Update, 5/24/23: This article has been updated and verified for 2023
The great thing about smart lights is that you have millions of colors and temperatures at your fingertips. Through voice commands or a mobile app, you can go from cool whites during the day to bold pinks, purples, and oranges at night. You can use a voice command to turn on the lights as you’re walking through the door loaded up with grocery bags and set up the lights to run on a set schedule (which is handy when you’re away on vacation). All in all, buying one (or a few) smart lights is fun, convenient, and can even boost your home’s security.
What to Look for with Smart Lights
Whether you’re just getting started with smart lighting or looking to see what additional options and styles are out there, there are a few things you should first take into consideration:
- Styles: As you probably expected, there are a ton of different types of smart lights, from colorful bulbs and lamps to light panels and flowing strips you can mount behind a TV or computer monitor. There isn’t a rule for which type you should purchase first—it all comes down to what you want (though an individual bulb is a great jumping-off point, as it’s easy to install and use).
- Ecosystem: Some smart lights work with any ecosystem (the most common are Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple HomeKit), while others are locked down to just one or two. If you already have products from a particular ecosystem, it’ll be easier for you to buy products that are compatible with it.
- Hubs: Another thing to keep in mind is whether a smart light requires a hub in order to connect and function. A hub serves as the brain of your smart home setup. Not all smart lights require one to work (brands like Wyze and LIFX), while some do (Philips Hue).
- Color Range: Do you just want simple white bulbs that let you adjust between warm and cool temperatures, or do you want to have every color option available to you? Most homes can benefit from a combination of both depending on the room (for example, colorful bulbs in the living room for movie nights). Going all-in on color bulbs for your whole house does offer you the most flexibility for any scenario, but it’s overkill for most people.
- Pricing: Smart lights are considerably more expensive than garden-variety “dumb” lights; however, they typically last much longer and offer tons of additional functionality that make them worth the extra cost. Because of this, we recommend starting with just one or two picks and slowly building out from there for the sake of your budget.
Best No-Hub Bulb: Wyze Bulb Color
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Easy to use
- ✓ Wide range of white temperatures
- ✓ No hub
- ✗ Only connects to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band
Wyze is a stellar option for pretty much anything smart home-related, but we especially love its color smart bulb. It doesn’t require a hub to work and easily connects directly to your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network. You can control the bulb either by voice assistant (like Alexa and Google Assistant) or its companion app, available on Android and iOS.
This colorful bulb offers 16 million vibrant colors (and white light) up to 110 lumens and features a 90+ Color Rendering Index Rating, meaning you’ll be able to see truer colors (and that you’ll never mistake black for navy blue again). You’ll also have the ability to create custom presets and routines for the bulb, and group multiple together by zones you name (like a particular room or floor in your house).
Wyze Bulb Color
Start your smart lighting journey off on the right foot with a powerful, easy to use color bulb.
Best Bulb with a Hub Option: Philips Hue
- ✓ Hub option is great for heavy-duty setups
- ✓ Solid voice assistant compatibility
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ Needs the hub to unlock all features
The Philips Hue Bluetooth-enabled smart bulbs don’t require a hub to work, but you’ll be limited to 10 lights in a single room without one. Although the hub is an additional cost, it’s absolutely worth considering as it unlocks full home controls, scheduled automation, smart control for both home and away, and syncing with music and movies. It’s also not a bad thing if you’re planning on eventually adding a ton of smart lights to your setup (it can support up to 50 light points).
Philips Hue bulbs alone are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant devices, but with the hub they gain compatibility with Apple HomeKit as well. Again, hubs are the way to go if you want tons of smart lights, as it centralizes all of your connected lights and gives you a more stable connection. You can opt for either the base lumen bulb, which reaches 60W, or spring for the medium lumen bulb if you need something brighter (75W).
Plan on getting a ton of smart lights? You'd be wise to choose a brand that lets you connect them to a powerful hub for easy management.
Best Starter Kit: LIFX Starter Kit
- ✓ Easy setup
- ✓ Huge white temperature range
- ✓ Compatible with popular voice assistants
- ✗ Bulb shape means less-than-even light diffusion
One smart bulb is good, so more must be better! Hit the ground running with this two-pack starter kit from LIFX, or spring for the four-pack option if you’re feeling bold, and put the bulbs in your living room, home office, or bedroom. They’re ultra bright, hitting 1100 lumens, but are also dimmable via the companion mobile app (Android/iOS) or a voice command.
You can even create custom scenes on top of the colors; choose orange and purple with a Spooky or Flicker effect for a fun Halloween vibe, for example. While the bulbs have a unique modern design that’s visually appealing, it does point the lighting in a limited direction, unlike traditional bulbs.
These RGBW bulbs give you 550 billion possible color steps, including an enormous range for white temperatures, from 1500-9000K. And of course, they feature LIFX’s iconic flat-top design that looks especially great when not hidden underneath a lampshade. They only work on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, but are compatible with all the most common voice assistants: Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. More interested in a starter kit centered around a hub? We also recommend the Philips Hue Starter Kit.
LIFX Starter Kit
Love the idea of smart lights? Why not buy a starter kit that'll give you a few bulbs for multiple rooms in your home.
Best Light for Outdoors: LIFX BR30 E26
- ✓ Great IP rating
- ✓ Can survive low temperatures
- ✓ Nice and bright
- ✗ Pricey
Smart lights aren’t limited to inside your home—show your neighbors how cool you are with the BR30 E26 bulb from LIFX! It puts 550 billion color step possibilities at your fingertips and lets you have a little fun while lighting up your home’s exterior or yard. With a wide range of white temperatures—from 1500 up to 9000K—you can keep things neutral throughout the year then switch to one of the color options for various seasons. The fantastic colorful RGBW LED bulb doesn’t require a hub to work and uses a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection.
LIFX’s BR30 E26 bulb has an IP65 weatherproof rating, so it can stand up to dust, dirt, and low-pressure water jets. This means you can use it in a covered setting, like under the awning of your front door, as well as more out in the open. It can also handle low temperatures, down as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’ll make it through (most) winters without issue.
LIFX BR30 E26
Why not have cool colors on your front porch or back patio? LIFX's weatherproof bulb is a great choice for those who want this posh look.
Most Creative Option: Nanoleaf Shape
- ✓ Infinite customization possibilities
- ✓ Music syncing
- ✓ Touch reactions
- ✗ Cost of panel expansions can add up quickly
Nanoleaf’s clever Shapes light panels are some of our favorite smart lighting options of all time. Their clever design and nearly infinite configuration possibilities mean you’ll end up with a unique lighting fixture that no one else has. With options for hexagrams, triangles, and mini triangles, Nanoleaf Shapes make nice additions to living rooms, reading nooks, bedrooms, and especially gaming setups. And yes, you can combine different shapes to create a larger design.
You can link up to 21 of the modular panels together on a single plug, then decide what colors you want to feature on them via the companion mobile app (Android/iOS). The LayoutDetect feature enables intelligent color animations based on how you layout the panels. There’s even an option to use them as a music visualizer for a more immersive experience. They also react to touch and have interactive Touch Games like Whack-A-Mole, which is a ton of fun for kids and adults alike.
Lighting can be more than simple bulbs and lamps. Get creative with these amazing light panels from Nanoleaf.
Best Ambient Lighting: Govee Immersion
- ✓ Low latency
- ✓ Good price
- ✓ Easy installation
- ✗ Camera is subject to light interference
We are also big fans of ambient lighting, like the Govee Immersion lightstrip. This clever gadget uses a camera to detect the colors on your TV then applies them to the LED lightstrip mounted on your TV’s rear to create an expanded and more, as the name suggests, immersive viewing experience. The strip is segmented as well, allowing you to experience more than one color at once (and making it easier for it to match whatever you’re watching).
You can manage the RGBIC lights either by using voice commands with Google Assistant or Alexa, or via the companion mobile app (Android/iOS). They feature tons of colors as well as a slew of features, like a timer and modes for music mode, video, scenes, and a DIY creator. The camera can be attached to the top or bottom of your display, and the backlight strip measures 12.5 feet, which is enough for all four sides of a 55-65-inch TV.
Make movie nights even more fun with this camera and LED backlight duo that expands the colors on your TV.