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- Smart light strips bring illumination and color to dim spots, like under kitchen cabinets.
- They also work as night lights or as mood lights.
- Smart light strips can be controlled from your phone and by voice-activated assistants like Alexa.
Light strips can transform the look of your home. With adhesive backing that enables them to stick virtually anywhere the only limitation is the need for a power outlet. They are designed to be concealed under cabinets or shelves, and behind TVs or panels, so that you only see the light they emit.
The latest smart light strips can integrate with your smart home, enabling you to schedule or automate different kinds of lighting, select new lighting scenes from your phone, and use voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant to change your lighting.
We have tested several different smart light strips in the home to see how they perform, and we’ve bolstered that testing with research into the most trusted brands and highly reviewed products. We also sought advice from lighting designer Anna Ames who explained the importance of color temperature measured in units of Kelvin (K) and brightness measured in lumens.
Here are the best smart light strips you can buy:
Affordable, versatile, and easy to use, the Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip is an irresistible bargain for anyone with a limited budget.
Perhaps the most prominent purveyor of budget light strips, Govee offers a wide range of smart lighting. It updates its product line frequently, which can make it a little confusing. I tested a few different models, but the one I’m recommending is the H6163 model. At $33.99 for the 16-foot light strip, this is the cheapest option we tested.
The Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip comes with a power unit attached that has a button to turn it on or off and one to cycle through colors. There’s also a button to activate the sound-reactive mode, which lights up and changes colors based on the music or other sounds in the room. This is ideal if you’re placing the strip in a child’s bedroom or guest room and don’t want to use a phone to control it. You can also connect to the strip via the Govee app, though you do have to sign up for an account.
The app connects the strip directly to your Wi-Fi and offers additional features, such as a timer, sliders for brightness and color temperature, and a selection of scenes, including animated multicolored scenes. You can also select colors individually for different segments of the strip and you can create your own scenes via the DIY option. This light strip also supports Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control.
The Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip worked flawlessly during my testing. I’m very impressed by the full range of features on offer for such a low price. It works beautifully as a night light and for background mood lighting, but with a color temperature range of around 3,000 to 5,000 K and a maximum brightness of 800 lumens, it’s not suitable as a main light source. The ability to display multiple colors in different segments simultaneously is the main thing that differentiates this strip from some of Govee’s cheaper models that only display a single color at a time, like the Model H6188, which I also tested and liked.
The H6163 version 16.4 feet long with an adhesive backing and was easy to install. I stuck these light strips on the underside of a wooden bed frame and behind a large cabinet without any issues. You can cut it if you need to, but you can’t extend it.
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Light Strip Plus
With lots of features in the easy-to-use Hue app, the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Light Strip Plus is ideal for anyone who has already invested in Philips Hue lighting.
As the leading smart-lighting manufacturer, Philips knows how to make great lights. The Hue range is its best but also its most expensive. The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus costs $79.99.
The Hue app is very straightforward and reliable. You can change the brightness, color, and color temperature of your strip; choose different scenes; and create routines. If you want to schedule your light strip to come on or turn off automatically, control it when you’re not at home, add additional accessories like motion sensors or smart switches, or sync with music, you need a Philips Hue Bridge. The bridge also makes for a faster and more reliable connection than Bluetooth.
At a maximum of 1,600 lumens, this is one of the brightest light strips we tested, and it has a fairly wide color temperature range of 2,000 to 6,500 K, but it is limited to a single color at a time. The basic Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus is 2 meters (6.6 feet) long, and you can buy one-meter extensions that slot into the end for $24.99. It’s quite thick and feels very durable, but it’s very difficult to bend and I had to tape the end with duct tape because it kept peeling away from the back of my TV.
The high brightness and durable covering make this a good choice for the kitchen and other environments where you want plenty of light. Although it doesn’t come with any power button or controls, you can configure it to work with a Hue Dimmer Switch (even without a Hue Bridge), but that’s an additional cost on what is already a pricey product. For people who have a Hue system with a bridge already, or people who need that high brightness level, this could be the best option.
Setup is a breeze via the excellent Hue app, but I made a mess of the installation, as part of the adhesive peeled away from the back of the strip. Philips has also chosen to cut the backing you peel off into sections, which makes it even more fiddly to remove and leaves a mess behind. Once you move the strip to a new location, you’ll need to find a new way of attaching it, as the adhesive doesn’t stay sticky.
How to choose a smart light strip
Here’s a brief explainer of some common terms and things to keep in mind when you’re looking for smart lighting. We also share some advice from lighting designer Anna Ames, who designs lighting for buildings in New York and beyond. As an early adopter, Ames has been using smart lighting in her home for several years now.
Placement: Light strips can bring a futuristic feel or add accent lighting to lots of spaces around your home, but you must consider placement very carefully as they can be difficult to remove. Because light strips tend to look quite ugly, Ames says they should not be directly visible. You can stick them under shelves and cabinets, in recessed areas, or behind furniture. Consider how the light will be reflected; the closer the light strip is to a surface the more intense the light will appear there. Always measure to see what length you require and remember that you need an accessible power outlet to plug the strip into. Some light strips can be cut, and some can be extended, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter to avoid problems. Bear in mind that the portion you cut off usually can’t be reused. It’s easy enough to place a light strip in a straight line, but corners and right angles can prove tricky. Be careful not to bend too tightly, or you may damage the strip.
Installation: Smart light strips usually have adhesive that runs their length. You simply peel the backing off and stick them onto the desired surface. Be very careful when you peel the backing off, as it’s easy to accidentally peel the adhesive off with it. If you want the light strip to stay in place, take the time to clean the surface thoroughly first. If you’re fitting a long light strip, it’s also a good idea to get help from someone. In our experience, the adhesive sticks better to some surfaces than others and you may need additional clips or brackets. Bear in mind that the adhesive may leave a mark if you remove the light strip.
Controls: While smart light strips can be controlled from your smartphone, that’s not always convenient. Some smart light strips have simple power switches attached, and even a button that cycles through scenes or colors. A few come with their own remote controls. This is very useful if you’re installing them in a common area or a kid’s bedroom, for example.
White or color: If you just want the ability to dim lights and schedule or remotely control them, then white light strips will give you everything you need. Color light strips are always more expensive, though they obviously give you much greater versatility. For most people, a mix will work best. Ames recommends sticking with white in certain rooms, like the kitchen or bathroom, but using color in the living room or bedroom to help you relax. She also suggests using more blue in your lights during the day and switching to warmer, yellow tones at night to stay in tune with natural circadian rhythms. When buying color light strips, it’s important to note that some strips can only display one color at a time. Others can display multiple colors along their length.
Brightness: This is measured in lumens. A standard 60W light bulb, for example, gives out around 800 lumens. Most smart light strips state a lumen count for brightness, but in some cases, you may need to ask the manufacturer. The brightness you need from your light strip will depend on the room and its existing lighting. You can find guides online, such as this one at Home Depot, offering advice on how many lumens different rooms require and a formula for calculating based on the size of a room.
Color temperature: Measured in Kelvins (K), the color temperature of a light dictates how warm or cool it will appear. A range should be given for each light. For example, the Philips Hue Color Ambiance Light Strip goes from 2,000 K up to 6,500 K. Light appears more yellow at 2,000 K and a bluish white at 6,000 K. Ames’ top tip is to aim for a color temperature of 2,700 K for use in most of the home, as this gives a nice, relaxing, warm light. You may want a higher temperature in areas like the kitchen.
Scenes: These are specific brightness, color temperature, and color settings that come as presets or that you create and save for future use. Sometimes scenes can include animations that cycle through different colors. Settings like Daylight or Relax are a quick way to change your lights for a particular mood or activity.
Connectivity: Smart light strips can connect directly to your control device (usually your phone) through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or indirectly through a hub (which mostly use the Zigbee standard). There are various trade-offs here. Bluetooth uses less power and doesn’t require a hub, but the control range is limited to around 33 feet and it’s slower to react than Wi-Fi. With a hub or Wi-Fi, you can potentially control your lights from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection. They tend to connect more reliably and respond faster, as well. While a separate hub means plugging a device into your router and a power outlet, it can also help reduce congestion on your home Wi-Fi network, which can prove helpful if your Wi-Fi bandwidth is limited. While hubs are a higher up-front cost, they are easier to swap out than replacing a ton of bulbs around the house if you want to upgrade to a new technology.
Smart-home integration: There are lots of different services and standards related to smart-home setups, so make sure your chosen lights work with your preferred services. If you want to use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to control your smart light strips, for example, then look for the relevant logo on the box or in the product details online. If you aren’t sure what you might want to add later, go for a product with more connectivity options.
Longevity: Smart light strips should last for years. You’ll often see their lifetime listed in tens of thousands of hours. As smart light strips contain many small LEDs, sometimes a single LED or section of LEDs will fail or refuse to display a specific color. This can happen if you physically damage the strip by bending or twisting, so be careful when installing your strip. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix if this happens and you may need to replace the entire light strip.
What we are looking forward to testing
Kasa Smart LED Strip Light ($54.99): We are keen to try this light strip, as it has a well-rounded spec sheet. This is a multicolored light strip that boasts 16 color zones, and it comes with an app featuring animated lighting effects. There’s also Alexa and Google Home support and no need for a hub. It’s supposed to be easy to cut, bend, and extend. TP-Link’s Kasa smart home range is growing, and we like the smart plugs, so this could be a great product.
Sylvania Smart+ Zigbee light strip ($53.85): A fairly low price and support for the Zigbee standard makes this light strip an interesting prospect. It offers good smart-home integration, lots of colors, and a nice color temperature range (2,700 to 6,500 K), though it is limited to one color at a time and you need a Zigbee hub. The fact that you can cut, bend, and extend this light strip makes it more tempting, and we plan to check it out soon.
Sengled Element Light Strip ($39.99): This light strip has a similar feature set to some of the light strips we’ve tested or plan to test soon, including tunable light (2,000 to 6,500 K), Alexa and Google Assistant support, a wide range of colors and scenes, and brightness of 1,400 lumens. It’s also quite cheap, though you do need a hub. We also like the IFTTT support and the option of the Sengled Smart Switch.
C by GE LED Strip Light ($45.99): With millions of colors, tunable color temperature, and scheduling support the C by GE light strip looks promising. There’s also voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant, and you can select various scenes for different moods. It connects directly to Wi-Fi and you can add out of home control with a C by GE smart plug or smart switch.
What else we considered
Yeelight Lightstrip 1S ($48.63): This is an affordable light strip from Yeelight, which is part of Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s ecosystem. I found it easy to set up and use. It has a physical power button, with a wider range of options in the app where you can tweak the color, brightness, color temperature, select scenes, and set a schedule. It misses out on the list because we prefer the Govee light strip, but one thing Yeelight has that Govee lacks is extensibility, with 1-meter extensions for $12.99.
Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance Outdoor Light Strip ($76): If you want a light strip that’s safe to use outdoors, then your options are limited. This Philips Hue light strip, rated at IP67, is well worth a look. It offers the same features as the rest of the Philips Hue range, but you do need a Bridge to get the best from it. We go into more detail in our Philips Hue Outdoor Light Strip review. The problem is that stock seems to be dwindling. There is also another version of this strip, which is rated at IP44, but neither is currently listed on the US Philips website.
Lifx Z Light Strip ($89.99): Lifx’s light strip is one the most versatile we tested. This light strip has eight addressable color zones, so it can display multiple colors at once. Performance is very reliable, and it has a maximum brightness of 1,400 lumens, which is plenty to light a small bedroom. It’s one of our favorite light strips that we’ve reviewed. Unfortunately, it’s out of stock and only available for pre-order at the moment.
Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip ($49.95): With the highest peak brightness we’ve tested and a reasonable price tag, there’s a lot to like with the Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip. It’s 2,200 lumens at max brightness. It can only display one color at a time and doesn’t support scenes, but at $50 for a two-meter (6.6 feet) starter kit, it’s an attractive option. However, the starter kit isn’t available at the moment. While the one-meter extensions are still for sale, they won’t work if you don’t have the starter kit with the controller.