The best smart lights ensure you can create the perfect atmosphere without even getting up from the sofa. Whether you want to brighten or dim your light bulbs, create a dramatic effect by changing the hue they illuminate, or even just controlling them when you’re not at home, all you need is your smartphone or one of the best wireless speakers or smart displays.
The best smart light bulbs are LED rather than traditional incandescent bulbs, so they use less energy and thanks to the long lifespan, won’t need replacing as often - all of which can save you money.
The best smart lighting can be set to work with other types of the best smart home devices, such as the best smart plugs, the best smart locks, the best video doorbellls and the best home security cameras to automate your home too. For example; you could set the smart lights to switch on automatically when your home security camera detects motion, or ensure a cosy setting with the lights dimmed and the radio playing your favorite station after a set time a staple when it comes to the best smart
When selecting the best smart lights for you, you’ll need to consider the type of fitting the bulb has and if it's compatible with your existing lighting or if you’ll need to buy adapters. It’s also worth considering the number of different colors the smart light bulbs can illuminate and if you need to invest in extra kit for them to work.
With so much choice in smart light bulbs on the market, picking the right one for you can be a mammoth task. So we’re here to shed some light on the subject, by putting some of the biggest names in smart lighting to the test to discover just which are the best smart lights you can buy right now.
The best smart lights: ranked
There's a very good reason why Philips Hue is the biggest name in the smart lighting scene: it's without a doubt one of the greatest offerings to the market. The lights produce the most natural tones of any smart lighting we've used, the app is easy to use, and installation is a doddle.
There's a wide range of different smart lighting too; from color (with 16 million shades) and white bulbs (both solid and ambient that offers a host of different hues) to side and ceiling lamps, outdoor lighting, and even Philips Hue lightstrips. With so much choice, it's worth doing your research and really thinking about what you need before you invest.
That said, you can't use earlier versions of the Hue lights without the hub, meaning the only way to get started is with a starter kit that's going to set you back considerably more than just a light bulb would. Instead, we'd recommend the newer kits that come equipped with Bluetooth, removing the need for the hub.
Read the full review: Philips Hue
Just like Philips Hue, LIFX offers a plethora of smart light options; from color and white bulbs, both is full size and the more compact LIFX Mini design to lightstrips and even LIFX Beam - the brands own take on smart light wall art. There's also an outdoor bulb that enhances the night vision of best home security cameras.
Simple to set up, easy to control, and with Zigbee built-in, these smart lights connect directly to your Wi-Fi rather than needs a hub that connects to your router, like older Philips Hue models.
They're compatible with HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant too, meaning no matter the type of smart home you have, they'll fit in.
Read the full review: LIFX
The Nanoleaf Shapes take the concept of lighting and turn it base-over-apex. Using a collection of hexagonal and triangular panels, you create a dynamic shape on your wall (or ceiling, or both) that can shift through over 16 million different colors.
What's more, the panels can glow solid colors or can transition at different speeds through colors to create a unique lighting effect in your home. On top of that, you can set the panels to react to touch or even music playing in your surroundings, putting you in the centre of your own music video.
The original set comes with nine panels, all of which are the same shape, but you have the option to add more and you can mix and match the different shapes. We admit these plastic panels don't look particularly attractive when they're not illuminated, so if you're after a more stylish look at all times; Nanoleaf Elements in a version of the hexagonal panels that have a wood-like veneer on them.
Don't like the sound of hexagons and triangles? Nanoleaf Canvas are square-shaped light panels but they can't be combined with Nanoleaf Shapes, unfortunately.
Read the full review: Nanoleaf Shapes
There's no denying the Nanoleaf Shapes create unique lighting effects, but they are an expensive purchase, and they won't fit existing side lamps. Fear not, Nanoleaf also offers the more affordable Essentials range of smart lighting. Choose between the smart light bulb, with a unique geometric design (known as a rhombicosidodecahedron), or the Nanoleaf Essentials lightstrip.
Not only can they glow a wide range of colors, they even have a Circadian Lighting feature that changes the color temperature throughout the day to mimic the natural light. They also support Thread, a smart home technology, that is more stable than Wi-Fi and puts an end to laggy connections. However, they only work with HomeKit and Google Assistant, so it might be worth avoiding if you use Alexa to control your smart home.
Read our full review: Nanoleaf Essentials A19 E27 smart bulb
TP-Link may be a brand best well-known for networking products such as the best wireless routers and the best powerline adapters, but it also does an affordable range of smart home devices including smart bulbs.
As well as color and white bulbs, it's one of a few brands that also offers smart filament-style bulbs too (the model we've reviewed here) that can create a vintage-style look while still maintaining modern smart home capabilities.
Easy to install and simple to use, the TP-Link Kasa Filament Smart Bulb offers Amazon Alexa and Google integration too, which considering the extremely low price tag makes it a steal in our eyes.
Read the full review: TP-Link Kasa Filament Smart Bulb
Unlike the other lights in this roundup, the Hive Active Light is one that we recommend specifically if you're already in the Hive ecosystem. If you're the proud owner of a Hive Thermostat, plug, motion sensor, or Hive View camera, you'll know that all Hive devices can all be controlled from a single app, streamlining the smart home control process.
Because all the devices in the Hive ecosystem need a hub to work (you can either get a basic hub or the Hub 360, which doubles as a security system and is much prettier), you won't need a separate hub for your lighting.
An added bonus, Philips' Hue bulbs can be integrated into the Hive ecosystem, so if you've got this far down the list but are still thinking about the Hue range, you can go back and buy them now.
Like the other ranges Hive has a variety bulbs, with some that change color and some that just do white. The light from them is very pleasant, although the bulbs do 'pulse' slightly if you turn them on using a light switch, so you need to leave the switch in the 'on' position and turn the lights on and off using the app.
Read the full review: Hive Active Light
How we test smart lights
To compare the best smart lights we evaluate how simple they are to install and control. We assess how quickly they respond to commands such as dimming or brightening the smart light bulbs, as well as changing the color and creating groups of smart light bulbs that can be controlled at the same time, both when we're at home and when we’re away from our property.
We also assess each design on any voice control capabilities and it’s home automation features. For each model we wanted to know how much choice in different light fittings were offered, the extra kit such as hubs, dimmer switches and motions that’s also available for the smart lights and that it didn’t require reading a thick instruction manual before use.
How do smart light bulbs work?
Like the best smart home devices, smart lights use wireless technologies to connect to your smartphone and allow you to control the bulb from an app.
Many smart bulbs use Bluetooth to pair directly to your phone, but these smart lights can’t be controlled when you’re in a different room, or further away, because Bluetooth is a point-to-point connection.
If you want to control your smart lights when you’re away from home, look for bulbs that either have a hub, such as Philips Hue, or use a cloud service - for example, LIFX - that can relay commands from your smartphone to the cloud and back to the smart light, if you’re not connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
Our article about how smart lights work offer further in-depth reading.
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