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Best smart light bulbs 2021: ranking the best smart lights we've tested

Best smart light bulbs: ranking the best smart lights we've tested
Image Credit: Philips Hue

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. 

Philip Hue white and color ambience A19

1. Philips Hue Color Ambience

The best smart light bulbs

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
Reasons to buy
+Easy to set up+Good integration with other services
Reasons to avoid
-Older model needs 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. 

There's a wide range of different smart lighting too; from color (with 16 million shades) 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

LIFX smart lights

2. LIFX A19

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
Reasons to buy
+Affordable single-bulb setup+Vibrant color options
Reasons to avoid
-No natural-looking light options-Large form factor

Just like Philips Hue, LIFX offers a plethora of smart light options; from color and white bulbs, both is full size and the more compact LIFX Mini design to lightstrips and even LIFX Beam - the brands own take on smart light wall art. There's also an outdoor bulb that enhances the night vision of best home security cameras.

Simple to set up, easy to control, and with Zigbee built-in, these smart lights connect directly to your Wi-Fi rather than needs a hub that connects to your router, like older Philips Hue models.  

They're compatible with HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant too, meaning no matter the type of smart home you have, they'll fit in. 

Read the full review: LIFX

Nanoleaf Shapes smart lights

(Image credit: Nanoleaf)

3. Nanoleaf Shapes

The best smart lighting to match your mood, or your music

Wattage: 42 W
Color: 16.7 million colors
Color temperature: 1200-6500K
Lumen output: between 20-100 LM/Panel
Lifetime: 25,000 hours
Height: 200mm
Width: 230mm
Reasons to buy
+Makes lighting fun+Easy to set up
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult to remove once mounted-Slightly buggy app

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

Nanoleaf Essential smart lights

(Image credit: Nanoleaf)

4. Nanoleaf Essentials

The best affordable smart light bulbs

Wattage: 9 W
Color: 16.7 million
Color temperature: 2,700-6,500
Lumen output: 1,100
Lifetime: 25,000 hours
Height: 110mm
Width: 61mm
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Thread and Bluetooth connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Slow Bluetooth performance-Lacks Alexa integration

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 Kasa Filament smart bulb KL50

(Image credit: TP-Link)

The best filament-style smart light bulbs

Wattage: 7 W
Color: Untunable
color temperature: 2700
Lumen output: 800
Lifetime: 20,000 hours
Height: 120mm
Width: 60mm
Reasons to buy
+Empty List
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

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

Hive active smart light bulb

6. Hive Active Light

(UK only) 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
Reasons to buy
+Affordable bulbs+Easy-to-use app
Reasons to avoid
-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, 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 Lumos Smart Bulb

(Image credit: Eufy)

7. Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb

(US only) A simple smart bulb for beginners

Wattage: 9 W
Color temperature: Untunable
Lumen output: 800
Lifetime: 20,000 hours
Height: 140mm
Diameter: 65mm
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Alexa and Google Assistant-enabled+Simple to use
Reasons to avoid
-Only one option-No colors

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.