Philips Hue Lightning Review: Your Lamp's Not Worthy

Used to be, the most customisation 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 colour, 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 colourful image with a trio of pins that sample the underlying colour 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 colour of each light individually using a colour 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.

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 ab impossibility. This system definitely needs a timer function.

Test Notes

  • The lights will revert to their neutral just-out-of-the-box colour if you turn the light switch that controls it off and back on. Helpful when you stumble upon a garish combination of colours 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 colour to match the on-screen scene.

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Should You Buy It?

Depends on how much you want to recreate the Willy Wonka-boat scene in your foyer. Nearly $300 to start and another $90 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 lumens • Bulb type: LED • Bulb weight: 204g • Connectivity: Wi-Fi • Bulb dimensions: 135mm x 107mm x 71mm with an A19 socket base • Price: $US270 for the starter pack (three bulbs and the gateway), additional bulbs are $90 each. An Australian release date has not yet been announced.

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Comments

    Lifx from Kickstarter looks much better, they are already finished and ready to production, I bought one because almost all the other kickstarter packs had sold out when I got there.. still following them from initial project to the stage where they are now is amazing, it has been so professionally done, I can't believe it. They are cheaper than the phillips too and have timer control, wake up sunrise control etc and they go any colour at all.. You should do a story in LiFx not these crappy bulbs.

      Yeah, i managed to get a double pack of these bulbs and have been following the production updates. Hopefully they wont have any issues in shipment like Ouya are having at the moment.

      I personally cannot wait to receive my Lifx globes.

      I think they did do a story on them already, pretty sure that's how i found out about them.
      They do seem a lot better than these Philips ones. I ordered some lifx bulbs too. Can't wait until they arrive.

      I definitely think the LIFX solution looks better and very much look forward to mine arriving. I am pretty much outfitting most of the house with the bulbs. The best part is the expected integration with other Kickstarter products such as SmartThings, UBE, and UBI.

      Bring on affordable home automation.

    The light bulbs are not Wi-Fi - they operate on Zigbee. The Philips gateway does the Wi-Fi to Zigbee conversion so the bulbs aren't really on the same network as your phone. The reason they revert back normal white if you turn off and on the light switch is so you can see the way to get the hell out of dodge in an emergency situation.

    In "Test Notes" you say "I want this to be able to sync with the movie I’m watching and adjust the lighting colour to match the on-screen scene", but you don't seem to answer the question of whether these lights are capable of that. Is there an API available to change the light colour?

      Philips have just recently made the API public for people to create software to talk to the lights. One such app is "Ambify" (www.ambifyapp.com) which syncs light patterns to music in your library - can't imagine a movie based app is far off

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