Lumen LED Color Smart Bulb review: Smart, but still a bit dim

Need some mood lighting? Lumen's Romance Mode will gradually cycle through warm tones. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Once you've paired your bulb with your device, you'll be able to turn it on and off remotely, change its color, or launch one of the those aforementioned presets. These aren't nearly as numerous or customizable as what you'll get with Philips -- you're limited to two color cycles (the cool-toned "Relaxation Mode" and the warm-toned "Romance Mode"), along with both a fast and slow version of "Party Mode," which strobes red, blue, and green light in succession. Ideally, you'd be able to select your own combination of colors and the speed at which they'd cycle, but the Lumen app doesn't offer this level of functionality yet.

As for good, old-fashioned, normal-colored light, the Lumen uses a dedicated white LED capable of giving off 400 lowercase lumens, making it comparable to a 40-watt incandescent bulb. This isn't quite as bright as I'd like -- Philips Hue bulbs, for comparison, give off 600 lumens each. Switch from white light to colored light, and things will get slightly dimmer still. As an accent, it does a fine job, but don't rely on the Lumen to serve as your primary light source.

The Lumen is rated to last 30,000 hours -- twice as long as a Philips Hue bulb. Ry Crist/CNET

Lumenation claims that each bulb will last up to 30,000 hours. That's an impressive number, given that Philips Hue bulbs are only rated to last 15,000 hours, but keep in mind that Philips Hue bulbs come with a two-year warranty. It's unclear whether or not Lumen bulbs, on the other hand, come with any warranty at all. I know I'd feel a lot better about that 30,000-hour lifespan claim if they did.

At its brightest, the Lumen bulb only uses 7 watts of electricity, which comes out to a very efficient 57 lumens per watt. It'll also draw a little bit of juice to power the Bluetooth connection with your phone, but since it's a low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 connection, this should only be a marginal amount. All of this is to say that the math adds up on this bulb, which makes for some much-needed reassurance given that the Lumen doesn't come from a trusted, well-known lighting brand.

If you want to schedule your Lumen light to turn on automatically, you're stuck using Wake-Up Mode. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

That said, the strength of the Lumen's hardware is actually a bit bittersweet, given that the software is so much of a weakness by comparison. A smart bulb like this just begs for automation scheduling, but all the Lumen app offers is the underwhelming wake-up mode. The potential is there for conditional, if/then statement-based automation, too -- something we've already seen with the happy marriage between Hue bulbs and IFTTT . But again, the Lumen app falls short, only offering an underdeveloped proximity mode and an incoming call mode that doesn't seem to work all that well.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

The bright side to all of this is that apps can get better, and hopefully Lumen's app will do just that and will catch up to its bulb in the process. Fortunately, along with the upcoming Android release, Lumenation is promising major app improvements, including a revamped proximity mode and even a music-syncing feature. If and when those features arrive, the $69.99 Lumen LED bulb might be a tempting way for the color-curious to dip their feet into smart-bulb waters. If you're looking to control more than two bulbs, though, you're probably better off just springing for a Philips Hue Starter Kit.

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