There's an awful lot to like about Philips Hue's smart lighting ecosystem. It's polished. It's easy to use. It works with just about everything. The only problem? The price. A starter kit with the essential Philips Hue Bridge and three color-changing bulbs costs $180 -- a steep point of entry for connected lighting.
Fortunately, that color-changing kit isn't your only option. For $70, Philips also sells a starter kit with that same Hue Bridge and a pair of plain, soft white smart bulbs. They won't change colors at all, but you can still automate them to turn on and off or dim up and down, and they'll work with all of the same third-party services as the rest of the Hue lineup, including Amazon's Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, the Nest Learning Thermostat and more. Plus, given that the Hue Bridge typically sells for about $60 on its own, you're basically getting them for $5 each if you buy the kit, which is a heck of a deal.
All of that makes the Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit a near must-have for anyone who's serious about connected lighting and a very safe purchase given how good Philips has been about keeping its bulbs up to date with the latest platforms and products.
Let's talk light bulbs
The Philips Hue White LEDs are good light bulbs in their own right. Each one puts out over 800 lumens at full brightness, making them a fair replacement for a standard 60W incandescent. They're efficient, too, putting that light out from a power draw of just 9.5 watts. That's excellent, especially for a connected LED that's doing more than just emitting light.
If you take a look at the shape of the bulb itself, you'll see that it's nice and wide, extending out beyond the heat sink that makes up the bottom half. That gives it a nice, omnidirectional light output that can shine downward if you're using it in something like a bedside reading lamp. To me, that's a slight edge over the Lifx White 800 LED. Though the Lifx is a brighter bulb overall, its flat-topped design that falls flush with the base of the bulb prevents the bulb from casting as much downward light as it should.