Smart homes are taking over and it seems like smart light bulbs are the gateway drug to all things Internet of Things. However, as with any new fangled device, the smart light bulb market grows on the daily — and is possibly the most saturated smart device market out there. If you thought there were a lot of Amazon Echo devices to choose from, the smart light market is that, times a bazillion.
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It’s totally normal if you have a lot of questions.
Which smart bulbs require hubs or extra equipment?
Which ones are easy to set up?
Which ones change colors?
Why is life so hard?
You’re fine, it’s fine, everything’s fine. No, seriously — we probed Amazon and its massive selection of smart light bulbs to find ones with the highest ratings, best customer reviews, and best prices.
Image: philips hue
The main thing to know when buying your first smart light bulbs is the difference between those that require a hub and those that don’t. A hub is an external device that can also be purchased on Amazon, with the most popular ones being the Amazon Echo Plus, the Wink Hub, or the Samsung SmartThings. Some smart light bulbs, like the ones from Philips Hue, will come with their own hub.
From there, your lights will be “smart,” which just means they now have the ability to be controlled at home or away through your smartphone, or via voice commands to Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri — depending on the device.
If you’re just dipping your toes into the smart home waters and want to make sure you’re purchasing something you can count on, the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs will be your life raft. An Amazon’s Choice product, customer reviews rave about the Amazon Echo and Alexa compatibility and about how insanely easy set up is. (They are compatible with Apple HomeKit and Google Home as well.)
Once you set up the included Hue Bridge hub, the smartphone app can be used to communicate with the Bridge. Never come home to a dark house again by creating a recurring schedule or, if you come home later or earlier than expected, just manually flip lights on through the app.
Name your lights for easy recognition, and control or dim single lights specifically or an entire room simultaneously. Choose from a starter kit of two for $69.94 or four for $88.99 here.
And, if you need to get the party started in specific rooms, check out Philips Hue’s collection of White and Color Ambiance Smart Bulbs, said to have 16 million color choices. Each kit comes with a Hue Bridge, and you can choose between packs of three or four, with prices starting at $170.69. While these prices seem steep to some competitors, keep in mind that the Hue Bridge is included in the kit, so no extra hub purchase is necessary.
If you’re not in the smart lights game for anything flashy and just want a standard-looking bulb, Cree Connected LED Bulbs have your name written all over them. According to reviews, customers love these Amazon’s Choice bulbs because, well, they look like lightbulbs. They aren’t a unique, futuristic shape, they don’t have a silver exterior, and they don’t shine that super white, almost blue hue that many LEDs do — which is perfect for homes without super modern aesthetic.
Snag one bulb for $14.97 or a 6-pack for $82.62. This is cheaper than a Philips Hue 4-pack, but keep in mind that some sort of external hub will need to be purchased well. However, if you already have an Amazon Echo Plus, Wink hub, or some other type of hub, this deal is A+.
Yet another Amazon’s Choice product, the Sengled Element Smart LED Bulbs are the route to take if you’re smart home-ing on a budget. At $10 a bulb, the price of these puppies is relatively low compared to the rest of the market. However, according to Amazon reviews, the low price does not mean that quality is sacrificed.
Some 67% of users gave 5 stars and speak about how simple it is to connect with Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Wink hubs. The smartphone app allows you to monitor energy use, set light schedules or times, and turn off any lights you may have forgotten when you left the house. The listing also claims that each bulb should last for 20 years, so constantly having to change dead bulbs is old news.
A single bulb is just $9.99, with a 4-pack at $38.99 and an 8-pack at $76.99, which you can get here. Because these bulbs do require a hub, an extra purchase will need to be made — but the overall cost of the setup would still be impressively low compared to some competitors. And, if you already have a hub due to other smart devices in your home, then $10 a bulb is a hell of a deal.
Hey, party people: These smart lights don’t just give off LED light and change colors. The Texsens Smart Bulbs also double as Bluetooth speakers, and they’re awesome.
These bulbs have an almost perfect rating on Amazon, with overwhelmingly positive customer reviews proclaiming that they’re extremely easy to set up and use with a smartphone or Amazon Alexa. The reviews also make it clear that the Texsens bulbs are seriously versatile, with comments about how great they are for lulling babies to sleep, entertaining party guests, and even for jazzing up office waiting rooms. Note: While one controller can operate multiple bulbs, only one Bluetooth device (like a smartphone) can be paired with one speaker at a time, so one person is going to have to be the designated DJ.
While the Texsens Smart Bulbs may not be the loudest Bluetooth speakers you’ll ever come across, the fact that they double as multi-colored smart lights and are only $16.99 each means they’re a pretty good gig.
No hub required
The smart bulbs in this category are made for the no-fuss types. If lights are the only smart devices you want in your home at the moment and you don’t need a hub for say, smart locks or blinds, the smart lights in this category are for you. Why? Because installation is easy breezy.
With built-in Wi-Fi and no hub required, all these bulbs need is a wireless connection and a smartphone app to set timers, schedules, and to make sure that you never walk into a dark home again.
After reading countless reviews for purely Wi-Fi bulbs, the general consensus is that the strength of connection may not be as reliable as that of the smart lights that require a hub, simply because the built-in Wi-Fi of these bulbs is just not comparable to the connection of the hubs. However, these lights are still rated highly, so if you’re balling on a budget or aren’t quite sure smart bulbs are even for you, then these are a good starting point.
One of the best no-hub choices are the TP-Link Smart Bulbs. With 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, the majority of reviews for these bulbs are positive. However, it’s important to note that some reviewers state that the bulbs go offline randomly and need to be reset frequently — so beware of a wonky Wi-Fi connection.
Choose from dimmable, white light, and multicolor options. Each bulb is sold separately (except for the regular dimmable version, which come in 3-packs). This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on whether you’re powering an entire house or just one room in an apartment. The TP-link bulbs use the Kasa app and are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The main draw of these bulbs is that they’re seriously a steal. At $19.99 a pop for the dimmable bulbs, $24.99 for the higher brightness version, and $34.99 for the multicolor bulbs, these are some of the lowest prices we’ve seen for singular bulbs that don’t require a hub. This means no extra purchase of an external hub — all you need is the bulb, which you can browse here.
These futuristic looking bad boys are the LIFX Smart LED Light Bulbs. While reviews are positive overall, some do comment that their LIFX bulbs lose signal and have to reconnect themselves throughout the day, which could become a hassle. However, the bulbs may make up for this with their sheer brightness, which some customers have said actually beats out that of Philips Hue.
Similar to other multi-color bulbs, the listing claims that your choices of color exceed 16 million, with the LIFX app or voice commands allowing you to choose colors and set schedules and timers. These bulbs are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit with Siri.
Because the LIFX Smart Bulbs are such a unique shape, they would make the coolest hanging, shadeless lights in a living space with super modern decor, but may prove challenging when pairing with a standard lamp. They run at $53.99 each, with 4-packs available for$195.96. Check them out here.
Not a morning person? Never fear, the Flux Bluetooth Color Changing Smart Bulbs are here to give you the peaceful wake up you’ve been dreaming of. The sunrise feature uses and gradually brightens warm toned LEDs, giving the feeling of waking up slowly with the sunrise. We’d say that sounds slightly better than being jolted awake by an alarm clock, wouldn’t you?
Countless reviewers rave about how much the sunrise feature helps them, and, while some reviews point out a slight app lag, we see considerably less complaitns about connection issues than we do with other no-hub lights. Note: These bulbs are strictly Bluetooth, meaning that smart assistants like Amazon Alexa are not compatible, and set schedules or timers cannot be changed via the app while away from home or out of Bluetooth range.
Each Flux Bluetooth Bulb runs at $34 each, which is steeper than we’ve seen, but customers claim that the price is worth it. The bulbs are also only sold in singles, which is something to keep in mind if you’re planning to light a whole house with these. Find them here.
If you thought the Texsens speaker bulb was sweet but weren’t so keen on the idea of purchasing a hub, the MagicLight Smart Bulb is the bulb for you. This puppy is a smart LED light that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker, with 16 million color choices and the ability to change with the music for a rockin’ LED light show.
Amazon customers are obsessed with MagicLight and gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, with many claiming that it was “exactly what they wanted and more.” The MagicLight bulbs also feature wake up and night-light functions, which are perfect for those with trouble waking or falling asleep — or both. Like the FLUX bulbs, these are strictly Bluetooth, meaning that smart assistants like Amazon Alexa are not compatible, and set schedules or timers cannot be changed via the app while away from home or out of Bluetooth range.
The speaker version of the MagicLight are $34.99 each, though non-speaker versions are also available in packs or singles, with prices starting at $18.99. Browse the collection here.