If you like the sound of a smart home, but can’t tell your Zigbees from your Z-Waves, nor Bluetooth from a blueberry, then a Wi-Fi LED bulb is a great place to start.
Functionally, a Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb pretty much does what you’d think it does. It’s a bulb, so it lights up. It’s Wi-Fi-enabled, so it connects to your home network and it’s smart enough to be controlled by a range of network devices as well as a classic On/Off switch. Best of all, these devices are reasonably inexpensive, so you’d have to break the bank to get started.
TP-Link is one of a few networking brands that have jumped on the smart home bandwagon. Belkin is another (check out our review of the Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Kit) and you’ll find these devices available from the likes of Amazon, Best Buy as well as the large DIY retailers.
The $34.99 TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb (LB120) tops the current range of lighting solutions available from the brand. Alongside its compatriots – the $19.95 LB100 and $24.99 LB110 – the LB120 does not require the use of a smart hub or bridge, like the popular Philips Hue range. They also support voice control via Alexa, Amazon Echo’s personal assistant.
The LB100 is the entry-level line, a 50W bulb with dimmable white light. According to TP-Link, the internal 600lm LED reduces energy use up to 80 percent compared to a 50W incandescent bulb. Annual running costs are estimated at just $0.97.
The mid-range LB110 bumps output to 60W equivalent, with an 800lm LED, while the LB120 is also rated at 60W, but is tunable. Colour temperature ranges from soft white (2700k) to daylight (6500k).
All three bulbs can be controlled manually or schedules, timers, and countdowns via TP-Link’s Kasa app, available for iOS and Android devices.
Let’s take a look in a little more detail at the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb.
What’s in the Box?
The LB120 arrives in a TP-Link branded carton that’s a little larger than you’d anticipate for a light bulb. However, open up and you’ll see why – the device is very well protected, cradled in an inner plastic casing that should keep it safe from bumps and bruises in transit. In terms of box contents, you get the bulb, a short quick start guide and a survey card. That’s your lot.
The bulb itself is – as you’d expect – larger than a standard bulb but that’s common with smart bulbs. That said, it’s certainly chunkier around the waist than a Zigbee or Z Wave bulb, with the integrated wireless kit adding to its bulk.
It’s reasonably weighty in the hand too, with the additional electronics required to connect the device to your network located under the opaque plastic dome on top. As an additional, subtle design flourish, the white plastic casing around those electronics is moulded with a jewelled pattern, while a frosted blue ring above the connector provides more obvious visual interest.
You’d think I was mad if I labelled a light bulb as a work of art, but you can see that some thought has been put into the design of the bulb, and its packaging, elevating the device above many of its peers aesthetically.
Before we move on, let’s highlight a couple of restrictions – the debut range of TP-Link bulbs are only available with white (or, in this case, tunable white) light and are only sold with standard A19 (screw-in) connectors.
Getting Up and Running
While it still only takes one reviewer to change a light bulb, there are a couple more steps required to get a Smart Wi-Fi bulb installed than a standard device. First you’ll need to install the TP-Link Kasa smart home app from the App store or Google Play Store. With your mobile device connected to a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network (the bulbs do not support 5 GHz connections).
Set up an account and then connect the bulb to a nearby fitting in the usual way. The Kasa app supports a range of TP-Link smart home devices – bulbs, plugs, switches and even a range extender. You’ll be guided step by step through the smart bulb installation on screen via an attractive configuration wizard.
Power on the lamp and, after a few seconds, it’ll blink three times to let you know it’s ready to continue. Your mobile device will disconnect from your router and connect directly to the bulb to continue configuration. Provide a friendly name for the bulb and select an icon from the range available (you can also take a photo of the light if you wish and use it instead of an icon). You’ll then be invited to enter your wireless network password (which is passed to the light bulb for connection to the network).
For anyone that has configured a smart home device previously, it’s straightforward stuff, but importantly, TP-Link’s setup experience is friendly and seamless.