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Ring made a name for itself with its video doorbells and then expanded into security cameras, whole-home alarm systems, and even landscape lighting. Now, the company is taking its first tentative steps in traditional smart lighting.
Ring is starting with two very basic LED bulbs that require the same bridge to connect to your Wi-Fi network that the company’s landscape lighting uses. There’s the $15 indoor Ring A19 Smart LED Bulb reviewed here, and a $25 weatherproof PAR38 bulb (you can read our opinion of Ring’s PAR38 bulb here). Both bulbs produce white light only and have fixed color temperatures.
The Ring A19 bulb boasts some of the same functionality we’ve seen in smart lights from the likes of Philips Hue, WiZ, LIFX, and others, including light grouping and scheduling, and it also works well with motion-sensing devices in the ever-growing Ring ecosystem. But this dimmable and Alexa-enabled bulb lacks such standard smart lighting features as scenes and a vacation mode.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart bulbs, where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
Design and specifications
Rated to last up to 25,000 hours, the A19 Smart LED Bulb is basically a garden-variety household bulb with an E26 base that fits in standard light sockets.
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Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 (Bluetooth + Zigbee)
The Ring A19 bulb is dimmable (it produces 800 lumens at full brightness, which is roughly equivalent to a 60-watt bulb), but you can’t change the bulb’s color temperature, which has been tuned to a “neutral white” 3,500 Kelvin. That’s a far cry from the look of a 5,000K fluorescent bulb, but 3,500K is noticeably cooler than the 2,500-ish Kelvin “warm white” bulbs that you’ll generally find in bedrooms and living rooms. (I tested the bulb in my wife’s bedside lamp and she immediately spotted the difference.) The Ring A19 will probably look best in a desk lamp or an enclosed outdoor fixture, although it could also work in a living area with an earthy color scheme.
Speaking of outdoors, the Ring A19 Smart LED Bulb is designed for both indoor and outdoor use, but Ring warns against using it in a location “where [it’s] directly exposed to water.” If you do want to use the bulb outdoors, it should be installed in a “protected” location, such as under an overhang or in an outdoor fixture.
Getting the Ring A19 Smart LED Bulb up and running is a simple process, but remember that you’ll need a Ring Bridge to take advantage of its smart features, such as dimming, scheduling, light grouping, and so on. It’s also worth noting here thathe Ring Bridge is limited to supporting 50 Ring lighting devices, and you can’t deploy more than one.
If you already have a Ring Bridge in your home, you’re all set; otherwise, you’ll need to factor in the cost of the bridge when considering your investment. While the Ring Bridge costs $50 as a stand-alone product, you can also get it as part of a bundle with other Ring devices. The Ring A19 bulb two-pack starter kit, which inclues the bridge, was selling for $60 as of this writing. There’s also an even cheaper alternative for those without a Ring Bridge: opting for a different smart bulb that doesn’t require a bridge at all, such as the Wi-Fi bulbs from LiFX and WiZ, or Hue’s newer hub-optional bulbs that support both Bluetooth and Zigbee.
Once you have the Ring Bridge installed, setting up the Ring A19 bulb is (or was for me, at least) a simple and painless operation. You simply open the Ring mobile app, tap the menu button, then tap Set Up a Device and pick the Smart Lighting category. You then scan a QR code on the bulb itself or the box it came in, and (assuming you’ve screwed the bulb in and turned it on), the app will discover the bulb, install any available updates, and prompt you to add the bulb to a room and name it. The whole process went smoothly for me, and I had the bulb up and running in a few minutes.
Features, app support, and smart home integrations
While the Ring app offers all the basic functionality you’d expect for a dimmable white smart bulb, there are a few missing features compared to what you’ll see in more developed smart lighting systems, such as those offered by the budget WiZ line or Philips Hue, the 800-pound gorilla of smart lighting.
On the plus side, the Ring app lets you set up light groups that allow you to control all the lights in a group at the same time. If you group the A19 bulb with motion sensor-equipped Ring lights (such as the Floodlight Wired or Floodlight Battery), you can set it (along with any other lights in the group) to turn on when motion is detected. You can also schedule times when motion sensing is disabled, “snooze” motion sensing for up to four hours, and set how long the lights in the group stay on after motion is detected (anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes).
The Ring app also offers some basic light-scheduling features, including the ability to set custom schedules as well as dawn-to-dusk schedules. But while you can set the brightness for a given lighting schedule, there’s no way (using the Ring app, anyway) to ramp the brightness up or down (handy for wake-up/bedtime routines), nor is there a randomized vacation schedule for fooling crooks while you’re away.
Of course, there’s not only the Ring app to consider. Given that Ring is owned by Amazon, the Ring A19 bulb boasts tight integration with Alexa, which means you can create Alexa routines using the bulb, including routines with morning and night schedules that ramp the brightness up and down. Still, it’s a nuisance to have to jump back and forth between the Ring and Alexa apps for more advanced light scheduling features, and not even Alexa offers a substitute for the missing vacation mode.
Another curious missing feature in the Ring app is the ability to set up lighting scenes, such as “Bright,” “Dimmed” or “Nightlight.” That means if you want to adjust the brightness for the Ring lights in a given room, you’ll have to do so individually, or you’ll have to go to the trouble of setting up an Alexa routine that’ll do the job for you.
Overall, it feels that the Ring app is (for now) much more focused on home security than traditional smart lighting, and that could be frustrating for those looking to use the Ring A19 bulb as a standard indoor bulb rather than in concert with Ring’s outdoor security lights and cameras.
Besides its Alexa support, the Ring A19 bulb also offers IFTTT integration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, the Ring bulb won’t work with Google Assistant, nor does it work with HomeKit.
It makes sense that Ring would want in on the traditional smart lighting market, and we can see how the A19 Smart LED Bulb would appeal to existing Ring users who want to add indoor and outdoor bulbs that play nice with their motion-sensing Ring devices. But if you don’t already have a Ring Bridge or you’re not interested in investing in delving into the Ring ecosystem, you’re probably better off sticking to such tried-and-true lighting brands as Philips Hue, WiZ, or LIFX.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.