Review: Philips sets the mood with Hue White Ambiance

(Image Credit: Philips

When it comes to smart lighting, Philips' Hue range is a leader due to its vast amount of integrations with third-party apps and devices. Your options when it comes to what Hue lighting you want is now bigger, with the launch of their "White Ambiance" lights earlier this month. 

Philips' White Ambiance starter kit is similar to its standard kit – with a bridge hub and two lightbulbs to get you going. The only difference with this kit, which is welcome, is that Philips has included the company's dimmer switch which can be taken off its wall plate and used as Hue's physical remote. 

Hardware 

Light bulbs are often hidden behind some kind of fixture, and so design isn't of huge priority, but longevity is. Although it's difficult to get an indication of how long you can expect a bulb to last based on looks alone, Philips' bulbs feel robust and being LEDs you should expect them to last a long time along with minimal power consumption. 

(Image: White Ambiance Starter Kit) 

Hubs can't always be covered up due to location and signal issues, and therefore physical design is a concern for people who care about their home decor. Philips has done a great job with their hub design with a simplistic "puck"-like white box similar to Samsung's SmartThings Hub, albeit with a glowing blue "pair" button on top. Hue integrates with SmartThings, so users of both devices can have peace-of-mind the hubs will also look nice together. 

You can find our full unboxing of the starter kit here

Software 

We're a little disappointed in the design of Hue's app on both iOS and Android, for such a modern piece of kit it has a dated app design. However, once set-up we'd imagine most users won't bother to use the app itself due to its automated functions and the aforementioned physical remote. Rather than focus on its own app, Phillips appears to focus on allowing third-parties to control Hue (which is a preferred approach.) 

(Image: Philips Hue App) 

Setup of the Hue is simple, ensuring its accessibility to all consumers. The app guides you through, but it's mostly a matter of plugging in the Hub and pressing the glowing pair button on top when asked. 

From the main screen you can flick between various "scenes" of lighting. Philips includes most of what you would need – including dedicated scenes for reading, concentrating, and relaxing. If the built-in scenes don't cater to what you need, you can download some from other Hue users. 

Dive into the slide-out menu and you'll find access to sections for seeing and controlling all your connected light bulbs' colours and intensity, setting light-based alarms and timers, and enabling the all-important geofencing. 

Geofencing allows you to set a location around your home which, if you enter, the lights will automatically switch on and set to a predetermined scene. This also works in reverse whereby if you leave the set area you can ensure all your lights are switched off. 

Third-party integrations 

Hue is known for its third-party integrations, and we'd be here for the next month if we detailed them all. For some quick examples; we've seen lifestyle apps which gradually brighten the bedroom lights in the morning based on the sunrise to wake up to a more natural light, games like the classic "Simon Says" with the colour Hue bulbs, and even integration with films and consoles to alter the light based on what's happening on-screen for more immersive entertainment. 

Integration with IFTTT opens up a world of opportunities for custom "recipes" by those who like to create innovative automation solutions. A current IFTTT recipe I have set-up links the Netatmo Weather Station to Hue and flashes the lights when carbon dioxide in the room gets too high and the windows need to be opened for a while. 

Hue can link with devices like the Nest Cam and enable things like switching on and off lights in specific rooms when you enter and leave. Logitech is another Hue partner which integrates their 'Harmony' entertainment solution to sync activities with your lighting. 

Apple device users will also be pleased to hear that Hue is HomeKit-enabled, allowing control of the bulbs with voice commands to Siri like "Turn off my lights" or "Set the scene to..." 

Conclusion 

Hue continues to get better, and the addition of the new White Ambiance lighting solutions is just another example of this in action. The bulbs may not offer a range of colours, but excel at setting the right mood through a range of brightness and warmth levels based on what you need. 

If we're looking for anything to criticise Philips for it's their Hue app design, but as mentioned earlier most people won't use the app much once it's set-up how they want. The future looks bright for Hue, and we look forward to seeing how more third-parties harness the platform in clever new ways. If you have a smart home, Hue is becoming indispensable. 

You can find out more about Hue's various lighting solutions here

What are your impressions of Philips' Hue lighting solutions? Let us know in the comments.

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Oliver Bevan
17 Apr 2016, 3:28 p.m.

Where do I buy it?

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