Smart Bulbs: What’s the Smart Buy?

Smart lightbulbs with the same lumens have drastically different price points. I set out to find out why in the homeLAB.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

Smart lightbulbs give you greater control over your lighting than you ever had with traditional lightbulbs. They let you adjust 
their warmth, light, color and other qualities for the time of day, your activity and your mood. You can, for example, program them to gradually turn on when you want to wake up. You can also sync them with a smart assistant for voice commands. With more of these products hitting the market, I found they vary greatly in price and I wondered why. So I bought bulbs with the same lumens at different price levels (Geeni, $30, and LIFX, $60) and gave them a try. Here’s what I found.

(Lumens measure how much light you are getting from a bulb. More lumens means it’s a brighter light; fewer lumens means it’s a dimmer light.)

The homeLAB Test

I installed both bulbs in a lamp, connected them to WiFi and set up their smartphone apps. I tested ease of setup, use and functionality of the app, plus the warmth, light and color they produced. Using a light meter, I also tested their max brightness.

Easy to Set Up

Both bulbs are easy to set up to your home network and sync with your smart assistant. Once set up, nothing stood in the way of me asking the homeLAB’s Amazon Echo to turn on the lights, dim the lights or change the colors. Both bulbs worked like a charm and didn’t show any signs of glitches or errors.

The App Makes the Difference

With smart lightbulbs, the app to control your lighting makes all the difference. The LIFX app, for example, gives you full control of your lights on one screen, while the Geeni forces you to toggle between screens. The LIFX app also provides more color, warmth and brightness options than the Geeni, plus themes and effects. And you can even program the lights to change in warmth from dusk to dawn. LIFX bulbs are much more user-friendly overall.

The LIFX Bulb is Brighter

Although the two bulbs have similar maximum brightness, only one reached its full potential. It didn’t take much to figure that out, either. It was easy to see how well the LIFX bulb lit a dark room in contrast to the Geeni. Once I used the light meter to measure brightness on the LIFX and Geeni, it became clear the LIFX is substantially brighter.

Wondering what makes a makes a device “smart?’ We’ve got the answer.

Check out this video on the Lutron Caseta wireless lighting starter kit.