Philips Hue Lightning Review: Your Lamp's Not Worthy (Updated)

Used to be, the most customization you could squeeze out of your lighting was how warm or cool you wanted it to be. Not anymore. With the Philips Hue home lighting system, you can control every light in your house down to its color, saturation, and brightness—right from your phone.

What Is It?

Philips' app-controlled mood lighting system.

Who's it For?

People for whom On and Off are insufficient.

Design

The system is composed of three Wi-Fi connected light bulbs, a network gateway slightly larger than a hockey puck, and an iOS app that communicates with the bulbs (through the gateway).

Using It

Plug the bulbs into their respective sockets (either spreading them around the room in multiple lamps or concentrating them in a single fixture), plug the gateway into a spare port on your wireless router, install the Hue app on you iOS or Android device, connect the app to the gateway and you're all set.

The app (at least the Android version that I tested) comes with 17 pre-loaded "scenes," each a colorful image with a trio of pins that sample the underlying color and adjust each bulb's output and brightness accordingly. You are also free to create custom scenes of your own with an image you actively capture or ones from your photo gallery. Philips also offers additional scenes through the app as well. You are also free to adjust the color of each light individually using a color wheel if none of the pre-loaded scenes suits your taste.

The Best Part

Each bridge supports up to 50 light bulbs, so you could theoretically control every light in your house directly from your phone.

Tragic Flaw

The lights and the phone that controls them must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and the app will ensure that connection every time the phone wakes by popping a No Connection error message. Every. Single. Time. Update: The system can be controlled over the Internet after registering the device on the MeetHue.com website but is not available natively out of the box.

This Is Weird...

And while the "same Wi-Fi" requirement is good for preventing digital intruders from messing with your lights, it makes remotely turning my lights on and off while out of town an impossibility. This system definitely needs a timer function. Update: The system does have a timer system too, it's just an iOS exclusive.

Test Notes

  • The lights will revert to their neutral just-out-of-the-box color if you turn the light switch that controls it off and back on. Helpful when you stumble upon a garish combination of colors and need to reset.
  • Sign up for a Hue account and you'll be able to share custom scenes with other Hue users as well as mirror your personal collection across all of your devices.
  • I want this to be able to sync with the movie I'm watching and adjust the lighting color to match the on-screen scene.

Should You Buy It?

Depends on how much you want to recreate the Willy Wonka-boat scene in your foyer. Between $200-$300 to start and more than $50 a bulb after that is tough to swallow. But the Hue system is insanely cool and, in the hands of a skilled interior designer, could be used to turn every room in your house into a light-flooded canvas.

Philips Hue Specs

• Bulb Output: 600 lumen
• Bulb Type:LED
• Bulb Weight:7.2 ounces
• Connectivity: Wi-Fi
• Bulb Dimensions: 5.3 x 4.2 x 2.8 inches with an A19 socket base
• Price: $270 for the starter pack (3 bulbs and the gateway), additional bulbs are $90 each. They're also available at the Apple Store for $200 and $60 for the starter pack and individual bulbs, respectively.

Philips Hue Lightning Review: Your Lamp's Not Worthy (Updated)

Scene: Laila


Philips Hue Lightning Review: Your Lamp's Not Worthy (Updated)

Scene: Taj


Philips Hue Lightning Review: Your Lamp's Not Worthy (Updated)

Scene: Deep Sea


Philips Hue Lightning Review: Your Lamp's Not Worthy (Updated)

Scene: Feet Up