Philips Friends of Hue LightStrips review: Putting an accent light on smart LEDs

One thing you can't do is set the LightStrips to the standard white-yellow-blue shades we're used to from traditional home and utility lighting. The larger Hue bulbs do an outstanding job replicating those tones, but LightStrips are limited to only 16.5 million colors on the RGB scale.

I'd also like to see Philips push harder on LightStrips' programmability. IFTTT support and an open SDK allow for creative users to make their own triggers, and even their own mobile apps, but especially in the strip layout, a built-in chase function or other sequencing effects seem like a natural fit, and a missed opportunity.

You can program the LightStrips (pin 4) to display one of 16.5 million colors.
You can program the LightStrips (pin 4) to display one of 16.5 million colors. Screenshot by Rich Brown

Another minor LightStrips limitation is that you'll only find three tiny LEDs per cluster. Hue bulbs have 11 LEDs working in concert. That difference in LED count is likely a big reason why LightStrips have a more limited lighting palette, and also why they don't quite have the same luminosity rating as the Hue bulbs. You'll get 600 lumens from a Hue bulb at its maximum brightness, which is enough to light a small room. LightStrips will only output 120 lumens, making them more suited to lighting up a small area.

Beyond its lighting characteristics, Philips' LightStrips are a fairly self-explanatory product. The six-foot, 3M adhesive-backed strip comes with 12-feet of power cable. That gives you decent flexibility between the power outlet and the eventual installation point, but it also means you wind up with a lot of cord to hide. If you don't need all six feet of the LightStrip itself, you can physically trim it at fixed, four-inch intervals (with three LED clusters per four inches), although anything you cut off also separates from the power supply and control circuitry, and is thus unusable.

Given the growing flood of generalist home automation products, Philips is smart to extend its Hue line along the specific category of home lighting. If the standard Hue bulbs or other connected LEDs haven't already drawn you to the category, I don't suspect LightStrips will sway you either, but existing converts will certainly appreciate them.

If you already count yourself among the Hue faithful, Philips Hue LightStrips will give you yet another tool in your home lighting toolbox. They're an even larger novelty than the core Hue bulbs, with all the highs and lows that entails, and at $90, those lows won't sit so well. Given the likely enthusiast-level buyers, Philips could also have sweetened the deal by adding more advanced programming behaviors. Maybe it's secure in the knowledge that for adhesive-backed strips of color-changing, programmable LED lighting, these LightStrips are at present the only product of its kind. At least they work as advertised.