Philips Hue Sensor Review

Photography courtesy of Philips

Photography courtesy of Philips

Review summary

Highs

  • Effective detection
  • Daylight Sensor
  • Day/Night Settings
  • Easy installation
  • Good battery life

Lows

  • Limited configurations
  • No security features and notifications
  • Cannot trigger actions on other systems through the API

Read more


Special thanks to www.beaumotica.nl for sponsoring this review.

Introduction

New Philips Hue Sensor package - Photograph Philippe REGNIER

After four years on the Market, Philips Hue has established itself as a leading solution for people interested in smart home and lighting. While the first year, the solution was most relevant to early adopters, the portfolio grew significantly over time making it a credible option for the early majority.

The first step in the mass market direction was to introduce the White Light option (without colour tuning). Not everyone was interested in colours and bringing the price down enabled a much broader audience. The second step was to introduce wall switches as controlling lights from a smartphone as its limits.

The next logical step was then to introduce a presence detector. Meet the Philips Hue Sensor, the new accessory for your Philips Hue installation.

The product

As with the rest of the range, the Philips Hue Sensor is meant to be easily installed. Using a magnetic base, you can angle the sensor to optimise its detection range. You can also take it off its base and use it as a standalone device should you find a purpose for it.

Although relatively thick at 2 cm, the form factor is quite compact with a 5,5 cm square dimension. The mate white finish will disappear in most ceilings or walls. The only noticeable element is the presence of not one but two sensors on the front of the product.

The first one, at the centre is a classic PIR (infrared) presence detector sensor with a 100 degrees detection angle and a 5 meters range. Philips Hue being so smart, they combined it with an additional daylight sensor (little black dot) for light level regulation to bring extra energy savings and improve comfort.

Wireless functionality is powered with two AAA batteries which explains the relative thickness of the device but provides enough juice for 2-3 years of operations. Obviously, the device communicates with the rest of the system using the same ZigBee Light Link (ZLL) protocol. Being only rated IP42 the sensor should only be used indoor.

How many sensors can you add to your Hue installation? It will depend on the number of other accessories (switches) you already have. If using only sensors, the maximum is rated at 12 units per bridge which should be enough for small to mid-size homes but could be limited for larger scale installations.

Price and availability

  • The Philips Hue Sensor is retailed at €39.95 EUR / $39.99 US / £34.99 BP

Products are available as of the 5th of October in all major online and consumer electronics retailers.

Use cases

Why would you need the Philips Hue Sensor?

Presence detectors are nothing new and are already used in many common applications where using a light switch is either not convenient or desired as you may forget the light on. Toilets, walk-in closets, corridors, storage rooms, garages to name a few are all locations where presence detection is interesting and contribute to energy savings.

Photograph courtesy of Philips

Unlike most presence detectors, the Philips Hue Sensor has few more tricks up its sleeves. The first is the addition of the daylight sensor which allows greater comfort and further savings. Basically, by defining a target light level, the sensor will regulate the light depending on the amount of natural daylight. This could be interesting in a home office environment for instance. You can appreciate here the know-how of Philips from their professional business and bringing this advanced lighting technology to consumers is a great initiative and makes total sense in the Philips Hue ecosystem.

The next cool feature is a split day and night setting. What it does is simply create a different set of rules where basically during the day it will trigger the light on to a specific light level, usually high but regulated with the daylight sensor, and at night, a different light setting with a low light level.

waking up at night ? Philips Hue Sensor has your back! - PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PHILIPS

This is great when you want to avoid waking up too abruptly with full brightness while you practically sleep walk to the toilet in the middle of the night. It also makes night activities much more discreet and secured. Where usually you might want to skip turning on the light too scared to wake up your kids, you now have a sufficient light level to walk securely.

Installation

As explained earlier, Philips made the installation procedure rather simple. First, you can use the Sensor as a standalone device but if you plan to fix it to a wall or ceiling, you only need to screw the magnetic base. The screw and wall plug are actually supplied in the package so unless you have a very specific wall, you won’t have problems with the installation.

What should be taken into account carefully before installing the Sensor is the placement. With a 100° angle and 5 meters range, the Sensor offers good specifications which facilitates that process. My advice though is to do some tests to nail down the best possible location before fixing the base definitely.

In our house, I decided to use the first sensor in the entrance hallway and this setup allowed to bring the following benefits:

  • Nice welcome light when entering the house
  • Grouping 2 light channels together
  • Day/Night settings for comfort
  • Energy savings as we regularly forget to switch off the light

As you can see, it is a good mix of comfort and energy saving features.

Configuration

The configuration takes place in the Philips Hue app (gen2 only) and is straight forward:

  • Select a room
  • Define the start of the day time (default 8h00)
  • Select a scene or light recipe for the day time
  • Define the start of the night time (default 23h00)
  • Select a scene or light recipe for the night time
  • Define the trigger time after the last motion detected
  • Define the action (default OFF)

Then comes the advanced settings:

  • Daylight sensitivity: by sliding the cursor you will simply define under which light level the Sensor should trigger the light scene. Should be performed during day time with normal light conditions to get a feel for the actual light level needed.
  • Motion Sensitivity: defines the level of sensitivity of the sensor. If you don’t want it to be too sensitive and really require an obvious movement in front of the sensor, then you can choose the low level or the medium for in between performance. Default setting is High and will be right for most users but if you want to use the sensor in an open space for instance and lit up a specific area only when people come in, it could be useful to tune down the sensitivity.

Possible improvements?

Photograph Philippe Regnier

Obviously I did not spend so much time with the Philips Sensor yet as it’s just been released. I do however have experience with professional lighting sensors and this type of solutions. For me at this point the experience is good both on the effect and the configuration as things are straight forward and provide enough configurations to tune the settings to most needs. If, however I was to uncover issues or new features, I will for sure update this review accordingly.

I understand Philips for cooking down the configuration page of the sensor to provide clear and specific use cases without providing access to a totally manual configuration. It makes for a better user experience.

I could imagine however that some advanced users would want to have more options than just the day and night settings. You could imagine using the Sensor for security purposes with notifications when someone is detected while you are away (in combination with the Home/Away geofencing feature for instance). Why not also open the API to the sensor to enable triggers in 3rd party systems based on the Hue Sensor activity?

All of these elements could further extend the home automation capabilities of Philips Hue but as it stands the Philips Hue Sensor is just a light Sensor and a very good one. It makes for a great addition to the Hue ecosystem and nothing says that Philips wont be upgrading the feature set over time.

Highs

  • Effective detection
  • Daylight Sensor
  • Day/Night Settings
  • Easy installation
  • Good battery life

Lows

  • Limited configurations
  • No security features and notifications
  • Cannot trigger actions on other systems through the API

Conclusion

We have a pretty extensive Hue installation in our home but so far I was not ready to extend the system to corridors or the garage for instance. One issue was the price per lamp of course but also I did not want to add new switches to keep the system powered up and replace the legacy light switches. For the living room ok but adding two switches for a simple corridor, that was simply too much.

The Philips Hue Sensor not only mitigates the whole switch issue but brings additional comfort and energy saving features in the mix. While it still makes the extension a bit pricey, it really starts making sense for people like me that want their entire home lighting installation connected.

It’s also surprising how quickly you get used to this automatic detection which makes you think that soon using wall switches might be a bit old school.

What is your opinion on this new product from Philips? Did you think of other applications or was there something I did not cover in the review? Please let me know in the comments below or share with us your experience.


Special thanks to www.beaumotica.nl for sponsoring this review.



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1 Comment

philippe regnier

Founder and main editor of The Dandy Domain.

Audio-video freak for more than 20 years, Philippe worked for more than 10 years with the most advanced professional lighting solution. Ended his corporate career at Philips Hue in the booming Smart Home playground. Crazy of Danish design and beautiful products in general. Believes technology should enhance our life not spoil it.

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