Samsung SmartThings Smart Bulb review: A $10 bulb built for the SmartThingsverse

It's one of the least-expensive smart bulbs that's compatible with the Samsung SmartThings Hub, but its features are limited accordingly.

smartthings bulb 1
Samsung SmartThings
At a Glance

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is our favorite smart home hub because of its broad third-party support. There is no product category in which you can’t find a compatible product, be it based on Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee technology. Not content to allow other companies to rule its infrastructure, Samsung has been releasing more of its own smart devices. We examined the SmartThings Cam on Wednesday; today, we’re considering the SmartThings Smart Bulb.

This is an entry-level, A19-style/E26 base, dimmable white LED bulb with a Zigbee 3.0 radio onboard. It’s rated to produce 806 lumens of brightness while consuming just 9 watts of electricity. But it has a fixed color temperature of 2700K, and there is no version that offers full color. All of this is designed to make the bulb as affordable as possible.

At launch, the bulb is retailing for around $10. Compare that to two other Zigbee bulbs—the $15 Philips Hue White and the $8 Cree Connected—as well as dimmable smart LED bulbs from LIFX (around $23 for the LIFX Mini), Sengled (around $15 for the Sengled Smart Wi-Fi LED Soft White, and TP-Link (around $17 for the Kasa Smart KL110).

smartthings bulb installed Christopher Null / IDG

The Samsung SmartThings Smart Bulb’s warm white color will be suitable for most lighting situations, but that temperature is fixed at 2700K.

The LIFX, Sengled, and TP-Link smart bulbs communicate over Wi-Fi, so they don’t require a hub (though they are compatible with the SmartThings Hub). The Cree Connected bulb and the Philips Hue White bulbs are also compatible with the SmartThings Hub, but you’ll still need the Philips Hue Bridge to use the latter in a SmartThings system. That goes for the new generation of Philips Hue bulbs that have both Bluetooth and Zigbee radios, too.

Samsung SmartThings Smart Bulb 2 Christopher Null / IDG

The primary interface delivers quick access to the bulb’s dimming features, plus a history of on/off activity.

As you would expect, you’ll need a Samsung SmartThings Hub as well as the Samsung SmartThings app to configure this bulb. Challenge number one: The slim user manual suggests that the bulb and the Hub must be no more than 15 feet away from one another during setup. Curious to test the bulb’s range, I tried pairing it to the hub when they were about 50 feet away from one another.

The process involves scanning a QR code—provided on a sticker inside the box—much like you would pair an Apple HomeKit device. You then wait for the app to register the bulb. The first time I tried this, selecting the SmartThings bulb within the app specifically, the system instead discovered an old Wi-Fi wall switch from another vendor.

Baffled, I tried the process again, and this time the correct bulb was discovered and added to the SmartThings system. I haven’t had any trouble operating or using the bulb since, even though it’s much farther away from the hub than Samsung recommends. Zigbee is a mesh networking protocol, so you can increase the SmartThings Hub’s range by deploying at least one Zigbee device in between the Hub and the Zigbee device located the farthest from the Hub. Every Zigbee device acts as repeater to greatly increase the number of square feet that a hub like the SmartThings can cover.

Operationally, SmartThings lets you do the expected activities with the bulb: power it on or off, or dim or brighten it using a slider. Dimming is not dynamic within the app; you’ll need to drag it to your desired brightness (set on a 100-point scale) and then wait a second for the bulb to respond. A detailed history of the bulb’s activity is also maintained within the app interface, a unique and unusual feature to find connected to any smart bulb.

Samsung SmartThings Smart Bulb 3 Christopher Null / IDG

The SmartThings automation engine is intricate—and I never got this specific one to work right.

Naturally, SmartThings is all about letting you tie various smart home products together, and the automation routines built into the app are quite sophisticated, whether you want to set simple timers or have the light bulb react when, say, a motion sensor is tripped. While SmartThings has hooks into just about every type of product, I couldn’t get an automation to work that also turned on the Smart Bulb after SmartThings’ own Wi-Fi Smart Plug was first turned on. Standard schedule-based timers didn’t have that issue though, nor did I have any trouble controlling and scheduling the smart plug via Alexa (Google Assistant and Bixby are also supported)..

10 bucks is a small price to pay for a capable smart bulb, and even with a handful of early bugs, the SmartThings Smart Bulb is a good value. That said, you can rest assured that even cheaper bulbs are probably right around the corner. When it comes to lower-end products like this, it always pays to keep an out of for discounts and sales.

At a Glance
  • Samsung’s simple smart bulb is tied to the SmartThings Hub and is a solid buy for folks who are all in on that platform.

    Pros

    • Dimmable
    • Inexpensive
    • SmartThings Hub maintains a running history of when the bulb is turned off and on

    Cons

    • Minor setup bug; couldn’t get all automations to work
    • Color temperature fixed at a warm white (2700K)
    • Can't operate without a Samsung SmartThings Hub
  
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