First introduced in 2015, Signify’s first-generation Philips Hue Dimmer Switch was starting to feel decidedly dated, making the arrival of its upgraded successor more than timely.
The second-generation dimmer switch not only looks more contemporary, it also adds a new Hue button and time-based light scene mode, along with a larger wall plate that allows for both peel and stick and mounting. with screws. Meanwhile, one of the main features of the original Dimmer Switch, the ability to configure it through HomeKit, has gone nowhere. Also unchanged: the reasonable price of $ 25.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart light switches and dimmers, where you will find reviews of competing products, as well as a buyer’s guide on the features to consider when purchasing this type of product.
Design and Specifications
Measuring 3.6 x 1.4 x 0.3 inches (HxWxD), the new Tone Fader Switch is (when measured without its included wall plate) roughly the same size as the original, but that’s where the similarities end. For starters, the switch corners are more rounded than the older, more square switch, and instead of the glossy (and to be perfectly blunt, cheap-looking) finish of the original, the new version has a matte finish that is (ironically ) much more polished.
In another change, the new Dimmer Switch ditches the four-button design of its predecessor. Now instead of the “on”, “brighter”, “dimmer” and “off” buttons, there is an “on / off” button, a brightness up / down rocker button, and a power button. “tone” to change lighting scenes. By combining the on / off buttons and adding the Hue button, the new dimmer switch essentially gives you an additional button to play with. I will describe the functionality of the Hue button in a moment.
The wall plate of the tone attenuation switch has also changed. As with the switch itself, the board now has a matte look rather than the glossy finish of the original, a welcome and better-looking change. And while the original board was a standard size (4.5 x 2.75 inches), the new board is a medium size (4.88 x 3.13 inches). It also comes in two pieces that snap together, with the rear section featuring a peel-and-stick adhesive backing, as well as six mounting screw holes.
As with the original, the new Dimmer Switch magnetically snaps into its wall plate, although even that functionality has changed. Now instead of being housed inside the wall plate, the magnets are now housed inside the switch itself. That means (similar to Hue smart button) you can place the switch on any metal item, such as a refrigerator door or a metal lamp post.
The new dimmer switch is powered by a CR2032 coin cell battery (as opposed to the CR2045 cell battery for the previous model), and Signify promises two years of battery life on a single battery.
Installation and configuration
As with its predecessor, the new tone dimmer switch can be installed using the peel and stick backing from the wall plate. I ended up placing my test unit in the exact same spot on my kitchen wall where the original switch was. (Be careful removing the old wallplate, by the way; the sticker on mine took a chunk of wall paint along with it.) And as I just mentioned, a new option is to screw rather than glue the plate to the wall.
Once done, simply turn on the Hue mobile app, tap Settings> Accessories> Add accessoryand then follow the instructions. For me, the app found the Zigbee-enabled Hue dimmer switch in a few seconds, and a minute later it connected to my Hue bridge. You can then choose which lights the switch will control; You can choose a room, a zone (such as upstairs or downstairs), or one or more individual lights.
Speaking of bridges, the Hue bridge is required to use the Hue dimmer switch. If you have Hue lights in your home that you’ve been controlling via Bluetooth instead of Zigbee, you’ll have to climb the bridge to add the new switch to your setup.
Functions and functionalities
The addition of the Hue button marks the biggest change between the old and new dimmer switch, and you can set it to one of two modes: “scene cycle” or “time-based” light.
As you probably guessed, the scene cycle mode makes the lights cycle through a selection of lighting scenes while pressing the Hue button. You can choose up to five different scenes; thus, for example, pressing the Hue button once could activate a “Bright” scene, a second press could activate the “Concentrate” scene, and so on. The old Dimmer Switch has the same scene loop functionality, except that you cycle through scenes by repeatedly pressing the Power button instead of the Hue button (which the original Dimmer Switch lacks, of course).
The second mode for the Hue button is the “time-based” light, which activates different scenes when the Hue button is pressed depending on the time of day. You get five three-hour time zones, starting at 7:00 in the morning. Depending on how you set the time-based mode, pressing the Hue button at sunrise can trigger a warm light scene, while pressing it at midnight can activate the night light scene.
In addition to configuring the Hue button, you can also choose what the power button does. One option is for the power button to turn on the assigned lights with the last used lighting scene, while the other option always activates the same assigned light scene. You can also assign an action to press and hold the power button, but there is only one: turn off all the lights in your house (the other “press and hold” option is to just do nothing).
While you can set the switch’s “on” function, you cannot do the same to “off.” In other words, if the lights controlled by the dimmer switch are on and you press the power button, the lights will always turn off and there is no option to change that behavior. For most users, that’s probably not a problem, but if you were expecting full power button control for more elaborate settings, that’s the problem.
Lastly, there’s the central dimmer switch, and it does exactly the same thing as the two dimmer buttons on the original dimmer switch: it brightens or dims the controlled lights. As with the first dimmer switch, the new version’s dimmer controls can’t be configured at all, or at least not with the Hue app.
Integration with HomeKit
As with the first Dimmer Switch, the new version can be configured with HomeKit, and that includes all four buttons (HomeKit counts the center rocker as two buttons, so a total of four). That means you can assign any HomeKit scene or automation to any of the dimmer switch buttons, as well as control any HomeKit-compatible smart device.
For example, you can set the Hue button to turn on (say) your LG TV and set it to the input of your Apple TV, or have the power button on the switch open your HomeKit-enabled smart shades. You can even assign multiple scenes or automations to the push of a button as well.
In other words, you could use HomeKit to turn the tone dimmer switch into a control panel for your HomeKit devices, and the limits of what you could do are quite limited by your imagination. Pretty impressive.
For a long time, I felt the cheap-looking, plastic Hue dimmer switch from 2015 was a weak link in Hue’s impressive lineup. But with this revamped version, Signify has rectified most of the shortcomings of the original, with a more polished, modern and functional result. At the same time, the first-generation Dimmer Switch features made they work fine, including easy installation and setup, plus HomeKit compatibility, they haven’t changed. For Philips Hue users with a bridge, the new Dimmer Switch is an easy recommendation.