Smart lights for everyone
I've long maintained that smart lights are some of the most sensible smart home gadgets money can buy. They're useful, they're affordable, they don't come with the same privacy concerns as things like always-listening microphones and face-detecting cameras -- and whether it's bulbs that change colors, automatable smart switches, light strips or accessories, you've got more options than ever.
In fact, there are literally dozens of smart lighting gadgets that I could recommend. So, I decided to put them all in one place for your convenience. Scroll through for a look at 25 of the best smart light bulbs, light switches, light strips and lighting accessories that you can buy right now (and if you need help picking between them, be sure to check out my full smart lighting guide).
All of my picks are based on countless hours spent testing the things out at the CNET Smart Home, but please note that CNET may earn a share of the revenue if you end up buying any of them through the links in this gallery.
Wyze Bulb -- $8 plus shipping
Seattle-based startup Wyze is making a name for itself in the smart home by selling inexpensive smart home gadgets straight to consumers, including the $8 Wyze Bulb. You'll need to pay a few bucks extra for shipping, but the bulb still offers tremendous value.
For starters, the Wyze Bulb is brighter than almost every other 60W replacement smart bulb I've tested, including top picks from Lifx, GE and Philips Hue. It uses a built-in Wi-Fi radio to communicate directly with your router, so you don't need any extra hub hardware in order to use it. The app offers a good slate of features, including scheduling, sleep timers and automatic vacation mode lighting. It also syncs up with Alexa and the Google Assistant for folks who want to control it with their voice.
On top of all that, the bulb offers a full spectrum of tunable white light color temperatures, with shades ranging from a candle-like glow to stark white daylight tones. You'd typically need to pay at least $20 for a smart bulb that offers all that.
Philips Hue White Starter Kit -- $70
For a step up from Wyze, consider this two-bulb Philips Hue White starter kit, which includes the all-important Philips Hue Bridge. At $70, the buy-in is steeper, but you're getting the full strength and potential of the Philips Hue ecosystem, which is the most well-developed and well-connected of its kind. Additional Hue White bulbs cost just $15 each, you can add additional Hue lights and other compatible third-party Zigbee lights to your setup, too.
I usually recommend this two-bulb starter kit as your easiest way into the Hue platform, but keep an eye on the three- and four-bulb starter kits, too. For instance, as of writing this, the four-bulb kit is currently on sale for $90, which gets you two extra bulbs for $10 each. Amazon also likes to bundle Hue starter kits with its Echo speakers at a discount, so watch for deals like that, too.
Philips Hue White and Color LED -- $90 (2-pack)
If you're curious about Philips Hue, but not ready to hook a Hue Bridge up to your router, know that the newest Hue bulbs added in Bluetooth radios. That lets you pair them directly with your phone for local control from a new Bluetooth version of the Hue app.
That Bluetooth app is limited to basic on/off control, dimming and color selection, so you'll still need a Hue Bridge if you want to try out Hue's many third-party integrations or advanced features like Hue Entertainment TV lighting or Google Assistant sleep fades. Still, it's nice that the bulbs have some standalone value without a Hue Bridge now -- the color-changing versions here sell in a two-pack for $90.
Lifx Mini -- $35
For a slightly less expensive color-changer that's just about as well-connected as Hue, check out the Lifx Mini LED. Typically available for $35 each, the Wi-Fi smart bulb works with IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, Alexa and the Google Assistant, and it doesn't need a hub at all. Lifx is tops in our tests when it comes to color quality, too, and its full-featured, well-designed app is one of the best we've played with.
Lifx Plus LED -- $57
Another Lifx bulb that's worth considering is the Lifx Plus LED. Along with all of the other Lifx selling points, the Plus part is that each bulb features built-in infrared diodes that put out invisible light whenever the bulb is off. You can't see that light -- but night vision cameras can. If you use cameras like that, these bulbs will help them see much, much better in the dark.
The full retail price is a painful $80 each, but as of writing this, both the standard A-shaped version and the floodlight version are marked down to about $57 a piece. That's still very expensive as far as smart bulbs go, but Lifx puts out quality hardware that routinely aces our tests, and that night vision trick is a unique feature you won't find anywhere else. For my money, I like the floodlight, as you'll get more out of that infrared light if it isn't hidden under a lampshade.
Philips Hue White BR30 Floodlight LED -- $20
Speaking of floodlights, Philips Hue finally released a BR30-shaped version of the plain-yet-popular Hue White LED. It doesn't change colors, but it only costs $20, and like the other new Hue bulbs, it features added Bluetooth support to let you use it without a hub if you're so inclined.
Sengled Smart Floodlight -- $10
Meanwhile, Sengled offers a simple smart floodlight that works with Alexa and the Google Assistant for just $10 each. It uses Zigbee, so you'll need a hub plugged into your router to translate its signal. Sengled sells its own, but Alexa users can skip it if they're using an Echo Plus or a second-gen Echo Show, each of which doubles as a Zigbee hub.
Sengled Smart Multicolor LED -- $25
Sengled sells bargain-priced color-changing bulbs, too, including this $25 Zigbee bulb that syncs with Alexa and the Google Assistant.
Don't have a Zigbee hub and don't feel like getting one? No problem -- Sengled sells a Wi-Fi version of the bulb for $25, too.
C by GE Multicolor LED -- $55 (2-pack)
Here's another color-changing option, and, like Sengled, one that costs a lot less than Lifx and Hue. It's the C by GE Multicolor LED, a Bluetooth smart bulb that supports Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant. GE Lighting is a Made for Google partner, so the bulbs pair especially well with Google Home smart speakers and Google Nest smart displays, which can each act as the hub for the bulbs to let you control them from beyond Bluetooth range. They're good bulbs, too, with bright, vibrant colors that look just as good as the competition.
The bulbs cost $30 each, but you can save a bit by buying the two-pack, which costs $55 at Best Buy.
Sylvania Smart Plus LED -- $25
Here's another color-changing option that's a decent pick for Apple HomeKit households: The Sylvania Smart Plus LED. With a Bluetooth radio in each bulb, you can sync it up with Siri on your iPhone or iPad right out of the box. It's easy to use and, at about $25 each, not too expensive, either.
Philips Hue Play Base Kit -- $129
At $60 each, or about $130 for a two-light kit that comes with the mandatory, multi-light power supply, the Philips Hue Play light bars definitely aren't cheap. Even so, they're my favorite color-changing lights in the entire Philips Hue lineup. They're surprisingly versatile, and easy to mount beneath a cabinet, behind a TV, or lots of other places where bulbs can't go. And pay attention, Instagram addicts -- our photo team also loves using them to add an easy pop of color to their shots.
Philips Hue Go -- $80
Meanwhile, the Philips Hue Go is a likable little accent light that's shaped like a bowl. It features a built-in battery, too, which lets you unplug the thing and take it with you around the house. I especially like it as a kid-friendly wake-up light.
One note here: There are some awfully strong rumors that we'll see a new version of the Hue Go this fall that adds in Bluetooth support. We typically hear from Philips Hue every year at the IFA trade show in Berlin, which happens at the start of September, so consider waiting until then to buy in.
Sylvania Smart Plus Light Strip -- $35
Just want a simpler, less expensive way to add some color behind your TV or beneath your cabinets? Want to be able to control that color using Siri commands? Then the Sylvania Smart Plus Light Strip is for you. It isn't the brightest strip I've tested, and you'll need an Apple HomePod or an Apple TV if you want to be able to control it from outside Bluetooth range, but it's a fantastic value pick at just $35.
Lifx Z LED Light Strip -- $70
If you're willing to spend a little more for something a little nicer, my recommendation is to splurge on the Lifx Z Light Strip. Unlike similar strips from Sylvania, Sengled and Philips Hue, the Lifx version can put out multiple colors at once, and it doesn't need a hub since, like other Lifx products, it communicates via Wi-Fi. The light quality is also superb, with plenty of brightness and excellent color quality, and it supports everything that Lifx bulbs support -- Alexa, Google, Siri, Cortana, IFTTT, you name it.
At its full retail price of $90, it's too expensive for most tastes, but I say it's worth jumping if you see it on sale. And -- pssst -- it's down to $70 right now on Amazon. Still pricey, but also $10 less than the Philips Hue light strip retails for -- and again, that competitor only puts out one color at a time.
Lifx Tile -- $150
Lifx also makes color-changing panels for your walls called Lifx Tiles -- and like the light strips, they're on sale right now. A five-tile setup usually costs $250, but Best Buy is offering it for $150. They were a bit too glitchy when we first tested them out last year, but Lifx says that the software has improved since then, and with 64 zones of multi-color light on each Tile, they're admittedly pretty nifty.
Nanoleaf Canvas -- $200
If you're really looking for splurge-worthy showpiece, consider Nanoleaf Canvas, a set of color-changing wall panels that costs $200. You get nine panels for your money that you can mount wherever and however you like. From there, you can use the app to program all sorts of animated effects, set them to change in rhythm with whatever music you're listening to, or control them via voice assistant using Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant. And, speaking of Siri, you can also program each of the touch-sensitive tiles to trigger your HomeKit scenes when you tap on them.
Nanoleaf Remote -- $50
Nanoleaf also makes one of the coolest and quirkiest smart lighting accessories I've ever tested. It's the $50 Nanoleaf Remote, a 12-sided, color-changing dodecahedron that lets you assign different lighting scenes to each face. To switch between them, just rotate the side you want to the top and watch the lights change accordingly. Want to dim the lights up or down? Just rotate the Remote clockwise or counterclockwise.
It's a nifty novelty to say the least, and a fun way to get geeky (OK, fine, geekier) during your next Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Bonus: You can also use it to trigger Apple HomeKit scenes.
Philips Hue Tap -- $50
For a $50 lighting accessory that's a little less ostentatious than that Nanoleaf Remote, consider the Philips Hue Tap. It's a puck-shaped, four-button remote for Philips Hue setups that can trigger different scenes, turn different groups of lights on and off, or dim the lights up and down -- but the coolest thing about it is that it powers itself each time you press a button. No batteries, no re-charging, just finger-power. Now that's smart.
RunLessWire Click Smart Switch for Philips Hue -- $60
Formerly called the Illumra, the Click smart switch from RunLessWire is basically the light switch equivalent of that Hue Tap. It mounts in over the top of your old light switch's gang box, but you don't need to wire it in at all -- instead, it pairs with your Philips Hue bulbs wirelessly, and uses the same tech as the Hue Tap to power itself each time you press it.
The best part -- since it doesn't actually cut the power to your Hue bulbs when you use it to turn them off, your automations and voice controls will continue to work when things are switched off. And don't worry if the light switches in your home aren't white -- the Click comes in colors like black, brown and almond, too. Each one costs $60.
Lutron Aurora -- $40
Another option that'll solve the age-old smart bulb/dumb switch dilemma: the Lutron Aurora. It's a nifty little smart dimmer dial that snaps in place over the top of your existing light switch, locking it into the on position. From there, you turn it to dim your Philips Hue bulbs up and down, or push it to turn them on and off. Unlike the dumb switch on its own, your automations and voice controls will continue to work when the lights are switched off. Genius.
Lutron Caseta Starter Kit -- $100
While we're talking light switches, let's talk about the Lutron Caseta smart dimmer switch. At $100 for a starter kit that includes a remote accessory and the mandatory Lutron Bridge, and with additional switches selling for about $60 each, it's pricier than other options, but after lots and lots of tests at the CNET Smart Home, we're confident that it's worth the price.
In addition to working with everything (Alexa, Google, Siri, IFTTT, etc.), Lutron's switches communicate using their own proprietary wireless signal called Lutron Clear Connect (which is why you need the Lutron Bridge acting as translator for your router). That protocol is speedy and reliable, acing our tests time and time again. And if you want, you can expand your setup with fan control switches, or even switches that control your Sonos audio gear.
C by GE Motion-Sensing Smart Switch -- $75
GE Lighting rolled out a number of new smart switches this year. This one, the most expensive of the bunch at $75, doesn't just dim the lights, but can also trigger them as soon as you walk into the room via the built-in motion sensor. There's also an ambient light sensor in the thing, all of which gives you an awful lot of automation options. I'm not sure I'd pay full price for it, but it's close -- and if you catch it on sale, I say go for it.
Another option -- downgrade to the regular version of this dimmer switch, which ditches the sensors and costs $50, or the basic on/off versions, which won't dim the lights but cost just $35 each.
WeMo Dimmer -- $60
Meanwhile, the touch-sensitive WeMo Dimmer, which usually sells for $60, is marked down to $47. It doesn't need a hub, it supports all the major platforms and voice assistants, and it worked great when we tested it out.
TP-Link Kasa 3-Way Switch Kit -- $52
If you have a light that's wired to two different light switches -- one at the top of the stairs and another at the bottom, for instance -- that's called a three-way switch. Not all smart switches support three-way setups, which can be a pain, but this kit from TP-Link's Kasa brand does, and it supports Alexa and the Google Assistant, too. Even with two switches included, it only costs about $50, which is a steal. I haven't tested it out for myself, but it has a solid average Amazon review score of 4.5 with over 5,000 reviews, and other Kasa gear I've tested has worked great.
Ring Pathlight Starter Kit -- $80
Ring is known best for its video doorbells, but this year it added a collection of motion-activated outdoor smart lights to the lineup. My favorites of the bunch after testing all of them out were the battery-powered Ring Pathlights, which turn on automatically whenever someone passes by. They can also use that motion to trigger your Ring cameras to start recording, and they work with Alexa, too. At $30 each, or $80 for a starter kit with two Pathlights and the mandatory Ring Bridge, I say the price is right.