Ikea Tradfri smart lightbulbs review: Simple and effective – Ikea’s smart bulbs hit the spot
Ikea, the purveyor of all things flat-packed and reasonably priced, isn’t the first retailer you’d think of buying smart light bulbs from. That would be the remit of tech giants such as Philips, Samsung and forward-thinking traditional bulb manufacturers like Osram, but while the spread of smart lighting has been steadily increasing, it’s yet to take off in the mass market.
So, when we found out a month or so ago that the Swedish furniture giant would be launching its very own smart lighting system, dubbed in the firm’s inimitable style Tradfri, it was big news. Make no mistake, Ikea is a huge company and in selling smart bulbs it’s effectively rubber-stamping smart home technology for the general consumer.
Ikea Tradfri review: Price and features
Ikea’s appeal has always been its low prices and it’s no surprise to see its smart bulbs follow the same pattern. I’ve been testing the basic Remote control and Motion sensor kits for a couple of weeks now and they’re simple, straightforward and cheap.
The Remote kit costs £29 and it’s probably the one you want to get started with. It includes a single screw-fit 980-lumen LED bulb and a palm-sized wireless remote that allows you to switch the bulb on and off, dim it and change colour temperature from cool to warm.[gallery:1]
The Motion sensor kit is a little cheaper at £25 and includes a simpler dimmable 1,000-lumen LED bulb without the colour temperature feature and, instead of the remote control, an infrared motion sensor that switches the light on and off when you enter and leave a room.
You can add further screw-fit bulbs or GU10 spotlights from just £9 and £12 a shot and it’s possible to pair up to ten bulbs per remote control unit, so you could in theory kit out the whole of a two-bedroom flat for under £80. One thing to note, though, is that you can’t pair two remote units to use in parallel with the same bulb.
There are other kits and lights to choose from, though, and these include the cheapest Dimming kit, which is £15 and comprises a basic bulb and dimmer remote, and the Gateway kit, which includes a wireless hub that connects to your router, two bulbs and a wireless remote and costs £69. This kit gives you the ability to control your bulbs via your smartphone.
Ikea Tradfri review: Performance
Basic setup is a doddle . Simply screw in the bulb, switch your lights on at the wall and then press and hold a button on a remote control unit while holding it next to a bulb. The bulb pulses when you’re done and then it’s ready to go.
The basic remote control system works flawlessly. There is a slight delay before the lights respond to the various buttons on the remote, but the flexibility to place the switch wherever you like, and gain control over specific bulb groupings without having to pay an electrician to rewire your house, overrides that slight inconvenience.[gallery:2]
It’s also nice to be able to change the colour of your bulbs, too, but note that this feature doesn’t give you complete control over colour as with some manufacturers’ products. You get three settings that let you change the colour temperature from warm white through to cool white and that’s your lot.
The motion sensor works well, too, although it’s worth noting that the unit isn’t weatherproofed, so using it as an automatic front porch light is off the cards.
With the smartphone control system, setup is a little more involved – you need to connect the gateway to the mains or a nearby USB power outlet, hook it up to a spare Ethernet port on your router and then pair a remote control as above, before then going on to pair the remote with your bulbs. It gives you much more control over your lights, though, with the ability to create groups of bulbs and dim them all at once, set up on/off schedules and use them to wake you up gently in the mornings, all via the screen of your smartphone.
The system is missing one key feature, though. On the dashboard displaying your lightbulb groupings, there’s no button to switch all your lights on or off, whether for a group or for the whole house. Hopefully, this will be something Ikea fixes in the near future as otherwise, the system functions beautifully.[gallery:7]
Ikea Tradfri review: Verdict
Perhaps the most interesting and potentially useful aspect of Ikea’s smart lighting system is that the system is ZigBee Light Link-compatible, which means the bulbs should work with other smart lighting systems employing the same system. That includes Philips Hue, so if you’ve already invested in that system, you can simply buy one of the Ikea bulbs and add it or add a Hue bulb to the Ikea system.
That, combined with low prices and incredibly simple setup and ease of use means Ikea’s smart lighting system is a shoe-in for an award. In impressive style, the flat-pack specialist has nailed all the basics first time out: Tradfri is cheap, easy to get started with, modular and standards-based. If you’ve always been intrigued by smart lighting this is a great place to start.