Review: Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus | iLounge

Review

Review: Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus

B+
Recommended

Company: Philips

Model: Hue Lightstrip Plus

Price: $90

Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touch models running iOS 8.0 or later; HomeKit support requires iOS 9.0 or later.

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Jesse Hollington

Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus ($90) is another relatively new entry into the company's Hue lighting ecosystem, providing a wirelessly controlled light strip that ties into the company's standard Hue Bridge, co-existing with the company's other lighting devices, and now offering HomeKit integration for those who have upgraded to the latest Hue HomeKit Bridge. LightStrip Plus provides a 2m (6') strip of 36 LED light clusters that can be set to any of 16 million colors in the same way as any of Hue's other multicolored lights. LightStrip Plus can be expanded to a length of up to 10m by purchasing additional 1m expansion strips that sell for $30 each.

In addition to the actual light strip, Hue LightStrip Plus includes the Hue ZigBee LL controller with a 6’ power cord, that connects to an included AC power adapter using a standard DC barrel connector. A six-pin connector on one end of the light strip plugs into the controller; extension light strips can be added onto the other end of the light strip simply by plugging them into the six-pin connector found on that end. The entire strip and the controller include 3M adhesive tape on the back, allowing the whole thing to be very easily mounted on just about any typical surface, such as under a counter, window ledge, fireplace mantle, or anywhere else that you might want to use this type of lighting.

The light strip can also be cut shorter at 10cm intervals should the full 2m length be too long for your installation, but you’ll be left discarding any piece you cut off, and you’ll lose the ability to expand the light strip again should you wish to do so in the future. While the single-piece design is definitely simpler to work with if you need the full 2m length — or more — we found the modular approach that Sylvania took with Lightify Flex RGBW to be a bit more practical if you’re looking for shorter solutions, although it’s worth noting that Hue’s LightStrip Plus can be extended to a greater total length — 10 meters as opposed to Lightify’s 6 meter limit, and Sylvania doesn’t sell individual extension strips for Lightify.

As with most Hue devices, LightStrip Plus requires a Hue Bridge to operate, but unlike Belkin and Sylvania’s Lightify Flex RGBW partnership, there’s no starter kit bundle available, so unless you’re already a Hue user, you’ll need to purchase a Hue Bridge separately for an additional $40 – $60. With a Hue Bridge in place, however, setting up LightStrip Plus works in the same manner as any other Hue connected light — you open the Hue app, go through the process of adding a new light by scanning automatically, and it should just appear and be ready to go.

HomeKit and Siri support here also works in the same manner as it does with Philip’s other Hue products, since they’re all part of the same ecosystem. LightStrip Plus is given a name in the Hue app, which then syncs to the Apple HomeKit system, and can be used via other HomeKit apps or Siri voice commands to turn LightStrip on or off, adjust its brightness, or change its color. Within both HomeKit and the Hue app, LightStrip Plus simply behaves as any other multicolored LED light, allowing you to add it to scenes, rooms, zones, and service groups, and set alarms, timers, and geofencing rules for it in the Hue app. While all of the LEDs on LightStrip Plus have to be set to the same color, you have the same wide variation of color ranges as you do for Hue’s Ambiance bulbs, and the strong third-party app ecosystem lets you do fun and cool things like synchronize your lights to music or videos, or have them light up based on external events ranging from email notifications to winning scores by your favorite sports team.

LightStrip Plus also has an impressive maximum brightness range of 600 to 1600 lumens, depending on your color setting — considerably higher than most light strips we’ve seen, such as the Belkin/Sylvania Lightify Flex RGBW, which maxes out at a more standard 850 lumens at its brightest white setting. Also, staying true to what Hue has become known for, we also found the color rendering with LightStrip Plus to be richer and more consistent across the entire length of the strip; Philips makes its standard claim of support for up to 16 million colors, and appears to use three-LED clusters for each “light” to produce the necessary color mixtures to accomplish this.

Philips’ Hue LightStrip Plus carries a $25 price premium over the Belkin and Sylvania’s Lightify Flex RGBW, however, we think the added benefits — HomeKit support, the more expansive Hue ecosystem, almost double the brightness, and the availability of extension strips — justifies the higher price tag, even for those new to either platform. With a Hue Bridge, the price may come even closer — while the Hue HomeKit Bridge carries a $60 MSRP, it looks like just about every retailer, including the Apple Store, is currently selling it for $40, suggesting that a permanent price drop may be coming. In this case, a “starter kit” is only $10 more than the Belkin WeMo equivalent, and the latter still lacks support for HomeKit as of this writing, and is very likely to require the purchase of new hardware when HomeKit integration eventually does arrive.

Going forward, ZigBee 3.0, which promises to integrate ZigBee LL (Hue) and ZigBee HA (WeMo/Lightify) may actually be the longer-term solution to making these products play more nicely together, but for now you’re still limited to choosing one or the other, and our money is on Philips’ Hue, simply for its integration with HomeKit if nothing else.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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