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 sun goes down. Note, however, that not every white smart LED light is color-temperature-tunable. Check out the specs before you buy.
White smart bulbs downplay the party features that are a staple of color-tunable bulbs. On the other hand, white smart bulbs are less expensive than color bulbs, making it more affordable to roll them out in multiple rooms.
We’ve tested just about every color and white smart LED bulb on the market. You’ll find links to all our reviews at the bottom of the page, and we’ll update this story as new models are introduced.
Three control technologies continue to vie for leadership in the smart downlight market (Z-Wave is a major contender in smart lighting, but you won’t encounter it in bulbs—just in switches, plug-in modules, control panels, and smart-home hubs).
Zigbee: Bulbs that use the popular smart-home networking protocol require a bridge to communicate with your home Wi-Fi network. This is the technology Philips has adopted for its Hue lineup, but it’s not the only one.
Wi-Fi: This class of bulb talks directly to your Wi-Fi router, no hub or bridge required. LIFX and TP-Link both manufacture excellent Wi-Fi smart bulbs, but neither company comes close to Signify’s Philips Hue lineup in terms of the depth and breadth of the Hue ecosystem.
Bluetooth: These bulbs skip your home network altogether and pair directly with your smartphone or tablet. As such, they can’t be controlled from outside your home. GE and a number of other manufacturers make Bluetooth bulbs, some of better quality than others. Signify has recently added Bluetooth radios to its Philips Hue line of smart GU10 spotlight, which eliminates the need to deploy the Philips Hue Bridge. Taking the bridge out of the equation reduces the overall cost of deployment, but adds some limitations. You can read more in our review of the new Philips Hue bulbs.
That said, smart bulbs, no matter what the technology, still won’t be right for everyone. Notably, most of these bulbs cannot be dimmed via a hardwired wall switch (it messes with the power going to the radio, rendering them useless). Some will fail even if a dimmer is present on the circuit and dialed up to full power. The quality of light from an LED bulb is likely to be much, much better.
The good news is that bulb prices are going down, so it’s easier to get started with 2.4G/IR LED bulb and less punishing should you find that a product doesn’t work for you. That said, we want to get you started on the right foot. So without further ado, here are deep dives into the most worthwhile color and white LED smart bulbs on the market.