No hub, no app -- just plug-and-play smart lighting from Philips Hue

Leave your phone in your pocket -- for $40, the Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit gives you a smart bulb and a handy switch that doubles as a remote.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
3 min read
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There are a lot of things I like about Philips' approach to smart lighting, but at $200 for a Philips Hue starter pack, the cost of entry isn't one of them. That's about to change, though, as Philips is adding a new Hue Wireless Dimming Kit to its catalog. Inside, you'll find a dimmable, white-light smart bulb and a nifty wall switch that doubles as a magnetic remote. The cost? $40.

Diminished along with the price is the role of Philips Hue Bridge and app, both of which are mandatory for full control over existing Philips Hue products. That's not the case with this new kit. You don't need the Philips Hue Bridge, and you don't need to download the Philips Hue app. Just screw the bulb in and turn it on, then pull on a little piece of plastic at the bottom of the remote to activate its battery. The two will pair automatically, and you'll be controlling your bulb within seconds. Additional bulbs are $20 a piece -- the remote can control up to 10 of them in tandem.

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That's about as simple as smart lighting gets -- some might argue too simple. To be clear, the "Philips Hue White" bulbs that pair directly with the included remote don't change colors or color temperatures, and without a Philips Hue Bridge, they won't sync up with the wealth of third-party apps, services and gadgets that work with Philips Hue. That means no Nest, no IFTTT, no Amazon Echo, no anything. You can't even schedule the lights to turn on and off at specific times.

Of course, if you do have a Philips Hue Bridge, or if you're willing to buy a Philips Hue starter pack to get one (Philips doesn't sell the Bridge on its own), then you'll be able to add the new Philips Hue White bulbs into your larger setup and enjoy those deeper controls and integrations. The same goes for the switch. Pair it with a bridge, and you'll be able to customize which lights it turns on and off from within the app, or put existing Philips Hue products under its control.

In that sense, the Wireless Dimming Kit seems a bit like smart-home bait. Try it out, and it's likely that you'll end up wanting more out of it -- at that point, plunking down the extra cash for a full-featured Hue setup will be a lot harder to resist.

Philips Hue White vs. other white-light smart LEDs

Philips Hue White LEDCree Connected LEDGE Link LEDBelkin WeMo LEDOsram Lightify Tunable LED
Lumens (measured / stated) 801 / 800872 / 815855 / 800829 / 800848 / 805
Watts 9.511.5119.59.5
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 8476788789
Color tunable NoNoNoNoYes
Color temperature (measured / stated) 2,674 K / 2,700 K2,696K / 2,700K2,830K / 2,700K3,058K / 3,000K2,680K - 5,273K / 2,700K - 6,500K
Additional color temperatures (price difference) NoNoNoNoNo
Dimmable range 0.9 - 100%7.8 - 100%10.2 - 100%3.8 - 100%5.4 - 100%
Lifespan 25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours20,000 hours
Weight 3.80 oz.1.90 oz.6.20 oz.2.75 oz.4.75 oz.
Third-party compatibility Same as Hue Lux once you add the Hue BridgeWink, Hue Bridge, SmartThings, Staples ConnectWink, SmartThings, Hue Bridge, Staples ConnectSmartThingsWeMo Link
Remote (additional cost) Yes (included in kit)NoNoNoNo
Warranty 2 years3 years2 years2 years2 years
Starter kit price $40 N/A$80 $100 $100
Bulbs per kit 1N/A222
Price per bulb $20 $15 $15 $30 $30

That said, I was impressed with the kit when I tested it out. Setup really couldn't have been simpler -- I was dialing the light up and down mere seconds after opening the box. Those dimming controls are especially good, too. At the lowest setting, the bulb puts out just 7 lumens -- less than 1 percent of the bulb's full brightness.

That full brightness came in right on the money, clocking in at 801 lumens in our test rig (the claimed light output is 800 lumens). You'll get that brightness from a power draw of 9.5 watts, which is excellent for a smart bulb. Only the Osram Lightify and Belkin WeMo LEDs are more efficient among smart bulbs, and each only incrementally so. Each one also costs an extra $10 per bulb.

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As for the switch, you can mount it wherever you like using screws or sticky tape, no wiring needed. It's also magnetic. The remote pops right out when you want it, then nestles in magnetically when you don't.

The Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit is scheduled to arrive in North American retail outlets this September, and will replace the existing white light smart option from Philips, the Philips Hue Lux Starter Kit . Expect a full review closer to that time.