Philip Hue is a long-established, preeminent smart light designer and manufacturer that has set the standards for intelligent lighting. The Philips Hue 2021 range builds on its amazing legacy.
Gadget Guy has been covering Philips Hue since 2013 when the term smart home was all but an impossible dream due to lack of, or competing standards like Wi-Fi, BT, Zigbee, Z-Wave and more. In fact, Philips decided to make a Bridge to control the lights and eventually link it to emerging standards like Google Assistant and Siri.
Now it is part of the new IoT ‘Matter’ movement. The complete Philips Hue 2021 range of smart lights, bridges and accessories will receive OTA firmware updates (by Q4 2021). That means any Matter standard smart home controller can control and talk to the vast array of smart Matter compatible home devices. For example, an ambient light sensor could alter the light/hue levels to match outside light.
We have some new devices to test – more later – but I wanted to start with the range so that you can see how it all fits in.
Philips Hue system
It starts with Hue enabled lights (in BC and ES) that connect to a Hue Bridge (Ethernet-connected Zigbee controller) that connects to the Hue app.
You leave the light switch, and the bulbs switch on/off at the light socket. So, if the internet goes down, you can still use them as standard lights. The app allows different colour selections and patterns (if a colour bulb) and connects to voice assistants.
These include Bridge V2 ($99.95) and some lights. Once you have a Bridge, you can support up to 50 lights and accessories (dimmer switches and sensors). In reality, it can support more, but you may overtax the Bridge. If you embrace Hue, especially for ceiling downlights, it is easy to get over 50 lights!
You can now add a second (or more) Hue bridge, but you need to invest in a smart hub controller like Samsung SmartThings or Apple HomeKit to manage the multiple bridges.
Interestingly each Hue bulb acts as a Bridge repeater (mesh), so you are not limited to the 20/30m Wi-Fi or Bluetooth range. We have successfully run bulbs line-of-sight at 60m meshing to one at 120 and then 180m. Indoors, the maximum range through walls is about 25-30m, but mesh (unlike Wi-Fi) can extend that. Like Wi-Fi, make sure the Hub is in the centre of your lights – not stuck away in a garage.
White lights (replacement for incandescent bulbs) Bayonet cap and Edison Screw
Coloured (16.7m) and white bulbs – ditto
GU10 bulbs (not the standard GU 5.3 two-pin downlight)
Speciality E14 and filament bulbs
LED coloured light strips 1, 2 and 5 metre indoor or outdoor
All lights use Low Voltage, and bulbs have a built-in transformer, so they are generally plug replaceable. They consume a few watts – not 60/100/250W energy guzzlers they replace. Most lights have at least 25,000 operational hours.
Before you choke on the cost, remember that these are a minimum of 25,000-hour life – at least 10-20 years of typical use. They consume around 5-9W, meaning almost nothing to run (like .001 cents per hour). If you replace 50 x 60W bulbs, it still costs less than 5 cents an hour versus nearly 70 cents. Energy savings alone in a typical home could be hundreds of dollars a year.
While counterfeiting and fakes are not a huge issue, there is a flourishing grey-market, parallel-import business. These lights are not certified for Australia, may not have the RCM C-Tick mark on the device or package and are not covered by Signify Australia warranty. You will find these on merchant sites on Kogan, Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba etc.
Beware of so-called carton damage lots (shrink wrapped is a dead giveaway) as these are generally second hand or refurbs. There are also a lot of generic Philips Hue cables, bridges, and transformers that claim to be Philips Hue compatible but, in reality, only work off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth via a voice assistant.
Philips Hue 2021 range – Starter Kit
Download the Philips Hue app for Android or iOS
Plug the Bridge into Ethernet cable and its 5V/1A/5W plug pack
Insert the bulbs into a light socket and turn on
The app will have found the Bridge, and now you can add lights
The app will search and bring up a list of lamps to add
You can name these, e.g., Turn on Kitchen Left or add to a room, Turn on Kitchen.
Once added to the app, you can link to a voice assistant.
The app has several scenes and an infinitely adjustable colour wheel that cleverly shows other connected lights colour selections. When you use a voice assistant, it accesses the last app setting, or you can ask it to change colours to one of the many standard pre-sets or change percentage brightness.
BC or ES bulbs are typically
16 million colours (or white)
2000-6500K adjustable – Warm white is 2700-3000K; Cool White is 3300-5300K, and Daylight is 5300-6500K. Blue Light (>6000K) can disrupt circadian rhythm, so these are best not used in bedrooms.
9W (maximum brightness), which is equivalent to 60W incandescent or halogen
That is all there is to it, simple.
You can play with automation, including what to do at wakeup, sleep time, coming home, leaving home, timer and custom settings. You can also link to IFTTT (If this then that) to set up nested commands like ‘If the motion sensor at the door activates, turn on the door light and ring the (Arlo) chime.
Or you can get an HDMI Sync box to react to TV soundtracks, Spotify or PC/Mac.
Outdoor Spotlight Lily XL $239.95
The Lily is a spotlight, although, at 15W, its light output is nowhere near that of an older Para floodlight. It is closer to 90W incandescent, but that is quite enough for its purpose – to illuminate a larger area like a path or small backyard.
Setup also needs some planning. It is low voltage (24V/15W) and requires a weatherproof extension cable and a Philips Low Voltage power supply nearby.
Fortunately, it is getting easier as Philips has released the 100W supply – more on that later. But you need to plan cable routes as it can be wall or garden spike mounted.
It is IP65 which means dust and weatherproof – no issues with rain and nicely encased in aluminium.
It comes with a Hood and garden spike. The Extension package includes a 2.5m cable and T-junction, but you still need a power supply.
If the Lily XL is too large, Philips has a Lily standard size and a range of pedestal, wall and strip lights.
Outdoor 100W power supply $99.95
When I bought my first outdoor lights, there was only a 40W supply. Now the 100W has two cable connectors that can each run up to 30 meters and support 50W per cable. The Lily XL is 15W, the outdoor 5m light strip is 37.5W (it has lots of tiny LEDs), and the Pedestal is 8W, so I can run them off one power supply. It is IP67 rated – waterproof as well.
With a bit of planning, you can use have 12 x 8W pedestal lights spanning 30metres (12 x 2.5m extension cables $29.95 each off the same power supply.
Dimmer switch $39.95
A physical dimmer switch may seem incongruous when you have voice control, but there are times where you may need one.
First, it links to the Bridge, and you can turn on/off/dim either one, or a group, or all lights connected to the Bridge (mutually exclusive). It may be handy for indoor use in a stairwell, entry foyer, garage or where you don’t have voice assistant control.
Recently Philips have made some of their lights Bluetooth controllable via the app (not connected to a Bridge). The Dimmer can control up to 10 of those in a single group.
It runs off a CR2450 battery that should last for years. It can magnetically attach to the wall plate or can be handheld.
As you can imagine, I have a smart home chock full of IoT (Internet of Things), smart devices, speakers, security cameras/systems and OK Google integration – nearly 80 different devices at last count.
Cheap, generic lights are usually Wi-Fi connected to a Chinese app/cloud and invariably fall over at least once a week.
All is well until we have an internet or power blackout. Then as my wife likes to say, “We are screwed”, although in more polite terms. For we are – nothing works.
When the internet or power restores, we can only count on two things to be up and running – Arlo security and Philips Hue. Both share the same characteristic – they use a Hub. There are no vagaries of Wi-Fi connections or dropouts – they work 24/7.
That is not to take away from Wi-Fi IoT. Why? Because primarily their operation is defined by Wi-Fi quality, and most have those cheap, nasty AC1600 routers or highly unreliable cheap mesh routers from their NBN supplier. Get a good, reliable router (at least AC5400 or preferably AX11000) that has decent signal strength/bandwidth, and range and your Wi-Fi will never be an issue again.
Philips Hue 2021 range – a colourful solution.
Philips Hue 2021 range
The Philips Hue 2021 range includes some Bluetooth compatible bulbs (no Bridge needed) and a range of new power accessories. The review rating is for the range in general.
Value for money
Ease of use
Price is what you pay - value is what you get
The most reliable smart lighting solution - streets ahead of Wi-Fi bulbs