Philips Hue Tap The best smart-home gadget youre not using

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Having a button handy in the bedroom is also a nice alternative to voice controls. If youre up late reading a book, and sharing a bed, a voice command might wake up your sleeping partner. And while pulling out your phone and using the Hue app to turn the lights off is always an option, I will always prefer a simple, dedicated device like the Tap that lets me leave my phone plugged in on the nightstand. The less I have to look at a screen late at night, the better.

In theSmart Apartmentbedroom, we keep a reading lamp by each side of the bed. The left and right buttons on the Hue Tap turn the respective lamp on, while the middle button turns them both on. The large face of the button turns the lights in the living room and kitchen off, which would come in handy if you curled into bed only to realize youd left a few lights around the house on.

Thats much better than using the normal switch, which will leave your smart bulbs unpowered and unreachable whenever its switched off. Plus, you can stick the Tap a little lower on the wall where your kid can reach it. If your kid hits a growth spurt, the sticky tabs on the back are fairly easy to remove.

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I like that dimmer switch, but folks have it backward (and Id point out thatan easy-to-use Hue Labs hacklets you use the Hue Tap as a dimmer, too). With great customizability, terrific ease of use and no need for batteries ever, the Hue Tap is the superior smart lighting controller — and one of the most underrated little smart home gadgets available today.

The first thing you need to know about the Hue Tap is that youll never need to worry about changing the battery. In fact, it doesnt have any batteries at all. Its a kinetic, self-powering device that generates its own energy from your button-presses. Seriously.

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Just remember that youll still need a Hue Bridge plugged into your router to receive the Taps Zigbee signal. You cant, for instance, pair it directly with anApple TVor aHomePodfor direct HomeKit control.

Philips Hue Tap: The best smart-home gadget youre not using

Todayssmart homeis dominated byever-evolving voice controls,privacy anxieties, aconfusing mish-mash of wireless protocolsandconstant jockeying between the platforms competing to rule it all.

The puckish Hue Tap works well as a handheld remote, but you can also stick the base plate that comes with it to the wall, then dock the thing as a makeshift light switch when you arent carrying it around. Doing so makes for a really good, kid-friendly smart lighting hack: The face of the Tap, which is a button itself, can toggle the lights on and off, while the three smaller buttons can each trigger a favorite preset.

And again, the thing is literally finger-powered. If only my TV remote worked the same way.

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One reason for the speedy performance: The Hue Tap transmits your button-based input directly to the Hue Bridge using a low-powerZigbeesignal. From there, the Bridge relays the lighting change to your Hue bulbs with another Zigbee transmission. The whole process is completely separate from your Wi-Fi network, which makes for terrific performance on a platform as stable as Hues.

The Hue team tells me that it will continue to offer the Hue Tap for the foreseeable future, especially since support for Apple HomeKit was introduced less than a year ago.

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Man. Sometimes, its just nice to press a button.

Customer feedback on the Tap is positive, a Hue spokesperson tells me, though they also add that the more standard-shapedHue Wireless Dimming Switchtends to be selected more often because of the familiar-looking design.

Things get really interesting when you start using the Tap to trigger HomeKit scenes that affect the status of multiple devices at once. For instance, you could create a Goodnight scene inApplesHome app that turns off all of your smart lights, sets the smart thermostat to your preferred sleeping temperature and locks the front doors smart lock — then trigger it all with a single tap.

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Case in point:the CNET Smart Apartment, where we control the bedroom lights using the very same Hue Tap that I first reviewed four years ago. Its never failed us, and it always toggles the lights without any lag at all.

The Hue Tap needs no batteries — its self-powering, and generates its own kinetic energy each time you press a button.

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The Hue Tap also received a nice upgrade last year when Philipsstarted letting users pair the thing with Apple HomeKit smart home setups. Once you do, you can start using it to control other smart home gadgets that work with HomeKit: lights, locks, shades, you name it.

Better yet, how about four buttons? The four Im thinking of belong to thePhilips Hue Tap, a wireless remote forPhilipsHue smart lights that predates theAmazon Echoand the rise of smart-home voice controls that came with it. First out in 2014, its ancient in smart-home years, but its always been a favorite of mine — and its only gotten better since it first came out. In fact, at $50, Id go so far as to call it one of the most underrated smart homegadgetsyou can currently buy. Let me explain.

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