“Study hard, get your head down at university and one day, son, you’ll be reviewing light bulbs.” Dad’s words of wisdom have always stuck with me, and here I find myself at the apex of my career, heaping praise on the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb after a week of extensive testing.
What makes the TP-Link bulb the smartest light bulb around? Unlike the Hue or Ikea alternatives, it doesn’t need a dedicated hub to go with it. The lights connect directly to your router, meaning you don’t have to find a spare Ethernet port or waste any more electricity powering a hub. This alone is a decent reason to choose TP-Link above Hue and the Swedes.
The light bulbs can be controlled via TP-Link’s own Kasa app or, better still, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Setup of both is a breeze – a two-minute job. Which is more than I can say for the Ikea bulbs: these took more than ten minutes of fiddling and a complete reinstallation a couple of months later, when they suddenly decided to stop listening to Alexa. There is nothing more 2017 then having to re-install your light bulbs.
Another feather in TP-Link’s cap is that a bayonet adapter is included in the box, meaning you don’t have to hot-foot it down to B&Q to use your light bulbs in the commonly used socket.
TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb performance
Don’t worry about the brightness of the TP-Link bulbs. Rated as the equivalent of a 60W bulb and with a maximum brightness of 800 lumens, these things are searingly bright when cranked up to the max. They can, of course, be dimmed to whatever level you wish and this model also has a rainbow of colours to choose from. If you’ve ever wanted your living room to look like a brothel or a nightclub, these are the very bulbs for you.
(On a semi-serious note, the colour-changing leaves me absolutely cold as a consumer, but as a photographer, I can see the ability to change the colour of a bulb could be handy for portraits or product photography. It’s a long way from professional coloured lights, of course, but could do a job at a pinch.)
The Alexa voice control also works flawlessly, letting you change the colour, brightness or power of the lights. Its usefulness is limited, however. If you turn off the bulbs from the light switch (bloody Luddites) the power to the light bulb is cut and it’s effectively dead to Alexa.
But controlling your lights solely by voice control does have its downsides. If the light’s in a bedroom, for instance, there’s a chance you’ll wake up a sleeping partner by asking Alexa to turn the light on when you come home late at night. Even in less noise-sensitive rooms, having to wait a second or two for Alexa to interpret your voice command just to turn a light on is a drag.
The Kasa app is more useful for automation. You can set ‘scenes’ that, say, switch off all your TP-Link lights and devices at night, or have them switch on automagically at a set time each morning. Kasa is also in beta with IFTTT, letting you do even smarter stuff, such as having the light bulb switch on at sunset in your precise location.
TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb verdict
Let’s be frank – £35 is around £34 more than I’d normally want to pay for a light bulb and rivals can be bought more cheaply. But these are definitely the best, least hassle smart bulbs I’ve ever used. If you’re won over by the idea of smart lighting, the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulbs are as good as they come.
Read this next: How do I control Ikea smart lights from Alexa?
TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb scores
Value for money
The smartest light bulb we’ve come across to date. Low hassle, Alexa-compatible but expensive.