We’ve talked at length about all of the smart bulbs currently on the market. There are a lot of companies out there that are perfectly content with making one smart bulb. Others have created a whole array of easy connected lighting solutions for the entire house.
MiPow is one of the latter. The company’s products definitely aren’t as well known as a few other lighting solutions, such as the Phillips hue, but their lineup has a lot of interesting, affordable smart bulbs—and we got to play around with three of them.
MiPow’s products also aren’t as versatile as the Philips hue, WeMo or some of the other smart bulb options out there. A lot of that has to do with the fact that all of MiPow’s smart bulbs operate on Bluetooth, which means you won’t be able to access anything remotely. However, that wireless connectivity also makes each of these products extremely easy to operate.
All About the App
As mentioned, every PlayBulb product uses Bluetooth, so make sure that is enabled on your portable device of choice. However, you will also need the PlayBulb X app, which is free for both iOS and Android devices.
As with most smart bulb apps, PlayBulb X isn’t very complex. It features the same interface for every single PlayBulb product, so you shouldn’t get flustered when flipping between bulbs.
The setup process is also insanely easy. Each time I added a PlayBulb product, the app immediately recognized that product and offered the option to connect to it. Despite being able to display an unlimited amount of PlayBulbs, know that you can only be connected to one device at a time—although you can easily select to have one bulb flash through a rainbow of colors and flip to another to turn it a solid green. You can also group up to five PlayBulb devices on your network to power multiple bulbs on, tweak colors, and add effects, all with one click.
The actual interface includes controls to turn the PlayBulb products on and off, as well as change the color. There are buttons for turning the bulbs red, green, blue and white, but the color wheel makes it easy to add any color in between. There’s also a button to turn all of the colors off, but what fun is that?
If you’re having problems picking a color, you can opt to have the “Shake” feature do it for you. This allows you to physically shake your mobile device and whatever comes up on the color wheel, the PlayBulb will emit. There’s also a button for Effects, which includes Flashing, Pulse, Rainbow (which flashes through the rainbow), Rainbow F (which fades through the rainbow), and a flickering candle.
The PlayBulb X app also has tabs for Music and Scenes. Although you can play music through the PlayBulb Music player on your portable, this feature is specifically designed for use with the PlayBulb Color, since that is the only MiPow product with a built-in speaker. The Scenes tab was slightly confusing and took me a minute to figure out. To me, a Scene is a light setting that you can create for something like “Home Theater” or “Dinner.” However, in PlayBulb land, this is a way to add in your own specialized colors. To create one of these colors, just take a photo or pick one from your existing photo album. Then, click on an area of that photo, save the setting, and the bulb will emit the color from that photo.
For each PlayBulb product, the main menu features several other perks. The Timer allows you to set Wake, Sleep and two different Custom timers. There’s also a Security option to set lights to go on and off at certain times of day. These are much appreciated features, which worked perfectly on each of the products tested. Now, let’s get into specifics about those.
At $19.99 each, the PlayBulb Candle is the least expensive product in the MiPow line. It’s also the smallest and emits the least amount of light. This product is more for mood lighting than anything else. I could see putting this thing in the bathroom when company comes over or even for a bubble bath. It would also be sort of cool to place these on an outdoor table or deck during a party.
Out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice about the PlayBulb Candle is that it’s made of plastic. It’s not a hard plastic either. That said, it survived all of the falls I purposely instigated from my coffee table. I doubt it would make it through a tumble from the mantle though. At $20 a pop, I don’t think that’s something I would want to test out.
Don’t worry about that light weight though, because you’re going to add to that. The PlayBulb Candle uses three AAA batteries—and doesn’t include them. Just unscrew the base at the bottom of the Candle and you’ll see the battery hatch.
Once the batteries are in, flip the little switch inside to ON. My PlayBulb Candle immediately treated me to a light show with green, purple, blue, pink and yellow colors. From there, you can change colors and effects using the PlayBulb X app, up to 10 meters away.
Also worth mentioning is that the PlayBulb Candle has a sensor that allows you to “blow” it out like an actual candle—or at least, like one of those trick candles. It took a pretty hearty breath to blow this thing out, but didn’t leave me gasping for air or anything. Also, you can program a group so that one blow will knock out an entire group of Candles.
The PlayBulb Candle also comes with three scent chips. Out of the package, these seemed a little too toxic for my taste. However, I couldn’t smell the chip once it was placed in the center of the Candle.
Smells notwithstanding, the PlayBulb Candle is sort of neat. However, it’s really more of a decorative piece than anything. As mentioned above, if you like to entertain, these would be a neat addition to a party. Of course, you could get the same effects with an actual candle, but those don’t emit colors. Also, the PlayBulb Candle shouldn’t burn down your house or anything.
If you’ve tapped out your battery supply, you’ll appreciate the PlayBulb Garden ($39.99). This PlayBulb doesn’t need batteries, but instead relies on solar power.
Like the Candle, the PlayBulb Garden is sort of a decorative piece. Boasting just 5 lumens, this circular solar light is not going to deliver enough brightness for reading purposes. However, if you’re willing to buy multiple units, it would be a nice way to illuminate a pathway at night. I could definitely see putting these things around the garden or a pool when it’s party time.
Each PlayBulb Garden comes with two stakes, which you can stack or set up in different areas of the yard. However, you don’t have to commit to the spot you want to light up. The device actually detaches from the stake and can be placed anywhere, promising a control range up to 20 meters.
The great thing about the PlayBulb Garden (aside from the solar thing) is that it’s water-resistant, so you don’t have to worry if you leave it outside for a little bit. I wasn’t able to test it out on any heavy storms or my New England winters, but just know that you won’t have to rush outside to grab it the second it starts to sprinkle.
The PlayBulb Rainbow is probably the most useful of the lot, since it functions like most other smart bulbs. It can fit into any standard E26/E27 screw socket, but there’s an adapter to squeeze it into other lamps if needed.
According to MiPow, the PlayBulb Rainbow is equivalent to a 40-watt LED light bulb. It can output 280 lumens and is rated for 30,000 hours of use. I thought it was quite bright, but you’d definitely need more than one to light up an entire room. Although I didn’t count the millions of colors MiPow claims, I did think it had a very pleasing palette that was easy to adjust via the app.
At $39.99 per bulb, the PlayBulb Rainbow is a pretty good buy that delivers as advertised. It doesn’t offer remote control, but that sort of option typically comes at a higher price.
If remote access isn’t a necessity, you may want to take a peek at MiPow’s PlayBulb lineup. These options offer several of the features you’d want from today’s smart bulbs, including scheduling, timers and even colors. It’s especially nice that these products don’t need any sort of hub. Of course, if you want remote control, that’s going to cost you. Instead, each of these options offer several of smart bulb perks at a very affordable price.