by Harry Guinness on
If you’ve any interest in writing nicely then a $1 ballpoint won’t cut it, you need to look at a fountain pen.
We like Philips Hue lights. They’re among the best smart lights around. However, some of the company’s recently announced light fixtures might not be the best investment.
Earlier this month, Philips announced a series of new light fixtures including a bathroom ceiling light for $179, a lighted vanity mirror for $249, a pendant hanging light for $149, and a standing floor light for $179. Then, earlier this week, they announced a collection of lamps, starting at $70, but ranging all the way up to a 59″ floor lamp that costs $250. We’ve known for a while that Philips Hue bulbs are expensive—a single full-color bulb can cost $50 on its own—but some of these new fixtures are pushing the boundaries on what we’d consider a worthwhile deal.
Before we start to sound like we’re ragging on Philips Hue, it’s worth pointing out why they’re usually the smart bulbs we recommend to begin with. It’s easy to scoff at a $50 bulb (or even $40 when it’s on sale), but like most LED bulbs, they last a really long time. Philips claims their bulbs will last up to 15,000 hours or 15 years. While the reality is a bit more complicated than that, it’s a little easier to stomach such a high cost when you have at least a couple more summer Olympics between now and when you’ll have to replace them. Set aside $5 every year for ten years and you’ll be able to afford whatever newfangled replacement will be out by then. You can even save some money by getting the regular white bulbs or the color ambiance bulbs instead.
The bulbs are also standardized to work in almost any existing light fixture. While other solutions like smart switches require you to modify the wiring in your home, you can stick a Hue light in almost any lamp or fixture you own. You can get the standard 60W-equivalent A19 bulb, the BR30 flood light style bulb, or even the E12 candelabra style bulb. That’s more than enough options for most lights in your home.
You also have the flexibility to change them however you want. Prefer your color bulbs in that lamp in the corner instead of the overhead light? Swap them out. Wanna upgrade to a new light fixture? Put your old bulbs in the new unit. Moving to a new home? Pack up all your bulbs and put them in your new house. You can make decisions about your home decor without worrying about your expensive bulbs.
If all of this sounds like basic attributes of light bulbs rather than special features of Philips’s smart bulbs, that’s because… well, they are. You don’t normally have to toss out your old bulbs when you replace a chandelier, do you? Of course not. Putting the smart tech in the bulbs instead of the fixtures just makes sense.
Philips has launched several new light fixtures and lamps recently, and some of them are fine, if expensive. The Ascend pendant light, for example, costs $149 (when it’s in stock) and comes with an A19 color bulb. That essentially means you’re buying a light fixture for $100. There are cheaper options for light fixtures, but then again there are also more expensive options. If you want to spend a bunch of money on a light fixture because it looks cool, don’t let us stop you.
However, other fixtures are a more…questionable buy. The Hue Being pendant light, for example, costs about $250, but it doesn’t come with any bulbs. That’s because there are no bulbs. All the LEDs are built in, and they can only shine in shades of white. If you ever want to upgrade to color, you’ll need a new fixture. If you want to change the style of fixture you get, you’ll lose your smart lights (unless you buy a new Hue fixture). Oh, and if the LEDs inside ever degrade or break, you’ll need a new fixture.
The same goes for Philips new standing lamps. The Play lamp that lays on a table and shines a light on a wall isn’t too bad at $70, and it’s designed to be tucked out of the way. The Signe lamps, however, can go up to $250 for a 59″ model. If you ever get tired of the standing stick design, you’re out $250 and need a new lamp. If the circuitry breaks or the wires get frayed (and you can’t repair it yourself), you’re out $250 and need a new lamp. You can still take it with you to a new room or a new home, but you’re at least committing to a very specific style.
None of these factors are deal-breakers necessarily. However, it also means they’re not for everyone. Philips Hue bulbs are easy to recommend because even though the bulbs are expensive, lamps and fixtures can be cheap. And if one part breaks, you’re not stuck replacing the entire unit. With these new fixtures, you’re paying a much higher up front cost—sometimes much higher than you would pay if you bought the lamp or fixture separately—and you’re committing to a single style, and a tougher replacement if anything ever breaks.
If you want to decorate your house with colorful lights, Philips Hue is a great way to do it. Personally, most rooms in my house have some form of Hue lights and they look incredible. However, the new lamps and fixtures may not be the cheapest, most effective way to do it. If you’re into them, then by all means buy them. However, if all you want is a lamp that shines a colored light on a wall, we might just as soon recommend a basic floor lamp from Target with some Hue bulbs as we would that $250 floor lamp.
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