf Canvas review.

The best smart light bulbs: Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit-powered lighting

How to get started with smart lighting

Why buy smart lighting?

Well, there's plenty of reasons. Smart bulbs have tonnes of features, letting you do things like dim them and turn them on and off with your voice (when paired with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri).

You can group bulbs together to have your whole downstairs, living room or home under a single control. And you can set up routines - so for example, announcing "movie time" will turn off the main lights and dim the others. Or, you can have your porch light turn on when you open the front door (with a sensor).

Another great reason to jump on with smart lighting is scheduling. You can have your bulbs turn on at set times, or when you're not home. Some will even mimic your patterns using AI or flicker like someone's watching TV, to give the impression someone's in the house (and ward off any chancing burglars).

How do smart bulbs work?

First, the basics. These devices are like regular light bulbs, but they're connected to the internet in some way. Some work via Wi-Fi (namely Lifx), which means you need no extra hardware, but others need a hub connected to your router. Some even connect direct to your phone via Bluetooth.

How do you fit a smart bulb?

Every system is different, but the bulb itself will in most cases screw in like any other. Then you set up the hub and app - and you're good to go. For hub-less Wi-Fi bulbs, screw them in and turn them on, then use the app to send the Wi-Fi details to them.

Are all smart bulbs expensive?

Well, it depends what you want, but they don't have to be. However, they are more expensive than standard bulbs, on the whole. We'd advise getting a good deal on a starter kit and then waiting to grab single bulbs in the sales – the big retailers are always discounting.

But there's an alternative. You can get many of the benefits of smart bulbs by changing out for a smart light switch instead. You lose some of the dimming and color features, but it saves buying 25 smart GU10 bulbs for your kitchen.

Smart bulbs: Do I need a hub?

It's the age-old question: Do you really need a hub for your smart lights? It's not ideal, but most smart bulbs work better when connected to a hub, the presence of which means they'll work using Zigbee or Z-Wave, which is a much more stable connection, with a longer range that's less prone to dropouts than Wi-Fi.

The other major benefit a hub brings is control. A hub is, after all, a central controlling device, and in some cases you'll need it for controlling your bulbs when you're out of the house. But the game is changing, and we're seeing some companies offer remote controls and scheduling without a hub at all – Wyze, one of the above picks, being an example of this.

You also need to ask yourself, what do you want in a smart light? Many Hue bulbs now come with a Bluetooth option, which allows you to connect your bulbs without a hub and enjoy some smart features so long as you're at home – and for a lot of people, that's all they need.

The obvious answer to the title question here is to check what each manufacturer offers, and the extent of control you'll get with or without a hub.

TAGGED    lighting    smart home

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