Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Review of Phillips Hue Lights

About two months ago I was talking with a friend about wireless lights, wanting Bluetooth or WiFi LED bulbs mostly just for the fun of it.  Most of it was just talk as we did not know anything like that currently existed, but thanks to the internet we found something pretty quickly.

We found a few items that would possibly fit the bill.  The LIFX, and the Phillips Hue are the ones that come to mind at the moment, but I know there were already a few more out there around the time of purchase of the Hue.  The LIFX at the time was only available online, as it was just completing its round on Kickstarter, and the Phillips Hue which was available at Apple.

Update: I think both of the bulbs are extremely expensive in terms of light bulbs, and more of a luxury even with the suggested life span of up to 25 years.  The LIFX goes for 99$, while a Hue bulb goes for 60$.  Now the Hue sounds cheaper, but remember you need a base station for it, which comes in a starter pack costing 200$ (3 bulbs included).  LIFX uses WiFi and Mesh to talk between the bulbs and does not have a base station, while Hue uses WiFi at the base station and ZigBee to talk to the bulbs. That about ends what I know about LIFX.  And as of today there are a few other companies coming out with smart bulbs (LG, Samsung) that I know about.

We decided to go with Hue, and purchased a starter pack. The base station like stated earlier uses Zigbee to talk to each of the bulbs, and each bulb from there can act as a repeater.  Initial setup was a piece of cake, we had about 6 to start with a grew to about 12 over a short period of time.  We use the Android apps to access the lights, and one PC has WinHue installed to access the lights.  The basic phillips app is OK, it does what it needs to do to access the lights, but no bells and whistles really.

To really see what these bulbs can do you have to purchase some of the other apps on Google Play/Itunes.  One app lets us play fireworks, another app turns it into a disco party, and another will set the lights on in random colors.  I use an app called LampShade that allows me to group the bulbs, and then set up alarms to turn on/off the lights at certain times.

Geo fencing is also enabled on a few of the apps but have not played with it to much at this point.  It would be easier then opening the app every time I get home to turn on the lights.

About a month into using the bulbs they all disconnected from the bridge, and would not reconnect unless we setup a lamp about 2 inches away from the base station and reconnected each bulb one at a time.  This took about 30 minutes, and we were back up and running.  Not exactly sure why that happened, and the other day I hit the on/off from the wall, so now the bedroom light does not register through the app anymore.  It will probably take a bit to get this one back running.

Our outside light that is also a Hue is also hit or miss, no rhyme or reason why some days the app will make it work, and other days it will not.  We moved the bridge away from the WiFi, and away from the cable boxes, speakers thinking maybe interference.   It does say that Zigbee works on the 2.4Ghz.  That helped a little, still iffy with the outside light.

Even with all it quirks, and price it still is a great light, and a good conversation point.  When you tell someone you have WiFi smart bulbs they take a second look and ask to say again.  One thing I am hoping for is having a light switch of sorts for those lazy days you don't want to pull out your phone.

In future posts, I will talk about other things we are planning to do with our Hue, how we are expanding, and possible "hacking" of the system.  Maybe incorporating other companies lights, ect.  Also I might try and pick up some of the other companies bulbs to try and compare them to the Hue.