Smart home gadgets can make your life way more convenient. The trouble is, a lot of them aren’t very good — and they can become more of a headache than a convenience. That’s particularly true for smart lighting. If you know what to get,
smart lighting can be surprisingly helpful and do some pretty cool things: turn off when you leave the house, turn on when you come home, make lights warmer or cooler throughout the day, and flash to notify you of events or new information, making lighting even more useful than normal. But it’s really, really important that you pick out the right system. A good smart lighting system is easy to install, easy to use, and gives you plenty of options for how to set up your home. A bad system, on the other hand, might fail all of that and be a pain day after day. And once you buy into a lighting system, you’re more-or-less stuck with it, so you’d better make the right choice.
Fortunately, there’s one clear standout for best smart lights…
Compared to every other lighting system, Philips Hue is a dream. From initial setup, to adding new bulbs, to telling your lights what to do day in and out, using Hue is a smooth and simple process. And when the occasional problem does pop up, it’s usually pretty easy to solve. That’s rare among smart lighting systems.
Here’s something you should know about smart lights before diving into all of this: for the most part, you can’t just buy lights and start screwing them in. First, you have to choose which lighting system you want, and you have to buy a hub for it — think of it like buying a router before you can connect your laptop to Wi-Fi. You have to install the hub, set it up with your phone, and then sync every individual light with the hub before using it.
Hue does the best job of any system we tested at making all of that painless. Same goes for when it comes to controlling lights. Multiple people within a home can use the Hue app (or Siri, if you have an iOS device, or Alexa, if you have an Echo) to quickly turn lights on or off, change their color, or dim them. And while one big drawback to Hue is that you won’t be able to use your light switches anymore (turning them off will knock your lights offline), Philips sells remotes that you can mount on the wall right beside a switch and do the job about as well.
No smart light system is perfect right now, and that includes Hue. I encountered a few bugs in its new Android app, and its simplicity often means using workarounds (like IFTTT or additional smart systems and sensors) to get your lights to do everything you want. But the potential is there for those who want it. And for those who just want smart lights that’ll work, no other system can come close to Hue.