Philips Hue review

Smart lighting that connects to more than just your phone

Philips Hue
Image Credit: Philips

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How convenient your Hue lights will be to use will vary massively depending on how much you invest in the ecosystem. 

One of our reviewers relied upon a combination of the Hue App, HomeKit, and Alexa, while the other used Hue alongside their Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote control. 

This enabled them to set up Hue scenes to accompany devices on the remote control. So, if they pressed “Watch a movie” on the remote control, not only would the TV, sound system and Blu-ray player turn on, but the Hue lights would also automatically dim.

Since their experiences differed so massively, we’ve split their two experiences out into two different sections below. 

Jon Porter, UK Home Technology Writer

Initially I thought that with a combination of HomeKit, Alexa, and automation I could completely remove the need to use light switches, but the reality is that after a couple of weeks of use I still end up using them out of convenience. 

Let’s start with the positives though, and the aspects of the lights that I’ve continued to use throughout the review process. 

Firstly, using the lights to wake myself up in the morning made it much easier to get out of bed. I’d set a time in the app, and then find myself gently nudged awake by the lights. It was also much more difficult to ignore them when turning them off involved opening an app to do so. 

However, the lack of options for using the lights as an alarm was annoying. Ideally you want a bright white light in the morning to energize yourself, but when using them as an alarm the bulbs would only ever turn on to their last color setting; and since I was using them late at night this was normally a nighttime-friendly soft yellow glow. 

Image Credit: Philips

Image Credit: Philips

It was also a pleasure to use the lights late at night. I find bright lights can sometimes make me feel awake even when my body is tired, so being able to dim the Hue lights without having to install dimmer switches was helpful. 

Then, when lying in bed it was helpful to be able to turn the lights off completely using my voice without having to either look at a bright phone screen or else walk over to the light switch. This was especially helpful when turning off lights in other rooms of the house that were accidentally left on. 

Unfortunately, outside of these two instances it was much harder to motivate myself to continue to use the smart lighting system. 

I’d either come home and inadvertently flick the light switch off because I forgot that I’d used the app to turn them off in the morning, or muscle memory would mean that I’d turn the bulbs off at the wall as I left the room - meaning I could no longer control them remotely when I re-entered. 

Image Credit: Philips

Image Credit: Philips

This really gets to the crux of the problem with all smart lighting products. It’s that no matter how good the app is, or how many third-party services it integrates with, the fact is that unless you invest in internet-connected light switches you’ll almost certainly find yourself controlling your lights the old fashioned way. 

This problem is doubled if you live with others. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t convince my flatmates that pulling out their phones was more convenient than using our home’s existing light switches. Nine times out of 10 I’d arrive home to find the bulbs in the communal areas of the house turned off at the wall, and impossible to operate remotely. 

Ultimately I ended up using the smart bulbs as a bit of a hybrid. I’d automate their functionality for first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but then use them like regular light bulbs for the rest of the day. This felt like a waste considering the cost of the bulbs. 

Image Credit: Philips

Image Credit: Philips

Matthew Hanson, UK Computing Editor

I absolutely love my Hue setup, and use a variety of Hue devices around my home. With careful tweaking in the Hue app, and knowing the best Hue product to use for your needs, you can easily create some excellent - and handy - effects. 

For example, I have an outside light that I have installed a standard white Hue light bulb in. Using the Hue app, I have set this to turn on automatically when the sun sets, and to turn off when the sun rises. That means if I arrive home late at night, my door is safely illuminated. 

I’ve also named this light bulb ‘Outside light’, and then use my Amazon Echo to turn it off if I don’t need it, by simply saying “Alexa, turn off outside light”.

My living room is filled with various colored Hue light bulbs that allow me to set the scene for various tasks, or times of day. As mentioned earlier, I have combined Hue with my Logitech Harmony remote, so it will automatically dim the lights when watching a movie, then brighten the lights when I’ve finished. 

It’s a cool effect, and in the Hue app you can set it so that this only happens when the sun goes down, which is a nice touch

I’ve also used the Hue LED lightstrip to run along the back of my fish tank (on the outside, of course), which provides some stunning lighting effects. With a bit of tweaking and imagination, you can do some excellent things with Hue, and I would love to fill my entire house with Hue bulbs and devices. However, there is a major obstacle to me doing this: price. 

These bulbs are pretty expensive, which is why I have used a combination of colored and white ones, to keep prices down. 

I’d love to use Philips Hue GU10 light bulbs for the spotlights in my kitchen - but a pair costs £50 - and as I have eight lights that would set me back £200! However, I’ve found that a bit of patience with filling my home with Hue helps, such as waiting for major shopping days like Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday.

Jon Porter

Jon Porter is the ex-Home Technology Writer for TechRadar. He has also previously written for Practical Photoshop, Trusted Reviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes and Plant Services Magazine, and you can now find him writing for The Verge.