There are plenty of smart panels for ambient lighting. Here are some we like too.
Twinkly Dots for $100: You can stick these LED dot chains around frames and furniture or leave them hanging somewhere, and the app offers a wide range of colors and animated effects. You can map your pattern to get the most out of the effects, create your own effects, and group Twinkly lights. The downside is that the strip is divided into two sections, with the power controls in the middle, and there are not enough adhesive dots in the packaging.
Govee G1 Gaming Light Bar for $60: This is very similar to the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip for PC listed above, but not quite as good. It’s easy to install, available in two sizes (for 24 to 26 inch and 27 to 34 inch monitors) and will spice up your gaming. However, syncing requires Govee’s unreliable desktop software. Unfortunately, streaming services like Netflix report screen recording as a copyright violation, so syncing won’t work for them. Govee DreamView and Razer Chroma compatibility lets you sync other lights and peripherals.
Moonside Lamp One for $65: This modern lava lamp looks beautiful and has 120 dynamic color zones that can display millions of colors and themes (animated effects). You can even design your own themes or have the lamp respond to music. Unfortunately, the app is a bit clunky and the lamp is made of lightweight, matte plastic, making it easy to accidentally knock it over.
Philips Hue Go 2 for $90: This bowl-shaped portable lamp features an edge so you can tilt it to read, and makes a great bedside lamp with dimming at night and up to 520 lumens to wake you up in the morning. You can adjust the temperature and choose from millions of colors. This newer version (2019) has Bluetooth, so you don’t need a Hue Bridge. Battery life is limited; If you turn up the brightness you’ll be lucky to get two hours, but dimmed it can last around ten hours.
Nanoleaf Elements for $200: Plastic light panels can look ugly on some walls (especially when turned off), so Nanoleaf offers this version of its larger wood-effect hexagonal panels (they’re still plastic). Like the rest of the panels, you can arrange Nanoleaf’s Elements in any pattern you want, and they support touch controls and music syncing. Unfortunately, they only emit white light, but with a color temperature range of 1500K to 4000K, you can go from cool white to a warm orange glow.
Mpowerd Luci solar string lights for $46: If you need lights to take with you on the go or on camping trips, this clever gadget from Mpowerd can brighten up your RV or campsite. The container can be opened to unwind waterproof fairy lights (IPX4). Press the power button to use it as a flashlight or switch between the colors of the string lights. There’s a solar panel at the top for charging (but it’s slow) and a port that works in both directions (so it can double as a power bank).
Govee outdoor LED string lights for $70: Decorate your garden or balcony with these hanging light bulbs to create more atmosphere at barbecues and parties. You will receive 15 heavy-duty plastic bulbs on a 48-foot cord. The bulbs are IP65 certified and offer dimmable warm white or colored light. The control box is IPX5, but the power supply is not waterproof, so you need to run it indoors or use a weatherproof box.
Govee floodlights for $100: This 4 pack of floodlights is easy to assemble and aim and offers a wide range of colors and scenes via the Govee app via WiFi or Bluetooth. You can also dim or adjust the temperature. Each light can emit up to 500 lumens. They are IP65 rated and connect via a single 40-foot cable, but the power adapter is not waterproof.
Nanoleaf Lines for $200: Our previous pick for gamers, the Nanoleaf Lines (8/10, WIRED recommends) project light from the back of each line onto the wall, casting colors and creating a beautiful atmosphere. Even when turned off, the Lines look better than most decorative smart lights because they cast shadows on the wall and could pass as sculptural art. They also have screen mirroring for PC to improve gaming (Razer Chroma is also supported).
Govee Glide Hexa Panels for $180: These offer a wide range of colors and animated effects, similar to the Nanoleaf Shapes, not to mention support for music syncing. But installation is cumbersome, smart home integration is limited (no HomeKit or Thread), and it lacks touch controls.
Lifx Lightstrip for $90: This is not as bright as the Philips Hue Gradient Smart Lightstrip, but offers rich colors, separate zones, and beautiful animations. The app allows planning and can gradually brighten a bedroom in the morning. There’s also the option to sync music using your phone’s microphone. The smart home integration is solid and no hub is required, but when I tested the previous version (the Lifx Z), the Wi-Fi would frequently disconnect and not respond until reset.
Govee Lyra floor lamp for $150: This is a tall, sleek option designed to splash colored light onto your walls. It has eight sections that can be controlled separately, supports animations, and can be synced with music or other audio. A practical remote control is also included in delivery.
Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip for $50: This affordable light strip from Nanoleaf offers Matter support, but is only recommended for people who already have Nanoleaf gear. You can choose the color, change the brightness and adjust the color temperature. Some animations are also supported. However, this strip of light can only display one color at a time. The connection between the bar and the power supply is weak, and we found that if someone bumps into it, the light will go out.