Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus Review

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Review summary

Highs

  • Quality of light is great and system offers both tunable white tones (warm to cold) and 16M colours
  • Base module of 2m extendable up to 10 meters using extension sets
  • Benefits of Hue ecosystem (apps, switches and growing integration possibilities with other smart home solutions)
  • Lumen output for strip length below 3m is satisfying
  • Easy installation

Lows

  • Lumen output for strip length above 3m may not be sufficient for general lighting
  • Extension sets come in 1 meter size only
  • No 90° connectors
  • Power supply block is not ideal for permanent recessed installation

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Introduction

Philips Hue is a Connected Lighting solution for the home. By simply plugging the Hue bridge to your home Internet router, the system allows you to control your lighting equipment via a smartphone or tablet and trigger light scenes.

Philips has been pioneering the Connected Lighting field and is still today the most comprehensive portfolio of smart lights whether you are looking for white light, tunable white or mixed white and coloured lights. The portfolio includes numerous solutions from standard lamps to luminaires.

In addition to this growing portfolio of lights, Philips Hue offers a range of wireless wall switches with the Philips Hue Tap and the new Philips Dimmer Switch. The first one uses kinetic energy and therefore does not require batteries whereas the latter rely on a button cell battery.

Philips also has an open API for developers which means that anyone can develop apps that will control Hue lights. You can find hundreds of apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. They all aim at specific ways to use your lights like dynamic mood lighting, parties with music synchronization, kids friendly interfaces or basic control interfaces to simply replace the Hue app if you don’t like it.

New Philips Hue Bridge homekit compatible - photograph courtesy of philips

New Philips Hue Bridge homekit compatible - photograph courtesy of philips

There is a growing number of integration possibilities between Hue and other smart home solutions

The system openness and integration goes well beyond these apps and there is actually a growing number of integration possibilities between the Hue system and other smart home solutions. I won’t give a comprehensive overview here but it’s good to know that Hue is now compatible with the Apple HomeKit and Google Works with NEST ecosystems. This means that you will have tons of smart products potentially interacting with Hue. Some examples to highlight the potential benefits of those ecosystems:

  • Controlling your lights with SIRI voice control from Apple
  • Flashing red lights when a smart camera detects movement in your house while away
  • Turning on lights to improve visibility and allow smart cameras to see through smoke when smoke detectors trigger the alarm
  • Smart door lock turning lights on automatically when entering at night

The product

Philips Lightstrip Plus and its extension set boxes - Photograph Philippe Regnier

Philips Lightstrip Plus and its extension set boxes - Photograph Philippe Regnier

The product is composed of three main components: the power supply, a radio module (Zigbee Light Link) to communicate with the Hue bridge and the strip itself which connects to the radio module (see above pictures).

It is important to note that the package does not come with the Hue bridge as it is meant to extend an existing Hue installation. If you are only interested in the Lightstrip Plus, don't worry, you can now purchase the new HomeKit bridge separately.

The Lightstrip Plus takes the performance to another level

For those of you that are familiar with Hue you may already know the first Lightstrip which is a version only doing colours (no white light). It boosts 120 lumens of light output which is good enough for colour effects. It is a very good strip for decorative lighting and while you have to pay a premium for buying a Hue version vs other generic LED strips you do benefit from the whole Hue ecosystem.

 

The Lightstrip Plus, similar to the first version, also displays 16 million colours and is easy to install with the double sided 3M tape. But then it takes the performance to another level. Here are the key additional features:

  • Length of 2m but extendable up to 10 meters using 1 meter extension sets
  • Light output of 1600 lumens for the base module (equivalent to two 60W incandescent lamps) up to 1650 lumens when extended beyond 2 meters
  • Tunable white light from 2000K to 6500K (very warm to very cold white light)

For a complete list of the specifications, please click here

Prices and availability

  • The base unit price is set at €79.95 EUR / $89.95 US / £69.95 BP
  • The extension set price is €24.95 EUR / $29.95 US / £19.95 BP
  • A 10m strip will then cost you a rounded €280 / $350 / £230
  • Hue bridge 2.0 HomeKit compatible €59.95 / $59.95 / £49.95

Products are available as of the first of October 2015 in the all major online and brick & mortar retailers.

Light effect

One thing to remember in lighting is that you do not want to see the light source, in this case the LEDs on the strip. What is important is the light effect that the source will generate while out of sight. Strips can therefore be hidden underneath a counter, behind a furniture, underneath shelves or cabinets and of course installed in coves and this is where this new version really stands out compared to the previous model.

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Photograph courtesy of Philips

The lumen output provides enough light for general lighting applications

With the possibility to extend up to 10 meters you can integrate this module into the architecture of the room being a cove, built-in shelves, etc. This length is enough to cover most typical room requirements. Of course, the classic power supply unit plugging into a wall socket is not the most installer friendly but there are workarounds to mitigate this issue and for most consumers it is still a more convenient option.

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Photograph courtesy of Philips

On top of that, the new greatly improved lumen output of this unit provides enough light for general lighting especially given that you can tune the white to your taste. 1600 lm is already twice the power output of 60 watts incandescent lamps but if you really need extra power you can always install a second strip running in parallel in more demanding circumstances.

Installation

Knowing the potential of the product, I would have loved to integrate it in a cove but my house is built and there is no easy way to install a new cove in the architecture of the building. We are also just moving in so I did not want to go wild on the installation if down the road we change the room layouts. I therefore settled for a classic furniture backlight option with my living room sideboard.

Installation is very simple thanks to the double sided tape. As you can see in the the installation pictures below, I decided to limit the light losses by refurbishing an old white board which I taped on the backside of the furniture. This way the light will bounce on the white surface better than on the dark walnut panels of the sideboard. It’s a simple trick to remember, white reflects the light better than darker tones. Another point here, after testing a back and forth layout where the strip would basically be doubled at a roughly 10 cm distance, I changed this layout for a U shape instead to better follow the furniture top, left and right sides. The bottom is less important in my case as my floor is rather dark and the furniture unit is not mounted so high on its legs.

Also good to know is that you can cut the strip to adjust to a specific length. While the previous strip allowed to be cut every 10 cm with dedicated marking, with the new strip it's every 33 cm which is less flexible. The strip does allow for 90 degree bending but as you can see it’s not the most elegant solution and it’s impossible to keep the strip in position only using the supplied 3M double sided tape.

I actually recycled my old Lightstrip underneath our bar counter and while the lumen output is much lower and limited to colours, in this specific application it still works very well.

Photograph Philippe Regnier

Photograph Philippe Regnier

Control

The wireless Philips Dimmer Switch is a connected upgrade of your traditional light switch

After connecting the Hue bridge to your home router, you can control the strip using the Philips Hue app which allows you to also create scenes. On a daily basis though, I rarely use the app and prefer using switches such as the new Wireless Dimming Switch or the round Hue Tap. The later offers to recall up to 4 scenes so if you set one to OFF you can then save the other 3 for convenient light moods such as watching TV, cosy diner or full brightness mode for when it’s needed (cleaning for instance).

The wireless Dimmer Switch is a connected upgrade of your traditional light switch where you basically turn on and off a scene of your choice with the added convenience of the dimming down and up buttons for quick adjustments. The other benefit of this switch is that you can use it as a remote control and dock it on the wall with the magnet retention system. A specific review of this product will be available in the coming weeks as it’s new and really convenient for upscaled Hue installations.

Possible improvements?

I do not think that there are strong flaws in the specifications of this product. Nevertheless, here are some improvement ideas for the next generation:

  • Higher lumen output, especially when the strip is extended to longer length
  • A white only and/or tunable white version
  • An installer version with a power supply facilitating permanent recessed installation versus using the current power supply
  • Connectors for easier 90° connections as bending the strip is possible but not convenient (limits of this is that the connections need to be at the end of a module which leads me to the following point)
  • 50 cm extension set for increased flexibility and to avoid cutting too much out at the end of the line
  • In some applications a pixel version of the strip with a 10 cm pitch could enable fancy dynamic lighting effects
Strip lighting allows dramatic lighting effects

Highs

  • Quality of light is great and system offers both tunable white tones (warm to cold) and 16M colours
  • Base module of 2m extendable up to 10 meters using extension sets
  • Benefits of Hue ecosystem (apps, switches and growing integration possibilities with other smart home solutions)
  • Lumen output for strip length below 3m is satisfying
  • Easy installation

Lows

  • Lumen output for strip length above 3m may not be sufficient for general lighting
  • Extension sets come in 1 meter size only
  • No 90° connectors
  • Power supply block is not ideal for permanent recessed installation

 

Conclusion

Being Lighting savvy I am actually a bit frustrated I cannot fully enjoy the potential of this product in my house at the moment. I could surely use it in many other ways but for now I still very much enjoy the glowing effect it does on our sideboard.

Its combination of easy and flexible installation and great lighting makes it a very versatile connected lighting gear whether you are looking for a functional or decorative lighting solution.

Strip lighting is very interesting as it allows dramatic lighting effects that easily highlights furniture or architectural features.

Philips made a huge step forward with this new Plus version and it should allow fantastic applications. The Hue ecosystem is also extending rapidly and gives plenty of possibilities. If still too limited for a complete lighting installation in a home, you can certainly use it already in a multi room setup. In our home we use it successfully in our living room and bedrooms and enjoy the convenience of light scenes at the touch of a single button.

I am very curious to see how you like to use it so please feel free to share your own installation pictures on The Dandy Domain social pages.



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