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Review: Friends of Hue Bloom Lamp and LightStrips

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Philips has expanded its wireless light product line with the Friends of Hue series, the first offerings being a lights strip and accent lamp that, like the original Hue bulbs, can be controlled remotely, change color and are expensive.

Hue


Philips has seemingly hit its stride with the Hue wireless lighting system and is rolling out what can be considered accessories to the bread-and-butter Hue smart bulbs. The initial Friends of Hue lineup consists of the LivingColors Bloom, a small standalone spotlight lamp, and LightStrips, which is basically a row of LEDs embedded into flexible adhesive strip.

As with the Hue Starter Kit, Friends of Hue products are expensive. They are not impulse buys and users need to consider their limitations before snapping up a set simply because they interface with the existing Hue ecosystem.

In this review, we'll take a look at the Bloom and LightStrips side-by-side. Completely different animals from the Hue bulbs, the two add-ons have more in common with each other than Philips' original smart lighting setup.

Design



The Bloom and the LightStrips are made from high quality materials that appear to be resilient and nice to look at even though most installations would hide them from sight.

With the Bloom, for example, the base of the unit is crafted from plastic, while the upper portion is made from a ceramic of some sort, making it lightweight and easy to hide behind bookcases or place up high for artwork illumination. The base itself is already pre-angled, meaning users can't adjust where the spotlight shines without getting creative.

Hue


Beneath the translucent plastic covering, which also serves as a diffuser, Bloom has a three-LED array similar to the Hue light bulb. The modules themselves are spread fairly wide apart, allowing for a better coverage area, but this also means colors won't mix as seamlessly.

As for the LightStrips, think of the flexible light ropes from the disco-era, but swap in high-efficiency, high-output LEDs and slim down the profile. There isn't much in the way of design going on here, as LightStrips were made to be hidden underneath bar counters, behind TVs or rimming wall mouldings.

Each 2-meter strip is backed with an adhesive tape for sticking to almost any surface, even porous materials like wood.

Setup



Both products are designed as go-alongs to the Hue smart lighting system and as such can be set up and controlled via the free iOS app. The system, which we went over in a previous review, revolves around a ZigBee wireless standard bridge that automatically detects additional lights when they are plugged in. With Bloom and the LightStrips, the process is no different.

When we plugged in both lights, they immediately faded up to a default color and cycled through a number of preset shades before turning off.

Hue


Placing the Bloom is self-explanatory. Face it toward a wall or object that you want illuminated, plug it in, adjust positioning and you're done. The LightStrips proved to be a bit more tricky.

Because of its design, the LightStrips can be trimmed down to size by cutting off any excess LEDs. While this is great to get a truly customized look, say around a television set, a lot of LEDs can go wasted. There is only one power and communications module, which is located at the power adapter side of the strip, meaning anything you cut off will be rendered useless.

This brings us to a very important point regarding LightStrips and Bloom use: deviations in LED color output.

In use



Cutting LightStrips down to size is one thing, but we found the LEDs on one strip may not be exactly match to another. This causes problems when running a long installation, such as the TV setup below.

Hue


While the multiple colors are great for adding ambiance to a TV show, the differences in color temperature are jarring when using the same color on multiple LightStrips. The effect is nothing like Philips' Ambilight HDTVs, which feature backside LEDs that reproduce on-screen colors to pull them past the borders of the TV and into a room. Ironically, Hue is compatible with Ambilight, though it appears the more accurate bulbs may be a better fit for the tech.

Hue


We asked Philips about the color inconsistency and a representative said Friends of Hue products are designed to be color accent lights. While the company ensures high quality light, the Bloom and LightStrips are not meant to be as accurate as the regular Hue bulbs.

As mentioned in our Hue review, the bulbs are calibrated to less than 5 SDCM (standard deviation of color matching), with changes in color being just perceptible to the human eye. With Friends of Bloom, Philips lowers that standard to a much less impressive baseline of 20 SDCM. Because of the different role they play in the system, Friends of Hue are by design less accurate in reproducing identical colors, the company said.

Hue
Note the deviation in white between the three LightStrips.


We didn't see as much of a difference in color with the Bloom unit, but it was admittedly much less powerful at a rated 120 lumens, compared to the Hue bulb's 600 lumens. The LightStrip does not specify an output rating, probably because users can snip down the strip, but the LEDs were powerful enough to compete with regular room lighting.

Accuracy issues aside, both units do add touches of color that are surprisingly effective. Most prominent at nighttime, the lights can be easily seen in daylight as well. We also found the color picking tool in Hue's app, which lets users manage the Bloom and LightStrips' output, to work with a precision identical to that found with the wireless light bulbs.

In addition, both products can be added to existing light recipes, or can be assigned their own automated functions separately.

Conclusion



Taken as a whole, we can recommend the Bloom and LightStrips combo to existing Hue users, albeit with some caveats. Friends of Hue doesn't offer the same high-quality light reproduction found in Hue light bulbs, and as such careful consideration is required when planning out an install.

Hue


While some people may not notice or care about the LightStrips' slight deviations in color, others will instantly spot the difference. For single-strip applications, the higher SDCM is fine. But for longer runs using multiple LightStrips, the change immediately shatters the illusion of having one long strip, which to us looks tacky.

For those just jumping into the Hue ecosystem, the Bloom and LightStrips are less than optimal for the price. Remember, people who don't already own Hue will have to buy the wireless bridge to communicate with the lights, an expense added to an already high cost of entry.

Hue


The Friends of Hue LivingColors Bloom Lamp sells for $80 on the Apple Online Store, while the LightStrips cost $90 per strand.

Score: 3 out of 5 (Combined score for Bloom and LightStrips)



ratings_hl_30.png

Pros:


  • Color accents add to a room's ambiance
  • Scalable LightStrips offer more lighting options
  • Advanced automation via Hue app


Cons:


  • Expensive
  • Inaccurate colors
  • Needs Hue bridge to operate
post #2 of 20

The front page link to this article just gives a 404 for me...

 

I am thinking of buying one of these Hue systems for my sister at Christmas, she spends a lot of time decorating her house with interesting/unusual objects, and already has WiFi and an iPad.

post #3 of 20

I don't get the point of the Bloom... 120 lumens?! That's pathetic. It looks like it's the size of a dinner plate but it only has 3 emitters closely spaced in the centre. And that colour temperature deviation on the strips is dramatic. Really bad. Also, 600 lumens for the regular bulbs isn't great either. And I hate the idea of that stupid bridge. I'm still waiting on Lifx. I think it will be a much better product. Although I'm not sure they can compete now that they're a year behind Philips in coming to market.

post #4 of 20
I'm a big fan of the Hue system but above that I'm a bigger fan of the Buckeyes!! great review. Had to comment and represent from Columbus OH!
post #5 of 20
Since every lightstrip can be tuned independently, doesn't that give you the option to create recipes that have the same color for each?
post #6 of 20
If you don't need wireless control Ikea has a similar flexible colour strip for half the cost.
post #7 of 20
i've used both the Ikea strip and now the Hue strip under the same cabinets. While I do like the flexibility of the Hue strip, it is only about half as bright as the Ikea strip.
post #8 of 20
"We asked Philips about the color inconsistency and a representative said Friends of Hue products are designed to be color accent lights. While the company ensures high quality light, the Bloom and LightStrips are not meant to be as accurate as the regular Hue bulbs."
Huh? Why would Phillips release an overpriced product that's not ready for prime time?
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnCiolli View Post

I'm a big fan of the Hue system but above that I'm a bigger fan of the Buckeyes!! great review. Had to comment and represent from Columbus OH!
Yet have time to read this on the day of 'the game with that team up north'!
Well, maybe you saw the first half... Yikes.
Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster by your side, kid.
Reply
Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster by your side, kid.
Reply
post #10 of 20

I haven't tried a Bloom, but I did buy and return a Lightstrip.  The Lightstrip was awesome, but it didn't suit my particular needs, sadly.  That being said, I am a huge fan of Hue.  Yeah, it's pricey, but it's also pretty amazing how big of a difference those bulbs can make.  Lighting is one of the easiest ways to make a big home improvement, and once you've used these, it's hard to go back to standard light bulbs.  It's so easy to add a bit - or a lot - of warmth to your lights with Hue, and if you're even half decent at coding, you can use the Hue API to control your lights on your Mac.  I created hotkeys for mine.  The hotkeys basically trigger a few different settings I created (bright light, warm light, ambiance, mood lighting, and a dark setup for watching movies on TV, plus an All Lights Off setting).

post #11 of 20
The lights trips seem like you could, if you can afford, have a Christmas look in your front yard.
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takeo View Post
 

I don't get the point of the Bloom... 120 lumens?! That's pathetic. It looks like it's the size of a dinner plate but it only has 3 emitters closely spaced in the centre. And that colour temperature deviation on the strips is dramatic. Really bad. Also, 600 lumens for the regular bulbs isn't great either. And I hate the idea of that stupid bridge. I'm still waiting on Lifx. I think it will be a much better product. Although I'm not sure they can compete now that they're a year behind Philips in coming to market.

600 lumens is not that much less then a standard bulb. The hue bulbs are just as bright in my opinion. The Lifx bulbs look interesting, but they are more expensive then hue. The Lifx app looks pretty bland as well. They also don't have an important feature I like is remote operation when you are away from home. I don't get what the big deal is having a bridge. 

post #13 of 20

I do own the bloom lamp and I do like it. I'm using mine as ambient light behind my flatscreen. One thing with the bloom lamp is it's not the same as the Hue bulb. The hue bulb can't make rich greens and blues, but it can make bright whites to warm whites. The bloom lamp on the other hand can make rich blues and greens, but not white light like the hue bulbs. 120 lumens doesn't sound like a lot, but it's not meant to be a main light for your home. It's an ambient light. Regardless, it is bright enough. 

 

One thing I question about this review on the color inaccuracies is if the reviewer is using the same exact location on the color palette on the app for the strips? You can bunch multiple light strips together and move them around the palette on the app so all are the same color. If you aren't doing that and have each strip at very close locations on the app, it's going to be different colors. That's what it looks like to me based on the picture. One of the strips looks to be set further left at the top palette for white light. 


Edited by Boltsfan17 - 11/30/13 at 1:40pm
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boltsfan17 View Post
 

600 lumens is not that much less then a standard bulb. The hue bulbs are just as bright in my opinion. The Lifx bulbs look interesting, but they are more expensive then hue. The Lifx app looks pretty bland as well. They also don't have an important feature I like is remote operation when you are away from home. I don't get what the big deal is having a bridge. 

 

For a 60 watt equivalent you want around 900+ lumens... which Lifx claims to deliver. I think 600 is a little dim. And regarding the bridge, I just don't love the idea of yet another gadget to deal with. That said, I'm open to seeing where both go and changing my mind. I have big hopes for Lifx but I would switch to Hue if it made sense. The main thing I'll like to see from Hue is higher output emitters.

post #15 of 20

Philips makes cheap junk. No quality products or innovation. Ask anybody who works for them.

post #16 of 20
I bought a starter set, two strips and a bloom. They work just great for me. I don't expect a high degree of colour accuracy, they are a decoration. They make the house look amazing.

As an architectural photographer I've shot some houses that cost millions containing bespoke LED setups that run from dedicated rooms full of racks of controllers that cost in 5 figures, so I'm very happy to have something that costs a small fraction of that and yet seems about as functional.

The gamut of the strips appears quite limited, but as accents they work well and are quite bright enough for my needs. I use profiled colour monitors for work, own a colour meter and etc. and thats right for work, but for around the house Hue works fine. Its not cheap, but I can run it from my iOS devices.

My major grouse is the quality of the software available. The Philips app is quite poor and many independent apps much worse. I really want a good version of the Philips app but with the ability to create chained sequences of lighting... then I'll be happy.
post #17 of 20
Two complaints: too expensive, locked in hue ecosystem.

I have started using insteon in my apartment, and am reasonably happy. I spent about $500 to control 5-6 switches, and I have time-of-day and sunrise/sunset functionality, as well as a little more complex logic that factors in occupied zones. The products are FAR from perfect, and I wish they had easier ways of inexpensively controlling 10-20 very small low-voltage zones from one location along with better dimming options. Unfortunately, it is the best solution I have found at a residential scale.

It would be nice if there was a simple, practical solution at $10-20 per zone.
post #18 of 20

Yes, you could probably go in and tune each individually, but that's a pretty big hassle. Every time you want all of them to be the same color, you'd have to go and tweak each one individually to match.

post #19 of 20

Are these color inconsistencies the same with each use?  For example, do two side-by-side light strips set to the same hue and saturation always appear the same or can the color fluctuate with each power cycle?

 

If you download the "Hue Lights" app, there is an option to set the exact Hue, Saturation, and Brightness (e.g., Hue=47000, Saturation=254, Brightness=254 should produce a nice blue).  When both LightStrips are set side-by-side with exact settings can you still see the difference?

 

As long as each LightStrip has consistent behavior you could create a Scene called "LightStrips" and add the exact color attributes to each strip in the Scene.  For example, LightStrip1 has (47000, 254, 254) for Hue, Saturation, and Brightness while LightStrip2 has (47100, 250, 254).  Once the Scene is created each time you activate it you should get consistent, matching colors.

post #20 of 20

Just a scam.

 

Nothing will ever replace my regular, soft comfortable light bulbs.

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