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Philips Hue

Why they're worth it: At $200 for a four-bulb starter kit, Philips Hue's color-changing smart lights don't come cheap. All the same, they're one of the best smart home purchases you can make, thanks to the robustness of the Philips platform and the fact that the bulbs work with just about everything -- including the content on your TV.

Requires hub: Yes  

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Hue Entertainment

For instance, here they are providing live accent lighting to the infamous hallway scene from Rogue One.

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Philips Hue White

Why they're worth it: If $200 is more than you'd care to spend on a starter kit, then consider Philips Hue's white-light LEDs. A four-bulb starter kit with the essential Hue Bridge will only set you back $80, and while they won't change colors, you'll still get the full benefits of the Philips lighting platform. And you can always add color-changing bulbs to your setup later, a la carte-style.

Requires hub: Yes

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET

Philips Hue Outdoor Lights

Why they're worth it: We're still testing these out at the CNET Smart Home, but so far, we like what we see. You've got a couple of different options, from wall-mounted flood lights to the color-changing "Calla" garden lights seen here. Like other Hue products, they aren't cheap, but they'll bring exterior lighting into your Hue setup, which has us intrigued.

Requires hub: Yes    

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

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Lifx Z LED Light Strip

Why they're worth it: Philips Hue also sells smart, color-changing light strips that look great underneath cabinets or behind your TV, but I actually prefer the Lifx Z light strip, which costs $90. They work with all of the same partners as Hue -- Alexa, Google, Siri, you name it -- and unlike Hue, they don't require a hub. 

One other key advantage with Lifx: the strip can put out multiple colors at once. Hue's light strip can't.

Requires hub: No    

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET

Lifx Mini

Why they're worth it: If it's just bulbs you're after, then consider the Lifx Mini. At $45 a piece (and often on sale for a little less), they're one of the most affordable color-changing smart bulbs that work with all of the major platforms without needing a hub.

Requires hub: No    

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET

Nice and bright

And don't let the "Mini" moniker fool you -- the Lifx bulb still puts out plenty of light across all settings. There it is on the right compared with a Bluetooth speaker bulb from Sengled that I wasn't crazy about.

Published:Caption:Photo:Chris Monroe/CNET

Lifx Plus LED

Why they're worth it: At $70 per bulb the Lifx Plus LED is one of the most expensive color-changing bulbs you can buy, but it's still worthy of consideration. 

Like the regular, less expensive Lifx bulbs, the Lifx Plus LED is super bright at just about every setting -- and the "plus" part is that it also emits invisible infrared light when it's powered off. You can't see that light -- but night vision cameras can. If you use cameras like those to keep an eye on your home, the Lifx Plus LED can help improve their vision at night. That's a clever trick that you won't get with any other smart bulb we've tested.

Requires hub: No  

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Night vision

Here's a quick example: two screengrabs from a night-vision camera at the CNET Smart Apartment. The first is normal, the second one adds in a Lifx Plus LED in that lamp at the back of the room. To the night vision camera, it looks like the lamp is lighting up the back wall, even though the lamp is dark to the human eye in both shots.

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Lifx White 900 BR30 LED

Why they're worth it: Lifx also sells rugged, BR30 floodlight versions of its color-changing bulb and its Lifx Plus color-changing night vision bulb. But if you want to spend a little less, you can always skip the colors and just go with the standard white light version, which costs just $30. 

It's bright, efficient, compatible with just about everything and like other Lifx products, needs no hub. Plus, you can choose your specific shade of white, ranging from yellowy soft white to stark, neutral white to hot, bluish daylight.

Requires hub: No  

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Chris Monroe/CNET
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Sylvania Smart Plus Zigbee LEDs

Why they're worth it: For more of a value on simple, white-light smart bulbs, consider the Sylvania Smart Plus Zigbee LEDs, which start at just $12 each and come in multiple shapes and sizes. You'll need a Zigbee hub in order to connect them with your router (Wink, SmartThings, the Hue Bridge and others will all work), but aside from that, they're a great budget option. 

Just keep in mind that the hub you use will determine the other products, platforms and services the bulbs are able to connect with (the ones mentioned above all work with Alexa, Google and IFTTT, but only the Hue Bridge will add in Apple HomeKit support).

Requires hub: Yes    

Compatible with: Depends on the hub

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET

Sylvania Smart Plus LED (Apple HomeKit-enabled)

Why they're worth it: Sylvania also gave us the first color-changing smart bulb that works with Apple HomeKit without needing a hub. It doesn't work with anything else, but if HomeKit's Siri voice controls are all you're after (and if you're comfortable using Apple's Home app to control your lights), then they'll get the job done with minimal fuss. 

Just make sure you have an Apple TV, an Apple HomePod or a dedicated, always-on iPad under your roof -- otherwise, you won't be able to control them from beyond Bluetooth range.

Requires hub: No    

Compatible with: Apple HomeKit

Published:Caption:Photo:Chris Monroe/CNET

Sylvania Smart Plus Bluetooth Lightstrip

Why they're worth it: If you like Sylvania's approach, then you should also consider its color-changing Bluetooth light strips, which also work with Apple HomeKit. At about $60 each, they're also less expensive than similar strips from Lifx and Philips Hue.

Requires hub: No      

Compatible with: Apple HomeKit

Published:Caption:Photo:Chris Monroe/CNET

Sylvania Smart Plus Vintage LED

Why they're worth it: One last option from the Sylvania lineup of HomeKit-compatible smart bulbs: This "vintage-styled" LED designed to mimic the look of an old-school incandescent. It's one of the only vintage-style smart bulb options we've seen, so if that's the look you're after, this is the bulb for you.

Requires hub: No        

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET
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Cree Connected LED

Why they're worth it: Just looking for a generic smart bulb from a reputable brand? I like the Cree Connected LED, which you can find in the lighting aisle at Home Depot for about $15 each. 

Each bulb uses a Zigbee radio to broadcast its signal, so you'll need a compatible hub in order to control it. It's also been out for a few years now, but for basic smart lighting control, it's still a great value with solid specs.

Requires hub: Yes      

Compatible with: Depends on the hub

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Eufy Lumos LED

Why they're worth it: The $20 Eufy Lumos LED from Anker might be an even better budget pick -- especially for folks who don't already have a Zigbee hub. It uses Wi-Fi to send its signal, so it doesn't need a hub at all. Plus, it'll work with Alexa and the Google Assistant right out of the box. Just screw it in, turn it on and sync it with your phone.

Requires hub: No

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

Published:Caption:Photo:Chris Monroe/CNET

Sengled Element Color Plus LED

Why they're worth it: Looking for a budget pick that can change colors? Check out the Sengled Element Color Plus LEDs. For $80, you get two bulbs and the Zigbee hub that controls them, and additional bulbs sell for $30 each. That's a good price for decent color changers that work with Alexa, the Google Assistant and IFTTT. The only real drawback? There's no support for Apple HomeKit.

Requires hub: Yes

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET
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