Philips Hue Lux
Philips created quite a splash, and a colorful one at that, when it introduced the Hue. It was the first smart color LED bulb that allowed tweaking the color of the bulb to virtually any color in the rainbow. With the large number of IFTTT community-published scripts, you can have a lot of fun triggering your lights and changing colors for specific events. Using a trigger from ESPN sports, you could, for example, turn on your Hue lights and change the color to orange when the Denver Broncos scored a touchdown.
As much fun as the Hue lights are, the starter kit at aroud $200 is probably too much for some who are just starting to dabble with Home Automation. Philips solved that problem by introducing the $100 Hue Lux Starter kit that includes a wired hub and two Hue Lux light bulbs. The Hue Lux bulb has the same somewhat flattened bulb top as the original Hue.
Philips Hue Lux Starter Kit
The Hue Lux bulb is a standard Smart LED bulb with a specified color temperature of 2700K and light output of 750 Lumens. This bulb is somewhat warmer than the TCP, Belkin WeMo and GE Link bulbs. This ZigBee-based product uses the same hub and software as the original Hue color bulbs, so if you like the features and want to try out color, you can easily upgrade your system by purchasing some Hue bulbs at around $60 a pop.
The bridge pictured at left above, is a white round device which plugs into your wired Ethernet network. It has three blue LEDs and a large blue illuminated center button used for synchronization. As with most of the other products, you create an account and link your bridge so that you can have remote access.
While the software found the bridge and was able to discover the two Hue Lux LED bulbs, for some reason, it was unable to link the bridge to my Hue account. I called tech support and though the tech was helpful and I didn't have to wait long for the call to be answered, he wasn't able to solve the problem. He said my problem was being escalated, but as of this writing about a week later, I haven't heard back. So while I can use the lights locally, any remote access and features such as geo-fencing couldn't be tested.
The user interface for the Philips Hue Lux is very simple. The native iPad app screen below shows the landing page (l) and the landing page with the main menu opened (r) by clicking on the drawer icon.
Philips uses the term "scene" somewhat differently than other vendors. Creating a Hue scene lets you select which Hue bulbs to include and select a brightness for each selected bulb. Scenes are then used when you create an Alarm (schedule). The software ships with five pre-configured scenes, and, of course you can add more. One example of a scene might be to turn on two lights at 50% brightness.
During the creation of a scene, the lights illuminate to full brightness. A slider lets you dim each light to the brightness you prefer. Unfortunately, there's no percentage indicator to show percentages - you just pick the level of light that looks right.
You can select an image to use for the scene icon from a small library of photos supplied by Philips, or you can choose one of your own photos. Tapping one of the scene icons on the landing page causes that scene to execute immediately.
Philips Hue Lux landing page (l) and main menu (r)
A Hue alarm is a single event, turning a scene on or off. So you need two alarms for scheduling one on/off sequence. To set an alarm, you just select a time, and action (scene on or lights off), pick a scene (eg, Snooze), a fade time, and a repeat schedule.
For a fade time, you can select none, or 1 to 60 minutes in 1 minute increments. There's a Random toggle switch in the Alarm creation menu that will trigger the alarm a random amount of time before or after the set time. This would be good for setting up an away from home schedule. (See screenshot included in the gallery below).
The Hue Lux has a pleasing warm light. Though it only puts out 750 Lumens, it only consumes 9 W. At 83.3 Lumens/W, the Philips Hue Lux is the second most energy efficient bulb in our roundup. It also dims to a very low level. I used one of the dimmers to dim one Hue Lux bulb all the way down, and left it on as a night light in my office.
While the three products above required you to remove your finger from the slider for the new level to take effect, the dimmer on the Hue Lux is more like a real dimmer. You can adjust the brightness up and down without lifting your finger from the screen, and the brightness of the bulb will track your finger movement after a brief lag.
The Philips Hue Lux doesn't have pre-configured "Away" scheduling. But you can create an away schedule using the random feature when you schedule an alarm. Unfortunately, there aren't Sunrise/Sunset triggers available to use for alarms. Similarly, there's not a pre-configured sleep timer, but you can easily create one by creating a Timer event that sets a countdown timer. It defaults to the current time, and you can schedule the fade out period for up to 60 minutes.
I like the simplicity and look of the user interface. If only I could get the bridge to link to my account, I'd consider springing for a couple of Hue color bulbs to supplement the two Hue Lux bulbs that came in the starter kit.
Pro: Starter kit hub also works with Hue color bulbs
Con: Evaluation hub didn't link to my Hue account