The connected light bulb space continues to grow. In our initial look at the offerings a few months back, we compared the available connected bulbs from GE, Philips, and TCP. Of those, TCP Connected looked like the best bet comparing cost and quality. In this latest rundown, we look at three new offerings, and we believe there’s a clear, new standout in the crowd.
*Prices are shown as listed at Best Buy and Home Depot.
**Retail outlets listed for US only.
§ Required Staples’ second-generation D-Link Connect hub
‡ Works by adding as a generic ZigBee device
All of these bulbs cast a wide angle of light that’s nicely diffused since they all rely on a translucent globe. Cree’s bulb doesn’t so much have a globe, though, as a unibody casing that most closely mimics the form factor of a tradition lamp bulb. In fact, were it not for the green base and the word “Connected” etched into the bulb, this new offering would be nearly impossible to differentiate from Cree’s outstanding 4FLOW bulbs. All of these bulbs are software dimmable, though you should avoid dimming them through traditional wired dimmers.
Of all the bulbs we’ve reviewed, Belkin’s WeMo bulb is the only one that doesn’t have that traditional, warm color (typically denoted by “2700K” on the packaging). The WeMo bulb claims to be “warm” but at 3000K, the light output is noticeably cooler than the others. Note also that none of these bulbs is tunable—a feature we’ll be seeing in some newer bulbs that will allow you to specify the color temperature, choosing between warm or cool white tones based on needs or preferences.
In this latest round of bulbs, there’s a common theme: ZigBee is the leading technology for connected bulbs. Despite (or perhaps because of) that, compatibility is still a crapshoot. The WeMo bulb claims to be ZigBee HA 1.2 compliant, but it doesn’t work natively with ZigBee certified hubs the way LG’s similarly certified bulb does. Instead, controlling the bulb usually requires the Wi-Fi based WeMo Link, which is an IP bridge you get when you buy Belkin’s WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set (for $99.99). Meanwhile, Cree’s Connected bulb works with systems that don’t even officially support it yet, like Staples Connect.
Confused yet? You should be. It’s likely going to get more confusing until technologies converge and compatibility issues are addressed. Our advice: keep it simple and get the Cree Connected LED at Home Depot. It seems to offer the best support across systems supporting ZigBee lighting, and Cree’s information about this bulb states it will also be HomeKit compatible.
Updated 2/18/2015: Corrected WeMo product name and noted Almond router support for WeMo bulb.
Updated 2/25/2015: Added newly announced bulb support by SmartThings.
Check out our earlier comparison of the GE Link, Philips Lux, and TCP Connected bulbs.