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Hands-on review: Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit A60

Philips' range of Hue smart lighting promises to make any home a smart home. TechDay's Darren Price checks out the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit A60.

I can't deny that the idea of turning lights on and off by my voice presses all the right sci-fi buttons for me. As easy as it is to flick a switch, walking in the house and ordering Amazon's Alexa to switch the lights on is like something straight out of Star Trek or The Jetsons. I really can't think of anything that doesn't involve a fully-featured domestic robot that is more futuristic. Add in the ability to pick each bulb's colour and brightness and you have the future, today.

All the above is promised by reading the packaging of the Philips Hue Starter Kit A60. The box contains three bayonet bulbs (a screw-fit version is also available), a smart button, and a Hue bridge hub unit. The bulbs fit straight into your light fittings and work as normal light bulbs by default.

The magnetic battery-powered smart button can be affixed, using a double-sided sticky pad or magnetically, to any location around the house or to the included rectangular switch panel (which in turn can be affixed to the wall using the sticky pads on the back, or mounted with using screws).

The Hub bridge hub unit needs to be connected to your router via the included Ethernet cable. There's no Wi-Fi option. This somewhat limits the location you can place it if you only have the one router. I found that the Hue bridge will, however, work when connected to any Ethernet-enabled mesh nodes that you have.

The system is set up via the Philips Hue mobile app. The setup is pretty easy and only takes a few minutes. The smart button does have to be added to the system as a separate device, which threw me at first, but the app made short work of getting it up and running.
From the app, individual lights can be named and grouped into rooms. They can also each be adjusted in brightness and colour hue.

The Philips Hue system is scalable, so adding extra smart lights is easy. The use of multiple lights in a room allows for customised lighting colour schemes. There are pre-configured scenes in the app that can be used to create stunning mood lighting. The lights can also be synced to the likes of Spotify for ad hoc disco lighting. Whilst the RGB colour can be used to create interesting room lighting, I also found it useful to be able to switch from a cool white when working to a warmer glow when relaxing in front of the TV.

The coolest thing, though, is adding the lighting control to your smart home digital assistant. Be it Apple's HomeKit, Google Home, or Amazon Echo you can ask Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa to control your home lighting. I use an Amazon Echo, which was easy to link with the Hue app.

Entering the house at night and illuminating the whole of the downstairs with a voice command or via the smart button (that I installed by the door) makes things easier, especially if your hands are full with shopping bags or otherwise encumbered. Similarly, being able to adjust room lighting when watching the TV, dimming the intensity, or just switching from cool light to a warmer setting is also pretty good.  

The only thing that foils this futuristic set-up is when a member of the family goes all old school and physically turns any of the lights off from the wall switches. For the smart bulbs to work, they must all be switched on at the wall. It is, however, very easy to forget and just flip the switch and turn the lights off.

I think that the three bulbs in the kit, whilst great to get your head around the system, are not enough to effectively use the system. You really need to replace all the bulbs in an area to get the best effect. This is by no means a criticism, quite the contrary. Be mindful that the system is so effective and fun to use that you'll probably want to expand your set-up.

The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit A60 is a great way to dip your toes into smart home lighting. It's easy to set up and convenient to use. The modular system can also be expanded to create some stunning mood lighting around the home.

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