Best smart bulb 2021: enhanced home lighting and security

Invest in the best smart bulbs for better home security, the ultimate mood lighting and more

Included in this guide:

best smart bulb
(Image credit: Ikea)

Far from an unnecessary gimmick, investing in the best smart bulbs is an option worth considering if you're looking for an easy home security solution or want the ultimate mood lighting.

Since smart lighting isn't the cheapest solution, you'll want to ensure you're spending your money as best you can. And whether your motivation is to set schedules that give the impression that someone is home – even if they're not – or to create an unrivalled ambience, our honest guide is here to help you choose the best product.

We'd advise you read our tip on how to buy the best smart bulbs. Then, keep scrolling for full reviews of our top rated products. You'll also find more advice and information over on The Hub.

What is the best smart bulb?

The best smart bulbs are Philips Hue, thanks to their simple, stylish design and ease to set up. Adjust lighting depending on your preference – options range from hygge to interrogation room for maximum versatility – as well as setting up lighting schedules, sequences of events and more. 

Find our complete list of the best smart bulbs, below. Then, keep scrolling for full product reviews:

  • The best smart bulbs: Philips Hue
  • The best smart bulbs for Hive users: Hive Active Light Starter Kit
  • The best smart bulbs for multi-coloured lighting: TP-Link LB130
  • The best customisable smart bulb: LIFX Smart Bulbs
  • The best smart light strip: Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus

The best smart bulb 2021

the best smart bulbs: philips hue

(Image credit: Philips Hue)

1. Philips Hue

The best smart bulb

Compatibility: iOS, Android
Smart compatibility?: Yes
Fitting type: Full range of bulbs available
Colour: White and colour options available
Reasons to buy
+Control your smart bulbs from your phone+Customise the ambience of your home+Set schedules
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than regular lightbulbs
What is a smart bulb?

Put simply, a smart bulb – or smart lightbulb – is a lightbulb that can connect to your smart phone via Wi-Fi. This allows you to control your lighting just as you would any other smart appliance – from any location, to set schedules and even customise to your lighting system by changing the colour, brightness and intensity of the light. 

The best smart bulbs are the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs, which come complete with a bridge that allows you to connect them to the rest of your smart home set-up.

Philips Hue White Smart Bulbs produces stunning, warm white light which can be easily adjusted to suit the desired ambience – options range from super cosy hygge, through to interrogation room. Want to benefit from coloured lights too? You'll need the Philips Hue Coloured Smart Bulbs, which allow you to completely customise the colour and intensity of your lighting.

Perfect for giving the impression that someone's home, even if they're not; controlling hard-to-reach bulbs; or allowing you to turn the lights off without getting up, there are a rang of benefits to controlling your lighting from your smart phone. And Philips Hue make that super easy.

Yes, these bulbs are a little more pricey than your average, but with a lifespan of up to 25,000 years, they're sure to save you money in the long run. 

Whether you want to programme your smart lighting to rouse you, gently, from your sleep in the morning, alert you when you need to take you dinner out of the oven, start dimming your lights as you wind down for bed, this – and more – is available with Philips Hue.

Still not sure? We go into more detail in our in-depth Philips Starter Kit review. We've also written a handy guide on how to use Philips Hue with Alexa, so you won't have to worry about getting set up.

the best smart bulbs: Hive Active Light Starter Kit

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

2. Hive Active Light Starter Kit

The best smart bulbs for Hive users

Compatibility: iOS, Android
Smart compatibility?: Yes
Fitting type: Full range of bulbs available
Colour: White
Reasons to buy
+ Includes Hive Hub + Allows Hive products to work in tandem 
Reasons to avoid
-Not a cheap option

Next in our list is theHive Active Light Starter Kit. And it isn’t just because of its versatility now, but its potential for smart home expansion later on. 

Whether you're looking to wind down in the evening, or feel more alert in the morning, it's super easy to control the dimness of your bulbs according to your requirements.

As well as boasting an A+ energy rating, these smart bulbs are also designed to encourage users to reduce their energy use. How? Well, by allowing you to control your lights from any location and alerting you should any lights be left on when you're away from home.

Looking to build a wider Hive smart home system? Whether you're interested in smart thermostats, home security systems or something else, opting for Hive smart bulbs will make it super easy to connect up your entire system in future. We're not saying that this is essential – most brands are interconnectable – but it may make life easier if you're new to the world of smart home tech.

the best smart bulbs: tp-link lb130

(Image credit: TP-Link)

Best smart bulb for multi-coloured lighting

Compatibility: iOS, Android
Smart compatibility?: Yes
Fitting type: E27
Colour: Multi
Reasons to buy
+ Create lighting schedules and scenes + Voice assistant controls +No hub required
Reasons to avoid
-Disconnects itself from WiFi sometimes

If you like the idea of smart bulbs, but don't want to have to commit to buying a bridge – or something similar – to connect them to your smart home system, the TP-Link LB130 is an option worth considering. 

Choose from a wide range of bulbs hues to suit your mood – or the atmosphere you're looking to create. All controlled directly from your smart phone.

Much like the other smart bulbs in this list, the TP-Link LB130 connects to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, making it super easy to control your entire lighting system using nothing other than the sound of your voice. Genius. 

As we've already mentioned, another perk of the TP-Link LB130 is that it doesn't require a bridge or hub to connect to your smart home system. This not only drives down the cost, but requires fewer wires and bulky boxes around the home.

Another feature we're seriously impressed with is the TP-Link LB130's circadian mode, which is designed to dynamically adjust light intensity and temperature to successfully mimic natural light patterns. This can be super helpful if you struggle to wake up in the morning, or wind down in the evening.

the best smart lighting: LIFX

(Image credit: LIFX)

4. LIFX A19

Best smart bulb for customising

Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows
Smart compatibility?: Yes
Fitting type: B22
Colour: Multi
Reasons to buy
+ Really easy installation + Tailor 16 million colours 
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive

Next up in our list is the LIFX A19 thanks to its ease of use and customisable functionality. 

The choice of over 1 trillion colours (yep, really) makes this model the most customisable in our round up. Whatever your mood, you're sure to find a hue that suits. Plus, it's super easy to adjust the warmth and intensity of white light, if you're not so into colours lighting.

Similarly to the bulbs from TP Link, the LIFX doesn't require a bridge or hub to work. Instead, it connects directly to your WiFi for smart home integration.

Use the connected app to control your smart bulbs from any location. That means setting schedules – perfect if you're away from home and want to give the impression that someone's home, even if they're not – as well as turning off the lights if you forget to when leaving the house.

the best smart bulbs: philips hue lightstrip

(Image credit: Currys PC World)

The best smart light strip

Compatibility: iOS, Android
Smart compatibility?: No
Fitting type: Adhesive tape
Colour: Multi
Reasons to buy
+ Solution for shelves and alcoves + Control up to 50 lights 
Reasons to avoid
-Requires a Philips Hue Bridge to work-Not technically a smart bulb

Edisons and bayonets are pretty par for the course, but what if you have a more complex space with more complex needs? The Philips Hue LightStrip could be what you've been looking for. 

Looking to illuminate an awkward space? Don’t worry about expensive built-in lighting – you can get the same effect in alcoves, shelves and other nooks and crannies with the Philips Hue LightStrip, a smart strip light that is second-to-none for creating ambience on cosy evenings in. 

Create a Hue account, and you can control these lights from anywhere using the buddy app or your browser – in fact, you can control up to 50, so whether you decide to go for lots of these little beauties, or a combination of bulbs and strips, there’s none better for a wide-ranging, fully customised lighting scheme. 

You can cut them to fit wherever you please whether it be around your kitchen cabinets or around a cupboard ceiling, and they're compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant.

Real Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How to choose the best smart bulb

Not sure where to start when it comes to buying the best smart bulbs? We'd recommend considering the following factors before making a purchase:

Will you need to buy a bridge?

Some smart bulbs require what's known as a 'bridge' in order to connect them to an existing smart home system. Models that require a bridge are usually more costly, but are also (generally) better quality, so that's a decision you'll need to weigh up. 

If you're buying smart bulbs for the first time, you'll need to consider whether a bridge is required as, in some cases, you won't be able to simply plug in your bulbs and get going.

Are you interested in coloured lights?

If you're interested in using smart lighting to enhance a home cinema experience – some models will interact with audio to create a more dynamic audio visual experience – or change the atmosphere in a given space, it's worth investing in smart bulbs that change colour. However, this won't be necessary for everyone.

Will your light bulbs be on display?

Are you planning on having your smart bulbs on display – perhaps as part of a pendant light fitting – or will they be hidden behind a lamp shade? If the former, you may want to think about the aesthetic appeal of your bulbs. There are now a whole host of filament style bulbs designed to fill this purpose. If you're less concerned, opt for something less stylish and more functional.

Emily Shaw
Emily Shaw

Emily first (temporarily) joined the Real Homes team while interning on her summer break from university. After graduating, she worked on several publications before joining Real Homes as Staff Writer full time in mid-2018. She loves a second-hand bargain and sourcing unique finds to make her rented flat reflect her personality.