If you’ve trekked through an Ikea showroom recently, then you might have noticed the dedicated section for lamps and LED light bulbs. Now, you’re likely to see smart lights on display, too.
Ikea calls this connected lighting lineup ‘Tradfri’ (Danish for ‘wireless’), and it includes a number of entry points, including a $25 smart bulb and motion detector bundle and an $80 starter kit (£69 in the UK) that comes with two bulbs, a wireless remote, and the gateway hub that plugs into your router to let you control the lights using an app on your Android or iOS device.
Ikea’s approach here keeps things simple — too much so for me to recommend it. With relatively few features and zero third-party connections, it lags far behind the two-bulb Philips Hue White starter kit, which costs less. That said, keep Tradfri in mind if you just want a quick-and-easy dimming or motion detection solution, because there’s value to be had if you’re willing to skip the app-enabled smarts of Ikea’s gateway hub.
I drove two hours north to the nearest Ikea last month to pick up a new piece of furniture, and while I was there, I tossed one of those $80 starter kits into my cart. And, after a month spent testing everything out at both the CNET Smart Home and CNET Smart Apartment, I can report that it works as advertised, letting you control the bulbs from your phone or automate them to turn on and off at specific times with relative ease.
But that’s really all that it does. There’s no vacation mode that’ll cycle the lights on and off to simulate occupancy while you’re away, nor can you customize fade durations for those automated lighting changes. There’s nothing by way of third-party compatibility, either — no HomeKit, no Alexa, no IFTTT, no SmartThings, no nothin’.
Really the only features of note are that the bulbs have those three color-temperature settings, and that the hub wisely includes two-factor authentication during setup by way of a device-specific QR code that you’ll need to scan with your phone’s camera. That’s the same tactic Apple HomeKit uses to keep gadgets secure, and it’s a clever approach. Still, it’s not much to get excited about.
Even worse — at $80, the two-bulb Tradfri starter kit costs 10 bucks more than the two-bulb Philips Hue White starter kit that I awarded Editors’ Choice last September. That kit offers wide, well-developed compatibility with just about every smart-home platform you could think to throw at it (including everything mentioned above), and you get the option of adding Hue’s color-changing smart bulbs a la carte, too. The Tradfri kit might have been compelling a couple of years ago, but in 2017, it’s much too basic and too far behind the curve for me to recommend.
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