Twinkly 2.0 Digital Christmas Lights Review: Deck the Halls with RGB LEDs

Looking to take your Christmas tree lights to the next level this holiday season? While there are already plenty of LED light strings on the market, the ones I’ve seen in stores generally offer very basic color selections. Twinkly’s LED lights are designed to give their owner the ultimate in flexibility to make their Christmas light display truly their own.

I got my hands on a set of Twinkly’s latest generation lights to see what they could do. Each Twinkly light string is strung with dozens of bright RGB LEDs, and is fully-programmable using a companion smartphone app, letting you create your own color palettes and animated chase sequences with ease.

Setting up Twinkly lights starts out the same as other Christmas lights, but you have to be a little more fastidious in the way you string them for maximum control. It’s recommended that you wrap them from bottom to top, left to right for best results, though the app is smart enough to handle sloppy stringing as well. Once you plug them in, install the app on your smartphone then connect to the Twinkly via a direct Wi-Fi connection. Then you can tell Twinkly which home network you want them to join. I could only get the Twinkly to see 2GHz networks, but the amount of data being transferred to them doesn’t really demand a higher speed connection anyhow.

After the Twinkly string is connected to your Wi-Fi network, you go through a slick visual calibration process, which uses your phone’s camera and AI smarts to help the identify EXACTLY where each LED is placed on your tree. This gives you precision control over each and every light.

Out of the box, the Twinkly app comes preloaded with a variety of light patterns, including twinkling, chase sequences, firework-style bursts, and color fades. To load a pattern, simply tap on it and swipe left or right to preview it on the tree. But the real beauty is how you can go into any of the existing patterns and make it your own.

Create custom color schemes, change brightness, or speed to tweak the look of an existing animation, or go into the custom animation mode to draw your own light sequence. And when I say draw, I really mean it. Basically, you finger paint onto a map of your tree the exact pattern you want the lights to appear in. Choose a color, then paint. Assuming you followed the calibration step above, the lights will follow your finger like magic.

Once you design and preview a pattern you like, you need to save it to the Twinkly itself so the pattern can continue without your smartphone connected. You can also program the lights to automatically turn on and off at specific times, though the scheduler is very rudimentary, with only one on and one off time, and no ability to set daily schedules. You can also create groups of multiple strings in the app if you want to control multiple trees or a single tree with multiple strings.

The overall whiz-bang appeal and brilliant colors of the latest Twinkly light string are great, though the tester package I tested with only came with 105 lights, which was only enough to light up a 4 foot tabletop tree. To cover taller trees, they’re available in either 175 or 225 LED lengths, priced at $129.95 and $159.95, respectively, so the cost of having the highest-tech Christmas lights on the block can add up quickly. But if you’re a true Christmas junkie and a true gadget junkie, you’ll want a set or two on your tree this holiday season.

Striker Trilight Review: 3000 Lumens of Work Light in Your Hand

A while back, I outfitted my garage with a pair of Striker TRiLIGHTs. Those bright LED lights are still going strong, and have proven an excellent way to illuminate the entire space. But what about those times when you need to work under the hood of a car, or need direct, up-close lighting? Now Striker has a solution for that.

The TRiLIGHT ShopLight is a new variant of the original, designed for versatility and portability. It still features the same unique triple-fin heatsink design, but this version can be plugged into an outlet and brought directly to your work location.

The light packs 3000 lumens of total brightness, offering up an intense, yet even field of light wherever you need it. It’s great for working in cramped spaces, such as underneath machinery or other places where its hard to get a wide flood of light.

Each of its three fins is hinged, you can aim the light too. Since it is a flood light, I didn’t find angling them made much of a difference when working up close. Still, the ability to adjust the angle of the fins provides greater utility, allowing you to balance the light on just about any surface for hands-free use, or to fit it into unusual spots.

One of the big advantages of the TRiLIGHT ShopLight is its cool touch surface design, meaning you can carry it around without worrying about burning yourself on its fins or its handle. I wouldn’t stick my fingers right in front of the LED panels, but adjusting the aluminum fins was just fine while it was turned on.

Did I mention this thing is extremely bright? I walked into my pitch black utility room and turned it on, and the room was fully illuminated as if I had turned on a ceiling light. No more fumbling around in the dark.

For added versatility, the TRiLIGHT ShopLight’s handle also has a plastic hook built into its end, which allows you to hang it on a hook or through a hole under your car hood, etc. Unfortunately, the plastic hook isn’t as sturdy as it could be. When I tried to hang it over the rung of a metal ladder, it cracked because the rung was just slightly too big for the hook.

Granted, I forced it a little bit, but still, the plastic shouldn’t have snapped that easily. A metal hook, or something more pliable would be better. The remainder of the lamp’s plastic and aluminum construction seems quite sturdy, though I decided not to intentionally drop my ShopLight on the concrete floor. On the other hand, Striker says they’ve done lots of drop testing with success.

With the exception of its less than stellar hanging hook, the ShopLight is a great addition to any tool chest, offering up tremendous amounts of smooth, clean, and bright white light anywhere you have access to an outlet. The TRiLIGHT ShopLight is available now over at Striker for $129.99.

Heels on fire!

As flashy (literally) as they may look, the Power Spurz were designed to be a signal of sorts, letting you be visible to people nearby as you walked, jogged, trekked, or cycled around. Made to be taillights that you wear on your shoes, the Spurz let people from a distance see you, which works rather well if you’re on your own, jogging or cycling down the road in the dark and you’ve got a vehicle speeding towards you, saving you a potential ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ moment.

Made to bend around your heel and fit onto any shoe of any size, the Spurz come in a wide variety of colors and can be configured to either flash a steady light or blink continuously. With a run time of 70 hours when on steady light and 100 when blinking, the Spurz will need a battery replacement probably once every 3 months. They’re even designed to be absolutely weatherproof, so whether you’re out in the sun, rain, snow, you know you’re visible, and literally ‘marked’ safe!

Designer: 4id

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Be Safe, Be Seen

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Road safety is paramount; there are no negotiations with that. What’s been most impressive the past year is the increased awareness around being seen with spray on reflective materials and various lighting solutions for cyclists, but Marc Sapetti’s Blinkers are by far my favorite concept of them all. The next generation bicycle lights – whatever the angle and the situation, Blinkers can be seen and alert those around you.

The operation of Blinkers is simple, which makes them highly efficient – the rear blinker indicates the direction of the turn, by blinking to the right or the left. The front Blinker is synchronized with the back Blinker, while also incorporating a strong white head light.

Accessibility is also a massive factor with Blinkers, incorporating a magnetic snap-on, snap-off system making them easier to dismount. Quite an elegant design, Blinkers is a gorgeous addition to any bike and is sure to keep the rider safe given any conditions.

Designer: Marc Sapetti

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GE hub connects its smart lights to Alexa and Google

When GE introduced its latest C-series smart light bulbs, the focus was on affordability -- as they talked directly to your phone through Bluetooth, you didn't need a bridge device. That kept them out of touch of voice assistants, however, which mean...

Hang Up Light: No More Getting Dressed in the Dark

It’s something I experience here almost every morning. I wake up about an hour earlier than my wife, and it’s still pitch black in the bedroom when I’m getting dressed. I could turn the lights on, but then I’d end up waking her up, and that wouldn’t go over well. So instead, I do everything from crack my closet door open just a tiny bit with the light on, to turning on the light on my iPhone to see what I’m doing. Even then, I occasionally end up grabbing the wrong pair of socks. With this clever invention, I might just be able to see what I’m doing without lighting up the whole room.

The Hang Up Light is a clothes hanger with built-in LED illumination. It’s produces a soft white glow of light, just enough to see your clothes, but not bright enough to spill into the room. Its hanger-shaped design means you can keep it at the ready in your closet or on a door knob, and of course can be used for hanging clothes.

So if you’re ready to stop getting dressed in the dark, head over to Firebox today, where you can grab the Hang Up light for about $30.