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Sylvania's new Zigbee smart bulb costs just $12

Timing is everything. Just weeks after Amazon announced a new "Echo Plus" smart speaker with a built-in Zigbee radio for direct control of Zigbee smart home gadgets, Ledvance is introducing a new line of low-cost Sylvania Smart Plus Zigbee lights starting at just $12 each.

Sylvania's lineup of Smart Plus Zigbee bulbs includes, from left to right, a weather-rated PAR38 floodlight, an A-shaped 60W replacement LED, and a classic BR30-shaped floodlight.

Ry Crist/CNET

In fact, at $12, the A-shaped 60W replacement is one of the most affordable big-brand smart bulbs we've seen. $15 for a smart BR30 floodlight and $20 for a weatherproof PAR38 floodlight are good deals, too.

The most exciting part (at least for smart lighting nerds like me) might be that $20 PAR38-shaped bulb. People ask me all the time for a smart floodlight they can use outdoors that doesn't cost too much, and there aren't a lot of good options out there. Sylvania's bulb should fill the void nicely.

All three are decent light bulbs in their own right, too. In terms of brightness, the A-shaped bulb promises the standard 800 lumens that you'd expect from a 60W replacement. Our spectrometer measured it at 837 lumens, with a soft white color temperature of 2,740 K, which is just what you want. With 813 lumens, the BR30-shaped bulb came in brighter than advertised, too. I measured the PAR38 bulb at 1,024 lumens -- just shy of the stated 1,050 lumens, but well within our setup's 5 percent margin of error. In short, all three earn a passing grade as far as specs are concerned.

Sounds good, but what the heck is Zigbee?

If you aren't familiar, Zigbee is a wireless protocol that devices can use to communicate with each other, just like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It's the same protocol used by Philips Hue smart bulbs and by a wide range of other lights, locks and smart home gadgets. The only catch is that most routers don't speak Zigbee, so you'll need a Zigbee-fluent control hub like the Echo Plus, the Philips Hue Bridge, the Wink Hub, the SmartThings Hub or Sylvania's own plug-in gateway to act as translator.

Sylvania's Zigbee bulbs will connect with a wide number of Zigbee-compatible control hubs.

Ry Crist/CNET

The idea is that you'll screw the Sylvania Smart Plus bulb in and turn it on, then connect it with a hub like one of those. From there, you'll be able to control it remotely using your phone, or schedule automated lighting changes. The specific types of automations available will depend on what hub you're using -- for instance, some simply let you program times for the bulbs to come on and off, while others will also let you sync them up with motion detectors or schedule slow fades to help ease you out of bed in the morning.

Integrations will vary from hub to hub, too. Whether it's Alexa or Nest, Apple HomeKit or Google Home, your hub will determine what platforms your bulbs work with (fortunately, our handy CNET Compatibility Tracker can help you sort out what works with what).

Whatever Zigbee hub you're using, the bottom line is that these new Sylvania bulbs will likely work with it, and they won't cost you very much compared with other connected bulbs.

What's in a name?

One other note: Things are a little bit jumbled with Sylvania's branding these days. Walk through the lighting aisle at your local hardware store, and you might see bulbs and lighting products under the names Sylvania, Osram, Lightify and Ledvance -- all of which look alike.

"It's confusing, I know," a Ledvance spokesperson admitted, so I asked him for a quick rundown:

Despite the name change, Sylvania's Smart Plus Zigbee bulbs will work with the existing Osram Lightify gateway.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

"Ledvance is our company name," he explained. "We used to be a part of the company Osram, which owns the Lightify app, gateway and brand. We separated from Osram last July. Ledvance sells Sylvania general lighting products in the US and Canada.

"We are hoping to simplify things by moving our smart lighting products to the Sylvania Smart Plus brand," he added, before also pointing out that Sylvania's Zigbee bulbs will work with the existing Osram Lightify plug-in gateway.

That Sylvania Smart Plus lineup also includes other kinds of smart lights, including bulbs that work with Apple HomeKit. These Zigbee bulbs do not, but they share the same "Sylvania Smart Plus" branding. At any rate, you'll want to make sure you're buying the right light before you pull the trigger.

Sylvania's new Zigbee lineup is available today on Amazon, and will roll out to major retailers in the weeks ahead. We'll test them out with as many Zigbee hubs as we can out at the CNET Smart Home -- stay tuned for an update.

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Where to Buy

Sylvania Smart Plus Zigbee LED

Part Number: CNETSylvania Smart Plus Zigbee LED

MSRP: $11.99

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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