Misfit Bolt review: A few misfires with Misfit's colorful, likable smart bulb

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16

The Good Misfit Bolt is a classy-looking smart bulb with an easy-to-use app that looks even better. The colors it puts out are true, including a bright, vivid shade of green that Philips Hue just can't hit.

The Bad Bolt isn't as bright or feature-rich as competitors like Lifx, and it isn't omnidirectional either, which means it doesn't cast light evenly in all directions.

The Bottom Line This is one of the more affordable options in the color-changing smart bulb category, and it's good enough to deserve a look if you like the novelty of color-changing light. The competition probably offers more bang for your buck, though.

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

In Misfit's product catalog, the color-changing Bolt Bluetooth smart bulb looks to be, well, a bit of a misfit. After all, this is a company that's best known for its wearable tech -- what the heck is a light bulb doing in the mix?

Look a little closer and you'll see why Misfit Bolt makes sense. Pair it up with your phone over Bluetooth, and you'll be able to control and adjust your lighting by using an app -- or by using its integration with Misfit's activity trackers. You can also sync Bolt up with your sleep patterns and program it to wake you up in the morning with a gradual sunrise simulation -- a nice companion piece for anyone who tracks their sleep using a Misfit wearable, or with Misfit's Beddit sleep monitor.

Currently selling on Misfit's website for $43, the Misfit Bolt isn't a bad deal compared with pricier competitors like the $60 Lifx LED. You also don't need a hub plugged into your router in order to sync your phone with it, which makes it an easier option to get started with than something like Philips Hue.

That said, Bolt isn't as bright as either of those options, and it isn't as fully featured, either. You can't sync it up with your music, nor can you control it through a system like IFTTT or Amazon Echo. For basic color-changing smart functionality, it does a fine job, but the competition feels further ahead.

Design and features

The Misfit Bolt stands out for its distinctive design, with a metallic black base built from neatly spiraling heat sinks. It's heavy, weighing just under half a pound, and it feels expensive and luxurious in your hand, in case that's the sort of thing that factors into your light bulb buying decisions.

Of course, hidden under a lampshade, the only design factor that really matters is how the light looks. In this sense, the Misfit Bolt might leave you underwhelmed. With a dome-shaped bulb that doesn't bulge out any further than the base does, the light is non-omnidirectional. That means that it if you screw it into a table lamp, it'll send most of its light up and out. That isn't ideal if you're trying to read beneath it.

Bolt casts more light upward than downward.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The bulb also defaults to a dimmer-than-you-might-like soft white setting of about 600 lumens. You can dial it up to the claimed 800-lumen light output if you pull out the app, but that's a clear annoyance if you put a premium on brightness.

The app itself makes a better first impression. It's slick and colorful, with attractive tiles for a wide range of color-changing presets -- everything from "Forest," which cycles through green tones, to "Volcano," which offers a mix of reds, pinks and oranges. Scroll down through those preset options, and you'll notice a dynamic parallax effect to the imagery. It's a stylish look, with plenty of polish.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

It's a different approach than most other smart color-changers, which tend to keep those color cycles relegated to a special features section of the app (if they offer them at all). Misfit puts them front and center, pitching them not as an extra feature, but as the primary use case. I can see the appeal -- for some users, selecting a specific mood made of a mix of colors will seem a lot simpler than picking out an exact shade on a full-spectrum color selector.

Mind you, Misfit won't stop you from fidgeting with a full spectrum of colors. Tap the little plus sign on the home screen, and you'll be able to go into color mode, where a rainbow-hued ocean of pixels awaits, complete with a white-light spectrum on top. Drag the little light bulb icon representing your Misfit Bolt over the color of your choice, and presto, the bulb will change color accordingly.

Bolt's color controls are very similar to the Philips Hue's (left). The color-wheel approach that Lifx uses (right) is a bit easier to work with.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

It's almost exactly the same as the color selection spectrum in the Philips Hue app. I don't like it there, and I don't like it here, either. It's a pain trying to dial in to an exact shade, especially since your finger will block your view as you drag that bulb icon around. I much prefer the Lifx approach, which spreads that spectrum around a color wheel, then lets you pick a specific shade by rotating it to the top. Even better, Lifx labels each color as a specific degree in the circle. That makes it easy to return to your exact shade of choice.

Beyond the preset color cycles and the full spectrum color selector, you can also pick a color from one of the photos on your phone, or set the bulb to turn on and off automatically as you come in and out of Bluetooth range. This last bit wasn't terribly useful when I tested it out -- the bulb turns off reliably enough, but has trouble turning back on when you come back into range. In fairness, Misfit still lists this as a beta feature, so perhaps after some more fine-tuning it'll work a little better.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Other features are aimed more at syncing with your sleep schedule. For instance, you can put the bulb on a sleep timer and set it to gradually fade out over a predetermined length of time, or program the "Sunrise" preset to wake you up with some artificial morning light at the time of your choice.

Best LED light bulbs of 2016

All best lighting

More Best Products

All best products