LIFX has come a long way from their days as an Australian start-up crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Their dream to create Wi-Fi connected light bulbs is a reality and they now produce one of the better smart LED bulbs on the market. The 3rd Generation LIFX Wi-Fi Smart Multicolor LED Bulb offers a quality bulb, a respectable app, some of the best compatibility options and all without the need for an expensive hub.
Design limits lighting options
The A19 (also available in BR30) shaped bulb comes well packed in an attractive circular box. You’ll immediately notice that despite it being similar in size, it doesn’t look much like your standard globe bulbs. A pearl white metal base comprises about 2/3rds of the product. The use of metal instead of plastic makes it more durable, but also a bit heavier which may cause issues in cheaper gooseneck style lamps.
The actual light has a flat top that sits directly on top of the base. The design pushes light outward like a spotlight which makes it more suitable for directional lamps and wider ceiling fixtures. There is some illumination to the side, but nothing that shines downward. This means lights that require 360 degree illumination will suffer. The unique design does fit 8 inch harps for those looking to use traditional table lamps.
Relatively routine setup
Setting up the LIFX multi color LED bulb requires a bit of patience but is not difficult. You’ll need to install the LIFX app which is available on iOS, Android, and Windows 10. The app will guide you through by first connecting your smartphone or laptop to the LIFX’s private Wi-Fi network. It’ll then prompt you for your Wi-Fi credentials to connect the bulb directly to your router. Apple HomeKit users may be able to find the bulb in their iPhone’s Wi-Fi settings if they have the latest firmware updates. Unfortunately, LIFX products only work off 2.4GHz.
You’ll be asked to setup a cloud account and push through any firmware updates that are currently not installed on the bulbs. The overall process took about 15 minutes which included having to re-start the process a couple times on our second bulb when it didn’t connect.The applicable firmware updates took a few minutes as well. Not perfect, but nothing out of the ordinary.
App is nice but could use some refinement
The LIFX app is fairly straightforward and provides basic features you come to expect from a smart bulb. You’ll be able to turn it on and off, adjust the brightness, the temperature, and scan through a color wheel that LIFX claims has 16 million potential options. For lazy people like myself, there are preset colors you can choose from. The app does also allow the LED bulbs to do some fancy tricks from a strobe effect on to cycling through the colors. These could be fun at a party or holiday display.
One of the most important aspects of the app is it’s scheduling capability. This allows you to have the LIFX Smart Multicolor LED Bulb turn on or off, dim, or even change color at specific times on specific days. Being able to reduce brightness and change temperature can be helpful as the evening progresses for those with sleep issues. We had no issues with manually setting a schedule and having the light do what we wanted it to do. There is a bit of a learning curve the first few times through but you should get the hang of it quickly.
One feature that intrigued us was being able to set the bulb to automatically work off a sunrise and sunset schedule based on our phone’s location. While we attempted this multiple times, the feature never quite worked right. Sometimes it just didn’t do anything while other times it seemed to be scheduled for a time zone halfway around the world. It’s something we hope the company can address in the future.
Bulb produces some quality light
The actual LED bulb produces a quality light that is clearly a step up from its budget-oriented competitors. While LIFX lists this bulb as a 75-watt equivalent producing 1100 lumens, it didn’t look it when placed side-by-side with other bulbs of similar specs. It feels more like a 60-watt equivalent putting out 850 lumens. This may have been due to it’s uncommon design. Still, the light was sharp across it’s rather narrow beam angle. The bulb uses 11 watts at it’s brightest setting and is not compatible with household dimmer switches. It can however be used outside as long as the bulb doesn’t come in contact with water.
The colors are where the LIFX really shines (no pun intended!). Each one comes out clean and bright with consistency across the entire beam. The colors are accurate and adjusting brightness down doesn’t mess with it’s richness. It would look great shining down from the ceiling in a den to give a theater like experience. Or a really fun way to light up a kids room (and let them know when it’s bedtime from the other room).
If adjusting the color temperature is a priority, you’ll be happy to know that the LIFX ranges from a warm 2500K to an uber-cool 9000K. The warmest setting does imitate the old incandescent bulbs you grew up with well. It doesn’t have the same orange hue (which isn’t bad) but it’s awfully close. Cooler temperatures like 5000K matched up perfectly to brand name daylight bulbs. There is a new section in the app dubbed “Day & Dusk” which is supposed to help you automate changes in the Kelvin temperatures throughout the day, but it’s rather raw at the moment.
Compatible with just about everything
Compatibility might be the most convincing argument the LIFX Multicolor Smart LED Bulb can make. Out of all the WiFi smart bulbs on the market, it’s one of the few that currently supports Apple HomeKit. On top of that, the LIFX works with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Google Home was the easiest to setup and had the best response time to voice controls. Setting it up with Amazon Alexa requires multiple steps since the voice commands don’t all work under the same setting. For instance, the LIFX Optimized for Smart Home skill allows you to turn the light on and off or adjust the brightness on a percentage scale from 1%-100%. But it won’t change the color. To change the color you’ll need to enable a non-native Alexa skill which requires saying “Alexa, Ask LIFX to turn the bedroom lights to red”. Despite some trouble connecting with HomeKit at first, all the voice control systems worked well.
On top of voice controls, the LIFX Multicolor LED Bulb also supports SmartThings, Nest, IFTTT, and others. There are already some fun triggers in place on IFTTT that we played with such as having the lights blink when a text came through the smartphone. Nest has all sorts of functions available from using the light for security reasons down to just having it adjust when you leave your house.
While the product met just about everything I want out of a multicolor LED bulb, there were some issues that arose after a month worth of testing in my home. The most glaring is some intermittent connectivity issues. This did require resetting one of the bulbs a couple times. The other was the design, which I never really got used to. It might be fine in certain lighting situations, but I prefer a bulb with a broader illumination (like the LIFX Mini) and the flat top just doesn’t cut it.
If you don’t want to go all-in on Philips by purchasing an additional $60 bridge on top of their expensive LED bulbs, this is a nice alternative. The ability to work off Wi-Fi is a positive and the app handles controls well. It checks off all the compatibility boxes at the moment too. With that said, I think the LIFX Mini is a much better option if you’re set on going with LIFX. It provides all the same features you get from this model, but with a much better design and slightly cheaper price.