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Light Bulbs

Smart, white light, no hub necessary

The Lifx White 800 smart LED cuts the colors, and the cost.

Color-changing LED light bulbs with built-in smarts can be a lot of fun, but they're largely a novelty -- and too much of a splurge for many consumers. The Lifx White 800 LED looks to address both of those points by cutting out the RGB diodes, focusing on practical, tunable shades of white light, and dropping the price per bulb to $40 -- down from $99 for the original Lifx LED (the White 800 LED is available in a variety of global voltages and fittings, including a B22 bayonet cap for Europe and Australia. That price comes out to about £25, or AU$50, converted roughly).

It's a similar approach to what Philips did with its Hue Lux LEDs , a white-light-only follow-up to the multicolored Hue bulbs. Philips recently cut its Hue Lux pricing down to $80 for a two-bulb starter kit that comes with the mandatory Hue Bridge and $20 for each additional bulb. At those prices, the Lifx White 800 LED is the better value for a single bulb, but if you want two or more (or if you've already got a Hue Bridge plugged into your router), then Hue Lux might make more sense.

Keep in mind, though, that those Hue Lux LEDs aren't color tunable -- you're locked into a single, warm white color temperature of 2,700K. With Lifx White 800, you can dial into whatever white light shade you like, from low, yellowy tones (2,700K) up to light that's hotter and more bluish (6,500K).

We saw the same color tunability trick when we tested out the Osram Lightify Starter Kit , which includes two bulbs and a mandatory plug-in gateway for $60. It's a subtle feature for sure, but one that we enjoyed, especially once we started automating the lights to shift tones as the day progresses. Higher tones can help you wake up in the morning and keep you feeling active during the day, for instance, while warmer tones can help you unwind and relax before bed. If you're especially design-minded, you'll also enjoy dialing into the exact shade that best compliments your home decor.

Lifx sets its bulbs apart from the majority of the competition -- Philips and Osram included -- by packing Wi-Fi radios directly into each bulb. That eliminates the need for any sort of hub or gateway device. Just screw the bulb in, turn it on, and follow the pairing instructions in the Lifx app.

The Lifx White 800 (right) is something of a little brother to the original Lifx LED (left). Ry Crist/CNET

The new White 800 bulb is currently sold out on the Lifx website, but you can find it on the shelf at Best Buy, so I ran over to the nearest shopping center and picked one up. It looks a lot like the original, albeit with a shorter build. It's also heavy -- not quite as much so as the original, which weighs in at more than 10 ounces, but closer than I would have guessed, punching in at 8.25 ounces.

The White 800 LED doesn't have quite as much oomph as the original Lifx, which shines at about a 75W replacement level. With a max brightness of 890 lumens, the Lifx White 800 is more of a 60W replacement, albeit an impressive one, as most 60W replacement LEDs fall closer to 800 lumens.

Lifx gets you those 890 lumens from a stated power draw of 11 watts, efficient enough to claim about 81 lumens per watt. We'll test those numbers out with our spectrometer, integrating sphere, and variac transformer in good time, and have the full data ready when we write the full review.

You'll be able to automate the White 800 LED through the Lifx IFTTT channel. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

On the smarts side, you'll use the same Lifx app as before to control the White 800 LEDs, which means that the same features are at play. There are simple things like a candlelight mode and a strobe function, and very basic scheduling functionality, but nothing terribly unique or innovative.

The true smarts really come into play through the Lifx IFTTT channel. With IFTTT, a free, online automation service, you'll be able to sync the White 800 LED to other smart home gadgets and to things like GPS location and sunset. Lifx is also certified through the Works with Nest initiative. Pair your bulb up with a Nest Protect smoke detector, and the lights will come on whenever the smoke detector goes off.

At $40 each, and with no hub or gateway needed, the Lifx White 800 seems well-positioned to tempt buyers who want to try out a single smart bulb. Other smart lighting kits, including Philips and Osram along with Belkin WeMo and Connected by TCP offer a higher cost of entry, though they do get more cost efficient as you add more bulbs to your setup. We'll spend some time with the new bulb and have a better sense of how it stacks up in the coming weeks.

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