Philips Hue Smart Plug review: Just the basics, except for the price tag

As a smart home pioneer, Signify’s Philips Hue brand is well known for its smart light bulbs, switches, sensors, and even complete indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures, most of which rely on its $60 Zigbee-to-Wi-Fi bridge. More recently the company has added a new line of devices that give you the option of bridge-free control, via Bluetooth. That’s where the Philips Hue Smart Plug fits into the mix.

The Philips Hue Smart Plug looks nearly identical to many other commonly available smart plugs, it’s a wide, squat, single-outlet device that fits neatly into a single socket on your wall outlet. It’s just barely wider than the wall plate, and it’s short enough that it doesn’t block the second socket from being used.

If you’re not planning to make a deeper investment into the Hue ecosystem, you can save the $60 you’d spend on the bridge and control this smart plug with just your smartphone or tablet, using Bluetooth. But this approach limits you to just 10 Bluetooth-compatible Hue devices of any type.

philips hue smart plug installed Christopher Null / IDG

The Philips Hue Smart Plug is anonymous looking apart for a sticker on top indicating its maximum supported wattage.

If your smart lighting needs are that simple, there are many, many less-expensive ways to meet them. Our top pick in this category, Leviton’s Decora DW15P, costs about $25 and connects to your Wi-Fi network—no bridge required. The same goes for our runner-up pick, the Currant WiFi Smart Outlet, which costs the same as this Hue device, but can control two devices independently (and there’s a Bluetooth version of the Currant that costs $25).

Besides, the Philips Hue Smart Plug gets its real smarts from its interaction with the Hue Bridge, which connects your Hue devices to your Wi-Fi network. With the Bridge (and only with the Bridge) you can control multiple devices in your home at once, use Alexa and Google Assistant. Using the Bridge is also the only way that you control devices when you’re out of the house.

Here’s the catch, though: The Hue mobile app has been designed and refined exclusively to control lights, and its overall approach doesn’t always translate perfectly to the smart plugs. The Philips Hue system has a robust set of routines built in: You can have lights turn on or off automatically when you wake up or go to sleep, control bulbs to turn on when you come home, and set up timers and schedules. The Hue app doesn’t always know what to do with the plug, though, and users might be confused that Hue’s catch-all group is still “all lights,” not “all devices.”

I eventually figured out the necessary syntax to get the Hue app working most of the time with the Smart Plug, but timers that instruct devices to “blink lights” never worked (even if you have a lamp plugged into it).

Philips Hue app timer Christopher Null / IDG

Timers can be finicky to configure properly.

The Hue Smart Plug is also short on features such as energy monitoring or a usage history log. As well, setting up geofencing so you can control the plug automatically when you come and go requires jumping through numerous hoops on the Hue website (outside of the app), although after I got it working, this ended up working fine in my testing.