Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem continues to expand in unusual directions as more established accessory makers come on board with their own unique solutions, two to three years after the platform’s initial debut. The latest of these Sylvania, which announced a lineup of hub-less HomeKit-compatible lighting solutions late last year — in this case standard white and multicoloured LED bulbs and an LED light strip that are basically HomeKit-enabled versions of smart lights that the company has been making for the past few years.
Today we’re rounding up all three of Sylvania’s new Smart+ HomeKit offerings. The company’s basic entry-level A19 Soft White LED Light Bulb ($26) provides simple dimmable soft white illumination, while the A19 Full Color LED Light Bulb ($45) can be adjusted to any colour, much like Philip’s well-known Hue bulbs. Lastly, the Full Color LED Flex Strip ($60) is a six-foot flexible light strip that can also be adjusted to any colour or colour temperature. All three accessories use direct Bluetooth connectivity rather than Wi-Fi, but have the advantage of not requiring a separate hub.
Sylvania’s bulbs are a standard A19 size and E26/E27 socket, meaning that they should be usable in any light fixture where a normal lightbulb fits. The basic Soft White LED Light Bulb puts out 800 lumens, or about the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb. The soft white light is dimmable, but is fixed at a colour temperature of 2700 Kelvin. As the name implies, the Full Color LED Light Bulb provides 16 million possible colours as well as white light in adjustable colour temperatures ranging from 2700 Kelvin to 6500 Kelvin, also at up to 800 lumens. There’s otherwise not much to say about the bulbs themselves — screw the into an outlet and they’re ready to go.
The Full Color LED Flex Strip provides the same colour capabilities and white colour temperatures as the Full Color LED Light Bulb, but only puts out 400 lumens. The light strip comes in three two-foot pieces that each contain 12 multicoloured LEDs and can be connected together to create a single six-foot 36-LED run. It’s also possible to cut the pieces down to six-inch sections should you be running the light strip in a smaller space, so you can pretty much get the length you want, although of course once a strip is cut you’ll lose the ability to extend that strip further later on, and there’s not really anything you can do with the leftover piece, either. Sylvania sells additional expansion kits if you want to to go longer — runs of up to 20 feet are supported. A power adapter and controller comes with the strip, which is the piece that handles the Bluetooth and HomeKit communications; the strip itself is basically identical to some of Sylvania’s older smart light strips, such as the OSRAM Lightify Flex RGBW, and in fact the pieces are even fully compatible, so if you’ve already purchased an older strip like the OSRAM, you can use those pieces to extend the new HomeKit-compatible LED Flex Strip as well.
Sylvania’s Smart+ lighting products work with HomeKit pretty much exactly as we expected them to. As Bluetooth products, they all paired quickly and easily. The flex strip includes a scannable HomeKit code on the controller, but for the bulbs you’ll need to either type in the printed code from the side of the bulb, or pull out the quick start guide to find the scannable version. One thing we did find interesting is that Sylvania focuses entirely on Apple’s own Home app in its set up instructions, rather than promoting its own app. While Sylvania does offer a standalone app, the company only mentions it as being necessary for firmware updates. Apple’s Home app works perfectly fine, of course, but this is just one of the few instances we’ve seen where a manufacturer isn’t pointing users to their own app. Once paired, everything works great with Apple’s Home app, Siri commands, and other third-party HomeKit apps, with the only caveat being that you will experience the typical Bluetooth latency here. Wi-Fi HomeKit devices respond instantaneously (as do most hub-based devices like Philips Hue and Lutron Caséta), while you may sometimes experience a delay of about half a second when controlling Bluetooth HomeKit accessories. This problem isn’t unique to Sylvania’s lights, but occurs with other devices like the Elgato Eve Switch as well. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s noticeable — give a command to Siri like “turn off the lights” and there will just enough of a delay from your Bluetooth devices to make you very briefly question whether they’re working or not. We find it can be a bit disconcerting, and it’s especially obvious if you’re mixing and matching with Wi-Fi based HomeKit lighting accessories, as on and off commands won’t quite be in sync. It’s also worth noting that the latency usually only occurs when you haven’t accessed the light within the past couple of minutes, so they’re much more responsive when you’re doing things like playing with changing colours or brightness settings, or even quickly toggling them off and back on again.
Bluetooth latency issues aside, however, Sylvania’s Smart+ lights worked very well. We encountered no range issues at all in our home and they were always reachable when we wanted to adjust them. While we’re still not entirely sure these would be our first choice for deployment at scale, it’s pretty difficult to argue with the price or the simplicity of Sylvania’s Smart+ solution here — there are no “starter kits” to purchase up front, so you can get going with a single $26 or $45 bulb and slowly expand from there, and with no hubs to contend with, there’s one less piece of equipment to plug into your router and worry about troubleshooting when your lights aren’t quite working as expected (a problem we’ve frequently encountered with Philips’ Hue system). If you’re looking to get started with HomeKit lighting, this is a very good and cost-effective solution that fits very naturally into the HomeKit ecosystem with minimal effort.
Company and Price
Model: A19 Soft White LED Light Bulb, A19 Soft White LED Light Bulb Full Color LED Light Bulb, Full Color LED Flex Strip
Price: $26 / $45 / $60