Philips Hue Review - costly, but quality personalised lighting

Philips Hue Review - costly, but quality personalised lighting

Philips Hue is the brand most people associate with smart lighting - and its easy to see why. It works with very little setup hassle, it integrates with your existing smart home setup and is available in a wide variety of options. Unfortunately none of them cheap.

Philips were kind enough to supply us with some kit for this review - we got the basic starter kit which includes the Hue Bridge, three smart colour and white ambiance smart bulbs, a smart dimmer switch, a pair of Hue Play lamps and a portable Hue Go device.

Initial config is done via connecting the Hue Bridge to your router - this has to be done via ethernet as the Hue Bridge itself has no wifi support. This is a shame as it limits the placement of the bridge to being somewhere on your wired network - and in many households that may well not be where you want to set up your smart bulbs. Once connected, you can then connect to the Bridge via the Hue app on your Android or iOS phone and download any firmware/software updates that the bridge requires.

A duo of Hue Play lamps in their vertical configuration.

Our initial set up used just the Hue Play and Hue Go lamps - the bulbs arrived a little later so they were added to our setup after the fact. In the Hue app we set up a zone for the living room which would be the hub of our Hue setup and assigned the three lights we had to that zone. Instantly the whole setup came together - using the app it was possible to easily change the colour of each light separately, switch to the variety of scene options and adjust the lamp brightness. Everything just felt like it worked as it should and the lamps and lights were all responsive.

Adding the Hue setup to our existing Google Home powered smart environment was similarly straightforward - just popping into the Google Home app on the phone we were presented with the option to add Philips Hue to our connected services - a few seconds later and we had full control over the lighting with voice commands - 'OK Google. Turn the living room lights on'... 'OK Google. Make the living room lights red'... really simple.

The Hue Go provides a portable version of a Hue lamp but the battery life is a little limited.

Our Philips Hue bulbs turned up a couple of days later and gave us the chance to see how you add further lighting to your setup. We replaced the two bulbs in our lounge with the Hue Colour and White Ambiance bulbs and opened up the Hue app. Choosing the 'Add Smart Bulbs' option seemed to be the right thing to do and then our Hue setup started searching for the bulbs - they didn't appear. After trying a few more times we decided to give the system a helping hand and entered the six character serial number for each bulb in turn - voila - now our lounge smart lighting setup consisted of five lights, each independently controllable or able to be controlled as part of a scene.

The Hue Go is a great little addition to a Hue set up - effectively a battery powered, rechargeable lamp that's connected to your smart home - perfect for kids to take to bed to read with or to place on a table when you're entertaining. The only real downside is the battery life which is relatively disappointing - 2-3 hours when used at a reasonable brightness but if used in a light-limited mode as a night light you can actually stretch this out to almost a whole day. Obviously your mileage WILL vary and it can also be used while plugged in which is great. It also can be used outside of the Hue ecosystem as a more conventional lamp thanks to the simple button control on the back that allows you to cycle through various settings.

The final bulb we popped into a lamp and set up a new zone for the hallway. Adding this lamp to the new zone was simple - again we needed to enter the serial number for it to find the bulb but after that it just worked. Testing via Google it was possible to control each zone separately.

There are a huge number of other lighting options with Philips Hue - strip LED lighting that would work well under kitchen cabinets definitely looks great and there are even outdoor lights. There is the Philips Play Sync box that can be used to bring the lighting setup into your home entertainment too - connecting multiple devices via HDMI you can then set up your lighting to change reflective of what is happening on screen kind of like a whole-room Ambilight solution.

The Hue Bridge is small but the need for it to be connected to an access point via ethernet is disappointing. A wifi option would be nice.

We tested the range of the Hue Bridge as best we could by positioning a lamp at the furthest possible point from the Hue Bridge and had no problems with controlling the smart bulb. That was a distance of approximately 10m between floors and through four walls. Obviously older houses with more solid walls may well present a problem but there's then the option of adding multiple Hue Bridge hubs to your network as long as you have an ethernet connection available.

The bulbs are rated to last around 25,000 hours - which is around three years if turned on permanently, and obviously significantly more when used as they would be in most households.

Philips Hue supports the Zigbee Light Link standard for smart lights too - so you can purchase Zigbee Light Link compatible lamps and bulbs and integrate them into your Hue setup. There may be additional configuration steps to get them to work but once they are part of your setup you will have the same level of control as you would the standard Hue peripherals.

We're big fans of the growing Hue ecosystem - the plug and play nature of the various devices and the ease of integrating them into your existing setup makes for a very consumer friendly solution. The price may well be higher than similar products on the market but none feel quite as well rounded or realised as what Philips have managed to create.

Pros

  • Simple to set up
  • Works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
  • Lots of lighting options
  • Nice and relaxing light with no flicker

Cons

  • No wifi option for the Hue Bridge
  • Costly
  • Adding bulbs didn't work for us without entering the serial numbers
  • Hue Go battery life limited
  • Hue Play
  • Dimmer
  • Suspension Light

Overall

Philips Hue are the smart light flag-bearers for a reason. They make good kit that works well - but it does come at a premium.

8

out of 10

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