The Philips Hue system has expanded considerably in recent years and the company recently released a major update for its app. Time for an extensive review of the latest version of Philips Hue, Philips Hue 2.0.
Philips Hue 2.0
Although many companies are trying and you can get cheaper variants, especially from China, the Philips Hue system is still at the top of all lists. Philips has, of course, been a forerunner in the field of lighting for decades and does not want to give up that position just like that. Now that houses are getting smarter and we want devices to communicate with each other, Philips Hue is the solution for controlling your lighting. For this review we have equipped a number of rooms in our ‘smart home’ with Philips Hue lamps / strips and we integrate the system with smart home systems from other manufacturers / products.
Philips Hue 2.0 – Hue range
As indicated, Philips is not sitting still. In recent months, various new lamps have been brought onto the market, including the brightness that has been improved. The company has also launched a new Bridge that adds support for Apple HomeKit. And if that were not enough, the application for Hue (Hue Gen 2) has recently been completely renewed. When you choose Hue, you are in the right place in terms of support; Philips continues to improve its products and expand the range. After all these innovations, it is time for us to take a good look at Hue.
There is something for everyone in the Philips Hue range. You can go for lamps with the GU10 or E27 fitting, lamps with color-changing LED (Color Ambiance), white lamps that are brighter and that can be dimmed (White), LED strips for mood lighting (Lightstrip), pendant lamps, wall lamps, mood lamps that you can put on a cupboard, and you name it. There is even a Go lamp that works on batteries and can therefore be placed in the garden, for example. In addition, dimmers and switches are available so that someone without an app on their smartphone can control the lights, if desired. Simply put, you can provide the entire house with smart lighting, provided you take the fitting of your existing lamps into account. The complete range can be found on the Hue website .
Philips Hue 2.0 – Hue Bridge 2.0
To use Philips Hue, you need at least the Hue Bridge. This device serves as a hub for all the lamps you have at home. You can connect more than 50 lamps, so there is little chance that you will have to purchase a second hub. We are now ready for version two of the hub, which can be recognized by the square design with rounded corners and a large button in the middle. The Bridge is connected to your router via an Ethernet cable and ensures that all lamps are connected to each other and the app on your smartphone or tablet. In addition, the hub is always connected to the socket.
You can purchase the Hue Bridge separately, but the simplest and cheapest option is to purchase the Bridge with a starter kit. Various starter kits are available, including in combination with a number of white or colored lamps. We have purchased the starter kit with three Color Ambiance lamps and a Hue Bridge 2.0 for 179.95 euros.
Philips Hue 2.0 – White and Color Ambiance lamps
You always have the choice to go for white (White) or colored (Color Ambiance) lamps and unless you are very sure that you do not want to use colors, we would always recommend taking the colored versions. Yes, the brightness of the White lamps is slightly higher, but we have never encountered the problem of too little light in the house, not even in the bathroom. And every now and then a bath or shower with a dimmed sunset or a relaxing tan is of course also relaxing. You pay 60 euros for an extra lamp.
The Color Ambiance lamps can display 16 million colors, thanks to three LEDs located in the lamp. The lamp itself fits exactly into an existing E27 fitting, and you can also opt for a GU10 spot fitting. The lamps look like normal lamps and connect wirelessly to the Bridge. It is a matter of screwing the lamp into the fitting and you can get started.
Philips Hue 2.0 – Hue Lightstrip Plus
To provide the living room near the TV area with some mood lighting, we opted for the Hue Lightstrip Plus. This new version of the LED strip has a higher light output than its predecessor and can be purchased for 75 euros (2 meter base). You can cut the strip to size yourself or extend it with pieces of 1 meter up to a maximum of 10 meters (25 euros per meter). The Lightstrip Plus can also display 16 million colors, but is therefore a lot more flexible and mainly intended as mood lighting. You can bend the strip into any desired shape and then attach it to almost any surface using the supplied 3M tape. We have opted for a placement on top of the plinth behind the TV cabinet. For example, you can also use the strips under or behind the sofa, in a cupboard or even for lighting in the kitchen.
Philips Hue 2.0 – Installation
Installation is a piece of cake. You place the Bridge at your router, connect the two and then place the lamps in the different rooms. Install the Hue app on your smartphone and you can immediately start searching for lamps. You connect this with two presses of a button (one of which is on the Bridge itself), after which you create scenes and give a name to the lamp and room. It is all self-explanatory and in terms of ease of use it is certainly good.
Hue app Gen 2
The lamps are of course what you see, but the user experience is just as important. Philips has developed the Hue app for the Hue lamps, available for almost all smartphones and tablets. Recently, the company released the second generation of this app (Hue Gen 2) and this app solves a lot of problems of the first generation app.
The first generation was a bit rough, but now should not only be more colorful and modern, but also much more accessible. The different sections have been clarified and the buttons have been made slightly larger, making it easier to navigate through the app. It is now also possible to group lamps in a zone and thus switch an entire room / zone on or off.
There is also the new option ‘routines’. With this you can set how the lamps should behave throughout the day, for example with different colors. For example, you can let the lamps burn brighter in the morning to wake up well and in the evening, softly, to get to sleep. It is also possible to have the lights switch off automatically when you are away from home and to switch them on when you return home. In addition, it is now easier to create scenes based on an analyzed photo, also from your own gallery.
The focus of the new app is really on the different rooms / rooms in which you have placed lamps. You can turn off the lights in the bedroom, for example, with one slide. This is a very welcome feature as it previously required third-party apps. You indicate in the app which lamps belong in which zone / room and if you tap a room, you can operate the independent lights there, set the color and determine the light intensity.
You can determine the color and brightness per lamp or room / group, but you can also use scenes. Scenes are color schemes and light intensities with a specific theme or purpose. Philips has developed a number of scenes itself, including for reading, relaxing or concentrating. When you switch on these scenes, for example in the bedroom, the lamps placed in that room get a certain atmosphere that promotes reading, relaxation or concentration. Beach, sunrise, or rainy day themes are also available. But, you can also create your own scenes, based on chosen colors or on the basis of a photo that you get from your gallery. For example, if you have a large work of art hanging on the wall, take a picture of it and use the color schemes of that work of art for the lamps in that room. This gives a nice effect. The possibilities in terms of color schemes and themes are endless; it’s just what you like. You can also set these scenes as a widget so that you can activate them directly from the notification screen of your smartphone.
The Hue Gen 2 app also offers the possibility to use timers and switch the lights on or off according to your location. For example, we have chosen to switch the mood lighting on the TV on automatically as soon as we come home and switch off as soon as we leave the house. This works quite accurately; as soon as we drive into the street, we receive a message that the lighting is switched on. The Hue app also works when you are not at home, through mobile internet. You can therefore control the lighting remotely and do not necessarily have to be connected to your WiFi network.
You can give lamps and rooms your own names, something that we recommend to do logically. Especially when you integrate Hue with, for example, Logitech Harmony or Apple Homekit (Siri), logical names that you can remember are important. This also applies to the scenes, which are mixed up on a Logitech Harmony remote control (not per room / lamp). Setting it up therefore takes some time, but it benefits the ease of use later.
If you still have the first generation Hue app, you can install the second generation next to it. This is necessary because you cannot easily transfer the scenes, not even with a Hue account. When you activate a scene in the old app, you can open the new app and save the color scheme and brightness of the relevant lamps as a new scene. It is a bit cumbersome, but according to Philips the only option. We should also mention that creating a Hue account is recommended. This is especially useful when you want to operate the lamps with several people. After all, you can import the scenes created on another device with the same account and exchange scenes with other Hue users.
Integration and capabilities
Although the Hue system in itself is attractive, easy and smart, you can go a lot further. After all, the smart home is a connected home in which devices can communicate with each other. And the great thing is that Philips is also at the forefront of this. Hue offers integration with the most popular communication standards, so it is ready for the future. At the moment, Hue can already communicate out of the box with Bosch equipment, the Nest thermostat, Logitech Harmony products, Apple HomeKit and the Amazon Echo assistant. And Philips continues to develop so that we can connect more and more devices with Hue.
It has been possible for a while to use IFTTT when you want to allow Hue to communicate with other services or devices and this is and remains one of the most used services to connect products and services. How IFTTT works exactly we have already described in detail and for now we can only add that Hue works perfectly with this. However, with the second-generation Hue app, Philips makes some of the things that were possible with IFTTT possible. The routines are the best example of this. For example, you can simulate the sunrise at a specific time so that you wake up peacefully. You can also have the lights dim or give a different color at a specific time of the day. For example, if it is half past 5 and that means the end of the working day, let the lights automatically dim at that time so that you can start the evening calmly. And as described above, it is therefore possible to automatically activate or deactivate the lights when you come home or leave.
We don’t have our Nest thermostat yet, but we have already been able to pair Hue with the Logitech Harmony Elite remote controland Apple HomeKit (Siri). We will go into more detail on Siri below. The Logitech Elite remote control is an accessory that is no longer only suitable for your audio and video equipment. The remote control was co-developed for the smart home, with direct integration of Hue and Nest, among others. So you can quickly and easily operate your lamps and thermostat with the remote control. From the installation of the Harmony Elite (to which we devote a separate article) this is a piece of cake. You indicate in the Harmony app that you want to add Home Control devices and select Philips Hue here. You will then be asked to log in with your Hue account to grant permission and you can link your remote control using the button on the Bridge.
You can also directly import the created scenes to the remote control. Once set up, you can directly operate the lamps under Devices in the menu of the remote control and app (in terms of brightness and color tone), but you can also create an activity via the Logitech software. An activity is a number of steps that are completed at the touch of a button. For example, we have created an activity ‘watch TV’ that directly switches on the TV, the kpn decoder and the Hue lighting behind the TV. So you are immediately ready to watch TV with one push of a button on the remote control. This can then be combined with other products or services, making the possibilities endless.
Also read our extensive review of the Logitech Harmony Elite remote control .
Philips Hue 2.0 and Third party apps
Although with the second generation Hue app you are again slightly less dependent on third-party apps, they certainly still offer added value. We’ve already mentioned IFTTT and it still remains a very useful service for fun additions. For example, if you want to flash the lights when your favorite football team scores, you can do so via an IFTTT recipe. The same goes for activating the lights exactly when the sun rises.
However, there are also tons of third-party apps that have been developed specifically for Hue. The possibilities for this are endless. We have installed two of these apps; OnSwitch and Hue Disco. With Hue Disco you can breathe some life into your Hue lighting. For example, you can activate disco effects when you have a party or use the microphone of your smartphone to let the lights color on the music. Here you have many setting options to set it to your own taste. OnSwitch has several nice effects, which are particularly interesting for groups of lamps and the Lightstrip. Consider, for example, an effect of burning candles, something that is beautiful in the bedroom with two lamps on the bedside tables. Or a burning fire or dimming lights for your home theater.
Siri (Apple HomeKit)
For Apple iOS users, the integration with Apple HomeKit is very interesting, hence a separate heading for this. Apple has developed HomeKit so that certified and supported devices can connect and communicate with each other via one platform. Siri is an important part of this because Siri, the personal assistant, can then control these devices by voice commands.
Setting up Siri is easy. To do this, go to the Hue app and select Siri voice control. You will then see which lamps, scenes and rooms can be controlled with voice commands. Have Hue sync these lights, scenes and rooms with HomeKit (Siri) so you can talk to Siri to activate, adjust, or turn off lights. And keep the names of the various elements simple and clear so that you can give instructions to Siri without having to search.
For example, you can turn on the lamp in the bathroom with the command ‘turn on bathroom’. With the command ‘Activate romantic’ the scene that has been given the name ‘Romantic’ is switched on. And with the command ‘turn on bedroom’ the two lamps in the bedroom are activated. You can then also increase the brightness by asking Siri to brighten the lights in the bedroom or you can ask Siri to turn the bedroom lights to red. It takes some experimenting with what exactly Siri accepts and understands, but in principle you can operate the lamps completely by voice. A downside is that the number of color variations via Siri is not large and that some colors are not entirely correct. For example, you can only say ‘green’, ‘red’, ‘blue’, etc. and for example ‘light blue’ is not supported. Green also appears somewhat yellowish.
All in all, Siri is a welcome addition to Hue and very useful for the real Apple users. It must be said that Apple HomeKit is still in its infancy. There are not many products that support it yet, so we are waiting for a tidal wave of HomeKit certified products.
Philips Hue 2.0 – Use
Installation is a breeze and you can add new appliances or lamps to the Hue system when you go white. It does not require any technical knowledge and you will be fine with one Bridge for the time being. You start with a few lamps and can then expand throughout the house to your heart’s content. In addition, more and more smart home products from other manufacturers are being linked to Hue, HomeKit or standards used by Philips, so that you can also use your smart lighting in the future.
The operation can be described as ‘a child can do the laundry’. If you are not used to apps at all and you have to search for your smartphone every time, it takes some getting used to, but the added value of the apps and integration with other services is enormous. The learning curve is minimal, especially with the new Hue Gen 2 application. Once you have mastered this and you can operate the rooms / lamps smoothly, you can start expanding the options and lamps. Create beautiful scenes, install third-party apps, let Hue communicate with your thermostat or create recipes via IFTTT. Not only is it easy, it also invites use.
And if you still see the problem in the fact that you don’t always have your smartphone at hand; lamps that are already on a switch can also be used as normal lamp. For example, you can simply turn the light on or off in the bathroom with the switch. Please note; if you turn off the Hue lamps with the integrated switch (on the wire or in the wall), Hue can no longer communicate, so it is advisable to switch them off at least via the app (or a Hue switch). If you have turned off a lamp with the Hue app and you do not have your smartphone with you at the moment, it is a matter of pressing the switch twice so that the lamp switches on in standard mode.
Philips Hue 2.0 – Conclusion
All in all, we can conclude that Philips has raised the bar a lot higher for smart lighting with Hue. The company has a very large and wide range of lamps and accessories, offers very good support for the software, continues to develop and adds integration with many popular services, devices and standards. The new app increases the ease of use and thus makes it even easier to operate your lights quickly and comfortably. We’ve said it several times, but the possibilities are virtually endless, especially with third-party apps and integration of other services and products. But, because Philips is lord and master in this area, quite a few can be asked for the Hue lighting. A starter package is not cheap and a single lamp of 60 euros is also a hefty penny. However, it can be justified in our view because with these lamps you can go for years and you can expect full software support from Philips. In combination with all other connected smart home products, this is a good first step towards a connected smart home. Hue is a luxury product, but a damn beautiful, handy and useful luxury product.
- Easy in use
- High Quality
- Possibilities are endless
- HomeKit support is still minimal