The LIFX LED light bulb offers advanced Wi-Fi control at home or while away.
Get The Best Price On A LIFX WiFi Enabled Smart LED Bulb
The “Internet of Things” is in full swing, and many of our regular household items are now becoming “smart” enabled for added convenience. Phillips introduced their line of WiFi enabled LED light bulbs back in 2012 and soon after many companies followed suit bringing their renditions in the market.
LIFX is one of a growing list of electronics companies whose story starts with a successful KickStarter campaign where they sought to raise $100,000 in funding and ultimately it ended up raising a whopping $1.3M by way of 9,236 backers on November 12th, 2012.
Two and a half years later, the company has just released their LIFX 2.0 platform and provided me with a sample pearl white bulb for evaluation to ultimately determine if it is worth the price.
The MSRP for a single standalone LIFX smart bulb is $99.99 with discounted rates for a four pack ($300) as well as a ten pack ($725). In comparison, Phillips Hue requires a $199 starter pack although this includes three bulbs plus a Wi-Fi bridge that is necessary to act as a central hub for connection to the lights.
Design & Build Quality
After taking the LIFX out of the box, I was met with a few first impressions. The craftsmanship was exceptional with high-quality build materials and a substantial feel in your hand. This is a double-edged sword as it seems well-built like you are getting your money's worth yet the weight of the bulb may put a strain on the socket of a weaker lighting fixture.
Right off the bat, I was surprised at how large the bulb was. I expect it to have been more compact to fit within different lighting environments without awkwardly obtruding out of the bulb's housing. I can understand the increased sized in comparison to a Phillips Hue since the LIFX is a standalone fixture that operates without the need for an additional hub so it will need to house more internal electronics to function properly.
The pearl white finish looks sleek with a small LIFX logo branded upon it. For those of you who want to go with more of an unconventional look, you can also get this bulb in a gun metal gray variant for the same price.
My sample has a standard E26 Edison screw fitting that is commonly used in US fixtures. LIFX does offer a bayonet cap version for those located overseas where this is more widely accepted.
Since this is a standalone bulb, the installation is quite simple, and almost anyone is capable of accomplishing it. Simply screw the LIFX into an empty socket like a tradition light bulb and give it power. It is important to note that the LIFX bulbs are solely designed for interior use (at this time) and are not meant to be used with a dimmer. You'll be able to dim the light output via the mobile app once installed.
At this point, the light bulb should illuminate showing a standard white glow. In order to activate the “smart” elements, you must download their mobile app on Android or iOS. From there you must navigate through the ‘add bulbs' process that will give you step-by-step directions on how to connect to LIFX.
It took me a few tries as I could not find my LIFX's Wi-Fi initially, but a simple hardware reset solved this problem. Once connected, you will be able to control and adjust the various features from your smartphone or tablet with just a few taps of the screen.
Prior to receiving my LIFX review sample, I did a quick Google search to familiarize myself with the product and found many users reporting on its poorly designed mobile app which hindered their use of the bulb due to poor stability and bugs. Fortunately for me, I got my hands on my unit just after the company released LIFX 2.0 which brought a great deal of changes in regards to the looks, stability and features found in the app.
I've been using this app on a daily basis for the last three weeks and had yet to experience any issues in regards to stability. There have been no sudden crashes or freezing of the app, and my bulb has remained synced with my smartphone since my initial pairing without any further connection issues.
Once my bulb was active and connected to my 6 Plus, I was immediately able to control the bulb's status regardless of whether I was at home or away. The home screen of the app gives you a list of all the bulbs active under your LIFX account, and they are neatly organized within subsections. In my case, I have my single review unit label ‘Desk' as it is installed within the lamp closest to my desk. I then categorized this bulb in the sub-section of ‘Office'.
This structure allows me to toggle and customize an individual unit or multiple bulbs at once (as long as they are categorized in the same section). By clicking on the bulb name, the apps brings up a new interface that gives you access to the controls for the LIFX unit.
This is the first tab, and it is pretty self-explanatory. There is a circular color wheel that changes the LED's light color and is used in combination with the dimmer dial found within the center of this color wheel. For example, if you seek to achieve a dark blue color, you'll need to scroll the wheel to the blue hue and turn the dimmer down to 30-50%. At the bottom of the color wheel, there is a simple power button that can be pushed to toggle the LED on or off.
The second tab is similar to the first, but it only deals with shades of white like those you'd find in traditional fluorescent and LED bulbs. The layout is the same except there is now a wheel of white values that differ in their Kelvin levels from 2500K to 9000K. You can adjust this value to match any existing bulbs in the room or choose a value of your choice. I typically use the cleanest white value that gives me a daylight effect of which I'd estimate would be in the 5400K-5600K range.
The effects tab showcases a few of the quirky yet advanced features that the LIFX is capable of. This includes a candle flicker mode which will automatically turn your bulb to a red/orange hue and gives it a subtle flicker that is comparable to a lit candle wick.
The color cycle effect is pretty straight-forward. It will gradually cycle the bulb's hue throughout the available color range with an equal amount of time spent on each color sample.
A strobe mode is included which will flash the bulb quickly thus producing a strobe-light effect. However, this mode is not able to be toggled and will require you to hold the switch down to keep the strobe going. There is good reason for this as the effect could trigger a seizure in the event of an epileptic being present so I'd avoid using this one besides for your own personal amusement.
Lastly, there is a music visualizer which I found to be the most practical and coolest effect out of the bunch. By utilizing your smartphone or tablet's built-in speakers, the LIFX will emit its LED's light intensity to the beat of the music or at least attempt to. The result of this effect depends on the type of music playing and how close your mobile device's microphone is to the speaker.
These features are cool and make for a great party trick, but there is one large issue. In order to utilize any of the four, you need to keep the LIFX app open and active on your smartphone to keep the effects from shutting off. As soon as you exit the app (even with it running in the background), the effect will commence and it will just default to a standard illumination in the most recently used hue.
This is the last tab and one of the most important should you wish to utilize the LIFX with third-party integration. At the top, you'll be able to create your own “scene” or find a list of preset scenes. Since I only have a single LIFX unit, the scenes are pretty useless as they require multiple bulbs in order to display properly.
At the bottom of this tab is where you'll find the worthwhile features which includes IF (formerly IFTTT) and Nest integration. Since I have a Nest Thermostat in my home, I was able to link the two devices and get access to some unique features. Within the free IFTTT platform, there are hundreds of channels to choose from including ones created by LIFX themselves as well as everyday LIFX owners.
Performance & Function
I've been utilizing this LIFX bulb in my desk light for the last three weeks and have been impressed by its performance overall. From a pure lighting aspect, I love the ability to change the temperature of its white output and the cleaner white gives my work space a much more appealing look that can be customized to fit my mood.
The ability to dim the light within a simple touch of the app has been convenient. I'll often find myself working late at night where my desk light at 100% intensity is unnecessary so I simply turn it down to 30-50% to better suit my needs.
The bulb's oversized design was an issue when I initially picked out a light fixture to use it with as it is so big that it tends to rise above the lampshade resulting in an awkward and impractical look.
Energy Savings & Bulb-Life
One of the obvious benefits of an LED light is the energy savings over time. This LIFX bulb is only 17W yet it is capable of emitting 1000 lumens which makes it equivalent to a traditional 75 watt bulb. The Phillips Hue in comparison will draw less power at only 9 watts per bulb yet the maximum amount of light will only reach 600 lumens (40% less than the LIFX). A small downfall to the LIFX is that it will still draw a 1.7W draw when in standby (not in active use) as it uses this power to maintain Wi-Fi connectivity.
In addition to the energy savings, LEDs are known for their long-lasting performance. This LIFX bulb is rated for up to 40,000 hours of use, so I've barely scratched the surface on its total lifespan with only a few dozen hours under my belt. I have experienced no issues in regards to reliability or performance thus far.
Remote Access & Control
When it comes to the idea of a smart LED light bulb, what really excites me is ability to manage the light remotely and integrate it alongside existing products or services. Fortunately, the LIFX fulfills both of these requirements quite nicely.
The LIFX 2.0 platform brought forth remote control over the bulbs which means I can toggle my lights on and off regardless of being within my home or hundreds of miles away. This is convenient and I think it come in handy in future situations though I'm not too reliant on it now since I currently live alone. I like being able to check the app at anytime to get a real-time indication of whether the bulb is currently on or off as I'll sometimes step out of the office for extended periods and forget to turn off the light.
The LIFX integration with my Nest Thermostat is an advantage although it remains somewhat limited at this time. At the time of this review, I have the ability to do things like:
- Automatically dim my lights to 10% when my Nest detects that I have left my home
- Switch my bulb on and off at random intervals while it detects that I'm away to simulate someone being home to keep intruders away
- Notify me when a Rush Hour Rewards period has started by blinking lights green then orange when the period finishes
As I stated earlier, IFTTT integration brings a whole new world of customization to the LIFX with hundreds of different channels that allow it to do things like the following examples:
- Toggle my lights hourly to make my home look occupied (similar to Nest's functionality)
- Flash green when I receive an SMS (Android only)
- Fade lights as I leave my home
- Turn on bulbs as a way of an alarm
- Turn on/off lights at a scheduled time
As of right now, the LIFX matches the Hue when it comes down to overall features and performance besides one small exception. The Hue is capable of utilizing Philips' Ambilight technology which will correspond the lighting conditions match to any active video content. However, this feature requires a compatible Phillip Smart TV so it is only practical for a limited audience.
Author's Note: There is a newer, better version called the LIFX Color 1000 (click to read our review).
After nearly three years in business, LIFX has made great strides to improve their smart LED light bulbs and my experience with the product has been positive overall. The LED bulb offers great luminance with advanced customization and integration by way of a well-designed mobile app that can function even when you are away from home.
However, the LIFX falls behind when it comes to its size and price-point. Unfortunately, I discovered it to be impractically large for most household lighting fixtures. Its price-point could use some work as the Phillips Hue starter kit (3-bulbs) comes out to roughly $67 for each bulb, a significant savings ($33 in savings per bulb) in the long run.
Despite an array of impressive features and solid performance overall, I'd only recommend the LIFX over the Phillips Hue in two particular occasions. The first would be if you plan to only buy a single smart LED bulb as the LIFX is a standalone unit that does not require any type of external hub to function. On another note, the LIFX may also be the better buy if you seek the highest level of lumens per bulb as the LIFX is capable of nearly double that of the Hue.