Technology

LIFX Mini smart bulb series review: Not quite as bright, but smaller and cheaper than the LIFX A19

At some point, LIFX surely heard the complaints one too many times: Your bulbs are great, but they’re too big, too heavy, and—well—they just look weird. Clearly bowing to consumer sentiment, LIFX has introduced a second series: LIFX Mini. As the name implies, these three bulbs are indeed a bit smaller and easier to fit into most fixtures. One of them takes home TechHive’s Editors’ Choice award.

lifx app screen 1 Michael Brown / IDG

An important firmware update will significantly improve the security of LIFX smart bulbs.

Updated February 11, 2019 to report that LIFX has released a firmware update to patch a significant security vulnerability identified by a blogger who goes by the handle Limited Results. If you own LIFX bulbs, turn them on and launch the app. If you need the patch, the app should notify you that a firmware update is available for download. Click OK in the app to download and update the firmware for all the LIFX bulbs on your network. (More info from LIFX here.)

Ejecting the cylindrical design of its earlier smart bulbs, which remain on the market, the bulbs in the Mini line look a bit more traditional. But it’s still not perfect: The overall appearance of the bulbs is more akin to a Lite-Brite peg than an Edison bulb, but it’s a step in the right direction. These bulbs are about 0.4 inches shorter and 2.4 ounces lighter than the LIFX A19.

The shrinkage, however, comes at the expense of power. These bulbs put out a rated 800 lumens, compared to the 1,100 lumens the A19 emits. On the other hand, they consume just 9 watts compared to 11. The difference in brightness is noticeable in all three bulbs in the series—the Mini Color, Mini Day & Dusk, and Mini White—but the bulbs are otherwise functionally identical to the A19. The setup process is also the same, and they connect directly to your Wi-Fi network without need of a hub.

LIFX Mini Color

lifx mini color app 2 LIFX

The user interface for the LIFX Mini Color, including a full color wheel, remains the same.

The Mini Color delivers the same range of color production as the A19, and those colors all look fantastic. The bulb is just as speedy to switch colors, dim or brighten, or activate any number of fun party modes, including a music visualizer and a strobe light.

The bulb is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s HomeKit platforms. While the Mini Color isn’t as bright as the larger A19 smart bulb, it’s still in line with most of the market, and the shape of the bulb allows for more light to be delivered to the sides of the bulb rather than emitting most of it straight up—a perennial issue with the A19.

The smaller bulb is also cheaper than the color A19—$40 versus $54—and it’s even less expensive than its prime competitor: the $45 Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance. Yes, you’ll find even less-expensive bulbs from lesser-known brands, but given the depth of features and quality of the light the LIFX Mini Color produces, this bulb is easily worth the additional cash.

LIFX Mini White

If you don’t need any color-tuning features—or really any tuning features at all—the LIFX Mini White offers a solution. It’s the same bulb as the LIFX Mini Color, producing 800 lumens max, only it’s locked at a color temperature of 2700K (though you’ll note that the LIFX app incorrectly displays the temperature as 3500K).

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