Osram Lightify Starter Kit review: Osram's smart lights dial in on quality

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The Good Osram's tunable Lightify LEDs offer smart color-temperature controls that you won't find with Belkin WeMo or Philips Hue Lux bulbs. They're also highly efficient, and they work with WeMo, too.

The Bad Osram can't offer a connected-lighting platform or app that's as well-developed as Philips, and its LEDs cost twice as much as smart bulbs from Cree and GE.

The Bottom Line These aren't the cheapest smart bulbs you can buy, but Osram's Lightify LED Starter Kit is more affordable than Philips or Belkin's, and arguably more feature-rich, too. As a legitimate competitor, it deserves consideration.

7.7 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 7
  • Design 6
  • Performance 9

EDITOR'S NOTE, 7/26/16, 12:05 PM EST: Updated to include information about potential security vulnerabilities with products in Osram's Lightify lineup, along with comment from Osram.

Osram's LEDs impressed me with strong performance in the 40 and 60W replacement categories. This year, the brand is adding smart bulbs to its lighting lineup. Dubbed "Lightify," the new product line offers a variety of different LEDs with Zigbee radios built right in. Buy the $60 starter kit, and you'll get the plug-in Gateway along with a "color tunable" smart bulb capable of dialing into the specific warm-to-cool color temperature of your choosing (pricing and availability of that starter kit outside of the US is not yet finalized, but the price converts roughly to about £40, or a little over AU$75).

At about $30 for an individual bulb (about £20, AU$40), the tunable Lightify LEDs cost more than twice as much as the GE Link LED or the Cree Connected LED , but those bulbs don't have control apps of their own like Osram does, and they aren't color tunable, either. Also not color tunable: Philips Hue Lux LEDs and Belkin WeMo LEDs , both of which cost more to get started with than Lightify. What's more, Lightify LEDs are directly compatible with WeMo, opening the door for additional automation controls.

All of that positions Osram in a bit of a smart-lighting sweet spot, making the Lightify kit an attractive starting point for anyone looking to automate their home lighting.

Performance and design

First things first: smart LEDs need to be decent light bulbs. It's nice having your lights turn on automatically in the morning, but much less so if the light quality isn't great.

Osram has a pretty good track record here in our test lab, so I was optimistic about the Lightify LEDs. For the most part, they didn't disappoint. Testing the bulbs out in our integrating sphere, we clocked the brightness at about 850 lumens -- comfortably north of the stated 805 lumens, and plenty bright for a 60W replacement.

Smart LEDs

Osram Lightify Tunable LED Belkin WeMo LED Philips Hue Lux LED Connected by TCP LED Cree Connected LED GE Link LED
Lumens (measured / stated) 848 / 805 829 / 800 733 / 750 840 / 800 872 / 815 855 / 800
Watts 9.5 9.5 9 11 11.5 11
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 89 87 81 76 76 78
Color tunable Yes No No No No No
Color temperature (measured / stated) 2,680K - 5,273K / 2,700K - 6,500K 3,058K / 3,000K 2,640K / 2,700K 2,603K / 2,700K 2,696K / 2,700K 2,830K / 2,700K
Additional color temperatures (price difference) No No No 5,000K (-$1) No No
Color rendering score 78 - 83 88 79 80 80 90
Dimmable range 5.4 - 100% 3.8 - 100% 0.5 - 100% 1.2 - 100% 7.8 - 100% 10.2 - 100%
Lifespan 20,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours
Weight 4.75 oz. 2.75 oz. 4.60 oz. 6.05 oz. 1.90 oz. 6.20 oz.
Third party compatibility WeMo Link, Wink None SmartThings, Revolv, Staples Connect, IFTTT Wink Wink, Hue Bridge, SmartThings Wink, Hue Bridge, SmartThings
Remote (additional cost) No No Yes ($60) Yes ($20) No No
Warranty 2 years 2 years 2 years 3 years 3 years 2 years
Starter kit price $60 $100 $100 $50 N/A $80
Bulbs per kit 1 2 2 2 N/A 2
Price per bulb $33 $30 $30 $20 $15 $15

That's an especially impressive number given that each bulb only draws 9.5 watts. Do the math, and you'll find that each Lightify LED is putting out almost 90 lumens per watt -- good enough to edge out our previous efficiency winner in the smart LED category, the Belkin WeMo LED. It's also quite a bit better than the Philips Hue Lux LED, which puts out less than 750 lumens from a 9-watt power draw.

Turning to color temperature, the Lightify LED comes in at a nice, accurate 2,680K when set to a target of 2,700K. That accuracy diminishes a bit at the upper end of the scale, though. Cranking to a max temperature of 6,500K gave us light that actually came in at 5,273K. That's still plenty hot, with that bluish-white "daylight" quality you're probably looking for, but still, it's off the mark.

As for color rendering, the Lightify LED registers a pretty pedestrian score of 78 when set to 2,700K. Dial the color temperature up, however, and the CRI inches up, too, jumping as high as 83 at that 6,500K setting. That makes sense -- yellow tones are often what end up compromising the color rendering score in LEDs, and they drop away when you raise the color temperature.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can dim the Lightify LEDs on your smartphone or tablet, though using them with actual dimmer switches is ill-advised, since the two separate dimming mechanisms can clash, causing the bulb to flicker and strobe. The same can be said of pretty much any smart bulb, though.

In Osram's case, the Lightify LEDs will dim down to 5.4 percent brightness at minimum settings. That's a decent result, though it isn't as good as Philips Hue Lux bulbs, which will dim smoothly down to a very impressive 0.8 percent of their maximum brightness. Belkin WeMo LEDs will also dim down a bit lower than Osram, as will Connected by TCP LEDs .

One other small performance complaint: the Lightify LEDs don't turn on instantly. Flick the switch, and you might notice about a half second pause before the light actually shines. It's a small quibble, but it might be enough of one to annoy lighting sticklers.