High-end brands like Philips Hue and Nanoleaf are often the go-to smart lighting suggestion in “best of”
Premium smart bulbs are expensive for a reason
Shopping online for smart lighting gives people a false understanding of what products look like in real life. You can’t tell how bright, colorful or diffused a light looks when you look at photos, especially if those photos come from the product manufacturer. For this reason, people think that affordable smart lighting brands look just as good as the high-end stuff, which is just not true.
When it comes to smart full color bulbs, Philips Hue and LIFX are at the forefront. Their bulbs are brighter and have a wider color gamut than cheaper alternatives, plus better light diffusion, allowing bulbs to produce a soft, evenly distributed glow, rather than a harsh and uneven beam. This isn’t to say that affordable full-color bulbs look bad (they actually look great), but the difference in quality between premium and affordable bulbs is noticeable in person and may be worth the extra cost for some people.
This difference in quality becomes even more obvious when you compare smart LED strips. Cheaper LED strips have a limited color range and often look like speckled Christmas lights due to their poor light distribution. If you want a room to have the soft, natural light shown in the photo above, buy an expensive brand. (I should also point out that the LED strips in the above image are facing a wall, which helps diffuse the light).
And for some high-end settings, like entertainment center lighting, expensive brands are simply further ahead of the game than their affordable competitors. With a Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box, your Hue LED strips, TV bias lighting and smart bulbs can be synchronized with video on your TV or computer, creating an immersive environment that blends with everything on the screen. Alternatives like the Govee Immersion (which costs hundreds less than a Hue Play setup) cannot sync multiple light sources to your TV and are not as accurate as Philips Hue due to the lack of an HDMI sync box.
There are cheaper alternatives, but they are not always sufficient
High-quality smart lighting looks better than affordable alternatives, something that becomes clear when you personally compare two products. But is the difference in quality worth the difference in price? Well, it depends on how good the cheaper stuff looks, and of course your personal preference.
For example, the high price of premium smart bulbs is quite difficult to justify. Options like the Wyze Bulb Color look really great, costing just $ 35 for a pack of four. Compare that to the $ 165 Philips Hue Color Bulb Starter Kit or the $ 80 LIFX white only four pack, and suddenly the quality difference doesn’t really matter, especially if you plan to fill your entire home with smart lamps.
But smart LED strips, light panels and TV bias lighting are a different ball game. There are cheap alternatives, but they don’t look as good as the expensive ones and lack some important features. This difference in quality is evident when you shop for wall mounted light panels. Expensive Nanoleaf panels look great, come in all shapes and sizes, and can learn your habits or integrate with routines to incredible effect. LIFX panels are also great, offering plenty of room for creativity. While cheaper alternatives from brands like Yescom look nice, they are much thicker and not that much cheaper than the high-end options, while lagging behind in terms of light quality, features and programmability.
Affordable LED strips and entertainment center lighting are quite common, and luckily the money you can save on cheaper brands like Govee is often worth the difference in quality (especially if you aim your LED strips at a wall or floor, their poor spread) . But there are no affordable LED strips to match the features of Philips Hue Play systems (Govee Immersion comes close if you just want bias lighting), and if you really want to go all out with entertainment center lighting, you need to shell out to expensive smart lighting towers such as the Philips Hue Singe and the Corsair iCUE.
Opting for cheaper smart lighting can save you a ton of money, and if you know what you’re getting into before buying an affordable product, you may never feel the need to upgrade to a premium brand. But some high-end lighting solutions are exclusive to brands like Nanoleaf and Philips Hue. Even if there are cheaper alternatives, they lag behind in quality and features.
Don’t forget that you can always mix and match
One of the great stuff About using Google Assistant, Alexa and HomeKit is that it allows you to mix and match smart home products from different brands. As long as your smart lights are compatible with your favorite voice assistant, you can control them all at once with routines or room-specific voice commands.
When mixing and matching, you can buy premium full-color smart lighting products for your living room to impress guests and use cheaper, white smart bulbs from a brand like Wyze in your bedrooms, office, bathrooms and kitchen. Or you can add brains to ‘dumb’ dimmable lights with a smart dimmer switch, freeing up your budget for adventurous products like the Philips Hue Play or Philips Hue Singe for entertainment center lighting.
If you decide to mix and match your lighting, try using one brand of smart bulbs for every room, bulb, or fixture in your home. For example, if all ceiling fixtures in your living room have different smart lamps, each fixture will look slightly different. They can also turn on or adjust their brightness at different speeds, which can look a bit tacky.