August 30, 2015

Hue Lights: fun but flawed

Last Xmas my nephews gave me a set of Hue Lights. (Thanks, guys!) The lights are produced by Philips and they come with software that allows you to change the color of the bulbs. They're a bit pricey but lots of fun. You get three lights (and a "bridge" that you plug into your Wi-Fi router, which makes the lights work) with the original set, which costs about $200. Additional bulbs are sold separately and they cost $60 each. Not cheap.

I didn't install the system last Xmas because I was about to move, and the lights in my old house were way up there on 20-foot ceilings. No way I'd climb a ladder to put a bulb up there -- especially since we planned to move during the coming year. So I waited until I arrived at my new location to plug them in.

The system is great fun. I bought two additional bulbs so I've got five colored bulbs in all. I love being able to display dim, glowing colors in my house. And with a tap of a button on my iPad, they change from red to blue to...well, that's the problem. There isn't much range. The ads make you think you can use any photo to change the colors. Just upload it to your iPad, take the Hue software eyedropper and pick up the color you want. Nuh-uh.

Basically the lights want to be a pinkish lavender. When you "choose" another color, what you're really doing is trying to fight your way away from pinkish lavender. It loves that color. Beyond this, there's no real blue. You can get a tinge of green, but that's it. And there are very few vivid colors you can produce. So it's wildly limited.

But the main problem is that the software sucks. Let's say you add a bunch of bulbs and now have a system of 12 bulbs at your house. The problem is that you can't segment them into groups. All you can do is choose all the bulbs and set them individually. So if you have blue bulbs everywhere, for instance, and you want to change one to white, you either change it permanently (which you didn't want to do; you only wanted to light a white bulb in the kitchen for five minutes; you like your blue bulbs) or you have to make a new "scene" (what they call the saved color schemes) and set all the lights again, this time setting one to white. Then you have two full color schemes and must click between them to have the white light for a few minutes. Tch. Think what happens when you have 50 bulbs in the system. Pain in the butt.

They've had literally years to fix this but they haven't done a thing. Philips' attitude is very PC and not Mac at all. You have to improve your product when everyone's bitching about it. And everyone is, I assure you.

Still, they're fun and I don't know of any product that does the same trick. I just wish they did it well.

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