Not just smart Christmas tree lights, the Philips Hue Festavia String Lights are a full part of the Hue ecosystem, operating with the app and a full set of controls. Effortlessly blending in with any existing lights and scenes you have, this set is a great addition to any home. The minor downsides (for some) are the lack of more dynamic effects, such as flashing and blinking, and the fact that they only come in one length.
- Integrates fully with the Hue system
- Excellent colour reproduction
- Huge range of scenes to choose from
- Lacks more dynamic effects
- Only available in one length
- Smart light typeA set of smart string lights that can be wrapped around a Christmas tree or strung out for some festive decoration, suitable for indoor use only.
- Smart integrationsWorks with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Samsung SmartThings and more.
The choice used to be simple if you wanted smart Christmas tree lights: you could buy the Twinkly lights. Now, there’s a contender: the Philips Hue Festavia String Lights. Integrating fully with the Hue ecosystem, including the app and wireless controls, these smart lights have an advantage over Twinkly.
Yet, despite its quality, the Festavia set doesn’t have the full range of effects one would expect from Christmas tree lights, so choosing the best lights is more difficult than you might think.
Design and Features
- Fixed length: 20m and 250 lights
- Not suitable for outdoor use
- Compatible with all Hue remotes
The Philips Hue Festavia String Lights are 20m long and have 250 individual colour-changing LEDs. That’s a considerable amount of lights, and it should be enough to cover even the biggest tree. If you have a smaller one, the lights need to be wrapped around it multiple times.
Twinkly has the advantage here, as its smart string lights can be bought in various lengths with 250, 400 and 600 LED versions and in several wire colours. Also, Twinkly lights can even come prewired with the Balsam Hill Twinkly trees.
For setup purposes, the Festavia lights are like any other Christmas lights that need to be manually wrapped around a tree. Philips recommends working from the bottom up – so the power supply remains in an ideal position – and finishing at the top of the tree. It’s important not to work up and then down, as this can ruin any gradient light effects you may want to use.
There’s a 40W power supply (although the lights draw only 15W when on full brightness) on this model, and it uses a similar connector to the Hue outdoor lights. However, it’s important to remember that the Festavia lights are for indoor use only.
Once wired up and turned on, the lights are added via the Hue app. They can work over Bluetooth, which could be helpful if you plan to have only these lights and no other Hue ones. For the full experience and range of control, the Festavia lights work best when connected to a Hue Bridge, which is what I did.
As with all Hue lights, the Festavia set can be added to a room or an area along with regular Hue lights. That’s quite a cool trick: I put my Festavia lights into the Kitchen room, so when I turn on my kitchen lights, the Christmas tree lights up and matches the same scene as the rest of the room.
With the right set of controls, such as the Philips Hue Tap Dial, it’s easy to make the Festavia lights cycle through different zones, or simply to adjust their brightness. This certainly goes some way to make up for the lack of onboard controls. My Balsam Hill tree with Twinkly lights has a control box with a button that lets me cycle through scenes without needing an app or wireless control.
Via the Hue app, the Festavia (and any lights in the same room or zone) can have scenes applied. Hue has a wide range of preset scenes, including some cool Christmas-related ones, plus it’s easy enough to create your own.
Dynamic scenes are available, where the lights slowly shift colour. There are also three special modes: Candle, Fireplace and Sparkle. These use preset colour temperatures and automatic brightness adjustments and are a little more dynamic than the standard scenes.
However, there isn’t a choice for more dynamic scenes that you’d usually get with Christmas tree lights, such as rapid blinking or a fade-out effect. If you want that kind of thing, the Twinkly lights are better.
As with other Hue lights, the Festavia can be controlled individually, setting the colour, temperature or brightness level that you want. These lights appear with the same controls as gradient lights, such as the Philips Hue Signe Gradient lamps.
Essentially, the app splits the lights into three segments that are connected together, so I could pick different colours to run along each third. Hue makes this kind of control very simple.
Twinkly, on the other hand, can use your phone’s camera to map out where each bulb is in 3D, giving you the option to paint each bulb a different colour. In my experience, this makes Twinkly more customisable, but the Festavia is easier to control.
As the Festavia is a set of standard lights, it’s controllable via every major smart home system (provided you have Bridge), including Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit and SmartThings.
- Excellent colour reproduction
- Not very dynamic
The main advantage of the Philips Hue Festavia String Lights is how well they integrate into my home. As I turn on the kitchen lights, the Festavia lights spring to life. When I change scenes, the string lights change to match as well.
More than any other set of Christmas lights, the Festavia blends in with my other smart lights, matching and mimicking what’s going on – it’s a very neat trick. Also, these lights are bright enough to stand out and blend in well with my other lights: four GU10s, two regular bulbs and a 10m light strip.
Integration with Hue remotes is also priceless. I love leaving the kitchen, hitting the off button on my wireless dimmer and seeing the Christmas tree turn off simultaneously. I find controlling the Festavia easier and faster than my Twinkly lights.
I do miss the option of having more dynamic scenes, though. At times, I like my Christmas lights to blink, rain down with colour or cycle through a whole rainbow of colours. Here, the basic dynamic scenes – and even the more advanced ones, such as Candle – just aren’t as eye-catching as the Twinkly options.
Should you buy it?
If you want your Christmas lights to blend effortlessly with your normal smart lights, the Philips Hue Festavia is an excellent choice.
If you want a wider range of effects, including blinking and flashing – which you would get with normal tree lights – look elsewhere.
If you don’t have any smart lighting at home, then the choice is clear: buy a set of Twinkly lights of the right length for your tree (or built into the tree). Twinkly lights are cheaper and – while its app isn’t as good as the Hue one – have a wider range of scenes including “proper” Christmas ones.
If you have Hue lights already, then the choice comes down to what you want. If you like traditional-style flashing dynamic lights with the choice of smart control, go with Twinkly. If you want something that will blend into your home and your lighting scenes that can be managed by a wide range of remote controls while having a more subtle lighting effect, then the Philips Hue Festavia String Lights work brilliantly.
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No, these are indoor-only lights.
They have three zones, and each one can be a different colour.
No, there’s only one length – 20m and 250 lights – available.