TP-Link’s latest smart light strip goes with everything

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The Tapo L930 has gradient RGB and tunable white light, and works with Apple Home, Google, and Alexa for underneath $50

TP-Link’s latest light strip, the Tapo L930-5, is a superb addition to any smart lighting setup. The full-color gradient LED strip has virtually everything you would need in a lighting strip — from tunable white light and dimming to music sync and a few neat lighting results, all for underneath $50. It’s the primary lighting product from TP-Link to work with Apple Home, it additionally works with Alexa and Google Home, and it makes use of Wi-Fi, so it doesn’t want a hub.

Smart LED light strips are a straightforward, plug-and-play solution to shed some light on a hard darkish spot in your house or add some cool lighting results underneath your cupboards, counters, and even round your mattress — in case you’re into that type of factor.

The Tapo L930-5 is an RGBWIC LED strip — that alphabet soup means it has each RGB (with as much as 16 million colours) and tunable white LEDs (as much as 1,000 lumens). The separate white LEDs give it brighter and higher-quality white light than strips that solely have RGB LEDs. The IC half means it makes use of an built-in chip, so it may well show totally different colours alongside its 50 totally different lighting zones as a substitute of a single colour at a time. Very few LED light strips have each tunable white LEDs and addressable lighting, fewer nonetheless have all that and Apple Home help, and all of these are far dearer than the Tapo L930-5.

I’ve examined a number of smart light strips, from high-end Eve and Philips Hue versions to finances strips from Feit, and the Tapo feels prefer it ought to price greater than it does. Even in case you don’t want Apple Home help, it’s nonetheless higher than the rest in its worth vary.

I put in the L930-5 alongside the underside of my kitchen breakfast bar, the place I may use blue light to spotlight the blue cupboards and make the bar an architectural point of interest or swap to white light to brighten up my darkish lounge.

The Tapo light strip put in underneath a breakfast counter.

The 16.4-foot (5-meter) LED strip comes with a small controller with an on/off button and an AC adapter. I related them, positioned the strip, and caught it to the underside of my counter (actually caught; it makes use of 3M tape). The largest problem was discovering a spot with an outlet close by, and I had a little bit of hassle getting a clean match when going round a decent nook. I ended up reducing the strip as a substitute (the strips are trimmable however can’t be re-connected).

The entire course of took lower than 5 minutes, and the top end result was wow-worthy. I say that confidently: my youngsters mentioned, “Wow, that’s cool,” once they got here house from faculty, and they’re very exhausting to impress.

The Tapo app, which I’ll come again to, is best than most. But the true energy of smart lighting comes from connecting it to a smart house platform like Apple Home (beforehand referred to as HomeEquipment), Google Home, or Amazon Alexa, and Tapo helps all three.

In my kitchen, I’ve smart light switches from Lutron Caseta and Aqara and smart bulbs from Philips Hue. Using Apple Home, I added the Tapo light strip to a Scene with all these different lights, linked that to a Philips Hue motion sensor, and had all of them activate when somebody walked into the kitchen. You may arrange an Alexa Routine to do that. Google Home doesn’t let sensors set off routines however does help voice management, as do the opposite two.

TP-Link not too long ago announced the Tapo line will support Matter when the brand new smart house customary launches later this 12 months. It’s unclear whether or not current gadgets just like the L930-5 can be upgraded or whether or not it should launch new Matter-compatible merchandise, however as Tapo merchandise use Wi-Fi there’s a transparent improve path. A brand new model of the Tapo app is coming later this 12 months that Tapo says can “combine all Matter-supported gadgets inside one ecosystem.”

The Tapo bopping alongside to some tunes.

Unlike most smart lighting management apps, the Tapo app is nicely laid out, simple to make use of, and gives numerous options. I may set the lights on a schedule, create six preset light scenes, select from 17 results (in addition to create my very own), and sync with music. The app additionally displays power utilization, has an Away Mode (to show lights on and off randomly to imitate somebody being at house), and a timer that may flip the lights on or off after a set interval.

The Tapo app’s lighting results benefit from the light strip’s fifty individually addressable lighting zones. My favorites had been the Rainbow impact for some vivid pops of colour and the Aurora for a extra soothing light present. I did attempt to create a few of my very own results, which was simple to do within the app, however the presets appeared rather a lot higher than something I got here up with. I’m undoubtedly going to be utilizing the Bubbling Cauldron and Haunted Mansion choices for my Halloween setup this 12 months.

A light strip under a counter next to chairs
The Tapo light strip put in underneath a kitchen countertop.

The Tapo additionally consists of an Auto White mode, which units the light to white and robotically adjusts the brightness primarily based on out there light — although I’m undecided the way it does it as I can’t discover an ambient light sensor anyplace on it. This is a pleasant function, although, and means you don’t find yourself with a shiny light shining at you whenever you dim different lights in your home. Unfortunately, whereas it did dim robotically, it stayed at one colour temperature, regardless of the app saying it ought to alter from cool to heat. In my testing, the light strip additionally didn’t work with Apple Home’s adaptive lighting function. I’ve reached out to TP-Link about each options.

The Tapo light strip can sync to music or ambient sound, which it did comparatively nicely, if a bit extra robotically and fewer easily than Philips Hue’s music sync function. However, it makes use of the microphone in your smartphone or pill, not a built-in microphone, as Nanoleaf lights and a few Govee strips have. This was annoying, particularly as that you must preserve the app open in your cellphone for it to work, and it stored disconnecting. But that could be for the most effective in case you’re not eager in your light strips having a microphone.

If you have got a number of Tapo merchandise, you’ll be able to link them collectively within the Tapo app with Smart Actions. These are Scenes that allow you to management a number of gadgets without delay by tapping a tile within the app or Automations that may run primarily based on time of day or when triggered by one other Tapo system. The Tapo app solely works with Tapo merchandise, not TP-Link’s different smart house line, Kasa. The Tapo line additionally has an Apple Home-compatible smart plug, and earlier this 12 months, TP-Link introduced an Apple Home-compatible energy strip, dimmer swap, and colour bulbs are coming quickly.

Kitchen counter with pink lights
The Tapo light strip produced wealthy, shiny colours.

At $49.99 for 16.4 ft of addressable lighting zones, RGB, and tunable white LEDs, the Tapo L930-5 is by far the most effective, least costly light strip that works with Apple Home. But if any a type of options is negotiable, otherwise you really need the Adaptive Lighting function, you have got different choices to contemplate — although most nonetheless price far more.

One factor to notice is that the L930-5 solely is available in one size proper now: 16.4 ft (or 5 meters). That’s for much longer than most smart light strips, which normally begin round six ft, or two meters, although many will be prolonged as much as 32 ft (10 meters) and even longer. TP-Link doesn’t promote extension kits for the L930, but it surely says a 32-foot version of the L930 is launching subsequent month.

Single-color Philips Hue light strips begin at round $100 for six ft, and its gradient light strips begin at $180 for six feet and 1,800 lumens. You can even want the Hue Bridge to help Apple Home’s Adaptive Lighting. The Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip ($50, 2,000 lumens) and Eve Light Strip ($80, 1,800 lumens) additionally help Adaptive Lighting however are costly to increase and restricted to 1 colour at a time.

Even in case you don’t need Apple Home help, the L930-5 is compelling. Most light strips on this worth vary can’t produce high-quality white light as a result of they don’t have separate white LEDs. Losing the white LEDs just isn’t well worth the $10 or $15 you’d save by getting the Tapo L920-5, Govee, or Kasa smart light strips.

Unless you’re lifeless set on Adaptive Lighting or holding out for a light strip that’s assured to work with Matter and Thread, that is the most effective, most reasonably priced addressable light strip choice proper now.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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