LIFX smart light bulbs

Adam Turner
8 October, 2014
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LIFX smart light bulbs



Bayonet, screw and downlight options


Large bulbs; no wall switch integration

$129 per bulb


The Australian-designed LIFX bulbs are available in bayonet, screw and downlight options. They extend 110 millimetres from the socket and run hot by design, so they’re not really suited to small, enclosed fittings. They’re 17-watt LED bulbs rated to last for 40,000 hours – which works out as 13 years at eight hours a day – and they come with a two-year warranty.

The LIFX iOS app lets you connect the bulbs to your home Wi-Fi network, with one bulb acting as a master controller for the others. Switch off the master bulb at the wall and you temporarily lose control of the system until another bulb takes on the master role, a handover that has thankfully become faster with firmware updates.

To avoid this, you’re expected to always leave the wall switch on and control the lights with your phone or tablet, an arrangement that may not suit everyone in your home. Unfortunately, there’s no integration with smart wall switches, as you’ll find with some other smart bulb ecosystems, although it’s on the LIFX roadmap.

LIFX’s big selling point is the ability for the bulbs to change colour. Along with red, blue and green LEDs, there are also white LEDs to offer an impressive 1000 lumens brightness. You have 16.7 million colours at your command, along with the ability to dim the bulbs. You can’t specify exact colours, instead you drag your finger around a colour wheel. When it comes to white, you can choose from 16 colour temperatures – depending whether you’re after a warm yellow-ish light or a cool blue-ish light – but you can’t specify an exact Kelvin temperature.

Rather than go through these fine colour adjustments each time you turn on the bulbs, you can create pre-sets, which is useful if you want to quickly dim the lights for watching the television or set the mood for a romantic dinner. You can give each bulb a name and group them for easier control.

This year’s firmware updates brought candle flicker, lava lamp and strobe options, joining the original visualiser feature, which changed the colours in time with the music playing in the room. Dimming features have also improved to reduce oversaturation, so your warm light pink is less likely to turn into a murky dark red, although there still aren’t separate saturation controls.

LIFX Lights

Unfortunately, some of the features promised when the LIFX first launched as a Kickstarter project are yet to materialise. There’s still no support from remote access via the internet, or a link to If This Then That for interacting with web services. You can set a timer, but not a regular schedule. Once again these features are on the roadmap, as part of LIFX Cloud, but if you want them now you should look to Belkin’s WeMo smart gadget ecosystem.

LIFX recently added support for Google’s Nest smart thermostat and hopefully other cloud features aren’t far away – check for details.

Bottom line

Controlling your lights using your phone is an impressive trick, but whether or not the novelty wears off depends on what other uses you find for the bulbs. If you use a daylight lamp for craftwork or have other specific colour requirements, then LIFX may be just what you’re looking for. The slow rollout of advanced features is frustrating for early adopters, so check exactly which features are available before you take the plunge.

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