Best smart light bulbs 2021: ranking the best smart lights we've tested
The best smart light bulbs let you control the lighting in your home from your smartphone, even when you’re not at home. So whether you’re left the house and realized the lights are still on, or you simply want to brighten or dim the lights when you’re watching TV without having to pause the show, you can
The very best smart light bulbs have a huge range of color settings so that you can create a mood for every room, and they should also have a pretty impressive lifespan so you won’t need to replace them anytime soon.
Like many of the best smart home devices, most smart lights will support Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, so whether you have one of the best smart speakers or best smart displays in your home, you can use your voice to change the hue, brighten or dim the bulbs or even switch them off completely.
The best smart lights can also be used in home automation where several devices are controlled at the same time. As well as making life easier, this can be part of your home security strategy. For example, if you’re not around and your home security camera detects motion, the smart lights can be set to automatically switch on, while a radio connected to one of the best smart plugs will start playing, to give the impression someone is at home, deterring any potential intruders.
When you’re deciding on the right smart lights for you, it’s important to consider the number of different colors each smart light bulb can generate, the fittings they come with, and whether you’re required to buy extra kit for them to work.
With so many on the market to choose from, how do you know which will illuminate your home in a way that’s right for you? We’ve put some of the most popular smart lights to the test and have ranked them based on how easy they are to set up, whether they offer good value for money, and the colors and settings each one offers.
There’s a very good reason why Philips Hue is the biggest name in the smart lighting scene: it’s without a doubt one of the greatest offerings to the market. The lights produce the most natural tones of any smart lighting we’ve used, the app is easy to use, and installation is a doddle.
There’s a wide range of different smart lighting too; from color (with 16 million shade) and white bulbs (both solid and ambient that offers a host of different hues) to side and ceiling lamps, outdoor lighting, and even Philips Hue lightstrips. With so much choice, it’s worth doing your research and really thinking about what you need before you invest.
That said, you can’t use earlier versions of the Hue lights without the hub, meaning the only way to get started is with a starter kit that’s going to set you back considerably more than just a light bulb would. Instead, we’d recommend the newer kits that come equipped with Bluetooth, removing the need for the hub.
Read the full review: Philips Hue
Just like Philips Hue, LIFX offers a iFx Lifx is an interesting proposition in the smart lighting market. It doesn’t try to replicate the standard warm glow of a filament bulb, instead focusing on bright and vibrant colors.
If you’re looking for a feature light, something that’s going to bathe your room in a warm red or deep purple glow, this is the one for you. With a fun color wheel and brightness settings that go from 1-100%, the customization options are so varied that they can get overwhelming at times.
But this is no gimmick light. While turning it on for the first time may give you a bit of a shock, the light it emits is actually very warm, and a real pleasure to sit in.
Like Hue, there are a number of options with Lifx bulbs, including a ‘+’ version of its bulbs, which include a night mode that enhances the night vision of indoor security cameras by emitting a low-frequency light.
Read the full review: LIFX
The Nanoleaf Shapes take the concept of lighting and turn it base-over-apex. Using a collection of hexagonal and triangular panels, you create a dynamic shape on your wall (or ceiling, or both) that can shift through over 16 million different colors.
What’s more, the panels can glow solid colors or can transition at different speeds through colors to create a unique lighting effect in your home. On top of that, you can set the panels to react to touch or even music playing in your surroundings, putting you in the centre of your own music video.
The original set comes with nine panels, all of which are the same shape, but you have the option to add more and you can mix and match the different shapes. We admit these plastic panels don’t look particularly attractive when they’re not illuminated, so if you’re after a more stylish look at all times; Nanoleaf Elements in a version of the hexagonal panels that have a wood-like veneer on them.
Don’t like the sound of hexagons and triangles? Nanoleaf Canvas are square-shaped light panels but they can’t be combined with Nanoleaf Shapes, unfortunately.
Read the full review: Nanoleaf Shapes
There’s no denying the Nanoleaf Shapes create unique lighting effects, but they are an expensive purchase, and they won’t fit existing side lamps. Fear not, Nanoleaf also offers the more affordable Essentials range of smart lighting. Choose between the smart light bulb, with a unique geometric design (known as a rhombicosidodecahedron), or the Nanoleaf Essentials lightstrip.
Not only can they glow a wide range of colors, they even have a Circadian Lighting feature that changes the color temperature throughout the day to mimic the natural light. They also support Thread, a smart home technology, that is more stable than Wi-Fi and puts an end to laggy connections. However, they only work with HomeKit and Google Assistant, so it might be worth avoiding if you use Alexa to control your smart home.
Read our full review: Nanoleaf Essentials A19 E27 smart bulb
TP-Link may be a brand best well-known for networking products such as the best wireless routers and the best powerline adapters, but it also does an affordable range of smart home devices including smart bulbs.
As well as color and white bulbs, it’s one of a few brands that also offers smart filament-style bulbs too (the model we’ve reviewed here) that can create a vintage-style look while still maintaining modern smart home capabilities.
Easy to install and simple to use, the TP-Link Kasa Filament Smart Bulb offers Amazon Alexa and Google integration too, which considering the extremely low price tag makes it a steal in our eyes.
Read the full review: TP-Link Kasa Filament Smart Bulb
Unlike the other lights in this roundup, the Hive Active Light is one that we recommend specifically if you’re already in the Hive ecosystem. If you’re the proud owner of a Hive Thermostat, plug, motion sensor, or Hive View camera, you’ll know that all Hive devices can all be controlled from a single app, streamlining the smart home control process.
Because all the devices in the Hive ecosystem need a hub to work (you can either get a basic hub or the Hub 360, which doubles as a security system and is much prettier), you won’t need a separate hub for your lighting.
An added bonus, Philips’ Hue bulbs can be integrated into the Hive ecosystem, so if you’ve got this far down the list but are still thinking about the Hue range, you can go back and buy them now.
Like the other ranges Hive has a variety bulbs, with some that change color and some that just do white. The light from them is very pleasant, although the bulbs do ‘pulse’ slightly if you turn them on using a light switch, so you need to leave the switch in the ‘on’ position and turn the lights on and off using the app.
Read the full review: Hive Active Light
Eufy (owned by Anker) is really making a name for itself as a robovac brand, producing some of the best robot vacuums that can rival the likes of iRobot as we’ll as some of the best home security cameras that give Arlo and Ring a run for their money. But it’s also trying its hand at smart bulbs too.
It may be early days for Eufy’s smart bulb offering – there’s currently only one bulb to choose from – but it’s still a simple-to-use and solid offering. This is especially the case if you’re not sure about smart home tech and want an easy, affordable option to give it a go.
Do smart bulbs need Wi-Fi?
Lots of smart light bulbs do use Wi-Fi, but you may come into problems when the Wi-Fi signal is too weak or your internet drops altogether. That’s why many smart bulbs can also work via Bluetooth and to do this, you simply need to pair the bulbs with Bluetooth via your phone.
For some smart bulbs, it’s not that simple because you also need a hub where the phone and the light bulb will connect to. This hub is connected to your Wi-Fi so you’ll need a connection for it. For smart lights that require a hub, you’ll also need to factor in the added expense of buying a hub.