Philips Hue Review: Expensive smart lighting but worth every penny
If you haven’t already considered buying connected lighting for your home, chances are, you will soon. The biggest enticement is likely to be the convenience of being able to switch lights on and off from your smartphone.
Philips Hue may also be the first brand of smart lighting that comes to mind. This is perhaps the only smart lighting platform in the world with such a wide ecosystem of Hue lights for the home. To get started, you will need to buy the Starter Kit, priced at Rs12,000: It includes one wireless control bridge device, two 10-watt Ambiance bulbs (equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb) and a wireless dimmer switch.
The Philips Hue set-up at home is extremely customizable, with almost every sort of lighting fixtures you could possibly want. There are the standard Hue White and Colour Ambiance bulbs (with the B22 and E27 connectors; around Rs3,500 each on Amazon.in), the Hue Beyond Pendant lamp and Beyond table lamp (Rs32,999 each on Amazon.in), the wireless dimmer switch accessory (Rs1,750 on Philips.co.in), and more. Once you buy the starter kit, you can add more bulbs, lamps, lights, motion sensors and controllers, and these can all be configured and controlled via your smartphone.
Setting up the Hue requires you to first connect the bridge device to the Wi-Fi router at home. The bridge then creates a wireless mesh network based on the ZigBee protocol, which Hue lighting bulbs connect with. If you have placed your Wi-Fi router and bridge device in one corner of the home, you need not worry about whether Hue light bulbs in the opposite corner will also be connected—because each Hue light bulb generates its own “repeater” network, which allows commands to be transmitted from bulb to bulb, till it reaches the bulb it was meant for in the first place. Once this is set up, you will need to use the Philips Hue app (free on Android and iOS) on your smartphone to pair the bridge device and manage each Hue light in your home. You can group the lights according to different rooms, and also configure multiple lights in any location to be switched on at the same time.
The app itself is significantly better than before, and Philips clearly has spent a lot of time making it all more powerful. For instance, lighting brightness and dimness can be altered by slider controls within the app, and you have very fine controls over the colour adjustment for each bulb. The truly smart aspect is that you can remotely switch the lights at home on and off, and the location awareness feature in the app can be utilized to configure these to turn on automatically when you return home and your phone connects to the Wi-Fi.
Now that the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant platform is available in India with the Echo smart speakers, there is even greater support for Philips Hue and ZigBee-based smart gadgets in general. For instance, if you already own the Amazon Echo Plus speaker (Rs10,499; Amazon.in), you really don’t need to even set up the Hue’s bridge device—there is no need to buy the Starter Kit, you can just buy the Hue bulbs and other lighting accessories, and simply say, “Alexa, discover my devices to set them up.” From then on, you simply have to utter commands to the Echo Plus speaker to switch Hue bulbs on or off, change colour, change brightness, and even set them up as part of the Routine feature in Alexa—Hue lighting can be configured to switch on, for instance, with a “good morning” to the Echo Plus. If you happen to own the smaller Echo (Rs6,999) or Echo Dot (Rs3,149) speakers, you will still need to set up the Hue bridge device to take advantage of the voice-based control. What Alexa and Echo will not offer, beyond a certain degree of brightness and colour customization, are the finer settings and location-awareness features. The latest version of the Philips Hue bridge device is compatible with other smarthome platforms, such as the Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT.
When Hue smart lighting started out as a product a few years ago, there were still rough edges—for instance, the lights would switch on every time electricity was restored after a power cut. Such issues have been ironed out, and Philips Hue has become one of the torch-bearers of the smarthome concept. Yes, it does cost a significant amount of money, but if you are comfortable with the concept of smart lighting at home, this is perhaps the most powerful platform to invest in.