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HolidayBuyer's Guide

A close look at Lifx

Bright red light

Looking at yellow

More indigo than blue

Going green

Incandescent equivalent

And then there were two

Soft white light

From white to blue

The top of the spectrum

The Lifx is a color-changing smart LED, similar to the Philips Hue and the Lumen LED. Which one puts out colors that look the best? Click through for some handy comparison shots, straight from our testing lab.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Let's start with bright red, with the Philips Hue on the left, the Lumen LED in the center, and Lifx on the right. The Lumen LED is noticeably dimmer than the other two, which makes its shade of red look darker. All three are actually the same essential shade of red -- brightness (or lack thereof) doesn't affect hue.

Our spectrometer testing has consistently shown that red is the easiest color for bulbs like these to hit accurately, so it's no surprise that all three bulbs earn passing grades.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Moving onto yellow, the Lumen's comparative lack of brightness is even more noticeable. Its shade of yellow is fairly accurate, though it bends a bit toward orange. The Lifx LED is quite bright, which gives it more of a whitish appearance at full blast, but it's still an accurate shade of yellow, as is the Philips Hue.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Our blue test is an interesting one. The Lumen LED (center) puts out a rich, satisfying, pure shade of blue, but both the Philips Hue (left) and Lifx (right) bulbs, while brighter, tend a bit toward the purple part of the spectrum. The effect is more pronounced on camera than it is to the naked eye, but it's still a difference you can see. Lumen wins this round.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Lifx is the clear winner when it comes to green -- just look at it there on the right, putting out the brightest, greenest light of all. The Lumen LED in the center is, again, much dimmer, but it's still a very accurate shade of pure green.

The Philips Hue, on the left, is the problem child here. Without any pure green diodes, it's forced to get to green by mixing yellow, blue, and red. The result is a washed-out, yellowy shade of green.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Bright, vivid colors might be great at a party, but for everyday use, you'll probably want to rely on more natural tones. Here's each bulb at an approximate color temperature of 2,700 K. That's the low end of what traditional incandescent bulbs will put out -- a yellowish, warm white light.

This is the one test where the Lumen LED doesn't look quite so dim, as its dedicated white light diodes shine fairly bright. The Philips Hue on the left looks closer to the warm, incandescent-style light you're thinking of than does the Lifx bulb on the right, but that's probably because of the significant uptick in brightness that you get from Lifx. As far as color is concerned, all three bulbs hit the mark here.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Here's that same warm white comparison, but with the Lumen LED removed. Unlike Philips Hue or Lifx, which offer full spectrums of incandescent tones to choose from, the Lumen LED only offers that single 2,700 K color temperature. Moving forward, we'll look at some other incandescent tones that the Lumen LED simply can't produce.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Increasing the color temperature to roughly 3,500 K gives us a light that's more white and less yellow. Remember, the Lifx bulb is a 1,000 lumen, 75-watt replacement, while the Philips Hue is more in line with a 60-watt replacement. The Lifx LED's extra brightness makes it look more white, but it's set to the same approximate color temperature as the Hue bulb. If you were to dim it down by 20 to 30 percent, the two would look nearly identical.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

As you approach 6,000 K, you'll start to see a bluish color temperature that manufacturers often refer to as "Daylight" on their packaging. It helps to think of color temperature like a flame -- it starts out orange, but as it gets hotter, and hotter, it gets more and more blue. Light bulbs are no different, and with this tone, both the Philips Hue and the Lifx do a fine job.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET

Finally, we've got each bulb as high on the natural light spectrum as it will go, each one maxing it out just over 8,000 K. That's a higher, bluer color temperature than you'll find from almost any incandescent, but it's still accurate to how one would look if you got its color that hot.

Caption by / Photo by Colin West McDonald/CNET
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