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The Winner

Philips Hue

Compared to every other lighting system, Philips Hue is a dream. From initial setup, to adding new bulbs, to telling your lights what to do day in and out, using Hue is a smooth and simple process. And when the occasional problem does pop up, it’s usually pretty easy to solve. That’s rare among smart lighting systems.

Here’s something you should know about smart lights before diving into all of this: for the most part, you can’t just buy lights and start screwing them in. First, you have to choose which lighting system you want, and you have to buy a hub for it — think of it like buying a router before you can connect your laptop to Wi-Fi. You have to install the hub, set it up with your phone, and then sync every individual light with the hub before using it.

Hue does the best job of any system we tested at making all of that painless. Same goes for when it comes to controlling lights. Multiple people within a home can use the Hue app (or Siri, if you have an iOS device, or Alexa, if you have an Echo) to quickly turn lights on or off, change their color, or dim them. And while one big drawback to Hue is that you won’t be able to use your light switches anymore (turning them off will knock your lights offline), Philips sells remotes that you can mount on the wall right beside a switch and do the job about as well.

Philips offers three different starter kits: one with plain white lights, one with full color lights, and one with white lights that can switch between cooler and warmer tones. That’s the one I’d recommend, as it’s much cheaper than the full color lights, includes basic color-changing features that you’ll actually use and appreciate (you don’t really need a green kitchen lamp, do you?), and is also bundled with a remote. Depending on what you get, you’ll have two or three lights to start; the system can support 50 or so, so you can fill an entire house with them if you want to.

No smart light system is perfect right now, and that includes Hue. I encountered a few bugs in its new Android app, and its simplicity often means using workarounds (like IFTTT or additional smart systems and sensors) to get your lights to do everything you want. But the potential is there for those who want it. And for those who just want smart lights that’ll work, no other system can come close to Hue.

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