Govee StarPal Light Review: Portable, Ambient Smart Lighting

Rating:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $50-$65

Two StarPal lights beside each other, one blue, one red
Cameron Summerson

Smart lights are some of the coolest, most useful smart home products you can buy. The biggest issue is that sometimes you want to take your smart lighting with you, and you can’t … most of the time, anyway. With Govee’s StarPal lights, that changes.

Here’s What We Like

  • Good value
  • Beautiful color and nice glow
  • Multiple positions

And What We Don’t

  • Proprietary charger
  • Poor battery life
  • No option for multi-light sync over Bluetooth

The StarPal comes in two variants: Bluetooth only and Bluetooth + Wi-Fi. EIther light can be plugged in or run on battery power, which makes these somewhat unique in the smart lighting scene. You can use your phone to control either one, but the Wi-Fi model also works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so (assuming you have Wi-Fi access), you can use voice to control the light no matter where you are.

If you’ve kept an eye on smart lighting lately, this might sound familiar because Philips Hue offers a very similar light called the Go. And to look at the Govee StarPal is to look at the Go, as well—they look very similar. But I figure that’s Govee’s whole schtick over the past couple of years: take Philips Hue’s products and make far more affordable versions that work almost as well. It’s a winning idea if you ask me.

The price gap is pretty big with some products—take Govee’s Immersion TV lights vs. Philips Hue Gradient + Sync Box, for example—but much smaller in others. The StarPal with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi comes in at $65, while the Philips Hue Go is just $15 more at $80. That’s a negligible difference, so if you’re already invested in the Hue ecosystem, there’s probably no reason to look at the StarPal. Generally speaking, Hue also offers some of the brightest, most vibrant lights on the market, though I haven’t used the Go for a direct comparison, so I can’t speak to it specifically. It’s also worth noting that you’ll have to add the Hue Bridge to get the most out of the Go lamp, which adds another $60 to the cost. Suddenly it’s not such a good deal.

But I digress. Let’s focus on the StarPal thing. It’s neat!

Setup and Use: What Can You Do with the StarPal Lamp?

Because it’s just a one-piece light, setup is a breeze. Plug the light up, install the Govee app Android/iOS) , and add the light. That’s pretty much all there is to it. From there, you can start tweaking all the various features, including Wi-Fi and Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa settings on the Wi-Fi enabled model. Wi-Fi also means you’ll be able to control the light from pretty much anywhere you have a connection. It’s worth the extra $15 to go Wi-Fi.

The bowl-shaped light has a pair of feet on the bottom so you can direct the light in a specific direction, but it also works well sitting flat. It’s basically a bowl of light, which looks really cool.

The Govee StarPal in "bowl mode" with a blue light on
A bowl of light. Just needs cereal. Cameron Summerson

If you’ve used any Govee products before (or even read any of our previous Govee reviews), then the app will already be familiar. It’s a fairly straightforward app, but there are a lot of options here, so it can get a little bit overwhelming at first. The good news is that you’ll probably mess with all the features at first, but then figure out your favorites and just use those. That keeps things simple.

With that, let’s take a quick look at what your choices are here. From top to bottom:

  • Effects: This is where you can define custom colors. The app offers a bunch of different categories (everything from fruits to paintings), so you can add any color you want to your custom settings.
  • Timer: Customize auto-on and auto-off features.
  • Battery Saver: This is a new feature designed to save battery on the Wi-Fi model. With it enabled, voice assistant control is disabled unless the lamp is plugged in. This increases the standby time.
  • Brightness: How bright the light is.

Those are the basic settings. From there, it gets more complex. To start, there are various modes here. You can set the light to sync to music using either the on-device mic or your smartphone’s. I found this to be a party trick at best because it doesn’t really sync to the music in any meaningful way. It just flashes light with the beat, but there’s a delay because it’s reacting to the music rather than syncing with it. But it’s still fun.

Then there’s the solid color option. Pick a color—any color you want—and the lamp will display it. This is where the Effects tab mentioned above comes in handy, too, because it helps you find literally any color you can imagine. You know, just in case you’re looking for something particular and having difficulty finding it using the sliders.

The StarPal light in the upright position
Cameron Summerson

Like other Govee products, like the Aura Lamp, the StarPal lamp also has Scenes. These replicate specific scenarios, like fireflies, lightning, a bonfire, or even a cornfield. (Spoiler: This one is just a yellowish-green light, and that’s it.) But because it’s just one main light with a diffuser, they’re either a solid color or a strobe-y thing. Lightning, for example, is nothing more than a random strobe of bright white light. It’s honestly pretty jarring and not at all something I think most people will enjoy outside of very specific uses—like maybe a homemade haunted house. SPOOKY.

Finally, there’s a DIY option where you can completely customize the lighting, changes, speed, gradient, strobe effects, and so much more. You can get as detailed as you want (with solid colors, anyway) here, so go nuts. Again, this is an excellent feature for anyone looking for a very specific type of lighting.

Neat! So, Should I Buy it?

I’ve used a bunch of different Govee lights over the last year or so—the Immersion, Aura Lamp, Lyra lamp, and now the StarPal. They’re all different and unique in their own way (especially the Immersion), and the StarPal is no different. It’s less versatile than some of the other options, especially in terms of appearance. The ability to only show one color at a time limits what the StarPal can do.

But what it lacks in visual versatility, it makes up for in portability. Need a versatile lamp to take camping? Or perhaps something just to have on vacation. Hell, want a great backup solution for when the power goes out? The StarPal ticks all the boxes. So, yeah, it can look cool, but it’s one of the few smart lighting products that is about more than just looks.

The proprietary charging port
Cameron Summerson

But it’s not perfect. To start, it uses a proprietary barrel port for charging, which makes no sense. USB-C is more than capable of powering and/or juicing something like this and would make it significantly more portable because you’d be able to charge it with something you likely already have. As it stands, you’ll need to also pack the charger if you plan on taking it on vacation. The cord looks to be about six feet long, which might be a dealbreaker for some. It could definitely limit usability in some situations.

Along those same lines, there’s the battery life. Govee says you can get “up to 4.5 hours” of use out of the StarPal on battery power, but of course, that depends on your usage. Want to run it at max brightness? You’ll get less. Syncing music? Knock even a little more off. It’s hard to put a number on it since every situation and use-case will be different, but I’d say under normal circumstances, you can expect somewhere between 2-3.5 hours of actual use.

The back of the lamp with the blue light on
Cameron Summerson

That’s another case where USB-C charging would be beneficial because, in the case of a power outage, you could simply toss a battery pack at the StarPal and have hours of light. But as it stands, you’ll have to conserve that energy if you need it in an emergency.

For travel, camping, or other scenarios, this is less important—just make sure to budget your use time, lest you run out of light.

Lastly, I want to point out one more omission that I think Govee could easily fix with a software update: the ability to sync multiple StarPal lamps together. I’ve been testing the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth versions, and the whole time I thought it would be cool to have one on each side of a table, desk, or even on opposites sides of the room and be able to control them both at the same time with a single tap. Right now, you can only do this with two Wi-Fi models since you can control them with a digital assistant.

But at $50 a piece, I could see people buying a pair of Bluetooth models with the hope of syncing them together. It’s a bummer that’s not possible right now.

Still, this is an easy product to recommend. It’s affordable, versatile, and cool looking. As long as you go into it knowing the downsides—the charging situation, limited battery life, and lack of a proper multi-light sync—then I’ll you’ll be pleased, regardless of which model you buy.

Rating: 8/10

Price: $50-$65

Here’s What We Like

  • Good value
  • Beautiful color and nice glow
  • Multiple positions

And What We Don’t

  • Proprietary charger
  • Poor battery life
  • No option for multi-light sync over Bluetooth