After testing Philips Hue lights for three years and LIFX lights for a couple of months, I determined Hue are the best smart lights because they work better with other smart platforms and have a trustworthy brand name. However, LIFX is a great option if you only need a couple of smart lights because you won’t need to buy a $60 hub.
I’ll compare and contrast these two smart light bulbs (Philips Hue vs. LIFX) by evaluating four categories: setup, software, performance, and types & prices.
- Setup: You’ll need a $60 hub for every 50 bulbs.
- Software: The newest Hue app is excellent, and third-party integration is seamless.
- Performance: After a year, they may start to flicker. But overall they’re stable and don’t lose the WiFi connection.
- Types & Prices: Hue has tons of bulb variations. They have wall switches and dimmers, and new lights on the way. It’s more affordable per bulb, but you’ll need to buy a $60 hub.
Best for you if...
You want smart lights from a well-known brand that play well with all smart home ecosystems. Hue’s app is better than LIFX’s, and users typically experience a more stable connection because of the hub. Hue has better accessories like a switch, dimmer and motion sensor. The downsides are the upfront cost of the hub and less vivid colors compared to LIFX.
- Setup: Installation is easier than Hue because there’s no hub.
- Software: The app isn’t great and there are issues with HomeKit.
- Performance: Connectivity can be an issue because there’s no hub. They’re brighter than Hue but consume more energy.
- Types & Prices: Selection is limited and individual bulbs are more expensive than Hue, but if you only plan to have a couple of smart lights, it’ll be cheaper because you don’t need to buy a hub.
Best for you if...
You want vivid colors, or you plan only to have a couple of smart lights in your house. LIFX lights don’t require a hub, so you’ll save on that cost. Their app could use some work, third-party integration isn’t perfect, and you could potentially have issues with WiFi connectivity if you plan to use LIFX throughout your whole house. Overall, they are great lights, and the colors are fantastic.
- You can add wall switches, dimmers, and motion sensors.
- You’ll need a Philips Hue Hub (sometimes referred to as a bridge). The bridge is $60 and plugs into your router via an Ethernet cable. A hub isn’t ideal because:
- It uses one of your Ethernet ports.
- It takes up space.
- It takes longer to set up.
- It’s a $60 upfront fixed cost.
- These are valid concerns, but having a hub is better than not having one because it helps stabilize your bulb network, which is particularly important if you have more than a few lights. Instead of each bulb being connected to your router individually, like LIFX, it’s just one bridge connected to the router. Most users have experienced smoother operation, but LIFX’s approach can work if you have a strong WiFi setup with good range to all the bulbs.
- In 2015, the Hue app was an abomination, and it progressively got worse. You couldn’t group multiple lights in the same room, you had to control lights individually, and it wasn’t compatible with many smart home products. I was still happy because I could show off my nerdy phone-controlled lights to my friends. Now, Hue is on its third generation of the app– it’s excellent!
- The bulbs work when you’re away from home as long as you’re logged into your Hue account, which is not the default mode.
- Hue bulbs work with every smart home system, including Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, IFTTT, SmartThings, and Wink.
- Creating scenes in HomeKit isn’t a seamless process, but once you make a scene in HomeKit, it works almost flawlessly with Hue bulbs. I’ve had it since the first HomeKit bridge came out three years ago, and I’ve had no problems.
- Hue Labs and Friends of Hue are experimental apps, projects, and experiences with your lights. There are fresh ideas in there, but a lot of these features are built into the LIFX app.
- Hue has geofencing to turn the lights on or off based on your location. This is most likely not important because you’ll be setting this stuff up with your smart devices like HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home, SmartThings.
- The “Wake Up” feature slowly turns on in the morning.
- You can create other routines for the lights to fade on as the sunsets.
- I’ve had 12 different Hue bulbs for three years. Out of the 12, only one of them wore out and began flickering constantly. They’re rated for 25,000 hours (same as LIFX) so that one bulb didn’t last long. The other 11 are still working well. Two of them occasionally flicker, which I can fix by flipping the switch off and back on.
- Philips Hue has been making smart bulbs since 2012, but they’ve been making ordinary bulbs for decades.
- Philips Hue Color A19 uses 10W of power, but it’s only 800 lumens, which is the equivalent of a traditional 60W bulb.
- Hue’s color lights struggle with shades of green. They can’t get as bright as LIFX. I’m not sure why this is, and it’s not just my eyes because other customers are saying the same thing.
- As mentioned, Hue lights tend to be more stable than LIFX with the long-term connectivity because of the hub.
- You get a two-year warranty.
Types & Price (A):
- Hue bulbs are less expensive than LIFX if you plan to buy more than a few, but more costly if you only want a couple because Hue bulbs require a hub. You’ll just need one hub per 50 bulbs.
- Hue White and Color Ambiance ($50): This is a traditional bulb (A19 E26) that has 16 million colors and every shade of white.
- Hue White Ambiance ($30): This is a traditional bulb (A19 E26). It only emits whites colors, but there are many shades (2200–6500K).
- Hue White ($15): This is a traditional bulb (A19 E26) and only emits one color: Warm white light (2700K).
- There are BR30 for recessed lights, PAR38 for outside lights, and E12 and GU10 for other types of lights.
- There are niche Hue products for days with tons of new ones coming in late 2018. Products like indoor and outdoor light strips, indoor lamps, Bloom and Go Portable.
- LIFX bulbs don’t need a hub. Each bulb needs to be connected to your router individually, so disconnections happen more frequently than with Hue. This is inevitable, and the internet agrees, but I haven’t experienced this first hand.
- If you use a wall switch, the color and brightness you previously used will still be there. This is significant if you have people in your household who don’t always want to use the app. The color and the brightness stays saved on the light, whereas on the Hue, it always goes to 100% white light.
- You can’t set up HomeKit without syncing the bulbs to the LIFX app first.
- The LIFX app is just okay; the Hue app is far superior.
- It works with HomeKit, Nest, IFTTT, SmartThings, Alexa, Harmony, and Google Assistant.
- There’s no support for Wink.
- There are 22 variations of white in the app, everything from a bright cool white (Blue Ice – 9000K) that hurts the eyes to a yellowish warm sunset (Ultra Warm – 2500K) white.
- In the app, there are cool effects, like “candle flicker,” “color cycle,” “music visualizer,” and “strobe.”
- The color of the white light can automatically change based on the time of day. It’s cooler in the morning, but as the day progresses, it gets warmer. You can have it adjust to your schedule.
- You can “Copy Scene to HomeKit,” from the LIFX app, which is a big improvement for setting up scenes in HomeKit compared to Hue. But the white colors I want don’t stick in a scene because it doesn’t match the color temperature perfectly. Bottom Line: HomeKit support isn’t perfect.
- You can set schedules for when to turn on or off the lights.
- There’s no way to turn a light on or off based on your phone’s location. This isn’t a huge deal because you can set this up with HomeKit or IFTTT instead.
- LIFX is a startup company that got their start on Kickstarter. Despite occasional flickering from my Hue bulbs, Hue still wins the longevity battle based on reputation. I’d hate to buy into an ecosystem and have it disappear, but that doesn’t look like it’s happening because LIFX has found a place in the market.
- The bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours of life (same as Hue). I’m 500 hours in so far, so I’ll report back my findings as I continue to use them.
- The flagship LIFX bulb consumes 11W of energy, but you get 1,100 Lumens, and it’s the equivalent light of 75W bulb.
- It works perfectly remotely.
- Its colors are much brighter and have a more extensive range.
- You get a two-year warranty.
Types & Price (C):
- LIFX bulbs are more expensive than Hue on average. But because you don’t need a hub, LIFX will cost less if you only plan on having a few bulbs in your house.
- LIFX ($60): This is the bulb this review is based on and the one I tried. It’s the company’s go-to bulb and considered their flagship. It has over 16 million colors, plain white, and special shades of white to match day and dust colors to make the light look more natural. LIFX comes in the traditional bulb style (A19 E26) and the recessed light style (BR30).
- LIFX+ ($80): It looks and functions the same as the bulb above, but it shoots out infrared light that’s invisible to the human eye but helps light up a dark room for cameras. LIFX+ comes in the traditional bulb style (A19 E26) and the recessed light style (BR30).
- LIFX Mini White ($25): It’s white only. It just comes in the traditional bulb style (A19).
- LIFX Mini Day & Dusk ($30): It’s has warm and cool whites and can change automatically with the sun during the day. It only comes in the traditional bulb style (A19 E26).
- LIFX Mini Color ($45): It has the same colors as the original LIFX but less bright. Mini Color is only 800 Lumens compared to 1100 Lumens with LIFX. It only comes in the traditional bulb style (A19 E26).
- LIFX Z ($90): It’s a six foot LED light strip. I haven’t tried any of their niche light products, but their lineup is much more limiting than Hue.