Philips HUE-PACK

Philips Hue lighting

Philips Hue has been on the scene a little while now and certainly knows how to market its product to the best effect with slick promotional videos and an impressive website. But its smart lighting options Hue and Hue Lux come with some of the highest price tags on the market putting them firmly in the luxury product camp – but does the functionality and quality of Hue justify the slightly eye-watering cost? We’ve put Hue to the test.

Our rating: 7.5/10

Amazon rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

Verdict:

We really wanted to not rate the Philips Hue as the price tag seemed so crazily high for what is essentially just a few light bulbs, but it totally won us over.

The set-up and operation, both locally and remotely, was simple – just three steps – and completely glitch-free, and it combines all the best bits of the other smart lighting systems we have tested with none of the issues. The app is well thought out and easy to use, and it more than adequately covers all the basic requirements you’d need from smart lighting – and there are a range of other apps that you can download for additional functionality.

In terms of the lighting itself Philips Hue really does provide the full spectrum both across the colour range as well as on the 100% colour to white light range allowing you to create exactly the ambience you want.

Aside from the price, we only found a few negatives to the Philips Hue. To really make the most of the colour scenes offered by Philips Hue – essentially the bedrock of this product – you need to use all three bulbs in one room. However, this doesn’t lend itself to those of you looking to improve home security by using them on their own in in two or three different rooms – unless you are willing to fork out for extra bulbs. Secondly, Philips Hue doesn’t currently come in bayonet style bulbs which in many houses, ours included, is a problem although one that can be fixed with the purchase of some bayonet to screw-fit adapters.

Pros

Excellent and natural lighting across and between both colour and white ranges

Seamless set-up and operation

Works smoothly with multiple control devices

Reliable connection

Cons

Not available in bayonet style fitting

Expensive

Not ideal for use in separate rooms

Can’t set or edit alarms/timers remotely

Review score summary:

Ease of set-up 10/10
Effectiveness 8/10
Simplicity of use/app 6/10
Did it make life easier? 8/10
Value for money 6/10

Want the full nitty-gritty? Read our complete Philips Hue review:

Having experienced some technical glitches (and subsequent range issues) during one or both Wifi Pad tests with all our other smart lighting products we approached this set-up with caution. But a grand total of six minutes after breaking the seal on the box we were up and running with the bridge wired up, all three bulbs connected, and us flipping between ‘sunset’ and ‘concentrate’ scenes on the Hue app.

Two minutes later we’d added the app to a second device and linked it to the account allowing our devices to share rules.

Couldn’t have been easier. 10 out of 10.

Hue really delivers on the lighting front. Whether you want full on party lights, or more likely, the ability to set a variety of mood-suiting – rather than extreme – lighting scenes in your home using subtle colour combinations to achieve the perfect ambience.

And herein lies one of the points you may want to note before you buy the Philips Hue: to really be able to make the most of the coloured lighting potential it offers, you need to install all of the bulbs in a single room where the light from each combines to create a particular ‘scene’. But, if like us you also want to be able to use the lights as an effective burglar deterrent i.e. pretending someone is home even when you are sunning it up in St Tropez, you’ll probably want to have your smart bulbs located in a variety of rooms. Unfortunately, in doing this you’ll either have to sacrifice the full scene setting potential of Hue (obviously each single bulb is still capable of delivering a full colour range, you just lose the collective scene effect) or will need to buy additional bulbs, which at £50 a pop isn’t the cheapest solution.

A second, and bigger, gripe is that you cannot add or edit alarms or timers remotely so you need to remember to activate your lights while you are still within range of your home wifi network. That said, if the worst comes to the worst and you only remember when you are sipping cocktails by the pool, you can still remotely turn your bulbs on when you want, just not on a timer or set as an alarm.

An area that is deserving of some serious plaudits however is the unshakeable connection we had between the Hue bridge, the bulbs and our devices. Not so much as a sniff of a greyed out connection on the app – which gives us confidence that we could programme a few timers for our bulbs, hop on a plane and know it would still be lighting our home in a carefully choreographed light show to deter those baddies while we were catching some rays elsewhere.

8 out of 10.

Compared to some of the other brands we have reviewed, we found that the Hue app adequately covered all our basic requirements though it didn’t entirely knock our socks off. You can set multiple alarms and timers (those these are only programmable from your home wifi network), you can turn your lights off/on individually and adjust brightness and colour remotely, turn on geofencing so that specific lights turn off/on when you leave or return to your home, and choose from a multitude of colour scenes or create your own. And, what the stock app lacks, a multitude of third party apps make up for, allowing you to get even more out of your lights. Like Hue Disco which transforms your smart bulbs into a lightshow that works in time with whatever tunes are pumping at the time. A considerable step up to the usual three light sequence of our school disco youth.

Hue is also fully compatible with IF, the IFTTT app that connects your lights to other automated gadgets in your house so your lights can notify you if you get a Facebook notification, or if your phone rings, or your favourite programme is about to come of the telly.

And should you want easy access to your lights from your phone’s Notification Centre rather than having to open the App each time? Hue Widget will give you that functionality.

6 out of 10.

Philips Hue definitely made life easier. Programming timers for your lights and being able to switch on lights remotely meant The Wifi Pad was merrily deterring burglars after dark when no-one was home or when we went on holiday. It turned all the unnecessary lights out when I left the house saving me money on my energy bills, and turned them on again when I got home. And, it woke me up pleasantly in the morning, or lulled me off to sleep in the evening without the long debate about who’s turn it was to turn out the lights.

Like the other smart lighting we tested, we found it far more useful when used in secondary lights like lamps rather than our main ceiling lighting which we tend to need to flick on and off more often and without wanting to dig around for our phone. While you can use the main switch to turn a Hue bulb on or off – it regularly resulted in us finding the light was switched off at the wall when we wanted to switch it on remotely. This also resulted in timers and alarms, and geofencing settings not activating.

8 out of 10.

This proved to be a tricky area to evaluate as there is no hiding the significant cost of Philips Hue which grows to be quite eye watering if you wish to light your whole house this way.

However, having compared Philips Hue to some of the other smart lighting options on the market it is hard to deny that this is the daddy. So it all comes down to just how important setting the right scene is in your pad.

Hue puts a truly amazing array of lighting scenes – fully adjustable by brightness and through the full colour spectrum – at your fingertips allowing you to set the tone for any occasion you want: from music-responsive strobe lighting for your house party; to mellow movie night ambience; to an energizing, time-to-wake-up, alarm call. And that’s just the basics, you can create your own lighting for any mood – however obscure. Desperate to recreate the Northern Lights for your Norwegian holiday slideshow?  No biggie – select the relevant holiday snap and create a bespoke blue/green scene. Throwing a halloween party, set your lights to low-level greens and purples and you are good to gho(st). Sorry.

The bottom line is, we never thought these lights would make the grade given the price tag, but we’re really finding it hard to give them up.

6 out of 10.