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Is the Holi Smart Mood Lamp the ultimate night lamp? Mood lamp? Disco ball? Quite possibly.

From French start-up FiveFive, the Holi is currently retailing in Europe for €199 and is expected to launch in the US in March for around $200. That’s on par with a Phillips Hue starter kit, a set of of three RGB smartphone-controlled bulbs that fit into your existing fittings.

You’d expect great things for €200, so does it deliver? What better way to find out than to buy one? Since we spent our own cash on this review unit, you should expect an honest, unbiased product review.

Design and First Impressions

holi smart lamp review

The box is sparse; containing the main unit with attached cable, USB power adapter, European and UK plugs, and a quick start guide.

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holi smart lamp review

From the front, the sleek aluminium frame certainly looks like an objét d’art. It’s smaller and lighter than I expected – a square of no more than 21 centimetres. Can it deliver enough light?

holi smart lamp review

Around the back, a clear plastic panel encloses a total of nine super bright RGB LEDs – three on each side except for the base. There’s also a further nine white LEDs used to provide basic light. In total, the unit is claimed to output around 500 lumens, which is just brighter than a 40 watt bulb. It’s all rather solidly made and doesn’t feel like it would break easily.

holi smart lamp review

But the illusion of grandeur is abruptly shattered by the inclusion of a bright blue power cable. In fairness, it is a nice durable cable with a woven nylon sheath, but honestly what were they thinking? I’m no expert in interior design, but seriously, blue? Why blue?

holi - hideous blu cable

Also somewhat disappointingly, the thick power cable actually is located right in the corner and so stiff, such that out of the box the lamp actually can’t stand up right without falling over. I needed to forcibly squash it flat a few times. The fact that’s it naturally unstable given the nature of a being a tall bit of metal obviously doesn’t help here, but I do think a little more thought could have been put into positioning that cable.

holi lamp review

Setup

The instruction guide – a four-panel pictorial – isn’t rocket science. After plugging the device in, three seconds on the power button turns it on, with a soothing blue pulsating light indicating it’s ready to be connected to. From any iOS device, you can then find the Holi through Bluetooth, and pair with the device – it pulses green to indicate success.

holi smart lamp

Features

First up is the Collection – a selection of keyworded light scenes and “choreographies” supposed to represent specific seasons or evoke particular emotions. Most of them are dynamic in some way rather than being static colour, though to varying degrees. The autumn scene, for instance, is predominantly red/orange with a little swirl of white and yellow occasionally, while the “twist” is a fairly rapid cycle through the full colour spectrum.

Next is the Music mode. When it works, the music mode is surprisingly satisfying – a basic colour is chosen for each song, which pulsates to the bass and tempo changes, with the bright white LEDs being used like “blinder” effects at a concert. That said, the music mode only works through the iOS app – there’s no microphone on the lamp itself – and even then, you’ll need to queue songs using the app. Considering you can buy a hardware musical interface for a strip of 5 metre RGB LEDs that are brighter and work with your existing music system for $30, this is a little underwhelming.

holi smart lamp

Lastly, there’s a Wake Up mode, which acts like a sunrise alarm. There’s only 4 different scenes that can be selected here, none of which can be previewed – it simply continues playing whatever scene was already programmed. When you hit “activation”, the Holi turns off. I presume this is designed to be done just before going to bed, but it’s somewhat limiting if you have to do this every night. The alarm also sounds on your iOS device at the designated time with a suitably relaxing bit of music – a different one for each alarm scene. It would be nice to preview these, but I’ve got to say I’ve really enjoyed being woken up by the Holi, and I’m not normally one to go for alarms. That said, putting together your own Arduino sunrise alarm Arduino Night Light and Sunrise Alarm Project Arduino Night Light and Sunrise Alarm Project Today, we'll be making a sunrise alarm clock, which will gently and slowly wake you without resorting to an offensive noise-making machine. Read More isn’t tough.

There is also a single switch on the front of the device; a single tap activates the lamp to the last scene that was programmed, even if the app is closed or your iOS device has disconnected. A second tap turns the lamp on full white brightness; a third at half brightness; and a fourth tap to turn it off again.

holi lamp review

Living With the Holi

Sadly, the software is just not up to par. Actually, that’s a ridiculous understatement. It sucks beyond anything you could imagine.

First, the Bluetooth connection is lost every day. The app is unable to reconnect automatically, so you need to go back into the settings screen of your iOS device, then reconnect, then switch back to the app. Now, this could be a hardware compatibility issue, but I doubt it since I have a third generation iPad. Second, even after reconnecting Bluetooth, the scene selection and other functions are inactive until you “turn on” the lamp using the initial on/off screen. It seems patently obvious to me that if the lamp wasn’t on and you touched a scene selection, you want it to turn on to that scene. You can’t even set the alarm unless the lamp is first activated.

holi lamp review

Lastly, the sunrise alarm function is a pathetic afterthought, when it should have been a primary feature. Only once was I actually able to get the alarm sound to work; on every subsequent night of the two weeks I tested the device, the notification just failed. The light came on, but the sound from the iPad did not, and no notification was triggered. That’s a pretty fundamental flaw, but even more annoyingly is the fact that your alarm time isn’t remembered each night. You heard me right – you actually have to set the alarm every night before going to be, because presumably your life is just so random that you don’t have any sense of structure at all, waking up at a different time each day. Whatever you do, don’t rely on this to actually wake you up in the morning.

There’s also some other promised features yet to materialise, like the “smart” lamp timer:

(Instructions to set automatic on times) Open holî’s app and go to the “smart” page. Two, select at what time your holî shall start and at what time your holî should stop. Three, enjoy your holidays. (feature available Q4 2013)

Is It Worth The Money?

holi smart lamp review

There’s really only so far technology can take the humble lamp, and the Holi tries so hard – yet fails so spectacularly. Aside from the chunk of metal, I could build one that’s twenty times the brightness for a quarter of the price, and $100 to outsource and app developer who would probably be competent enough to make an alarm that actually remembers the time you set.

But to address the most important question: is it pronounced Holy or Holly? Who knows!

MakeUseOf recommends: Don’t bother – this is overpriced and dysfunctional crap.

How do I win the Holi Smart Mood Lamp?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, March 7. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

The Winner

Congratulations, Keith Wolstenholme! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before March 16 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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