Philips, one of the largest consumer electronics brands in the world, has been a player in the smart home market for quite some time. Their products focus on lighting, specifically smart light bulbs. While they have some competition, Hue is a very well known name and provides good value for the price.
We prefer smart light switches due to the versatility they offer, but Hue’s smart bulbs might be a good option if you cannot change your switches (if you live in an apartment, for example).
Electronics giant Philips has long been at the forefront of the smart home industry.
First introduced in 2012, the Hue was one of the first smart light bulbs. It’s been continually refined since then and is now known as one of the top smart lighting systems on the market.
More than just a smart light bulb, Philips considers their Hue a complete lighting system. It operates over a Wi-Fi connection via the Hue Bridge, the so-called “brains” of the entire system.
The best thing about the Hue is the number of options available. Although there is now steep competition in this field, Philips had several years to perfect their products and expand their product line with minimal competition from others.
The expansive product line truly enables you to create a complete home lighting system. Go with a starter kit or build your smart lighting ecosystem piece by piece.
Although the Philips Hue is one of the most well-refined and versatile you can buy, it’s also among the most expensive options. Multiple more affordable, but still effective, models are sold by other manufacturers.
What We Like
- Intuitive App
- Lots of Options (Including Starter Kits)
- Comprehensive (and Still Growing) Lighting Ecosystem
- Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and IFTTT
- Replace or Convert Existing Fixtures/Lamps
- Fairly Expensive
- Requires an Additional Bridge
- Some Features Slightly Gimmicky
Philips Hue is a complete smart home lighting system.
Although Hue is sometimes used to describe just the light bulbs (or other individual components), this review is focusing on the lighting system as a whole.
A huge selection of light bulbs, light fixtures, lamps, light switches, dimmers, and accessories give you the ability to tailor your Philips Hue system to your individual needs and preferences.
Better yet, the individual components and entire system are completely customizable from the Hue app or a variety of physical switches and dimmers.
The system communicates using a ZigBee wireless network. You must connect your home Wi-Fi router to the Hue Bridge (the “brains” of the system) with an Ethernet cable.
The Ethernet connection not only allows you to access the system while you’re away from home, but it also greatly improves the system’s connectivity.
The Philips Hue works as a “mesh network.” Each individual device can talk to all others on the network, greatly eliminating connectivity problems. For example, not all devices need to be within range of the Hue bridge.
Most major voice assistant systems are supported by the Philips Hue. This includes Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant. IFTTT is also supported.
Although most users control their Hue lighting system from the intuitive Hue app or with a voice assistant program, there are plenty of other options available.
Philips also sells a number of smart switches and smart dimmers that you can use as a physical control for your smart lights. Using IFTTT rules for geofencing and other commands is yet another option.
Philips also sells a wireless light switch known as Tap. This device fits in the palm of your hand and can be carried around your home. It has one main button and three small buttons that you can use to control your smart lighting system.
Philips Tap must be programmed with the Hue app via your smartphone. You can select four settings for each of the buttons to set them as presets.
Although Tap isn’t right for everyone, it’s perfect for those that have guests over often or prefer not to carry their phone with them at all times.
In addition to these smart switches/dimmers and wireless switches, other individual components of the Philips Hue system include light bulbs, light strips, fixtures, lamps, and much more.
Or, select from one of several starter kits that give you everything you need to get your Philips smart home lighting system up and running (including the Hue bridge).
The entire Philips Hue system is very easy to install and use.
Philips sells three variations of Hue light bulbs.
These include white light bulbs, white ambiance light bulbs, and white/color light bulbs.
Philips Hue White light bulbs are the standard version. Unlike the more popular white/color light bulbs, these ones only shine in white. This is also the most affordable option.
Another white-only option is the Philips Hue Lux light bulb. Like the Hue White, it only shines in white, but it has four pre-programmed warmth settings, ranging from warm white to cool white. This enables you to select the right type of lighting for the task at hand.
Finally, there’s the standard Philips Hue White/Color light bulbs. The most notable of the product line, these enable you to select from 16 million (and growing) colors. These include pretty much every color imaginable as well as a huge selection of different “whites.”
The Philips Hue color light bulbs are LED light bulbs that draw roughly 10 watts of power, but produce up to 60 watts of light (compared to a standard incandescent bulb). Philips lists their expected lifespan as up to 10 years.
|Hue White Ambiance
|Hue White and Color Ambiance
|Soft White to Cool White
|Full Range of Color, Including White
|2200K to 6500K
|2000K to 6500K
50,000 Switch Cycles
50,000 Switch Cycles
50,000 Switch Cycles
The majority of the Hue starter kits come with just three light bulbs, yet a single system can host up to 50 Hue light bulbs total.
We’ve focused on light bulbs, but the Hue system has other shapes, including candle, spots, and BR30 downlights. They also have PAR38 outdoor spot lights.
Philips Hue light bulbs are compatible with a wide range of fixtures and lighting sources. The company also sells a variety of light fixtures, LED light strips, and more so that you can further customize your home lighting experience.
The easiest way to think of the Hue Bridge is as the “brains” of the system. The unit is 3.56″ square and sits 1″ tall. The top of the Bridge has 3 colored indicators plus a colored light ring to help you with system status feedback.
Once connected to your Wi-Fi router via an Ethernet cable, it creates a ZigBee wireless network that all of your Philips Hue light bulbs can connect to.
In addition to the network created by the Hue Bridge, all Hue bulbs act as a mesh network, connecting to each other to eliminate connectivity or range problems.
Not only does the Bridge create the wireless network for all your Hue light bulbs, but it also gives them your commands and tells them what to do. You don’t technically need the bridge since all of the bulbs also communicate over Bluetooth, but then you are limited to controlling the system from your phone when you are near a light.
The Hue Bridge must be connected to a normal power source as well as your wireless router via an ethernet cable.
Hue Smart Accessories
Numerous smart accessories are available to help you tailor your Philips Hue lighting system, including the Tap switch, smart button, dimmer switch, motion sensor, and outdoor sensor.
As mentioned above, the Tap switch is a hand-held wireless light switch for the Philips hue system. It has four programmable buttons available (set on the Hue app). It is powered solely by kinetic energy so it doesn’t need batteries. The Tap switch is 2.95″ in diameter, is just under an inch thick, and can be mounted to the wall or carried around.
The Philips Hue dimmer switch is a classic battery-powered smart dimmer switch. Notably, the dimmer is actually magnetic so it detaches from the wall and can be carried around in your hand like a remote control. This doesn’t replace the switch on your wall, instead it mounts separately without any wiring.
The Philips Hue motion sensor adjusts lights depending on the time of day. The wireless detector automatically detects motion as well as changes to natural light. The battery-powered device can be placed almost anywhere.
The Philips Hue outdoor sensor is very similar to the motion sensor. The main difference is that it’s designed for outdoor use. The completely wireless, battery-powered device automates your outdoor lights based on motion – if someone walks by, it will turn on your lights automatically.
These four Philips Hue accessories are just the tip of the iceberg as far as Hue lighting systems accessories are concerned.
We’ve reviewed the features of the Bridge and differences in the types of light bulbs, but let’s take a look at the overall system features so you can better understand how the Hue system fits into your smart home.
Controlling Your Lights
A key benefit of the Hue lighting system is its ease of use and versatility.
The main way to control the lights is with the built-in Hue app. Download this app on your smartphone for Android or iOS.
Another popular option is with a voice assistant. Philips Hue is compatible with Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and more.
Prefer a more traditional approach? Philips offers several smart switches and smart dimmers for their Hue line of products, which we describe above. These enable you to use switch/dimmer that is closer to a normal wall switch to control your light bulbs, lamps, and other fixtures.
The final option is to use the Hue app to set up geofencing via an IFTTT applet. Thanks to its GPS functionality, you can set up your Hue system to detect when you’re nearing your home to turn certain lights on automatically.
Philips Hue is compatible with geofencing.
The devices use the Hue app to track the location of your smartphone via GPS. Once programmed, the system will automatically turn certain lights on when it detects your phone is getting close to home.
Likewise, geofencing detects when you leave the house. It can turn certain lights off automatically after you leave. Alternatively, it can send you an alert when lights are left on.
IFTTT – If This, Then That
IFTTT for Philips Hue gives you full control over your lighting system.
In addition to standard geofencing, such as setting your system to turn your lights on when it detects you’re nearing home, you can set it up to perform a nearly endless variety of other beneficial tasks.
These IFTTT functions include automatically turning lights on at sunset, automatically changing light colors at a certain time of the day, and so much more.
Philips Hue is simple and easy to install.
Remember that to use any of the Hue light bulbs you first need a Hue bridge. Buy a starter kit which includes a bridge and several light bulbs or build your lighting system individually.
Install your light bulbs, connect the bridge to your Wi-Fi router with an ethernet cable, and download the Hue app on iOS or Android. From here, you can use the Hue app to set up your lighting controls and pre-sets.
Philips provides an extensive guide on how to install the Philips Hue system on their website.
Philips Hue App
The Philips Hue app is the main way to control this lighting system.
The app allows you to do a number of things. These include turning lights on/off individually, setting presets for dimmers and switches, creating a lighting schedule, setting up IFTTT applets, and so much more.
Security and Privacy
Philips places a strong emphasis on security and privacy in all of their smart products, including their home lighting systems.
However, some minor vulnerabilities have been unmasked over the years. Several organizations have reported security flaws with their light bulbs, including the possibility that they can be maliciously hacked.
Fortunately, Philips takes a proactive approach to these issues. They’ve quickly addressed and fixed each issue as it has come up.
Check out the Philips Hue security advisory for more information on security and privacy.
About the Manufacturer
Philips is one of the largest electronics and technology companies in the world.
Although they are active in several industries, in both commercial and residential as well as industrial capacities, their current focus is largely on lighting.
In addition to their Hue smart lighting system and components, Philips also manufactures and sells a variety of standard consumer lighting as well as a range of automotive lighting products.
On top of their lighting products, Philips is known for their television and video, audio and sound, personal care, medical alert systems, and other technological equipment.