Bluetooth controlled LEDs are a thing now eh? Phillips Hue, the Flux range, and the recently reviewed Elgato Avea are all examples of the sort of LED room lighting that has become not only prevalent in the market, but also priced well. The MiPow Playbulb Candle imitates a, well, candle, and has some little features that mate it interesting. Let’s take a look.
Firstly a huge thanks to MobileFun for providing this sample unit. Not only are they a great team, but they have more than enough gadgets, and mobile technology to keep you trawling their site for hours! Go and check them out
Overview & Unboxing
If you’re not aware of what this particular product might be able to bring to the party, let’s just cover off the basics first. Essentially this is an multi-colour emitting light source, powered by batteries, that can be controlled by your smart phone or tablet running iOS or Android. The colours can be changed, as well as the brightness, colour depth, fading and much more from within a companion application downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google’s Play Store. That’s about the size of it.
In the box comes a single Playbulb Candle, 3 individually wrapped scented rings to be added to the candle, and a quick start guide with QR codes for the companion apps. Sadly there are no included batteries with this device which is a shame. It requires 3 x AA batteries rather than relying on a built-in Lithium battery like many LED mood lights do and we’d like to have seen these included.
Take a look at their product video for a little more info.
Performance & Use
The MiPow Playbulb Candle is really easy to set up and use. Rocking Bluetooth 4.0, all that’s required is to open the Playbulb X app on your device, ensure the Playbulb is switched on via the on/off button within the candle itself, and use the “connect” button next to the Playbulb device within the app to connect.
Upon connecting the device will show a colour selection screen to allow you to pick the initial colour of the candle. From there the application allows a wealth of features including choosing colours from an existing image to set a scene, editing the colour strength/depth, enabling shake mode which toggles the ability to shake your smartphone to change the colour on the bulb, and other interesting features like effects mode which controls whether there is a flame-like flicker, or twinkles to the lights, amongst other effects. It’s actually quite a nice little package. Finally, we also noted that there is the ability to set certain timers for colour changes and even fire off music that plays on your Playbulb device to allow you to wake up, or go to sleep, peacefully. Unfortunately that feature is only compatible with Playbulb devices with a built-in speaker, which the Playbulb Candle does not have. The night-light feature would definitely be a good option for children’s rooms or in a hallway however.
Whilst all these features are great, some work better than others. For example, trying to get a solid and strong “orange” colour was nearly impossible on this device. Red, yeah, Green, no problem, even Purple hues were easily found. Trying to rotate through the colour wheel to orange, despite it being displayed on-screen, resulted in a green/blue hue on the Playbulb Candle itself. Most other colours were accurately represented though.
The Playbulb Candle has a few other strings to its bow also. Just like with a real candle, blowing on the device will turn the light itself off – a nice touch. The slightly baffling thing here is that unlike a regular candle, blowing on it again will power it back up. Not exactly realistic but we appreciate the artistic license used to provide more functionality.
Further still, you might have noticed a purple hue to the inside of the candle section in the image above. Good call! This is a replaceable scent ring which slow emits an aroma, spurred on by the slight heat generation of the unit itself. They aren’t all that “scented” and despite the fact there are three that come with the unit (a purple, lavender, as well as a Red and Green which smell distinctly like Strawberry and Apple up close) we found ourselves not really paying much attention to this aspect of the device. This was perhaps because we were also too busy using this unit as a candle holder with actual scented candles. Yup, that’s right folks, the dimple at the base of this device serves as a tea-light candle holder if it’s held upside down!
Whilst the light that this emits is not overly strong, in a dull setting it does make a bit of a difference. We’d certainly recommend more than one of these devices to get the best out of the application and it’s features using groups. If bright light is your main objective, there are better products out there.
Battery life was pretty good. The claim was that with 3 AA batteries, the unit could work for 4 hours a day, and still give you 60 days’ worth of operation. In our limited week long test, with incredibly cheap AA batteries in use it must be said, we managed over 36 hours of use over the week, with no signs of the device stopping. Whilst we can’t suggest that we’d get close to the 240 hours MiPow claim, we wouldn’t be surprised. The slight niggle here is that we’d have loved this device to have some reporting mechanism on the battery in the application so we had a clear heads up that we needed to replace them, but due to the length of usage claimed, we can’t see this being a huge issue.
There are many, many options available now for those wishing to get cheap Bluetooth controlled LED mood lights. The Elgato Avea Flare we reviewed was a lovely device, with a stronger LED than that of the Playbulb Candle, however it had a price tag to match. At £90 per unit it was firmly in impulse buy territory. The MiPow Playbulb Candle was funded via a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 where it managed to scoop in over $265,000 and thankfully MiPow have used some of this money to deliver the device at a sensible price. At just £14.99 for a single unit from MobileFun it represents a worthwhile investment. It has the features of many other LED mood lighting products, with the novelty aspect of being a “candle”. It also has an application that whilst not overly aesthetically pleasing, is quick and gets the job done
MiPow have many LED products available such as the Playbulb Colour Smart Bulb (the one with the built-in speaker), the Playbulb Sphere, Playbulb Comet strip light, as well as a solar-powered option for outside use – the MiPow Playbulb Garden Solar. As an eco-system they’ve got most angles covered.
The skinny here is that if you’re looking for a device to brighten up your dark places then this isn’t the product for you. Have a specific requirement to set some mood with a couple of these bad boys or have a few kids who need night lights? These are right up your alley and are priced competitively also.