EDITOR'S NOTE: At time of publication, this review stated that the Hue Lux LEDs drew 18 watts, while they actually draw 9. The text has been updated accordingly.
Philips Hue LEDs come with two main draws: smart, app-enabled lighting control, and a color-changing novelty factor. However, at $60 per bulb and $200 for a three-bulb starter kit (£50 and £180 in the UK, not yet available in Australia), they're also priced too high for many consumers. Enter the new Philips Hue Lux LEDs, which cut out the colors, and also cut the cost in half.
That seems like a pretty fair deal to me. At $30 per bulb and $100 for a two-bulb starter kit (£25 and £80 in the UK, not yet available in Australia), the Lux LEDs are priced to compete with cheaper smart lighting setups like the US-only Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit that offer essentially the same thing. Lux still costs a little more than those, but for the extra cash you'll be getting direct compatibility with the popular automation service IFTTT, along with an arguably more polished app experience. In my mind, that makes it a kit worth considering.
Design and features
The Philips Hue Lux LEDs don't stray far from the Philips aesthetic, with the same flat-headed design that you'll see with the original Hue LEDs, along with the white-bodied build of Philips' non-connected 60W equivalent LEDs . In this sense, they're better at blending in with your "normal" lights than some other smart bulbs might be (and also some non-smart bulbs , for that matter).
Like the original Hue LEDs that came before them, the Hue Lux LEDs use Zigbee to communicate wirelessly with the Hue Bridge, which you'll need to keep plugged into your router. If you already have Hue LEDs or Hue BR30 floodlights and want to add Hue Lux LEDs to your setup, the existing Bridge you're using will work just fine.
The Hue app is compatible with Apple devices running iOS 6.0 or later, or on devices using Android 2.3 and up. Once you've got the app up and running, you'll be able to dim the light up and down, or schedule it to automatically turn on or off at a certain time. Activate the Philips Hue IFTTT channel, and your automation options with the Lux LED will increase even further.
You won't, however, be able to change the bulb's color or color temperature. The latter of which is called color tuning, and allows you to adjust a white light bulb from a low, yellowy color temperature to something more hot and blue.
The original Philips Hue bulbs have a full white light spectrum to play with, and it would have been a nice feature if the Lux LEDs had access to it, too, in spite of being locked out of the full RGB spectrum. Recently announced white-light connected bulbs like the Samsung Bluetooth Smart LED are offering color tuning or some variation of it.
Still, the Philips Hue ecosystem has been evolving for a couple of years now, which makes for a polished and satisfying user experience. The Hue's open API doesn't hurt, either, as it's helped bring about a number of third-party apps and integrations for the smart LEDs.
Among these direct integrations are popular connected home control systems like Revolv , SmartThings , Wink , and Staples Connect , so if you're envisioning Philips Hue as part of a larger network of smart home devices, you have a couple of ways to go about making that happen. Even without an extra hub hub, you'll be able to sync your lights up with other IFTTT-compatible devices, including Belkin WeMo Switches , Jawbone Up24 , and the Automatic smart driving assistant .
You'll also be able to use Lux LEDs with the recently released Philips Hue Tap , a physical controller you can mount on the wall or take with you to trigger specific lighting setups at the touch of a button.
Performance and usability
All in all, the Hue app makes for a comfortable user experience. Scheduling time-based lighting changes is as easy as setting the alarm on your phone, and comes with more customizable options than what you'll find with TCP.
As someone who detests alarm clocks, here's an example I can speak to personally. With TCP, you can program your bedroom light to turn on in the morning, but with Philips Hue Lux, you can also program it to slowly fade up over whatever length of time you like, making it a superior wake-up light for those early mornings.
However, keep in mind that the reliability of your smart lighting setup is going to depend upon the strength of your Wi-Fi network. If you have a spotty connection that cuts out a lot, your automations might not always work.
|Philips Hue Lux||Philips Hue||Connected by TCP|
|Color Temperature||2,640 K||Tunable (defaults to 2,745 K)||2,603 K|
|Lifespan||25,000 hours||15,000 hours||25,000 hours|
|Dimmable||Yes (through app)||Yes (through app)||Yes (through app or remote)|
|Weight||4.50 oz. (127.6g)||4.45 oz. (126.2g)||6.60 oz. (187.1g)|
|Warranty||2 years||2 years||3 years|
|Bulbs per Kit||2||3||2|
|Starter Kit Price||$100||$200||$80|
Smarts aside, the Lux LEDs put out 750 lumens from a stated 9 watts of power draw, for a very respectable 84 lumens per watt -- better on paper than the original Hue LEDs or the TCP LEDs, which both ring in right above 70 lumens per watt. However, take a closer look at the Lux's fine print, and you'll see that each bulb draws 160 milliamps at an average voltage of 120. Multiply those out, and you get a power draw that's actually closer to 19 watts.
To get to the bottom of this, we plugged the Hue Lux LED into a variable transformer to get a read on just how much power it was actually using. The numbers seemed to confirm it -- at full brightness, the bulb was consuming roughly 18 watts of power, for a disappointing efficiency rating of only 42 lumens per watt.
However, there's another variable at play when it comes to an LED's energy consumption, and that's the power factor, a figure between 0 and 1 which must be factored in when you're calculating watts. A power factor less than 1 will bring that final wattage calculation down, and in the case of the Hue Lux, it's about .55, which brings the power draw right back down to 9 watts.
Explaining the power factor can get incredibly wonky, but Osram Sylvania has an analogy that I find particularly apt:
"We all know a glass of draft beer generally has a "head" on it. Let's say your favorite pub institutes a new policy -you only pay for the beer, not the foam. While the foam is just aerated beer, it is not really usable in that form. If the glass of beer is half foam, you pay half the price."
In this case, the Hue Lux fills an "18-watt mug," but only 9 watts of that is "beer." The other 9 watts of "foam" doesn't actually factor into your energy consumption.
Moving on from beer analogies, the Hue Lux is capable of dimming down smoothly to 0.5 percent of its maximum brightness before cutting out to black. That makes the Lux our current smart lighting dimming leader, edging out TCP's low score of 1.2 percent, and easily improving upon the original Philips Hue, which cuts out at 4.9 percent.
Thanks to the app-controlled dimming mechanism built right into the bulb, the Lux dims smoothly up and down, with no noticeable buzz or flicker, the same as other smart dimming LEDs we've tested. Like those other LEDs, however, you won't want to use Hue Lux bulbs with a physical dimmer switch -- the two dimming mechanisms will clash, and the light will flicker and flash uncontrollably.
Remove the color-changing novelty factor from Philips Hue bulbs , and their inherent smarts remain pretty compelling. Those compelling smarts are exactly what Philips is offering with the Hue Lux LEDs, along with a significantly lower cost of entry than their color-changing cousins. That's a good move, and likely a welcome development for consumers who've thus far felt priced out of giving those smarts a shot. Spending $100 to try out a Hue Lux starter kit, then -- if you like the way it works -- spending another $60 to add a color-changing bulb into the setup seems like a much more reasonable approach then going all-in on a $200 color--changing starter kit.
For an option that's even more affordable, the (US-only) Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit remains a solid choice at $80. It also might be worth waiting for the new (also US-only) $15 GE Link Connected LEDs to arrive next month. Still, if you find Hue tempting, here's your most affordable way in yet.