Philips Hue’s less wallet-straining sibling, the Hue Lux is the white light only version of Philips smart lighting.
The Philips Hue Lux retails for £19.95 per bulb, which is half the price of the standard Philips Hue and Hue Downlights and Spotlights. The Starter Kit retails for £59.95 in the UK, which is £90 cheaper than the starter kit for the standard colour-changing bulbs, albeit with one fewer bulb included in the kit. The trade-off is that they only offer up a soft white light, which isn’t changeable, but all other Hue features are included, including times, geofencing, scene compatibility with other Hue apps and remote brightness control.
In this review, I won’t be comparing the Hue to other smart lighting systems, because the truth is that there simply is no comparison to make. If your needs extend only as far as networked wifi control (and I use that term lightly, because who really “needs” to turn their lights on over wifi?) then the Philips Hue system is completely overkill. You can buy some basic smart plugs to do that much and pay a lot less.
Where Philips Hue really shines (fair warning: the puns won’t be stopping anytime soon) is in the wide ecosystem created around it.
It’s not just a set of plug-in light bulbs with a wifi chip; they also have LED strip lighting for new installations, and a number of branded accessories such as the Disney StoryLight. The API is well developed and easy to work with, which has led to an expansive third party app ecosystem built around the Hue.
First and foremost though, the Hue Lux is an accent lighting system. It’d be really tough (and expensive) to replace all of your main household lighting with Hue right now, because apart from the sheer overwhelming expense of such an undertaking, they don’t yet produce a bulb with enough lumens to sufficiently light a room to daylight levels.
The Lux is a 750 lumen bulb at max brightness, which is roughly equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent lightbulb. The original Hue and the Hue Downlight produce 600 lumens and 630 lumens respectively, so theoretically you’re getting brighter maximum light here, but the softer light might appear less bright than a more pure white you can get out of the adjustable rest of the range.
While we were able to enthuse for some time about the Philips Hue light options, things with the Lux are somewhat more limited. You have no choice when it comes to the type of white light you get. That said, the white that you get is a perfectly warm and pleasant one, not too glaring but not too yellowy. And being able to change the brightness of the bulbs goes some way towards fooling your brain into thinking that you are getting different types of white light even though you aren’t.
However, this also means you aren’t effectively tied to using multiple bulbs in a single room to achieve the desired lighting effect so buying just one Lux starter kit (comprising of two bulbs and a bridge) can set you up with two lamps in separate rooms that are remotely controllable as an effective burglar deterrent.
We were extremely impressed with the rock solid connection delivered by Lux – during our tests we didn’t once lose the connection to our lights or the bridge which leaves us confident that we could rest easy on our hols while our home continues to look occupied.
The Hue Lux app is simple, effective and covers the fundamentals, but it’s not anything to write home about, but it is compatible with IFTTT (If This Then That) technology that allows you to programme your lights to do something, such as blinking, or flashing brightly to notify you of an event. Your team scoring for example.
The app enables you to set up multiple timers and alarms, activate Geofencing, and adjust your individual lighting levels, however as with Hue this can only be done within the boundaries of your home wifi network, so don’t forget to set your light programmes up before you head off to the airport.
The base station – or Bridge, as it is technically known – acts as a central communications point between your home IP network and the ZigBee protocol employed by the Hue.
ZigBee has a 10-100m line of sight range depending on the environment and power, but also forms a mesh network, such that intermediate devices can pass the message along until it reaches the intended recipient.
Connecting to the Hue for the first time – from either the official app or any third party app – is child’s play. When the app attempts to pair, you press the button – the only button – on the Bridge. That’s it, connected. Each base station can control up to 50 devices.
Philips really is one of the best brands on the market when it comes to smart lighting and if you want a high quality product but flinch at the thought of coughing up £180 quid for the Philips Hue, then Philips Hue Lux at half that price for the two bulb set could be the ticket.
Obviously you are sacrificing the colour light range with this product, but for many of you colour lighting would only be an enjoyable gimmick that you quickly stop using in favour of a regular white light setting. If that’s you, then the Philips Lux is great for a reliable smart lighting kit that delivers a white light that looks good in any of the rooms in your home.
The Hue Tap breaks out control from the Hue iPhone app into the real world, but the hardware is somewhat limited. With one button slaved to power-off the system, that leaves only three scenes from which to choose. For many, the selection is more than enough, but may be inadequate for those who like to experiment with different lighting moods.
For users already invested in the Hue system, however, the Tap does come in handy. For users with two or three favorite scenes, the accessory is great.
Instead of pulling out an iPhone or relying on geo-fencing and timed automation to turn a set of lights on or off, users can simply press a button. Another plus is kinetic powering, meaning the Tap isn’t a battery hog.
If you’re looking to control on/off operation, Tap may be a bit pricey, though it does prevent Hue from resetting to a bulb’s default warm setting every time the power is cycled.
Overall, Hue Tap is a decent addition to Philips’ growing lineup, keeping quick controls at the ready, while leaving customization to the iPhone. With its limited functionality and high price tag, however, Tap is serving a niche audience.