Philips Hue Review

Photo Credit - Philips Hue

When it comes to Smart Home Improvements, you could say that so far, I'm not exactly an early adopter. Up until recently the most 'smart' thing I had at home was a bluetooth speaker to play music from Youtube via my phone. I know.....even a lot of people's grandparents have these.

One of the things that can be off-putting when venturing into the Smart Home world is knowing if that fancy thing you are about to buy is 'worth it'. For the most part, these so called 'Smart' products aren't exactly cheap, and with so many players coming to the market constantly, it can be confusing what to buy or if it's going to suit your needs. When purchasing most things now I start by looking for reviews and maybe even YouTube demos, which goes a long way towards making an informed purchase, but some tech reviewers can be a bit, well, tech-ey! I'm no tech expert, so my review today is as what I would term an average consumer.

My adventure into smart products actually came about as part of a house search. I kept saying to friends and family I wanted a larger house, but with no children as yet the three bed home I currently live in is probably more than large enough; someone suggested I simply make a house that's the right size super high spec along with all the latest gadgets as this would no doubt cost less than a larger home and would actually change the way I use the home.

Before I went to the trouble of moving, I thought I'd give their suggestion a whirl and see if adding a few smart gadgets would change the way I felt about my current house. I'd been considering a new TV for a while and when I discovered the Philips Ambilight (will review later) combined with the Philips Hue range of smart lighting I was absolutely sold!

If you haven't heard of the Philips Hue range before, these are a series of light bulbs, light strips and accent lights that connect to your wifi via a 'bridge' and can then be controlled by an app on your phone or a voice assistant like Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Depending on the version you chose, you can also change the colour of the light or simply the colour temperature.

Philips Hue lights are not the cheapest smart lights on the market, but after much research I chose them for their ability to link to the Ambilight TV and also that being the market leader they work with so many other smart products. It's worth noting that the starter packs generally offer the best value overall and that all the Hue range are often on offer from major retailers like Currys or Argos, so if you can hold out for a deal they become much more competitive. 

 

I purchased the White and Colour B22 Starter Kit priced at £169.99. The kit includes 3 bulbs, a bridge and a wireless dimmer switch. The B22 refers to the Bayonet fitting of the bulbs, you can also find kits for E27 and GU10 fittings.

Purchase from Argos HERE

Purchase from Currys HERE

The kit is presented well without a mountain of unnecessary packaging. Once unpackaged, I found the system really simple to set up. You will need to connect the bridge to your router and download the Hue app to your phone. The app searches for the bulbs and once connected you can have a whole heap of fun trying out different colour settings! Tip - if the app wont find the bulb, add the serial number which you will find on the actual bulb, then hit search and it will find it no problem. I started adding the serial numbers anyway just to ensure it found the correct bulb.

The bulbs are almost completely made of plastic which I found surprising, but actually thought this made them potentially a little safer vs traditional glass bulbs should they get into little hands, or even if you just happen to drop one, plus once on they produce hardly any heat at all. If you are worried about switching from energy saving bulbs you needn't be as the bulbs have an energy rating of A+.

I'll be honest, even though I managed to find the bulbs on a great deal (2 free bulbs worth £85 with the starter kit) I was rather nervous that it would just be a massive (and rather expensive) gimmick. It took all of about 20 minutes for me to love them, be totally hooked and want to kit the entire house out with Hue bulbs!

Now at £50 a bulb for the White and Colour Ambiance bulbs, it may not be appropriate or even viable to buy these bulbs for every fitting in your home, but I highly recommend going for at least the White Ambiance versions if you can. These are kinder to your purse at approx £25 for a single bulb or £40 for a twin pack and are where these so called smart bulbs really start to excell. The White Ambiance bulbs can't turn your room Hot Pink like the colour version can, but the colour temperature can be altered from cool to warm and anything inbetween. This sounds pretty basic but I wasn't quite prepared for how revolutionary this can be in your home. One reason I had cited to friends for wanting to move house was how dark certain areas of my house was, especially my hallway. It gets very little natural light due to lack of windows and I always had the ceiling light on, even in the day, but that ugly glow from a traditional energy saving bulb hardly puts a skip in your step, and it still felt dull even then. Add in a Philips Hue Bulb and set the 'scene' in the app to Concentrate, which is a cool white and to my eye is the closest of their presets to daylight; and it's transformed a dull and dismal space I really disliked into somewhere nice and bright. Of course it will never quite rival daylight but £100 spend for a bridge and some bulbs is a hell of a lot less than the £800-1000 guestimate I'd had for putting in a window! Tip - If you are really trying to emulate daylight and how it constantly changes, by using third party apps that work with hue you can set lights to settings like 'Passing Clouds' - I found it a little too distracting for every day lighting but it's certainly quite clever!

Very quickly I saw the benefits of being able to ask Siri to turn on the bedroom lights before I climbed the stairs, or turning a forgotten downstairs light off via the app once I'd gone upstairs. It sounds silly I know but I assure you once you have this capability you don't want to give it up. You can even set a sunrise alarm in the Hue app to gently wake you in a morning (30 mins before you want to be awake the lights start to come on to simulate sunrise) which is said to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, throw in a third party app and not only can you have a sunrise alarm but Vivaldi playing, gradually increasing in volume to wake you, rather than making you jump out of your sleep. You can also set the lights to gradually dim at night, preparing you for sleep. I think this feature is great for all ages, but imagine it would work great for children to signal when its time to sleep without any protest of 'Just ten more minutes!' These are obviously all cool features but one benefit I appreciate most is the simple ability to dim the lights, something that is simply not possible with a traditional energy saving bulb.

At first it takes a little time to get used to smart lighting, for example all lights need to be left in the on position on wall switches etc and controlled via the app, Hue switches or voice control, yet you will find yourself turning off wall switches as old habits are hard to break. It doesn't take long though to really enjoy having lights controlled by voice command. 

You can add in other accessories to the Hue system, like remote dimmer switches (I use this most in the bedroom - I don't always feel like using voice commands when I'm tired) and motion sensors. I have a motion sensor set up in my downstairs loo and I love it; super simple to set up, and automatically turns off the light when no motion is detected so can potentially save energy - plus guests think it's really fun! The motion sensor is quite small in size so is really quite discreet, it can be placed on a shelf, attached to a wall or attached to a radiator or similar using the magnetic attachment supplied in the box. The dimmer switch sits on a magnetic plate and can be attached to walls or anything magnetic like a fridge. The central piece is detachable and works like a remote for times when you want to adjust lights but maybe don't want to use your phone or a voice command, like when watching a film for example. The remote switch only works in conjuction with the lights in one room though, so if you want to control the lights in several rooms via the remote switches, you'll need to buy multiple switches.

Dimmer Switch - RRP £17.99

Argos Link HERE     

Currys Link HERE

Motion Sensor - RRP £34.99

Argos Link HERE

Currys Link HERE

Overall, I'm totally sold on the Philips Hue system and in time will expand it further throughout my home. Each bridge will manage up to 50 lights, which in theory should be enough for an average sized home unless your home has a fair few spotlights. I believe you can use mutiple bridges if you need to though (for example all upstairs lights on one bridge, downstairs on the other), but the app won't manage them all at once, you would need to switch from bridge to bridge in the app which could be annoying.

Just in the few weeks I've owned the system, new capabilities have been added to the app (beta versions) so I can only imagine that the system will be capable of even more in months to come and I think I've only just scratched the surface of what it can do so far. Having seen the difference lighting can truly make to a space, it's even made me reflect on decor decisions going forward to make sure lighting is considered as part of the design rather than just focusing on paint swatches. One thing I love about the system is no matter your interior design style, Hue can work for you - for example if you love contemporary decor then smart accessories simply look the part, but what if you like a traditional feel, or maybe a modern farmhouse style? - no problem, the lights just fit into your current fixtures and could be voice controlled with little voice assistants like the Amazon Echo Dot or the Google Home Mini which are small enough to hide behind a photo frame out of sight.

The only slight negative for me is price. I would absolutely love to expand the system even further through my home with more bulbs, accessories and maybe even some lightstrips (I have 10 bulbs in total right now) but at £50 each for a colour bulb, the price is somewhat prohibitive. The saving grace is that the bulbs are supposed to last for 25000 hours or 15 years, whichever comes first, but you can't get away from the high upfront cost. In time I will still expand the system as I love it, but will need to wait for deals and special offers (or maybe a lotto win!) before I do.

*All prices quoted correct at time of writing this post

 *The Philips Hue Starter Kits, Dimmer Switch and Motion Sensor were bought by myself with my own money and this post is NOT sponsored in any way. This post however, like other pages on this site, does contain affliate links. This means should you make a purchase after clicking a link provided I may earn a very small fee, this does not cost you any more, in fact in some cases it may cost you less money than had you searched for the item independently.