July 23, 2024


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Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit review: More to these bulbs than just their smarts

After this review initially published, TCP cut the price of their LED kit from $169 down to $142. They also announced exclusive pricing options on their products through a partnership with Home Depot, where the kit currently sells for just $109.99. The review has been updated to reflect these pricing developments.

The smart home options just keep on coming. The latest is the Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit, which will set you up with three LED bulbs, the “Gateway” hub that serves as their collective brain, and a handy remote control. Setup is a breeze — just plug in the Gateway, screw in the bulbs, and download the free TCP app to your Android or iOS device. You’ll be controlling your new lights within minutes.

As smart lighting kits go, there isn’t a lot to dislike about what TCP’s offering here. Each bulb gives off a very respectable 800 lumens of warm, natural-looking light, yet still manages to claim a life expectancy of 25,000 hours. The TCP app is intuitive and easy to use, even when you’re programming advanced lighting scenes and schedules. The Gateway is compact and well-designed, mindful of the fact that space is at a premium on today’s typical router shelf. The addition of a separate remote control is another nice touch.

This brings us to the cost. At $142.99, this lighting kit certainly doesn’t come cheap — but it’s still priced quite competitively. An Insteon Hub and three of its LED bulbs will cost you at least $200, while the three-bulb Philips Hue Starter Kit will set you back $199. If you’re willing to sacrifice the remote control, you can save even more money by buying TCP’s LED 2-pack for $99 (it includes the Gateway, but not the remote), then adding the third bulb a la carte for $30.

Perhaps the best deal of all, though, lies with TCP’s exclusive partnership with Home Depot, where the LED kit is available for just $109.99. Additional bulbs are cheaper, too, costing just $16.97 as opposed to the suggested retail price of $29.99. At those prices, this kit is an undeniably exceptional value — no word on how long those deals will last, though.

Even at a price point of $142, TCP’s kit makes a lot of sense for a budget-minded consumer interested in basic, entry-level smart lighting. However, if you want more advanced functionality from your lights, then a more powerful system might be worth the extra cash.

TCP LED bulbs (right) glow with a comparable brightness and color temperature to 60-watt incandescent bulbs (left).
Ry Crist/CNET

Bulb breakdown
As LED lights go, TCP’s bulbs are definitely on the impressive end of the spectrum. You’ll often see LED bulbs stretch the truth by claiming that 600 or even 400 lumens of light output makes them comparable to 60-watt incandescents, which average 880 lumens of light output. TCP bulbs, however, put out 800 lumens each, so when they say “60-watt equivalent,” they mean it. Also, with 11 watts of power usage, this means that TCP bulbs are putting out about 73 lumens per watt. That’s a number to be proud of.

TCP bulbs glow at a color temperature of 2,700 degrees Kelvin, which gives them a warm, yellowy quality. If you’re thinking about replacing your incandescents, but are worried that you’ll be forced to subject yourself to cold-toned, bluish light, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you get from TCP.

Lumens 800 600 591
Life span 25,000 hours 15,000 hours 52,000 hours
Watts 11 8.5 8
Efficiency 73 lumens/watt 71 lumens/watt 74 lumens/watt
Color temperature 2,700K 2,000K 2,400K

Additionally, TCP bulbs are rated to last 25,000 hours. Though 25 times better than the common incandescent, this is still a fairly average number for an LED bulb. All the same, it’s a number that I’m happy with, given the above-average brightness. At three hours a day of average usage, it’ll last well over 20 years before fading to 70 percent of its original brightness (the current definition of a “dead” LED). Even then, it’d still be shining with around 560 lumens worth of light output. Insteon’s LED bulb, for comparison, starts out with a light output of 591 lumens.

TCP warrants all of their lighting kits for two years, which helps lend some credibility to their longevity claims. It’s not as bold a warranty as the Cree TW Series LED, though — with 800 lumens and a lifespan of 25,000 hours, same as TCP, Cree bulbs come with a warranty of ten years. With a bar that high, it would have been nice to see TCP put a little bit more money where its mouth is.

On the left, a TCP LED bulb that we dropped several times intentionally. On the right, a Philips Hue bulb that we accidentally dropped once.
Ry Crist/CNET

Another interesting thing about TCP’s bulbs: they bounce. Most light bulbs…don’t. It was a sad day here at CNET Appliances a few weeks ago when someone who shall remain nameless accidentally dropped one of the Philips Hue bulbs we were testing from a height of about a foot. The Philips bulb shattered, just like most light bulbs would have. If it had been a TCP bulb, however, we probably wouldn’t have had a mess to clean up. Even dropping it from three feet up or higher, neither the bulb nor the hardware inside of it seem inclined to break (and believe me, we tested this over and over again — there’s something strangely satisfying about watching a light bulb bounce.)

I’m not about to sit here and criticize Philips for designing bulbs that break when you drop them, but still, I’m impressed with how durable TCP’s LEDs are. Maybe you’ll never drop one of their bulbs, but given how much more they cost than your standard light, it’s reassuring to know that if you do, you probably won’t be forced to replace it.

With the TCP app, you’ll have full control of your lights, as well as the ability to schedule them to turn on and off at specific times.
Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

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