Review: OSRAM LIGHTIFY Updates, Philips Hue Bulb Compatibility & Performance

From my previous experiments noting compatibility issues with Philips Hue globes not playing with the LIGHTIFY system, it seems that OSRAM has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to solve the reported issues and bring LIGHTIFY users something new before Christmas. Initially, there was some difficulty with getting them to understand and acknowledge the problem, but within a couple of weeks, it seems that they had fixed exactly the issue I was reporting, and now my Philips Hue globe works! Fantastic work OSRAM!

This is especially timely as Philips had just this week managed to anger their loyal early adopters with firmware that locked out third party globes from the Hue Bridge, and then later, backpedaled on this claiming that they didn’t know it would affect so many users. I think this is a very sad move on Philips’ behalf, as Zigbee Light Link was supposed to foster interoperability and choice as part of its core principles, and allow consumers to have the peace of mind that comes along with that. It’s rare to find one catalogue of products from one manufacturer that might meet all of the customers’ needs, and the US market especially has seen many globe options we don’t get in Australia at the moment.

One advantage of the OSRAM system so far is that it seems to have good compatibility, and the hub can be purchased separately, not requiring an expensive starter-kit, which could be a boon for those looking to change systems – technical issues with globe “de-pairing” not withstanding. The software, as usual, can still do with a little more flexibility.

Anyhow, lets take a look at the latest changes in the LIGHTIFY app and finish off all the testing to do with the Philips Hue globe.

OSRAM LIGHTIFY on Android

As Android is my primary platform, I will start on this. On 16th December, arriving home, I opened the app to a surprising notification:

lightify-gateway-update-availableThat’s always a welcome message in my books, because it means there’s something new to play with. The updates do take a fairly long time to apply (several minutes) but it will be well worth it. The updates are done in stages, the first update was the Gateway Wi-Fi firmware.

lightify-gateway-wifi-updateClicking on Upgrade leaves it spinning and so all you need to do is wait patiently.

lightify-gateway-updatingThen you are greeted with success … but not so fast …

lightify-gateway-update-success… there’s another update for the Gateway Zigbee firmware. So we run through the same process again …

lightify-gateway-zigbee-update… and then we end up with the latest firmware as of publication:

lightify-gateway-versions-as-testedThis wasn’t all of the fun. It was a few days later that I was alerted via Google Play that there was a new version of the Lightify app (v 1.4.0) available. The change log was listed as follows:

lightify-android-changelog lightify-android-version

lightify-android-mainuiIt installed without a hitch, so we can now take a tour around and look at what’s changed.

The main screen looks pretty familiar, although a few things have changed. The groups and scene areas are now collapsible so that you can hide all the groups or all the scenes for de-cluttering. It’s a pretty basic change, and isn’t a big deal unless you have many groups.

The icons for the different pages have also changed slightly, which is more of a stylistic change, but not a change in the functionality.

lightify-android-devicesThe devices page is where we see some new things happening. Aside from the lists being collapsible, again, there is now a new category for switches, and the add button now allows you to add switches to the system. This implies there will be hardware switches (possibly like the Hue Tap, or Belkin WeMo Light Switch) for calling up a scene with a physical button.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Philips Hue Light 01 is now no longer greyed out and actually commands correctly. That was my most favourite change with the new firmware. A changelog would have been nice though.

lightify-android-cct-adjustWithin the devices page, colour temperature adjustments are now also indicated with a tilde in front of the colour temperature to indicate that the control is only approximate. Furthermore, there are now labels underneath the colour temperature to let you know what sort of colour temperature is selected – the labels include warm candle light, warm comfort light, warm white, neutral white, cool white and cool day light.

lightify-android-devicepropsAnother new feature is the Lightify Loop which is signified by the infinity icon in the top left of the planetary control area. This is supposed to work with RGB(W) lights from OSRAM, after a firmware update for the globe.

Unfortunately, when I call up the device page for my OSRAM RGB(W) globe, it does not have the Lightify Loop icon, and the System Updates page doesn’t list any firmware updates for that globe, so that’s probably something that will be fixed in time, but it does appear for my Philips Hue.

Sadly, even though it does appear in the Philips Hue globe’s device page, it doesn’t actually work, as it seems to be a vendor specific command that needs to be implemented in the globe firmware – so don’t expect it to work on other vendor globes!

lightify-android-lightifyloop-off lightify-android-lightifyloop-adjust

lightify-android-widgetThe Lightify Loop functionality is pretty simple, and only gives you a time setting to play with. It should cycle between the colours automatically when enabled, but I haven’t been able to verify this due to the issues mentioned above. It is still a feature for those who like colour-changing decor without any manual hassle.

There is the widget functionality – having a Widget on a home screen allows you to recall scene settings without needing to open the app. Unfortunately, it does render a little oddly, and it has a space reserved for groups which I don’t prefer over using scenes, so my scenes scroll instead.

On the whole, the new app definitely is less buggy than the old app with less random misbehaviour that dumps you out of your account or crashes the app. The additional settings for changes of Wi-Fi router are also much welcome, as that provides a migration route without needing to stick with one Wi-Fi SSID/password setting or risk losing all your defined scenes on a gateway reset just to set everything up again. That’s a great thing. But I think the schedules still have a long way to go before they reach the flexibility offered by their competitors.

OSRAM LIGHTIFY on iOS

Basically, the iOS app follows in lock-step with the Android app, so changes in the icons and app functionality are very much in-line with those above.

lightify-ios-changelog

lightify-ios-widgetconfiOS users also get a widget that can be installed into their drop-down notifications centre for fast recall of scenes. This is very handy. To configure it, you go into Widget Configuration under Settings, and there you can select up to eight scenes to see in the widget.

Once you have that set-up, then you can pull down on your notifications bar, and then configure your widgets and add Lightify to the bunch.

Once completed, you should be able to toggle over to the Widgets area and see the scenes accessible as icons for one click recall. It’s much faster than opening up the app to apply a scene and is more like TV remote-control convenience.

lightify-ios-widgeteight

It seems that the iOS widget is limited to a maximum of eight scenes, which might not be entirely sufficient for some more intensive users. It is definitely a start and a step in the right direction.

Philips Hue Bulb Tests

The last review of the Philips Hue globe was tested using the globe at its default power on settings as I didn’t have any command or control of the globe. Those results are still valid, but the gripe about incompatibility is no longer true.

As a result, I can now present the results for user experience, standby power, power consumption vs CCT and dimming, dimming level, CCT accuracy and flicker.

User Experience

The Philips globe has a generally positive user experience. It feels like a well built globe, and the glass front diffuse works great, with light distribution that seems to have a little more upwards glow as well due to the mushroom A19 shape of the globe. The light comes on and off with a fast dimming effect which is smooth and not flickery in any way. Best of all, compared to my sample of the OSRAM Lightify RGBW, the Philips Hue does not buzz audibly at all regardless of the setting.

On the downside, the globe is slightly less bright, and it is noticeable, so for single-globe room-scale applications, it doesn’t seem to be the best candidate.

A major sticking point with the Philips Hue globe that I haven’t seen any great resolution for is the issue of un-pairing or resetting a globe to factory defaults. If a gateway goes bust, gets reset, or you try to migrate an already-paired globe from a system to something else, the globes won’t respond to scans or pairing requests unless they are reset. All OSRAM and Belkin WeMo globes have a power on and off ritual you can do (5s on, 5s off for 5 times for OSRAM, 3s on, 1s off for 3 times for Belkin) which always brings your globes back to life. Without this, the only way (it seems) to reset a Philips Hue globe is to use the original gateway and some cryptic commands, a Philips Hue Tap accessory, or a Zigbee development kit to send raw touch-link commands to the globe. Out of fear of this issue, I haven’t decided to explore what happens with a gateway reset, but I can only imagine the worst happening. It’s a bit of a shame Philips didn’t incorporate (or we don’t know about) a basic fail-safe reset mechanism, so I suppose users should proceed at their own risk.

Standby Power

IEC style standby power measurements were made, and this globe averaged a power consumption of 0.38775W, equating to a power usage of 3.4kWh per year in standby and a cost of about AU$0.85 assuming 25c/kWh electricity price. This is the lowest of the bunch of Zigbee globes tested, just 54% of the needs of the OSRAM RGBW, 68% of the OSRAM Tunable White and 69% of that consumed by the Belkin WeMo globe. The full report is here. This is a positive step for the environment, and means that you can have almost twice the number of Philips Hue globes in standby for the same energy as an OSRAM Lightify RGBW, or three Philips Hue globes in standby for every two Belkin WeMo globes.

I hope manufacturers pay more attention to standby energy usage in the future, as a house with twenty of these more-efficient globes in standby is going to be consuming roughly the same energy as one globe that is actively running.

Power Consumption vs CCT and Dimming

hue-pconsumvcctdim

The power consumption definitely goes down with increased dimming as expected, and the curve seems steeper initially indicating a fast initial dim and less steep towards the lower percentage. The power as a function of CCT seems to show the peak consumption being experienced towards 4000K, with much less consumption in warm white. Peak 8.5W usage is not actually experienced in tunable white operation, but can be possible using the RGB colour mode.

Dimming Level

hue-dimming-level-chart

Dimming was generally well behaved and no obvious drastic chromacity shifts seem to occur. The dimming is steeper initially, resembling an exponential style curve. This is backed up by the computed figures, which show that the globe resembles the Belkin WeMo curve more than the OSRAM. The minimum brightness was about 5.25%.

hue-measured-dimming-lvlCCT Accuracy

hue-spectral-output

On the whole, spectral output while operating with the OSRAM LIGHTIFY controller seems to show that the globe is a lot more blue focused and the red part of the spectrum doesn’t seem to increase nearly as much as necessary to achieve the lower colour temperatures. The LIGHTIFY controller also does not allow the globe to go below 2700K as well, even though Philips lets you get to 2000K. The computed CCT figures show a much cooler result (almost unrealistically cool, so do take the absolute values with a grain of salt) and from a side-by-side comparison, it is noticeably more blue especially at the 6500K end. The CRI is quite decently high as expected from an RGB-globe.

hue-measured-cct

Flicker

dimming-1pc

At the lowest dimming level, it can be seen that the globe uses a PWM at 1Khz to perform the dimming. No visible flicker was perceived, with the tails in the scope trace probably due to the speed limitations of my detector (a red LED). Interestingly, even at full brightness, depending on the colour temperature, there were still discontinuities in the output indicating a non-constant-current-operation with periodicity, although not a complete “off”, the rippling light output is still notable.

dimming-100pc

At 100 percent brightness, same settings as above

dimming-2700k dimming-6500k

2700k                                                                    6500k

Conclusion

It’s clear that OSRAM are doing their bit to fix issues within the LIGHTIFY system and bring new features and functionality. Their responsiveness to my reported technical issues is to be commended, and their willingness to support what is, essentially, a competitor’s product was a very welcome result with positive benefits for all consumers.

While the Philips Hue bulb was a good performer overall, there are some caveats especially with de-pairing the globe or resetting it to defaults that can make it difficult to work with in case the gateway is changed, lost or factory reset. This, in itself, makes it a risky proposition unless you have alternative ways to reset the globes (and believe me, Hue users aren’t particularly happy about the lengths necessary to do this). The globe itself is also not quite as bright as the OSRAM RGBW globe, and carries a similar price-tag. As a result, I can only cautiously recommend the Hue globes for non-Hue systems because it might be a nightmare to get them working again should a glitch take the gateway out.

That being said, since the Hue globe doesn’t buzz, it’s a much better globe for my desk lamp …

About lui_gough

I’m a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!

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