Twinkly Strings 250 LEDs Multicolor review: These smart string lights deliver dazzling effects

Smart Christmas tree lights generally do little more than let you turn them on and off with voice commands, but Twinkly’s string lights take the smarts to a new level. Packed with a few dozen effects plus the ability to create your own, Twinkly’s light strings can deliver some truly impressive light shows with the help of an app that maps the position of each individual LED. Besides the Twinkly mobile app, you can also control the Twinkly lights with Alexa and Google Assistant, albeit in a disappointingly limited fashion.

Twinkly’s LED Christmas lights have actually been around for a few years, but my interest was piqued when I finally saw them in action at last year’s CES, where Ledworks, owner of the Twinkly lighting brand, was showing off its new Twinkly Music dongle. I tested both the Twinkly 250-LED string light and the new music accessory for this review.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart bulbs, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Specifications and design

Twinkly offers its string lights in sizes ranging from 100 LEDs all the way up to 600 LEDs. The brand also offers “Gold Edition” dimmable white LED string lights, icicle and “cluster” style string lights, curtain LED lights, and even pre-lit artificial Christmas trees. Twinkly’s LED string lights are many things, but cheap isn’t one of them; the 250-LED string I tested, for example, costs $120 at Best Buy, while the 600-LED versionRemove non-product link fetches a cool $200.

The Twinkly string has a traditional design of braided dark-green wire, with the RGB LEDs (which can display up to 16 million colors) interspersed a little more than three inches apart. The LEDs themselves feel relatively sturdy, and they’re designed with a diffused flat lens for “uniform diffusion” of the emitted colors. An in-line controller near the end of the string allows you to cycle through light modes by repeatedly pressing a button, and the string terminates in a chunky 24V power adapter.

twinkly leds Ben Patterson/IDG

The LEDs on Twinkly strings are designed with a diffused flat lens, and they’re spaced about three inches apart.

The Twinkly lights are IP44-certified, which means they’re protected against solid objects larger than 1mm and water splashed from all directions; in other words, they should be fine outdoors, even in rain and snow. You can read more about IP codes in this story.

Setup

I didn’t have much trouble getting the Twinkly string lights connected to my Wi-Fi network. The first step is to create a Twinkly account; if you wish, you can sign in with Facebook or Apple (not Google, unfortunately), or you can create an account using your email address. Next, you press the button on the Twinkly controller until its embedded status LED turns greenish blue, and then the Twinkly app will search for your lights. Once it’s found them (the process worked for me on the first time), the app lets you choose a nearby Wi-Fi network before prompting you for your password.

After you’ve draped the Twinkly lights around your tree, the outside of your home (you can group up to 10 strings, or up to 4,000 LEDs), or anywhere else you see fit, it’s time to scan the lights with the Twinkly app. If you have the lights hung on a perfectly flat surface, you can choose the 2D scanning option, during which you simply point your camera’s phone at the lights and allow the app to scan all the LEDs.

twinkly led scan Ben Patterson/IDG

With the Twinkly mobile app, you can map the position of each individual LED on your Twinkly strings.

If the lights are draped over a tree, a bookcase, or (in my case) along the bottom of the top bunk of your daughter’s bunk bed, you can opt for 3D scanning, which involves letting the app scan the LEDs from multiple angles. The process only takes about 10 seconds (or 10 seconds per scan, if you choose the 3D scanning option), and the app managed to map the LEDs with an impressive degree of accuracy.