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Hue white ambiance dims all the way to 1%!

Posted 2016-07-14

I got my Philips Hue starter kit two or three years ago. For those of you who have been living under a rock: Hue is a lighting system. The original Hue lights are power-efficient LED lights that can display a large range of colors: deep red, blue and purple as well as not-so-deep green and all the colors in between, which includes both cool and warm white light. There's a phone app to control the color and brightness of the lights. Unfortunately, the minimum brightness of the colored Hue lights is 5%, which is still relatively bright. This is especially annoying when you tell the lights to come on or go off slowly. The jump from off to minimum or minimum to off is somewhat jarring.

The colored Hue lights are relatively expensive, 60 euros a piece, if I remember correctly. (You also need a bridge that connects to your network and talks to the lights.) The colors are a nice gimmick, but I rarely use that feature, opting for warm white most of the time. More recently, Philips introduced the Hue lux / Hue white lights, which are fairly neutral white and don't change color. But you can still control their brightness from your phone or a computer. The Hue white lights are much more affordable at about 20 euros a piece.

And now there's the Hue white ambiance bulbs, costing about 35 euros. These split the difference between the "Hue white and color ambiance" bulbs (i.e., the colored ones) and the white ones: the ambiance bulbs can change from warm white (2000k) to cool white (6500K). But an interesting additional feature is that their minimum brightness is only 1%. Let me show you, full brightness on the left and minimum brightness on the right:

Hue white and color ambiance:

Hue white:

Hue white ambiance:

As you can see, the white lights are the brightest, but they actually go down a bit lower than the colored ones. The white ambiance ones are the dimmest both at full and minimum brightness. (The red color of the minimum brightness photo doesn't reflect how it really looks, though.)

Looking at the specs, there are some interesting differences between the three lights:

  Hue white and color ambiance Hue white Hue white ambiance
Power 10W 9.5W 10W
Nominal lifetime 25000 hours 25000 hours 25000 hours
Lumens ~2100K 342 - 400
Lumens 2700K 570 800 570
Lumens 4000K 800 - 800
Lumens 6500K 550 - 480
Lumens/W 80 (4000K) 84 (2700K) 80 (4000K)

Philips doesn't specify how many lumens per Watt the two types of ambiance bulbs produce at color temperatures different from 4000K, but it's safe to assume it's less than 80. And it's unlikely that you'll want to set them to 4000K, which is fairly cool white. So bang for your buck wise, the Hue white lights can't be beat: they're cheaper and they produce more light.

But the white ambiance ones are perfect for in a bedroom where you may want to have the light come on slowly in the morning or go out slowly at night, or set them to a low setting as a night light. And don't forget to get a wireless dimmer switch for 25 euros to save yourself from fiddling with your phone when you want to turn the lights on or off.

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