Disco, baby. Not too long ago, if we wanted to see stunning and flashy lights, we had to go down to the local club. That often involves rubbing shoulders with sweaty guys, bumping heads with drunken girls and paying $100 for a soda.
Now, manufacturers have gotten smarter. They know that the age-old lamp you have on your desk is long due for retirement. They know the boring old white lighting in your home, the kind that’s been around for the better part of the century, is best off being buried. And, they also know flipping switches can be tedious.
So, what does that give us? LED lights. What are they? Well, now you’re asking us how a watch works. Compared to standard light bulbs, LED light panels offer a smoother glow, a far greater color spectrum and close to infinite customization options. Oh, and they also tend to listen to your commands.
Controlling lighting with words? I thought only God can do that…
Not with smart lights. Manufacturers are always trying to make things easier on customers, and it doesn’t get easier than telling your bulb when to turn on and what color to show. Tapping a button on the smartphone isn’t exactly the definition of hardship, either.
If you’re reading this, you’re either:
a) looking to redecorate one or more rooms in your home into a flashy, colorful, disco-esque environment, or
b) looking to connect your home’s bulbs to a smart home system (and improve the light spectrum along the way).
Or maybe both. Whichever the case, we’ve picked a few products that stand out above all others regardless of what you’re looking for. On our list, there’s a little something for the guy wanting to connect his LED bulbs to Alexa, and there’s also plenty for the girl wanting to make her room sparkle and shine. (Or the other way around, really. Why shouldn’t guys have fabulous home decor?)
On to the list, then.
The all-out disco package: Nanoleaf Rhythm Edition Smarter Kit
Well, it was probably this. Nanoleaf’s Rythm Smart Kit is about as complete of a home LED lighting system as you can get. They did away with bulbs completely for this one, and are instead using diodes on flat surfaces, which means you can customize it however you see fit. More space, less clutter, plenty of sparkle. Not bad.
The package rundown is as follows: one module that controls all the lights, nine LED panels/linkers/stencils and 28 mounting strips. If that’s not enough for you, you can have a look at this double package or, heck, just buy multiple ones.
We didn’t call it the disco package for nothing, as Nanoleaf makes a lot of fanfare on how this thing can flash in the rhythm of whatever music you’re playing. And that’s great, if you like constant flashing in your room. If not, the Rhythm Smarter Kit can be configured to display any of its gazillion colors in a static manner.
The panels are also plenty customizable and can be spread out however you see fit. Given the strength of the diodes, you might find even the smaller package able to cover far more space than expected. Overall, not a bad set-up for the $200 price range on Amazon.
Our usage recommendation: Get it if you want to make the local club owner jealous.
Easiest-to-install home lighting strips: LIFX Z Light Strip Starter Kit
You want the neat, spacey lighting that we just described above. You want the non-standard kind of lighting: bulbs are bloated-looking and ugly, not to mention hardly customizable. But the above kit isn’t right for you. Maybe you don’t like the linker shapes. Maybe you don’t care much for the music interaction. Maybe it’s just too pricey.
Well, the LIFX Z Strip Starter Kit should serve as a decent alternative in any of these scenarios. As opposed to hedges and linkers, the entire kit revolves arounds strips. As the manufacturer’s listing will tell you, the package includes 2 meters of LED strips, which is plenty generous if you ask us, along with the base.
There is little question that these color-changing LED light panels are easier to set up than the previous model. Doesn’t get any easier than glueing some strips together, right? Like most LED lights, the LIFX Z kit’s diodes offer a spectrum of 16 million colors, which is way more than we should be allowed to have. But we have it. The one thing it lacks compared to the previous product is music integration, as you won’t be running disco shows with this thing.
Other than that, there’s not much to complain about given the $60-$70 price range. If you need more than 2 meters, it’s easy to click the plus option on Amazon, as the LIFX Z interacts very intuitively with the smartphone app even with more complex set-ups. The app also comes with plenty of preset lighting modes so you don’t have to, y’know, sift through 16 million colors manually.
Our usage recommendation: Get it if you want a futuristic home lighting system with minimal effort.
Best all-purpose multicolor LED bulb: LIFX A19 Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb
Off and away from blocks and strips, it’s time to return to the good old bulb. The above two products are the only LED light panels on our list, while the rest covers a more traditional approach to home lighting.
Traditional doesn’t mean outdated, though. The LIFX A19 is more or less the manufacturer’s flagship LED bulb, and it has all that you could ask for one. The aforementioned gazillion colors? Check. Dimmable? Double check. Interaction with just about any smart home system known to man? That’s a triple check.
In terms of smart light bulbs that operate through Wi-Fi, it doesn’t get much better than this. Even the design is a bit fancier than usual, lacking the standard oval top seen with most bulbs. And if you thought the strip was easy to set-up, talk about this baby: just screw it in a lamp and your home will be flashing in all sorts of colors in no time.
So what are the downsides? The price, for one. The range varies quite a bit between sellers, but with some asking for up to $60 for a single bulb, the bill can go up pretty fast. It can be found for less, though, so be sure to scour through the Amazon vendors.
How many bulbs do you need? If it’s just one, there aren’t plenty of downsides to this model. If you need several, though, you might want to check out LIFX’s packs, such as this one that comes with four bulbs at a discount.
Our usage recommendation: Get it if you want the best Wi-Fi LED bulb out there.
Best dimmable plain-white LED bulb pack: Philips Hue White A19 4-Pack 60W
Colors… so many colors… Too many? In that case, we have a little something for you. Unlike the models listed above, this pack doesn’t have millions of colors available. In fact, it has just one: white. Well, not precisely, but more on that later.
The Philips Hue White 4-Pack comes with four smart LED bulbs that can be dimmed across a great range, hence the hue part. What it doesn’t come with is a hub, which explains the $50 price tag on Amazon and a couple of angry reviewers who thought the smart bulbs are plug-and-play.
Do you already have Alexa, Echo or the Philips Hue Hub, or are willing to get any of those? Great. These smart lights will, as promised earlier, work with voice commands and allow you to dim your home’s lights with just a couple of words. For a more specific hue, however, you’ll probably need to use the app.
The pack is a great way to complement an existing home system, especially if you aren’t keen on flashy colors. Getting four bulbs in one box is convenient, not to mention a discount compared to buying one by one. And, of course, there’s the whole schedule-setting-up thing that manufacturers like to brag about: having the lights turn on and off by themselves in case your throat gets sore. If you’d like something more standalone, however, you’ll find this package a little lackluster as the bulbs need a motherlode like this one to truly stand out.
Our recommendation: Get it if you want to upgrade your smart home old-fashioned style.
Best night vision LED bulb: LIFX + A19 Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb with Infrared
Ah, night vision technology. Where would we be without it? Well, in the dark, probably. Although LED bulbs boast all sorts of options and numerous colors, not many come with infrared technology. But what’s the use in a night vision bulb when any old bulb can illuminate space?
Well, as it tends to be, the devil is in the details. Infrared bulbs such as these play very well with any kind of night recording, making them perfect for nighttime pictures and videos in and around your home, or any other setting. In contrast, a standard light bulb might ruin your precious footage due to the glare. You’re getting found-footage-horror-movie imagery now, and with good reason: we found it amusing that many Amazon reviewers found the infrared hue creepy.
There’s plenty of other uses for this bulb’s night vision options, such as a security aide or figuring out whether you’ve got some paranormal activity in your home. Heh heh. Aside from that, the LIFX + Infrared LED bulb is similar to the manufacturer’s other models: superb color spectrum, standalone functionality and smart hub compatibility.
You could argue that the price is a big downside, since some vendors ask up to $80 for a single unit. We were able to find a few listings for far less, though. But if you’re getting an infrared bulb, chances are you aren’t too concerned about the price as you have a specific use in mind.
Our usage recommendation: Get it to see what’s been making those weird noises in your home at night.
The best budget LED bulb: Feit’s Electric Smart WiFi Bulb
LED bulbs are awesome, unique and dazzling. They also tend to be a bit pricey, though. Most bulbs are sold as a single unit, and those that aren’t usually require a smart hub to function. Few users will find a single LED bulb enough once they’ve witnessed all those wonderful colors, which translates to buying more units, which translates to a hefty bill.
Cue the FEIT Electric Smart WiFi LED Bulb. For $20 or even less with some sellers, you’ll get a bulb that does everything you’d want from LED lighting. Impressive color spectrum, standalone functionality, hub compatibility, all that good stuff. As you’d hope, the bulb comes with its own app that lets you change colors or dim the light however you see fit.
Sure, the colors might be a little less pronounced than with the more expensive models. Sure, the bulb doesn’t have the innovative design that LIFX models have. But, as the reviewers can attest, the tradeoff between price and quality isn’t that big: although Feit’s bulb doesn’t quite have the same spectrum as LED bulbs costing two to three times more, it’s reliable and should last you for a very long time. The manufacturer lists a shelf life of 22 years. By that point, we’ll probably be driving around in flying cars. Wait, isn’t that what people said 22 years ago?
Our usage recommendation: Get it if you need a lot of standalone LED bulb units, or simply want a decent, affordable and colorful bulb.
Smart lights: how smart are they, really?
We’ve given you more lighting options that you can throw a stick at, but we feel that there’s an issue that needs to be covered in regards to LED bulbs, and that’s hub dependence.
In our humble opinion, the best LED lighting doesn’t need a smart hub to function, which is why nearly every product on our list features Wi-Fi connectivity. What that means is that the smart technology is wholly built into the bulb, allowing you to control your home’s lighting with just a smartphone app as opposed to forcing you to buy something like Alexa.
We feel that every LED bulb or diode should give the user this choice instead of requiring a hub for full functionality. Thus, we’re quite satisfied with our independent, smartphone-controlled Wi-Fi listings and feel you won’t be disappointed regardless of your specific needs. But, if you really want to push the whole smart home thing to another level, go ahead and check out our guide on wireless Qi lamps.