Smart bulbs are the perfect place to start if you're looking to haul your home into the connected house revolution. What's more, they're getting cheaper and easier to set up all the time.
Aside from being a gadget lover's dream for creating the perfect movie night atmosphere, smart bulbs can double as a superb security measure while you're away. Or they can set the mood for a calm night after a stressful day at work. They're truly versatile.
Essential reading: Best smart thermostats
What's more, some can even be controlled by wearables such as the Apple Watch and smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo, and with low power LED tech, they'll save you money over a bad old incandescent bulb. Here's our pick of the smart bulbs systems.
Philips Hue is a fuss-free smart lighting system that does everything you'd want it to and more. You can alter the brightness and colour of individual bulbs, pick colors from images and hook the lights up to IFTTT 'Applet' recipes via slick apps for iPhone, Android and desktop. Control apps on wearables include the Hue iOS app's support for Apple Watch.
If you'd like to keep things simple, there's the white ambiance bulbs that enable you to control brightness and colour temperature between 2200K and 6500K. If you want to spice things up, Philips' new generation of bulbs have been improved with deeper, richer colours to really get the perfect mood lighting just right.
In the US Philips has now updated its starter kits. You'll now get four bulbs in a pack rather than three, since it found most people were buying an extra bulb for their room anyway. In the UK, you'll still just get three bulbs. Unfortunately, it's unclear when the new starter kits will make its way over.
LIFX A19 / E27
Originally a Kickstarter project, LIFX's bulb is a worthy rival to the Philips Hue with 16 million colours – 1,000 shades of white alone – and Wi-Fi bulbs with maximum brightness at 1,100 lumens. And best of all, it doesn't need a hub.
The newer A19 bulb reduces the bulk so it will work in more light fittings, and it uses a standard screw fit. Set up is simple and LIFX can even connect to your Nest smart home system if you have one. If you're more of an Apple HomeKit person, you'll be happy to know that it supports that, too, making it the first non-hub smart bulb to support Apple's smart home initiative.
The app itself is easy to use, and aside from controlling colours and setting themes, you can also split your home up into zones – if you have multiple bulbs – and then create timings for them, which is a great way to secure your home when you're away.
You've seen a smart bulb. They look like regular bulbs, except that you can use your phone or smart home system to control them. The Nanoleaf Aurora, inspired by the aurora borealis, is a whole different beast. It's a modular lighting system.
You can arrange the triangle lights in any shape you want, and you can use the app to customise each panel and create movement patterns. So yeah, if you want to arrange your cool blue lights to transform into purple, and then red, and then yellow, have at it.
You know how expensive lining up your home with smart lights can be, and Ikea does too. It's recently launched Trådfi, an affordable smart home collection.
The centerpiece of this is the Gateway Kit, which comes with two white spectrum LED bulbs, a remote control and, of course, a gateway that links them all up. That's fine and good, but we'd rather go with the warm white dimming kit, a dimming LED bulb and an adorable little hockey puck to control it all.
Dimming Kit: $19, ikea.com
Hive Active Light
For our UK homies, Hive Active Light can replace existing bulbs with screw or bayonet fixtures, which you can control from the Hive app via your smartphone (iOS, Android, Windows) tablet or laptop. Just like the other smart bulbs on this list, once connected, you'll be able to simply turn the lights on or off, set dimming levels and sort schedules.
There are now colour and white versions of Hive Active Light, so you can really mix up your moods. If you have the Hive smart thermostat you're good to go, but if not you'll need to invest in the Hive Hub (£80) to connect to your router at home. The Hive ecosystem is also improving, with Alexa and IFTTT now fully supported.
Philips Hue Go
Worthy of its own mention is the latest addition to the Philips smart lights series, Hue Go. It's a portable, bowl-shaped lamp which is perfect for balconies, gardens and terraces.
As well as app-controlled brightness, tone and colour it can also act as a bedside smart alarm with its gradual wake-up feature. It has a three hour battery life on one charge and a handy low power mode.
The ilumi A19 is the flagship Bluetooth bulb and one of three in a series of smart lights from the company. There are also larger lights you can choose to illuminate bigger rooms, or you could go with the newest addition: a smart LED strip.
It's not the first smart strip we've seen, but it is the first one suitable for outdoor usage. That means you can set up the lights wherever you'd like because of its versatility. To top it off, all the bulbs can work together through the iOS or Android app.
C by GE Sol
Yes, this is another smart lamp rather than a set of smart bulbs, but GE's page age smart lamp is a little different: Alexa is built in. The C by GE Sol is a circular lamp designed for bedside tables. You can manually set the colour of the light, plus it can change hue based on the time of day and when you go to sleep.
That way, it's more in tune with your circadian rhythms than most. GE also does a range of smart bulbs and both can be controlled via the GE Lighting app. Of course, with miss and speaker in the base, there's the added bonus of chatting to Amazon's famous voice assistant for controls, news and all kinds of other skills.
We're definitely going to see more Alexa-enabled lights as the year goes on.
MiPow Playbulb Garden
MiPow has a range of smart bulb solutions, including one with a built-in speaker – but it's the Garden model that we're most enamoured with.
This LED solar garden light is equipped with a 20 hour battery life, from a full sunny-charge. It will turn out automatically when it's dark and a smart light sensor conserves energy when it's bright out. It's IP65 certified, so will survive the rain, and the accompanying app allows you to program a wide range of colourful schemes.
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