This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. We considered more than 20 smart-light-bulb systems and then spent eight weeks testing 10 contenders, confounding a family of four by constantly changing how their lights worked. After all that, we determined that the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 is the best all-around smart LED bulb. Hue lets you change your lighting color easily and does everything other smart light bulbs do, and it's also part of a larger product and app ecosystem, allowing for more flexibility and creativity than any other smart bulb we tested. It's not the cheapest bulb we tested, but its reliable performance and wide compatibility make it a solid choice for any smart-home enthusiast or newbie. Adding a set of smart light bulbs is an easy way to get started building a smart-home system. We researched all the standard A19-style smart bulbs (the kind that fit traditional lamps and fixtures), and then tested more than 10 models and the systems they work with. In the end, the first popular smart bulb is still the one that outshines (sorry about that) all the others. Unless you already have an Echo Plus, the Hue system requires the use of a separate Hue Bridge, which supports a home of 50 bulbs (available individually) but does add to the overall cost. The Philips Hue setup is simple (we recommend the White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit, which packages a Hue Bridge and either three or four bulbs), and the bulbs' wide interoperability with other apps and smart-home systems makes the Hue series the most flexible and feature-rich smart bulb available. If you're set on a color-changing bulb but insist on more light output, the LIFX Gen 3 beats any color-changing bulb we tried. An individual LIFX bulb is a little more expensive than a Hue, but each LIFX is brighter, so you might be able to get away with fewer bulbs to color-wash your room.
SmartThings isn't the earliest entrant to the DIY smart home market--it's predated by companies such as HomeSeer, Insteon, and Vera--but its hub has gained the kind of mainstream market acceptance that has eluded its elders (all of which are still around). SmartThings has evolved considerably since it crowd-funded its way to a $1.2 million launch budget in 2012. Even after Samsung acquired the company in 2014, the SmartThings hub remained a scrappy product that eschewed the razzle dazzle of some of its competitors. The second-generation hub reviewed here, which arrived in 2015, was a mostly cosmetic update (apart from the welcome addition of battery backup and video-streaming support) accompanied by a spruced-up mobile app. But what it lacks in flash, the SmartThings hub more than makes up for in capability.
Your message has been sent. There was an error emailing this page. From smart light bulbs and thermostats that think for themselves to Bluetooth door locks, wireless security cameras, and all manner of sensors, today's home technology can sound awfully sophisticated while actually being a messy hodgepodge of gizmos and apps. Whether you call it home automation or the connected home, installing all this stuff in your house is one thing. Getting it to work together smoothly and with a single user interface can be something entirely different.
Samsung SmartThings has been the leading product in the smart hub space pretty much since the day it was released, but one small problem has long held it back: It had to be tethered to your router with an ethernet cable. For many users, including myself, that one problem was a deal breaker. There are just two available ethernet ports on my router, and I'm just not interested in turning my living room into a server closet with switches and cables running all over the place. With the third-generation SmartThings Hub (Samsung model number GP-U999SJVLGDA), Samsung finally enters the wireless age in earnest. It still provides the option to connect the hub to your router via ethernet, but Wi-Fi connectivity is the default.
You've figured out the basics of setting up your smart home, now it's time to raise your game. I've spent years installing, configuring, and tweaking dozens of smart home products in virtually every product category. Along the way I've figured out a lot of the secrets they don't tell you in the manual or the FAQs, ranging from modest suggestions that can make your smart home configuration less complex, to essential decisions that can save you from having to start over from scratch a few years later. Here's my best advice on how to optimize your smart home, digested into a dozen top tips and best practices. These days, an Amazon or Google/Nest smart speaker or smart display can fill the role of a smart home hub (and some Amazon Echo devices are equipped with Zigbee radios)..