GE Cync smart lighting review: A worthy Philips Hue competitor
- Easy to set up
- Easy to use
- App is uncluttered
- Great variety of lights
- App control is quick and responsive
- Works with all digital assistants
- Could use a few ‘extra’ features
- Motion sensor was glitchy
As smart homes become more reliable and powerful, more brands are branching out into this space. While products like Ring and Philips Hue are well known, there are definitely less popular brands that are also making waves. One of those is GE Cync. The company’s smart home lineup includes a vast variety of gadgets from lights to thermostats to cameras. You could say the Cync system (formerly C by GE) is the dark horse of the smart home world.
I recently had the opportunity to try a handful of GE’s lighting gadgets for a few weeks. In this review, learn how the system works as a whole, and look in more detail at these products:
- Cync Wire-Free Dimmer Switch
- Smart Motion Sensor
- Direct Connect Color Smart Bulb
- Direct Connect Light Strip
- Outdoor Smart Plug
While many smart home and lighting systems use hubs or bridges to connect these devices to your home’s Wi-Fi, GE Cync has chosen to make its devices direct-connect. That means there’s no extra (and expensive) components to buy; the lights are able to communicate with the Cync app on their own, making for a more streamlined system.
GE Cync is a refreshingly easy smart home system to navigate. The Cync app serves as the system’s control center. The app is delightfully uncluttered, sleek-looking, and easy to navigate — even for new users.
The app allows remote control over devices, plus you can set up schedules and group lights into rooms and areas. You can also use the app to link some devices together, such as a light and motion detector.
Once you have a Cync account, adding devices is as simple as clicking the Add device, ‘+’ sign, and then choosing the type of product you’re setting up. Every single device we set up inside the app went online in seconds. In short, the Cync system is as easy or even easier than other systems like Hue and Ring when it comes to set up.
I set up the GE Cync Direct Connect Color Smart Bulb to be used with the Cync Wire-Free Dimmer Switch in the bedroom, making it easy to turn on the bedside lamp from across the room. Setting up both the lightbulb and the switch was extremely easy using the GE app, requiring just a couple of taps on the screen. I created a room called Bedroom, then added each device to it. A few more clicks, and I could assign the Wire-Free Dimmer Switch to control the light bulb.
The light bulb is an easy option as a foray into the system — particularly if you’re starting to build a smart home. It changes colors, and has different temperatures of white light, too; perfect for setting the mood. The Dimmer Switch works great with it, and gives additional control because it lacked such a switch previously.
It’s also possible to set a timer for the light bulb in the Cync app using Scenes. I set my Scene to turn the light on dimly just before bedtime, then I would turn it off before going to sleep. The Scenes feature is intuitive to use and works well.
Next, I set up the Direct Connect Light Strip behind the sofa, so it could act as a kind of background ambient light in the living room. I intended to set up the motion sensor to turn on the light when I enter the room, but ran into some troubles.
The motion sensor didn’t actually seem to work, in that it would not trip the strip lights at all. In my troubleshooting, I re-connected it to the light bulb in the bedroom, and found it would turn that light on, but it took almost a full 20 seconds for the light to illuminate after walking in the room. Not ideal. My guess is that there’s a glitch in the app or the firmware of this sensor (that I trust may be remedied at some point), so I set it aside and moved on.
Lastly, I tried the GE Cync Outdoor Smart Plug, and this is a great device for automating older patio or string lights, or something like a water fountain or bug zapper. The Outdoor Smart Plug is a large oval-shaped block attached to a short cord. While the case is quite large, it feels well made, and there are two plugs under rubberized flaps that keep things weatherproof. You can turn the plug on and off with a press of the button on the top of the unit, or use the app as a remote control. You can also set each plug on a timer. There’s a mounting hook on the back as well, giving it all a clean look.
My husband found the button feature handy to control these lights, while I loved giving our patio string lights, and putting a fountain on an automated schedule so its lights would turn on each evening and turn off at bedtime.
The GE Cync Outdoor Smart Plug worked like a dream and was super easy to set up and use; plus it seems durable enough to withstand the weather.
One thing I couldn’t figure out how to do was link the devices together to create more complex Scenes. For example, I couldn’t create a Scene to turn on the lights when the motion sensor was tripped along with a GE Cync camera to start recording (Ring can do this, for example). It seems this type of interconnectedness is not yet available in the app.
The other feature I like in a smart lighting system is a sunrise/sunset automated schedule that will automatically turn lights on at sunset and off at sunrise, adjusting to the sun cycle throughout the year. I didn’t see that option in the Cync app, but I’m hoping it will be an option in a future firmware update.
Control with Siri, Google, or Alexa
Another positive feature of GE Cync is that it will work with your preferred digital assistant: It’s compatible with Siri and Apple HomeKit, Google, and Alexa. I opted to connect my light to Google Home and was able to easily ask to turn the light on or off, or adjust the colors — all without needing a phone.
Overall, the GE Cync smart lighting system is quite impressive. There’s a variety of lighting devices, the ecosystem is simple to set up and use, whether with the app or your voice.
When it comes to the aspects of GE Cync smart lighting that could be improved, it comes downs to the glitchy motion detector, that we wish offered support for sunrise/sunset scheduling. In truth, these factors don’t detract from the system as a whole. The GE Cync smart lights are a must-have for those looking to get started with a smart home and smart lighting.
Is there a better alternative?
Perhaps a better question would be, is there a different alternative? Philips Hue is the granddaddy of smart lighting, with other producers like LIFX and Sengled also making capable smart home lighting. Philips Hue is definitely a great system (I have numerous Hue lights at home) but I would say the Cync brand stands up against it well.
To choose which is best for you, ask yourself what you want the smart lights to do, how you want them to look, and if you need to integrate them with a particular smart home system. Price may also factor in, and it’s probably fair to say Hue products cost more than similar versions of Cync lights. That said, cost can vary wildly if you buy one light or a, and where you get it. Keep in mind though, Philips Hue is also one of the systems that need a hub to operate, though they do have some Bluetooth-only options. Prices range from about $25 for a 2-pack of lights to about $50 for the light strip.
Should I buy it?
Absolutely! Particularly if you’re just starting out with a smart home ecosystem, this lineup of products will have you wanting to expand your kit in no time. If you’re not sold on the GE Cync, you can read more on our best picks for smart lights for other options.