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Smart Bulb
Credit: Courtesy

Remember when all we expected from our light bulbs was a bit of illumination and the hope that they wouldn’t burn out quite so fast? Things sure have changed: New LED smart bulbs aren’t just massively more efficient than old-style incandescents (switch over and your power bill will undoubtedly go down)—they are also capable of syncing up with smartphones for positively insane acts of wizardry and witchcraft. Using an app, these products make it easy to adjust to dim the lights or change the color to match a holiday or theme party.

There are now plenty of smart bulbs on the market from a wide range of manufacturers. And while some of them are totally fine if all you want to do is turn a bulb on and off with your phone, only one really rises to the level of making your entire home super-smart. The Philips Hue system comes in astonishing range of form factors, from typical screw-in bulbs, to adhesive light strips, to battery-powered portable jobs designed to be taken out on your terrace. The system is also ridiculously easy to use, with an idiot-proof app for switching the color, brightness, or preset scenes (want to mimic a sunset? No problem).

BUY: Philips Hue, $50; amazon.com

If that was all the Hue did, it’d be a pretty awesome product. But these things really are ready to get as geeky as you like. Want to program them to automatically turn on when walk through the door? Easy. Or maybe you want them to slowly dim as you get ready for bed? Done. You can even hook them up to voice-controlled gadgets like the Google Home and simply speak your commands: “Make the living room brighter.”

And while these things ain’t cheap, LED bulbs are designed to last hundreds of times longer than incandescent bulbs—meaning a purchase today should last as long as your house.

Wins for: Functionality and breadth of offerings

Noteworthy features:

  • An accompanying app lets you change the brightness and color, or program them to do just about anything
  • Easily expandable setup lets you light up an entire home.
  • Works with a variety of smart home control devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa

See the rest of InStyle's 2017 Best of Tech picks here.