Hands-on review: Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A60 starter kit

Philips’ Hue range of smart lighting promises to make any home a smart home. Techday’s Darren Price checks out the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A60 starter kit.

I can’t deny that the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčturning the lights on and off by my voice hits all the right sci-fi buttons for me. As simple as flipping a switch, walking into the house, and commanding Amazon’s Alexa to turn on the lights, it’s like something straight out of Star Trek or The Jetsons. I really can’t think of anything that doesn’t involve a full home robot that’s more futuristic. Add the ability to choose the color and brightness of each bulb and you have the future, today.

All of the above is promised when reading the packaging of the Philips Hue A60 starter kit. The box contains three bayonet bulbs (a screw-on version is also available), a smart button and a Hue bridge hub unit. The bulbs fit directly into your fixtures and work as normal bulbs by default.

The battery-powered magnetic smart button can be attached, using a double-sided adhesive pad or magnetically, to any location in the home or to the included rectangular control panel (which in turn can be attached to the wall using the adhesive pads on the back or mounted using screws).

The Hub Bridge Concentrator unit must be connected to your router via the included Ethernet cable. There is no Wi-Fi option. This somewhat limits where you can place it if you only have one router. I have found that the Hue Bridge will work however when connected to any ethernet compatible mesh nodes you have.

The system is set up via the Philips Hue mobile app. Setup is quite simple and only takes a few minutes. The smart button needs to be added to the system as a separate device, which confused me at first, but the app did a quick job of getting it up and running.
From the app, individual lights can be named and grouped into rooms. They can also each be adjusted in brightness and color tone.

The Philips Hue system is expandable, so it’s easy to add additional smart lights. Using multiple lights in a room allows for customization of lighting colors. There are pre-configured scenes in the app which can be used to create stunning mood lighting. The lights can also be synced with Spotify for ad hoc disco lighting. While RGB color can be used to create interesting room lighting, I’ve also found it useful to be able to go from a cool white when working to a warmer glow when relaxing in front of the TV.

The coolest thing, though, is adding lighting control to your smart home digital assistant. Whether it’s Apple’s HomeKit, Google Home, or Amazon Echo, you can ask Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa to control your home’s lights. I use an Amazon Echo, which was easy to link to the Hue app.

Entering the house at night and lighting up the entire downstairs with a voice command or via the smart button (which I installed near the door) makes things easier, especially if your hands are full of shopping bags or otherwise crowded. Likewise, being able to adjust the lighting in the room when watching TV, dim the intensity or simply switch from a cool light to a warmer setting is also very good.

The only thing that defeats this futuristic setup is when a family member goes old-fashioned and physically turns off one of the wall switch lights. For smart bulbs to work, they must all be turned on at the wall. It is however very easy to forget and just flip the switch and turn off the lights.

I think the three bulbs in the kit, while great for getting to grips with the system, aren’t enough to use the system effectively. You really need to replace all the bulbs in an area to get the best effect. This is by no means a criticism, quite the contrary. Remember, the system is so efficient and fun to use, you’ll probably want to expand your setup.

The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A60 starter kit is a great way to dip your toes into smart home lighting. It is easy to set up and convenient to use. The modular system can also be extended to create stunning mood lighting around the house.

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