Philips Hue Calla Outdoor Pathway Light & Extension Kit Review

Philips Hue takes a step outdoors, and the results are fabulous

Philips Hue Calla brings style, sophistication and best of all, simplicity, to outdoor lighting.
Philips Hue Calla brings style, sophistication and best of all, simplicity, to outdoor lighting.
Philips Hue Calla brings style, sophistication and best of all, simplicity, to outdoor lighting.

Highs

  • Stylish, if conservative design
  • Straightforward setup
  • Fully weatherproof for all conditions
  • 16 million colors with easy app control
  • Easy connection to a range of Hue outdoor lamps

Lows

  • Small silver screws cheapen the lamp design
  • Large transformer

Launched way back in 2012, the Philips Hue smart lighting system has remained a perfect, if pricey, pick for smart homes across the globe. Over the past six years, the company has steadily tweaked a successful formula over three product generations, enhancing color accuracy and brightness, adding Apple HomeKit support, and extending the range of luminaires and bulbs.

The absence of outdoor-rated lights has, until now, been a surprising and frustrating omission for home owners seeking to add a splash of color to decks and gardens. But this summer, Philips Hue took a step outside with a new outdoor range that includes Calla Outdoor Pathway Lights, Inara and Lucca wall lamps, and Lily spotlights. We’ll be looking at full range over the coming weeks, but today we’ll focus on the Philips Hue Calla Outdoor Pathway Light & Extension Kit.

Priced at $130, the Hue Calla base unit includes a single, bollard-style lamp, outdoor-rated power supply, and weatherproof cables. Like all Philips Hue lights, it connects via Zigbee to an indoor Philips Hue bridge, which enables smart phone control and other integrations. If you’re new to Hue, you’ll need to purchase the $60 bridge separately, or pick up a Hue starter kit which bundles the hub with two or more indoor bulbs.

Once you have the base unit installed, you can daisy-chain up to five additional lamps using the $90 Calla Extension Kit, which includes a light, extension cable and a T-shaped power connector. Both devices are UL certified for wet conditions and are IP 65 rated, meaning they’re dust-tight and can withstand jetting water. The integrated 8W LED bulb supports 16 million colors and is dimmable, with a maximum light output of 640 lumens. That’s far brighter than what most yards need for decorative accent lighting – even near pathways. But with a lifespan up to 25,000 hours, you can tweak settings at your leisure.

High-quality construction, not the most exciting design

At launch, Calla is only available in a black aluminum finish, and the compact, cylindrical mini-bollard is well-built, delivering the quality (if not the aesthetic excitement) you expect from Philips. Sadly, there are no current plans for alternative finishes, so business black is the order of the day. Unlike cheaper solutions you may find at your local big-box hardware retailer, the accompanying mounting spike is also metal, so it should remain durable through many seasons of use.

It easy to adjust lighting through to create the perfect ambience for relaxing with drinks, reading on the deck, or a lively summer BBQ.

Speaking of durability, Philips tells us that Calla is specifically designed for outdoor use, so it’ll perform in wet locations and all outdoor conditions. Good news for those suffering hot or humid summers and plunging winter temperatures.

Easy installation but be sure to plan your lighting design

Installation of outdoor Hue lights is straightforward, but you’ll need to spend a little time planning your cabling and lighting positions to ensure power and network connectivity. Handily, Philips Hue bulbs also serve as Zigbee network repeaters, so if you have sufficient cabling, you can place lights up to 64 feet apart (however, note that Philips advises a maximum drop of 115 ft.). Depending on your lighting design, it may make sense to add an indoor lamp with a Hue bulb in a room near the garden to ensure a strong connection to your first outdoor light.

Philips Hue Calla
Terry Walsh/Digital Trends

The base unit power supply is equipped with a heavyweight (18AWG), 11.5 ft. (3.5 m) cable, and you’ll find a 16 ft. (5 m) extension cable also included in-box. Another 16 ft. cable is included with each extension kit. Philips recommends burying the cable at least four inches below ground to prevent damage from aerators or other garden tools, but T-connectors should stay above ground.

Powering Calla is a little inconvenient, requiring some disassembly. Three silver screws must first be removed to lift off the base and retrieve the power connector. Thankfully, a small screwdriver is included, but if you lose it, don’t worry – each screw also has a standard screwdriver notch. The choice of silver screws on a matte-black body cheapens the overall look of the lamp, and the small, clear plastic washers that prevent water ingress through the screw holes are too easy to lose.

Calla is specifically designed for outdoor use, so it’ll perform in wet locations and all outdoor conditions.

With the base removed, you can thread through the power cable, press in a weatherproof plug to prevent water ingress, and fix the mounting spike in place. Alternatively, the base can be screwed to a flat surface, such as a deck, table, or plinth, but Philips doesn’t supply screws or anchors for this or for fixing the sizable transformer required to drive the LED bulb. While the transformer is bigger than we’d like, it’s all that’s required to power multiple lights connected to the base unit.

With the Hue Bridge installed and configured, we powered on the lights, which illuminated with a pale orange glow. Firing up the Philips Hue smartphone app available for iOS and Android, we were delighted to see both lights were detected in less than 30 seconds. Configuration of individual lights is mostly automatic, but it’s worth spending a couple of minutes creating a new “room” (in this case, called “Garden”) in which you can group and manage outdoor luminaires together.

Bathe the yard in color

The Hue app has been a long-term work in progress for Philips, and has improved considerably since launch. You’ll find controlling your outdoor lights a cinch, whether you prefer to manually tweak colors and brightness, or you invest time creating lighting “scenes” from photos or carefully considered color settings. With color temperature ranging from 2000K (a very soft white) up to 6500K (daylight) we found it easy to adjust lighting through the evening to create the perfect ambience for relaxing with drinks, reading on the deck, or a lively summer BBQ.

Obviously, Calla makes the most impact as the sun sets. In daylight hours, colors are noticeable but washed out, but at twilight, you’ll start to see the benefit of those 640 lumens. Switch to the Energize scene and the lamp emits bright, crisp white light at the top of the temperature range that’s more than sufficient to illuminate pathways, decks, and flower beds.

Wiring the lamp is a little inconvenient, requiring some disassembly.

Colors are even and accurate with greens and yellows – which Hue bulbs have struggled with in the past – well represented. With multiple lamps, scenes come alive, bathing your garden in color.

The Hue smartphone app provides an extensive array of options to personalize your outdoor lighting. Custom routines allow you to trigger lighting changes at a specific time like sunset or sunrise, while a go to sleep option typically used for bedrooms allows you slowly dim the lights as the night draws in. With integrated support for the full array of smart assistants, voice control adds true convenience, while IFTTT support opens a tweaker’s paradise of third-party triggers and service integrations. You can even hook up your PC or Mac to the Hue system and sync your outdoor lighting with music. Take some time to experiment, and you’ll discover a weatherproof world of luminescent fun.

Warranty information

Both the Philips Hue Calla Lamp and Extension Kit are protected by a 2-year limited warranty.

Our Take

Add up the cost of the Calla base unit, additional lamps and the Hue bridge, and you’ll soon see that lighting up your garden with Philips Hue isn’t going to be cheap. But that’s been the Hue story since 2012. Until now, it’s been way too difficult to illuminate and personalize decks and gardens with high quality LED lighting. A brilliant combination of simplicity, style, quality and sophistication makes Philips Hue Calla an easy sell.

Is there a better alternative?

The selection of outdoor-rated, color LED lighting solutions is slim, but if you’re seeking something cheaper than Philips Hue, the Sylvania Smart + Outdoor range (previously known as Lightify) is worth exploring. In our experience, though, the system lacks the reliability, style and overall quality you’ll experience with Philips Hue. But with perseverance, you can achieve decent results.

How long will it last?

Philips has built an admirable range of smart lighting products over the last six years, and we have no doubt that they’ll continue to support the Hue brand for the long-term.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re considering a new deck or you’re thinking of revamping your outside space with accent lighting, you’ll struggle to find a simpler or more sophisticated outdoor lighting system.

Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Mobile

Everything we know about the Nokia 6.2, which might arrive in January

The Nokia 6.1 was our favorite budget phone of 2018, so we were always going to get excited when details of a successor came to light. However, the Nokia 6.2 will exceed those expectations if leaks are true.
Computing

Intel vs. AMD: Which chipmaker stole the show at CES 2019?

Intel and AMD have been competing for years, but rarely do they both debut something exciting at the same time. Intel vs. AMD at CES 2019 saw both companies step up to the plate. Who served it better?
Deals

Amazon drops prices on Roomba robot vacuums by up to $150

Amazon is offering discounts on iRobot Roombas and other robot vacuums to help you get a leg-up on those chores. We've rounded up the best deals available now and put them all in one place.
Smart Home

Speed up cooking with one of the best pressure cookers on the market

Not all pressure cookers are created equally. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, multicookers, canners, and even microwave cookers. Our pressure cooking buyer's guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Smart Home

This just in: Alexa can now deliver the news like a professional newscaster

The Amazon Alexa team has given Alexa a newscaster voice that improves the way she delivers the news and reads Wikipedia articles, making the smart assistant easier to understand.
Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.
Smart Home

GHSP makes a (back)splash with its touchscreen concept kitchen

One of the coolest concept kitchens from CES 2019 came from GHSP. It created a backsplash entirely made of touchscreens. That means the control panel for your kitchen is accessible no matter where you are.
Smart Home

Airbnb says sorry to guest for how it dealt with undisclosed security camera

An Airbnb guest recently found a surveillance camera in his rental apartment that hadn't been properly disclosed in the listing. The firm admits its initial response to the guest's complaint was poor, but has since made amends.
Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.