Philips hue review

4 Dec 2012

A quirky – if expensive and impractical – way of controlling your home lighting via your smartphone

Price when reviewed: 
179(£179 inc VAT)
3

It takes quite something to over-engineer a light bulb, but that’s exactly what Philips has achieved. Its hue lighting kit comprises three screw-in light bulbs, a wireless bridge, and an iPhone app (the Android version is still in beta) that lets you change the colour of the lighting in your house, whether you’re at home or not.

This domestic version of the Blackpool illuminations is made possible by low-bandwidth ZigBee receivers fitted inside each of the kit’s staggeringly expensive bulbs.

The app presents a wide choice of lighting presets, ranging from the simple Reading theme that blasts white light at full glare, to more exotic choices such as the blue-tinged “Ski”, or the orange-bathed “Sunset”.

Philips hue

The hue and brightness of each bulb can be tweaked individually using a series of sliders, and you can switch individual lights on and off at will.

More impressive is the option to take a photo on the iPhone camera and use colours sampled from it to set the colour of each bulb, allowing you to, say, match the lighting to your interior décor. However, the hue bulbs have a limited spectrum of colours: don’t expect them to match the dark-brown leather sofa in your living room, for example, or perfectly reproduce the subtle tone of the posh Farrow & Ball paint on your walls.

Elsewhere, style overwhelmingly triumphs over substance. Although you can set the lights to switch on and off at set times, you can only set one such alarm at a time.

Philips hue - iOS app screenshots

Bewilderingly, there’s no option to set up a recurring schedule for the lights to come on every day, handicapping one of the hue’s potentially most useful uses – as a high-tech security light. It’s possible to manually switch the lights on and off remotely, but this rather smacks of buying a dog and barking yourself.

On the plus side, setup couldn’t be easier. The lights react to commands from the iPhone in a heartbeat, and the 8.5W LED bulbs are as energy-efficient as they come and yet still splendidly bright. It’s also a terrific way to scare the life out of your kids, pets and burglars.

Yet at £179 for the three-bulb starter kit, and £50 each for additional bulbs, it’s an impractical extravagance that will surely only appeal to Grand Designs wannabes.