LIFX Beam Review

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Pros

  • Engaging and fun lighting
  • Excellent app control
  • Easy to configure

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Limited layout options

Key Features

  • Review Price: £199.99
  • Colour and temperature changing
  • Kit contains six Beams and one corner
  • Android and iOS apps
  • IFTTT, Works with Nest, Apple Home, Amazon Echo and Google Home support

What is the LIFX Beam?

Smart bulbs tend to fit into two main categories. There are bulbs for convenience, giving you easy remote control, and there are more fun bulbs that can also change colour. With the LIFX Beam, you could argue that there’s now a third category: artistic lighting.

By clipping the colour-changing plastic LED strips into the pattern you want and attaching them to your wall, you can build a fancy light art installation.

Quality lighting and a top app, plus support for Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit make the LIFX Beam a new and different way of lighting your home.

LIFX Beam – Design

Inside the box, you get six hard plastic strips (Beams). Each measures 300 x 35 x 20mm and comes with power connectors on either end, plus a single corner unit. The power connectors are all magnetic, so once aligned the correct way, the strips attach in a line. With the corner unit, you can create a T-shape or L-shape with your lights. Each kit supports up to eight Beams and two corners, although individual corners and lighting units weren’t available at the time of writing.

On the back of each strip is some sticky tape so that you can attach the LIFX Beam kit to a wall. Before you start, I highly recommend planning your layout on the floor first, testing out a few configurations before you commit yourself. That way, it’s easier to make changes. When you’re ready to go, make sure you’ve got a spirit level to hand so you can keep your runs straight.

A second thing to look out for is where the power supply plugs in. This uses a magnetic connector that can only attach to one end of a Beam. Plan your layout so that the power supply connects to the least visible and lowest section of your lights.

The power connector doesn’t grip with a huge amount of strength, so be careful that the cable won’t get snagged and pulled; for extra security, you can attach the inline controller to the wall via its sticky pad. You get a good amount of cable, too: 50cm from the plug to the controller, and 2m from the controller to the Beam.

At this stage, the LIFX Beam doesn’t look that exciting, but its plain white plastic body is quite unobtrusive, and things start to change when you power the Beams up and can control their 16 million colours and pick colour temperatures between 2500K (warm) and 9000K (cold) light.

LIFX Beam – Features, app and control

As with the other products in the LIFX range, the Beam uses 802.11n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz) to connect to your home network. Effectively, all you need is a decent wireless signal where you want to put the Beam, and you’re good to go.

Related: Best Wi-Fi extenders

It takes a little while to get the Beam connected to your home network, and the process isn’t as quick as with bulbs that use Zigbee, such as Philips Hue. It took a couple of minutes for me to get my Beam working. Once connected, the LIFX app is used to control the Beam. It’s one of the best apps in the business, giving simple and in-depth control over every feature on the lighting kit.

From the home screen, you get basic control of the Beam, with on/off and dimming controls, plus a colour and light temperature wheel. It’s really easy to get the balance of the settings.

A long press on the Beam and you can set the turn-on or turn-off time, with the lights dimming or brightening at the period you set: 10 seconds to 30 minutes. This makes the Beam a funky nightlight if you install it in a bedroom. The lighting from the Beam is a subtler, gentler and more artistic type of light, complementing a room without dazzling. As such, you’ll still want traditional or smart light bulbs.

Beyond simple control, LIFX also has one of the best effects ranges of any smart light bulb. At the most simple, you can set the Beam to be different colours along its length. Using the Colours option you can ‘paint’ where you want colours along a vertical bar. Getting the right mix can be tricky, as the bar you paint on doesn’t necessarily mimic the layout of your Beams. For example, the left-hand side of the bar controlled the vertical part of our ‘T’ shape; the right-hand side the cross section.

Still, it’s great fun, and watching the lights stretch out as you paint is quite amazing. Alternatively, you can use the built-in Themes, which stretch colours in pre-defined patterns. There is a lot of choice, with Themes using evocative names, such as Dream, Warming and Powerful.

If you want a bit more life in your lights, the Effects section is for you. This creates lighting that moves around the Beam. My favourite is Move, which gently pushes the range of selected colours around the Beam. There’s also Flicker, for that fire-side feeling, a ghostly Spooky effect, and even a Strobe (this comes with a warning about epilepsy sufferers).

The Music Visualizer is neat, too. This uses your phone’s microphone and creates a disco out of your lights, changing colour and intensity to match the beat. Once you’ve got your lights set to your favourite setting, you can save the options as a Theme in the app. Themes can control multiple devices,

Day & Dusk mode is available. Introduced with the LIFX Mini bulbs, it adjusts the colour temperature and brightness of the bulbs during the day to match the natural cycle of the sun. The day is split into four periods (Wake Up, Day, Evening and Night Light). Each one can be turned on or off. And, you can set the start time for each period manually. Given how the days change over the seasons, it’s a shame that there’s no option to use more generic start times, such as sunrise and sunset.

As LIFX uses Wi-Fi, there are no dedicated remote controls or smart switches. There are options, though, and you can use the Logitech Pop.

Related: What are Z-Wave, Zigbee and other smart home protocols?

LIFX Beam – Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Home

LIFX supports all of the major voice assistants. Amazon Alexa and Google Home give you the same level of control. You can turn the beam on or off, set a colour or temperature, and set the dim level. You can also toggle any Scenes you’ve created on or off, but neither smart assistant can deal with built-in Themes or Effects.

Apple Home support is included, with the Beam having its own unique HomeKit code that you need to scan. This controls all sections of the Beam, but every other LIFX bulb needs to be added individually.

Using the Apple Home app, you can control the Beam basics: on or off, dim level and colour. There’s no option to adjust colour temperature from the app. Siri control works well, but is unable to set colour temperatures, only hard colours, such as green or blue.

LIFX Beam – IFTTT, Works with Nest, and SmartThings

Full IFTTT support is built-in with Actions letting you turn on the Beam and set a colour, based on a Trigger from a different device. For example, if your security camera detected motion, you could turn on your Beam. SmartThings currently only supports the colour bulbs and wouldn’t detect my Beam.

Works with Nest integration is neat to see. When connected, Nest can flash your Beam when the Nest Protect goes off, randomly turn lights off when you’re away, and automatically turn on lights when the motion is detected by a camera.

Why buy the LIFX Beam?

The LIFX Beam certainly isn’t cheap, but it is clever. Smart bulbs may give you practical lighting, traditional LED strips give you flexibility for under cabinets and the like, but there’s nothing quite like the artistic LIFX Beam.

Whether you want to paint with colour on a feature wall or use decorative lighting around a TV or window, the LIFX Beam gives you that additional flexibility and looks fantastic. Throw in a top app with some really neat lighting controls, and the LIFX Beam is a great choice where you want smart lighting front and centre.

Verdict

Something quite different, the LIFX Beam takes smart lighting to a new, more artistic level.

Score