Lighting

Xiaomi Yeelight Smart Light Strip Brings WiFi-Controlled RGB Lighting

Lighting is an important part of any home cinema. Xiaomi’s now added a new smart lighting product to allow you to tweak the mood from your smartphone.

The Xiaomi Yeelight Smart Light strip is a Wifi-enabled RGB light strip that can be controlled via an app on your smartphone.

According to the marketing material, it’ll support 16 million colors so there should at least be a few colors you’ll like.

It’s also flexible, cuttable and backed with adhesive so you should be able to mount it pretty much anywhere.

There’s a button on the unit that will allow you to turn the unit on and toggle between a number of preconfigured lighting patterns.

However, the Yeelight app (iOS/Android) will add extra functions such as music-controlled lighting and interaction with other “Mi Home” products.

I’ve always been impressed with Xiaomi products so if you’re looking at playing with smart lighting, this new smart strip is worth a look.

Where to Buy the Xiaomi Yeelight Smart Light Strip

The Xiaomi Yeelight Smart Light strip is available from GearBest for around $40 at the time of writing.

Use coupon “XMstrip” to get it for $36.99.

Xiaomi Yeelight Smart Light Strip Gallery

BlitzWolf BW-LT1 LED Lamp Review: The Ultimate Gadget Fan’s Lamp?

The BlitzWolf BW-LT1 is an 48 LED lamp from the company that offers a range of lighting modes, touch interface and a USB port for charging your gadgets. Is it a useful gadget or waste of money? Read our BlitzWolf BW-LT1 review to find out!

I want to say thanks to Banggood for sending me a sample to review

Check Price

What’s Inside The Box?

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Inside the box, you’d get everything you’d expect

  • 1x BlitzWolf BW-LT1 Lamp
  • 1x Power Adapter
  • 1x Instruction Manual
  • 1x Warranty Card

The lamp itself comes in 3 pieces that need to be assembled. It only takes a few seconds. Insert the lamp into the base and attach it using the screw cap.

BlitzWolf BW-LT1 Review: Design

The Blitzwolf BT-LT1 definitely follows modern stylings,  using a minimalist design with clean lines.

The whole unit is made of glossy black plastic that looks fantastic out of the box. However, if you’re handling it regularly, expect it to be covered in fingerprints.

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The lamp is designed to be as flexible as possible. When not in use, you can fold it down onto itself, collapsing down to a fraction to its size.

There’s actually three separate hinges, allowing a remarkable amount of flexibility. The bottom hinge allows for 40 degrees, the middle allows for 140 degrees whilst the top lamp section itself can also rotate 180 degrees.

The whole lamp itself can rotate a 180 degrees on its base, allowing you to get the light where you need it.

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The angled control panel is located at the bottom of the unit. It features a touch interface, with “buttons” for brightness, the four lighting modes, power and the sleep timer.

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It also houses a 2.1A USB port for charging your gadgets around the right side but more on this later.

The lamp’s base is heavy and the rubber and foam padding protects your desk and makes sure the unit doesn’t move.

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BlitzWolf BW-LT1 Review: Using It

The lamp comes disassembled in the box. Putting it together is easy. Just slide the lamp body into the base, using the screw-on cap to lock it into place. Plug in the power and when the red power LED is on, you’re ready to go.

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The touch panel is quite responsive and I rarely had any issues. Though I did notice that the power button occasionally didn’t respond if I was pressing the power button in quick succession. Given that you’re unlikely to try and use the lamp for a rave, it’s not really a big issue but worth mentioning nevertheless.

There’s four lighting modes on offer here, called Read, Study, Relax and Sleep. It’s clear that BlitzWolf have been paying attention to the recent studies on light temperature. Whilst the Study mode uses a cool white light, believed to improve focus and energy, the sleep mode opts for warmer tones. Similar ideas have shown up in the popular F.lux application and Apple’s new Night Shift Mode.

BlitzWolf-BW-LT1-Review-Color-Temperatures
Clockwise from Top-Left: Read, Study, Relax and Sleep

Each light mode offers 5 brightness levels offer enough flexibility to get a comfortable amount of lighting.

There seems to be a built-in memory for each light mode so the lamp will actually keep track of the brightness per mode which is pretty awesome, particularly if you like it bright for working but dim if you’re wanting to go to sleep. It only works whilst plugged in though so be aware that unplugging it will reset it.

There’s also a 60 minute sleep timer for those that need it which is handy if you want to use it as a side table lamp, though it would have been nice to have shorter times available as I felt 60 minutes was way too long.

Blitzwolf claim that their LEDs offer a CRI (Color Rendering Index – a measure of how accurately a light source reveals colors) of above 90, suggesting that the light should be able to reveal colors faithfully. This makes the light perfect for those working with colors regularly, such as photographers, videographers and graphic designers.

BlitzWolf-BW-LT1-Review-Charging

The USB charging port worked but I wasn’t able to achieve the 2.1a current draw that Blitzwolf claims the lamp is capable of outputting but this could be due to the various devices I tried to charge. My USB power meter only registered a draw of 0.95A when my iPhone 6 was connected. Voltage output generally hovered between 4.9-4.95V which remains within USB’s 5V specifications.

Verdict

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I was impressed with the BlitzWolf BW-LT1. It’s a little pricey for some, but the amount of flexibility on offer here, combined with a stylish design makes it a solid contender.

From the 48 LEDs that sip power to the various lighting modes that let you tailor the lighting to your needs, if you’re wanting a lamp that does more than just provide light, I’d strongly recommend taking a look.

Getting One

You can purchase the BlitzWolf BW-LT1 from Banggood.

Check Price at Banggood

Alternatively, it’s available from Amazon.

Mipow Playbulb Candle Review: A Smart Candle, Seriously

The Mipow Playbulb Candle is a unique bit of smart LED lighting. Adding Bluetooth to the humble LED candle, Mipow gadget allows you to set the right ambience from your smartphone.

But is this gadget a must-have or just a gimmick? Read my Mpow Playbulb Candle review to find out!

I want to say thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review.

Check Price at GearBest

What’s In The Box?

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-Inside-The-Box

Inside the box, you’ll get:

  • Mipow Playbulb Candle
  • 3 Scent Chips
  • Instruction Manual

I was a little disappointed that no batteries were included so make sure you have some AAs handy.

Mipow Playbulb Candle Review: Design

There’s not to say about the Mipow Playbulb Candle design except that it looks like a candle.

The unit is  symmetrical, tapering at the top and bottom. The whole thing is made out of white plastic: matte for the base and translucent for the body.

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Inside the unit is the LED flame, the scent chip holder, wind sensor and power switch.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-ButtonThe bottom of the unit unscrews to reveal the battery compartment for 3 AA batteries. The base also doubles as a tealight candle if you want to light things up old school.Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-02

Mipow Playbulb Candle Review: Using It

A flick of the power switch immediately brings the candle to life with a pleasing glow after a second.

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The candle is controlled via the Playbulb X app (iOS/Android) which allows you to set the candle to one of the million supported colors. A host of other modes are also available, including rainbow and pulsing.

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You can even turn the candle on and off on a schedule, though it’s a little simplistic.

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For more info on the app, check out my Mipow LED Smart bulb review.

The candles light outputs matches a tealight candle pretty well. It’s perfect for ambience though don’t expect it to replace your lamp.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-04Unlike the bulb, the candle can even be blown out like  a real candle. You can even set it up to turn off all your Mipow lights at the same time.

If you flip the Playbulb over, you can use the base to hold a normal tealight candle too. It’s a useful inclusion but not as fun as a smart candle (wow, never thought I’d write that!).

The scent chip is a nice addition but will likely be inconsequential to most. Each color seems to have a different scent. They’re subtle but noticeable. I wasn’t able to find where you buy replacements from though.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-05Should You Get It?

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I really like the Mipow Playbulb Candle. A lot of people will argue a smart candle is ridiculous but I personally loved being able to set the right atmosphere from my phone. Couple it with the Mipow Smart LED bulb and a Logitech Smart Control and you can get that cinema ambience all from your smartphone.

It’s definitely a niche product, but if you’re wanting to add some smart lighting, the Mipow Playbulb Candle is an appealing option.

Getting One

You can buy the Mipow Playbulb Candle from GearBest for around $19.99 for a single candle up to $49.99 for a pack of 3.

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s available from AmazonBanggood or AliExpress.

Mipow LED Smart Bulb Review: $14 Bluetooth-Controlled Light Bulb

The Mipow LED Smart bulb is one of a growing number of smart appliances. Featuring an inbuilt Bluetooth radio, RGB LEDS and an E27 screw, is the Mipow LED bulb a must have accessory or a useless gadget? Read our Mipow LED Smart bulb review to find out.

I want to say thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review.

Check Price at GearBest

What’s In The Box?

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There’s really not much to say about inclusions as I wouldn’t expect too much to be packaged up with a light bulb.

Inside the box, you’ll get:

  • 1x Mipow LED Smart Bulb
  • 1x English instruction manual.

Mipow LED Smart Bulb Review: Design

For a change, I really can’t say much about the product’s design. It looks light a slightly more modern light bulb.

Larger than a standard light bulb, the Mipow bulb is cylindrical. Most of the bulb is made of metal, with a white translucent cap to diffuse the RGB LEDS and lead to more uniform color distribution.

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It looks nice and would fit well in most modern light fittings that favour exposed bulbs.

However, the light beam is slightly more directional than a traditional bulb due to its design.

The bulb is only available as an E27 screw so you’ll need to make sure your lamp or light fitting supports it or get pick up an appropriate adapter.

Speaking of fitting, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got enough clearance to fit the bulb in. I didn’t have any issues but some smaller lamps may not have enough room to accomodate the smart bulb’s slightly larger frame.

Mipow LED Smart Bulb Review: Using It

Using it is dead simple. Just screw the bulb into your  light and turn it on. The bulb will automatically switch on its Bluetooth radio, ready to connect with the Playbulb X app on your smartphone (Available on Android and iOS).

The bulb is set to white initially but stays on the last color next time you turn it on thanks to its inbuilt memory.

The light’s 5W of power is distributed between 10 warm white LEDs and 4 RGB LEDs, leading to much more light when used “traditionally”, rather than colored. The white light is good enough for normal use (~280 lumens). When colored, it’s works well for changing the look of a room. I got some pretty cool effects using it to light up the back wall of my home theatre.

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The light bulb is controlled entirely from the app. Those looking for support for web services such as IFTTT will be disappointed, though the unit is a fraction of the cost of bulbs that support web services.

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After selecting a specific light (or a group of lights you’ve created, up to 5), you’ll get a color wheel that lets you set the bulb’s color to any of the supported 16 million colors.

There’s also presets for red, green, blue and white, a slider for setting the brightness, from max to completely off and a toggle that changes the bulb’s color when you shake your smartphone.

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The app generally works well but lacks a little polish. The light bulb responds surprisingly quickly and everything is pretty intuitive. I did experience the occasionally oddity such as the color change in Candle mode not working or rarely the app didn’t connect to the bulb on the first tap but these are minor issues.

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There’s also a couple of lighting effects to spice things up: pulse, rainbow, different rainbow (!?) and candle. They all look pretty cool, though the flicker effect in candle mode is too subtle unless you’re in complete darkness.

Speaking of flicker, there really wasn’t any noticeable during testing. The light from the Mipow Smart LED bulb remains consistant.

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You can schedule the bulbs to turn on and off at a certain times but complex schedules aren’t supported, like different on/off times on the weekend.

If you’ve got Mipow’s other products (such as the Mipow Playbulb candle), there’s some pretty cool integration such as color sync and blowing out the candle can actually turn off every other item in the group.

Should You Get One?

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The smart lighting movement is growing rapidly and the Mipow LED Smart Bulb is a great way of dipping your toes in without breaking the bank at a measly $14.

Though it lacks more advanced features such as IFTTT integration, it’s also a fraction of the price of more advanced alternatives such as Philips’ Hue range.

If you’re wanting to play around with LED smart bulbs, you can’t go wrong with the Mipow LED Smart Bulb.

Getting One

The is available from GearBest for under $15.

Check Price at GearBest

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit Review: DIY Smart Home for under $60

There’s no doubt that smart home and home automation gadgets are everywhere, particularly if you’re looking for a DIY smart home system. However, most are expensive so when I had a chance to review the $60 Xiaomi smart home kit, I was definitely interested.

Consisting of the Xiaomi smart home gateway and several wireless sensors for only $60 (!?), the Xiaomi Smart Home kit seems to be a comprehensive and affordable DIY smart home system. Is it worth it? Read my review to find out.

Thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review.

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s also available from GeekBuying, Amazon, and Banggood.

In This Review

What’s in the Box?

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

I’ve been sent a few different Xiaomi Smart Home components:

  • Xiaomi Smart Home Gateway
  • Motion Detector Sensor
  • Magnetic Door Sensor
  • Smart Button

There’s also a smart wifi-enabled plug and a temperature/humidity sensor that also integrates with the setup too.

All of the sensors come with additional adhesive strips which is a nice touch.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit Review: Hardware

Xiaomi’s smart home kit is built around the Smart Home gateway which uses the familiar white, minimalist design of other Xiaomi products.

The gateway plugs directly into the wall. Fortunately, the Chinese plug is compatible with Australian sockets, but other countries will need to pick up an adapter.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

In terms of design, a large speaker grill dominates the front of circular device, with a small multi-function button located on the side.

There’s a circular LED strip that’s capable of outputting an impressive 16 million colors. This lets you use different colors for various features, such as white for a night light and red when an alarm trips.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

The onboard speaker is decent. It’s reasonably loud (though it won’t replace a traditional security alarm) but certain sounds caused some vibrational distortion. I wasn’t expecting home theatre grade audio but it’s a little disappointing. Thankfully, I found I rarely used the speaker.

The other sensors follow the same minimalist design principles. Each device is compact, which makes it easy to keep them out of sight which is great for home security. The motion detector is a tiny 3cm tall!

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

I found the sensors themselves to be quick and responsive so I always knew what was going on inside my house.

However, the best part about this DIY smart home system is the cost. Each additional sensor ranges for only $5-$15. So you can have a comprehensive smart home setup for under $100 which is insane given the prices of competing systems!

Each additional sensor ranges for only $5-$15.

If you’ve got Yeelight smart LED light bulbs, the Xiaomi smart home kit also integrates with them via the Mi Home app. For example, I set it up so my lights turned on as soon as you walk into the room.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Yeelight Bulb - DIY Smart Home

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit Review: Software

Xiaomi’s smart home setup is centered around the Mi Home app (available on iOS and Android). I found the app intuitive, though there were a few quirks.

I found the app intuitive, though there were a few quirks.

The app originated in the Chinese market and it shows. Whilst Xiaomi keep improving the English translation with each new version of the Mi Home app, some parts are poorly translated or still in Chinese. That said,  I didn’t have any issues setting everything up.

You’ll need to create a Mi Account (if you haven’t already got one) and select “Mainland China” as your region, as Xiaomi’s smart home devices aren’t currently available in any other region.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Mi Home App

Adding the gateway into the Mi Home app is dead simple. After selecting “add device” and picking the Gateway, the app guides you through the whole setup process. Whilst there’s gateway voice prompts are in Mandarin, the app guides you through in English.

After the gateway is hooked up, you can add your sensors. All of them follow the same process:

  1. Select the sensor you want to connect
  2. Press the “reset” button using a pin (or Apple SIM tool)

The app then pairs it up, updates the firmware (if needed) and you’re ready to go.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Firmware Updates

The app will automatically prompt you when updates are available. Whilst reviewing the devices, I’ve already had 3 updates so Xiaomi seems committed to keeping it updated.

Any device settings are also managed through the Mi Home app. So if you’re wanting to change the Gateway’s LED colors or listen to Chinese radio on the Gateway’s speaker (no other radio stations are supported), you’re covered.

Notifications are available for various actions, letting you know when something has occurred. Unfortunately, some of the notifications are only in Chinese which is a shame as I don’t read it. Opening the app will show you what’s happened recently though so it still works as a prompt to check what’s happening inside your house.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Log

Theres also a list of all your devices at the bottom. Tapping on each will open the devices settings pages (if possible).

Home Automation

The automation is where the magic happens. With all the sensors connected, you can set various triggers and actions.

There’s a list of preset actions such as “Get Up” and “Leave Home” which can be tweaked to trigger certain devices. However, the real power is in creating your own home automation scenes.

The range of configuration is pretty impressive. You can set up a scene to trigger if one or all of the conditions are met and you can use multiple actions at once.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Mi Home App

For example, I set it up to turn my lights when I arrived home if it’s after 6pm. That’s incredibly handy.

There’s even a comprehensive alarm system, allowing you to set up triggers, add arming delays (i.e. how long after arming the system do the triggers start working) and set the alarm tone.

There’s a few downsides however. Unlike an alarm system which has battery backup, Xiaomi’s system requires both power and internet to work. If either of those go down, so does the alarm system.

As comprehensive as Xiaomi’s automation options are, they’re unfortunately limited to Xiaomi’s ecosystem only. That means automation services like IFTTT and Yonomi aren’t supported. Here’s hoping Xiaomi release other service integrations in the future.

Verdict

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

The Xiaomi Smart Home kit is a great way to get started with home automation and create your DIY smart home. The smart home system is cheap, expandable and impressively customisable. Whilst poor translations do detract from the overall experience and the lack of IFTTT support is disappointing, the sheer power of the Xiaomi Smart Home kit given it’s ultra-cheap price makes it worth the investment.

Pros

  • Impressive range of automation options
  • Cheap sensors
  • Comprehensive home automation ecosystem

Cons

  • Only Chinese Plug available so you’ll likely need an adapter
  • Some Smartphone Notifications in Chinese
  • Average Speaker Quality
  • No IFTTT compatibility

Where to Buy the Xiaomi Smart Home Kit

The Xiaomi smart home system is available from GearBest.

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s also available from GeekBuying, Amazon, and Banggood.