Reviewed by Louise Totton
Knowing what to get kids who aren’t quite ‘kids’ any more for Christmas isn’t easy – they consider themselves too old for lots of the toys that would have seemed perfect just a couple of years ago, and it’s made all the more difficult when they’re asking for things that really aren’t (in my view) appropriate for their ages. My eldest is 10 and is at the awkward age where she doesn’t want toys and is asking for clothes, makeup and even a hair straightener. I’m not sure if I’m old-fashioned, but at the age of ten, I’m not happy to be buying makeup or encouraging her to focus too much on her appearance so it can be a little difficult trying to find interesting and fun presents for her.
We are about to move home and for the first time the kids will have their own bedrooms, so I have been on the lookout for ideas and ways to make her bedroom a bit ‘cooler’ and more appropriate for a child who is about to start high school. I know that she will absolutely love to accessorise her room to her own tastes and there are some fabulous items out there – and we’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to try out one very cool bit of tech indeed!
The LIFX Z Starter Kit is an app-controlled, colour changing smart LED strip light set and everything you need to get started is in the box – no need for a hub or any extra hardware. The LIFX Z Strip lights allow you to accessorise your home with colour changing, zoned LED lights which are infinitely adaptable and can produce some seriously cool effects. I don’t normally comment too much on packaging, with I loved the packaging for this set – it comes in a multi-level, cylindrical box which looks really smart and somehow makes the set feel like an even more ‘giftable’ product. Contained in the box is:
- Power adapter
- Control unit with 2.5m of lead
- 2 x 1m LIFX Z Strip Lights
- UK, US & EU power adaptor converters
- Set of instructions
For some reason, I had expected the lights to be rope-style lights – they aren’t, and the strips are like a flat-bottomed, sticky-backed tape with LED lights and a rubberised, domed top. The strips can be stuck to the wall, window frames, door frame or furniture and as well as the two 1m strips that are included in the starter pack, you can add up to 8 more, giving up to 10m of strip lights being run from the one control unit. Because the strips are mounted via a sticky-back, we decided to get them set up and working before we sited them properly.
Setting them up was really quick and simple – the first thing you have to do is to download the LIFX app from either Apple’s App Store or Google’s Google Play. You do need an app to be able to set them up, so do check you have a compatible device before buying. Once you have downloaded the app and unpacked the components from the box, you will need to set up the lights. Each 1m strip of lights has connectors at each end – male at one end and female at the other. The lights are plugged first into the power adaptor, then into each other until you have all of your lights in a strip (there are just the two strips in the starter kit, but you can have up to 10 if you want).
The lights immediately lit up the brightest, whitest light I think I’ve ever seen – the intensity of the colour actually made us jump! From there, we turned the app on and had to connect the app to the lights – part of this process is either setting up a new LIFX account or logging into your existing one and it allows you to control all of you LIFX products from one place which is great.
Now, the bright white lights are all well and good, and they would be particularly good for lighting under a kitchen worktop or a desk or work area but that wouldn’t use one percent of the capabilities of these lights! Because as well as ultra-bright white lights, you can also use the app at easily alter the warmth and brightness level of the white lights so you can create subtle lighting for the evening and create just the right mood and ambience. And the adaptability doesn’t end there.
As well as the white lights, these LEDs have an almost infinite number of different coloured lights that just like the white ones can be adjusted for warmth and intensity. Each strip has 8 addressable colour zones, which means that you can get the colour effects that you want just right. You can either set your own ‘scene’, which means you can input the exact colour specification that you want, you can go for one of the pre-set scenes (we particularly loved the Pastel and Peaceful). Or, if you really want to harness the power of these fantastic lights, have a look at some of the effects!
You can create moving effects, colour cycles or candle flickers, and even (and this my daughter’s favourite bit!), get the lights to move to the music that your phone is playing! We have a Spotify subscription so have an almost limitless library of music but it’ll work just as well with music you have downloaded to your phone or even music streamed from YouTube. The lights really do move to the music and my daughter thinks it’s quite possibly the coolest thing she’s ever seen. The effects are fantastic and she can’t wait to get them up and running in her new bedroom!
Finally, the Schedule function, which is one of the most useful things that the lights can do. You can set a schedule, either as a one off, by day or by weekday / weekend day so that the lights will come on and change colour or brightness according your wishes. This means that you can set it to slowly wake you up with gradually increasing light in the morning, or even use it as a night light for younger children during the night. The sticky strip lends itself really well to being stuck around a door frame or on skirting boards, so it would be great to use as a low-level light for lighting the way to the bathroom for the kids in the night, or even as a security feature for when you’re away from home.
We have had a great time testing out the LIFX – we think it’s a fantastic product that would make a wonderful Christmas present for either an older child who wants to create a cool bedroom, or for a tech-lover of any age who wants a cool new toy to play with. the quality of these lights is fabulous, and the adaptability and depth of colour really does have to be seen to be believed. As well as controlling the lights with the app on your phone, it can also be done via a voice activated smart device – LIFX currently supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. We haven’t tried it with our Alexa as yet, because we are still getting to grips with the massive range of controls and features on the LIFX app, but I have no doubt that it will work just as well.
There lights are absolutely brilliant and we are over the moon with them. My daughter thinks they’re the best thing ever and is discovering more and more that they can do each. I cannot fault them in any way – they are simple to use, great quality, great fun and add a real sense of individuality to a space.
For more information or to buy visit uk.lifx.com.