Hue dials it up with its latest Smart Switch

The $49.99 Philips Hue Tap Dial Switch is a smart lighting controller for Hue superusers. It’s the most powerful and innovative Hue accessory ever, with four buttons and a physical dial for dimming. Out of the box, the buttons and dials are tied to a zone or room, making it appear like an overly powerful Hue Smart Dimmer Switch. But why limit yourself to one room when it can control your Hue lights throughout your home?

Tap Dial is a wireless, battery-powered smart switch that can turn your Philips Hue lights on and off, brighten and dim them, and set the lighting scene. With a magnetic base, it can be attached to its included wall plate like a regular wall switch or mounted on a metal or flat surface for use as a remote control.

It is part of Hue’s smart lighting ecosystem, which works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Samsung SmartThings. Also confirmed by Signify (Hue’s owner) ledge That the switch will be upgraded to work with the new smart home standard matters. This means that one day, it may be able to control a lot more than just Hue lights.

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The Tap Dial is heavy, weighing in at only two and a half ounces (an ounce heavier than the Apple TV remote). But that weight is to its advantage; You can rotate the dial while sitting on the table, and it won’t move around. The dial has a pretty solid feel as soon as you turn it, with good haptic feedback. It’s a lot like rotating the Nest Learning Thermostat, and it’s only a tiny piece of that. It also worked quickly and reliably, and the dimming action was smooth and responsive, with no noticeable lag.

Out of the box, it’s set to dim whatever light, room, or zone it’s paired with in the Hue app. Buttons one to three adjust light levels, and the fourth cycles through five Hue scenes. The dial gives more precise dimming, and a long press on any button turns the lights off. (Hue views are different combinations of brightness, color temperature, or hue depending on the type of bulbs you have.)

But there’s no real reason to buy a Tap Dial if you’re only going to control one room or area. That’s what the Hue Dimmer Switch does well for about half the price. The Tap Dial shines as a multizone controller for those with lots of Hue lights.

To illuminate your lights, turn the dial to the right and dim to the left. The faster you spin it, the faster it glows; The slower you turn it, the more precisely you control the dimming level.

I set up the Tap Dial in my entrance hall, with each button programmed to control a different part of my home. Button one turned on all the Hue lights in the home, button two in the entry hall and living room, button three up the lights, and button four the down lights. I also added some color scenes for subsequent button presses (you can press each button up to 10 times to cycle through additional scenes) but didn’t find myself using them often.

I set the dial to control all the lights at once. One limitation of using the tap dial in this way is that the dial can only control either All Light or a room or area. I’d like it to dim or brighten the lights for whatever button you just pressed. Here’s a slightly clunky workaround to use the second and third press on each button to dim the lights that aren’t controlled by the dial.

Default setup in the Hue app (left); settings for the dial (which includes the option to at least turn the brightness on and off); And the option to cycle through multiple scenes (up to 10) with subsequent presses.

The advantage of this is that I have a central lighting controller that gives me physical access to all the lights in my house without having to take out my phone or use voice commands. Which makes this gadget really useful. If my home were fully furnished with colorful lights, I would consider it an essential purchase. It doesn’t, though, and while it can effectively control every smart light in my home, regardless of brand (which it might be able to do when Matter gets here), it makes it a must-have. Makes better than should be for me.

The other issue is that with what I thought was an intuitive setup, it’s not easy to remember which button does what, and I’d like the option of labeling them with a small icon or emoji.

The Tap dial is weighty in the hand, and its strong magnet easily snaps back into the wall plate.

If your entire home is equipped with Hue bulbs and light fixtures, it’s a handy physical controller to manage them all. If you have Hue outdoor lighting, it can be programmed to control that too. At $50, it’s an expensive piece of kit, plus it uses Zigbee, so you should have a Hue Bridge ($59.99), but there aren’t many good solutions for underpowered smart bulbs.

Most smart dimmer switches only work with standard bulbs, not smart ones. Your other options for Hue bulbs, besides asking the voice assistant to set the illumination to 70 percent or including in a smartphone app, are pressing and holding a button on the Hue dimmer switch ($28) or rotating the rotating dial on the Lutron Aurora. is included. ($40), a retrofit alternative to toggle switches. I’ve tried all of these, and the Tap Dial is definitely the best one to use.

The Tap Dial Switch can be used with or without a wall mount, which is larger than a standard wall plate.

The four buttons have raised dots so you can know which one you’re pressing even in the dark.

The Switch uses a single CR2032 battery that should last up to two years. (The first tap switch was kinetically operated).

If you only have a few Hue bulbs, you’ll be in a better position with the cheaper Hue Smart Dimmer, which is everything this device can do, just with less individual room controls and a clunkier interface for dimming.

The Smart Dimmer also has a time-based lighting option – where the lights turn on at a certain brightness based on the time of day – a great feature that, oddly enough, hasn’t been offered on the Tap dial yet. Kelly Hank, head of PR at Signify, told me this feature is coming soon. The Switch also isn’t integrated into the Hue app’s Hue Labs feature, which lets you set more powerful lighting scenes, and Hrank says there are no plans to do so.

Like the previously discontinued Hue Tap, the Tap Dial can be used as a HomeKit view controller, but right now, you shouldn’t fret. The dial doesn’t work in HomeKit (which is a limitation of Apple, not Hue), and you can only use one press to trigger automation. This makes the $50 dial switch a less useful version of the Wemo Stage I just reviewed, which is designed specifically for HomeKit and was quicker to drive HomeKit Automations than the Tap Dial in testing.

Tap Dial will get more features soon. The “Configure in HomeKit” option has been available for Hue accessories for years, but the Hue app now has an option to configure the Tap Dial in another app—the Tap Dial is the first Hue accessory to support it. option doesn’t do anything yet, but hank said ledge That Amazon Alexa will be one of those apps in which you can set up Tap Dial up.

This should This means you’ll be able to use the Tap Dial to control any Alexa-compatible smart device (not just Hue, and not just Lights), as is the case when using HomeKit. Plus, if the dial is in contact with Alexa, it would be a very useful lighting control for the vast Alexa ecosystem, especially if you can use the buttons to trigger routines. As soon as it becomes available I will test it and report back.

All of this openness is part of Matter’s preparation, a unique feature of which is multi-admin controls – the option to set the devices to be controlled by any Matter-compatible ecosystem. With Matter-Support, the Tap Dial can be used to control every light in my home, regardless of who made them—a better proposition than being locked into Hue’s expensive ecosystem.

But don’t buy the Tap Dial now for what you might be able to do later. If you have Hue lights throughout your home and want to control them from a single device (with a physical dimmer!), the Tap Dial is now useful. For anyone else, wait and see what’s to come.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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