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C by GE smart LED bulb review: Much smarter than your average bulb

Michael Brown | March 9, 2016
GE’s C-Life and C-Sleep bulbs are a good choice for those who aren’t ready to go whole hog on the connected home.

The bulbs

The C-Sleep bulb is more interesting than the C-Light. It produces a maximum brightness of 730 lumens while consuming 11 watts. In addition to being dimmable (from the app, that is), it can produce white light in three color temperatures: Its AM setting produces a crisp white light, its Day setting changes to a closer-to-full-spectrum light, and its PM setting produces warm, orangeish-yellow light. GE didn’t provide specific Kelvin temperatures, but we were informed for an earlier story that the C-Sleep ranged from a very warm 2000 degrees Kelvin to a very cool 7000K). You can use the app to activate the AM, Day, and PM modes manually, or set the app to “follow-the-sun” mode and the bulb will automatically change its light temperature according to the time of day: coolest in the morning and warmest at night.

The C-Life bulb is slightly brighter, producing 800 lumens while consuming the same 11 watts, but its color temperature is fixed at 2700K. You can turn both bulbs on and off by touching a large bulb icon in the app, and you can drag a slider left and right to dim or brighten the bulb on a scale of 1 to 10. The bulbs are extremely responsive—turning them on or off, dimming, and changing color temperature (the C-Sleep only) happens nearly instantly.

While you currently cannot control the bulbs with third-party controllers or apps, and you can’t schedule lights to turn on and off according to a schedule, GE’s app makes the most of what the bulbs can do by letting you create lighting scenes and lighting groups. Scenes are essentially one-touch buttons that set multiple bulbs to preset values: on, off, brightness level, and color temperature (for bulbs that have that capability).

I programmed a Bedtime scene, for instance, that turned off all of the lights except for the bathroom, which I set to a PM color temperature and a level 3 brightness. You could also program a Panic scene that turns on at least one light in every room of the house if you hear a bump in the night. The app makes it very easy to create scenes, guiding you through each step in the process. The app would be even better if it let you create scenes with groups, and not just individual bulbs, so there’s room for improvement.

Speaking of groups, they are exactly that: You can assign any number of bulbs to a group so that they can all be controlled at the same time. Say you have three pendant lights over your kitchen counter: You’d probably want to turn all of them on at once instead of one at a time. Creating a “pendant” group would do that for you. Or you could create an “outdoor” group and install bulbs in your front and rear porch lights. Individual bulbs can also be assigned to multiple groups, so that if you wanted to light the first and third pendants but not the center one, you could create a group called “outer” or what have you. But assigning bulbs to groups doesn’t prevent you from controlling them independently, either from within the Group screen or by tapping on Bulbs (icons for both appear at the bottom of the home screen).


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