Smart Lighting

The Best Philips Hue Alternatives – Too Expensive?

(Last Updated On: March 19, 2017)

Philips Hue is probably the most well-known smart bulb.  It gives you a color-changing bulb that helps you recreate different lighting situations inside the home.  You can control or manage the lights using a mobile app or via several integrations that allow the smart bulb to work with other smart devices.

Philips Hue is now on its third generation and it uses a bridge that can accommodate up to 50 lights and 12 Hue accessories.  Philips Hue works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, IFTTT, Logitech Harmony, Nest and Samsung SmartThings.

The third generation Philips Hue is still quite expensive (check this listing for the latest).  If you find that price too steep, or if you want to check out other smart bulb brands before you make your choice, then you should read on and check out the best alternatives to the Philips Hue.

#1 GE Link Connected LED

GE Link is a smart bulb that is designed to work with the Wink smart home platform.  It will easily work with Dropcam, Quirky, Honewell, Lutron, and other Wink-approved devices.  The good news is that the Wink Hub is very affordable, making it a good choice for those who are just getting started with their smart homes.  GE Link is very affordable at only less than $40 on Amazon.

One of the things that make GE Link Connected LED stand out is its eye-catching design.  It uses a transparent dome that lets you see what’s inside. Unlike the Philips Hue, its manufacturers did not try to make it look like an ordinary light bulb.  You would know in an instant that it’s a GE Link.  The GE Link LED is also dimmable by up to 10 percent.

When it comes to smarts, you can link your GE bulb to any one of these hubs: Link Hub, Wink Hub, and the Wink Relay.  That means you can enjoy the bulb’s smart features for as low as $30!  Working with the Wink app, you can remotely control your smart bulb, turning it on or off even when you are far away.  The app also allows you to group bulbs according to where they are installed, making it easier for you to control them simultaneously.  You can also set up schedules using the Wink app, as well as enjoy some degree of automation using the Robots feature.  These Robots are simple recipes that would allow your GE Link LED to work with other connected devices.

What’s to Like About the GE Link LED

GE Link LED is a great bulb with superior color rendering, as well as a very low price.  Even if you do not have a smart home, you can still consider replacing your incandescent bulb with the GE Link LED.  That is how affordable it is.  In fact, it is one of the more affordable smart bulbs available and it certainly looks chic and very modern.

What could be better

Pairing your smart bulb with your Wink Hub can test your patience.  So, it would have been better if GE had made the pairing a whole lot simpler than it actually is.  Also, the Wink App can sometimes be buggy.  While this might be a minus for the smart home platform, it still affects the GE Link because its smart features and functionality are dependent on the Wink App.

#2 LIFX Plus

If you want a bright, color-changeable, and dimmable bulb that you can control with your mobile phone, then check out the LIFX Plus.  It gives you 1,100 lumens of brightness while only using up 11 watts of power.  That’s the same level of brightness that you get from a 75-watt incandescent bulb, which means that the LIFX Plus requires roughly 1/7th of the usual wattage.

It has a flat top, making it look more distinct than traditional light bulbs and even other smart bulbs.  You can connect your LIFX Plus smart bulb to your Wi-Fi network and then download the LIFX mobile app in order to remotely control it.  The mobile app is where you can choose how bright your bulb is and in what color.

It also includes preset lighting effects as well as color themes.  It also has a music visualizer and strobe feature, so that you could have your own dance party at home. 

LIFX Plus also allows you to schedule times for turning your lights on and off.  LIFX Plus also works with several smart home platforms, including SmartThings.  You can also use IFTTT recipes to automate your lighting or to make it work with other connected devices.  LIFX Plus works with Amazon Echo, too, making it possible to use voice commands to operate your smart bulb.

Things to like about the LIFX Plus

Compared to the Philips Hue, the LIFX Plus is much more accurate with how it renders the colors.  You can be sure that it can match any of the 16 million colors that you choose on the mobile app.  The LIFX Plus also offers a unique feature: infrared diode.  In short, it emits infrared light that you cannot see.  This light, however, is seen by infrared night vision security cameras.  So, if you have such security cameras monitoring your home, the LIFX Plus is a great way to ensure that they capture images even in the dark.

You can buy the LIFX Plus for a very reasonable price here, relative to the Philips Hue.

What could be better?

Some customers have complained that the LIFX Plus looks dimmer than the advertised 1,100 lumens.

Also, the infrared light draws power and you would need to turn the LIFX Plus off at the switch to make sure that you save on your energy costs, especially if your house is not equipped with night vision security cameras.  This puts a bummer on the fact that you spend money for light that you cannot see when you use the app or cannot use any of the integrations to turn it off.

#3 Osram Lightify Classic A RGBW

If you would like to have an affordable smart bulb that has its own mobile app and can change colors, then look no further than Osram’s Lightify Classic A.  Lightify might be much more expensive than the GE Link, but you get more than just white light.

 

The bulb includes Zigbee radios and it changes color.  It works with WeMo, and more automation is underway.  A Lightify bulb gives out a very bright 810 lumens.  In actual use, however, that can go as high as 850 lumens.  Yet, it uses only 10 watts of energy.  Think about all the savings you get from replacing your current 60-watt incandescent bulb with the Osram Lightify as you spend only a sixth of what you used to spend for just about the same brightness.

Moreover, you can use a mobile app to dim the bulbs.  You can dim the bulbs up to 5.4 percent, better than GE Link’s 10 percent although it does not compare to Philips Hue, which you can dim to less than 1 percent.

The Osram Lightify 60-volt replacement bulb needs the Osram Lightify starter kit, which you can buy for around $50 here.  The starter kit includes the Gateway and one smart bulb (tunable white).

Adding more bulbs would mean adding $50 each.  Setting up the Osram Lightify takes only a few minutes.  Screw it into your existing light bulb and then download the mobile app.

You will need to scan the QR code you find on the Gateway and the mobile app will automatically search for your bulb.  Join the network, input the password that Osram gives you, specify your home network, and you’re ready for primetime.  Pairing the app with the bulbs you have is very easy and painless.

With the mobile app, you can manage all your Osram Lightify bulbs even remotely.  You can use it to set the bulbs’ colors and color temperature.  Apart from that, you can also schedule your lights to turn on or off at specific times of the day.  The mobile app also includes Scenes, which allows you to specify a turn on or off schedule, set color, brightness, and color temperature.

Features to like about the Osram Lightify

The Osram Lightify gives you color-changeable and dimmable bulb that works pretty much like Philips Hue at a fraction of the price.  It also renders colors very accurately and is very easy to set up and use.

What could be better

There are reports that using the Osram Lightify with a physical dimmer would cause it to flicker.  This is because the dimming mechanism in the bulb would clash with the mechanism in your dimmer.  As such, you are pretty much forced to dim your bulb using the mobile app.

Osram Lightify also does not natively work with IFTTT recipes, but if you are using the WeMo Link, you can use the WeMo’s IFTTT channel to control your lights.

It would have been better if you can skip using WeMo because the WeMo app does not allow you to tune the colors of the bulb.  In fact, aside from the Zigbee compatibility, the Osram Lightify does not offer much integration.

Final Take: Top Alternatives to Philips Hue

The Philips Hue sets the standards for smart bulbs.  If you are looking for a bulb that you can control with your smart phone and that works with other devices in your smart home, then you will definitely love Philips Hue.  But it does come with a $200 price tag and that can be pretty steep for most people.

The good news is that there are more affordable alternatives.  GE Link for one is a great choice for the budget-conscious.  However it does not have its own mobile app for controlling your lights remotely and you have to rely on integrating it with a smart home platform to operate it.  It also offers only white lighting.

If you want your smart bulb to change colors, then you can choose between the Osram Lightify or LIFX Plus.  Osram Lightify lets you choose from 16 million colors and is a little brighter than Hue – even while using up the same amount of electricity.  Plus, it works with Alexa, Logitech Harmony, SmartThings, and Zigbee.  LIFX Plus is the brightest smart bulb with 1,100 lumens, plus it has more integrations.  In fact the only integration that it does not have that Hue offers is with Apple HomeKit.  The company, however, promises to add it soon.

Needless to say, the LIFX Plus is the smart bulb that is closest to Philips Hue but it is available at less than half the Hue’s price.  It also makes sense if you have night vision security cameras as its IR diodes make the room seem brighter even in low light conditions.  However, both the Osram Lightify and the GE Link Connected LED are significantly cheaper than LIFX Plus, yet with the trade-offs mentioned above.

To make it easier for you to choose, here is a side-by-side comparison among Philips Hue, GE Link Connected LED, LIFX Plus and Osram Lightify Classic A RGBW:

Features Comparison Table -Use This to Decide!

 Philips HueGE Link Connected LIFX PlusOsram Lightify
PriceCheck here for latestCheck here for latestCheck here for latestCheck here for latest
Color16 million colorsWhite16 million + IR16 million
AlexaYesYesYesYes
HomeKitYesNoNoNo
Google HomeYesNoYesNo
IFTTTYesNoYesNo
Logitech HarmonyYesNoYesYes
SmartThingsYesYesYesYes
Z-WaveYesNoNoNo
ZigbeeYesYesNoYes
Lumens8008001,100810
Watts10121110
Color temperature2,220 to 6,500 k2830 K2,500k to 9,000 K2,000 K – 6,500 K
Lifespan25,000 hours25,000 hours25,000 hours20,000 hrs.
DimmableYesYesYesYes
Remote controlYesNoYesYes
Hub required?YesYesNoYes

 

About the author

Patrick Sinclair

Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn't have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!

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