Yeelight Smart LED Bulb 1S (Color) review: A solid Wi-Fi smart bulb saddled with a glitchy app

This Yeelight smart bulb is bright enough and boasts some clever lighting features, but its quirky app gave us trouble.

yeelight smart led bulb 1s color
Ben Patterson/IDG

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At a Glance
  • Yeelight Smart LED Bulb 1S (Color)

One of the few smart bulbs we’ve seen that is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit, the Wi-Fi-enabled Yeelight Smart LED Bulb 1S (Color) is easy to set up, doesn’t require a hub or bridge, and offers a variety of clever features, including a camera-assistant color picker and a music-syncing mode. That said, the Yeelight app throws a few curve balls when it comes to grouping bulbs, and we were annoyed by frequent connectivity issues between the bulb and the app.

The Yeelight Smart LED Bulb 1S (Color) faces formidable competition when it comes to color-enabled smart bulbs. Our Editors' Choice, the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance bulb, comes packed with advanced smart features, an easy-to-use mobile app, and Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit integration, as well as a deep, peerless ecosystem of smart lighting products and accessories. That said, the latest Philips Hue bulbs won’t connect directly to your Wi-Fi network; instead, they require either a short-range Bluetooth connection (which entails a pared-down set of smart features) or the $50 Hue Bridge (which connects the Zigbee-powered bulbs to your home network via ethernet).

Our runner-up in the color smart bulb category, the LIFX A19, does connect to Wi-Fi networks, which means (like the Yeelight bulb) that it doesn’t require a hub. The 1,100-lumen LIFX bulb is also somewhat brighter than the A19 Yeelight model, while also offering Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit compatibility. Last but not least, our reviewer was impressed by the LIFX app, which has since been revamped to further boost its usability.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart bulbs, where you'll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

One advantage that the Yeelight A19 color bulb enjoys over both its Hue and LIFX competitor is price. While the Hue and LIFX bulbs each retail for $50 (although they’re regularly packaged in bundles for steep discounts), the Yeelight color bulb costs just $36 on Amazon.

Design and specifications

Yeelight offers a wide variety of stylish smart Wi-Fi lighting products, including ceiling lights, desk lamps, makeup mirrors, motion sensor-enabled night lights, and a light strip. The company also makes a dimmable but non-tunable version of the A19 smart bulb reviewed here, as well as a vintage-style ST64 filament smart bulb.

Rated to last 25,000 hours, the Smart LED Bulb 1S (Color) comes equipped with an E26 base that will fit in a standard light socket. The dimmable bulb is temperature-tunable from a very warm 1,700 Kelvin (a color that resembles candlelight) to 6,500 Kelvin (think midday hazy daylight). The bulb can also glow in up to 16 million colors.

Measuring 4.88 x 2.26 inches (pretty standard for an A19 bulb), the Smart LED Bulb S1 can emit up to 800 lumens at maximum brightness, which is roughly equivalent to (although a tad dimmer than) a 60-watt incandescent bulb. That should be bright enough to light up a room or a desk. I installed the bulb in a bedside table lamp and it looked just as bright as the other (dumb) LED bulb that flanks our bed.

Setup

Getting the Smart LED Bulb S1 up and running took only a few minutes. If this is your first Yeelight bulb, you’ll need to go to the trouble of downloading the app and creating a Yeelight account (you can’t simply log in with Google or Facebook, so you’ll need to enter your phone number or email address and a password). Once that’s done, you tap the “+” button to add a device, then you turn the bulb on and off five times in a row to put it into pairing mode.

Like most Wi-Fi-enabled smart bulbs, the Smart LED Bulb S1 is compatible only with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, which means you might encounter hiccups if you try to connect it to a typical dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz setup. In my case, the Yeelight app had no trouble adding the bulb to my home network, but that could simply be a case of the bulb fortuitously connecting to the proper wireless band. If you do have trouble, you might need to temporarily disable your 5GHz Wi-Fi network to finish the setup process.

Features, app support, smart home integration

As with other smart lighting platforms, the Yeelight app lets you create rooms (such as “bedroom” or “kitchen”) to which you can assign lights, but there’s not much you can do with a room besides turn all of its lights on or off or adjust their brightness. You can, however, create groups of lights which you can then assign to a room. Such light groups can be put on a timer or a daily or weekly lighting schedule (there’s no vacation mode for fooling potential intruders while you’re away, unfortunately), but (oddly) you can’t do the same for a room of lights.

yeelight smart led bulb 1s color app Ben Patterson/IDG

The Yeelight app offers eight preset color modes.

You can change the color temperature and hue of the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb S1 (or for a light group, for that matter) by swiping a pair of sliders on the Yeelight app (you can save a customized color as a “favorite”), or you can pick from one of eight preset color modes, running from Sunset to Candle Flicker. There’s also a color picker that lets you assign a hue by aiming your iPhone or Android phone’s camera at a color.

Meanwhile, “Flow Mode” makes the bulb cycle through a variety of colors at customizable speeds, or you can even create your own custom animations, designating the hue, color temperature, and brightness for each “frame” in your animation. There’s also a “Music Flow” feature that pulses the light in sync with whatever music can be picked up by the microphone on your phone.

A Scenes tab in the app (which is a bit confusing, given that preset color modes for the bulb are also called “scenes”) lets you create lighting scenes that you can assign to a series of individual bulbs or a light group, but (again) not to a room.

Beyond the Yeelight app’s various quirks, it also (on the iOS side, anyway) frequently lost its connection with the bulb. Closing the app and launching it again typically restored its connection, but then the app would fall out of sync with the bulb, thinking it was off when it was actually on. Turning the physical light switch on and off cured that problem, but still, the bulb’s connection issues were vexing.

Back on this plus side, the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb S1 is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit, an uncommon (although not unheard of) trifecta as far as smart bulbs go. That means you can use any of the three digital assistants to group the bulb (which also supports IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings) with your other lights, or you can create routines or automations to the bulb on a schedule or have it react to a variety of triggers. Even better, HomeKit lets you fine-tune the bulb's colors using a slider (Alexa and Google Assistant only let you select from a palette of preset colors). It’s also worth noting that Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit didn’t suffer from the same connectivity issues with the bulb that the Yeelight app did.

Bottom line

The Yeelight Smart LED Bulb S1 is a solid piece of hardware. It's relatively bright and colorful, and it's compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit. While we found the Yeelight app to be troublesome, you could always (following the initial Wi-Fi setup) opt to control the bulb exclusively using a digital assistant, with HomeKit being the most enticing option. That said, it’s tough to give the Yeelight bulb a strong recommendation given its far superior (albeit pricier) competition, particularly when it comes to LIFX’s Wi-Fi color bulb.

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At a Glance
  • The Yeelight color smart bulb is bright enough and boasts some clever lighting features, but its quirky app gave us trouble.

    Pros

    • Easy setup
    • Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit support
    • Music Flow feature syncs the bulb to your tunes
    • Less expensive than competing color smart bulbs

    Cons

    • Grouping bulbs with the Yeelight app can be confusing
    • App suffered from connectivity issues
    • No “vacation” mode
  
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