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Matter makes Govee’s new light strip more functional but less fun

The M1 LED light strip is bright, colorful, and compatible with everything, thanks to Matter. But its flashiest features are only in Govee’s app.

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Govee M1 light strip
The Govee M1 is a full-color, tunable white light strip light that works with Matter.

The $59.99 Govee LED Strip Light M1 Matter is the first Matter-compatible product from Govee, a smart lighting company known for its wide range of cheap and colorful lights. Only the second light strip to work with Matter (the first is the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter Light Strip), the M1 is the first to do so over Wi-Fi, and the first with addressable LEDs.

A RGBWIC light strip, the M1 is the brightest I’ve tested. With both tunable white light and full color, plus addressable light segments, it produces excellent colors and bright whites. Through Matter, it works with Amazon Alexa, Apple Home, Google Home, and SmartThings, plus any other Matter-compatible platform, making it Govee’s most versatile product to date. Matter is a new standard for the smart home designed to make it easier to buy, set up, and use smart devices across any platform.

However, one of the Govee M1’s main features — dynamic lighting — doesn’t work in Matter. This means if you use it only in Matter you can say goodbye to all those fun lighting effects Govee is known for. Unless you also set it up and use it in Govee’s app.

If you plan to use this light strip as an accent light most of the year and only bust out the effects on Halloween or for the occasional party, that’s probably not a dealbreaker. But it’s a shame that Matter and/or the Matter platforms haven’t figured out a way for us to use some of the best things about smart, color-changing lighting in this shiny new smart home standard.

The Govee M1 is a full-color 6.56ft (2m) light strip with ten individually controllable segments per meter, allowing for dynamic lighting effects. The Govee app has over 64 pre-set lighting scenes, plus you can dial in your own.

The strip packs in 60 light beads per meter, a much higher LED density than the Nanoleaf and TP-Link smart light strips I’ve reviewed, resulting in a lot more light. Govee claims it has the highest luminosity of any 2-meter strip light on the market. 

Tunable white light gives you more options for functional lighting and is something not all light strips do since it requires dedicated white LEDs. Light strips without them use RGB LEDs to make white light, which doesn’t look as good.

I tested the M1’s tunable light as accent lighting on my staircase, which is super dark and needed some illumination. I set it for warm white in the morning, brighter light during the day, and then a very dim, warm white at night. This worked nicely, but while the light is crisp and clear, it struggles slightly with the warmer tones.

A blue LED light strip on a staircase.

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The Govee displaying cool blue light.

Light strips are very versatile and can add ambient smart lighting anywhere you like. The popular choice is behind a TV or around an entertainment console or desk. I’ve also tried installing light strips on the ceiling, under shelves and cabinets, under my kitchen counter, and along my stairs to good effect. Around a bed or under a headboard is another fun option. 

Govee has a huge range of lighting products that are much less expensive than comparable products from the likes of Philips Hue, Nanoleaf, and LiFX. This makes it easy and relatively inexpensive to set up a fun RGB-drenched room with its products. Govee’s DreamView music sync technology lets you sync the light strip and other compatible lights with any music playing using the M1’s built-in microphone. 

As mentioned, Matter support means this light strip can work in any Matter-compatible platform, including Apple Home — a first for Govee. It’s the only Govee product that supports Matter; the rest of its line use 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

To use the M1 with Matter you need a Matter controller, but without one you can still use it with Govee’s app or with Amazon Alexa and Google Home through cloud connections. The company says it will release neon rope lights with Matter support this summer and has more products in the works. It has also said it will bring Matter support to its current M1 strip light via a new controller. 

A few of the dynamic lighting effects in the Govee app. WARNING: This video contains flashing images that may trigger seizures in those with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.

If you want light shows, the M1 will bring them. The Govee app includes dozens of effects, plus you can get creative and build your own. Some of my favorite scenes include Disco, Universe, Carnival, Fireworks, and Lightning, which use blinking, flowing, chasing, and streaming rhythms in multiple colors for some serious impact. Warning! Some of the scenes contain really rapid flashing lights, which could be dangerous to people with photosensitive epilepsy.

For a calmer vibe, Sunrise and Sunset, Romantic, Business, and Birthday vary between single colors or more gentle pulsing effects. But, as mentioned, all these fun features are only available in the Govee app and not in compatible Matter apps.

The Govee app, while stuffed with fun effects, is neither easy nor pleasant to use, mainly because it’s also stuffed with ads and has limited functions outside of its effects. I could set these lighting scenes and go deep into creating my own, but in terms of smart control options, there are some rudimentary schedules, but that’s about it.

Adding the strip to a Matter-compatible app allowed for more advanced smart lighting control. I paired it with Apple Home and Amazon Alexa, where I added it to automations and routines. I triggered the light with motion sensors and other smart devices, as well as grouped it with other smart lights in my home. But I couldn’t access Govee’s lighting effects in these apps.

However, the same is true of any color-changing light when controlled by Matter. The Matter specification doesn’t support dynamic lighting or multiple light colors in one strip. It’s limited to on / off, brightness, and single-color lighting.

Govee M1 setup and use with Matter

I installed the M1 light strip on a dark staircase in the center of my home, where it adds ambient lighting and makes using the stairs at night a bit safer. Plus, it can spice up any dance parties as the stairway opens into the main living room.

Install was easy: Govee provides all the necessary tools, including lighting clips with both screw-in and tape options to shore up the tape pre-attached to the strip. The controller and the power brick both have long cords, which gave me plenty of flexibility for placement. The strip itself wasn’t quite long enough for my stairwell. If this were a permanent installation, I would pick up the $18 extension kit, which adds an extra 3.28 feet.

I like the strip’s physical controller, as it gave me an easy way to turn the light on / off, cycle through colors, turn on music mode, or adjust the brightness without having to use the app or voice control.  

Unlike a lot of smart LED light strips, the M1 can’t be cut to fit. If you need something much longer, Govee sells a 16.4ft (5m) M1 light strip without Matter support. The company has said it will release a controller box for that model to add Matter but hasn’t provided a timeline.

The Govee comes with pre-fixed tap on both the light strip and the controller.
The Govee comes with pre-fixed tap on both the light strip and the controller.

I first set up the M1 directly with Matter, as Govee recommends, so I didn't have to create any new accounts or download any apps. I started with the Apple Home app, using a HomePod Mini as a Matter controller. I scanned the Matter QR code on the light strip with the Apple Home app on my iPhone, and it paired right away. From there, the process was like adding any device to Apple Home.

I then paired with Amazon Alexa by generating a Matter pairing code in the Apple Home app and pasting that into the Alexa app when prompted in that app’s setup flow. (This also required an Alexa Matter controller — you need one Matter controller per platform.) This process replaces the need to link any accounts or use any cloud services, so I didn't need to enter my Amazon password anywhere.

It’s important to note that once you set up a device in one Matter controller app, you have to use that same app to pair it to any subsequent platform. The Matter QR code on the device will no longer work (this is a security feature so that no one can come just scan your device and pair their phone to it). Instead, you need to generate a pairing code from the first app, in this case, Apple Home. (See screenshots below).

<em>To set up the Govee in Alexa after pairing it to Apple Home, I went to the Govee light’s settings in the Home app and tapped Turn On Pairing Mode. This generated a numerical code that I copied to paste into the Alexa app.</em>

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To set up the Govee in Alexa after pairing it to Apple Home, I went to the Govee light’s settings in the Home app and tapped Turn On Pairing Mode. This generated a numerical code that I copied to paste into the Alexa app.

In Alexa, I add the M1 to a group and created a routine that uses a motion sensor to turn the light on when I walk up the stairs. I then used the Apple Home app to pair the light strip with a different motion sensor at the top of the staircase to turn on the lights when I walk down the stairs.

This worked well in both platforms, turning the light on promptly and turning it off again when there was no motion detected for a set period. Of course, you can do this all in one platform, but I wanted to try out the multi-admin feature of Matter. 

Multi-admin means you can pair a Matter device to more than one platform at the same time and control it with different apps and voice assistants. I could use both Siri and Alexa to control the light, and both did so quickly and correctly. I could ask it to turn on / off, dim / brighten, and change color.

This is the warning I got when trying to add the light to the Govee app. Adding it caused the light to be unresponsive in the Matter controller apps.
This is the warning I got when trying to add the light to the Govee app. Adding it caused the light to be unresponsive in the Matter controller apps.

I also managed to pair the M1 to Samsung SmartThings from Apple Home, which is the first time I’ve successfully paired a Matter device to SmartThings from another platform. However, I had problems when it came to Google Home.

I could pair it through Apple Home, but it showed offline in the Google Home app, and I couldn’t control it, despite repeated attempts at setting it up. I did have to use an Android phone to set it up as the Google Home iOS app still doesn’t support Matter (despite Google saying it would with iOS16.5 — Google tells me it’s now coming with version 3.1 of the app later this month). 

Next, I paired the Govee light strip to its app to access all those cool light effects. This is where things went wonky. I got a warning from the Govee app that adding the light strip to its app might cause issues: “Changing the network may cause Matter to malfunction.” This wasn’t at all clear, so I asked Govee about it, and they told me this was a warning not to switch networks on your phone when using the light as you will lose control of the device.

While I didn’t switch networks, the light strip did become unresponsive in both Apple Home and Amazon Alexa after I added it to the Govee app. I do have two Wi-Fi networks in my home, which may have contributed to this issue. Everything worked smoothly after I factory reset the strip and set it up again on all the same platforms. But this is something to be aware of when using Matter-over-Wi-Fi devices if you have multiple Wi-Fi networks in your home.

The Govee M1 Matter light strip is the first Govee product compatible with Apple Home and Samsung SmartThings thanks to Matter.
The Govee M1 Matter light strip is the first Govee product compatible with Apple Home and Samsung SmartThings thanks to Matter.

At $59.99, the Govee M1 is more expensive than Nanoleaf’s $49.99 Essentials Matter light strip. But Nanoleaf’s strip can only display one color at a time, it doesn’t get as bright, and doesn’t support music sync. You also need a Matter controller and a Thread Border Router to use Nanoleaf’s light strip with Matter.

But Matter only supports single-color lighting on light strips anyway, so if you’re mostly planning to use Matter, you won’t be taking much advantage of Govee’s multiple lighting zones anyway, so Nanoleaf may be the way to go.

It’s still too early to tell whether Matter-over-Thread is more efficient or reliable than Matter-over-Wi-Fi. In testing both light strips, they were equally responsive to the app, voice, and sensor commands to turn on and off.

However, I did encounter some bugs with color control. When I would try and change the color of the M1 light strip in either the Apple Home app or Amazon Alexa app, it would sometimes take a couple of taps to register the change and a few seconds to display it on the light strip. Both apps would also show the light as unresponsive for a few seconds before finally completing the command. 

It’s still too early to tell whether Matter-over-Thread is more efficient or reliable than Matter-over-Wi-Fi

Outside of Matter, the Govee M1’s direct competition is the $49.99 TP-Link Tapo L930-5. This is an excellent light strip that works with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home, but not Matter yet. TP-Link has said it will support Matter across its Tapo line, so this may get upgraded. 

As a gradient light strip, the Tapo can do multiple colors at once, like the Govee. But like the Govee, only through its app. At over 16 feet, the Tapo strip is more than twice as long. It has music sync, but through your phone, not a built-in microphone.

The Tapo app is easier to use and more functional than Govee’s, with scheduling features, integration with other Tapo smart home devices like switches and plugs, and a neat auto-white mode to automatically adjust brightness and warmth based on the time of day. The Tapo strip is also trimmable, which the Govee is not, and can be extended up to a whopping 33 feet. If you are just looking to add some ambient light around the house and aren’t as interested in creating lots of flashy effects across multiple lights, the Tapo light strip is cheaper and longer. It’s just not as bright.

But the Govee gives off the most light of all three options and has the widest compatible RGB lighting ecosystem. This makes it a good option if you want a light strip that can be part of a full-color setup using Govee lights today and that should work with more products tomorrow through Matter.

Of course, that’s assuming more lighting companies adopt Matter. Philips Hue has promised Matter support for its entire range, and Nanoleaf has a slew of new Matter-compatible lighting products coming. But companies like GE Cync, which also has a wide range of RGB lighting, are moving more slowly with Matter, adopting Govee’s approach of offering one or two compatible products at first. So, while the dream of buying any smart light bulb, screwing it in, and having it just work thanks to Matter is definitely a lot closer, we’re still not there yet.