Govee
Update, 01/29/2023: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best smart lights you can buy.

What To Look For in a Smart Light in 2023

The hunt for the best smart light can be complicated. Not only are there different smart lights for different uses, but there’s also an abundance of brands and varieties lining the shelves. So, how do you know what to look for to ensure you’re choosing the best light for your home lighting? There are a few things to look at, but most importantly, you need to know what kind of smart light solution you need.

Are you illuminating a pathway, or need to start replacing your interior bulbs? Is it Christmas and you’re tired of wrestling with burnt-out strands or do you need a strip of lights as an accent under your kitchen cabinets? Once you determine the purpose, you can navigate to different categories, which include whole-home smart light systems, individual smart bulbs, smart light strips, outdoor and weather-resistant smart lights, and Christmas smart lights.

No matter what you’re shopping for, though, you want to pay attention to three key elements. First, does the light need a hub or is it Bluetooth-compatible? You may want a full system that runs entirely off your Wi-Fi, which may require a separate pricy hub, or you can use a Bluetooth-only bulb.

The latter may be cheaper, but you can only control the bulb when you’re near it. Additionally, a hub or Wi-Fi-enabled bulb can connect with other branded smart home devices for full-home automation.

Second, look at the lumens, or the number that measures the quantity of visible light. A base figure to remember is 800 lumens, the brightness of a 60-watt incandescent bulb. Smart lights are typically dimmable, but you want the base lumens to be high enough to produce a bright enough light for your space.

Finally, you need to think of whether you want a standard white bulb or something multi-colored. This isn’t as important of a criterion, primarily because colored bulbs almost always have a warm and cool white option. Still, there may be a price disparity between all-white and multi-colored bulbs that could sway your decision-making if you’re not interested in colorful displays or customizable scenes.

Keeping all of this in mind, here are our top picks for the best smart lights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are smart lights energy efficient?
Smart lights are typically LEDs, which use less energy than traditional light bulbs. Additionally, smart lights can be programmed to turn on and off at specific times during the day. This cuts down on wasted energy and ensures each bulb is used only when needed. Wi-Fi-enabled lights can also be turned off via smartphone should one be accidentally left on. For maximum energy efficiency, look for the ENERGY STAR logo.
Do smart lights use electricity when turned off?
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Like most electronics, smart lights use less energy when turned off. The amount used is so minuscule that it is likely not going to reflect on an energy bill. To prevent continued use of electricity, the smart light would need to be unplugged or removed from the fixture entirely.
Do smart lights burn out?
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Smart lights burn out over time, but how long they last will depend on the quality of the light and how often they’re used. Unlike traditional bulbs, which burn out instantly when the filament becomes overstressed after prolonged use, smart lights slowly fade and become dimmer.
About how long do smart lights last?
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The average lifespan of a third-generation Philips Hue bulb is up to 25,000 hours, or over 1,041 days if left on for 24 hours straight. When everyday use is factored in, a smart light could last anywhere from 15 to 25 years.
Can you use smart light bulbs in ceiling fans?
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Smart light bulbs can be used in ceiling fans, but the type of fan and size of the bulb may make them incompatible. Additionally, if the ceiling fan doubles as a dimmer, the bulb may not work properly due to a limited power supply.

Best Smart Light System: Philips Hue Starter Kit

Philips Hue starting pack
Philips

Pros

  • 3rd party integrations like Spotify and IFTTT
  • Comes with the Hue Hub
  • Rich, truer colors
  • Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit

Cons

  • Hub needs to be hardwired to the router or modem
  • On the expensive side

To have a hub or not to have a hub. That is the question when deciding on a whole-home light system. While a hubless system is cheaper, you miss out on some wonderful integrations, which is why the Philips Hue Starter Kit earns the vote for the best smart light system.

Though it’s a little inconvenient having to hardwire the Hue Hub to your modem or Wi-Fi router (meaning any Internet outage will leave you without access to your light’s features), the smart light starter kit opens the door for a bounty of options should you decide to expand into other lights and automation.

For example, an entire scene can be set with this starter kit, a Philips Hue light strip, and Spotify for lights that move to the music. That scene can also be controlled via Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, which is surprisingly absent in many smart lights. While the hub does simplify the connection process, the reliance on Wi-Fi can lead to infrequently unstable connections.

The lights themselves offer a vibrant 1,100 lumens, which some may find a little too bright. Thankfully, each bulb can be individually dimmed and changed to one of over 16 million colors. Some colors stand out better than others, but the spectrum as a whole is rich and deep.

The Philips Hue Starter Kit is a fantastic launching point for any home or office converting to smart lighting, as it serves as a base system with the potential for something far more elaborate.

Best Smart Light System

Philips Hue Starter Kit

This convenient and user-friendly kit promotes whole-home automation while delivering brilliant lighting and a broad spectrum of colors. Enjoy a host of 3rd-party integrations to customize your experience.

Best Smart Light Bulb: Philips Hue Light Bulb

Philips Hue light bulb on blue background
Philips

Pros

  • Bluetooth compatible for quick and easy control
  • Bright whites and true vivid colors
  • Connects to other Philips Hue products
  • Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit compatible

Cons

  • Requires Hue Hub for advanced integrations
  • Very pricy for individual bulbs

Philips Hue may be known for being the more expensive smart lighting brand, but there’s a good reason for it. The Philips Hue Light Bulb is more than just your average bulb. Its range of whites and colors promises to bask your space in a glow of your choice.

Philips’ smart bulb is a versatile unit that can work with other Philips Hue products to set serene scenes or be programmed to automatically turn on and off at different times throughout the day.

Though the bulb can be controlled individually via Bluetooth, any advanced integration with other lights or home assistants requires the Hue Hub. If you don’t receive the hub as part of the kit, it sells separately and needs to be plugged into your modem or router. One major benefit of the hub and a Philips Hue bulb is that they can be turned on or off or dimmed even if you’re not at home.

The smart bulb is a minimal 10-watts and illuminates your space with the equivalent brightness of a 60-watt bulb. At 800 lumens, its whites are fairly standard and mimic a standard incandescent bulb.

Where this light truly shines is with its 16 million true and brilliant colors that create ambient displays. If there’s anything to be mindful of, choosing one out of millions of shades can be quite intimidating and time-consuming.

Best Smart Light Bulb

Philips Hue Light Bulb

A full-featured option for individual smart lighting, the Philips Hue Smart Light Bulb produces brilliant white and colorful lights. Enjoy 60-watt brightness at 10-watt energy consumption.

Best Smart Light Strip: Govee 65.6 ft Light Strip

Govee smart strips in living room
Govee

Pros

  • Vast spectrum of vivid, bright colors
  • Clips ensure strip stays adhered to surface
  • Bold selection of preset scenes and color schemes
  • Lights respond to external music source

Cons

  • More expensive than most light strips
  • DIY mode can be overcomplicated

Whether you’re adding underlighting to your kitchen countertops, adding a splash of color to your room, or topping off your entertainment space with ambient lighting, the Govee 65.6-foot Light Strip should be your go-to choice.

Govee may not have the name power of Philips, but its products are consistently top-of-the-line, and this strip is no exception. From solid colors to a gradient of different shades, the LED strip has an impressive array of customization options.

It would be nice if the gradient were more dynamic and could be set to chase or breathe. It’s an easy oversight to overlook, especially since you’ll likely be distracted by the high-sensitive microphone that allows the lights to sync to music from an external source.

The Govee app is crucial to getting the most out of the 65.6-foot light strip as it opens up a bevy of effects and scenes. It’s surprisingly intimidating when you first dive in but spend an hour or so poking around, and you’ll start to get a hang of the Effects Lab and DIY features.

One of the strip’s best features isn’t even related to the lights. Govee clearly understands the pain point of hanging LED strips and includes individual clips that help keep things in place. The clips adhere to the wall and cover the strip, so should the strip lose adhesive, it won’t pull the entire setup down.

Best Smart Strip Lights Overall

Govee 65.6ft LED Strip Lights

Govee's strip lights, while more expensive than the competition, offers bright, beautiful colors, a friendly app, and is compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa.

Best Outdoor Smart Light: Govee Outdoor Ground Lights

Govee

Pros

  • Not an eyesore during the day
  • Govee app offers ample customization
  • Surprisingly bright for only 80 lumens
  • Alexa and Google Assistant compatible

Cons

  • Adapter is not waterproof
  • Not actually 36-feet worth of lights
  • Cannot connect multiple strands

Spruce up your outdoor space with these glowing multipurpose outdoor lights. Govee’s Outdoor Ground Lights are a unique way to bring illumination and color to your front or back yard. Individual lights can be staked into the ground along sidewalks, patios, and driveways to create a safer walking path. Each light is separated by 1.6 feet of cord and covers approximately 24 feet of ground.

The total length of the strand is 36 feet, but there’s a 12.5-foot space between the first light and the adapter. While that sounds like a lot of wasted space, the gap serves two purposes. First, it accommodates outdoor spaces where outlets are farther from the intended path. Second, though the lights are weatherproof, the adapter is not and should not be placed anywhere that may get wet, including dewy grass.

Though each bulb is only 80 lumens, that’s more than enough considering the purpose of these multicolor ground lights. They aren’t bright enough to annoy neighbors while remaining visible in the dead of night. And even if they are too bright, there’s a dimmer built into Govee’s dedicated app.

The app is both a strong and weak point with all Govee products. While there’s a lot to tinker with to create scenes and set individual colors for each ground light, it can be a bit much at first.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have access to a music sync mode for dancing lights, a timer, and more colors than you’ll ever need. If you have other Govee lights, the app is where you’ll link everything together for visual spectacles.

If you’re using the Govee Outdoor Ground Lights as pathway lights, the time function in the Govee app will be invaluable as you can set a weekly schedule to offset the lack of a motion sensor.

Best Outdoor Smart Light

Govee Outdoor Ground Lights

More than simple pathway lights, Govee's outdoor ground lights can create an outdoor escape unlike any other. With weekly scheduling and DIY light mapping, you can automate a brilliant display every day at dusk.

Best Smart Christmas Lights: Twinkly Strings Generation II

Person stringing Twinkly lights on Xmas tree
Twinkly

Pros

  • Mappable lighting for a fully customizable appearance
  • Syncs up easily with other Twinkly lights
  • Responds to music for a dynamic display
  • Alexa and Google Assistant compatible

Cons

  • Every strand requires its own outlet
  • Twinkly app can be difficult to navigate

There was a time when holiday lights were a single stretch of green cord and shimmering lights. Smart home automation changed everything, giving us Twinkly Strings, a strand of indoor and outdoor Christmas lights that can do virtually anything.

Twinkly Strings goes above and beyond traditional Christmas lights. Each fully controllable strand is mappable via the Twinkly app for a light show that fits your holiday aesthetic. It’s a lot of tech for a strand of Christmas lights, so Twinkly’s impressive smart lights won’t be for everyone.

In fact, if you don’t use the many features and capabilities, you’re not going to get the most out of your purchase.

Though the longest strand is over 150 feet long, it would have been nice to connect them end-to-end. You may run into issues if you’re trying to run Twinkly outside as each strand requires its outlet. Since the adaptor is at the center of the strand, it’s even more complicated to run multiple cords.

When you get it working, though, you’re in for a treat. Twinkly Strings is arguably the most unique set of Christmas lights, and the capabilities, from creating custom graphics to orchestrating entire light shows, lend to a vibrant holiday display.

Best Smart Christmas Lights

Twinkly Strings Generation II

Forget those Walmart lights, Twinkly's smart LED Christmas tree lights are fully customizable, with tons of great colors and dynamic effects. Plus, you can map your Christmas tree to customize each of its segments and create the cleanest looking Christmas tree you've ever seen.

The Best Smart Home Devices of 2023

Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)
Best Smart Display
Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)
Sonos One
Best Smart Speaker
Sonos One
Philips Hue
Best Smart Light Bulb
Philips Hue
Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit
Best Smart Switch
Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit
ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium
Best Smart Thermostat Overall
ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
Best Smart Lock
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
Ring Video Doorbell 4
Best Video Doorbell
Ring Video Doorbell 4
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
Best Security Camera
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
Profile Photo for Mark LoProto Mark LoProto
Mark is a freelance reviewer for How-To Geek and Review Geek, a seasoned freelance writer, and a marketing manager with a strong footing in the gaming and esports industries. He’s been featured across the net on Cultured Vultures, Heavy.com, Bloody Disgusting, and more.
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