With pumpkins being put out to pasture and turkeys starting to gobble, it's time to think about decorating your home for the winter holidays. Be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Solstice, any celebration can be glammed up with some smart lighting, and Philips Hue’s new Festavia string lights look like a good option for a little extra wow.
The $159.99 string of smart lights features 250 mini color-changing smart LEDs along a 66-foot / 20-meter cord. These indoor lights are suitable for swirling around your Christmas tree, stringing up your staircase, or draping over your mantlepiece to bring a touch of holiday magic to your home. They’re available to order now at philips-hue.com.
In my house, we tend to get a 6-foot tree, and the general recommendation is 100 lights per foot, which means we’d ideally need three of these strings to decorate. That's quite the output financially. But factor in that we wouldn't have to replace them every year as we used to with cheap holiday lights and it starts to make a bit more sense.
Plus, being smart, the Festavia strip can do a lot more than your bog-standard holiday lights. Using the Hue app, you can set the Zigbee/Bluetooth powered lights to turn on and off on a schedule, based on sunrise or sunset, using a motion sensor, or with one of Hue’s remote controls. Much easier than scrambling under the tree.
You can do most of those things with a standard set of holiday lights plugged into a smart plug, but the Hue app also lets you dim, brighten, and change the color of the Festavia strip. And, as these are gradient lights — which means groups of the LEDs are addressable — you can have multiple colors going at once.
If you have other Hue lighting and a Hue bridge, you can link them with the Festavia to extend the holiday atmosphere across the room or house and sync them with music using Hue’s Spotify and Samsung SmartThings integration.
Hue has also added two new effects to its app to take advantage of this new lighting form factor (this is the company’s first string lighting product).
A Sparkle effect makes each light on the string twinkle, and a new Scattered style spreads up to five colors randomly along the string. You can also use any of Hue’s existing effects — like Candle or Fireplace for a cozy look.
There aren’t a lot of smart string lights designed for live Christmas trees. Twinkly is the best known, and its products are slightly cheaper ($135 for 250 lights / 66 feet) and have more options for length (26 to 79 feet). They're also weatherproof, so they can be used outside.
Both brands work with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home. Hue also works with Samsung SmartThings. Of course, it’s a lot cheaper to use a smart plug for scheduling and remote control with an app or voice assistant. These fancier smart lighting options are really only worth considering if you want that extra feature of color-changing and addressable lighting.