“Siri, dim the lights please.”

“Alexa, turn on the beach scene in my living room.”

Imagine a custom light setup throughout your home that dims the lights, changes the ambiance at a moment’s notice, or schedules lights to turn on and off when you’re not home–without the custom price tag.

That’s exactly what you’ll get with the Philips Hue! Today, we’re sharing our complete Philips Hue Review. We’ll get all your questions answered, plus help you decide if this is the best smart light system choice for your home and family.

What is the Philips Hue and How Does it Work?

The Philips Hue is a personal wireless lighting system that connects your light bulbs with your smartphones and other devices. Thanks to smart tech in the bulbs and the accompanying app, you can sync your lights to music or just adjust their shades or color balance.

Homeowners love being able to change the mood without switching up the decor or paint colors. Throw a pink-themed little girl’s birthday party with pink lights, or choose a soft glow for an intimate evening in. Bright lights make for uplifting breakfasts or great study sessions.

These bulbs from Philips are yet another kind of smart light bulbs in the “internet of things” category. Smart bulbs combine the science of wireless networking with the standard bulb we’ve enjoyed since Edison, and the internet of things simply refers to all the objects we have that are exchanging data with each other.

In layman’s terms, that just means that our lightbulbs are now able to do a lot more than switch on and off.

Philips isn’t the only company to develop a smart bulb lighting system (we’ll talk about Ikea’s version later), but they were one of the first and tended to have the most features and accessories and the most connectivity while also being easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

What Makes the Philips Hue Unique?

Next up in our Philips Hue review is a list of what’s included in the lighting system. It’s not, as you might think, just a lightbulb. Instead, the Hue system now incorporates lights, devices, a hub, and so much more. Let’s get started!

The Bridge

You can purchase bulbs paired with additional accessories and devices in a variety of different kits (we’ll say a word or two about that later). What you will need across the board, whether or not you purchase a kit, as the Bridge. The Bridge is similar to a router and is a small device (it fits in your hand) that connects via a cord to your home’s wireless router, and wirelessly to your Hue devices and bulbs.

You can add up to fifty different light bulbs to one Bridge, so one should be sufficient for home use. It’s also a cinch to get started. First, you’ll install your Hue lightbulbs just like you would any other bulbs. Then, you’ll turn them on and download the Hue app.

Getting Started with Installation

In 2017 Philips updated its whole Hue system, including the app, and it’s easier than ever to use. There is an Apple version and an Android version, so you should be covered no matter what kind of phone you have. Once you’ve downloaded the app, make sure your Bridge is plugged into the router and powered on (you’ll see the blue lights light up).

Open your app and tap “setup” to install the Bridge and then tap the plus icon in the bottom corner. After a few moments, you should find your newly installed light bulb. At this point, you can create settings for each specific light bulb, you can change color lights, dim lights, or create scenes to enhance lighting colors, temperatures, and brightness, and you can simply turn the bulbs on and off. 

The other thing about the Philips Hue system we’re bananas over is how you can pair it with just about everything, including IFTTT (if you want to trigger or schedule your lights), the Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and all things Amazon and Alexa. Philips will even be able to connect to your Apple watch soon, and we anticipate that the options will only keep growing.

Worried about only being able to control lights through your phone or device? Don’t; there’s a way around that. Keep reading!

The Lights

Philips has done a fantastic job of creating high-quality LED lights that use minimal energy and emit great light. There is a wide variety of light bulbs available, everything from colored bulbs to multi-colored bulbs, to flickering candle bulbs, Edison lights, and so much more.

Most of the lights create excellent color (been able to adjust the color doesn’t hurt!). You’ll find that they use more energy than a non-smart bulb, but that’s to be expected since these lights are always talking to the Bridge.

We love how most of the bulbs are shaped. The lighting patterns are excellent, and the bulbs last an extremely long time (as you’d expect with LED bulbs). In fact, white lights are where Philips tends to shine. Colored lights can often be more expensive, but a basic white light kit from Philips Hue is usually a terrific value.

The Extras

Where the Philips Hue review gets fun is when we’re talking about all the extras! The Philips Hue Go, for example, is a small bowl-shaped device that runs on an internal rechargeable battery. You can think of it as a sort of portable lamp or flashlight combination.

The Go emits white or colored “living light” and can be controlled by the app, just like the more traditional light bulbs. You can even choose from preinstalled moods such as Sunday Coffee, Night Adventure, or Meditation.

The Bloom, Beyond, and Being are all similar Hue extras that can be installed in different ways (some are plug-based, and some can be mounted) but all can sync to your movies, music, and more to enhance your listening and viewing experience.

Another extra we love? The Philips Hue LightStrip, a flexible strip of LED lights you can add to a shelf or bookcase, under a couch, or anywhere inspiration strikes! The strips can be trimmed using scissors or connected to form a long strip. These lights bring a fun and classy ambiance to any room or event.

Finally, if you’re concerned about having to open your phone or find Alexa every time you want to control your lights, Philips Hue has thoughtfully provided workarounds in the forms of remote and mountable buttons.

No App Necessary?

The Hue Dimmer Switch, for example, is small and magnetically attaches to a mount you can install on your wall (or wherever you want). It’s a remote operates via a battery and allows you to control scenes, color, and brightness without reaching for your phone.

The Hue Tap, on the other hand, is small (fits into your palm easily) and attaches to any flat surface. You can use the buttons on it to manually change the moods, scenes, brightness, and on/off of the light bulb is wirelessly synced to.

Finally, we also love the Hue Motion, which allows you to sync certain bulbs or scenes so that they’re triggered via motion. The Hue Motion attaches via magnet to its holder, which can be attached to a wall. Thanks to the magnet, it can swivel for optimal motion perception.

How It Compares

What’s so remarkable about the Philips Hue system is that there isn’t another direct competitor. No other lighting system has the ease of use and product depth, combined with the affordability (though that’s somewhat relative–this isn’t a budget purchase if you’re outfitting your entire home!).

A similar system is the Ikea Tradfri. Stylish and affordable, the Tradfri system still has some kinks to work out. Disconnections are common, and the whole system seems to be a little unthought-out for everyday use. If you want something reliable and long-lasting, you should stick to the Hue.

The other, similar comparison to the Philips Hue is the LIFX system. Actually, it’s not a system–these are smart bulbs that connect directly to your router thanks to your wifi. If you don’t want the hassle of setting up the Hue Bridge and just want to test a light or two, this is a good option, though the bulbs don’t seem to provide color that’s quite as rich as the Hue bulbs.

What We Think

Overall, if you’re interested in smart bulbs, we think Philips Hue is the best place to start. You’ll have a solidly great experience and get started (usually) for under $100. Enjoy!