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A bigger, brighter Lightstrip makes its Philips Hue debut

Philips

BERLIN -- The Philips Hue line of Internet-connected, color-changing LED lights has always been a bit of a smart home novelty, and Philips Hue's Lightstrips have always embraced that novelty head-on by offering the flexibility to put connected color control just about anywhere you like. Now, at the IFA tech conference in Germany, Philips is flipping the switch on its second-gen strips, the Philips Hue Lightstrips Plus, available this October for $90, or €80/£60 in the EU (pricing is yet to be announced for Australia, but the US price converts roughly to about AU$130, the same as you'll spend for the original Lightstrips).

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The Lightstrip Plus can emit both warm and cool tones of traditional white light.

Rich Brown/CNET

The "Plus" sums up a few key enhancements over the original Lightstrips. First is extendability. While the Lightstrips themselves are still 2 meters long, that isn't a fixed length like it was before -- you'll be able to purchase additional 1-meter extension strips for $30/€25 each that clip on up to a maximum length of 10 meters. The new strips are dramatically brighter, too, with 1,600 lumens at max brightness compared to just 120 lumens in generation one.

That bump comes by way of new white-light diodes that sit alongside the color-changing RGB diodes, which also brings tunable white light into play for the first time. Unlike the first Lightstrips, which shine in RGB colors only, the new ones also offer shades of natural white light ranging from an orangey 2,000K to a bluish 6,500K.

I'll be curious to see if that brightness bump only applies to the white light tones, or if the colors shine brighter than before, too. With some color-changing smart lights like the Tabu Lumen LED , the white light diodes are kept entirely separate from the RBG diodes, meaning that the colored light is much dimmer than the white light. Others, like the Lifx LED , let you add those white diodes in on top of whatever color you've selected, giving you bright, tinted light that takes full advantage of everything under the hood. Philips would be wise to tack in the latter direction.

Something else worth noting is that, like before, the Lightstrips Plus won't work without a Philips Hue Bridge plugged into your router to translate the Zigbee signal. You won't get a bridge with the strips, and it isn't sold separately, either. The only way to get one (short of buying a used one on eBay) is to purchase a three-bulb Philips Hue Starter Pack for $200 (€200/£150/AU$290). Coupled with the price of the strips, that's an awfully high cost of entry for color-changing light.

If you're willing to take the plunge, or if you're an existing Hue user ready for an upgrade, you'll enjoy full integration with the rest of the Philips Hue family, including this year's new releases, the Philips Hue Go portable LED fixture and the Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit .

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Thanks to a third-party integration, you can set the Lightstrip Plus (and other Hue products) to change colors thematically as you play the video game Chariot, available for Xbox One.

Philips

You'll also be able to sync your strips up with the wealth of third-party apps and integrations built to work with Hue. That includes a channel on IFTTT, compatibility with high-profile control devices like SmartThings , Wink , and Amazon Echo, and even apps that'll set the strips to change color in rhythm with the music you're listening to, or in theme with the video game you're playing.

You'll find the new Lightstrips Plus wherever Hue products are sold this October. Australian availability is yet to be determined, though Hue products are already sold there. That includes the original Lightstrips, which currently sell for AU$130. Philips says they'll keep us posted -- we'll keep our Aussie readers posted in turn.

For more of the best of IFA 2015, check out CNET's complete coverage.

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