The latest light strip from TP-Link, the Tapo L930-5, is a great addition to any smart lighting setup. The gradient LED strip has almost everything you could want in a lighting strip – from tunable white light and dimming to music syncing and some neat lighting effects, all for under $50. It’s TP-Link’s first lighting product to work with Apple Home, it 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 shed some light in an awkward dark spot in your house or to add cool lighting effects under your cabinets, counters or even around your bed – if you feel like it have kind of thing.
The Tapo L930-5 is a RGBWIC LED strip — that alphabet soup means it has both RGB (with up to 16 million colors) and tunable white LEDs (up to 1,000 lumens). The separate white LEDs provide brighter and better quality white light than strips that only have RGB LEDs. The IC part means it uses an integrated chip so it can display different colors along the 50 different lighting zones instead of one color at a time. Very few LED light strips both have tunable white LEDs and addressable lighting, even fewer have all that and Apple Home support, and all That are much more expensive than the Tapo L930-5.
I have tested several smart light strips, from high-end Eve and Philips Hue versions budget comics by Fact, and the Tapo feels like it should cost more than it does. 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 along the bottom of my kitchen breakfast bar where I could use blue light to highlight the blue cabinetry and make the bar an architectural focal point or switch to white light to brighten up my dark living room.
The 5 meter long LED strip comes with a small controller with an on/off button and an AC adapter. I connected them, placed the strip and taped 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 struggled a bit to get a smooth fit when going through a tight corner. I ended up cutting the strip instead (the strips can be trimmed but cannot be reconnected).
The whole process took less than five minutes and the end result was wow-worthy. I say that confidently: My teens said, “Wow, that’s cool,” when they got home from school, and they’re really hard to impress.
TP-Link Tapo L930-5 Specifications
- Mate: 16.4 ft (non-extendable)
- Brightness: 1,000 lumens
- Color Temperature: 2500k to 6500k
- Dimming: 1% to 100%
- IP Rating: IP44 Water Resistant PU Coating
- Protocol: WiFi 2.4GHz
- Power source: AC adapter
- Guarantee: 2 years
- Works with: Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT
The Tapo app, which I’ll come 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 akara and smart bulbs from Philips Hue. With Apple Home I added the Tapo light strip to a Scene with all those other lights, linked to a Philips Hue motion sensor, and turn them all on when someone entered the kitchen. You can also set up an Alexa routine for this. Google Home doesn’t let sensors activate routines, but it does support voice control, just like the other two.
TP-Link recently announced that the Tapo line will support 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 whether new Matter-compatible products will be launched, but since Tapo products use Wi-Fi, there’s a clear upgrade path. A new version of the Tapo app will be released later this year, which Tapo says will “integrate all Matter-supported devices into one ecosystem.”
Unlike most smart lighting control apps, the Tapo app is well laid out, easy to use and has many features. I was able to schedule the lights, create six preset light scenes, choose from 17 effects (and create my own), and sync to music. The app also tracks energy usage, has an Away mode (to randomly turn the lights on and off to simulate someone’s home), and a timer that turns the lights on or off after a certain period of time.
The lighting effects of the Tapo app make use of the fifty individually addressable light zones of the light strip. My favorites were the Rainbow effect for some vibrant pops of color and the Aurora for a more soothing light show. I tried making some of my own effects, which were easy to do in the app, but the presets looked a lot better than anything I’d come up with. I will definitely be using the Bubbling Cauldron and Haunted Mansion options for my Halloween setup this year.
The Tapo also includes an Auto White mode, which sets the light to white and automatically adjusts the brightness based on the available light – although I’m not sure how it does that as I can’t find an ambient light sensor on it anywhere. However, this is a nice feature and means no bright light will shine at you when you dim other lights in your house. Unfortunately, although it dimmed automatically, it stayed at a single color temperature, despite the app telling it to adjust from cool to warm. In my testing, the light strip also didn’t work with Apple Home’s adaptive lighting feature. I contacted TP-Link regarding both features.
The Tapo light strip can sync to music or ambient sound, which it did relatively well, albeit a bit more robotic and less smooth than Philips Hue’s music sync feature. However, it uses the microphone on your smartphone or tablet, not a built-in microphone, like Nanoleaf lights and some Govee comics have:. This was annoying, especially since you have to keep the app on your phone open for it to work, and it kept getting disconnected. But that might be for the best if you don’t want your light strips to have a microphone.
If you have multiple Tapo products, you can link them together in the Tapo app with Smart Actions. These are scenes that let you control multiple devices at once by tapping a tile in the app, or automations that can be run 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, Kasa. The Tapo line also has an Apple Home-compatible smart plug, and earlier this year, TP-Link announced an Apple Home-compatible power strip, dimmer switch, and color lights coming soon.
For $49.99 for 16.4 feet of addressable lighting zones, RGB, and adjustable white LEDs, the Tapo L930-5 is by far the best, cheapest light strip that works with Apple Home. But if any of those features are negotiable, or if you really want the Adaptive Lighting feature, you have other options to consider, although most still cost a lot more.
One thing to note is that the L930-5 is currently only available in one length: 16.4 feet (or 5 meters). That’s much longer than most smart light strips, which usually start around six feet or two meters, although many can be extended to 32 feet (10 meters) or even longer. TP-Link does not sell expansion kits for the L930, but it does say: a 32-foot version of the L930 will start next month.
My teens said, “Wow, that’s cool”, and they’re really hard to impress
Unicolor Philips Hue light strips start at about $100 for six feet, and the gradient light strips start at $180 for six feet and 1800 lumens. You also need the Hue Bridge to support Apple Home’s Adaptive Lighting. The Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip ($50, 2,000 lumens) and Eve Light Strip ($80, 1800 lumens) also support Adaptive Lighting, but are expensive to expand and limited to one color at a time.
Even if you don’t want Apple Home support, the L930-5 is convincing. Most light strips in this price range cannot produce high-quality white light because they do not have separate white LEDs. Losing the white LEDs isn’t worth the $10 or $15 you would save by the Tapo L920-5, goveeor cashier smart light strips.
Unless you’re completely done with Adaptive Lighting or looking for a light strip that is 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 set of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze all these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to click ‘agree’ to use devices when we review them, since these are agreements that most people don’t read and certainly can’t negotiate.
To set up the Tapo L-930-5 on an iPhone, you can simply use the Apple Home app 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:
You can also choose to participate in the User Experience Improvement Program. Finally: two mandatory agreements, one optional.