LIFX Review: A worthy reason to switch from Hue
If you’ve seen some of my other articles, you’ll know that I enjoy my smart home tech products. One of the first and most popular devices in that category are smart lights, with the two major companies being Hue and Lifx. Now, I’m mainly a Hue user, but I was granted the opportunity to test some of LifX’s products to compare and review them.
Before diving directly into the review/comparison, let me describe both companies. The Hue line is owned by Phillips which includes bulbs, strips, lamps, and accessories in all different shapes and sizes. The Hue lights and accessories all connect to a central hub and each hub can handle fifty devices. LifX only offers a couple different bulbs and a strip, but they don’t need a hub and instead interact with your devices independently.
The lights I tested from LifX are the A19, the A19 with NIght Vision (more on that later), and the LifX Z strip. They each come in a cylindrical box with the lights and any paperwork layered down in the center, — pretty simple considering the bulbs don’t need to connect with any hub or anything extra. Setup of everything is handled within the app.
Now the design is what immediately surprised me coming from Hue. Instead of bulbs that look similar to normal light bulbs, you get this bulb which is 80% covered with a plastic coating topped off with a flat, circular, light casing. The Night Vision bulb looks the exact same, except there’s a ‘+’ symbol underneath the logo on the plastic. The strip looks mostly the same as any other segmented light strip, with fewer connector pins than Hue’s version (only affects connecting different brands together). As far as the bulbs are concerned they have more of a modern feel than a lot of other smart bulbs I’ve seen or tried, but since most bulbs are hidden behind lamp shades this isn’t exactly a huge detail.
The main purpose of buying a smart light, is the actual light. You want some that are bright, vibrant, and colorful (if you buy colored bulbs, which is not always a must). This is definitely LifX’s claim to fame, as they have some of the brightest bulbs with vibrant colors. Some of those colors are near unnoticeable on other brands! This difference in brightness and colors is a big difference between LifX and Hue.
LifX boasts a brightness level of 1100 lumens while Hue is only 800, which causes two things. First off, you’ll need to go very low in the brightness levels of the app if you want dim lighting. Second, having lights at 100% tend to be special use cases and not everyday levels. Overall, it was nice to have some more light and see more colors vividly (especially green), even though it was near blinding during setup.
I’ve found that the A30+ night vision bulb doesn’t provide any brighter light normally. What it does is provide lighting that doesn’t blind security cameras. It also allows you to use lower brightness levels and still get good security camera images. While the night vision bulbs cost more than normal ones, you might want to look into them if you are really planning on expanding your house into a smart home, as long as that smart home includes security cameras.
While brightness is LifX’s claim to fame, connectivity is not. Hue requires their lights to communicate with a hub in order to control their bulbs and lamps, LifX doesn’t. Each bulb connects to wifi individually, which is less stable. I noticed that my lights would sometimes flicker (probably due to connection issues) and the LifX Z strip so frequently dropped connection that I’ve debated not using it. Once these lights drop connection, all you need to do is toggle the switch they’re plugged in to. It’s really the high frequency of this problem that makes this annoying, with the strip being the biggest issue. I’d rather deal with having an extra device (the hub) to handle all the heavy lifting of the lighting connections.
Back to one of their positives, LifX’s app is super easy to use and filled with features. Once you pair all your lights (which will make them flash at their brightest) you’ll see each on the app’s home page. You can access any rooms/groups you’ve made, integrations with 3rd party services, and an offer section. From this page you can easily toggle single or sets of lights, and immediately jump in the advanced controls for them.
The advanced lighting section has four pages: colours, whites, themes, and effects, which are all self explanatory. Colors and whites are on a wheel that you can turn to find the precise color and scroll to get the precise brightness. Themes are usually only good for a set of lights or the strip, since the strip can display multiple colors at once. The effects run optimally only when the app is open, which is a bummer, but at least the feature is in the app. Overall, I’ve found the LifX app to be much better than what Hue has to offer.
Now these lights come at a high price, but around the same range as Hue’s offering. You’re looking at $60 for a single color (A30) bulb, $80 for a night vision, and $90 for the Z strip starter kit. There are many smart lights out there but it you’re planning on replacing most of your lights in your home I would (for the moment) stick with the bigger names coming from Hue and LifX. Even though you’re spending more money, you’re getting a better quality product and experience.
Now for me, I am actually going to stick with Hue bulbs whenever I’m not too lazy to switch out these bulbs. While the color and brightness is definitely better on the LifX bulbs, the connectivity experience has me wanting to switch back. Remember you can always mix and match lights with most 3rd-party service (which i’ll still have my LifX strip powered on) as well, so don’t be afraid to pick from multiple brands. Comment below: which lights are you wanting for your smart home?
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