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Philips Hue smart LED lights: Wins and Fails review

What is Philips Hue?

Philips Hue is a collection of up to 64 multicoloured LED bulbs, which you can control from your smartphone.

You can set each bulb to have its own colour, collect them into groups, and create colour palletes from digital photos.

The bulbs are connected through your broadband router, so you can also control them from beyond your home, switching them on and off to confuse would-be intruders, or just to annoy other people you live with.

Philips Hue smart LED lights: Wins and Fails review
You can create your own light ‘recipes’ from photos

How does it work?

You plug the bulbs into lamps and light fittings around your house, turn them on, and connect the Hue Hub to your router. This communicates with the bulbs over the low-power, low bandwidth Zigbee system.

You’ll need to download the Hue app to your iPhone or Android device, which will find your router and pair it up with your bulbs. 

If you set up an account online at meethue.com, you can connect your apps for remote control and download new light schemes from other users, or share your own. There are recipes for the standard three bulbs, up to huge multi-bulb mixes.

If you have lots of bulbs, you can combine them so they follow the instructions from recipes for a few bulbs.

Philips Hue smart LED lights: Wins and Fails review
Meethue.com lets you remote control your lights, and download and share light recipes

How much does it cost?

The starter set of three Hue bulbs and the Hue Hub costs £179, while bulbs cost £49 each.

Wins

  • Control your lights easily: Fire up the app and you’ve got the perfect lighting for every mood, swipe the brightness up and down, or just pick a different light recipe.
  • Create your own light schemes: Pick colours from a wheel or – better – pick them from photos on your phone to create unique, personal moods.
  • Share and download light recipes: There are dozens of combinations at meethue.com to suit anything from a few lamps to lots.
  • Remote control: Turn on the lights on your way home, when you’re away on holiday, or while you’re in the pub and your partner/friends are at home. You’ll be so popular.

Fails

  • Doesn’t work with the Chrome browser: Daft, we know, but probably not Philips’ fault,  because Chrome doesn’t obey the agreed rules of standard WebKit Android browser.
  • Chunky screw fit and no bayonet fitting: UK users will have to buy an adapter to make Hue bulbs work with either British bayonet fittings or the more common small E17 screw fitting (Ikea’s usual size).
  • Not dimmer-friendly: A dimmer with Hue is pointless, we’d agree, but if your main light fitting has a dimmer, you’ll have to replace it with a switch for Hue to work.
  • Sensitive to power spikes: If your Hue lamp shares a socket with something like an amplifier or active subwoofer, it may reset when a heavy load causes the voltage to wobble.
  • Pricey: LED bulbs aren’t cheap, but £49 per bulb means not everyone can be a lord of light.
Philips Hue smart LED lights: Wins and Fails review
The £179 Philips Hue starter pack comes with three bulbs and a Zigbee router

Note: Eagle-eyed readers will have picked up on our use of Philips’s PR photos for the Hue review. We’d normally shoot some nice pics and video ourselves, but filming Hue posed a few practical problems we couldn’t overcome.

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