remains the top name in connected, color-changing smart home lighting, but this year, the brand decided to step outside with a new lineup of Hue lights and fixtures meant to light up your home's exterior. Here's the full list.
- Philips Hue Inara: 800-lumen wall-mounted fixture, $50 each
- Philips Hue Lucca: 800-lumen wall-mounted fixture, $60 each
- Philips Hue Ludere: 2,600-lumen wall-mounted fixture, $130 each
- Philips Hue White PAR38: 1,300-lumen outdoor floodlight, $30 each, or two for $50
- Philips Hue Calla: 640-lumen path light, $130 for a base kit with one light and the power supply, additional lights for $90 each
- Philips Hue Lily: 640-lumen outdoor spotlight, $280 for a three-light starter kit and extension lights for $80 each
- Philips Hue Outdoor Light Strips: Weatherproof, color-changing lights strips available in lengths of 2 meters for $90 and 5 meters for $160
That's a lot of new smart lights (and it's not even counting new indoor lights like theand the ). My question: Which of these new smart lights are smart purchases?
To answer, I tested them all out at the CNET Smart Home -- here's my rundown of each of them, ranked from worst to first. Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured in this list.
6) Philips Hue Ludere Outdoor Fixture
The Ludere is really just a standard, wired fixture that includes two of Philips' new weatherproof floodlight LEDs. At $130, I also think it's overpriced. Subtract the cost of the bulbs themselves, which sell in a two-pack for $50, and you're looking at an $80 piece of plastic -- more than twice as expensive as similar fixtures that include built-in motion sensors. There's no such motion sensor in the Ludere, even though Hue supports motion triggers and sells . That's a big missed opportunity.
Hue's outdoor floodlights are standard-size bulbs that'll fit into any fixture that accepts PAR38-shaped LEDs. Why spend $80 on a cheap, basic fixture for them? Why not use them in something nicer that costs less? The value proposition just doesn't make sense here.
5) Philips Hue Outdoor Light Strips
Lots of folks were excited when Philips announced a new, weatherproof version of its popular light strips, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The thick, rubbery exterior surrounding the LEDs is much too bulky, making it near impossible to hide the strips under a railing, like we tried on the deck at the CNET Smart Home. They look better on the ground, lighting up a garden -- but Philips doesn't include any way to stake the things down, meaning you'll need to figure something out for yourself.
Another big problem: You can't buy extensions for the strips like you can for the indoor versions, and you can't cut them shorter like you can with the indoor strips, either. Both are significant limitations -- if you need anything other than 2 or 5 meters' worth of color-changing light, you're out of luck. Hopefully Philips will head back to the drawing board and come up with an improved design.
4) Philips Hue Calla Path Lights
We've currently got these color-changing pedestal lights illuminating the CNET Smart Home's veggie garden. They're a bit thick and bulky for my tastes. With a single-light starter kit that includes the power supply costing an exorbitant $130, I also wish that they were less expensive, especially since you'll probably want at least a couple of them. Even if you're just getting two, you'll need to spend a total of $220, which is quite a lot compared with other garden-style path lights, including ones with built-in solar panels.
At 640 lumens each, the Calla path lights are much brighter than lights like those. Couple that with the smart color control, and you might have enough reasons to splurge. Still, I think a lot of folks would feel a bit uneasy having hundreds of dollars' worth of conspicuous-looking lights unsecured in their lawn.
3) Philips Hue Lucca/Inara Outdoor Fixtures (tie)
Like the Ludere, both of these options are really just standard outdoor fixtures built to house a Philips Hue smart bulb, which comes included. In this case, it isn't a $50 set of floodlights in the box, but a standard. Those LEDs are dampness-rated, so you could just as easily screw one into an existing outdoor fixture that accepts standard-size bulbs and save $35.
Still, supposing you don't have a fixture like that ready to go (or you're looking to replace the ones you've already got), both the Inara and the Lucca make for easy outdoor lighting upgrades -- and at $50 or $60, respectively, the price is fairly comparable to what you might spend for a similar fixture that doesn't come with a smart bulb included. That makes for a pretty good deal, even if neither fixture is terribly exciting. Again, a built-in Hue motion sensor would have really helped things here.
For what it's worth, Philips tells me that both fixtures are specifically designed not to interfere with the wireless Zigbee signals coming and going to the Hue White bulb inside. I'm not sure that's reason enough to skip a less expensive standard fixture -- I've used Hue White bulbs in outdoor fixtures like those before, and haven't had any difficulties with the signal getting through.
2) Philips Hue Lily Outdoor Spotlights
Decorative outdoor lighting isn't really about the lights themselves -- it's about the light that they cast. For that reason, I like Hue's new color-changing outdoor spotlights quite a bit. They're smaller and less conspicuous than the Calla pedestal lights, but just as bright. Plus, they cost a bit less, with a three-light starter kit selling for $280. That's still a lot to spend, but it's also $30 less than you'd need to pay for a trio of Calla lights. And, like the Calla lights, the Lily spots offer full color control, which would be handy to have on hand for the holidays (though I do wish that the colors were just a touch brighter).
That said, three lights might be overkill for a lot of people who just want symmetrical spotlights on either side of their front door. A two-light starter kit for something like $200 might have been closer to the sweet spot. Also keep in mind that, like the Calla pedestals, the Lily spotlights will need to be daisy-chained together and connected to a shared power supply (unless you're willing to buy multiple starter kits). That means they might not be a practical option if you want one on either side of a walkway or anything else you wouldn't want to stretch a cord across.
One last point of note (and this applies to all of these lights) -- you'll need theplugged into your router in order to use the Lily spotlights as intended, and the Bridge doesn't come included in the starter kit. Not a huge deal if you already have one, but a bitter pill to swallow if you don't. Philips really should have given consumers a break and added it in, especially at this price.
1) Philips Hue White Outdoor Floodlight LEDs
They're nothing fancy, but smart, weatherproof floodlights are a great addition to the Hue lineup -- and at $50 for a two-pack, they're pretty fairly priced, too, costing just an extra $10 per bulb over the standard Hue White LEDs and adding in a brighter, more rugged PAR38-shaped design.
That $50 price is also what you'll pay for a two-pack of the non-weatherproofed Hue White Ambiance floodlights, which offer the added benefit of tunable white light tones ranging from warm to cool. You don't get that range of tones with these outdoor Hue bulbs, but I don't think many will miss it, since tunable white light is really a better fit for indoor spaces. At any rate, if you're looking for smart bulbs that can stand up to the rain, these belong at the top of your list.