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Sylvania Smart Plus Bluetooth Flex Strip (Apple HomeKit-enabled) review: Sylvania's colorful HomeKit light strip: Smart, but sluggish

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The Good The HomeKit-compatible version of Sylvania's color-changing light strip works with Siri and it costs less than strips from Lifx and Philips Hue. Setup is a cinch.

The Bad Sylvania's strips don't offer any unique features beyond their HomeKit compatibility, and the Bluetooth performance seemed laggier than smart lights that use Wi-Fi or Zigbee.

The Bottom Line These lights are a decent value pick for HomeKit households, but we prefer the features and performance of the competition.

6.8 Overall
  • Features 6
  • Usability 7
  • Design 8
  • Performance 6

A well-placed LED light strip can really jazz up the look of your living space. And, if you're an iOS user looking for one that you can control using Siri commands, you've got a couple of options. Apple HomeKit-compatible starter kits like those from Lifx and Philips Hue will set you back at least $90, but a third option, the Bluetooth Smart Plus Flex Strip from Sylvania, costs just $60.

At $60 for a 6-foot starter kit, Sylvania's light strips are the most affordable option that works with Apple HomeKit.

Ry Crist/CNET

For the money, you get 6 feet of smart, color-changing light that can connect directly with your iPhone ($685 at Amazon Marketplace) or iPad ($244 at Amazon Marketplace), no hub necessary. You just stick them up under your cabinets or behind your TV, then sync them up with Apple's Home app. From there, you'll be able to automate them alongside other HomeKit-compatible gadgets, or control them using Siri voice commands on your phone, tablet or HomePod smart speaker

With no support for Android devices or for competing voice assistants like Alexa and the Google Assistant, Sylvania's HomeKit strips aren't as well-integrated with other smart home partners as Lifx and Hue. That might matter quite a bit if you're looking for the most flexibility from your smart home gadgets, or if you aren't committed to a specific voice assistant yet. But if you're an iPhone loyalist just looking for a cost-efficient, Siri-centric smart home rooted in Apple's Home app, then these lights might be just what you're looking for.

Since they communicate using Bluetooth, Sylvania's HomeKit light strips don't require you to connect a hub to your router. Just plug them in, open up the Home app and scan the pairing code that comes printed in the instruction manual. To control the lights when you -- and your phone -- are outside of Bluetooth range, you'll need to have an Apple TV ($169 at B&H Photo-Video), an Apple HomePod or a dedicated, always-on iPad connected to your home network.

Apple's Home app makes it really easy to add devices to your setup -- just scan the code and give the lights a name that Siri can recognize.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The starter kit includes three two-foot strip segments, the Bluetooth radio module, and the power supply. Connect it all together and plug it in, and you'll be good to go.

Ry Crist/CNET

The starter kit includes three 2-foot LED strip segments, the Bluetooth radio module, and the power supply.  Additional 2-foot segments sell in a two-pack for about $30, and a single power supply and Bluetooth radio can control up to 20 feet in total. You can also trim a segment with a pair of scissors if it's a little too long. Each strip includes its own 3M peel-and-stick backing, making it easy to stick them up just about anywhere that isn't too far from a power outlet.

The performance wasn't perfect, though. Sylvania's strips worked as advertised in my tests, and the Home app's controls seemed snappy enough, but they were noticeably slower at responding to those Siri controls than other HomeKit-compatible smart lights that don't use Bluetooth. Ledvance, Sylvania's parent company, chalks it up to recent changes to Apple's HomeKit specifications that came with iOS 11.

"Ledvance is currently certifying an over-the-air update for the products with Apple that will address the new requirements, and also increase performance significantly for Bluetooth devices which connect directly to the phone vs connecting via a router like other products," a company spokesperson told me.

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