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Light Bulbs

TP-Link introduces affordable, Alexa-ready smart bulbs -- no hub needed

Starting at $20 each, TP-Link's new smart bulbs connect directly to your router -- and to Alexa.

The TP-Link LB120 smart bulb.

Ry Crist/CNET

By this point, there are plenty of smart lighting options that work with Alexa, Amazon's voice-powered virtual assistant, but a new trio of smart bulbs from TP-Link are some of the most affordable yet. Dubbed the LB100, the LB110, and the LB120, the new Wi-Fi bulbs start at $20 each, don't require a hub, and promise to work with Amazon's Alexa right out of the box.

The LB100 (the $20 option) offers 600 lumens of plain, white, dimmable light from a power draw of less than 10 watts. Upgrade to the LB110, which costs $25, and you'll bump the lumen count up to 800, putting it right on par with what you'd expect from a standard 60W incandescent.

The LB120 adds in "color tunability," which lets you dial the bulb's color temperature between a low, yellowy glow and a hotter, more bluish-white daylight tone. It's the priciest of the three at $35, so the other two are the better buy if you aren't picky about color temperature. If you are, then I'd recommend checking out the Lifx White 800 -- it offers the same tone-shifting smarts and Alexa-compatibility as this TP-Link bulb, and it also supports third-party services that TP-Link doesn't, like IFTTT and the Nest Learning Thermostat. Plus, you can currently get it from retailers like Target for about $30 -- a few bucks less than TP-Link is charging.

All three of TP-Link's bulbs connect directly with your router over Wi-Fi, so you don't need an additional hub to use them. There's some nice appeal there, given that low-cost competitors like the GE Link LED, the Cree Connected LED, and the Philips Hue White LED all require you to plug a hub into your router to translate their Zigbee signal into something your home network can understand. No such hassle here with TP-Link -- just screw the bulb in, download the free 'Kasa' app to your Android or iOS device, and let the smart lighting begin.

Best known for making router hardware, TP-Link is no stranger to offering Alexa-compatible gadgets at a discount. It already offers a pair of Alexa-ready smart switches that work like the Belkin WeMo Switch does, but cost less. These bulbs are taking the same undercutter approach, and if they work as advertised, they stand to be a good option for folks looking to save some money on their smart home build-out.

At any rate, we'll be sure to screw a few in at the CNET Smart Home and let you know how we like them. In the meantime, you can find the bulbs for sale on TP-Link's website, on Amazon, or at Home Depot.

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