Philips Hue Tap Dial switch review: A smooth way to control your smart lights

The $49.99 Philips Hue Tap Dial switch is a smart lighting controller for Hue power users. It’s the most powerful and innovative Hue accessory to date, with four buttons and a physical dial for dimming. Out of the box, buttons and dials connect to zones or rooms, making it look like a powerful Hue smart dimmer switch. But why limit itself to one room when it can control Hue lights throughout the house?

Tap Dial is a wireless, battery-powered smart switch that turns Philips Hue lights on and off, dims them on and off, and sets lighting scenes. Thanks to the magnetic base, it can be attached to the included wall plate like a normal wall switch, or it can be placed on any metal or flat surface as a remote control.

It’s part of the Hue smart lighting ecosystem and works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. Signify (owner of Hue) also confirmed edge The switch will be upgraded to be compatible with Matter, the new smart home standard. That means one day, it might be able to control more than just Hue lights.

How we review and rate products

The Tap Dial is heavy, weighing only two and a half ounces (one ounce heavier than the Apple TV remote). But that weight works in its favor; you can turn the dial while it’s sitting on a table, and it won’t slide. The dial itself has a nice solid feel when you turn it, with good tactile feedback. It’s a lot like a spinning Nest Learning thermostat, and only a tad smaller. It also works quickly and reliably, with smooth and responsive dimming action, with no noticeable lag.

Out of the box, it can dim any light, room or area you’ve paired it with in the Hue app. Buttons 1 through 3 adjust the brightness, and the fourth button cycles through five Hue scenes. The dial offers more precise dimming, and a long press of any button turns the lights off. (Hue scenes are different combinations of brightness, color temperature, or color, depending on the type of bulb you have.)

However, if you just want to control a single room or area, there’s no real reason to buy a Tap Dial. That’s why the Hue Dimmer Switch is a great performer for about half the price. The Tap Dial acts as a multi-zone controller for those with a lot of Hue lights.

Turn the dial to the right to brighten the light, and to the left to dim the light. The faster you turn it, the faster it brightens; the slower it turns, the more precise your control over the dimming level.

I have Tap Dial set up in my entry hall and each button is programmed to control a different part of my home. Button one turns on all the Hue lights in the house, button two turns on the lights in the entrance hall and living room, button three turns on the lights upstairs, and button four turns on the lights downstairs. I also added some colored scenes for subsequent button presses (you can press each button up to 10 times to cycle through the other scenes), but found myself not using them very often.

I set the watch face to control all the lights at once.One limitation of using the Tap Dial in this way is that the dial can only control one of the all lights or a single room or area. I want it to dim or brighten the lights for whatever button you press. A slightly clunky workaround here is to use the second and third presses on each button to dim lights that aren’t controlled by the dial.

Default settings in the Hue app (left); settings for the watch face (including options to dim to minimum brightness and off); and options to cycle through multiple scenes (up to 10) with subsequent presses.

The good thing is that I have a central lighting controller that gives me physical access to all the lights in my house without having to pull out the phone or use voice commands. This makes this little tool very useful. If my house was fully equipped with Hue lights, I would consider this an essential purchase. However, that’s not the case unless it can effectively control every single smart light in my house, regardless of brand (which it will probably do when Matter comes along), which makes it more of a good thing than one for me Say it is necessary.

Another problem is that even though I think this is an intuitive setup, it’s not easy to remember which button does what, I’d like to have the option to label them with a small icon or emoji.

The Tap Dial is heavy in the hand, and its strong magnet snaps back into the siding easily.

If your entire home is outfitted with Hue bulbs and fixtures, here’s a handy physical controller to manage them all. If you have Hue outdoor lighting, you can program it to control those lights as well. At $50, it’s an expensive kit, plus it uses Zigbee, so you have to have a Hue bridge ($59.99), but there aren’t many good solutions for dimming smart bulbs.

Most smart dimmer switches only work with standard bulbs, not smart bulbs. Besides asking the voice assistant to set the lights to 70 percent or jumping into the smartphone app, your other options for Hue bulbs include pressing and holding the button on the Hue Dimmer Switch ($28) or twisting the rotary dial on the Lutron Aurora ( $40), toggle switch retrofit option. I’ve tried them all, and Tap Dial is definitely the best.

Tap Dial switches can be used with or without a wall mount, which is larger than a standard wall mount.

All four buttons have raised dots so you can tell which button you’re pressing even in the dark.

The switch uses a single CR2032 battery and can last for two years. (The first Tap switch is kinetic).

If you only have a few Hue bulbs, you’re better off opting for the cheaper Hue Smart Dimmer, which does everything this device does, but with fewer separate room controls and a more bulky dimming interface.

The smart dimmer also has a time-based lighting option — the lights turn on at a certain brightness based on the time of day — a nifty feature that, oddly, isn’t available on the Tap Dial yet. Kelly Hrank, head of PR at Signify, told me the feature is coming soon. The switch also isn’t integrated into the Hue app’s Hue Labs feature, which lets you set up more powerful lighting scenes, something Hrank says has no plans to do so.

Like the earlier discontinued Hue Tap, the Tap Dial can be used as a HomeKit scene controller, but for now, you shouldn’t bother. Turntables don’t work in HomeKit (this is an Apple limitation, not a Hue limitation), you can only trigger automations with a single press. That makes this $50 dial switch a less useful version of the Wemo Stage I just reviewed, which was designed for HomeKit and was faster at running HomeKit automation than the Tap Dial in testing.

Tap Dial will get more features soon. The Configure in HomeKit option has been available for Hue accessories for years, but the Hue app now includes the option to configure the Tap Dial in another app – the Tap Dial is the first Hue accessory to support this feature.The option doesn’t do anything yet, but Hrank tells edge Amazon Alexa will be one of the apps you can set up your Tap Dial.

this should Meaning you’ll be able to use the Tap Dial to control any Alexa-compatible smart device (not just Hue, not just lights) just as you would use it in HomeKit. Plus, if the watch face is exposed to Alexa, this would be a very useful lighting control for the vast Alexa ecosystem, especially if you can use buttons to trigger routines. I’ll test it out soon and report back.

All of this openness may be part of the preparation for Matter, a unique feature of which is multi-admin control – the option to set the device to be controlled by any Matter-compatible ecosystem. With Matter-support, the Tap Dial can be used to control every single light in my house, no matter who made it—much better than being locked into Hue’s expensive ecosystem.

But don’t buy the Tap Dial now because it might do it later. Tap Dial is now useful if you have Hue lights all over your home and want to be able to control them from a single device (with a physical dimmer!). For everyone else, just wait and see what happens.

Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.