Jul 29, 2023
Best Smart Lights 2023
Before the year 1879, a reliable, effective electric light was the thing of imagination, and the after sunset, the world remained lit only by fire. Then, in the fall of that year, Thomas Edison
Before the year 1879, a reliable, effective electric light was the thing of imagination, and the after sunset, the world remained lit only by fire. Then, in the fall of that year, Thomas Edison finally achieved what many others had also been striving for: the creation of a truly functional incandescent light bulb. Flash forward about a century and a half, and now here we are discussing the best smart lights for everywhere from your patio to your bedroom to your desk to your gaming space—a radical speed of development given the many thousands of years of human history. But talking about that history won’t help you choose the right smart light bulb for your lamp or the best strip lights for your kitchen, so let’s dispense with the long view of it all and let’s talk smart lights.
The best smart lights illuminate your home with fun colors and add depth and character with gorgeous ... [+] designs.
Smart lights come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and many of them can literally be made into different shapes at that. In other words: This is not a strictly defined product category. But all smart lights that we recommend have a few attributes in common. They can be controlled by other devices, that they offer multiple color options and brightness settings and that they are energy efficient—and isn’t that the smartest thing of all? Where they differ markedly is where each of these smart lights will be best used. You wouldn't want a desk lamp on the ceiling or a strip light on your nightstand, as examples. But you may well want each and every one of these smart lights somewhere in your home.
Wattage: 12 | Lumens: 1100 | Voice control option: Yes
Arguably, you won’t find a better way to make your existing home into a smart home than by replacing all of the incandescent bulbs in your place with Wyze color bulbs. It really is as easy as changing that proverbial light bulb, and once these reliable, highly-rated bulbs are in place, you’ll enjoy a residence that’s more energy efficient, that’s brighter than ever—or that’s dimmed to your liking or awash in any color you can imagine—and with control over your lights via voice command, app, or that good ol’ light switch.
These bulbs can be turned down as low as 30 lumens per bulb or can shine as bright as 1,100 lumens, which is equivalent to a classic 75 watt incandescent. Ah, but these bulbs consume a mere 12 watts while glowing away brightly in up to 16 million different colors. For those that just want plain bright bulbs, they also feature a white light temperature control so you can adjust from a bright light to a warm light around bedtime.
What our writers say: “I have personally used smart bulbs in everything from older overhead fixtures to outdoor sconces, and I love the way they breathe new life into old hardware with, again, that simplicity of changing a light bulb.”
Wattage: 18 for 16.4 foot strip, 36 for 32.8 foot strip | Lumens: 2.5 per meter | Voice control option: Yes
Now, we don’t have a “best value smart lights” category here, and that’s by design; the form and function of smart lights can vary so widely, we determined it best not to include any lighting based solely on its cost. But if we had, the Roku Smart Light Strip SE would be the one, as its 16 foot variety costs a mere $23. (And the 32-footer is just $45; also a good price.) The other great thing about these lights is that they are peel-and-stick to apply. You can have a strip mounted in mere minutes, and anywhere from under kitchen cabinets to around the perimeter of a ceiling to along a hallway floor to behind your TV.
Once in place, whether you opt for the 16- or 32-foot strips, you’ll enjoy a glow that can be customized to any of 16 million colors and adds illumination to any space. Really though, you should consider it best for adding atmosphere for movie nights or gaming rooms. And if the strip is too long for any space you wanted to add light and color, you can trim them to fit.
What our writers say: “We have peel-and-stick smart lights wrapped around part of our basement playroom, and there are few things the family enjoys more than cranking up the tunes and having a dance party with the lighting synced up to the music thanks to the strip lights’ built-in mic.”
Wattage: 25 | Lumens: TBD | Voice control option: Yes
What would you do if you had a five-by-six foot panel dotted with 520 individually controllable lights? Create a Christmas tableau for your holiday morning? Program a pulsating, colorful animation for your party? Create a custom “Congrats Grad!” or “Happy Birthday!” sign in light? With the Govee Curtain Lights, you can create almost any colorful tableau or basic animation that you want. This sheet of colorful LEDs offer a lighted canvas that can be used in so many different ways, and that’s true whether you make the curtain a permanent fixture on a wall or you break them out just for fun now and then.
Controlled via app or voice (with Alexa or Google Assistant), it’s easy to turn on pre-programmed lighting displays—yours or Govee’s creations—and you can also set the lights to glow and pulse along with music or a movie, the wall of color enhancing your enjoyment of your space.
What our writers say: “Perhaps no smart lights excited my kids more than these curtain lights from Govee, which allow them to create artwork with light and even program animated scenes, treating each little LED bulb as a pixel. They have been an awesome addition for play time.”
Wattage: 2 per panel | Lumens: 22 per panel | Voice control option: Yes
Let’s be honest here: not everyone likes the look of smart lights. And we’re not talking about the light itself, as in those millions of different hues and colors of lumens pouring out; we mean the hardware. If strips or tubes or curtains of lights aren't your idea of an aesthetic win but you still want smart lighting you can easily control and enjoy, then the Nanoleaf Wood Look Hexagons are your smart lights.
These subtle faux wood panels look great even when not illuminated, adding depth and character to your walls, and can be arranged in myriad different patterns. When turned on, the panels shine softly in several different color temperatures, from a pale white approximating the morning’s sun to a warm glow more akin to gentle firelight—and in fact, you can set them to “flicker,” in which case they genuinely do approximate firelight. Subtle and refined, these panels are a great addition to any space that can benefit from more ambiance (and light) but where bright, obvious smart lights just won’t fit in.
What our writers say: “Nanoleaf makes a lot of great smart lighting products that I have tested, but this is the only smart light they make that doesn't look conspicuously like, well, smart lights. These faux wood hexagons simply look like an artistic installation... until they start glowing!”
The Home Depot
Wattage: 12 | Lumens: 1200 | Voice control option: Yes
The EcoSmart PAR38 Smart Bulb uses 12 watts of energy to create 1,200 lumens of light. For context, it would take an incandescent light bulb rated at 120 watts to do the same. So right off the bat, we know two things here: One, that this is a very energy efficient smart bulb; and two, that this is a very bright bulb. 120 watts is the type of incandescent bulb traditionally used in a bright outdoor fixture, in ceiling lighting that’s far overhead or even in a flood lamp fixture, so this smart bulb from EcoSmart has brightness to spare. Of course, it does not have to be set to its max output; you can program this bulb to be much dimmer, bringing it down to a mere 5% of its potential output, also known as 60 lumens.
And like any good smart light, this bulb can also shine in oh so many colors. As in 16 million different colors, if we’re being precise. Thus, this bright bulb can be anything from a programmable security light over your back door to the life of the party as it lights up the yard with any color you want.
Wattage: 49 | Lumens: 640 | Voice control option: Yes
If you want what may well be the best possible solution to your outdoor illumination woes, then you may want to just choke down the cost and get a set of these Lily Outdoor Spot Lights from Phillips Hue. As each kit only comes with three lights, you may want to consider more, but this really will be the best outdoor lighting choice for many residences. That’s because these lights are powerful, durable and they can be customized in so many ways. From the angle at which you position them to all the choices you have for brightness and color, when you install these smart outdoor lights, each one is a force multiplier, able to do the role that would have been required by myriad different fixtures in the past.
Controlled via app, voice, switch or compatible with various types of sensors—as in motion sensors or light sensors—the options for control are almost as numerous as the options for color. (OK, not actually, as these lights can put out 16 million different colors.) And if you want to save power but always feel safe and welcome when you get home, program your Lily lights with a geofence setting that has them come alive as you draw near—provided your phone is in your purse or pocket.
Wattage: 12 | Lumens: 350 | Voice control option: Yes
The Aura Table lamp is a great choice for anyone who wants to add two things to a space: a source of illumination and a source of amusement. As a light, the Aura can be bright enough for reading, writing, studying and so forth, especially when it is complementing other lighting. But when used just for fun, the Aura is arguably at its best. It can be set to flicker, glow and display all sorts of different lighted “scenes,” from romantic hearts for Valentine’s Day to Christmas colors to 4th of July Red, White and Blue and more. There are scenes in which lights on its surface approximate a fish bowl, call to mind a desert and much more.
And while many smart lights can only be controlled via app or voice, this one offers those control features but can also be operated via physical buttons on its top. Now, that said, those buttons don’t always work that predictably... but the app interface and control are excellent!
What our writers say: “I’ve had the Aura Table Lamp from Govee sitting on my desk for about two years now, and I love the way it can change the feeling of my office. In the morning, I set it to a bright, pale white color and it helps wake me up; in the afternoon, as the work day winds down, I turn it to a deep orange color, and it’s calming cue for me to wrap up and move on with the day.”
Wattage: 13 | Lumens: 760 | Voice control option: Yes
One of the most frustrating things about older homes (which may be generally charming, of course) is the lack of overhead lighting. With the exception of a chandelier in the dining room, many homes built before the later decades of the 20th century do not have lights in the ceilings, and are thus related to a glut of lamps and wall sconces filling in or else a moderate gloominess once night falls. These aptly-named wafer-thin LED discs from GE’s CYNC line of smart lights can set things to right though—or to light, that is. With a bit of installation effort, they can be set into many types of ceiling and can (finally!) bathe your rooms with light. And that light can be bright white, softer yellow, or you can set the lights to any of 16 million different colors, adding some fun vibes to your living space.
Granted, the installation effort here is a lot greater than with peel-and-stick strip lights, but it’s a lot easier to install these lights than it is to add traditional high hat lighting, and that’s true no matter the age of the edifice in question.
The smart lights featured on this list were chosen almost exclusively thanks to firsthand testing experience. And in some cases, that is to say years of experience trying out many different products from many of the brands that made our list.
With lighting, seeing really is believing, and you can believe us when we tell you we have seen these lights in our homes and offices and yards and beyond. When needed, we also turn to reviews and ratings left about smart lights that come from verified customers. In the end, only the best smart lights—those we’re confident enough about that we’d gladly buy them ourselves—made the cut.
The Forbes Vetted tech team consists of accomplished tech experts who’ve (literally) written books on the subject. A couple of staffers, including Dave Johnson, our deputy editor, have even authored a number of books on the subject. The tech vertical is overseen by Rebecca Isaacs, the consumer tech and electronics editor at Forbes Vetted.
In particular, this story was authored by contributing writer Steven John, an accomplished writer, journalist with multiple outlets and an experienced product tester. In addition to covering dozens of tech topics, Steven has written many articles covering everything from camping gear to kitchen hardware to DIY tools and more.
We know tech tends to become quickly outdated. To keep this piece fresh and accurate, it’s regularly updated; its current iteration is from August 2023.Best Smart Lights Overall: Best Smart Strip Lights: Best Smart Curtain Lights: Best Minimalist Smart Lights: Best Bright Smart Lights:Best Outdoor Smart Lights: Best Smart Desk Lamp Lights: Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: What our writers say: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: What our writers say: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: What our writers say: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: What our writers say: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: What our writers say: Pros:Cons:Wattage: | Lumens: | Voice control option: Pros:Cons:Why Trust Forbes Vetted