MEGATech Reviews: TP-Link Smart Home (HS105 Smart Plug, LB130 Smart Bulb)
Just as the company has done with its lineup of routers and networking products, TP-Link is offering an attractively elegant approach to the world of smart home technology.
  • Kasa mobile app is clean and robust
  • No hub needed for smart bulb
  • Setup is an absolute breeze
  • "White" on smart bulb isn't really white
  • Power button placement on smart plug may be inconvenient
  • 800 lumens isn't really that bright
9Overall Score

Our homes are getting smarter and our Internet is populating with all sorts of things. As an interested consumer, you have a lot of choices when it comes to the various components and systems you'd like to use to fill your increasingly intelligent dwelling. Today, we'll be exploring a couple of TP-Link smart home options in the Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini (HS105) and the Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb with color-changing hue (LB130). I'm sure the choice of "hue" there is purely coincidental.

TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini (HS105)

You might recall that I included the Belkin WeMo Mini Smart Plug as part of my list of stocking stuffer recommendations last month. The comparison between the WeMo offering and this TP-Link smart home product is undeniable and unavoidable. They're both more compact versions of their larger counterparts, designed in such a way as not to obstruct the other power outlet either above or below where you place this.

The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini is roughly the same height and depth as its WeMo contemporary, but it isn't quite as wide. While the difference is hardly monumental, it is immediately noticeable. Part of the reason for this is that the physical power button is not on the front; instead, TP-Link has placed it on the side. This isn't really a pro or a con, necessarily, because it depends on the specifics of where you'd like to place it.

You'll also notice the translucent ring in its rounded square shape on the same side as the power button. I thought that the entire ring would light up with notifications. Instead, it's just a single, very small color LED situated on the top-left corner (when viewed from the side). It glows blue when it's on, off when it's off, and orange during setup.

Like the other products in the TP-Link smart home family, the mini smart plug works in tandem with the Kasa mobile app and it is also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant. More on that in a moment. Essentially, this is one of the most basic components of a potential smart home. You simply leave the appliance (floor lamp, coffee machine, whatever) on, and the smart plug can then be turned on and off based on voice command, mobile app, schedule, and other triggers.

TP-Link Multicolor Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb (LB130)

The elephant in the room when it comes to smart bulbs has to be the Philips Hue family of products. To that end, the TP-Link multicolor smart bulb functions in much the same way. You can get it in a white-only version if you want to save a few bucks, but I'd recommend getting the color version because it really is that much more fun. I mean, you might as well, right?

Unlike the Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Kit, which has since been discontinued, the TP-Link smart bulb does not require a separate hub for connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. That's a big plus, because it means that setup and configuration is that much more straightforward. Just screw it into any standard E26 socket (this bulb is the standard A19 shape, for your reference) and you're good to go.

Like other similar color LED bulbs, the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb can cycle through a myriad of different colors and it supports dimming. This means you can have it do anything from a 50% blue to a 20% red to a 65% purple and anything in between. In use, I found what TP-Link refers to as "white" light to be a tad too blue (purple?) for my tastes and this seems to be the case with a lot of LED bulbs in general.

I currently have the bulb installed in my ceiling light and I generally found the "soft white" setting to be more pleasing, even if it is distinctly more "yellow" (as soft white is). Even though this 11W LED bulb is rated 800 lumens and is meant to be a 60W equivalent, I found the maximum brightness on the soft white setting still a little too dim. To be fair, my ceiling light fixture is designed for two bulbs (but I am using the single TP-Link bulb without my ceiling light cover).

Setup, Settings and Options with Kasa Mobile App

You may have noticed that TP-Link has undergone a serious rebranding effort these last couple of years and I have to say that the effort is paying off. Everything from the packaging to the user experience is so clean and so elegant, and this includes the Kasa mobile app that you use to manage TP-Link smart home products.

After you download the app and create an account (if you don't already have one), adding devices to your smart home is an absolute breeze. You simply tap on the "plus" symbol in the top-right corner and select the device you'd like to add. This includes TP-Link's own products, as well as devices that have been designated as "Works with Kasa." The visual wizard is really easy to follow and literally only takes a few moments.

As with so many other solutions in this niche, you can choose an icon and define a unique name for each product you add to your ecosystem.

One unique feature that you may not find elsewhere, though, is that you can choose to take a photo to represent your product too. That's certainly easier to recognize than "Living Room Light 1" with a generic icon of a floor lamp.

In the case of the Smart Plug Mini, you have the standard option of turning it on and off remotely, of course. In addition, you can set a schedule so that it'll turn on and off at set times on your chosen days of the week. There's also a timer so that it will either turn on or off after a certain time has elapsed. Another feature that I really liked is something called Away mode. This will randomly turn the plug on and off for a defined period of time, simulating as if you were home.

You get the same kinds of features with the smart bulb, with the added options of controlling its color and intensity. There are a number of quick access presets you can define, like 60% blue, but you can also dive right into the color grid to pick exactly the hue you want, as well as the dimness from 0-100%. The last color you pick before the bulb turns off will be the color (and intensity) it will be when it turns back on.

Switching to the "white" tab in picking a color, you are also offered a spectrum of color temperatures, ranging from 2500K on the warm end to 9000K on the cool end. As mentioned earlier, the default "white" (5000K) is bluer than it appears on your mobile screen. There's also "auto-white," which adjusts to mimic daylight color and brightness throughout the day.

In both the case of the Smart Plug Mini and the Smart Bulb, you can check on the runtime today, in the past 7 days and in the past 30 days, including daily averages. With the bulb, you can also check on your energy usage (and energy savings compared to a standard 60W bulb).

The Day-to-Day TP-Link Smart Home Experience

In practice, after the initial configuration, I actually very rarely found myself in the Kasa mobile app. Instead, I chose to control the TP-Link smart home products primarily with Alexa and the Amazon Echo. I connected the two as part one of my routines, for instance, where both lights (I have the smart plug connected to my bias lighting kit on my monitors) would turn on and Alexa would start my Flash Briefing when I say, "Alexa. Good morning."

Similarly, I can turn to Alexa on my Echo to adjust the color and brightness of the smart bulb, should I so desire to work under some orange, purple, blue, or green light for whatever reason. This can be accomplished with simple commands like "change smart bulb color to green" or "dim smart bulb to fifty percent." I imagine the experience would be mostly similar with something like the Google Home Mini and Google Assistant.

And this is through no fault of TP-Link, but I found Alexa didn't understand when I said something like "change smart bulb to blue fifty percent." I have to change color and brightness as two separate voice commands.

MEGATechie Intelligent Elegance or MEGATechie Kasa Conundrum?

It may be true that you can haphazardly combine smart home products from all sorts of different companies to arrive at a solution that works for your household. It's also true that life is a lot easier if you stick to one ecosystem. I really like what TP-Link has done with the Kasa app and given my experience with these two products, I am optimistic about how other TP-Link smart home products would fit into my daily routine.

It's all so clean, elegant and reasonably affordable (as far as techie Internet of Things toys go). The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini (HS105) sells for about $30 each (or about $50 for a two-pack), whereas the TP-Link Multicolor Smart Wi-Fi LED Bulb (LB130) retails for $35 each (or about $20 each for the LB100 white-only bulb). You'll also find occasional deals where a smart bulb comes bundled with an Echo, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

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