As I mentioned in my previous review of a Sylvania Smart+ product, I have somewhat slept on the company’s HomeKit offerings. Having been “woken” up to their efforts by a positive experience that I had with their smart plug, I recently picked up Sylvania’s Full Color LED Flex Strip to add a little light to somewhat of a dark spot in my home. I have previously used a couple of Hue Light Strips for other areas around the house, but for this application I wanted to try something new. The Flex Strip, which retails for around $59.99, can be found frequently cheaper on places such as Amazon, making it a more affordable alternative to Philip’s Hue competitor. Technical specifications for the Flex Strip are similar to others on the market, with the capability of display millions of different colors and output of 400 lumens. So how does Sylvania’s Flex Strip stack up outside of the tech specs? Let’s take a look.
Unboxing the Smart+ Flex Strip was a familiar experience with just having set up the company’s smart plug a few months ago. The packaging for the Flex Strip has a premium feel, with magnets being used to hold the box cover flap in place, and a fabric pull tab to help identify exactly where to grab. Wrapped neatly inside the box, the Flex Strip looks like a standard light strip as it is coiled to look like one cohesive unit, but as the outer packaging indicates, there are actually 3 separate sections, each 2 foot in length. This design is really thoughtful, as it can provide users a quick way to adjust the length for their particular application without having to cut into their investment. Of course, there are still designated spots marked on the Flex Strip where cuts can be made if finer adjustments are needed, but something always just felt odd about cutting my aforementioned Hue light strips. For those that need longer runs, Sylvania offers extension strips which allow it to reach up to 20 feet in length. As you would expect, the Flex Strip has pre-attached strips of double-sided tape on each section for mounting, but in my experience it didn’t hold very well when the strip was mounted upside down. This was disappointing to say the least, but I have had pretty much the same experiences with other devices that rely on tape, so I don’t really hold it against this particular product. Also included in the box is the power supply brick, which is pretty large, enough so that it can block other devices from being used in the same outlet that it is plugged in to, as well as a smaller control box and wiring. The control box itself is small enough to hide, at least for my installation, and is home to a copy of the HomeKit pairing code.
Setting up the Flex Strip was a fairly quick and easy process due to the bluetooth connectivity that the device uses. Like pretty much all other HomeKit bluetooth based devices, you can pair it instantly after taking it out of the box and providing power with just the native iOS Home App. This ability earns high marks in my book, as it not only makes it easy for those that are not necessarily “techies” to set up and enjoy a product without having to dive into to many layers to do so, and for the privacy aspects as there are no servers for the device to talk to, just your HomeKit setup.
Interestingly, with Sylvania’s products, the company’s own app does not offer any way to add a device to your HomeKit home, again making it easy for customers as another App does not have to be installed, and it potentially it may help the company save on resources where a team is not necessarily need to be dedicated to maintaining an App. Sylvania’s App does however provide firmware updates for its devices, and the Flex Strip is no exception as there was an update available after a quick scan of devices. While I am not exactly sure what was changed or added in the firmware update as there were no notes, it is always nice to see a company providing support for their products.
Home App Experience
Over in the iOS Home App, the Flex Strip is presented pretty much like any other standard color lighting device. The familiar device tile offers the ability to toggle on and off the strip with a tap (or click on macOS) and brightness adjustments can be made with a 3D touch, long press, or right click. From here, two additional options are presented, “Color” and “Settings”. Selecting the color option will bring up several quick action color selections, and an edit button to assign a favorite to one of these selections. Using the edit function will bring up a color selection “wheel” where fine adjustments can be made, and a new option for color temperature will show at the bottom, which uses the same “wheel” seen for color. Aside from the added color functionality, there really is not any device specific options in the Home App, which is good for consistency’s sake. Of course, automations can be set up to control the Flex Strip with other home actions, and the device can also be grouped with other lights if desired.
Performance & Reliability
As stated earlier, the Sylvania Flex Strip uses bluetooth connectivity to communicate with your home. While I mentioned the various positives that come with using bluetooth, it should be known that there are some trade offs. One drawback is that in order to control the device outside of the home, a Apple TV, iPad, or HomePod is required, which can be an added expense for those new to HomeKit. The main limitation that bluetooth brings though is with response time to commands sent to the Flex Strip. When the strip has not been in use for a while, the first command sent to it will take upwards of 5 seconds. This is not a huge deal, but it is something to be aware of as it can be somewhat jarring to not have a more immediate response. Once the initial command is sent and the device has woken up, subsequent commands sent will take affect much quicker, averaging around 2-3 seconds in my tests. In comparison to other devices, such as the Philips Hue Lightstrip, it is noticeable, but again let’s face it, these types of lights are accent lighting and as such they probably are not critical. The final issue with bluetooth is range, where placement along with wireless interference from other devices can come in to play. Spotty bluetooth connections can not only extend the length of time for a command to execute, but can also send a device in to a “No Response” mode. Thankfully, in my case this has not been an issue at all, even with the plethora of bluetooth devices that I currently use.
In the end, Sylvania’s Smart+ Full Color LED Flex Strip is a solid device, that not only performs reliably, but also does so in a way that doesn’t break the bank. The Flex Strip is easy to set up right out of the box, and once paired, produces a variety of bright vivid colors. All of this combined with thoughtful touches, such as the modular design of the strips, and the lack of need to download an install yet another App make it an easy device to recommend for those that are in the market for a good accent lighting solution. For those keeping score, Sylvania is now 2 for 2 if you will for me with their devices, and I can’t wait to try out more of their products soon.