The smart home industry is moving quickly, and it's hard to keep track of what's available, what's good, and what should be avoided. Smart bulbs were one of the first smart devices available to consumers, but ever since we started testing them in 2015, the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit(available at Amazon for $170.41) has stood head and shoulders above the rest.
There are a few things you should know about smart bulbs if you're considering an upgrade to smart lighting. For starters, a smart bulb goes way beyond picking whatever is cheapest at your local hardware store. Depending on which smart bulb you buy, you’ll be able to do things like set timers, change the temperature of the bulb (from a warm yellow to a cool blue/white), change the light of the bulb to any color of the rainbow, and even control them through your Amazon Echo or Google Home.
We've tested 16 smart light bulbs (or nearly 30 if you count the bulbs from our initial roundup back in 2015) and used them side-by-side to compare usability, responsiveness, compatibility with wifi connections, and ease of setup.
These are the smart bulbs we tested, ranked in order:
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit
Eufy Lumos 2.0
TP-Link Kasa LB100
C by GE
TP-Link Kasa KL110
Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit
Philips Hue White A19
Sengled Smart LED A19 Starter Kit
Sengled Smart LED Soft White A19 Starter Kit
Ikea Tradfri LED Bulb E26
Lifx + A19 Night Vision
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Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit (Gen 3)
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit (Gen 3)
Across the board, the Philips Hue smart bulbs light topped all of our tests thanks to an easy setup, a robust suite of features, and an intuitive app. Additional support with smart assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri adds tremendous benefit to an already impressive portfolio. Once you throw in the additional rainbow of possible light colors, these are without a doubt the best smart bulbs you can buy.
The only downside is that unlike some other smart bulbs, the Hue bulbs do require a hub in order to work. Additional hardware isn’t usually a strong point, but it’s a small price to pay for the sheer performance and reliability the Hue bulbs offer—especially if you opt for the Starter Kit that comes packaged with the hub.
Philips also continues to sell its second-gen starter kit, which was our previous Best Overall pick. It lists at $175, with the only difference being that the third-gen kit comes with "richer color" bulbs.
Eufy's app is really confusing. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to even dim the Eufy Lumos 2.0 smart bulb. As for the bulb's features, we didn't feel there was anything particularly noteworthy about its design or capabilities. However, it did have good response times over the WiFi network and data connections, and it integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant without having to install a hub. The cost per bulb was among the most affordable we tested, and there's no need to spend extra money and space on a hub to get the connectivity you want. So, despite the wonky setup process and mild learning curve, this is a good bulb for the money and a great pick for those in need of a basic white smart bulb that won't cost a lot.
Hi, I’m Sarah Kovac. I’m the smart home editor here at Reviewed, and I’ve tested hundreds of products over the last five years on this site and also for outlets such as PCMag and Wirecutter. I use smart home devices constantly in my own home and talk to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri several times a day (mostly to turn off whatever annoying music my kids have decided to play on repeat that day… I’m looking at you, “Baby Shark”). We’ve had smart bulbs in our light fixtures for several years, and I am personally acquainted with the benefits and potential pitfalls of installing connected light bulbs.
To find out which smart bulb is the very best on the market today, we bought the bestselling, highest rated bulbs and tested them in an actual home, with a regular router, in a typical lamp. We installed the bulbs’ apps on both iOS and Android to assess their ease of use and see whether the experience was the same on both platforms, testing response times over the WiFi network and data. We also connected each bulb to compatible smart assistants like Alexa, Google Home, and HomeKit (Siri) to measure each bulb’s functionality and responsiveness to voice commands.
What to Know About Smart Bulbs
After spending a few years testing and writing about smart bulbs, we've learned a few things that can help you decide which smart bulb to buy, and what to expect from your purchase. Switching from regular light bulbs to smart bulbs may be a bit of a hassle up front (and a price increase), but once everything is set up, the bulbs are easy to control and there are so many benefits to how you can customize your home’s lighting.
Setting up a smart bulb goes a bit beyond simply screwing the light bulb into a socket and calling it a day. Now, there's the question of whether or not it needs a "hub," works via Bluetooth, or can function on your WiFi network alone. Smart bulbs that work with a hub are most common. Once you've set up a hub, you'll go through an in-app setup process to identify your bulbs, assign them to rooms, and give you full control over their features.
Smart bulbs can do much more than turn your lights on or off via your phone or a smart speaker. Smart bulbs can control brightness, adjust color temperature (a cool blue/white light to a warm yellow), and change the light to any color in the rainbow.
Outside of color and brightness, most smart light bulbs will have additional options for creating scenes or setting schedules. Scenes are pre-existing or custom settings of color and brightness that you can easily select—making it a snap to change your room from a bright white light to a soothing dim blue that's easier on the eyes. Schedules are exactly what it sounds like. You can set your bulbs to automatically adjust based on time of day, alarms in the morning, or even changes in your location, such as turning lights off/on as you leave or come home from work.
Most of the smart bulbs we tested are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings—just make sure to double-check so you're not buying an outlier.
Other Smart Bulbs We Tested
The Lifx bulbs offer something rather unique in that it has an app for Microsoft phones as well as iOS and Android. It’s compatible with Apple's Home app, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant, so it can assimilate easily into the ecosystem of your choice. The Lifx A19 is a color bulb that has lots of options in the settings for interesting effects: It can respond to sound picked up by your phone’s mic, adjust the light according to the time of day, and perform wake-up and bedtime routines. Lifx integrates with Nest, so when there is activity in one of your Nest Cam’s motion zones, or if a person is detected, you can choose which lights turn on, or you can have random bulbs turn on in unpredictable patterns. If you use your Nest thermostat with your power company’s Rush Hour Rewards program, your lights can blink green and orange to let you know that you are entering a rush hour (the power company will adjust your thermostat during times of high energy use). And if your Nest Protect smart smoke alarm detects a problem, you can set Lifx to blink in response. The Lifx bulbs can do lots of things, but all that functionality comes at a price—it’s the most expensive bulb we tested.
If you’re a little wary of delving into smart bulbs, then your best bet is to go for something that’s a little more affordable. You’ll also want something easy to use and gives you a good idea of what it's like to use smart bulbs.
The TP-Link LB100 checks off each of these boxes and does it with style. For around $20 a bulb, you can try out smart lighting in your own home. You won’t be able to adjust the color of the bulb at all, but there's still plenty else you can do. Dimming the bulb, setting a schedule, and creating scenes are all things that are possible with the TP-Link—and you don’t even need a hub. Our only gripe with this budget pick is how long it took for commands from the app to register on the bulb itself, but it really was only an issue when it came to dimming. Even still, $20 is a small price to pay for such an affordable smart light bulb.
We found lots to love about the Sengled A19 smart bulb. It's a color bulb that works smoothly with Alexa, Google Assistant, and the SmartThings platform. The setup process was quick, and the app is intuitive. One common complaint among smart bulb users is that some bulbs turn back on at the previous brightness level and some turn on at full power. Sengled's bulb remembers your last setting and turns back on to the same settings you used last time. Depending on your needs, that might be a positive or a negative. Power consumption monitoring is another noteworthy feature of this bulb. Light bulbs don't tend to use a lot of electricity, but if you're interested in tracking your bulbs' energy usage, the Sengled app graphs your smart lighting's power consumption over time, and you can view that data for each bulb or all of them together.
The Yeelight app could have been more intuitive. Getting signed up for an account was confusing, and the app would not show the bulb when I tried to sync it to my account. However, once we got past the initial setup, Yeelight was very responsive to app commands and actually not that bad to use. The app allows you to use custom icons for your favorite lighting presets; can save schedules and scenes; and it integrates with Amazon, Google, and IFTTT.
GE's C-Sleep and C-Life smart light bulbs did well in our testing. The app is easy to use, and the C-Sleep can even automatically adjust the color temperature as the day wears on to help prep your body for sleep. They're great when you're controlling them by Bluetooth, but we had serious issues connecting with the C-Reach, which is the accompanying hub. Without the hub connection, you can't control the bulbs when you're away from home, nor can you use voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home to turn them on or off.
If you're not worried about remote control and like the idea of a smart bulb that's incredibly easy to use, the C-Life by GE is a clear winner.
Kasa’s bulb offers all the features we'd expect from a smart bulb: WiFi connectivity; app control on Android, iOS, and Microsoft; Alexa and Google Home compatibility; and the ability to control the bulb from anywhere. Less common is the Kasa’s compatibility with Cortana. This bulb’s performance in our testing, however, was subpar. Setup was slightly more involved than our favorite bulbs but worse than that, this bulb wouldn’t stay connected to our internet despite being only about eight feet away from our router. No internet connection means no app or voice control. It only functions as a standard bulb at that point. This is one of your few options if you need a smart bulb that can be controlled by Cortana, but let's get real—that's pretty unlikely.
Each of the Philips Hue smart bulbs has a near-identical app experience and setting up each of the bulbs was about as flawless and painless as it could be. The only real difference in each kit lies in the level of control you get over each type of bulb.
The Philips Hue White Ambiance bulb lets you adjust the color temperature of the bulb. That means you can adjust the light through a range of warm yellow and cool blue/white colors. There are also four default “recipes” that alter the light based on whether you’re relaxing, reading, concentrating, or looking to get energized. If you don’t need a bunch of flashy, vivid colors, the White Ambiance is a great runner up that gives you some white color options without paying for the premium package.
While the White and Color Ambiance and the White Ambiance smart bulbs topped our charts, the standard White bulb came in a little lower on our list. While the app and setup were identical to the higher ranking Hue bulbs, the lack of features or control left us a little disappointed.
You’ll still be able to set a schedule, control them remotely, and dim them (the same as the other Philips Hue bulbs), but that's about it. The Hue White bulbs are the definition of a regular bulb that’s gotten only the barest bit of smart features, which is reflected in the starter kit's low price. While that might be all some people are looking for, in a roundup of the top-performing smart bulbs, it just doesn’t compare.
The Sengled bulbs, like most of the others on this list, are exceptional smart light bulbs that offer a variety of excellent features. The Element Plus kit includes a tunable bulb that will let you adjust the color temperature of the bulb from a warm yellow to a cool white. It's compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and can create scenes and schedules via the app.
Sengled also includes a nice touch by promising to plant one tree per bulb that's set up—with more promotions coming soon. While it shouldn't be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing the smart bulb that's right for you, it'll certainly make you feel good.
In terms of features and setup, the Element Classic Kit is nearly identical to the slightly more expensive Element Plus Kit. The only real difference is that the Element Classic bulb is not tunable and you'll only be able to control brightness. At around $35, this kit is an absolute steal if you're just looking for a reliable smart bulb that isn't bogged down with extraneous features.
GE overhauled its smart lighting strategy with a brand new line of simple smart bulbs called C by GE, and the company promises a wider range of features (like remote control) sometime in the near future. As it stands, though, the C-Sleep was the best bulb for white light when it came to being… well, a light bulb.
Unlike the others, which rely on WiFi and/or hubs, the C by GE smart bulbs work via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, that means you won’t be able to control your lights unless you’re within range (a potential problem if you have a particularly large home or want to control them remotely.) Likewise, if you’re looking for a bulb that will work with a smart speaker, you’ll have to take a bit of a gamble.
On the bright side, the C-Sleep has a nifty feature that automatically adjusts the color temperature based on the time of day. It will glow a warmer yellow light in the evening to help you fall asleep and a cool white/blue light in the morning to help you start the day. While we don't have any scientific proof as to whether or not the bulb can help with your sleep cycle, it's certainly a nice touch that helped it score high in our rankings.
The smart bulbs from Ikea are cut from a slightly different mold than the others that appear on this list. In addition to using your phone to control the bulbs, you can also pair them with one of the remotes Ikea offers. There's a small disc remote for dimming that's about the size of a half-dollar, or a larger disc remote that's more akin to a hockey puck. Through the latter, you can control brightness and color temperature, as well as turn the bulbs on or off.
While the remotes are definitely a different take on the smart bulb concept, I found them a little awkward to handle. Smart home tech is all about simplifying your life and making it more convenient. A remote that can easily be lost in couch cushions or misplaced around the house is pretty much the opposite of that.
Still, the Ikea bulbs worked like a charm when it came to responsiveness and handling different brightness settings. They're a solid choice if you're not a fan of the others on our list.
The LIFX + A19 Night Vision adds something either totally amazing and applicable to you or nothing at all. Nearly identical to the LIFX A19, this model features the addition of infrared light. What does that mean? Well, when the bulb is turned off via the app, it'll emit infrared light that's meant to enhance any night vision used by your security cameras. It worked brilliantly during our tests but it ultimately won't matter much if your home isn't equipped with night vision security cameras.
The LB120 is nearly identical to the LB100 we mentioned earlier. The only difference is that you're able to change the temperature of the bulb from a warm yellow to a cool blue/white light. It might not seem like much, but having even that amount of customization in your lights can go a long way—especially when paired with the ability to dim the lights for the time of day.
Like the other TP-Link smart bulbs though, the LB120 was disappointing in how responsive the lights were to commands from the app. While on/off worked like a charm, dimming or changing the temperature noticeably took a few seconds longer than we would have liked to see.
Another entry in the realm of affordable smart bulbs is the TP-Link LB130. For a mere $40 you can get a bulb that doesn't require a hub, can cycle through the full-color spectrum, and is easy to set up. So why didn't it earn top marks? Well, like the other bulbs from TP-Link, the LB130 wasn't very responsive. There was a serious delay when it came to dimming the bulb or changing colors that made the whole experience more frustrating than convenient. Still, at such a low price, there's only so much you can ask for.
Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and smart home editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic, Reviews.com, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy, Mom.me, and SheKnows.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.