Philips Hue smart lighting: the best illumination for smart homes

Illuminate your smart home with Philips Hue

Philips’ Hue lights can transform your home and garden, and they’re much easier to set up and use than you might expect.

Smart lights are wonderful things. They’re low energy, so they’re inexpensive to run. They work with smart speakers, so you can control them with your voice. And multi-coloured ones offer millions of possibilities, enabling you to completely transform your home. You can even get smart lights that attach to your TV and match what’s on screen.

A wall mounted TV surrounded by colourful Philips Hue smart lighting.Credit: Philips

There are lots of smart lighting brands now, but the best known brand is Philips Hue. Its Hue lights were launched in 2012, and at the time they were the only iPhone-controllable smart bulbs. Today the range has expanded to include all kinds of bulbs, spotlights and lamps, home entertainment hardware and outdoor lighting too.

Technology expert Louise Blain (T3, Techradar, BBC Radio Scotland) has tested all the key smart lighting brands and Hue is her favourite. “I think what’s so special about Hue isn’t just the connectivity options, which are impressive and still accessible and simple,” she says.

“It’s the variety. As well as standard bulbs, you can get lightstrips, light bars and even fairy lights. That means you can really find a smart lighting option that suits your living space.”


What can Hue do?

16 million colours and remote control

Hue bulbs can be remotely controlled or even automated. You can turn them on or off individually or in groups; you can adjust their brightness; and you can change their colour.

With white-only bulbs you can adjust the colour temperature from a very intense bright white to a much warmer, cosier white, and with coloured bulbs you have 16 million colours to choose from.

Where things get really fun is that you can have different colours and settings for individual bulbs. For example as we write this we have a white bulb set to warm white so we can see what we’re doing and some coloured bulbs across the room that are currently giving a cheerful reddish glow. 

You can save your bulbs’ settings as light “recipes” and program them to run at particular times, so you might have a bright recipe for breakfast and something more subtle for when you’re relaxing on the sofa in the evening.

And you can create routines that enable you to call up your saved light recipes from your smart speaker: “Alexa, TV time!” Or “Hey Siri, it’s bedtime!” Voice control is particularly helpful for people who have mobility issues. 

What is a smart speaker?

A smart speaker is a wireless, voice-activated device that incorporates artificial intelligence and virtual assistants to interact with users, respond to voice commands, and perform various tasks. These devices are designed to make daily life easier by providing hands-free access to information, entertainment, and smart home controls.

The heart of a smart speaker is its virtual assistant, which is a software program powered by artificial intelligence that can understand natural language and execute commands or answer questions based on the user’s voice input.

Hue can also respond to external triggers. You could have your Hue lights in the hallway turn on when a Hue motion detector spots someone getting up in the middle of the night. You could have the Hue lights in your living room flash when a smart doorbell sees someone approaching. Or you might get Hue to bathe your home in a welcoming glow when you unlock a smart lock in your front door.

You can use location services in your phone to ensure you never leave the lights on when you go out, or to switch them on when you’re about to arrive. Hue also supports adaptive lighting, which automatically changes your lighting throughout the day to match the lighting conditions outside.

A modern lounge bathed in pink lighting from smart Philips Hue bulbsCredit: Philips
Hue can bathe your home in 16 million different colours

With some extra hardware you can have even more fun. The Hue Play HDMI Sync box connects to your TV (and other devices such as DVD players and games consoles) and synchronises your lights with the on-screen action, and Hue also provides a range of outdoor lights that can paint entire walls with colour.

There are portable lights too, which are ideal for outdoor entertaining, and Hue recently added fairy lights that spent Christmas on our tree before becoming decorative lighting in our dining room.

How does Hue work?

It’s all about Zigbee

Hue lights and bulbs connect to one another via a wireless standard called Zigbee. Zigbee was designed specifically for smart home technology, and it’s also used by other smart lighting systems from firms such as IKEA and Innr.

Zigbee is separate from your wireless network, so you don’t need to worry about your smart lights interfering with your Netflix streaming or vice-versa. 

The biggest benefit of Zigbee is that unlike Wi-Fi, where the signal gets weaker the further you are from your wireless router, every Zigbee device acts as a network repeater.

Provided your Hue bulb is within range of another Hue bulb – without obstacles, Zigbee has a range of up to 300m outdoors and 100m indoors – it’ll happily connect to the rest of your Hue system.


What do you need?

A Hue Starter Kit is a good place to start

The best way to communicate with and control Hue lights is via a little box called a Hue Bridge, which comes with every Hue Starter Kit.

This plugs into the back of your wireless router and enables your phone, tablet, computer or smart speaker to communicate with Hue lights.

You can then control your Hue lights via the Hue app, with a smart home app such as Apple’s or Google’s Home, or with a personal digital assistant such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby.

Each Hue Bridge can connect up to 50 different lights, so in most homes you won’t need more than one.

A woman holding up a smartphone with the Philips Hue app on screenCredit: Philips
The Hue app allows you to control all your lights from your smartphone or tablet

Do you need the Hue Bridge?

If you want the full gamut of control, yes

The most recent Hue bulbs and lights can also be controlled via your phone or tablet over Bluetooth. But with Bluetooth you can’t control your lights via most smart speakers (except Alexa) or your smart home app, you can’t control them from your phone when you’re not there, and you’re limited to ten lights per room.

Because Hue uses Zigbee, you can also connect your lights to a non-Hue Zigbee hub. Amazon’s most recent Echo (4th Generation), Echo Show 10 and Eero 6 devices have built-in Zigbee hubs, as does the Aeotec SmartThings Smart Home Hub.


What does Philips Hue work with?

The short answer is “everything”. In addition to controlling Hue lights with the Hue phone app, the system works with Apple’s Siri/HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings and many more smart home devices such as Yale and August smart locks.

You can even connect Hue to Spotify Music and synchronise your lights with your soundtrack.

New Philips Hue devices from 2023 onwards will support the new Matter smart home standard. That’s designed to ensure that different firms’ devices can work with each other, removing incompatibilities and making smart home technology so much easier to buy, set up and use.

That should make it easier to use non-Hue lights and bulbs with your Hue system.

A trio of Philips Hue bulbs handing from ceiling- mounted pendant cords over a coffee table.Credit: Philips

What’s the cost?

Philips Hue is an investment

Hue is a lot cheaper than it used to be, but it can still be quite expensive –especially compared to simpler but more affordable rivals such as IKEA, Govee or Hue’s own brand of cheap Wi-Fi bulbs, Wiz. And Hue’s own lamps and light fittings tend to be priced at a premium.

At the time of writing a starter kit comprising a Hue Bridge and two white bulbs is £47. A Bridge with three coloured bulbs is £169. Individual bulbs start at around £14 for white ones and £49 for coloured ones. 

If you want to add a Hue lightstrip to your TV or computer monitor, prices start at £169 for a 55-inch lightstrip. You’ll also need the Hue Play Sync box, which is currently £229. 

Hue lights and accessories are almost always discounted during any big sales event: Boxing Day, Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and so on all tend to deliver big discounts on Hue lights that can save you a lot of money. Whenever we’re buying Hue we use price checkers such as and also look for good deals on eBay to ensure that we’re never paying the full RRP.

Philips Hue FAQ

Your Hue lights will go off, and every single one of them will come back on when the power is restored. If you don’t want that to happen you can configure the Power Loss Recovery settings for each bulb in the Hue app.

You’ll still be able to control your Hue lights from the Hue app on your phone, but you’ll lose the ability to control it from your smart speaker (if you have one) until your internet connection is restored.

Should I buy Philips Hue?

“Hue is absolutely worth it”

“There’s no denying that Hue is expensive, but the choice of products and functionality is incredible,” Blain says. “In short, Hue is absolutely worth it. The ease of use of the Hue app and the compatibility with various digital assistants are second to none.”

Of all the smart lights we’ve tested, Philips Hue are the ones we’ve actually bought for our home. That’s because no other brand has the sheer range of bulbs, lights and accessories that Hue offers.

It works with all the important smart home systems and smart speakers, and its apps and accessories are class-leading too.

Whether you decide to start with a few Bluetooth bulbs or better still, a Starter Kit containing the Hue Bridge, we think you’ll love what Philips Hue can do. 

Carrie Marshall

Written by Carrie Marshall she/her


Writer, broadcaster and musician Carrie Marshall has been a technology journalist for 24 years. Her CV is a who’s-who of magazines, websites and newspapers ranging from T3, Techradar and Woman & Home to the Sunday Post and People’s Friend, and she has been providing no-nonsense technology help and buying advice to BBC Radio Scotland listeners since the early 2000s.

Carrie has written and co-written nearly twenty books as well as a BBC radio documentary series, and her memoir Carrie Kills A Man is on sale now.

Carrie is particularly interested in how technology can make our lives easier, especially if that gives her an excuse to buy yet another kitchen gadget.

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