Philips Hue is the best-stocked smart lighting company, with bulbs and accessories for pretty much any fitting and environment.
The full Philips Hue review explains how good the system is, but here we’re looking at the specific options for the Philips Hue bulb types including starter kits, multi-packs and the available accessories.
Do you need the Philips Hue Bridge?
If you’d like app or voice control, then you’ll need the Hue Bridge. The current version can be bought for £49.99 standalone, but it works out cheaper if you buy one of the starter kits.
Standalone, the bridge is only worth buying if you have the old model and want to upgrade to add Apple HomeKit Support. Amazon Alexa and Google Home support are available with either the new or old bridges.
You don’t need a bridge, however. A new starter kit ships with a dimmer switch pre-paired with it. This allows wireless control of the lights, but you lose out on more advanced features such as configuring scenes or remotely triggering your lights.
Hue bulbs can also be paired directly with the Amazon Echo Plus. However, you get only basic control over brightness and colour, and miss out on scene control. Plus, the Echo Plus doesn’t support any of the Hue accessories, such as the motion sensor or dimmer switch. For the best experience, you should buy the bridge.
Philips Hue White bulbs
Available in B22 (Bayonet) and E27 (Edison Screw), the Philips Hue White bulbs are a straight swap for an existing dimmable light bulb. The bulbs offer a warm white (2700K) light, just like traditional bulbs.
These are the cheapest Hue bulbs available and are a good choice if you just want smart dimming and don’t care about temperature-changing or colour-changing models.
Philips Hue White Ambiance
With White Ambiance, you start to move into what Hue’s all about. These bulbs offer the dimming capability of the White bulbs, but also let you change the colour temperature, moving between a very warm white (2200K) and bright white (6500K).
The benefit of this type of bulb is that you can adjust the light to suit your mood or needs. A bright white, for example, aids concentration, while a warmer white creates a relaxing atmosphere.
With the White Ambiance you get a wider selection of bulbs, with B22, E27, E14 (Small Edison Screw, for lamps) and GU10 (spot) options. Each works as a direct replacement for an existing dumb bulb of the same type.
The White Ambiance bulbs are more expensive than the White options, but their flexibility makes them worth the extra. Look out for dual packs to save money.
Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance
If you want the full Hue experience, then the Hue White & Color Ambiance models are for you. As well as doing everything that the other two bulbs do, these models also let you pick from 16-million colours.
This can provide you with the capability to create some really nice lighting effects, with soft colour light making a room look entirely different. The downside is the price, with the White & Color Ambiance bulbs far more expensive than the other options – although dual and starter packs can help keep the price down. Philips sells these bulbs in B22, E27, E14 and GU10 formats.
Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus
The ultimate in flexibility, the Hue White & Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus is a 2-metre-long LED strip that you can stick on walls, inside cupboards, under furniture or, well, pretty much anywhere you want it.
If the standard 2-metre kit isn’t enough, 1-metre extensions can be bought for little more than a standalone bulb, giving you up to 10 metres of length in total.
Perfectly synchronised with the White & Color Ambiance bulbs, the Lightstrip Plus offers all of the same colour and temperature changing options. And, the Lightstrip is powerful enough to be used a functional light, not just a decorative one.
Philips Hue – Light switches
As good as app and voice control are, having a dedicated switch can often be useful. The dimmer switch is the best value, providing on/off and dim control over your bulbs.
The On button can be programmed to do different things, with up to five pushes configurable. Options include turning on different lights, or setting specific scenes. And, the middle of the switch detaches, giving you a wireless remote too.
The tap switch has three small and one main button, and is cleverly powered entirely by kinetic force with no batteries. Each button can be programmed to run a different scene, with different lights selected. And, the main unit can be undocked and used as a wireless remote. The downside is that it’s expensive, making the dimmer switch far better value.
Philips Hue – Motion sensor
The motion sensor can turn lights on when movement is detected. Cleverly, the sensor can be set to only operate at certain times (after dark, for example).
You can also programme it to do different things at different times. In the middle of the night, for example, you may want lights to come on gently; just after dusk, you may want your lights brighter. All lights can be set to turn off automatically after a set period.
The main problem with the motion sensor is that it overrides any lights you’ve turned on manually. As such, this sensor is best used in areas where you don’t need manual control, such as a hallway or toilet.
Philips Hue – Starter Kits
Starter kits offer a better-value way of buying Hue bulbs. The most recent kits ship with just a dimmer switch and one E27 bulb (White or White Ambiance options). These don’t provide voice or app control, but they’re good value if you want to add a switch and additional bulb.
If you want the bridge, the White Starter Kit is the best option – provided you have E27 lights. This kit offers two bulbs and a Bridge. The next kit up adds one extra bulb and a dimmer switch. Finally, if you want the White & Color Ambiance bulbs, there are starter kits that include three bulbs (B22, E27 or GU10), plus the bridge and a dimmer switch.