MiPow PlayBulb

HWM (Singapore) - - Test - by Zachary Chan

CON­CLU­SION Ini­tially con­fus­ing setup and rather ex­pen­sive for a light bulb, even one with a builtin speaker, but we can’t deny its nov­elty.

Why are we re­view­ing a light bulb? Be­cause it’s an en­ergy sav­ing LED light bulb (rated at 3W), dimmable and con­trol­lable via your smart­phone, plus it’s also a wire­less Blue­tooth speaker.

De­signed as a throw­back to stan­dard fil­a­ment bulbs, the MiPow PlayBulb fits any stan­dard E27 socket; screw it in, flick the switch and the light comes on. If you want to use the dim­ming func­tion though, you’ll have to down­load the app. Since it con­nects via Blue­tooth 4.0, only the iPhone 4S or higher, iPod (5th gen), iPad (4th gen), iPad Air, iPad mini and An­droid 4.3 or higher de­vices are sup­ported. The app quickly finds all PlayBulbs in range, but you can only con­trol one at a time. As a gim­mick, Shake mode lets you shake your smart­phone to dim/ brighten the light. Other op­tions in­clude 4 pre­sets: Wake Up, En­ergy Saver, Night and Sleep. These are ba­si­cally timed events for dif­fer­ent bright­ness and vol­ume set­tings.

The PlayBulb uses a sec­ond Blue­tooth ra­dio for its speaker func­tion and here’s where it took some trial and er­ror to get work­ing. It’s a bulb, how hard can it be right? That’s what we thought. The light­ing func­tions worked with­out a hitch so we tried to use the app’s in­te­grated mu­sic player next—which by the way was very sim­plis­tic, and had an EQ but­ton that did noth­ing (An­droid ver­sion). Mu­sic played through our phone in­stead of stream­ing to the PlayBulb. Af­ter sev­eral at­tempts at re­in­stalling and us­ing dif­fer­ent phones, we re­al­ized that the PlayBulb must first be paired as a stan­dard Blue­tooth speaker be­fore us­ing the app. In fact, when we paired through the app first, we could no longer find the speaker when search­ing for a Blue­tooth de­vice.

Once paired though, the PlayBulb works as a stan­dard Blue­tooth speaker. All au­dio, from any app will be streamed to the bulb. The good thing about it is that since it’s a light bulb in­stal­la­tion, it’s al­ways on. You can even turn off the light (via the app) and still stream mu­sic. Ba­si­cally, you treat the PlayBulb as two de­vices: an LED light with dim­ming that only works through the app and sup­ported de­vices, and a stan­dard Blue­tooth speaker that will work with just about any Blue­tooth-ca­pa­ble de­vice.

I won’t beat around the bush, for $99, you’re bet­ter off with a stan­dard light bulb and ded­i­cate speak­ers for bet­ter au­dio qual­ity and func­tions, but I can see the PlayBulb be­ing a cool gad­get in a kid’s room or any­where you want some back­ground mu­sic from the con­ve­nience of a stand lamp with­out both­er­ing about an­other de­vice you’ll have to find a socket for recharg­ing.

The PlayBulb app of­fers easy light con­trol, but the mu­sic player will not work un­less you have separately paired the bulb as a BT speaker first.

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