Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

Prior to proceeding to the business end of the review, we look at a couple of different aspects that affect the end-user experience - power consumption and thermals. We recorded power consumption and power factor values using the Ubiquiti Networks mPower Pro power strip at various brightness levels. The good news is that the White 800 consumes very little power (~ 700 mW) in the standby mode after recent firmware updates. It was close to 2W at launch, but it is too low to measure reliably on the AC side now. (Update: We shifted the power measurement duties to the Visible Energy UFO Power Center. It can measure sub-1 W numbers more reliably compared to the Ubiquiti Networks mPower devices. The table below has been updated for the standby setting.)

LIFX White 800 Power Consumption
Brightness Level Avg. Power (W) Power Factor
0% [ Off / Accessible via App ] 0.69 W  
25% 1.32 W 0.50
50% 3.08 W 0.49
75% 5.88 W 0.67
100% 10.71 W 0.89

There was no measurable variation in the power numbers when the color temperature was tuned (for a particular brightness level).

In order to evaluate the thermal performance, we kept the light on at the maximum brightness level for a hour and recorded a thermal image (using the Seek Thermal smartphone add-on). As recommended for any 'high-power' LED fixture, it would be good to not install the unit in a tight space with inadequate airflow. (Update: It has been brought to my notice that the LIFX bulbs have been "UL box" tested (that's a standard ~6" wooden cube, open on one end - simulating an air starved ceiling fitting), and should meet their stated lifetimes in an open air fitting. Everything in the bulb is rated for 105 C operation)

The following table summarizes the various home automation aspects / consumer checklist for the LIFX White 800 and how it compares with the other systems that we have evaluated before.

Home Automation Device Aspects - Summary Table
Evaluated Devices LIFX White 800 mPower
mPower Pro
InWall Outlet
InWall Dimmer Switch
Communication Technology Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz) Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz)
Platform Qualcomm Atheros QCA 4002 1x1 802.11n Wi-Fi SoC
Freescale Kinetis MK22FN512 MCU
Qualcomm Atheros AR9331 1x1 802.11n Wi-Fi SoC
Host CPU: MIPS 24Kc, DRAM: 32MB
Power Source AC Powered AC Powered
Hub / Bridge Requirement No No
Control Center Local Device (basic access, rules and scenes)
Cloud (for control over the Internet)
Local Device (basic access, rules and scenes)
Local Server (comprehensive access, rules and scenes)
User Control Interface Mobile Apps Web Browser
Mobile Apps (basic control)
Open APIs Yes (Protocol Documentation)
HTTP (Cloud-only)
Yes (uPnP, HTTP, SSH)
Third-party / Hub Compatibility AllSeen / works with nest /IFTTT None advertised
Cloud Reliance Optional (only for access from an external network) None
Security Notes Username / Password authentication at app level Username / Password Authentication
LAN Access Only
User Support / Discussion Forums LIFX Support Ubiquiti Networks Community - mFi Forums
Street Price USD 40 USD 60 (mPower)
USD 95 (mPower Pro)
USD 59 (InWall Outlet)
USD 59 (InWall Switch / Dimmer)

With respect to the open APIs, we would like the LIFX bulbs to present a simpler interface for power users. HTTP APIs and a web server (that could also act as an interface on PCs) similar to that of the UFO Power Center or the Ubiquiti Networks mFi devices would be great. In terms of hardware, we observed audible buzzing with any brightness setting under 100%. This might not be a problem for ceiling fixtures, but is definitely a factor when the bulb is within earshot for those sensitive to such noise. Unfortunately, this is a problem with most dimmable LED fixtures.

Other than the above two aspects, the LIFX White 800 is a reasonably-priced smart lighting fixture. The tunable color temperature differentiates it from the host of multi-colored smart LED bulbs in the market. The low-power Qualcomm Atheros QCA4002 platform is also instrumental in driving down the power consumption and price for widespread adoption.

Setup, Usage and APIs
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  • mikato - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    The very small standby power mode it has now makes it more interesting as you can leave its power switched on and use the network to control it fully - making for a possibly more networked home in the future.
  • ddriver - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    It could actually have tremendously lower idle power use. That microcontroller is a ridiculous overhead for light bulb, it would be proportional to a quad socket 48 core xeon system with 128 gigs of ram for a machine dedicated to emails...

    The more elegant solution would be a single control unit for all lightning as well as other home automation, "smart bulbs" are a clumsy and inefficient solution. I'd rather have a "smart home" than a "dumb home with smart light bulbs".
  • MrSpadge - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    Agreed - I think it would make more sense to include a small controller in th lamp itself, which will contain several bulbs. Which themselves will fail at some point and get replaced by the next ones.
  • Solandri - Saturday, June 13, 2015 - link

    Actually, it sounds like we need a new electrical standard. Kinda like the converse of PoE where you send power along cabling initially intended for network signals.

    A low bandwidth (so as to not cause widespread high-frequency interference) powerline ethernet standard should allow you to plug in "smart" bulbs into a home's standard electrical sockets, and have them controlled via a central control station which communicates with the bulbs over powerline ethernet. Only the control station would need wifi connectivity so you could control it. The individual bulbs would only need to receive instructions next time they were turned on and announced themselves to the control station, thus eliminating the always-on power draw of putting a wifi receiver onto every light bulb.
  • Navvie - Monday, June 15, 2015 - link

    Something like X10?
  • Zefeh - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    I could see something as simple as the ESP8266 WiFi module as something that you could use instead of what they have. Load it up with the customized LUA firmware on the net and you have a pretty decent cheap small Microcontroller that can run LUA scripts with rx/tx WiFi comm, 2 GPIO's (some revisions) for 3.3 volt operation and around 23kb flash to mess with. Low power and cheap at 5 bucks a piece!

    Slapping an Cortex-M4 on there is ridiculous I agree. House automation systems should have a comm base that does all the decision making. The bulbs just need to communicate and turn on/off/dim.

    Another interesting thing to think about is power wire communication. Had a prof. In college working on it, working on transmitting signals through already in place infrastructure and then just making the end points like lightbulbs understand what's said and complies with the request. Interesting concept to think of, very similar to the household WiFi power plug adapters.
  • boozed - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    I'd love to have lightning in my house but my friends disagree.
  • Wwhat - Saturday, June 13, 2015 - link

    " I'd rather have a "smart home" than a "dumb home with smart light bulbs"."

    Well I'm sure daddy will buy you one..
  • ddriver - Saturday, June 13, 2015 - link

    Because that's how you get stuff?
  • chrysrobyn - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    I could get really excited about this and deploy 10-20 throughout my house, if they could automatically change the white color based on the time of day. I'm really curious about the research into circadian rhythms getting input from light color and I'd like to try it out at home.

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