Smart Lights and Bulbs – a beginner’s guide

Home automation doesn’t have to be as extensive and as complicated as syncing up sensors and voice commands. It can be as easy as simply installing a connected lightbulb into an often used lamp in your living room.

There are a variety of connected bulb kits available for beginners, in addition to multi-device setups for experts. Even if all you desire is the ability to dim the lightbulb by your bedside, there’s a connected lightbulb that can do just that. We’ve put together this handy little guide of what to look for if you’re interested in setting up a connected light system at home. Best of all, there are a plenty of varying price points.

What is a connected lightbulb and why should I care?

If you look up 'smart bulbs' on Amazon, you'll notice an absurd amount of brands

Whether you’re a homebody or you’re hardly ever home, connected bulbs are a great idea for anyone who desires more control over their house’s lighting situation. If you suffer from headaches or migraines, for instance, you might appreciate a more dimly lit environment. Or, if your house tends to become party central by the weekend, you might find that what really helps get the revelry started is a lamp that flashes different colors along to the music. It’s all possible with a smart bulb.

If you look up “smart bulbs” on Amazon, you’ll notice an absurd amount of brands vying for your eye. These bulbs are primarily controlled through a mobile app and connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or through a centralized hub, depending on the smart home ecosystem you have set up in your home. Not all of the bulbs are worthy buys, though, and not all display the same spectrum of color.

If we had to pick a favorite? Philips Hue. Hue offers a ton of variety in smart light bulbs and lamps, all of which can be controlled via Google Home and Amazon Echo devices. They also can be controlled directly from your phone using the Philips Hue app. Hue bulbs support diming to specific percentages, and colored bulbs support a whopping 16 million colors.

Here’s just a few of the best Hue packages you can get:


A close second: Lifx smart light bulbs

Lifx smart light bulbs

Not impressed by Hue? Lifx is easily the second most popular choice. Lifx smart light bulbs are similar to those from Philips. You can turn them on or off, dim them, change their color, and more via Google Home and Amazon Echo devices. You can even create schedules to automate your lighting. Unlike Philips products, they don’t require a hub to work.

There are many products to choose from. The cheapest bulb will set you back $25 (Lifx Mini White), and only produces white light. You’ll have to dish out $20 more for the Lifx Mini Color, which lets you light up your home in any of the 16 million colors available. Keep in mind most Lifx products come with a discount when purchased in packs of four. Four Mini Color bulbs can be yours for $160, which brings the price of each unit down to $40 and saves you $20.

Two of the most interesting Lifx products are Tile and Beam. Tile costs $250 and comes with five tiles included in the box, allowing you to create a unique layout on a wall. Every tile features 64 controllable zones and you can assign a different color and brightness to each one — check what this looks like in action below.

Lifx smart light bulbs tile and beam Lifx

Lifx Beam is cheaper, at $200, and works pretty much the same way, although it doesn’t feature controllable zones. It also has a different form factor (11.8 x 1.37 x 0.78 inches). There are six “beams” included in the box, which you can set up any way you want to create a unique look. Learn more about Beam, as well as other Lifx products, via the links below:


Best for budget: Xiaomi Yeelight family

Xiaomi Yeelight Color Led Light Bulb

There are tons of light bulb brands but for the most part we recommend Hue and Lifx. The one clear exception is for those looking to make their homes smarter on a budget. If that sounds like you, we highly recommend checking out Xiaomi’s offerings.

We recently reviewed Xioami’s desk lamp, smart plug, and other accessories and found them all great. Particularly impressive is the Yeelight color LED bulb. It works well and is only $20, which makes it much cheaper than the competition. In fact, this pricing wouldn’t even be expensive if we were talking about a white-only bulb, but with full color support this is a steal!

Also worth mentioning: Sengled and Nanoleaf

Another great choice for budget users is Sengled, which offers affordable smart light bulbs under the Element brand. Pricing starts at $10 for the cheapest bulb, with four and eight-packs available to bring down the price even further. But you’ll have to dish out $20 extra to get your hands on a light bulb that can change colors. Also the bulbs require a hub.

If you’re looking for something super modern and stylish, Nanoleaf is the company to go with. It sells light panels you can piece together into any shape you want. You can set schedules and create scenes that Assistant or Alexa can activate. It’s far from the cheapest option out there — nine panels go for $230. If you need more, you can get 15 panels for $315 or 30 for around $550.

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