Ikea Tradfri Smart Lighting Kit review: Ikea's smart lights are basic, but worth a look

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The Good Ikea's Tradfri smart bulbs are bright, efficient and very good at dimming. They don't cost very much either, especially if you skip the gateway hub and go with the budget-priced bundles that include a bulb and a remote accessory, instead.

The Bad The gateway hub in the full-priced starter kit doesn't work with any third-party services or devices, so you can't add these bulbs to a larger smart-home platform or control them using a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa.

The Bottom Line Ikea's $80 gateway kit is too basic to recommend, but there's some sneaky value in Tradfri's other, cheaper bundles.

6.7 Overall
  • Features 6
  • Usability 7
  • Design 6
  • Performance 8

If you've trekked through an Ikea showroom recently, then you might have noticed the dedicated section for lamps and LED light bulbs. Now, you're likely to see smart lights on display, too.

Ikea's new "Tradfri" smart lighting lineup offers a variety of entry points.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Ikea calls this connected lighting lineup 'Tradfri' (Danish for 'wireless'), and it includes a number of entry points, including a $25 smart bulb and motion detector bundle and an $80 starter kit (£69 in the UK) that comes with two bulbs, a wireless remote, and the gateway hub that plugs into your router to let you control the lights using an app on your Android or iOS device.

Ikea's approach here keeps things simple -- too much so for me to recommend it. With relatively few features and zero third-party connections, it lags far behind the two-bulb Philips Hue White starter kit, which costs less. That said, keep Tradfri in mind if you just want a quick-and-easy dimming or motion detection solution, because there's value to be had if you're willing to skip the app-enabled smarts of Ikea's gateway hub.

Smarts, Ikea-style

I drove two hours north to the nearest Ikea last month to pick up a new piece of furniture, and while I was there, I tossed one of those $80 starter kits into my cart. And, after a month spent testing everything out at both the CNET Smart Home and CNET Smart Apartment, I can report that it works as advertised, letting you control the bulbs from your phone or automate them to turn on and off at specific times with relative ease.

But that's really all that it does. There's no vacation mode that'll cycle the lights on and off to simulate occupancy while you're away, nor can you customize fade durations for those automated lighting changes. There's nothing by way of third-party compatibility, either -- no HomeKit, no Alexa, no IFTTT, no SmartThings, no nothin'.


The Tradfri app makes you scan a device-specific pairing code during setup -- a smart way to help keep things secure.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Really the only features of note are that the bulbs have those three color-temperature settings, and that the hub wisely includes two-factor authentication during setup by way of a device-specific QR code that you'll need to scan with your phone's camera. That's the same tactic Apple HomeKit uses to keep gadgets secure, and it's a clever approach. Still, it's not much to get excited about.

Even worse -- at $80, the two-bulb Tradfri starter kit costs 10 bucks more than the two-bulb Philips Hue White starter kit that I awarded Editors' Choice last September. That kit offers wide, well-developed compatibility with just about every smart-home platform you could think to throw at it (including everything mentioned above), and you get the option of adding Hue's color-changing smart bulbs a la carte, too. The Tradfri kit might have been compelling a couple of years ago, but in 2017, it's much too basic and too far behind the curve for me to recommend.

That said, let's talk for a minute about two other Tradfri entry points: the $25 motion-detector bundle mentioned above and a $20 bundle that includes a bulb and a wireless knob that can dim it up and down. Neither one requires the gateway hub -- instead, you pair the motion sensor or dimmer knob directly with the bulbs they come with, or with any other Tradfri bulbs you decide to add later (both the dimmer and the motion detector can control up to 10 bulbs at once -- you pair by holding them close to the bulb and pressing a button for a few seconds).