Up until recently, if you’ve been in the position of thinking about making your home into an ‘Apple HomeKit’ smart home, the potential cost of realising such a dream, could run into hundreds and even thousands of dollars (or pounds/Yen etc), all of which would discourage younger customers beginning their journey into being a homemaker. However, now that many Chinese brands are making their presence felt, and along with them, a lot of much cheaper devices, the cost of putting together a basic smart home has come down considerably, at least for some items. One such brand, in case you’ve not been paying attention, is Aqara. Today, we’re looking at their budget-conscious smart tuneable white LED bulb.
This Aqara LED bulb (dimming version) is the first smart bulb to appear under the Aqara brand. The official price in China for this bulb at the T-mall flagship store is a lowly ¥89 (a mere UK£11.00 or US$14.00). Obviously, unless you happen to be in China, you’re going to have to pay a bit more from online resellers, but it goes to show how much the price can potentially come down. The packaging is as simple as ever, with a basic white box featuring the product, product name and the Aqara logo, with the back displaying a simple scene depicting a typical use case.
The base of the box indicates the model number: ZNLDP12LM, with the input voltage supporting only 220-240V～50/60Hz, so this bulb is of no use in 110-120V countries, unfortunately, although Aqara have said they’re working on a 110-120v version. It’s a reasonable 9W, bulb and as this is a tuneable white bulb (it can do ‘cool blue’ white to ‘warm orange’ white), the colour temperature range is 2700K-6500K. The maximum brightness is 806ml, which is on a par with the equivalent Philips Hue product. A multi-language manual is also included along with the bulb.
For stable and reliable network connections, most Aqara products connect using the Zigbee protocol. The Zigbee protocol avoids the potential issue of a congested Wi-Fi network and can still be controlled when the network is unstable. Aqara bulbs, along with most of their other products, also need the Aqara Hub to work, especially if you want HomeKit compatibility. If you don’t want HomeKit connectivity, below is a list of currently supported gateways devices that the bulb can also work with:
- Mijia air conditioning partner
- Aqara air conditioning partner
- Aqara gateway (with Apple HomeKit support)
- Mijia multi-function gateway
The Aqara LED bulb is slightly larger than the Philips Hue. The acrylic diffuser and plastic body are much lighter than the Philips Hue with the glass shade, but the acrylic is not as fragile as glass. The lamp can be screwed into most fixtures using the common E27 Edison type fitting. Despite being lighter than the Hue, as mentioned before, it has the same high 800 lumens brightness. The bulb pictured above is a white and colour ambience version, but the dimensions are the same as the tuneable white equivalent.
If you do opt for using the bulb to work with the Aqara HomeKit gateway (and really why wouldn’t you?), the Aqara LED bulb also supports voice control via Apple’s Home app and Siri. If you happen to have an Apple HomePod or Apple TV serving as a hub in your home, then Aqara LED bulbs can be turned on or off when no one is at home, and turn them on when someone comes back (a combination of motion or door sensors and geolocation data will achieve this).
The Mijia app supports the Aqara LED bulb, allowing you to turn it on or off, adjust the brightness and colour temperature. In the display specifically for the bulb, the rotating outer ring allows you to adjust the overall brightness with the centre of the circle allowing for adjustment of the colour temperature. As already mentioned, the Aqara LED bulb supports the 2700K-6500K colour temperature range, so for the morning or for times when concentration is needed, a cool light is recommended, while the warm light assists in winding down and relaxing before bed. The row of quick buttons below is for quick access to various presets, such as the basic switch, a timer, ‘relax’, ‘night light’, and ‘movie’.
Looking at the wider picture, the significance of the smart home is to change the way people interact with the environment. Nowadays, with the smart home, anyone can dive in and not have to worry about a PhD in electronics. For Aqara LED bulbs, you can have automations adjust the colour temperature according to different scenarios, all without having to run to every room or simply use a voice command to turn off all of the lights in the house.
As a light bulb, the Aqara is very affordable, but there are points where you begin to notice why Philips Hue and other ‘top line’ brands cost more. Much of this is down to software and firmware reliability along with ease of use. I encountered some small issue with the software side of things when using the bulb with the Mi Home app, but I hope to see improvement in the experience through later OTA updates. For example;
- After the power is restored, the light bulb defaults to the state before the power is turned off. If it can be restored to a closed or customised state, then there will be a better experience, which Hue has already made available to their own products.
- When the light bulb is turned on or off, it creates a fade-in/fade-out effect, so that the eye can better adapt to changes in brightness. However, it is not as smooth as the Philips Hue bulb, which is reflected in the fact that when the light is turned off, the brightness gradually drops to about 30% and suddenly closes.
All in all, I’m really happy with the cost-quality ratio of this product, so I hope that Aqara will be able to solve these small problems in future OTA updates, and at the same time be able to introduce more types of lighting products for consumers to choose from, even to compete with Yeelight in China. If you are still hesitating to start a smart home product, it is better to start with Aqara LED bulbs, this will be the beginning of your “lazy” life.