Philips Hue Connected Bulb

You might not have an obvious need for an Internet-connected, colour-changing light bulb, but the Philips Hue Connected Bulb kit offers enough potential to justify its high price tag.

CNET Rating

Like many of the new breed of user-installable, smartphone-controlled home tech products, the WiFi-connected Philips Hue lighting kit has high geek/novelty appeal. After all, it's a colour-changing, LED light bulb package you can program from a smartphone. But beyond its remote on/off and scheduling functions you'll need to get really into the extended features, like geofencing and IFTTT support, to make this kit worth AU$249.


The Philips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Kit includes three LED light bulbs and the Hue Bridge. The Bridge is a hub that plugs directly into your wireless router and translates signals between your Wi-Fi connected smartphone and the ZigBee-based bulbs.

(Credit: Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET)

Once you've connected the Bridge and installed a few bulbs, you simply download and install the free Philips iOS or Android app, which will then prompt you to hit the Bridge's sync button. The app, Bridge and bulbs should all find each other a few seconds later. Since the Hue kit has been on the market since late 2012, you might receive a Bridge with outdated firmware. You can use the app to check, but you might also need to cycle the power once or twice before you get an accurate reading.

(Credit: Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET)

The official Hue app is not the most intuitive piece of software. Its primary screen displays a grid of preset lighting schemes ("recipes," per Philips) designed for all three light bulbs. Select any of those presets and your bulbs will change almost instantly. Selecting also launches an on-screen brightness slider, framed by buttons to edit the preset, and to turn it off. Philips will let you monitor lights, adjust their brightness, and turn them on or off remotely once you've signed up and logged into the Web-based client.

If Philips' app isn't perfect, it exposes enough features to make the Hue Connected Bulb interesting. Search "Hue" in the Apple Store or in Google Play, and you'll find apps that let you do even more.

(Credit: Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET)

Like Belkin's WeMo home automation devices, the Hue also has its own IFTTT channel. IFTTT (If This, Then That) is an Internet-based standard that lets you tie online services to each other. The idea is that through a simple interface, you can create "recipes" that perform simple functions.


For all of that new-fangled connectedness, it's most important that the Philips Hue bulbs meet our basic expectations for standard home lighting. The good news is that they do. The white, yellow, and blue-toned lighting (accessible via the Concentrate, Energize, Reading, and Relax presets) all have the familiar warmth and colour tone of standard incandescent or utility bulbs. Each 8.5-watt, 600 lumen Hue bulb can shine with the intensity of a 50-watt incandescent. A single, undimmed bulb won't sufficiently light an entire 12x12-foot room, but two Hue bulbs should do the job.

(Credit: Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET)

You also don't need to worry about the range of a bulb from the Bridge. With the controller on one end of our appliance testing warehouse, and a bulb at the other, we put about 100 feet and five or six walls between them. We noticed no significant delay in responsiveness. A 1,500-square-foot house might put that many walls and a floor or two between the two pieces, but the longest distance might be more like 50 or 75 feet apart.


At AU$69 a pop if you purchase them individually, or AU$249 for the kit, the Philips Hue Connected Bulb has some useful conveniences, but it's also packed with some likely short-lived novelty. It's expensive compared with a CFL or a old school incandescent bulb. It's even pricier than many other LED bulbs, although not all of the Hue's competition is connected, nor as feature-rich.


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