• Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit (Generation 3)

  • How We Tested

  • Privacy and Apple HomeKit

  • Other Smart Bulbs We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Philips Hue White + Color
Credit: Reviewed.com / Nick Schmiedicker
Best Overall, Best Color Changing
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit (Generation 3)

Across the board, Philips Hue LED lights 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 options, Philips Hue lights do require a hub (the Philips Hue Bridge) in order to work remotely. While they can be controlled over Bluetooth, that will only work when you're physically near the bulb. Additional hardware isn’t usually a strong point, but it’s a small price to pay for the sheer performance and reliability that Hue offers—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. The only difference between them is that the third-gen kit comes with "richer color" lightbulbs.

Pros

  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri

  • Rich color palette

  • Easy setup plus an intuitive app

Cons

  • Requires a hub to work remotely

How We Tested

How We Test

Every product in this lineup has been physically tested. We've gathered these from our roundups of the best products, so the expertise of editors, staff writers, and contributors is represented in this article. We can confidently recommend these as the very best smart bulbs for Apple HomeKit that you can buy right now.

The Tests

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 WiFi connection and data. We connected each bulb to 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.

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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.

All the smart bulbs we tested are compatible with Apple HomeKit—just make sure to double-check so you're not buying an outlier.

Privacy and Apple HomeKit

There’s always a security risk when using internet-connected devices at home, but there are ways you can protect your privacy when using HomeKit devices. Apple claims that all HomeKit user data is encrypted end-to-end locally (meaning on your Home Hub) before being transmitted to the cloud so that no one has access to it but you. According to the company, HomeKit's infrastructure uses iCloud, iOS, iPadOs, and macOS to "protect and sync private data without exposing it" to others, including Apple employees. To secure your account further, turn on two-factor authentication and make sure your password is unique and hard to guess. You can read more about Apple's HomeKit data security policy.

One thing to know is that Apple, by default, keeps your Siri voice interactions (one of the primary ways to control HomeKit accessories) and may review the audio clips to help improve Siri’s accuracy. You can opt-out of this by turning off Siri and Diction in the Settings > Privacy > Analytics & Improvement > turning off Improve Siri & Dictation. To delete your Siri voice history on a HomePod, open the Home app, press and hold the HomePod icon, select Siri History, tap Delete Siri History, and confirm the deletion. To delete your Siri voice history on an iPhone or iPad, open Settings > Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History > Delete Siri & Dictation History. For more information, check out Apple’s Siri dictation and privacy disclaimer.


Other Smart Bulbs We Tested

Sengled Smart LED Vintage Edison Bulb

The Sengled Smart LED Vintage Edison Bulb has both looks and smarts. It's especially well suited for hanging pendants. With the design of an old-school filament lamp, the Vintage Edison fills any room with a warm chrome color. It looks sunny at 100 percent brightness, and you can dim it down from the connected app for a more cozy, candlelit atmosphere. It's compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, and IFTTT. It doesn't work with Apple HomeKit (unless you happen to own an older version of the Sengled Smart Hub that supports it).

The bulb comes with a three-year warranty and has an estimated 22-year life span. This particular bulb from Sengled requires a hub, and it currently works with four of them, including: the Sengled Smart Hub, which you connect directly to a router using an included Ethernet cable; the Echo Plus; the Echo Show 2nd Gen; and SmartThings hub. Be sure to factor in the cost of a hub before making a purchase. We set up for testing with a Sengled hub and found the process quick and straightforward.

It's equally simple to turn the bulb on and off, adjust the brightness, create a schedule for the lights to go on or off automatically, and use other controls in the app. You can turn the lights on and off when you're not home or set them to run on a schedule to make it appear like you're home when you're not, although there isn't a randomized away-from-home option.

Pros

  • Beautiful

  • Easy setup

  • Wide compatibility

Cons

  • Requires hub

  • No color options

Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagon Smarter Kit

Nanoleaf, which made a splash with its decorative Nanoleaf Canvas and Panels, has expanded beyond squares and triangles to now offer new shapes. Fittingly called Nanoleaf Shapes, the new and improved version kicks off with Hexagons. These aren't light bulbs but rather flat light panels that you mount on your wall in whatever design you like. The multicolored light-up hexagons link to one another in the back using small circuit strips, which are sturdier in Shapes than the previous models.

The starter kit includes seven panels, but you can upgrade to 13 or 19 panels, or more with expansion packs. Just as with the Nanoleaf Canvas, Shapes also supports touch-enabled interaction. Put your hand on a hexagon and the lights twinkle or ripple through a little light show. While the connected app can be a little confusing to navigate, it allows you to choose different color schemes, such as Northern Lights—which splashes through a wheel of colors—or your own custom scene.

The lights can sync to music, too. In addition to connecting with music and touch, Shapes works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings, IFTTT, Razer (for video games using Razer Chroma accessories), and other systems. Shapes has an improved mounting system compared with the previous models, but regardless, be prepared to put in some time, patience, and focus to get your design on the wall. Additionally, the sticky mounting strips don't work on some surfaces so you may need to buy an additional screw-mounting kit for certain wall types and ceilings.

Pros

  • Fun conversation piece

  • Wide compatibility

Cons

  • Expensive

  • App can be confusing

Yeelight Smart LED Bulb 1S (Color)

With a flat-top design, similar to what you find in the Philips Hue Starter Kit, the Yeelight LED Bulb 1S (Color) is a long-lasting, full color light bulb that connects to a wide range of other apps and services and comes with some neat features. It's rated to last 25,000 hours, which is a little more than 22 years based on three hours per day average use. Additionally, it uses 15 percent less power than the previous generation bulb from Yeelight. It works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings, IFTTT, and other apps, such as Tasker for Android.

The Yeelight app can be a little difficult to navigate, but it has some neat features if you explore. For example, a Flow State cycles the bulb through a rainbow of colors at a speed that you choose. A quick-action button called Flash Notification causes the bulb to blink, a useful way to get someone's attention in deaf or hard or hearing families, or when other people are sleeping. While the price of a single bulb may seem a little high, you don't have to buy a bridge or hub, which helps make up for it.

Pros

  • No hub or bridge needed

  • Full color

  • Wide compatibility

Cons

  • App can be confusing

LIFX White

Lifx White is an inexpensive, tunable white smart bulb that doesn't require a hub and works with all the three major home assistants: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. Setting up is easy and fast. If you get started with an Apple mobile device, the Lifx app automatically prompts you to connect with HomeKit and Siri, making for an extremely smooth process no matter your level of expertise.

Features in the app range from handy and functional to quirky. For example, you can set an on/off schedule for your lights, create fade timers, and even view all the scheduled actions for the day in a timeline. On the quirker end, there's a strange Flicker setting that makes it seem like there's something wrong with the wiring in your home, plus two other presets called Spooky and Strobe that do the same thing only with increasing intensity. A seizure warning accompanies the last one.

Another preset called Visualizer dims and brightens the bulb based on music or ambient sound using the microphone on your mobile device. With an expected lifespan of roughly 22 years, the Lifx White is a good bulb to choose if you don't care too much about special features and want a long-lasting, tunable white bulb that works with your smart home.

Pros

  • Reasonably priced

  • No hub required

  • Wide compatibility

Cons

  • No color options

  • Some features lacking

Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit

Each of the Philips Hue bulbs has a near-identical app experience and setting up each one 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.

Pros

  • Easy setup

  • Intuitive app

Cons

  • Only white light

Philips Hue White Starter Kit

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.

Pros

  • Easy setup

  • Intuitive app

Cons

  • Hub required

  • Bare minimum of smart features

Sengled Element Plus Kit

The Sengled bulbs, like most of the others on this list, are exceptional because each one offers 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.

Pros

  • Adjustable color temperature

  • Sengled plants a tree per bulb setup

Cons

  • Nothing we could find

Ikea Tradfri Dimming Kit

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 them 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 response time and handling different brightness settings. They're a solid choice if you're not a fan of the others on our list.

Pros

  • Adjustable color temperature

Cons

  • Awkward remote

Meet the testers

Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

Senior Staff Writer

@rachel_murphy

Rachel Murphy covers smart home for Reviewed. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for several major outlets and as an associate editorial producer for ABC News' Good Morning America.

See all of Rachel Murphy's reviews
Nick Schmiedicker

Nick Schmiedicker

Former Managing Editor

@@nschmiedicker

Coming from Buffalo, NY, Nick studied media production and arts journalism. When he’s not writing about tech Nick can be found playing video games and keeping up on the latest in pop culture.

See all of Nick Schmiedicker's reviews
Sarah Kovac

Sarah Kovac

Editor, Smart Home

@sarahkovac

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.

See all of Sarah Kovac's reviews

Checking our work.

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.

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