C by GE Life and Sleep LED Starter Pack review:

GE's night-shifting smart bulbs don't cost that much (or do that much)

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MSRP: $49.99
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

1 stars 1 user review

The Good The C by GE Starter Pack is surprisingly affordable given that it includes color tunable bulbs that sync with your circadian rhythms. The app makes it easy to create preprogrammed scenes that you launch with a single tap.

The Bad As of now, you can't sync these bulbs up with any larger smart-home platforms or third-party devices, and you can't control them with voice commands, either. You also can't set basic timers or schedules for when lights should turn on and off.

The Bottom Line These appealingly low-cost smart bulbs are too dependent on their in-app controls, and don't actually offer much by way of automation.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Features 6.0
  • Usability 8.0
  • Design 8.0
  • Performance 6.0

Smart lighting is a common starting point for the connected home, but with a lot of your options, you'll need to keep a control hub plugged into your router or understand what ZigBee is.

GE wanted to lower that barrier of entry with its C by GE LED Starter Pack. For $50, you'll get four smart LED bulbs that need no hub, and instead, connect directly with your phone over Bluetooth. Two of these four bulbs -- the C by GE "Sleep" LEDs -- will even change color temperatures automatically throughout the day, going from a hot, bluish, get-the-hell-out-of-bed tone in the morning to a warm, orangey, you-are-getting-sleepy shade in the evening. The other two bulbs, the C by GE "Life" LEDs, are more basic, offering remote smartphone dimming control at a fixed color temperature in between those two extremes.

Four smart bulbs for 50 bucks is an attractive deal, especially when two of those bulbs are color-tunable. Compare that with the Wi-Fi-enabled Lifx White 800 LED, a color-tunable competitor that costs $40 apiece. Osram's Lightify LEDs are another color-tunable alternative -- they cost $30 each, but you'll need to buy a one-bulb starter kit for $60 in order to use them. GE's lights are the best bargain of the bunch -- but I'm not sure I'd recommend them -- at least not yet.

The "Follow the Sun" feature lets you program the Sleep LEDs to change tone automatically throughout the day -- but those changes will only work if you're within Bluetooth range.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

The problem? These Bluetooth bulbs don't work with any larger smart-home platforms yet -- that means that you need to be within Bluetooth range (about 50 feet) in order to use them. You also can't make a lighting schedule or set a timer for when things should come on or off.

The only scheduling option you'll get is the "Follow the Sun" feature, which changes the color temperature on the Sleep LEDs automatically at pre-programmed times. Even those changes won't work if you aren't in Bluetooth range.

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