Geek out over a new generation of connected light

Smart lighting is a key part of the connected home, and the newest generation of bulbs and lighting kits has us intrigued. Here's what we're keeping an eye on.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology | Wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
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The smart home continues to evolve, but some parts of it are further along than others. Take smart lighting, for instance. It's one of the obvious starting points for anyone looking to bring connected tech into their home, and there's a wide variety of options already up for sale.

We've seen plenty of new additions to the category this year, along with the promise of even more new choices in the months to come. Some offer the same old take on automated lighting, but others are starting to bring a new generation of advanced functionality into play. Others are simply pushing the cost of buying in down to new lows, a development that can't come quickly enough.

We'll continue to test all of them out at the CNET Smart Home and let you know which ones seem like especially smart buys. For now, here are the bulbs from this year's crop of smart lights that we're keenest on:

Six smart lighting contenders to keep an eye on

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BeOn Starter Pack

One obvious problem with automated lighting is that your automations will only work if the lights are left switched on. That isn't the case with BeOn bulbs. Each one houses a removable battery pack that allows it to shine even without power -- useful during a blackout, or if you simply want to come home to an illuminated living space regardless of the switch situation.

These lights also aim to provide some unique security functionality. For starters, they'll keep an ear out for your doorbell or your alarm -- if they hear either one, they'll light up automatically to help fool the bad guys into thinking you're home (or, in the event of a smoke alarm, to help you find your way out of the house). They also have a sort-of DVR function that lets you set them to "replay" your typical at-home lighting patterns when you're out on vacation. That's simple approach that has us interested -- stay tuned for a full review.

Read our preview of the BeOn Starter Pack.


C by GE LED Starter Pack

Science suggests that the color temperature of your home lighting could affect how you sleep at night, with warm, orange tones lulling you into a good night's rest and hotter, more whitish colors helping you pep up in the morning. The new C by GE Sleep LEDs want to put that science to work by changing color temperatures automatically, helping to stimulate your melatonin levels into healthy balance with your circadian rhythms.

Beyond the claims of a better night's rest, the bulbs promise to be some of the most affordable smart lights we've seen yet, and with Bluetooth radios packed into each one, you won't need a hub or control device to use them -- just screw them in and pair each one with your phone. GE's also looking into compatibility with Apple HomeKit , the smart home standards built into iOS devices, which might make these an especially intriguing option for iPhone and iPad users. We'll test them out as soon as they're available early next year.

Read our preview of the C by GE Starter Pack.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Lifx 1000

Lifx LEDs have emerged as the main color-changing alternative to the category-dominating Philips Hue LEDs, and you could make the case that they're the better buy. Each one is hundreds of lumens brighter than Philips Hue, and they tested better in our color accuracy challenge, too.

Now, Lifx is debuting the second-gen version of its color-changing bulb, the Lifx 1000. It looks largely the same as the original, but it's smaller and more energy efficient. That, coupled with recent price cuts and smart home integrations with Windows devices and with the Amazon Echo smart speaker might mean it's time to give Lifx another look.

Read our review of the original Lifx LED.


Nanoleaf Smarter Kit

It's hard not to geek out over an inside out light bulb, and that's exactly what I did when I reviewed the Nanoleaf Bloom , one of the coolest-looking LEDs I've ever reviewed. Now, Nanoleaf is planning on packing Zigbee smarts into that same eye-catching form-factor, with a two-bulb starter pack called the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit.

Nanoleaf promises that the bulbs will work with Apple HomeKit, and they're packaging them with one of the best-looking control hubs we've ever seen -- a sleek, geek-friendly dodecahedron that you'll happily leave out in plain sight. That's such a nice change from the ugly plastic pucks that you get with most kits.

Read our preview of the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Philips Hue 2.0 Starter Kit

Philips Hue is the first name in color-changing smart light, and for good reason. Over the course of a few years, Hue has smartly stayed platform agnostic, making sure its bulbs work with just about every smart home gadget of note.

This year, Hue added Apple HomeKit to that long, impressive list by releasing a second-gen Hue Bridge and new and improved bulbs. We bought a bunch for the CNET Smart Home, which lets us change colors simply by asking Siri. Make no mistake, Philips Hue isn't giving up the smart bulb spotlight any time soon.

Read our review of the Philips Hue 2.0 Starter Kit.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit

As weirdly attractive as Hue bulbs can be, the cost of buying in remains awfully high. That's why we think the Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit is such a smart addition to the Hue lineup. The bulbs are white light only, but they're much easier on the wallet, and smart right out of the box -- no hub or bridge necessary. Instead, you'll pair them with the included remote for easy dimming control of your home lighting. Later, if you decide to expand your setup, they'll work with the Hue Bridge, too.

Read our preview of the Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit.