Best smart lighting: from Philips Hue to Lifx, and everything in between

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Smart lighting is one area of the smart home that just about anyone can tackle. It requires little explanation, installation, and fiddling, and before you know it, you're enjoying the lovely hues of your new lights, controlling them with just your phone or your voice. 

Smart lighting is great because of the options you have at your disposal. You can control them with just your phone or your voice. You can change tone, brightness and even color. There's so many options with smart lights, you may wonder what took you so long to make the switch. 

Even if you don't pay a ton of attention to smart lighting, you have likely heard of Philips Hue. It's definitely the biggest name in the smart lighting game, but that doesn't mean it's the only horse in the race – far from it. 

There are some truly excellent offerings from companies such as Lifx if you're looking for more of a talking-point; Hive if you're on a budget; or Nanoleaf if you'd rather your lighting be part of your home's decor. 

Each system comes with its own pros and cons, so here we'll talk you through the brands you should be aware of, plus which smart lighting solution will be the best fit for you and your home.

Philips Hue

The biggest name, and for good reason

Wattage: 10 W | Color: +16 million colors | Color temperature: 2,000-6,500K | Lumen output: 806 | Lifetime: 25,000 hours | Height: 109.2mm | Diameter: 62mm

Easy to set up
Good integration with other services
Requires a hub to work
Expensive

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. 

That said, you can't use 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. 

It's also worth noting that there are a variety of different lighting kits and bulbs available in the Hue range, so you've got the choice of White (which just does white light), Color (which offers over 16 million colors), and Ambient variants of both (which gives you the option of dimmer, softer tones). 

They all work from the same hub, so you don't need a new hub for each lighting set, but it's worth doing your research and really thinking about what you need before you invest. 

LIFX

Funky, fresh, and dressed to impress

Wattage: 11 W | Color: 16 million colors | Color temperature: 2,500-9,000K | Lumen output: 1100 | Lifetime: 25,000 hours | Height: 114.8mm | Diameter: 62mm

Affordable single-bulb setup
Vibrant color options
No natural-looking light options
Large form factor

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

Nanoleaf Light Panels

Makes your lighting match your mood, or your music

Wattage: 60 W | Color: 16.7 million colors | Color temperature: 1200-6500K | Lumen output: 100 LM/Panel | Lifetime: 25,000 hours | Height: 210mm | Width: 240mm

Makes lighting fun
Easy to set up
Difficult to remove once mounted
Slightly buggy app

You like light but hate light bulbs. We get you. They're so bulb-y. So maybe Nanoleaf is going to be more up your street.

The Nanoleaf Light Panels (formerly known as Aurora) take the concept of lighting and turn it base-over-apex. Using a collection 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, with the separate Rhythm Module, the Nanoleaf can even respond to audio cues from the room it's in, so it can respond to music, putting you in the centre of your own music video.

If you'd rather decide what the light panels are going to do in advance, you can choose from a vast repository of user-created scenes that run through different aesthetically-pleasing configurations.

The original set comes with nine panels, but you have the option to add more, and there are even corner clips to enable you to create configurations that bend around corners, creeping around walls and even onto your ceiling if you so wish.

Hive Active Light

An affordable addition to the Hive ecosystem

Wattage: 9.5 W | Color: 16 million colors | Color temperature: 2700K-6500K | Lumen output: 806 | Lifetime: 25,000 hours | Height: 130mm | Diameter: 60mm

Affordable bulbs
Easy-to-use app
Needs Hive hub
Light pulses when turned on using switch

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 is that Hive recently announced that 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.