Philips Hue is to smart light sources what Sonos is to multi-room sound: the biggest and best-known supplier. And also the most versatile. We’ve tested many Philips Hue light sources, and they’ve repeatedly received our recommendations.
Now Signify, the company behind Philips Hue, has gotten into the Christmas spirit. Philips Hue Festavia is a Christmas tree (or window) light. The string light fits into the Hue ecosystem and can be controlled together with the other light sources in the house from the same manufacturer.
Bridge or Bluetooth
In fact, a Philips Hue Bridge is not absolutely necessary to use the Festavia string light. It can also be controlled via Bluetooth, but then you miss out on the more advanced features. And the mobile phone has to be near the light chain.
But to the point: Philips Hue Festavia looks like most regular light chains. The string consists of three intertwined black cords, and the 250 LEDs in total are spaced eight centimetres apart across the 20-metre length. A solid power supply and a small control box provide the connection to the outside world. Although the physical quality seems quite a bit better than cheaper string lights, the Festavia string is not waterproof and is intended for indoor use only.
Setup is similar to other Philips Hue light sources. The app finds out in seconds that there is a new light source in the house, then the light chain needs to be named and added to one of the rooms.
And then the fun begins. The Festavia chain has two basic modes: colour transition and scattered. If you choose colour transition, the light varies in colour zones (gradients) along the length of the chain. The transition is smooth, and you can define three points on the colour circle between which to fade. The chain is compatible with other Hue gradient light sources, such as the Signe Gradient lamps. If you select spread mode, the LEDs light up in different colours in a funfair-like way. Here you can choose six colours, which are then repeated along the entire length of the chain.
If the effect needs to be more subdued, the same functions can be selected on a white light scale, which varies between yellowish warm 2200K and icy cold 6500K.
Enough for a two-metre tree
The Festavia string light is long enough to fit a Christmas tree up to about two metres in height. That’s enough space for most private homes. If you have very high ceilings or want a Christmas tree that is covered more densely with light, you can use two chains. However, this requires some planning of the light pattern, which must be set separately for string light. You cannot link several strings electrically.
Once you’ve hung the string light on the tree (or in the window) and added it to the app, you’re ready to start the real fun. The Hue app includes a growing gallery of mood lighting that can be used on individual lamps or groups. The light chain, too. The lighting can be set to change with the hours of the day. You can also choose effects, such as animations that mimic flickering candles, fireplace fires or twinkling stars.
Once you’ve worked your way through the 89 light scenes in the gallery so far, you can start defining your own to use on the Christmas tree and lights around the house. Not because it’s useful in any way – but because it’s fun! Which makes the rather massive cost of Hue light sources an investment in entertainment.
It’s not cheap
And Festavia is probably mainly aimed at already loyal Hue users, who have smart bulbs of the same brand in all lamps – and who are only waiting for new ways to extend mood lighting in the house. If you’re used to buying regular LED bulbs and Christmas string lihgts without built-in intelligence, the price of more than a €150 will seem shocking. Not least considering that in most cases a Christmas string light will be tucked away in the box of Christmas decorations for eleven of the twelve months of the year.
In this context, we must commend Philips Hue for their well thought-out packaging. The string is rolled up on a cardboard trellis inside the box which can be reused at the end of the festive season – avoiding the 20-metre-long string getting tangled up. I have many Christmas string lights, and most of them are a pain to unwind every year!
If you’ve already decorated your home with lights from Philips Hue, Festavia is the natural icing on the cake. The string of lights can do things that no other string of lights can even dream of. Such as smooth colour transitions and light animations. Of course, in sync with the house’s other light sources, And frankly, it looks awesome! At 20 metres in length, one string is enough for most Christmas trees.
Philips Hue Festavia is also among the most expensive residential indoor string lights money can buy. Especially when you consider the number of LEDs. On the other hand, if you’re a Hue user, you’re used to paying a premium price to get the features you want. And the entertainment value of messing around with staging the lights in your home is well worth the money.