If you need evidence of the rapid evolution we've seen in both the lighting and smart home markets, look no further than the GE Link LED. With Zigbee-powered wireless smarts built right in, each bulb costs just $15. A year ago, that would have been a fair deal for one of its non-connected counterparts.
The Link LED is built to integrate into Wink's emerging smart home platform, which means it'll work with other Wink-approved gadgets -- a fairly wide lineup including the likes of Quirky, , , , and even competing smart bulbs from and . Couple that with the low cost of the that controls it all, and you're looking at a pretty compelling foundation for the smart home.
That said, I'm not convinced that Wink is ready for primetime. Product after product, we've come away with the same complaint: glitchy software. Despite getting some things right, the Link LEDs were no exception, causing plenty of headaches during the testing process. There's still a lot to like about them, and at that price point, I think you can definitely afford to try one out. However, I also think I'd wait for Wink to polish the user experience a bit more before buying in too heavily.
Performance and design
GE's Link LED isn't designed to blend in with the bulbs that came before it. With its clear globe and exposed hardware, it makes no attempt to pass itself off as an ordinary light, which is the recent approach we've seen many LED competitors take. Even compared to other smart LEDs like the, the , and the , the GE Link is the bulb that looks the most conspicuous.
Like those other smart options, the GE Link promises to last 25,000 hours, and offers around 800 lumens of light output at a warm, yellowy color temperature. GE gets there using 12 watts, which is slightly less efficient than the competition, but still a worthy upgrade over incandescents.
||GE Link LEDs||Connected by TCP LEDs||Philips Hue Lux LEDs||Belkin WeMo LEDs|
|Efficiency||67 lumens/watt||73 lumens/watt||83 lumens/watt||84 lumens/watt|
|Color temperature (stated)||2,830 K (2,700 K)||2,603 K (2,700 K)||2,640 K (2,700 K)||3,058 K (3,000 K)|
|Lifespan||25,000 hours||25,000 hours||25,000 hours||25,000 hours|
|Color Rendering Index||90||80||79||88|
|Dimmable Range||10.2 - 100%||1.2 - 100%||0.5 - 100%||3.8 - 100%|
|Remote||No||Yes ($20)||Yes ($60)||No|
|Bulbs per kit||2||2||2||2|
|Price per bulb||$15||$20||$30||$30|
|Price per kit||$50||$80||$100||$100|
Something else the GE Link LED shares with its competitors is smart dimming capabilities, which simply means that you'll be able to dial the light up and down through the Wink app. However, the Link LED doesn't dim down quite as far as the others, which were able to get as low as 0.5 percent of initial brightness before shutting off. We couldn't get the Link LED down any lower than 10 percent, which was a bit disappointing. I also noticed more lag than the competition as I dimmed the light up and down.
In other basic spec tests, the Link LED did much better, most notably in our color rendering tests. In front of our spectrometer, the Link LED registered a very impressive score of 90 out of 100. A high score like that means that the GE Link LED will illuminate colors more accurately and vividly than much of the competition.
That score of 90 is better than any other smart LED we've tested, and just a few points shy of the LEDs that sit atop our color rendering leaderboard, theand . Neither of those bulbs is smart, and the GE Link LED costs less than both of them.
The bottom line is that the GE Link's lighting specs are surprisingly good given how much you'll pay for it. If you took the smarts out, it would still be a fairly competitive 60W replacement LED.
Still, lighting specs are only half of the story here. The GE Link is built to compete with other connected LEDs, so you'll want to be sure and factor in the smart features and the usability of the app before making a buying decision.
To access those smart features, you'll need one of three hubs to act as translator between your phone's Wi-Fi and the bulb's Zigbee. Your first option is the Link Hub, a small $30 device that simply plugs into a spare socket, then talks to the bulbs and nothing else. Next up is the, a $50 gadget with additional radios built in, allowing it to control more than just your lighting. Finally, there's the soon-to-be-released , a futuristic, Android-powered touchscreen wall panel that'll sell for $300.
GE offers a Link LED starter kit with two bulbs and the Link Hub for a total of $50, which is half of what you'll spend on comparable two-bulb kits from Belkin and Philips. In addition, for a limited time, Home Depot is offering $30 off the price of the Wink Hub when you buy two Link LEDs, essentially giving you a starter kit with an upgraded hub at that same, accessible $50 price point.