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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Side by side

Relax

Read

Concentrate

Energize

Nightlight

Red

Orange

Yellow

Blue

Cyan

Green

An honest app

Adjustments in action

Purple

Pink

Philips Hue's newest bulb is an improved version of its original color-changing LED. Philips tells us that it's brighter and better at color accuracy -- we wanted to see for ourselves.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

On the left, you've got the original Philips Hue LED. On the right, the new-and-improved Hue LED. Both are shining at the default setting here, so this is how they look when you first turn the bulbs on.

As you can see, it's pretty close, although the new bulb on the right looks a touch brighter.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

The Hue app offers up color temperature preset "scenes" for quick and easy changes at the tap of a button (the bulbs work with Apple HomeKit, so you can ask Siri to run these scenes, too).

This first one is called "Relax," and it's a warm, candle-like setting designed to help you wind down. Again, the two bulbs look pretty similar.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

This next scene is called "Read." It's a brighter, less yellowy version of soft white intended to provide -- you guessed it -- optimal reading light.

Again, the bulbs look about the same, though the new Hue bulb on the right is clearly a little bit brighter.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Bright, white light is supposed to be great for concentration (which is why so many office spaces use bright white fluorescent bulbs). This Hue scene called "Concentrate" is intended to serve the same purpose.

Same as before, the bulbs look similar, with the new bulb looking a little bit brighter.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Here's one last white-light scene called "Energize." It jacks the color temperature up as high as it'll go, way up into the bluish-white part of the natural light spectrum. The two bulbs are nearly indistinguishable at this setting.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

There's also a "Nightlight" setting that'll dim the bulb down to its minimum setting at a warm, candle-like tone. It's clear to see that the new bulb can dim down a lot lower than the original.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

All right, on to the colors! We'll start with red, which is one of the easiest colors for a color-changing bulb to produce. The original Hue bulb had no problem here, and neither does the new one.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Let's move on to orange. At this setting, the old bulb is actually a little bit brighter-looking than the new one. That seems to be because it relies more on its yellow diodes than the new one does.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Here's the giveaway that the yellow diodes were stronger (or at least used more heavily) in the original Hue bulb. At the yellow setting, it's clearly brighter than the new one.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

How about blue, though? The original Hue LED didn't have as many blue diodes as red and yellow diodes, so it struggled a bit with blue tones. At pure blue, it adds in a little bit of red to help up the brightness, which is why things look a little bit purplish. The new Hue LED there on the right does a much better job with true blue.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Icy blue cyan tones were a problem for the original Hue bulb, too. With weak blue diodes, it wasn't able to put out much more than white light with a faint blue tint. The new Hue bulb, on the other hand, hits cyan with ease.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Green is the most notorious problem spot for the original Hue bulbs. Again, those weak blue diodes were the culprit, preventing the bulb from producing anything greener than the tennis-ball-yellow shade seen here. Thankfully, though, the new Hue bulbs fix this long-standing problem, and can finally produce a bold, vivid shade of true green.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Here's something interesting. The Hue app keeps things honest by automatically adjusting the old bulb away from shades that it just can't do. For instance, I set both the new and old Hue bulbs to the same shade of cyan (left) and the same shade of green (right), but notice how the first-gen bulb looks different. Its color in the app changes to match the color the bulb is actually emitting.

Caption by / Photo by Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

You can see that change happen here. The picture on the left is where I set the original Hue bulb for that cyan shot. After closing the color selection screen and reopening it, the cursor was automatically relocated to the actual color produced by the bulb. If it does this with the new Hue bulbs at any specific color settings, I haven't found them yet.

Caption by / Photo by Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Back to the bulbs. Here they are set to purple. Both do a fine job with it.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

Finally, here's pink. Again, both bulbs hit it with ease. All in all, it's a good result for the new Hue bulbs -- at most settings it lives up to its claims of brighter, more accurate colors. We'll have more with a full review in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET
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