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

TP-Link’s new light strip, the Tapo L930-5, is a great addition to any smart lighting setup. The Color Gradient LED Strip has almost everything you could want in a lighting strip – from adjustable white light and dimming to music sync and neat lighting effects, all for less of $50. It is TP-Link’s first lighting product to work with Apple Home, it too works with Alexa and Google Home, and it uses Wi-Fi, so it doesn’t need a hub.

Smart LED strip lights are an easy, plug and play way to light up an awkward dark spot in your home or add cool lighting effects under your cabinets, counters or even around your bed – if you like that sort of thing.

The Tapo L930-5 is an RGBWIC LED strip – this alphabet soup means it has both RGB LEDs (with up to 16 million colors) and dimmable white LEDs (up to 1000 lumens ). Separate white LEDs give it a brighter, higher 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 its 50 different lighting areas instead of just one color at a time. Very few LED strip lights have both tunable white LEDs and addressable lighting, fewer still have all that and Apple Home support, and all those are much more expensive than the Tapo L930-5.

I’ve tested several smart light strips, from high-end Eve and Philips Hue versions to budget strips from Feit, 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 under my kitchen bar, where I could use blue light to accent the blue cabinetry and make the bar an architectural focal point or switch to white light to brighten up my dark living room.

The Tapo light strip installed under a breakfast counter.

The Tapo light strip installed under a breakfast counter.

The 16.4 feet (5 meters) LED strip comes with a small controller with an on/off button and a power adapter. I connected them, positioned the strip and stuck it under my counter (literally stuck; it uses 3M tape). The biggest challenge was finding a spot with a nearby grip, and I had a little trouble getting a smooth fit when going around a tight turn. I ended up cutting the strip instead (the strips are adjustable but cannot be reconnected).

The whole process took less than five minutes and the end result was stunning. I say this with confidence: my teenagers said, “Wow, that’s cool,” when they came home from school, and they’re very hard to impress.

Tapo light strip with its controller and power adapter.

Tapo light strip with its controller and power adapter.

TP-Link Tapo L930-5 Specifications

  • Cut: 16.4 feet (not expandable)
  • Brightness: 1000 lumens
  • Color temperature: 2500k to 6500k
  • Mitigation: 1% to 100%
  • IP rating: IP44 water resistant PU coating
  • Protocol: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
  • Energy 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 it 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 the Tapo light strip to a scene with all these other lights, linked to a Philips Hue motion sensor, and turned them all on when someone entered the kitchen. You can also set up an Alexa Routine to do this. Google Home doesn’t let sensors trigger routines but 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 if existing devices like the L930-5 will be upgraded or if it will launch new Matter-enabled products, but since Tapo products use Wi-Fi, there is a clear upgrade path. A new version of the Tapo app is coming later this year which Tapo says can “integrate all Matter-supported devices into a single ecosystem.”

Unlike most smart lighting control apps, the Tapo app is well-designed, easy to use, and offers plenty of features. I could set the lights on a schedule, create six preset light scenes, choose from 17 effects (as well as create my own), and sync to music. The app also monitors power consumption, has an Away mode (to turn the lights on and off randomly to mimic someone at home) and a timer that will turn the lights on or off after a period of time. defined.

The lighting effects in the Tapo app take advantage of the light strip’s fifty individually addressable lighting zones. My favorites were the rainbow effect for bright pops of color and the aurora for a more soothing light show. I tried creating some of my own effects, which were easy to do in the app, but the presets were way better than anything I had imagined. I will definitely be using the Bubbling Cauldron and Haunted Mansion options for my Halloween setup this year.

A light strip under a counter next to chairs

The Tapo light strip installed under a kitchen worktop.

The Tapo also includes 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 this as I can’t find any null ambient light sensors go over it. It’s a nice feature, though, and it means you don’t end up with a bright light shining on you when you dim other lights in your home. Unfortunately, even though it faded automatically, it remained at one color temperature, despite the app indicating that it should go from cold to warm. In my testing, the light strip also didn’t work with Apple Home’s adaptive lighting feature. I contacted TP-Link about both features.

The Tapo lightstrip can sync with music or ambient sound, which it did reasonably well, although a little more robotically and less smoothly than Philips Hue’s music sync feature. However, it uses your smartphone or tablet’s microphone, not a built-in microphone like Nanoleaf lights and some Govee strips do. It was annoying, especially since you have to keep the app open on your phone for it to work, and it kept disconnecting. But it might be better if you don’t like 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 run based on the time of day or when triggered by another device Tapo. The Tapo app only works with Tapo products, not TP-Link’s other smart home line, Kasa. The Tapo range also features an Apple Home-compatible smart plug, and earlier this year TP-Link announced that an Apple Home-compatible power strip, dimmer and color bulbs would soon be available.

Kitchen counter with pink lights

The Tapo light strip produces rich, bright colors.

At $49.99 for 16.4 feet of addressable, RGB, and Tunable white LEDs, the Tapo L930-5 is by far the best and cheapest light strip that works with Apple Home. But if any of those features are negotiable, or 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 only available in one length at the moment: 16.4 feet (or 5 meters). That’s a lot longer than most smart strip lights, which usually start around six feet or two meters, although many can be extended to 32 feet (10 meters) or even more. TP-Link doesn’t sell extension kits for the L930, but it says a 32-foot version of the L930 will launch next month.

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

Philips Hue monochromatic strip lights start at around $100 for six feet, and its gradient light strips start at $180 for six feet and 1,800 lumens. You’ll also need the Hue bridge to support Apple Home’s adaptive lighting. The Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip ($50, 2,000 lumens) and Eve Lightstrip ($80, 1,800 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 compelling. 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’d save by getting the Tapo L920-5, Govee, or Kasa smart light strips.

Unless you’re dead set on using adaptive lighting or expecting a light strip that’s guaranteed to work with Matter and Thread, this is the best and most affordable addressable light strip option right now.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy/MovieBeat

Accept to continue: TP-Link Tapo

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it – contracts that no one actually reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze each of these agreements. But we’ve started counting exactly how many times you have to click “accept” to use devices when we review them, because those are deals 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:

TP-Link Tapo Terms of Service

TP-Link Tapo Privacy Policy

You can also choose to join the User Experience Improvement Program. Finally score: two mandatory agreements, one optional.

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