Best answer: There are plenty of options from brands like TP-Link, Eufy, and now even Philips Hue, but LIFX makes the best smart bulbs that don't need a hub. They're pricey, but they work over Wi-Fi and play nicely with other smart home gadgets.
Light without the hub: LIFX A19 ($76 at Amazon)
No hubs needed
There's nothing more annoying than spending $30 or $40 (sometimes even more) on your first smart bulb, only to screw it into a light socket and realize that those smart features you paid for don't work without a hub — which is, of course, sold separately. This adds yet another expense to the already pricey lights, and setup can get complicated since the hub needs to be plugged into your router. Thankfully, not all smart bulbs require a hub.
LIFX makes bright, vivid bulbs that operate entirely over Wi-Fi without needing any additional accessories. You can link them to other smart home gadgets like a Google Nest Learning Thermostat, and they can be controlled with the voice assistant of choice by using your phone or a smart speaker. LIFX bulbs come in a variety of configurations to fit various lighting fixtures and budgets, and you can even get other form factors like light strips and panels.
You can also get independent bulbs from brands like Eufy, TP-Link, and C by GE. While each bulb comes with its own set of pros and cons, the important thing is that they can all be controlled through your phone without any kind of hub. C by GE bulbs, for example, typically operate over Bluetooth, rather than Wi-Fi, meaning you'll still need a hub to control them remotely.
Philips Hue has entered the chat
Philips Hue may be one of the most recognizable brands in the smart lighting space, but its bulbs have famously required a Hue Bridge for even the most basic functions. The benefit of the Bridge is that it quickly connects all of your bulbs, which is convenient when you plan on outfitting your entire home with Hue bulbs, but it makes them much less accessible if you're only after one or a few bulbs.
Fortunately, Philips Hue now includes Bluetooth functionality with many of its bulbs, namely the A19 and BR30 models. With this, you can control your Hue bulbs without a Hue Bridge, assuming you're within Bluetooth range — though similar to C by GE bulbs, you'll still need a hub to control them when you're away from home or for some more advanced features like Hue Sync and IFTTT.
Eventually, Philips Hue plans to add Bluetooth to its entire catalog, phasing out the Wi-Fi-only models over time. Until then, be sure to check for Bluetooth compatibility before buying a Hue bulb without a Bridge.
The best smart bulbs that work without a hub
LIFX offers a variety of different bulbs that all work over Wi-Fi without a hub and integrate with other services like Google Assistant and Google Nest. They're some of the brightest smart bulbs around and display a wide range of colors.
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