The Sonoff B1

Sonoff B1The Sonoff B1 is a “white and color” ambient bulb – and one turned up for me in the most this morning!

Not a lot new here you might say – and certainly, such bulbs exist yesterday. I was in Toledo in Spain at a major shopping centre and just happened to be in Leroy Merlin store – and noticed that not only did they have lamps that on the surface look like this – but also they had LED strip.  I also noticed they charged the most horrendous rip-off prices for both.

So I’m starting this review on a positive note because the B1 is not unreasonable for a colour, WIFI-controlled light. Sonoff themselves sell this lamp for £13.97 or $18 – so not bad as far as current day prices go and importantly, the increasingly versatile Tasmota ESP8266 software appears to support this lamp though I’ve not tested that.

So out of the box you simply plug this lamp into the mains and a white light comes on – it is a 6w light so not too powerful – but I was interested to note that it consumes 0.5w on standby – no doubt due to the ESP8266 inside. The bulb incidentally runs from 90v to 250v so it more or less universally usable.

I used the Sonoff App on my Android phone to test the lamp.  Simple enough, turn the lamp off and on 3 times in a row with 2 second intervals and it goes into programming mode at which point the phone app picks it up and sets it going. All of that took seconds and absolutely anyone could manage it.

While the adverts claim the bulb is compatible with Alexa and Google, as it is not even mentioned in the supplied instructions, I’ve no idea if the problems I identify here apply also to use with Alexa etc. I suspect they will be.

So I now had a lamp which could be turned on and off by the mains switch (obviously) but also by the APP. Redeeming features include white control with brilliance and warm/cool setting – very important as it all depends where you’d put this light as to whether or not you want a standard warm “filament” feel or a cool “kitchen” look.  In common with most people, I HATE cold LED lamps outside of a bathroom. All of that worked well. The lamp powered up at maybe half brilliance and there’s a slider on the APP to control the brilliance. Lovely. At full brightness on cold white, the lamp is quite bright enough to light up a hallway. On the warm setting, disappointingly less less so but still ok, not unhappy.

At this point, I’ve noticed at least one other review which simply says the lamp can be custom programmed and that it can be used with Alexa and Google Assistant – but strangely there’s no detail – why do people only say good things about products when clearly there is more to tell.

You can switch the App between white and  colour and white – but amazingly, as you do so, the lamp loses the brightness setting for white, defaulting back to “medium” brilliance. This I think for the partner who isn’t into gadgetry could prove to be very annoying and needs fixing quickly.

But it gets worse – in colour mode, unless I’m missing something there is not intensity control and the colour light simply is not that bright – not surprising I guess as the lamp is 6w in total so at best I’m guessing we have 2w red, green and blue LEDs in there.

There are various controls such as SCENE, schedule and timer modes which you can set up on the App but for me, they are icing on the cake – a rather dim cake.

I can’t fault the look of this device – the heatsink appears large enough to get rid of a lot of heat – which again I don’t really understand as it is only a 6w lamp.

For a kid’s room corner light or a mood light in a not-too-big room this is probably a nice product, easy to use etc…  but it would be nice to hear from someone who has used the Tasmota software I linked to above, because right now that lack of brilliance retention when changing modes is annoying but more importantly lack of brightness means this lamp is more limited in use than I was hoping. I regularly make use of RGB LED strip – using my own ESP software. I have 3 metres of strip under my work shelf and can get the same kind of functionality – cool and warm light, full colour etc and I can tell you that I get considerably more brilliance from that, than this new lamp right now.

I hope to hear someone tell me I missed the brilliance control in the colour panel and that it is merely a fluke that the white brightness reverts to medium when flicking between white and colour modes – but until then – this one is relegated to a corner lamp somewhere.

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15 thoughts on “The Sonoff B1

    1. you'll always depend on a chinese remote service... with security concerning implied... and that can close from a day to an other... best to flash you're own firmware, tasmota or espurna, and get rid of it and use your controller...

    2. Thanks for that Juan.

      So - I did just that... and indeed you can control the lamp by Alexa... however I will make the following comments...

      I've been using Alexa (indeed I have two of them) for some months now - and I've never had it give me such a hard time...

      "Change the sonoff to warm white" - "I'm not sure about that".

      Occasionally I would get the result I wanted, most of the time not - I ended up swearing at Alexa, it was that bad.

      Also as I thought, the colour controls are fixed - you cannot turn the colour up. I set the lamp to green and asked alexa to raise the brightness - it said it was in a mode which would not accept this command.

      So, up to now my comments stand - the colours are no-where near bright enough to be useful - also as you move from green to red, the colour control on the APP is inaccurate and it is not at ALL easy to get a decent yellow.

      Thanks for the information.

      1. I have both the echo dot and Google Home. Both work well for most things but the dev folks (skills writers) need to learn a lot more. When the limit their vocabulary the devices get easily confused. It's a little harder on a well written app for the Alexa than the Home but I can confound both pretty well. Sometimes it's a matter of accent most of the time a choice of words.

        Got Google so confused that when I asked for the weather it gave me the news.

        Sometimes I think it's more ML (me learning) than ML (machine learning).

        Still pretty neat.

      2. I set up two of them today and my experience is similar - the app works well, but integration with home automation, not so much.

        I use Google Home which I find exceptionally good at voice recognition. But it's been flaky at best with the Sonoff switches I've been trying to use, and now it's even worse with the lights.

        While it does work sometimes, other times it fails (giving a nonspecific error) and at least once, it worked on one but not the other! (screenshot: https://imgur.com/9DxIet7)

        The brightness is what I'd expect from a <$20 LED bulb, and build quality seems fine.

  1. As an alternative I've been using these 10W multi-colour bulbs https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01G1PJWYM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 which I control via the Broadlink Mini3/Node-Red/Imperihome and ultimately Alexa albeit within the parameters of the Home Skill Bridge interface. Works well - nice bright bulb with good colours. I'd say between a 40W and 60W incandescent equivalent and the mini3 has such a strong signal it controls three different uplighters that are in different rooms all for £7 per bulb plus £10 for the RM mini 3.

    1. Bright is essential - I really don't know what they were thinking about with the colours here - too dim. I'm assuming with the home skill you can't currently refer to "blue" and other colours? Or can you? I have loads or RGB strip around the place I control with Apps (and MQTT) - and I'd love to be able to have them change colour via Alexa.

      1. I set up the colours and patterns I use to be different devices eg bluelight, redlight etc. - with the challenge being to come up with memorable names . Within that constraint the Home Skill Bridge allows me to query Alexa for current brightness and colour and set brightness either specifically or incrementally as well as obviously on or off, For LED strips I use the H801 with Espurna firmware but the same limitations re Alexa.

      2. One problem with bright is that some vendors overdrive their bulbs (I'm told most do) so that they gradually grow dimmer as time goes on. I have a super bright LED in the kitchen (dumb bulb) and will try to keep an eye on it. Perhaps I can use a light sensor to monitor it. 🙂

        I haven't purchased any of the color bulbs but hope to get one to use as a signal lamp rather than a normal light bulb. I normally just want my warm glow bulbs for most of my use. Need to get some LED strips with that in mind.

    1. Eventually my info will be out of date but as far as I know right now, Google don't provide enough data to do any real home control with Google Home unless you're using their hardware.

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