I’ve reviewed several brands of smart lighting, most of which use some sort of hub to relay controls. Here we’re looking at bulbs controlled from a smartphone or tablet – and they’re not part of a hub-based home automation system.
The ilumi Color Tunable LED Smartbulbs don’t need a hub – instead they are controlled using Bluetooth 4.0, which makes setup quick and painless.
The bulbs each have Bluetooth radios, and they form a mesh network, meaning the bulbs use each other’s radios to send and receive commands. As long as you’re in range of one bulb, you can control them all.
Ilumi, a Dallas-based company, began with two University of Texas at Dallas classmates who won the school’s Business Idea Competition, continued with successful Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns and then took a dip in ABC’s Shark Tank and landed a deal with Mark Cuban, who bought in for 25 percent of the company.
The bulbs are controllable from a free app available for iOS or Android devices. The ilumi bulbs come in two sizes: the Small A21 bulb for $89.98 and the Large PAR30 bulb for $99.98.
The bulbs’ color LED lights can be controlled individually or in groups.
The app comes with a starter set of color scenes, and as you create your own color scenes, they can be saved and replayed.
Other features in the app include:
▪ Music Sync, which pulses the lights to your music.
▪ Rise & Shine, a virtual sunrise to gently wake you.
▪ Vacation, which turns on and off the lights at random times to make it look like you’re home.
A new version of the app, released last week, includes:
▪ Torch, a location-based mode to turn on or off the lights as you move from room to room.
▪ Circadian, a way of adjusting the lighting during the day to help support your body’s natural rhythm.
▪ Simon, a memory game.
The ilumi bulbs worked well and were easy to set up and control.
The bulbs are not cheap, and slightly cheaper competition from companies like Philips, with its Hue System, will be a challenge.
Pros: Plenty of scene settings. Automation. Colors.
Bottom line: Easy to set up and control; don’t need a hub or Wi-Fi.
Sengled is a company that makes LED lights that do double duty.
All the bulbs in Sengled’s product line are controllable from your phone or tablet, and they also have another function.
Boost is a family of bulbs from Sengled (sizes A60, BR30 and PAR38) with a Wi-Fi repeater inside.
Screw the bulb into a lamp in a room with weak Wi-Fi and the Boost will join the Wi-Fi network and pump out a better signal.
Of course, the lamp socket needs to be on to power the bulb and its repeater, but you can turn off the light with the app while the repeater stays powered on.
The bulbs cost $49.99 for the A60 version and $59.99 for the larger sizes. The bulbs are available from Sengled.com.
The free Boost app asks for your Wi-Fi password, then transfers that password to the bulb, which sets itself up on your home’s network.
I had to run through the setup more than once before the app found the bulb, but once it’s configured, you can move the bulb to a different room, as long as it can get some signal from your home’s Wi-Fi.
Pros: Boosts for the Wi-Fi signal where needed.
Cons: Setup took a few tries. Bulb light is fairly directional.
Bottom line: Not a bad way to expand the Wi-Fi where your network needs a boost.
The Sengled Pulse is a bulb with a built-in JBL Bluetooth speaker.
You buy the Pulse bulbs in a pair for $169.99 from Sengled.com and put them in the room where you’d like to listen to music.
They shine in only one direction, so those recessed can lights in your ceiling are perfect for the Pulse bulbs. The BR30 Pulse lights didn’t fit in a few of our small table lamps that have a shade, although they should work in some desk lamps or task lamps.
The bulbs create a stereo pair, and the sound is surprisingly good. You can certainly buy better speakers, but you can’t beat the convenience.
There is a free Pulse app, and once you load it on your phone and turn on Bluetooth, the bulbs are quickly found and paired.
Sound volume can be controlled by your phone buttons or through the app, which also lets you control the light settings.
If you’d like to expand the music’s reach, individual bulbs are available for $79.99. Up to eight bulbs can be controlled from the app.
The bulb light is a warm 2700K, and the output is 600 lumens.
The speakers don’t have much bass, but the highs and mid-range sound are great, and there are some equalizer presets in the app that can help with the sound quality.
Combining a speaker and an LED bulb is genius. Installation is as easy as screwing in a lightbulb, and the sound is good for casual listening or background music for your next party.
Pros: Nice sound. Easy to install and control.
Cons: Bulb size and shape dictate what type of lamp is needed.
Bottom line: If you have the right lights, these are an easy and fun way to add wireless sound.