Best smart light bulbs 2021 to work with Amazon Alexa or Google Home

·18-min read
 (LIFXCLEAN)
(LIFXCLEAN)

For anyone who can remember Tomorrow’s World from the 1970s and 80s, I have an announcement to make. That home that they were always banging on about, where lights would be turned on and off at the sound of your voice and your resident robot would cook dinner while you were out at work, it’s here. Well, sort of. The house robot is not quite what they predicted, but I would say the smart bulbs far surpass anything that the show’s creators could have imagined 30 or 40 years ago.

The smart lights that are available now are quite simply incredible. They do come at a slightly higher price than a regular bulb but these lights do a whole lot more than just turn on and off when you flick a switch. We have spent the past few weeks trying and testing some of the newest smart bulbs on the market. We have scratched our heads at some of the apps and have often made frustrated noises when trying to get them to pair up with a smart speaker, but it was done to hopefully make your choice easier, with options to suit any budget.

There are a few things to consider before jumping in. Smart bulbs can be controlled a number of ways. Many of them can be linked up to Apple Homekit allowing you to operate your lights with Siri or via the app, Hey Google or Amazon Alexa, giving you control of your lights through your smart speakers. Not all bulbs are compatible with all three options and there are also a couple of brands– Phillips and Hive - that require you to buy a hub without which you won’t be able to adjust the lights remotely.

Most of the brands chosen for review do not need a hub but they do all require you to download an app. With that in mind, think about what you already have at home before deciding on what bulbs to get. If you already have an Alexa or Google Assistant then check that the brand of smart bulb you are buying is compatible with it. Also after eight weeks of trying to remember what bulb is in what room in order to adjust it via the app, I can honestly say that using one brand of smart bulb throughout the house is a no-brainer as all your lights will be in one place on your phone and easily grouped together.

Read More

Best smart thermostats 2021: Keep warm and save money with this home tech

Best smart video doorbells of 2020

Best smart door locks 2021 to keep your home secure

MI Smart LED Bulb Essential

For the price, basically a tenner each if you buy the twin pack, you would be very hard pushed to do any better than these bulbs.

Smart bulbs all have a range of white colours (temperatures) so you can choose the brightness and type of white that suits you best – we prefer the noon daytime white to the warm afternoon temperature when we are working from home as it’s just feels more office-like; bright and productive. All of these settings are done via the app or smart speaker.

However, it’s not just the whites that can be adjusted to suit your mood. The whole point of these bulbs is that you can choose any colour and brightness that you like. I made the mistake of showing the kids how to get this bulb into ‘flow’ mode, which lets the colours gently change through every colour available. I’ve been told, “it’s going to be brilliant for their disco”, I remain unconvinced because it’s actually quite relaxing, rather than a bright, harsh multi-coloured nightclub vibe.

Flow is just one of the many pre-set scenes that you can choose from, the trick is to play around with them and find the one that suits your room and your mood best and when you find one you like, favourite it, or schedule it to come on at a certain time every day. We definitely gave this bulb a big thumbs up.

Compatible with: Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £27.70, Amazon

LIFX CLEAN A60+

This is one of the newest smart bulbs on the market. Yes, it is at the higher end of the budget but it is just amazing. It is noticeably brighter than the majority of lights we’ve looked at, the colours are much more vibrant and the app is the best of the bunch in my opinion.

This bulb really is a game changer and the fact that Lifx (pronounced Life-X) have produced this bulb that can ‘clean’ an area with it’s High Energy Visible (HEV) LEDs is just another added tick to it’s already bursting ticklist.

There is a whole lot of science behind the cleaning option that is way over my head but basically, bacteria do not like HEVs whereas we and our four legged friends that live with us, are completely ok with it (unlike UV lighting). So you can set this bulb to ‘clean mode’ whenever you like. The closer it is to the area you want to clean, say a table with your phone and keys on it, the better the clean. So it seems likely that to get the best out of the bacteria-busting option is to have this bulb in a table lamp so you can aim the light directly at the grubby things you’ve just emptied out of your bag when you get back from the office or a night out.

I predict that in this post-lockdown world, this bulb is going to be very highly sought after and I am pretty sure that anyone who does manage to get hold of one is not going to be disappointed. Despite the price, these bulbs are best sellers already, and it’s no surprise really.

In the app, which is nicely designed and easy to use, there are some very simple scheduling options allowing you to turn lights on and off at a desired time, with different lighting effects at different times of the day or night. We have had ours turning on gently over an hour from 5.30am so when we’re ready to finally stop hitting snooze our brains have sort of accepted that it is actually time to get up.

Compatible with: Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £69.99, Amazon

LIFX NIGHTVISION A60+

Both Lifx bulbs are incredible and without a doubt the brightest of all the lights being tested. The whites are super bright and actually make a noticeable difference even during the middle of the day in a well, naturally lit room. The colours are similarly bright – something that not all of the colour capable smart bulbs have managed to achieve.

If that weren’t enough, this bulb also has the added extra of an invisible infrared light to assist your security camera or smart doorbells at night. It would also work if you have a night monitor in your child’s room. The bulb will appear to be off but is actually in night vision mode which allows your security or baby monitor camera to see, effectively, a fully lit room. So this bulb works just as hard when it is seemingly off as it does when it is on.

With all of these smart bulbs, the joy is in setting up your schedules once and then just forgetting about them knowing they will turn themselves on and off at the right times.

It is hard to put across in a review just how beautiful the colours on the Lifx bulbs are. The app is well thought out and comes with a lot of pre-set themes so you can quickly switch in seconds, from energizing lighting to a more mellow feel. As with almost all of the smart bulbs and apps you can schedule them as individual bulbs or as a group, to turn on and off at any given time. It is relatively easy to set up a routine so the smart bulbs give you a nice white light during the day and a warmer white later in the day and into the evening when it’s time to get cosy. The choice is down to you, with so many colours to choose from you will find one that helps to get you to your happy place.

Compatible with: Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £59.99, Amazon

NANOLEAF ESSENTIAL

Nanoleaf are best known for their amazing light panels that can be arranged in varying patterns on the wall. Now, however, they have produced a truly beautiful smart bulb at a very reasonable indeed.

Colours are bright and the whites have a good range. While not quite as bright as the LifX smart bulbs, it is a great buy for less than half the price. It has it’s own app, as all of these smart bulbs do, and thankfully it is one of the better ones.

Once you are set up and your bulbs are working as you want them, you can, if you want, just control the lights using your Google Assistant smart speaker or via Siri using the Apple Homekit. Nanoleaf bulbs are not currently compatible with Amazon Alexa.

The other big thing that Nanoleaf Essential smart bulbs have going for them is that they are now making use of the new Thread technology meaning that every Nanoleaf bulb or lightstrip you add to your home can connect to each other so you can have bulbs that are still fully controllable from your Homekit or Google Speaker that are way outside of your WiFi’s reach. For many people this may not be an issue, but if you are anywhere with deadspots and thought you wouldn’t be able to get a smart bulb to light that space, think again!

There are a lot of products to choose from in the Nanoleaf range so you will find a bulb or lightstrip or set of light panels to suit you and your budget.

Compatible with: Apple Homekit, Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £17.99, Amazon

TP-LINK TAPO L530B

This is one of the multicolour smart bulbs at the lower end of the budget, and what a great bulb it is for the price. Although it may not offer as many options for showcasing the colour as some of the others do with the use of themes and preset colours, the TP-Link app gives you some really useful and easy to use options that I didn’t find with the other smart bulbs and apps.

There is an ‘Away’ mode that lets you choose what days and times you are going to be away and the app will turn your bulbs on and off at random times to make it seem like someone is home. Along with the unique features, the app is also one of the easiest to use and felt very intuitive.

The brightness of the white on this bulb is really nice and is changeable to any temperature of daylight you would expect. There are some basic preset colours that are bright, although not as vibrant as some of the bulbs under review. There are less options for changing between the colours and there are no set themes where the bulb ‘flows’ - but you could always design your own scenarios for your daily routine by customizing the brightness, the light temperature and the colour at specific times of the day.

If you were looking at upgrading your home lighting to smart bulbs, you would not be disappointed if you kitted your light sockets out with these and it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg.

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £14.99, Amazon

INNR SMART WIFI BULB COLOUR

The Innr Smart WiFi bulb is a good option if you want to add a number of them without putting too much of a dent in your pocket. At just over a tenner a bulb, this offering from Innr is definitely worth considering if you are looking to brighten up some dark corners or give a table a revamp with a bit of mood lighting. You have a choice of bayonet or screw fitting and Innr also offer a large range of bulb styles to choose from – candles, filament and kitchen-type LEDs – all easily added to the app and ready to be turned on and off as you want.

The app doesn’t bring anything new to the table and isn’t the most intuitive I’ve used, but it does work and as soon as you have got your settings sorted out and schedules saved, there would probably be little reason to keep opening the app if you didn’t want to, especially if you link the bulbs up to Alexa or Google and controlled them from there.

The colours of the bulb are good, the white colours are nice and bright - but not the brightest currently available, so shop around if you are after the brightest whites and the most vibrant colours. The thing to remember is that while it is fun to fill the room with every colour of the rainbow while you get used to the settings, after a while you’ll realise that coloured lights are best used to highlight certain features rather than to illuminate the whole room so it’s not always necessary to go for the most expensive lights that offer the brightest colours to achieve the effect you are after.

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £22.99, Amazon

YEELIGHT SMART LED BULB W3

The Yeelight Smart LED Bulb is definitely one to consider if you are a gamer. This great little bulb offers an ‘immersive gaming experience’ that allows you to connect your Yeelight Smart Bulb to your game and the lights will change in real-time as you play. I have been assured that this is a good thing but am unable to test it myself as playing Plants vs Zombies on an iPhone apparently does not make me a gamer.

However, the other great little option is that you can sync these bulbs up to change colour to music – using the speaker on your phone, the light changes colour as it picks up the beat to whatever you are listening to. This I was able to test and it does work, and it works well.

Most of these smart bulbs are all quite similar, the brightness of the lights being the only thing that really sets them apart from each other, so it was good to know there are still some things that can be done by one and not others.

This Yeelight bulb has some really lovely bright whites and the colours are really vibrant. The only thing I felt that lets it down is the app itself. You can get lost in a never-ending circle trying to find a feature you know you saw a minute ago. I am sure the app will be improved, it is just frustrating that it’s not quite there yet, as the bulb itself is hi-tech otherwise with the gaming and music syncing ability.

If you do decide to go for the Yeelight then get the lights connected up, create your customised schedules and hopefully forget about delving into the app on a regular basis. Let your voice assistants do the work for you.

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £15.99, Amazon

4LITE WIZ CONNECTED FILAMENT BULB

If you are reading these reviews thinking that while the ability to change colours and do it all remotely is great but all you’re after is a nice vintage filament style bulb, then you’re in luck! These bulbs will become a part of your room’s décor rather than just illuminating it.

While all of the brands being reviewed here today offer the option of colour or white bulbs, only a couple offer vintage style bulbs. 4Lite have a number of these smart bulbs to choose from, it is worth pointing out that if you go for the filament style bulb you do not get the multi colour options, it is just the different temperature of white that will be available to you.

The bulbs are still operated via the app, or your choice of smart speaker, so you can enjoy the ease of being able to schedule the lights to turn on and specify what brightness and what tone of white you prefer, from a cool white to a warmer more yellow hue.

The bulb is nice to look at and will give you that vintage style look without breaking the budget.

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £29.99, Robert Dyas

4LITE WIZ CONNECTED SMART BULB

So, along with the filament style bulbs that 4Lite offer, they are also in the market with a regular colour changing smart bulb. The colours on this one are really beautiful and vibrant and the app itself is one of the best ones of those under review here.

It offers some nice pre-set scenes, ranging from Christmas (reds and greens) to Mojito (whites, green and turquoises, natch). It’s a nice change to have a few different scenes already preset for you. Almost every app seems to offer the same few – flickering candle, party, romantic and movie night – so this was a welcomed surprise.

The ability to turn your lights on and off when you’re not home, or to schedule them to come on at a set time can obviously save energy and also make it seem like someone is home to provide additional security, especially with the darker nights approaching. You can also make your home feel cosy before you even put the key in the door.

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant. No hub required.

Buy now £16.29, Amazon

HIVE ACTIVE LIGHT

So the first thing to realise with Hive smart bulbs is that, unlike every other bulb under review here, you will need to purchase a hub in order to use it. You will be able to put them in the light socket and turn them on but that will be it if you’ve not got yourself a hub.

It can be purchased as part of a starter kit which will give you a couple of bulbs and a hub but it does definitely push the price up. It may be, however, that you already have one if you have Hive heating or another of Hive’s smart home products already installed, in which case you will only need to purchase the bulbs and add them to your app.

So, with that in mind, the smart bulbs from Hive are, as you would expect, really good quality, with bright vibrant colours and lovely tones of white. Apart from the regular scheduling on and off times – different colours or temperatures of white, there is not a whole lot else to the app. No set scenes that you get with all the other bulbs under review. However, if you are using the bulbs in conjunction with other Hive products (heating, security cameras etc) then you can set up ‘actions’ that work with each other. So, for example, you can lower the heating and turn the lights off when you close your bedroom door, or you can set all lights to be turned off when you close the front door and go out. All of these actions obviously involve more than just a light bulb and a hub. I am sure that if you have a lot of these products already installed in your home that the preinstalled actions would be a great addition to an energy-saving home. As just a smart bulb though, I would be hard pushed to say it is worth the cost of the hub and the bulbs, not when there are other equally good bulbs available that don’t require the extra cost of a hub in order to work.

Compatible with: Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa. Hub required.

Buy now £99.00, Amazon

Verdict

If you are looking at making the move over to smart lighting for your home, do yourself a favour and start with a few bulbs rather than just one. If you think you’ll just give one a try first to see what the fuss is about, you will not get the full effect, it will probably feel like it is clashing with any other lighting you have in your room and you will be left wondering what all the fuss is about.

When using colours, subtlety is key – try setting the bulb to the same colour of your wall to deepen the effect, or the same colour as a plant to accentuate the greens. Also, make sure that wherever you position the smart bulb that you’re not staring directly into it from wherever you are sitting or standing, face the bulb away from you or use a light shade, maybe even hide it away under a shelf or inside a display case for example.

For anyone on a budget then the MI SMART LED BULB ESSENTIAL is definitely one to consider, the app is one of the better ones and the price of the bulbs is great for what you are getting.

If you are able to get hold of them, then the LIFX CLEAN and NIGHTVISION are incredible. The colours are so vivid and bright and the app that accompanies them is extremely user-friendly. Schedules are simple to set, the bulbs are easily paired and they can be voice controlled.

Read More

Best smartwatches for cycling: GPS tracking for your routes and times

Best outdoor lights: Wall, smart and solar powered lights for your garden

Best home alarm systems

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting