LIFX+ color LED smart bulb review: This light bulb helps your security camera see in the dark

The original LIFX bulb is one of our top picks. The LIFX+ packs LEDs that illuminate the area around it with infrared light even when the bulb is otherwise turned off.

LIFX+ A19 A60 E27 E26 WBG
Credit: LIFX
At a Glance
  • LIFX+

    TechHive Rating
    $79.99 MSRP $79.99
    View
    on Amazon

LIFX has taken its top-notch Wi-Fi color LED smart bulb and added a terrific feature to create the LIFX+: Infrared LEDs that illuminate the surrounding area even when the bulb is turned off (via software, that is). You can’t see this with your naked eye, but it will help your home security camera see in the dark.

“Night vision” cameras—of which there are many on the market—can’t really see in the dark. What they have is a sensor that can detect light in the infrared spectrum, and most models have a small infrared LED on the front to help light up the surrounding when the sun goes down. Infrared light is invisible to our eyes, but it makes a huge difference in what the camera can pick up. The catch is that those infrared LEDs aren’t typically very powerful, which is why nighttime footage from most of these cameras looks fuzzy and muted.

With and without LIFX+

Both photos were captured from a home security camera. In the image on the right, the LIFX+ bulb is in the lamp, but it's turned off via the app. The glow is from infrared light that only the camera can see.

Solution: Light up the scene with an external infrared light source, courtesy of bulbs you already have installed. The LIFX+ throws out a ton of light—far more than your typical IR camera—really brightening up nighttime footage no matter which IR camera you’re using. The before and after sample photos above give you a much better sense of this: Note how you can make out individual books on the far-right bookshelf in the after picture; in the before photo, they’re little more than a gray blur.

It’s a vivid scene… and yet, to the human eye, the lamp positioned in the picture is actually turned off in the right-hand photo (via software, that is. If power to the lamp itself was shut off, this trick wouldn’t work). The LIFX+ IR feature activates when you dim the light to 10 percent or below, or if you turn the bulb off in software; there’s otherwise no way to manually control just the infrared light or its power level.

LIFX app

The LIFX+ uses the same app as its stablemate.

This new model uses the same control app and is identical in size and weight to the LIFX Color 1000 we reviewed in October. The only visible difference is a very slight bump in luminosity, from 1055 lumens to 1100. Apart from that, this bulb functions the same as the less-expensive Color 1000, and it delivers the same rich colors, scheduling, and other smart-bulb trappings.

That means you have a single $20 question to answer if you’re considering one of these bulbs. Obviously, if you don’t have a night-vision camera in the vicinity of the bulb, stick with the cheaper model. But if you aren’t happy with the clarity of your video shot at nighttime, this is actually a reasonable way to solve that problem without adding additional hardware (or upgrading your camera).

To comment on this article and other TechHive content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating
    $79.99 MSRP $79.99
    View
    on Amazon

    This color smart bulb enhances the night vision of your security cameras through infrared LEDs, even when it’s turned off.

    Pros

    • Infrared light feature is no gimmick, it fills a specific (if narrow) need
    • IR feature is automatic and requires no extra configuration
    • The same seamless setup and operation as other LIFX bulbs

    Cons

    • $80 is a lot to pay for any light bulb
    • Bulb design directs light in too narrow of an angle
    • Rated for indoor use only (there's a BR30 version for outdoor use, and it's priced the same)
Shop Tech Products at Amazon