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TP-Link Tapo L930-5 review: A brilliant light strip

TP-Link’s newest light strip, the Tapo L930-5, is a great addition to any smart lighting setup. Full-color gradient LED strip lighting has almost everything you could want in a strip — from tunable white light and dimming to music sync and some cool lighting effects, all for under $50. This is the first lighting product from TP-Link to work with Apple Home Also Works with Alexa and Google Home, and it uses Wi-Fi so it doesn’t need a hub.

Smart LED light strips are an easy, plug-and-play way to add some light to a troublesome dark spot in your home, or to add some cool lighting effects to your cabinets, counters, or even around your bed. A kind of thing.

The Tapo L930-5 is an RGBWIC LED strip – that’s alphabet soup, meaning it contains both RGB (with up to 16 million colors) and tunable white LEDs (up to 1,000 lumens). Special white LEDs provide brighter and higher quality white light than strips that contain only RGB LEDs. The IC component means it uses an integrated chip, so it displays different colors in its 50 different lighting zones instead of just one color at a time. Very few LED light strips have tunable white LEDs And Addressable lighting, even fewer have it all and Apple Home support and everything That More expensive than Tapo L930-5.

I’ve tested a number of smart light strips, from the high-end Eve and Philips Hue versions to budget strips from Feat, and think the Tapo is more than worth its price. Even if you don’t need Apple Home support, it’s still better than anything else in its price range.

I installed the L930-5 below my kitchen breakfast bar, where I can use blue light to highlight the blue cabinets and turn the bar into an architectural focal point, or switch to white light to brighten my dark room.

Tapo light strip installed under breakfast counter.

Tapo light strip installed under breakfast counter.

The 16.4-foot (5-meter) LED strip comes with a small controller with an on/off button and an AC adapter. I connected them, placed the strip, and stuck it to the underside of my counter (literally stuck; it uses 3M tape). The biggest challenge was finding a spot with an outlet nearby, and I had a bit of trouble getting a smooth fit when turning a tight corner. I ended up cutting the strip instead (strips are cuttable but not reconnectable).

The whole process took less than five minutes and the end result was amazing. I’m confident: when my teenagers come home from school, they say, “Wow, that’s cool,” and they’re hard to impress.

A Tapo light strip with its controller and AC adapter.

A Tapo light strip with its controller and AC adapter.

TP-Link Tapo L930-5 Specs

  • Size: 16.4 feet (non-extendable)
  • Brightness: 1,000 lumens
  • Color Temperature: 2500k to 6500k
  • Fading: 1% to 100%
  • IP rating: IP44 Water-resistant PU coating
  • Protocol: Wi-Fi 2.4GHz
  • Power Sources: AC adapter
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Works with: Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT

The Tapo app I keep coming back to is better than most. But the real power of smart lighting comes from connecting to a smart home platform like Apple Home (formerly known as HomeKit), Google Home or Amazon Alexa, and Tapo supports all three.

In my kitchen, I have smart light switches from Lutron Caseta and Aqara and smart bulbs from Philips Hue. Using Apple Home, I added a Tapo light strip to a scene with all the other lights, linked it to a Philips Hue motion sensor, and turned them on when someone walked into the kitchen. You can even set up an Alexa routine to do this. Google Home doesn’t allow sensors to trigger routines but supports voice control like the other two.

TP-Link recently announced that it will support Topo Line Matter when the new smart home standard launches later this year. It’s unclear whether existing devices like the L930-5 will be upgraded or launch new Matter-compatible products, but since Tapo products use Wi-Fi there’s a clear upgrade path. A new version of the Tapo app is coming later this year, which Tapo says will “integrate all material-enabled devices into one ecosystem.”

Unlike most smart lighting control apps, the Tapo app is well-designed, easy to use, and offers many features. I can set lights on a schedule, create six preset light scenes, choose from 17 effects (as well as create my own) and sync with music. The app also monitors energy usage, has an away mode (to turn lights on and off randomly to simulate someone at home) and a timer that turns lights on or off after a set period of time.

The Tapo app’s lighting effects take advantage of the light strip’s fifty individually addressable lighting zones. My favorites are the rainbow effect for some vivid colors and the aurora for a more soothing light show. I tried creating some of my own effects, which is easy enough to do in the app, but the presets looked a lot better than what I found. I’m definitely going to use the Bubbling Cauldron and Haunted Mansion options for my Halloween setup this year.

A light strip under the counter next to the chairs

Tapo light strip installed under kitchen countertop.

The Tapo also has an auto white mode, which sets the light to white and automatically adjusts the brightness based on available light – although I’m not sure how it does that as I can’t find an ambient light sensor anywhere on it. It’s a nice feature though, and it means you won’t be shining a bright light when you dim other lights in your house. Unfortunately, when it automatically dims, it stays at one color temperature, even though the app says it should adjust from cool to warm. In my testing, the light strip didn’t even work with Apple Home’s adaptive lighting feature. I reached out to TP-Link about two features.

While the Tapo light strip can sync to music or ambient sound, it works relatively well, if a bit more robotic and less smooth than the Philips Hue’s Music Sync feature. However, it uses the microphone on your smartphone or tablet, not the built-in microphone, as is the case with Nanoleaf lights and some Gowi strips. It’s annoying, especially when you have to keep the app open on your phone for it to work and it keeps disconnecting. It might be best if you’re not interested in your light strips having a microphone.

If you have multiple Tapo products, you can link them together in the Tapo app with smart actions. These are scenarios that allow you to control multiple devices at once by tapping on a tile in the app or automations based on the time of day or when triggered by another Tapo device. The Tapo app only works with Tapo products, not TP-Link’s other smart home line Casa. The Tapo line also includes an Apple Home-compatible smart plug, and earlier this year, TP-Link announced that an Apple Home-compatible power strip, dimmer switch, and color bulbs are coming soon.

Kitchen counter with pink lights

The Tapo Light Strip produced rich, bright colors.

At $49.99 for 16.4 feet of addressable lighting zones, RGB, And With tunable white LEDs, the Tapo L930-5 is an excellent, cost-effective light strip that works with Apple Home. But if any of those features are negotiable, or if you really want the adaptive lighting feature, there are other options you should consider – albeit at a much higher cost.

It’s worth noting that the L930-5 currently only comes in one length: 16.4 feet (or 5 meters). This is much longer than most smart light strips, which typically start around six feet or two meters, but many can extend to 32 feet (10 meters) or more. TP-Link doesn’t sell extension kits for the L930, but says a 32-foot version of the L930 will launch next month.

My teenagers said, “Wow, that’s cool,” and they were hard to impress

Single-color Philips Hue light strips start at about $100 per six feet, and its gradient light strips start at $180 per six feet and 1,800 lumens. You’ll also need Hue Bridge to support Apple Home’s adaptive lighting. The NanoLeaf Essentials Light Strip ($50, 2,000 lumens) and Eve Light Strip ($80, 1,800 lumens) also support adaptive lighting but are expensive to deploy and limited to one color at a time.

Even if you don’t want Apple Home support, the L930-5 is compelling. Most light strips in this price range cannot produce high quality white light because they do not have dedicated white LEDs. The $10 or $15 worth of white LEDs you’ll save by getting the Tapo L920-5, Govee, or Kasa smart light strips isn’t worth losing.

Unless you’re completely set on adaptive lighting or waiting for a light strip guaranteed to work with matter and thread, this is the best, most affordable addressable light strip option right now.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Agree to continue: TP-Link Tapo

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before using it — contracts that no one actually reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze each and every one of these agreements. But since they’re contracts that most people don’t read and certainly can’t negotiate, we’ve started counting how many times you have to hit “Accept” to use the devices when we review them.

You can use the Apple Home app to set up the Tapo L-930-5 on an iPhone and scan the HomeKit code on the light strip controller. Or you can download the Tapo app (iOS and Android), create an account and agree to the following:

TP-Link Tapo Terms of Use

TP-Link Tapo Privacy Policy

You may also choose to join the User Experience Improvement Program. The final tally: two mandatory contracts, one optional.

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