The Best Christmas Lights 1
A smart phone using an app to program a nearby lit multicolor length of Twinkly Generation II Smart RGB-W LED String Lights, our upgrade pick for best Christmas lights.Picture: Michael Hession

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Twinkly Generation II Smart RGB-W LED String Lights

Twinkly Technology II Sensible RGB-W LED String Lights

With 16 million coloration selections and a library of customizable animations and results, the Twinklys are extremely versatile. However they’re costly, and the app may use some work.

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*On the time of publishing, the value was $160.

The Wi-Fi–enabled Twinkly Technology II Sensible RGB-W LED String Lights are probably the most strong and versatile Christmas lights we’ve ever examined. They’re additionally the costliest. However when you’re really critical about Christmas—and perhaps different holidays too—a Twinkly set is price the fee (the cost-per-bulb additionally drops considerably when you improve to the 400-light set). Different firms, together with GE, have tried to create color-changing lights, however none of them have come near what Twinkly has accomplished with these lights: 16 million coloration selections that may be utilized to a probably limitless variety of patterns and lighting results, all of which may be managed and customised by way of an app. You’re not restricted to the usual solid-white or multicolor choices that blink on and off—you may create a pulsating glow, or alternating sparkles of various colours, or perhaps a scrolling movement with the colours of your favourite sports activities crew. With one faucet, you may set your lights to imitate the glimmer of falling snow or the swelling of a hearth and even the Italian flag (the corporate relies in Italy; however you may simply sub in a special flag too). Whereas the know-how isn’t completely excellent but, it’s nonetheless fairly spectacular and gives a lot wider versatility than commonplace Christmas lights. They’re additionally weather-resistant, to allow them to work indoors or outdoor.

The Twinkly setup course of is pretty easy and simple, a minimum of so far as it’s with any smart-home system is. Obtain the Twinkly app, and it walks you thru all the things you want. In case your private home Wi-Fi community doesn’t attain out to the place you’ve set them up, the lights even include their very own built-in (internet-less) Wi-Fi community so you may nonetheless management them by way of the app. As soon as they’re arrange, you’ve got the choice to “map” your Christmas lights by holding up your cellphone digital camera to them such as you’re taking an image. You are able to do this two-dimensionally (in case your lights are on a railing, for instance), three-dimensionally (throughout the Christmas tree, for instance), or under no circumstances. The app intuitively identifies which bulbs are the place and makes use of this data to plot customizable animations throughout your gentle show; you may even select one particular person gentle to make a special coloration from the remainder. As skilled lighting/projection designer Ari Herzig instructed us, “You’re not paying for the lights—you’re paying for the software program.” Additionally they instructed us {that a} comparable course of on a regular skilled lighting board would most likely take about 4 to 6 hours.

A room decorated using Twinkly Smart String Lights, including a Christmas tree with red and white lights forming a candy cane twist, plus a red and white design on the mantlepiece. A mixture of preset and programmable patterns enables you to customise the look of a tree in any approach conceivable—why cease at hanging sweet canes when you may make your complete tree a large sweet cane? Picture: Twinkly

Whereas this mapping course of is a exceptional technological achievement, it’s additionally considerably cumbersome and unreliable. It will get confused if there are different lights close by—together with different Twinkly units—and generally misinterprets reflections on the glass on a lightweight bulb. The consumer interface for the mapping characteristic is equally complicated. Be warned: The app will rotate and mean you can map your lights in panorama mode, however then it compresses them again right into a confusingly squished portrait mode view. You may’t zoom in to get a better take a look at the person bulbs in a cluster of lights, both. However until you’re very explicit about some extremely specified lighting animation plans that you just’ve devised, you may nonetheless accomplish quite a bit with this. And even a pretty-good mapping goes to look cooler than something you’ll obtain with an analog gentle show.

As with all new know-how, the personalised customer support you get from a specialised retailer can prevent from some critical complications. Christmas Designers even has a devoted crew to stroll you thru any setup points you would possibly encounter. Should you do find yourself buying by way of an enormous field retailer like Amazon, nonetheless, Twinkly does have a help part on their web site as effectively. On the intense aspect, as soon as your Twinklys are arrange, you don’t should do it once more; Wirecutter product supervisor Samuel Roth has been utilizing the identical mapping setup for 3 years, regardless of some preliminary frustrations.

Should you don’t need to cope with the mapping course of, the default Twinkly lighting choices are nonetheless strong sufficient that you just doubtless gained’t get bored. There are pre-programmed gentle animations that mimic falling snow, fireworks, sliding doorways, spirals, and even loopy traces and snakes (a single off-color path of lights shifting by way of an in any other case solid-colored sea), and you may select nearly any coloration you may fathom—or a minimum of any coloration you may select from the colour wheel with a fastidiously pointed finger. Relying on the impact, you can even customise the velocity and brightness of the actions or altering colours, and whether or not or not the lights keep lit, or pulsate, or flicker, et cetera. The app has a “retailer” the place you may obtain new results, too. Among the results even include a music sync possibility that makes use of the built-in mic in your cellphone. (The corporate additionally sells a separate music dongle that allows you to sync a number of strands collectively, utilizing an algorithm that learns the rhythms of a tune in actual time; it’s imperfect and but extra spectacular than it has any proper to be, and doubtless pointless until you’re actually into critical multimedia shows.)

A looping video of a smart phone using an app to program a nearby mass of Twinkly LED String Lights. As the hand paints a section purple on the app, purple lights turn on in the strands. The hand then paints a different section green and green lights join the already lit purple on the light strand. Customized-mapping through the Twinkly app enables you to designate sure colours for particular components of the tree. Getting this to operate completely may be difficult, however when it really works, it’s wonderful. Video: Michael Hession

So far as coloration constancy goes, the Twinkly lights are usually phenomenal. It’s onerous to present specifics—we couldn’t check all 16 million coloration choices—however the truth that you may choose a customized shade and brilliance already units them aside from different Christmas lights. Our solely actual criticism was the “pure” white, which is evident at full brightness and generally flickered or buzzed when used together with sure results (notably with the horizontal flag impact). Fortunately, that is straightforward to keep away from: Merely open the colour selector within the app, choose a shade of yellow or blue (relying in your choice for heat or cool white), then drag the black-white slider down so it’s virtually all the way in which to the white aspect of the spectrum, however not fairly. (We truly appreciated the truth that we may create a customized heat white tone primarily based on our private preferences, too.)

Not like most Christmas lights, the Twinkly lights can’t piggyback on each other to create longer strands. They’re additionally wired in a Y form, with the plug extending from the middle, with the lights cut up evenly to the left and proper from there. That is completely different from what most individuals have come to anticipate with Christmas lights, and it would truly assist them match higher on some homes. The one draw back is that it’s tougher to ball them up for storage with out tangling the 2 arms collectively. However when you wrap the 2 ends individually—or simply by no means take your Twinkly lights down—you ought to be high quality.

Like with the mapping characteristic, the app usually may use somewhat UI enchancment. And each the app and the lights often crash, although it’s not clear whether or not this can be a RAM subject, a software program bug, or only a results of an overeager Wirecutter tester intentionally attempting to interrupt one thing. General, nonetheless, it’s nonetheless spectacular know-how, and it’s prone to maintain getting higher with every successive firmware replace. The Twinkly lights are additionally appropriate with Alexa and Google House, though the combination isn’t very dependable but both.

The Twinkly lights will not be solely a wonderful possibility for Christmas, however they’re a improbable device for lighting design total. At round $125 for 250 lights, they might seem to be a steep funding (the 400-count set is a greater deal at round $175). However the know-how will maintain bettering, and so they additionally give you a year-round ornament that may be custom-made for any event, and nonetheless maintain up in opposition to the rain, sleet, or snow. And meaning you may impress the neighbors much more, with none further setup or cleanup.