The Lifx White 900 is a simple, no-fuss smart bulb that costs half as much as Philips Hue's floodlight.
Cloud-connected light bulbs are a terrific starting point for the smart home, but most of your options are A-shaped bulbs meant for use in lamps. That's all well and good, but it isn't terribly helpful if you're living in a home filled with recessed lighting fixtures designed for BR30-shaped floodlights.
The good news is that you've got a couple of floodlight-shaped options, too. The best of the bunch? The Lifx White 900, a smart, Wi-Fi-enabled floodlight that lets you control things remotely through the Lifx app on your Android, iOS or Windows device. It won't change colors like other Lifx bulbs, but it will change color temperatures on the white-light spectrum, which allows you to dial between a warm, golden glow and bright, bluish-white daylight tones. On top of that, it enjoys all of Lifx' third-party integrations, which include IFTTT, the Nest Learning Thermostat and Amazon's Alexa. The cost? Thirty bucks a pop (a little less than £25, or about AU$40).
That's not inexpensive, but it is $20 less than Lifx' own color-changing floodlight, and $30 less than the Philips Hue floodlight. It's also just $10 more than bottom-tier smart floodlights from names like GE and TCP that don't offer white-light spectrum controls or the depth of Lifx' third-party connections. That, coupled with strong performance, puts the Lifx White 900 right in the smart-floodlight sweet spot.
Smarts aside, a connected light bulb has to start by being a good light bulb, especially if it's asking you to spend $30 on it. The Lifx White 900 passes this first test with ease. Like the name suggests, it puts out plenty of light, with a claimed 950 lumens at peak settings. That's a noticeable upgrade from the sort of 65W incandescent floodlight it seeks to replace -- bulbs like that typically put out less than 700 lumens.
The White 900 has a power draw of just 12 watts, so you're also getting a nice efficiency upgrade. How nice? In the US (energy rates will vary from region to region), a 12W bulb will add about $1.50 to your power bill each year, on average, which is far better than the $7 or $8 you'll spend to use that 65W incandescent over the same period. Replace that incandescent with the Lifx White 900, and your new bulb will pay for itself in energy savings in less than five years, then keep on shining for decades to come thanks to a 22.8-year life expectancy.
Now that brightness and efficiency are covered, let's get to the smarts. They're fairly substantial, as Lifx has done a good job of cultivating third-party integration with the likes of IFTTT, Nest, Logitech, Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa. Even if you ignore them all, the Lifx app offers easy-to-use bulb controls for brightness and color temperature, along with the ability to set timed, automated lighting changes.
Those scheduled lighting changes are especially nice, with full controls for factors like color temperature and fade duration. Setting the lights in your bedroom to gradually fade to full, yellowy brightness over the course of an hour each morning is about as easy as setting a timer on your phone.
As for reliability, the bulbs depend upon the strength of your home's Wi-Fi network. In our tests, both in the CNET Smart Home and in my home, where I use a couple of Lifx products, the bulbs, the app and the integrations with platforms like IFTTT and Alexa have all proven reliable, with occasional hiccups typically solved by closing and reopening the app.
The one notable smart-bulb shortcoming with Lifx is a lack of support for HomeKit, Apple's iOS-based platform for connected home gadgets. It's obviously a nonissue if you're an Android user (or if you like Alexa better than Siri), but it's still something worth knowing before you buy, given that HomeKit is starting to become a pretty important player in the smart-home race. If HomeKit compatibility matters to you, then you're better off going with Philips Hue.
Among cloud-connected floodlights, the Lifx White 900 offers the right mix of features, performance and value. It's a bright, efficient smart light that lets you dial in whatever color temperature you like, and it works well with Alexa, IFTTT and other systems. At $30 per bulb, it certainly isn't cheap (especially if you're hoping to replace a whole home's worth of bulbs), but it's easier to afford than competitors like the Philips Hue BR30 LED. Dollar for dollar, it's the best Alexa-compatible floodlight money can buy.