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Insteon LED Bulb review: Value and usability shine with this smart bulb

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Usability and performance

You really can't ask for much more from this bulb in terms of usability. Just screw it in, turn it on, pull up the Insteon app, and you'll be automating your light within seconds. There are no extra buttons to press or codes to enter. As smart as it is, it's still just a light bulb. I appreciate simplicity in a smart device, but it's worth mentioning that if you're looking for the kind of unique functionality offered by something like the Philips Hue and its on-demand, programmable color changes, you might want to look elsewhere.

Once you've added your bulb to your home automation network, turning it on and off remotely and adjusting the dimmer are as simple as tapping a button or moving a slider. That said, the Insteon app is far from our favorite piece of home automation software, as it gave us more-than-occasional lag issues and inconsistent alert performance. As far as the Insteon Hub goes, I was more impressed with the range and performance of the Nexia Bridge, as well as the high quality of its app and website. However, unlike Nexia, Insteon doesn't charge a monthly fee to use its automation services. This seems to be a trump card for most consumers, meaning that Insteon's services don't need to be perfect, or even better than a system like Nexia's. Rather, it just needs to be "good enough," and for now, the service Insteon offers certainly is.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Maintenance

With 52,000 hours before it burns out, it'll be a good long while before you need to replace your bulb. Until that day comes, maintenance will be something of a nonissue. The Insteon LED Bulb uses internal EEPROM read-only memory to retain its schedules and automation settings even when the power is cut, so unless you manually remove it from your network of devices, you won't have to worry about constantly reintroducing it to the Insteon Hub.

The Insteon LED Bulb is intended only for indoor use, with an operating temperature range of 32 to 104 degrees Farenheit (0 to 40 Celsius) and operating within a relative humidity range of 0 to 90 percent.

Service and support

Insteon offers a 2-year limited warranty with the LED Bulb. Free technical guidance is available over e-mail at Insteon's support page, along with toll-free phone support or live online chat support six days a week.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Conclusion

For existing Insteon users, the appeal of the Insteon LED Bulb is clear. You'll spend less money than you would on a smart switch or a dimming module, and you'll be giving your system another level of flexibility. The fact that the bulb itself is limited to one tone, one shape, and one size is perhaps a bit disappointing, as multiple options would have expanded the product's flexibility even further, but this is pretty minor, as quibbles go.

If you automate your home, or if you're interested in getting started with home automation, controlling your lights is probably one of your chief concerns. With the Insteon LED Bulb, you'll have an automatable lighting option that's flexible, affordable, and simple to use. Best of all, the thing is built to last -- and built to save you money while it's busy lasting. For $29.99, you could sure do worse.

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