Lifx Z Multi-Color LED Wi-Fi Light Strip review: Plenty of potential from the Lifx Z multicolor light strip

The Good The Lifx Z light strips don't need a bridge or a hub plugged into your router, and they let you "paint" multiple colors onto the strips -- two distinct advantages over Philips Hue. They also work with IFTTT, Nest, SmartThings and Amazon's Alexa.

The Bad Controls for that color-painting feature are pretty imprecise, and you can't save any of your custom patterns to use later. There's also no way to animate your light patterns -- and no Apple HomeKit compatibility, either.

The Bottom Line Like most color-changing lights, these strips are a fun, expensive smart-home novelty.

7.8 Overall
  • Features 7.5
  • Usability 7
  • Design 9
  • Performance 8

Lifx is a top option in the color-changing smart bulb category, but it's never offered color-changing light strips like the ones you'll find from Philips Hue or Osram Lightify. That changed recently when Lifx introduced "Lifx Z," a set of multicolor LED strips that you can stick up under cabinets or behind your TV set. They connect directly to your router using Wi-Fi just like Lifx lightbulbs do, and even let you "paint" each strip with multiple colors -- something you can't do with Philips or Osram.

The starter kit comes with two 1-meter strips and the plug-in power supply for $90 (about £70/AU$120), with additional 1-meter strips selling for $30 (£25/AU$40). While Osram's starter kit is slightly cheaper, Lifx's pricing matches what you'll find with Philips Hue. That makes Lifx Z a viable alternative if you're in the market for RGB smart strips, especially since they don't need any sort of hub or bridge plugged into your router in order to connect with your network.

You can change the color or color temperature of the light strips in the Lifx app, just like you can with Lifx smart bulbs.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Getting started with the Lifx Z strips is pretty simple. Connect your strips together and then connect them to the power adapter and plug them in (it can manage up to 10 strips in total). The Lifx app will direct you to connect to the Wi-Fi signal they're broadcasting -- once you do, it'll connect them with your home network and you'll be all set.

The strips have a layer of 3M sticky tape on the back -- just peel and stick to put them in place. I had them up and running under a cabinet at CNET Appliances HQ in just a few minutes; my only concern is that it might be a bit of a pain if you ever want to relocate them to another spot.

You can use the Lifx app to change the color of the strips (or the color temperature, if you're sticking with natural white light tones). The app treats them like another bulb, so if you want to group them with other Lifx products or include them in any of your scenes, you can.

Tapping one of the themes -- in this instance, "Exciting" -- will change each of the eight "zones" of lights in each one-meter strip to a random color from the theme's group.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The one in-app difference with the strips is that you'll notice a horizontal line up above the color wheel. That line shows you the current color of your strips as you rotate the dial -- but its true function comes to light once you tap over into the "Themes" section of the app.

Lifx themes are really just thematic groups of colors. Tap on one of those themes -- "Exciting," "Intense" and "Hanukkah" being just a few examples -- and your selected lights will all change to random colors from that group. It's not terribly useful if you're only controlling one bulb, but with Lifx Z, you're actually controlling multiple "zones" of lights -- eight for each one-meter strip in your setup. Tap a theme, and each zone will switch to a random color, which really heightens the effect.