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Philips Hue Starter Kit Review

Posted on 4-Jun-2022 11:10 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

Philips Hue Starter Kit Review

I have just received a Philips Hue Starter Kit for a fresh look at it. My previous experience, six years ago, was very much looking at its API and programming actions. A lot of things changed over the years and since then smart assistants made a big push into the consumer market, so now would be a good time to look at the kit again.


The Philips Hue Starter Kit comes with three lightbulbs – in my case E27 fitting - and the Hue Hub, a square white box that you connect to your network using ethernet. 


These lights are the newest third generation, which now includes support for Bluetooth. Compared to the previous generation I tested some years ago they have the same 806 lumens at 4000K but much richer colour output with better definition for some colours. The lights support 2000K – 6500K and up to 16 million colour variations.


Using a maximum 9W (equivalent to 60 W lamp) during operation and only 0.5W in standby these lights are also pretty good at power efficiency.


The Hue Hub talks to the lights using the Zigbee standard. With the new Bluetooth support you could use a special Hue Bluetooth app to talk directly to the lights but the Hue Hub adds more functionality and the ability to integrate other non-Bluetooth Hue lights and devices into your system.


Setting up is very easy and you are guided in every step. The Hue app will identify new lightbulbs and change their colours as you configure each one so you know which one is which. You can then create zones and assign multiple lights to these, so you can control them individually or in groups.


With some third-party software, you can use these lights for interesting things, like synchronising colours to a Spotify song or to your PC gaming. This works well and is pretty seamless – I had my lights changing and flashing at the rhythm of my Spotify playlist with just one app install.


If you want to aim higher you can sync the light colours with the content playing on your TV – but this requires an HDMI box that you have to buy separately.


If you have multiple networks at home (as I do, with a network for our computers, a different one for streaming devices and the third one for IoT devices), then your phone must be on the same network as your Hue Hub, so they can communicate to each other for the initial setup. After that, you can login into a Hue account and control the Hue Hub and lights from anywhere, even outside your home.


The Hue mobile app allows you easily to create routines called Automations. You can for example set your lights to gradually brighten in the morning for a calm wake up, or set your lights to turn on/off as you arrive or leave your house based on your location.


The app also gives you Scenes, where colours change according to specific themes to give your home different environments.


Once you have created an automation then you don’t really need the mobile app, as everything is controlled from the Hue Hub.


If you want to control your Hue lights using your voice only, you can do it, but you will need to integrate your installation with a smart speaker platform. In my case, I connected my lights with Alexa, so I can use my Amazon Echo speakers around the house to ask Hue to do something.


You do this by enabling an Alexa Skill and linking your accounts. Once done, the Alexa app on your phone will find these new lights and add them to your collection. You can then assign them to rooms (a similar concept) and control these with your voice e.g. “Alexa turn on lounge lamp 20%” or “Alexa, set lounge lamp to purple” or “Alexa, turn off all lights”.


The fun part is when you start adding these to Alexa Routines. We have one routing triggered with “Alexa, good night” that turns off the lights in our lounge, turns on a lamp at 15% and turns off the TV.


One of my existing routines is triggered when motion is detected by our Ring cameras. In this routine Alexa turns on a couple of WiFi lights we have outside but I have since modified it to also turn on a Hue light we have in our hall.


The most fun was to create a routine triggered with “Alexa, red alert” which changes all lights to red and starts the red alert sound from Star Trek. I am thinking of incorporating that to alarms when we are out and about.


The response time from asking Alexa to do something and having the lights execute the action is amazingly fast.


Also important to note the API I used back on my first look is still active and can be used by those wanting to integrate the Hub Hub and lights into a wider home automation platform. It's well documented, with good examples and easy to use if you have a minimum experience with crafting API requests. 


Using the Philips Hue Starter Kit is a good way to get into the Hue ecosystem. These lights aren’t as cheap as some WiFi bulbs you might find around but they are so easy to set up and use that it just makes sense if you want something that works out of the box and has pretty much endless expansion possibilities. 


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