Philips Hue Go review: This portable smart lamp lets you add ambient lighting anywhere

The Philips Hue Go is the least likely device to convince anyone to switch to Philips Hue for their smart lighting needs. It’s expensive for a lamp of its size, and its distinctly modern, all-plastic, bowl-like industrial design will leave many cold. On the other hand, there’s a Bluetooth radio onboard, so you don’t need to also have a Philips Hue Zigbee-to-Wi-Fi bridge to control it; and it can run on either AC power or its internal battery, so you can have full-color ambient light anywhere, indoors or out.

Let me emphasize ambient light. The Hue Go produces just 520 lumens of brightness—equivalent to a 43-watt incandescent—so you won’t want to rely on it for task lighting or to read by. But it is a full-color LED, with two color wheels in the Hue app that let you pick shades of colored light and white-light temperatures (varying degrees of warm to cool) respectively.

philips hue go one Michael Brown

The Philips Hue Go can produce all the colors of the rainbow as well as warm to cool shades of white light.

You can also create custom lighting scenes or choose from a variety of pre-programmed ones, such as “Arctic aurora” (a cool blue shade), “Tropical twilight” (a warm orange glow), and “Energize” (a bright cool white). A slider at the top of each of the app’s three lighting control panels (color, color temperature, and scenes) lets you brighten or dim the light, and there’s a button for turning the Hue Go on and off there as well.

Bluetooth or the Bridge?

Controlling the Hue Go via Bluetooth will save you from buying the $60 Hue Bridge, but you’ll be limited to controlling about 10 Bluetooth-compatible Hue bulbs, versus up to 50 if you use the Bridge. Bluetooth also provides much less range than Wi-Fi; in fact, you’ll probably need to be in the same room. That proximity requirement might not seem like a big limitation for the Hue Go since you’re essentially controlling a lamp, but having the Bridge in the mix also gives you the option of controlling your Hue lights when you’re away from home.

philips hue go off Michael Brown / IDG

The Philips Hue Go can operate tilted on its side, as in this shot…

The Hue Go’s battery power option means you can take it outside or even on an overnight camping trip. Bluetooth would offer the control advantage when you’re out of range of your home Wi-Fi network, except there’s no easy way to toggle back and forth between Bluetooth and the Bridge (Wi-Fi). Each scenario requires a different app, and if you start with Bluetooth control, you must transfer a Hue device to the Bridge to use Wi-Fi. Repeatedly pushing the power button on the back of the Hue Go, however, will cycle it through a variety of colors and color temperatures (holding the button down will turn it off).

When you take the Hue Go outside, you should remember that the device is not only not waterproof, but that it’s not protected from water at all. Its manufacturer, Signify, gives it an IP20 rating, with the numeral two meaning that it’s protected from big particulate matter (larger than 12.5mm, or about half an inch). The zero in this rating typically means the manufacturer hasn’t tested the device for protection from water, but Signify’s website says the Hue Go has “no protection against water.”

philips hue go laid flat Michael Brown / IDG

…or placed on its bottom, as shown here.

You’ll need to add the Hue Go to a virtual room before you can control it via either app, a step that seems counterintuitive for a device that might be used all over—and even away from—your home. I decided to create a room called Mobile and assigned it there. If you decide to place it in your bedroom (or anywhere else), so you can control it with other Philips Hue smart bulbs or luminaires in the same vicinity, that’s easy enough to do.

Bottom line

The Hue Go is versatile and portable, it produces very high-quality light in every hue of the rainbow, and it’s part of the largest ecosystem of smart lighting devices on the market. Its very modern and all-plastic industrial design won’t float everyone’s boat—I can’t say I’m a fan—but the option to control it via Bluetooth means you don’t need to also buy a Hue Bridge if you don’t already have one.