While most smart-home product manufacturers are in a race to the bottom as part of a long-running price war, a few vendors are taking a decidedly different approach. Witness Luke Roberts, a new brand that wants to combine smart technology with luxury design.
The Luke Roberts Model F is a hefty pendant lamp designed for permanent installation. The bulbs are hardwired into the lamp and can’t be swapped out. The fixture is designed in two pieces: The wiring and some electronics are housed in a base unit that is directly mounted to the ceiling. The pendant itself dangles from this unit directly from its cord.
This part of the lamp is a saucer-shaped device about a foot across which contains a whopping 300-plus LEDs. These LEDs are arranged into 100 “segments” which each act as a unit. Eighty four of those segments aim downward from the bottom of the lamp, and 16 are aimed to fire upward and provide indirect lighting. The uplights can be tuned to any color in the rainbow, but the downlights are tunable white only.
The downlights must all be tuned to the same color temperature, but you have immense control over the specific locations where the light is emitted. Through Luke Roberts’ app, you can “paint” the fixture to, say, only emit light from the right side of the unit, and leave the left side dark. You can drop pinpricks of light around the fixture, or you can leave the whole thing uniform.
The uplight is even more flexible. Here you can select multiple colors to appear simultaneously, so you can make the uplighting half red and half green, or paint a design to look like a rainbow, with a dozen different colors sprayed across the top of the fixture.
Each half of the fixture can be dimmed independently, and you can create numerous scenes within the app to fit your mood for different times of the day. With a total available output of 4,000 lumens down and 1,400 lumens up, there’s no shortage of lighting power here. Total power draw under full load is 75 watts.
To install the Model F, you’ll need to be a bit more comfortable with electrical work than wiring a standard switch or outlet receptacle. Not only will you be working over your head on a ladder, the connections inside the base can be tricky to manage. You’ll find two sets of spring clips inside, one of which attaches to your household wiring. The other set attaches to the wires that lead to the pendant. The problem is that all these clips are challenging to work with, especially in cramped quarters. It’s difficult to get the wiring leads to catch on the clips, and more than once during my installation I was frustrated to find a wire had fallen out. The good news is that there are only five wires in total that need to be connected this way, but it’s a design that ultimately needs a revision.
As noted, the pendant hangs directly from the power cord, and this allows you to adjust the height at which the pendant hangs (up to four feet below the ceiling). Excess wiring is coiled up within the base, and a series of metal hooks is designed to hold the cord in place where you want it without slipping. As with the connections, getting the wire wrapped just so takes some doing, and again it’s complicated by having to work overhead.
After I had the hardware dealt with, it was time to turn to software. Luke Roberts has its own app, and since the system doesn’t integrate with any other smart home gear, you’ll need it. The good news: Setup is easy. I installed the app and it connected to the lamp automatically, with no pairing required. The bad news: It’s Bluetooth only, so you’ll need to be in the same room as the lamp to make any configuration changes or to turn it on and off. And as with any smart light fixture or bulb, if you wire it to a circuit controlled by a wall switch, you’ll want to make sure that switch stays in the on position so you can control it with the app.
Within the app, you’re quickly dropped into a handful of preset configurations, any of which you can tweak to meet your needs. Paint the uplight with various colors and fine-tune the downlight by painting where you want light to be emitted. Each half of the Model F has its own dimming system, and an integrated directional system lets you align the system’s lighting design with whichever direction you consider “up” within the app.
The app is minimalistic by design and isn’t immediately intuitive, requiring a lot of unusual tap-and-dragging in order to launch the editing wheel or to “erase” a color. Getting to the dimming system is particularly difficult, and there’s no way to easily make impromptu brightness changes. It’s a light designed to be tuned to a certain theme, and then left that way until you’re ready for something entirely new rather than constantly being fiddled with.
And to be honest, the light looks great. Whether you want a moody candlelight effect or something closer to a spotlight—or both, of course—you’re covered. The aesthetic of the hardware itself could be more polarizing—the design is decidedly modern and stark.
A few additional features include one that lets you determine which scene the lamp should start off with (a preset, the last-used scene, or a “smart” choice that the lamp determines based on your usage patterns). There’s also one that offers the option to cycle through scenes by turning the light on and off quickly; otherwise, there’s not much more to the app. The product supports Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri, but configuring the lamp to work with these digital assistants is convoluted. You must go through 11 steps, for example, to link it with Alexa.
The Model F comes in your choice of three colors—white, gray, or black—and each is priced at a whopping $799. This is a high-end product with a high-end price tag. The cost alone will render it a non-starter for many potential buyers, but if you’re looking for a luxurious modern light fixture with a smattering of smart features—and you don’t mind that it can’t be integrated into the rest of your smart home system—it’s potentially worth saving up for.