Thinking of trying out some new smart devices in your home, but maybe you’re not sure what you should get first. Why not try something that fulfills two needs in one small device. The MiPow PlayBulb is a great place to start, since it’s a smart light bulb with a built in speaker.
Function 1: Smart LED Light
I’ve written about the PlayBulb line of lights before. The line, which includes the versatile Comet light strip, the Sphere portable lamp and the PlayBulb candle, is very easy to use, versatile, and works perfectly every time with no bugs or glitches.
This light bulb is no different. The long-lasting LED bulb has the ability to provide regular white light, or different coloured light, as well as dimming or brightening features and special effects. You control this light with your smart phone, but if you don’t want to be bothered with that sometimes, it works just fine as a regular light bulb too, and can be turned on and off with the wall switch.
The PlayBulb app allows you to control dozens of different shades, or recall quick colours with a single touch. You also have dimming and brightening abilities right in the app, and the bulb will remember the settings you left it on.
Playing with Colour: Intensity isn’t as strong
While the colour in this particular bulb is not as vibrant as some other coloured LED smart bulbs (Read my reviews of the Philips Hue Go lamp or the LIFX bulbs) , it’s still enough to provide some ambiance. My own personal thinking is that because more than half of this bulb is taken up by the speaker itself, that leaves only the top third of the bulb to kick out the light, so that’s what I blame for its lack of intensity.
In the photo at right, the Playbulb has been placed in a dining room light with two other bulbs. The Playbulb is in the center. In three different photos, you can see the top is red, middle is blue and the bottom photo shows green. While you can see subtle differences in colour, the colour is not intense enough to spread across the room.
Function 2: Speaker
The other function of this smart light bulb is what makes it truly unique. There is a small speaker built into the bulb. I found it most effective used in a overhead fixture in my dining room. There, the sound is distributed more evenly through the room, so it can be set low but still reach everyone sitting around the dining room table.
How to Connect the PlayBulb speaker
To connect the PlayBulb speaker to your music, you’ll need to go to your device’s Bluetooth menu, locate the bulb, and click ‘connect’. The bulb will emit it a short tone so you know it has been successfully paired. You’ll need to do this each time the bulb is switched off. Yes, that is a bit of a pain, but since it takes mere seconds it shouldn’t be a barrier to entry.
Once connected, just go to the music app on your device, select what to play, and you’ll hear your music coming from the speaker immediately.
Overall impressions of PlayBulb Colour
The truth about this speaker is that it’s not going to give you high fidelity sound. It will give you audio quality that is very similar to other wireless portable speakers that are out there; I’m talking about devices like the Jawbone mini Jambox for example. There’s probably a lot more treble in the music, more of a tinny sound, and much less bass then some might like, but that’s typical of speakers that are this small.
If you are looking for amazing audio sound, as opposed to convenience and novelty, you obviously want something more robust like a portable Bose sound system (I reviewed that set for Best Buy Canada) or a true home theatre system. But if you like the idea of subtle music playing for your guests at a dinner party, or coming from the lamp in the living room as you’re having cocktails, this is a great device.
There are definitely, brighter and more intense coloured light bulbs out there; but then you’d need to buy one of those AND a new portable speaker too. With this light you can at least sample what a smart light bulb can do for you, and see if you like it. I also think it works better in a single-bulb lamp, as opposed to a fixture with several bulbs, because the colour is less easily overshadowed. If you want to paint the room with light, as I did with a different smart light, this is not the bulb to do it with.
Overall, for the price, this device is an excellent way to get your feet wet in the smart home pool. You’re essentially getting two smart home devices in one small and relatively inexpensive package (it’s just $45 at Best Buy). The light, since it’s LED, is going to give you years of use, and since there’s a speaker packed in there too, you’ve killed two birds with one stone.
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