The 2nd generation of Philips Hue smart light bulbs have been out for quite a while now, and 3rd-generation bulbs have just recently come out, but you can still buy 1st-generation Hue products at some stores. Here’s what you need to know about the 1st- and 2nd-generation Philips Hue hubs, as well as the newer 3rd-generation bulbs.

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Philips Hue released its 2nd-generation Hue lineup late last year leading up to the holiday shopping season, just three years after first releasing the smart light bulbs to the world. However, while most older products quickly get left in the dust when a newer version is released, Philips Hue has been an exception, mostly because the improvements to the 2nd-generation lineup aren’t incredibly significant, and you can still find 1st-generation Hue products in stores, sometimes at cheaper prices.

So if you’re wondering whether you should stick with your 1st-generation bridge and bulbs or upgrade to the 2nd generation or even the 3rd generation, here are the big differences between them all.

The Biggest Difference Is the Bridge

The Hue Bridge is the Philips Hue hub, the central point that the Hue bulbs connect to. With the introduction of the 2nd-generation Hue Bridge, the device received an all-new design, as well as support for Apple’s HomeKit smarthome platform.

HomeKit merely provides a way to integrate your smarthome products into iOS more seamlessly, and it also lets different HomeKit-supported products work with each other in a way that they normally wouldn’t be able to. For example, I could set up an automation rule that would turn on my Philips Hue lights whenever I turned on my ConnectSense Smart Outlet (which is HomeKit-enabled).

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However, the biggest feature of HomeKit is Siri support, which means that I can use the voice-controlled virtual assistant to control my compatible smarthome products. With the 2nd-generation Hue Bridge, I can tell Siri to “turn on the living room lights”. The first generation can’t do these things.

Of course, if you’re not big on HomeKit and Siri, or you’re an Android user, the new features in the 2nd-generation Hue Bridge are pretty much worthless. At that point, there’s no harm in getting the 1st-generation Hue Bridge, especially considering that newer 2nd- and 3rd-generation Hue bulbs work just fine with the 1st-generation Hue Bridge.

1st-Gen Kits Come a Little Cheaper

If the new features of the 2nd-generation Hue lineup have you on the fence about either getting 1st-generation bulbs or 2nd-generation bulbs, then it’s likely the prices of the 1st-generation product lineup that will have you making a quick decision.

In fact, that’s likely a big reason why 1st-generation Philips Hue products are still popular right now. You can usually find a 1st-generation start kit on sale, and recently Philips discounted it down to just $99 (although it’s listed as sold out), which gets you the 1st-gen Hue Bridge and three 1st-gen color bulbs. That’s half the price of the 2nd-generation starter kit.

On Amazon, you can get the 1st-gen starter kit for $170, but we’ve seen it for as low as $135 on Amazon. Granted, if you’re going to spend $170, you might as well just get the 2nd-generation starter kit for $199, but we’d recommend waiting on a deal to show up for the 1st-generation kit, as they tend to go on sale much more often than 2nd-generation Hue products.

2nd-Gen Bulbs Are a Bit Brighter

The 2nd-gen Hue bulbs are slightly improved over the 1st-gen bulbs, but not significantly. One of the most noticeable upgrades is that the 2nd-gen bulbs are 200 lumens brighter than 1st-gen Hue bulbs.

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The newer bulbs shine at 800 lumens at their max, whereas the old bulbs can only get up to 600 lumens at their brightest. This means that the newer bulbs are 25% brighter. In the light bulb world, that’s a noticeable difference, but with the Hue lights, the bulbs actually only reach their max lumens at specific white color temperatures, and all the other colors are fairly the same on both bulbs, including the brightness levels. For instance, red is limited on how bright it can get, so the brightness of reds on both bulbs are pretty much the same.

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Furthermore, the 2nd-generation Hue LightStrip Plus lights are 10x brighter than the previous 1st-generation light strips, and they shine at an impressive 1,600 lumens. Plus, you can connect extension strips to the newer model to make longer strings of light. The newer LightStrip Plus also has more vibrant greens and blues, whereas the other Hue bulbs have a hard time getting a nice, crisp green or blue (except for the 3rd-gen bulbs–more on that further down).

The 2nd-generation bulbs are able to dim to a lower level and turn on just a bit quicker than the older bulbs, but the difference is likely negligible and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference unless the two bulbs were right next to each other.

3rd-Gen Bulbs Come with More Vibrant Colors

Philips recently updated its Hue White and Color Ambiance bulb and introduced it as the 3rd-generation bulb. There’s not much difference as far as the brightness and functionality is concerned, but there is a big difference in the colors that the new bulb produces over the previous-gen bulbs.

The 3rd-gen bulb now produces much better greens, cyans, and blues. Previously, a green on a 1st- or 2nd-gen bulb would show up as a dull yellow, cyan would look white-ish, and blues would look more like a purple.

However, the 3rd-gen bulb is a lot similar to the 2nd-gen LightStrip Plus, where you get much better color production from certain parts of the spectrum. Other than that, though, there’s really no other differences compared to the 2nd-gen bulbs. There’s also no new 3rd-gen Hue Bridge, nor were any other Hue bulbs updated alongside the 3rd-gen color bulb.

At the end of the day, the 2nd and 3rd generations are upgrades–but it almost definitely isn’t worth replacing all the bulbs you already have. And if you don’t care about HomeKit, you can save a few bucks by buying the first generation’s starter kit.

Image by Maximusnd/Bigstock, Philips, Jason/YouTube

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Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
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