Best white LED smart bulbs

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With their rainbow of hues and myriad party tricks, color-tunable LEDs get all the press in the world of smart lighting. It’s fun stuff, but the reality is that most of us will rarely find much of a need to turn all the lights in the house blue or red—unless it’s time to celebrate our team winning the World Series. Even then, you’ll probably want to turn them all back to white after the celebration. And with our review of the Stack BR30 Downlight Starter Kit review, we discovered there are varying degrees of smart when it comes to smart lighting.

White light is also important in its own right, as today there is plenty of science to show how various shades of white—with variations in color temperature—impact our psychological state. Cool light that’s closer to blue has an energizing effect, and is best in the morning. Warm light is relaxing, and is best after the lights go down. If, like a growing number of us, you work where you live, chances are you don’t spend any effort switching bulbs out twice a day in order to optimize your lighting environment.

Now you don’t have to. Enter smart “white” light bulbs. Like their color brethren, white bulbs are designed to integrate with the smart home, letting you control your lights via a smart phone, set timers when you’re away from home, and (in many cases) tweak the color temperature of the bulb on the fly. These bulbs typically downplay the party features that are a staple of color-tunable bulb control apps, and many bulbs are a bit less bright than their color brethren. On the other hand, white smart bulbs are invariably less expensive than color bulbs, making it more affordable to roll them out in multiple rooms.

Best white LED smart bulb

Our choice won’t surprise anyone who’s been following this market. Philips dominates the smart bulb market, and was also our top pick for best color LED smart bulb. The latest Hue bulbs deliver high-quality light, last for tens of thousands of hours, and are backed by a strong warranty.

And while it would be easy for Philips to sit back and expect the industry to conform to it as the de facto standard, it has instead worked hard to ensure its products are compatible with other technologies, including Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Google Home. Plus, Philips Hue bulbs are available in more form factors than any other manufacturer, including the ubiquitous A19 (the most common), BR (bulged reflector), PAR (parabolic reflector), GU (glass reflector with a U-shaped, dual-pin base), and a host of specialty shapes and sizes.

Runner-up white LED smart bulb

LIFX once again earns our runner-up prize. It’s a very good product, and unlike Philips’ offering, it doesn’t require a hub to operate because the LIFX White 800 connects directly to your Wi-Fi network. LIFX has also worked hard to be compatible with other smart-home products, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home digital assistants, but its own app is a bit clunky and like its brighter color stablemate, it’s available only in A19 and BR30 form factors.

Smart light bulb protocols and features

Three control technologies continue to vie for leadership in the smart bulb market (Z-Wave is a major contender in smart lighting, but you won’t encounter it in bulbs—just in switches, plug-in modules, and control panels).

ZigBee: Bulbs that use the popular smart-home networking protocol require a bridge to communicate with your home Wi-Fi network. Philips uses ZigBee for its Hue lineup, but it’s not the only adopter.

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