Smart lights have existed for a long time and they range from really cheap and often bad ones to really expensive and mostly good. We all know about Philips Hue lights, after all they were the first big player in the market. Well… today we are going local and checking out a lights company called Near who is based here in Singapore. They look to bring quality smart lighting to every Singapore home without breaking the bank. Let’s see how good they are!
Jumping straight into it. Near has a growing range of products starting with smart light bulbs, downlights and led strips that you can control from the app or even integrate with Google home or Amazon Alexa. They also do this little universal infrared smart remote that can be configured to a whole range of devices such as aircons or TVs.
Outside of smart products they also have a night light and one of our favourites – orbit desk lamp. It is a remote controlled lamp that outputs a considerable amount of light and also has RGB with a bunch of lighting modes. We like it as an accent light in our set but it can be used as a vanity light or just a good looking desk lamp.
When it comes to smart lights, we really like the RGB stip kit which is a 2 metre self adhesive strip and can be extended up to 10metres using these extensions. To link them up, you have this little plastic connector which clicks them together and extends.
Some use cases can be to place them around the back of your TV console or behind the couch to have a nice mood lighting when watching TV. We really like them behind our shelving unit, it makes the set pop and the added flexibility of changing the colour means we can always change things up. One thing to mention – as it stands right now, these strips have no corner adapters so you need to bear that in mind when planning where to place them. Hopefully the team at Near can design some angled adapters in the future.
We were actually surprised how easy it is to set these smart lights up. Simply register an account, log in, click add device and in the app you can select the type of the device you would like to set up. As per instructions, it normally needs you to turn the device on and off a few times to enable pairing mode, then you will need to add it to your Wi-Fi and name it. I recommend creating a few rooms in the app so you can assign it and have all the devices neatly managed. This also helps with grouping the devices if you wanted to turn on the whole room or area in your home. If you want to set-up any other Near devices, simply follow the same process.
The app itself has a considerable amount of functionality. Everything from setting up all the devices in their corresponding rooms to some basic automation. You can enable chain actions such as turning on one light which in turn will enable others or have triggers set up based on weather conditions such as rain or cloudy, also sunrise and sunset. If you don’t want any external factors, you can set up simple schedules.
A feature I would like to have in the future is location based triggers. It would be nice to have lights and AC to automatically turn off when we leave the house and turn on when we come back. Talking about AC – this little IR remote can control basic functionality on most air conditioners and a whole stack of other devices such as fans, air purifiers, TVs and so on. They also have a DIY mode where you can train the device using your existing remote to create custom controls. We have tested it with our AC and TV in the living room and it is nice to control them from the phone.
The smart controls don’t end here. As I have mentioned earlier – Near devices can be integrated with smart home systems like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. All you have to do is go to Google Home and add integration, then select Near and you will be prompted to log in. Once done, click authorise. This will link the accounts and devices that are already set-up in the Near app and will be available to control. With all of this done you can now add them to groups in Google Home and control them via voice commands. This applies to lights and also devices linked via the IR remote. Pretty neat if you ask me.
Lastly let’s talk about the price. Starting with the most basic and common – the smart bulb. It is only 20 Singapore dollars. When compared to Phillips Hue – the RGB bulb will set you back almost 90 dollars. Plus you would require a hub which is not the case with Near. The more realistic kit from Philips Hue is a hub plus 3 lights which retails close to 300 (to be fair, they always have deals and drop it down closer to 200). Even at its cheapest – that is still equivalent to 10 lights from Near. Granted, at the moment Near has fewer fancy features and integrations, also they will likely have less frequent features added in, nevertheless price difference is hard to ignore.
Just to ensure we are comparing apples to apples – we set-up the desk lamp with both Philips Hue and Near light and did a side by side test. First we have the more standard white and tungsten settings then RGB. To us they are very comparable and in fact Near light seems brighter, but it can also be because it protrudes more from the hood.
To wrap this up – what do I think about these lights? It is clear the app is well made and the setup process is really easy. I love that they have gone the extra step and set up integrations with smart home assistants. The only thing we are not able to test is longevity as this is something we need to test over the coming years. Near does offer a two year warranty and at this price I am really impressed with what they deliver. I look forward to seeing what else they offer in the future.
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