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Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set review: Belkin's WeMo LEDs were worth the wait

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Ry Crist/CNET

Smart features

Light-bulb nerdery aside, what you're paying for with WeMo LEDs are the smarts. As automatable LEDs go, they're a good option, with plenty of subtle features packed into the WeMo app.

These include the expected remote controls and scheduling capabilities. If you want your lights to turn on at 8:00 AM each morning -- or at sunrise -- the WeMo app makes it easy. Additionally, you can program fades into your lighting schedules, letting you set the lights to gradually fade on over a minute, an hour, or anything in between. You can also tell the lights to slowly fade down by pressing the "Go to sleep" button.

In my home, I use Connected by TCP bulbs to wake up in the morning, but the app doesn't offer an easy mechanism for slow, customized fades, or a quick sleep mode. Of the two, WeMo looks like the more feature-rich smart lighting setup.

Something else that WeMo has over TCP is an IFTTT channel, as Philips does for its Hue Lux LEDs. With IFTTT's simple "if this, then that" approach to automation, you'll be able to plug your WeMo LEDs in as the "then that," then choose the "if this" from a lengthy list of Web services and smart home devices. That means you'll be able to trigger your lighting using things like iOS location, Jawbone UP24, and even Facebook posts and Foursquare check-ins, if you're so inclined.

Belkin's team tells us that the WeMo LED's IFTTT channel won't be ready immediately at the product's launch, though they're hoping to go live as soon as possible. Once it's up and running, I'll test it out and update this review accordingly -- watch this space.

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Adding WeMo LEDs to your existing setup is quick and easy.

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Once you do, you be able to control them right alongside your other devices.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

As mentioned before, the WeMo app makes a cinch out of setup. Like with most recent smart home apps, you'll find a handy series of start-up screens to walk you through the process. Within a few minutes, you should be up and running.

I enjoyed using the WeMo app as I tested the kit out. Belkin has been refining the WeMo ecosystem for about a year now, and it shows -- the app feels polished and well thought-out. Features are easy to find and easy to use, with a simple rule creation interface and the ability to see the status of all of your devices at a quick glance. My scheduled lighting changes always went off without a hitch, and remote controls were quick and responsive, even when I tried controlling the lights from beyond the home Wi-Fi network.

All that said, those app controls are all that you get. There's no physical WeMo remote to compete with TCP's low-cost remote or the pricier Philips Hue Tap , and Belkin doesn't offer a Web interface for controlling your lights and devices, either. With Philips Hue LEDs, you'll find plenty of third-party Web control interfaces, thanks to an open API. TCP offers a Web interface too, though you have to be on your home network in order to use it.

Belkin WeMo LED Connected by TCP LED Philips Hue Lux LED
App controls Android, iOS, Kindle Android, iOS Android, iOS, Kindle
Smart scheduling Yes Yes Yes
Smart fading Yes No Yes
Optional physical remote No Yes ($20) Yes ($60)
Smart BR30 floodlights No Yes ($25) Yes ($60)
IFTTT compatibility Yes No Yes
SmartThings compatibility Yes Yes Yes
Wink compatibility No Yes Yes
Revolv compatibility Yes No Yes
Staples Connect compatibility No No Yes

The WeMo LEDs look well-positioned to enjoy the same third-party integrations as previous WeMo devices. Aside from IFTTT, the list includes compatibility with platforms like SmartThings and Revolv, though not Wink or Staples Connect. The well-established Philips Hue brand covers all of these bases and more, while TCP bulbs are only compatible with Wink and SmartThings.

No matter which smart LED you go with, you're going to have plenty of third-party options to sync up with, but if you've got a specific third-party platform or device in mind, you'll definitely want to make sure and check for compatibility.

Overall, all three look like viable smart home options to me. If IFTTT interests you, then both WeMo and Philips Hue Lux will get you there for the same price. With WeMo, you've got direct compatibility with WeMo Switches and motion sensors -- with Philips Hue Lux, it's the potential to splurge and add a few of the original, color-changing Hue LEDs to your setup. If one of those sounds more appealing to you, I say let it tip the scale in your buying decision.

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The bottom line

Adding smart bulbs into the WeMo ecosystem seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me, so I'm glad that WeMo LEDs are finally here. As smart bulbs go, they're a very solid, very functional option. Existing WeMo users will be especially happy should they choose to upgrade their Belkin-powered smart home with new, matching LEDs.

Still, as fast as both the smart home and LED markets are moving, I'll bet Belkin wishes it had gotten here a bit sooner. Competition is ramping up on both fronts, and costs are coming down. With Philips Hue Lux already established, Connected by TCP bulbs getting smarter, and new, ultra-affordable GE Link LEDs just arriving to market, competing now is going to be a whole lot tougher than it would have been five or six months ago.

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