Review: LIFX Color 650 downlights

LIFX are famous for their successful Kickstarter project to launch a Wi-Fi connected, multi-coloured LED lightbulb. Now they’ve finally shipped the downlight to all Kickstarter and pre-order customers and...

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LIFX are famous for their successful Kickstarter project to launch a Wi-Fi connected, multi-coloured LED lightbulb. Now they’ve finally shipped the downlight to all Kickstarter and pre-order customers and will soon launch exclusively to retail at Harvey Norman. Before that happens, I had a chance to try out 2 of the downlights and can now deliver the verdict.

Before we get into the review, LIFX says, the Color 650 downlight is just one of several new products in development for release later this year and early 2016. Given the proliferation of downlights in the Australia market, they are expecting the LIFX Color 650 to be extremely popular with consumers.

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Hardware

From the time you removing the elegant packaging, you notice the downlight is the same high quality construction as the other LIFX bulbs. When I think of downlights, my mind immediately jumps to the flush, roof-mounted downlights that are found throughout the kitchen and living areas. The LIFX Color 650 downlights are actually the GU10 style, which means they won’t work in those kinds of applications, both due to their length and connections.

These bulbs are designed for the feature downlights, like you have in an array over the kitchen bench, or under the alfresco area. At my place, this array was 3 lights, given I had to bulbs for review, I ditched one so the coloured effects weren’t diluted by the third white globe. Immediately you notice the differential between a standard bulb and the LIFX downlight, it’s a big visual difference, but you are picking up a lot in terms of functionality. Also with a black exterior, they’d look great with a black lighting fixture, but I had a contrasting silver.

After unscrewing the old bulbs, the LIFX 650s screwed easily into position. After flicking on the lights, they work immediately as regular lights, great if you have kids or just people without the app who still need to use the switch.

Firing up the app, it immediately detected 2 new bulbs that could be added. After joining each one to my home WiFi network, the bulbs were now controllable by the app. This was in addition to the 4 other original LIFX bulbs throughout the house. Setup was a breeze, especially if you’ve been through it before.

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Software

Controlling the lights is easy thanks to the thumb controlled rotating colour wheel and center brightness control. When you grow tired of manual mode, there’s plenty of Effects to experiment with. The Music Visualizer detects audio and changes to the beat of the music, while Flicker will give you that romantic feeling of a flickering candle, perfect for that special dinner.

For a bit of fun there’s a Random mode which jumps from one colour to another, but it is possible to control the speed 600ms – 3000ms and brightness. There’s also a Pastels option for a subtler, but alive feeling.

The next is Color Cycle which is similar to random, but fades through adjacent colours rather than random ones. This creates a much smoother effect than the harsh jolting experience of fully random.

The final effect comes with a health warning. Strobe is an effect I’m a little nervous to use for any length of time. I’m sure it’s technically good for about a million cycles, but having the light flash on and off as fast as 50ms is the opposite of what you’re told to your entire life with a regular light switch. It’s a neat effect and in the middle of a party, you’ll make an impact, just don’t be surprised if people get disorientated and break stuff.

By far the most useful part of any LIFX bulbs, including the Color 650 bulbs, is their ability to take automated commands from the service IFTTT. Using other connected devices to trigger an event that results in the bulb turning on or off, or changing colour can fundamentally change how we use light in our lives. A notification is great if you’re holding your phone, but won’t grab your attention in the middle of a lounge room discussion, a LIFX bulb flashing red, certainly will. It’s easy to get too tricky with this stuff, but when you get it configured right, like turning on when you walk into a room (because of a WeMo motion sensor) you feel like you’re living in the future and the robots are working for you.

Also don’t forget the software doesn’t just stop at the phones, LIFX recently released their Apple Watch support to add to their Android Wear support. Trust me, there are few things cooler in this world that controlling your lights from your wrist, just because you can.

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Technical specs

The LIFX downlight runs on a voltage range of 100V to 240V which is perfect for Australian homes. The multicoloured LED bulbs output 650 lumens (the equivalent to 50W), but if that sounds low, don’t be worried, it’s efficient (11.5W at max) and bright, like crazy bright. There’s almost no circumstance where you’ll be running the bulbs at 100% brightness, it’s just too bright. Obviously it’s not just bright white, the LIFX downlight can produce a color temperature range between 2,700K and 9,000K.

The size of the bulb is big, there’s no way to get around it, compared to a standard bulb, this thing is massive. To house all the electronics to manage the bulb and it’s wireless communications, the housing is long, 111mm long and 50mm in diameter. The weight isn’t something you’ll think about the second after installation, but like the lamp version, it’s a significant weight at 205gms. By way of comparison, the iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172gms.

If you’re considering adding these to your home, you’ll want to know their WiFi capabilities. The LIFX Color 650 downlights run on 802.11 b, g, or n on a 2.4Ghz frequency, sorry, no AC yet. To prevent you’re neighbours from connecting and having fun with your lights, they’re secured using WPA2 security.

This is the third product from LIFX, with the entry level product the White-only bulb, the original Color and now the 650 Downlights to complete the family.

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Overall the LIFX Color 650 is a big success, despite it’s hefty size. I’d love to see LIFX get the size of the electronics inside down to a size that would fit in a standard downlight cavity so we can blanked our houses with these. Then the challenge would be price. Packs of 4 and packs of 10 will be available, but if you’re LIFX’ing your house, you’ll need plenty more.

So far my relationship with LIFX has been in lamps, under the desk in the office, or beside the couch in the lounge and while these sources of light are great, colour downlights provide different possibilities and having more of them allows for even great experimentation. LIFX has some serious competition in the market with Phillips Hue doing a good job of getting in people’s faces. Personally I like the design of the LIFX better and getting them in Harvey Norman will certainly help visibility of the product range in Australia.

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For more information, head over to: http://www.lifx.com/products/color-650

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