The LIFX Color 1000 is a fully-featured smart light bulb, but its sole reliance on app controls can become inconvenient
Warranty: One year RTB, Details: www.lifx.com, Part code: LBA19E27UC10EU
Home automation is becoming bigger and bigger with each passing year. Eventually, everything in your house might be internet-connected, from your fridge to your home heating system. Even your light bulbs can now be controlled over the web, but so far only one major manufacturer has made any headway with this, and that’s Philips’ Hue range.
Slightly lesser-known contender LIFX is therefore a bit of an underdog in this area. It started life out on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter but has since blossomed into a burgeoning lighting manufacturer. Its latest bulb, the Color 1000, is its brightest and boldest yet.
The Color 1000 I reviewed is A19 in size with an Edison screw. While the bulb is distinctly smaller than previous LIFX bulbs, it’s still worth noting that it is quite large compared to a traditional bulb, as it measures 63x115mm and weighs 240g.
Due to its bulbous-size, you might struggle to fit it, especially in any standing lamps with unorthodox shades. For instance, the first lamp I tried had an integrated deflector-style shade, which didn’t leave enough clearance to fit the bulb in. However, a more standard vertical shade with a regular lamp shade was fine. This is because the bulb quickly ramps up in thickness from the Edison screw mount component. A slower taper (or at least a few millimetres extension) would have allowed more clearance. A Bayonet mount version is also available, so make sure you get the right one for your light fitting.
The large size of LIFX’s bulbs can be attributed to the fact that a separate hub isn’t required. Other bulbs, such as those from Philips, typically use smart home protocols such as Z-Wave or Zigbee, which require hubs to communicate with one another and different smart home appliances. LIFX, on the other hand, creates its own mesh network between bulbs using Qualcomm Atheros Wi-Fi adaptors, which allow the bulbs to connect and communicate directly through your wireless router – it will communicate with numerous other popular smart home devices, see Service Integration.
The Color 1000 itself is rated at 1,055 lumens brightness, which is a good deal brighter than many competing bulbs from Philips Hue, which often only go up to 800 lumens. This gives the LIFX Colour 1000 an equivalent brightness of a 75 watt bulb. Of course, as the name implies, the primary appeal of the Colour 1000 is that you can adjust the colour of the light, of which there are a claimed 16 million different shades. In terms of colour temperature, these range from 2,500K-9,000K. With three hours of use per day, LIFX rates the bulb’s life expectancy at 22.8 years, so you shouldn’t be expecting to change them any time soon.
Setup and LIFX App
With no hub to worry about, setup is simply a matter of screwing the lightbulb into a compatible fitting. Once you power on the bulb, you’ll then need to use the LIFX app (which is available on Android, iOS and the Windows Store) to connect the bulb to your wireless network. In fact, the whole process isn’t too dissimilar from connecting a multiroom speaker to your wireless network. If you run into any problems along the way, you can always reset the bulb into pairing mode by powering it on and off five times with rhythmic timing as well.
You’ll want to immediately upgrade the firmware on any newly-installed bulbs, as this enables cloud support. You’ll need to sign up to a LIFX cloud account, but once you’ve done this you’ll be able to control any of your lightbulbs remotely through the LIFX app, which is useful if you forget to turn them off or just want to check on their status when you’re away. It also means you can remotely turn them on when you’re out to make your house look occupied.
The app has a number of additional functions, too. For instance, you can use it to name each bulb to make them more identifiable, such as ‘Kitchen’ or ‘Bedroom Lamp’, and you can then add these to different groups, allowing you to control them simultaneously if you have more than one in a single room.
Once you jump into the individual controls for each bulb, you’re greeted with an interface broken down into four tabs: Colours, Whites, Themes and Effects. Select Colours and you’ll be presented with a colour swatch for picking different shades across a ring. In the centre is a scroll wheel for adjusting the brightness, which is represented by a percentage that you can adjust in 1% increments for fine-grain control.
The different shades and temperatures of white light are under a separate tab if you don’t want to get too fancy with your lighting. Under Themes, you have preset lighting shades such as ‘Peaceful’, ‘Cheerful’, ‘Serene’ and ‘Halloween’ (which bizarrely appears at whatever time of year). Finally, Effects lets you toggle on different effects such as ‘Flicker’, which emulates a candle, and ‘Strobe’, which turns your room into a pseudo-night club. I was particularly fond of Music Visualizer, which uses your device’s microphone to change and pulsate the lighting in time with your music.
You can also create ‘Scenes’ with the app. These are presets you can apply across different bulbs, so you could have a scene titled ‘Movies’, for example, which sets your living room lights to a specific shade so you’re ready to watch a film. It could be easier to set up, though, as you have to adjust each bulb individually using their separate control panels before you can select them in the Scenes menu. It would be easier if the Scenes menu linked through to the individual bulb controls as you selected them.
As long as you’re happy giving the LIFX app location permission, you can also use the Scenes menu to tie your bulbs into Geofence triggers that turn them on when you get home. Unfortunately, there’s no way to have the light turn off when leaving an area from the LIFX app, which is a shame, but it is possible to get round this issue by using some of the other IFTTT services integrated into the LIFX (more on this below). Alternatively, Scenes can be tied into the Schedules menu, which turns a bulb on or off at certain times of the day. You can set this to repeat as often as you like, too, which is handy if you want a light to fade on with your alarm to make waking up easier, for example.
All in all, the LIFX app does a fine job of providing controls for the LIFX bulb, especially as it’s available across multiple platforms. I controlled the Color 1000 predominantly from the Android and Windows 10 apps on my phone and PC. The Android widget didn’t always work, though, as the easy-access home screen widget sometimes took a long time to update its current status to match the actual bulb. Instead, I’d recommend just using the standard app instead of the widget. It also works with Google Now and Cortana if you have it installed on Android and Windows 10 respectively. This lets you use voice prompts to turn the lights on, such as “Tell LIFX to turn on my bedroom light”, and I found it worked extremely well provided I didn’t speak the command too quickly. Sadly, LIFX doesn’t support Apple HomeKit, but the company’s said it’s looking into adding it in the future.
|Price including VAT||£60|
|Warranty||One year RTB|