Philips Hue is now widely available across the globe and has been one of the most successful smart home solution since its launch in 2012. It all started with the E27 lamp which provides both exceptional white light quality and a fully customisable Hue.
Early adopters were able to "colour up" their rooms and discover the exponential capabilities of the system via IFTTT and light recipes among other things. Later came Hue Lux, the little brother, which unlike the Hue lamp is only able to light up at a fixed 2700K (warm white). It does allow smooth dimming but the light recipes (read, relax, concentrate and energize) are not available as they require a tunable white.
To fill the gap between the two propositions Philips introduced a range of luminaires called Phoenix which do offer white only with temperature control from 2200K (warm) to 6500K (cold), but so far no lamps were available.
Following a naming update, the new Philips Hue White Ambiance E27 lamps are finally introduced, filling the gap in the lamp portfolio. You now have the following 3 ranges available:
- Hue White and Color Ambiance: tunable white + colours
- Hue White Ambiance: tunable white
- Hue White: dimmable warm white
For now only the E27 lamp is available in the White Ambiance range but we can expect more options coming down the road as Philips also offers GU10 lamps (and BR30 and PAR16 for the US).
For this review, I received the new White Ambiance starter kit which is basically composed of:
- 2 x E27 Hue White Ambiance lamps
- 1 x Dimmer Switch
- 1 x Bridge (2.0 latest generation)
With this you have all you need to get started with the Philips ecosystem.
The lamp uses the same iconic Hue shape and apart from a plastic diffusor (previous Hue lamps used glass diffusors) there is not much to say about the form factor other than it's a proven design. It will likely end up hidden away in a fixture behind a shade or some sort of diffusor material anyway. Unlike the Hue White and Color lamps, the colour temperature control is 2200K to 6500K. The Hue Color lamps go down to 2000K which is slightly warmer but the difference is marginal. Both lamps offer 800 lumens which is the 60W incandescent equivalent and all the light you should need for this type of form factor.
See below the complete specs of the lamp:
- Fitting: E27
- Form factor: A19
- Lifetime: 25000 hour(s)
- Color temperature: 2200K (warm) - 6500K (cold)
- Wattage: 9.5 W
- Input voltage: 220V-240V
- Lumen output: 806 lm
- Software upgradable: Yes
- Start up: Instant 100% light output
- Height: 110 mm
- Height: 4.3 inch
- Max. operation power: 9.5 W
- Max. standby power: 0.1 W
Price and availability
To enjoy the Philips Hue White Ambiance you have the following possibilities:
- Starter Kit including two E27 lamps, one Dimmer Switch and the bridge will retail at €139.95 EUR (no price indication for US and UK)
- Single lamp at €34.95 EUR (no price indication for US and UK)
In terms of positioning, the Philips Hue White Ambiance lamp sits between the Hue White at €19.95 and the Hue White and Color at €59.95.
Products are available in Europe as of today, Monday 23rd 2016. Not sure about the rest of the world but I assume it might be the same or slightly later at worst.
If you buy a starter kit, the installation procedure is dead simple as basically all devices are pre-commissioned. Simply screw your lamps in, turn the power on, connect the bridge and download the app (gen2). The Dimmer Switch will control the lights as soon as you pull the lid sticking out the battery hatch. Once you start the app, follow the instructions until you have to press the button on the bridge which will pair your phone or tablet. From then on your lights are also accessible, you don't need to search them.
If you are an existing Hue user, you need to go to the 'Light Setup' and press the + button in the bottom right corner. Then, press the search button and your lights will be discovered and added to your list of devices. In the unlikely event that you plan on adding lamps from another installation or starter kit, you need to search the lamps by serial number instead. So before your trigger the search, add the serial numbers of your lamps (printed on the body of the lamp) and the bridge will detect them.
By using the light palette, scenes or recipes in the app, you can tune the light ambience to your needs. For instance in the evening you can use the read or relax modes which will tune the light to warmer tones and eliminate the energising blue light that will keep you awake. For those familiar with the "night shift" functionality on apple devices it's pretty much the same and will help you going to bed fully relaxed.
In the morning, on the other hand, you can choose the concentrate and energise modes which will give you the necessary kick to wake up and get ready for your active day.
One thing that I absolutely love about these new lamps compared to the original coloured version is how you can dim down to a very low light level. This gives you the possibility to create very dark and cosy atmospheres with warm light. More importantly while using the wake up function, these lamps will not wake you up abruptly but instead will slowly fade to a bright level. When testing this functionality with the original Hue lamp I was basically waking up immediately, which was defeating the purpose of the fading functionality. Here no problems, you can get the real smooth wake up light experience.
One of the key benefits of using connected lighting solutions is the ability to control your lights from your phone or tablet. The second generation of the Philips Hue app has recently been launched and offers a much sleeker user interface and the long awaited room control option. You can still use the old app but it will likely become obsolete and frankly you won't look back after trying this new version. See below some visuals and more specifically the control menu for the new Hue White Ambiance lamps.
The starter kit also provides a Dimmer Switch (read my full review) to control your lights directly from the wall or from your sofa as the remote can be undocked from its base. Although factory pre-commissioned you can still adjust its configuration using the app if you want to trigger a specific scene with additional lamps for instance. Even better, with today's Philips Hue 2.1 update you can control light recipes by cycling through the presets while pressing 1 multiple times. You can even replace the light recipes and trigger your own lights scenes in the order you like (see below print screens).
Control possibilities do not end here as Philips has an open API and integration partners. First you can use any of the 600+ apps available on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You can also use the Logitech Harmony remote control (read my report on smart home remote controls from ISE) to trigger light scenes and control your lights directly from the remote. For US readers, good to know also that Hue is compatible with Alexa, the AI interface from Amazon. You can voice command orders to Alexa through the Echo, Dot and Tap interfaces which is an unique and futuristic control interface. Philips Hue is also fully compatible with the Apple HomeKit ecosystem which means you can use Siri and all the Apple devices to control your lights.
As you can see you won't be short of options and I did not even list all compatible solutions.
If there was one thing missing in the experience for me that would be the possibility to select a warm dimming functionality. By this, I mean mimicking the warm glow of an incandescent lamp while dimming down (basically the light shifts down in colour temperature). This dimming behaviour coming from incandescent and halogen light sources has become somewhat standard and much appreciated (unconsciously maybe) as it creates a nice warm light. Unfortunately, this is not standard with the Hue lamps and LED lamps in general. Although understandable with the fixed 2700K Hue White proposition, the Ambiance model has basically all the ingredients to offer this warm dimming effect which I think would be a welcome addition, especially when using the Dimmer Switch.
The Philips White Ambiance lamps are a nice addition to the growing Hue portfolio. Although most of its functionalities are available with the coloured version, the price gap may be enough to justify the need for the White Ambiance model. I also think that the extremely low dimming level is worth it for those interested in the wake up functionality as it provides a much better experience.
Is that enough to justify the price premium over the Hue White model which is significantly cheaper? I suppose it's for everyone to decide and value the functionalities. Personally, I think that for all living areas where ambience is desired, I would prefer the White Ambiance over the basic version and use the latter for functional or less ambience critical areas. This way can you truly leverage the benefits of the system and limit the investment in coloured lamps which you may not necessarily need.
Let me know what you think about this new proposition from Philips and do not hesitate to fire some questions in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
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