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Philips Hue Lux review: A less colorful, less expensive Philips Hue

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
Lumens 750 600 800
Watts 9 8.5 11
Efficiency 84 71 73
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)
IFTTT Compatible Yes Yes No
Color-changing No Yes No
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
Bulb Price $30 $60 $20

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.

philips-hue-lux-tcp-dimmable-range-chart.jpg
The Philips Hue Lux will dim smoothly down to 0.5 percent brightness, just slightly better than the competition. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

philips-hue-lux-product-photos-3.jpg
Colin West McDonald/CNET

Conclusion

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.

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