Do you want to embark on the wonderful adventure of home automation or simply to give your interior a little color? Here are the best smart bulbs to achieve your goals.
Few things will have more of an impact on your interior than lighting. A connected light bulb can radically alter the atmosphere of a room in an instant. Add to that a voice assistant and the possibilities are endless.
Choosing the right bulb is first and foremost to identify your needs and budget. Sit down for a few minutes and make a list of lamps to change. Want to add some color to the living room? Simple Wifi bulbs will suffice. Inexpensive, they will be added directly to your existing WiFi network.
If, on the other hand, you have the ambition to equip an entire home, it would be better to orient yourself towards a system using a dedicated bridge. The initial investment will be a bit higher, but the additional bulbs will be cheaper to purchase. To help you make the right choice, we have selected the best solutions of the moment.
Connected bulbs at a glance
If the details aren’t your thing and you’re looking for simplicity, here’s a rundown of what you need to know. Each ecosystem is detailed in more depth below.
If you are looking for a complete ecosystem for your entire interior, we recommend the Philips Hue:
For a lamp or two, with a tighter budget and without a complex bridge to use, the Xiaomi Smart Bulbs will do the trick:
To complete an installation, Ikea bulbs, compatible with the Philips Hue bridge, are a good alternative at a lower cost:
Philips Hue White and Color: our recommendation
Launched 7 years ago, the Philips Hue range remains the benchmark in the small world of connected lighting. At the heart of the system is a bridge using the ZigBee standard and capable of handling up to 50 lamps. And above all the choice of the latter is overwhelming.
Beyond simple white or colored bulbs, there are LED strips to install behind your TV to recreate an Ambilight effect or even garden lampposts. With more than 200 references in the catalog, there will be something for everyone. Head to our guide dedicated to Hue products for an overview of the range. The lighting provided by the bulbs is unsurprisingly of quality.
But it is especially on the software side that Hue crushes the competition, with bloated official partnerships, third-party control applications and an API that allows the most curious to create their own tools.
The only real weakness: a high catalog price that will make you think twice before re-equipping your entire house. We highly recommend that you start with the Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit. The latter is very regularly sold off and a few weeks of patience will allow you to benefit from attractive reductions.
Why choose Philips Hue?
- The richest ecosystem
- Very good light quality
- Bulbs in all formats
Xiaomi Yeelight 1S: maximum simplicity
If you only need one or two bulbs, choosing a WiFi model will save you a bit of money by not having to buy a dedicated bridge. Models of this type are legion, but the Xiaomi Yeelight 1S stands out thanks to compatibility with all major assistants (as well as several others never made in China).
Without reaching the richness of that of Philips, the software ecosystem is correct thanks to the SDK provided. The color quality is generally good and the CRI (Color Rendering Index) simply excellent. The installation process is a bit convoluted (you have to turn the lamp off and on five times with 2 second intervals each time), but you normally only have to go through it once. If you only need one or two bulbs, choosing a Wifi model like this Yeelight 1S will allow you to save on a dedicated bridge.
Why choose the Xiaomi Yeelight 1S
- No need for a bridge
- Very good IRC
- In white, or in color
Ikea TRÅDFRI bulb: the low price
We weren’t really expecting it in this area, but the furniture giant is entering home automation with a frankly convincing TRÅDFRI range. Like the Philips Hue, it uses the ZigBee protocol and therefore requires a bridge. Small peculiarity, you will also have to acquire a remote control (13 euros) to complete the installation, which is very simple.
If we appreciate the solid application and the compatibility with all assistants, we regret that Ikea does not do more. Even the SDK for third-party developers is missing subscribers. The bulbs themselves are of excellent quality and are available in about ten sizes.
In fine the main advantage of TRÅDFRI is its price: the color version costs three times less than its Hue equivalent! Enough to save hundreds of euros on a complete house. Note that their ZigBee compatibility allows a TRÅDFRI bulb to be easily installed in a Hue installation (however, HomeKit compatibility is lost).
Why choose the Ikea TRÅDFRI bulb?
- The very interesting price
- A complete range
- ZigBee compatibility
How to choose the right software ecosystem?
The functions of connected lighting are not limited to a simple choice of intensity and color. On the contrary, most bulbs can interact with other devices or services. In this game, Philips is doing well. With its leadership status, the brand has signed a number of partnerships through its “Friends of Hue” program. There are of course Philips Ambilight TVs, but also manufacturers of alarms or switches.
More surprising: Razer which offers with its Chroma system to recreate a pseudo-Ambilight for its gaming PC. We also find in the application stores dozens of apps ranging from yoga to waking up in the morning through a strobe that will pulse the lamp to the rhythm of your music. Since the API is public, the bravest among you can get your hands on the code to build custom tools.
Although young, the Yeelight ecosystem however covers the basics and enhanced compatibility with some Xiaomi products. Their popularity and the public API federate a growing community of developers around the brand’s products. On the other hand, Ikea is satisfied with the minimum service since only an interconnection with the various voice assistants is ensured.
Which communication protocol to choose?
To control your bulbs, you have to connect them. Several options exist for this. The simplest is probably Bluetooth, but the protocol suffers from a major flaw: its range does not exceed ten meters in the best case.
This problem is avoided by WiFi models, which have the additional advantage of being permanently connected. However, the installation can turn out to be a bit esoteric and the WiFi chip consumes a little power all the time. The range of your existing WiFi network will also be a limiting factor, a point to be taken into account if you do not receive everywhere in your home.
Let’s conclude with the ZigBee. This radio protocol requires a higher base investment since it requires a bridge itself connected to the Internet. The range turns out to be much better since it creates a mesh network that grows with each additional luminaire. The more bulbs you have, the better the coverage will be! Last advantage, this standard theoretically guarantees a certain level of interoperability. In practice, everything is not perfect, some manufacturers taking some liberties with the standard. For example, you can add an Ikea bulb to your Hue installation without too much effort, but some advanced functions may be overlooked.
Which voice assistant to choose?
While connected bulbs can be controlled with via the app or a switch, they really realize their potential when paired with a voice assistant like Google Home or an Amazon Alexa. The latter can be on your smartphone or be integrated into a connected speaker. Head to this guide to learn more about them. For simplicity, the models selected here support all major protocols (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit).
Do all bulbs provide the same light?
Not all bulbs are created equal. Not only does their power vary, but the quality of the light they produce is uneven. Attention will be paid mainly to the range of color temperatures it covers. Between 2000 and 4000 Kelvin, the light will be said to be “hot”, between 4000 and 5000 Kelvin we will obtain an equivalent of daylight, and above the rendering will be cold. Also pay attention to the color rendering index (CRI) which represents the accuracy of the colors. The latter is measured from 0 to 100 and we do not recommend any product below the 80 mark.
What happens if I turn off the switch?
If the connected bulbs are intended to be controlled primarily by voice or via an app. Using your good old switch can turn them off, but once in the off position it will be impossible to turn them on remotely! Nothing very serious then, but you have to get used to not touching your “old” switches.
What can be done with a smart bulb?
As its name suggests, a connected light bulb connects to an internet. It can thus be controlled via a smartphone or a voice assistant. This makes it possible to turn them on or off by voice, or remotely when you are not at home, it is particularly useful for simulating a presence in your absence.
Do smart bulbs work on all lamps?
A priori yes, provided that the format of the bulb and that its base is compatible with the luminaire. Connected bulbs are often heavier than conventional LED bulbs which can sometimes be annoying on some fragile lamps. They are generally mounted on “E27” bases (large screw), but there are sometimes bayonet (B22) and fine screw (E14) versions.