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There are many LED light solutions for smart homes on the market, led by global giant Philips. But, having started out as a luxury item, slowly the prices are going down, and firms are building products that will appeal to existing smart home owners, rather than trying to corral them into their own ecosystems.
If you want color and smart control without spending a fortune on what are, after all, just light bulbs, the time has never been better.
Trying to bridge the gap between the big name players and the low-cost no-name bulbs, here comes BulbIt, a Japanese firm into the mix.
The range, which started selling in March, offers a ZigBee hub plus three bulbs in a starter kit for $149 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), or you can buy the hub ($49) and bulbs ($49) individually, if you want to start slowly, or build up your smart bulb collection.
The Hub plugs into your WiFi router via Ethernet and offers simple smartphone or tablet control over the bulbs using an app called LetSmart. It can support over up to 100 bulbs screwed in around the home if you really want to go that far and have that many sockets.
You scan in a QR code to recognize each bulb and set its location. When installed, bulbs can be controlled individually, scheduled to come on or off, or work in themes with colors and brightness set to suitable moods throughout
A microphone features allows them to strobe in time to music, which is fun for kid discos and parties.
The makers claim that the bulbs offer 16 million colors, but we aren’t going to count them all, what we can say is that white isn’t quite as white as some higher-end bulbs, yet colors are close to what you’d expect, but you’d have to be in the art trade to really notice much difference between what your screen shows and what comes out of the bulb.
Pros of the BulbIT kit
As you’re basically just plug-in in a set of bulbs, once charged, installation is pretty easy with the app helping take care of registering the bulbs.
The hub itself is small enough to tuck away behind the router, so you won’t really notice it is there. You can change one or more bulbs to set moods and choose a color from the usual palette dial on the phone app.
The app itself is a Chinese product that can also control other smart home gear, so you at least don’t need loads of apps running as you build out a smart home. It looks pretty good with well-designed buttons and functions well. As LED lights, they should last for a good few years, and we had no problems with ours.
Cons of the BulbIT kit
The first issue with these bulbs is that they need to be charged in a special charger, you can’t just leave them plugged into the light socket for power. Something carefully avoided in the advertising!
Another concern is that BulbIT only has a Japanese website and Facebook presence, with minimal response to Amazon questions seemingly their only point of customer service. That suggests that their commitment to the western market isn’t all that hot.
Also, an issue is that the LetSmart app hasn’t been updated for almost a year. It comes from HomeBond, a Chinese smart home company, whose lighting products look very similar to BulbIT’s and are probably made in the
So, we wonder if they might be planning to move into the western market soon. Also, it is a generic app for smart home control. Yes, it does help change the color of the lights, but if there are any dedicated features in the BulbIT lights, the app doesn’t seem to notice them.
It is also hard to discern the hub supports all other Zigbee devices or will just work with its own bulbs.
BulbIT has at least tried to create a brand here, but without much western presence it is hard to recommend their product wholeheartedly. Where’s the website and support? Why is the app lagging behind are all worrying questions we’d have if we were planning to buy these.
Which is a shame as the product feels solid enough in use, and the lights are good quality and do what they claim.
Yet, if you invest in Philips Hue bulbs, whose similar starter kit is only a little more expensive now, then you get a world of support, confidence in a big brand name and millions of users who can recommend them, and help out on
If the company, or if all of that is of no concern to you, then you can pick these up and enjoy mood lighting to suit your home, easily and cheaply, put it in a kid’s room and they get an instant disco without the need for one of those whirring globes or disco balls.
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!