The software and the lights
On the plus side, the Sengled app is really very good, as is the lightbulb light. You can dim the bulb by dragging your finger on the screen – 0 per cent to 100 per cent. You can turn the lights off. You can switch between lights and sounds easily.
It was also pretty easy to set up. You connect to it over Bluetooth and start streaming.
On the down side, you have to keep the light switch on, so there will be continued low-use electricity and it can get confusing as we are all used to turning lights on and off at the switch. You forget that one lightbulb is also a speaker.
Plus you have to use your phone whenever you want to change the light setting or play sounds. That means you will have to go get it if you want to change the setting – and it turns out your phone is often further away than the light switch or stereo. Plus you'd want to install the app on everyone's phone that lives in your house.
Overall, the experience is good but it does feel like it may just be for the nerd in the house and everyone else will have to put up with the fact that they have to turn the light off and on again to get some light.
One other downside – the Pulse bulbs are BIG. Not enormous. But they are big. Chances are they will poke out of whatever light fitting you have. And considering how upset people get when they can see the top of their green swirly lightbulb, this is likely to be a limiting factor. It's also why Ruan said the company was looking at creating its own lightshades to go with its bulbs.
We did try the Solo in the hope that maybe we had a dud batch of Pulse lightbulbs. But it was the same story. Horrible tinny sound.
We should note at this point that lots of people would disagree. A quick glance over reviews on Amazon and Best Buy show that people think the Sengled bulbs are great. And some even go out of their way to say how "great" the sound is.
So it may be important to note that this reviewer does like good sound. And in the past, I have spent more money than I wanted to on headphones. I will wince at the noise of people playing music over their phones. But there's no audiophile snobbery here. The kitchen doesn't have to sound like a showroom.
That provides three possibilities:
- We got a bad batch of Sengled bulbs and usually they sound ten times better.
- A lot of people have seriously deficient ears.
- Having spent $150 on a set of lightbulbs, customers are too excited or too embarrassed for them to be anything but wonderful.
Hopefully the first answer is the right one, but we suspect the other two are more likely.
I don't know whether to apologize or be annoyed with Sengled. If there is a silver lining, it's that the technology (save the speakers) was good, which means that the company's other products – a Wi-Fi booster and IP network camera – may come good on their promise. ®