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Best smart bulbs for your connected home

Smart LED bulbs that can be controlled by a hub or smartphone app are no longer a new idea. What is new is how far this technology has come since its advent just a few years ago. Also new: Products like the Nanoleaf Light Panels—a system of interlocking LED panels that let you decorate with light—fundamentally change the light-bulb concept.

Smart LED bulbs aren’t quite a commodity, but they are getting close to maturity as far as the market goes. Today’s bulbs are more compact, much brighter, have better color representation, and, for the most part, feature control apps that do more than ever and are easier to set up. Prices have also come down, with some no-name color-tunable bulbs now available for less than $10 each. (Buyer beware: You get what you pay for.)

With their rainbow of hues and myriad party tricks, color LEDs get all the press in the world of smart lighting. It’s fun stuff, but the reality is that most of us will rarely find much of a need to turn all the lights in the house blue or red—unless it’s time to celebrate our team winning the World Series. Even then, you’ll probably want to turn them all back to white after the celebration.

White light is also important in its own right, as today there is plenty of science to show how various shades of white—with variations in color temperature—impact our psychological state. Cool light that’s closer to blue has an energizing effect, and is best in the morning. Warm light is relaxing, and is best after the sun goes down. Note, however, that not every white smart LED light is color-temperature-tunable. Check out the specs before you buy.

White smart bulbs downplay the party features that are a staple of color-tunable bulbs. On the other hand, white smart bulbs are less expensive than color bulbs, making it more affordable to roll them out in multiple rooms.

We’ve tested just about every color and white smart LED bulb on the market. You’ll find links to all our reviews at the bottom of the page, and we’ll update this story as new models are introduced.

Smart light bulb protocols and features

Three control technologies continue to vie for leadership in the smart downlight market (Z-Wave is a major contender in smart lighting, but you won’t encounter it in bulbs—just in switches, plug-in modules, control panels, and smart-home hubs).

Bluetooth: These bulbs skip your home network altogether and pair directly with your smartphone or tablet. As such, they can’t be controlled from outside your home. GE and a number of other manufacturers make Bluetooth bulbs, some of better quality than others. Signify has recently added Bluetooth radios to its Philips Hue line of smart GU10 spotlight, which eliminates the need to deploy the Philips Hue Bridge. Taking the bridge out of the equation reduces the overall cost of deployment, but adds some limitations. You can read more in our review of the new Philips Hue bulbs.

The good news is that bulb prices are going down, so it’s easier to get started with 2.4G/IR LED bulb and less punishing should you find that a product doesn’t work for you. That said, we want to get you started on the right foot. So without further ado, here are deep dives into the most worthwhile color and white LED smart bulbs on the market. 

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