David's Take: Surround ‘Sound' For Your Eyes: Philips Hue Play Lights and Sync Box

David Susilo


Published: 01/01/2020 10:20:01 AM EST in Mobile

David's Take: Surround ‘Sound' For Your Eyes: Philips Hue Play Lights and Sync Box

About a decade or so ago, Philips TV (in the European market only) came out with Ambilight, essentially a bias light for your TV that you can set as static (works as a regular bias light) or as responsive bias light. This means the lights would not only have the potential to help ease the strain of looking at a bright TV screen in a darkened room (in the case of static), but also to create a more immersive experience by matching the bias light to the content of the screen and creating an illusion of the colours on screen bleeding into the wall.

With the Philips Hue Play Lights and Sync Box, the lights can not only "bleed to wall" but depending on how you set the other Philips Hue lights, you can be surrounded and literally immersed in colours matching what you're viewing.

This is not a cheap proposition, however. To create this experience, you will also need the Hue Hub, the Play Lights, HDMI Sync Box, and at least two more Hue lights to be installed behind you for a surround-sound configuration. All in all, after tax, the whole kit and caboodle will cost you almost $1,000 after tax.

Connecting the system was easy. First, I connected the hub using an ethernet cable to my ethernet switch. Then, I downloaded the Hue app and follow the step-by-step instructions. Finally, I added the Play Lights and installed them on their mini stands behind my Panasonic 65GZ2000 OLED TV. I continued to follow the steps in the app to add the other two Philips Hue lights, which I installed on the rear right and rear left of my seating position, after which I added the HDMI sync box to the system. The whole thing took about 20 minutes. It's that easy.

While it works well overall, I have several notes for Philips. First, there is no remote control for the sync box. I had to use the front button to cycle between the four HDMI inputs of the sync box. It's supposed to be auto-detect, but due to my Rogers cable box constantly sending HDMI signal (yes, even when turned off, the Rogers box sends a black-screen signal), the sync box would get confused. Further, there is no remote code I can use on my Harmony Ultimate universal remote to control it either.

Although the Sync Box is fully 18Gbps capable, the unit can only handle HDR10, not HDR10+ or Dolby Vision. When I played HDR 10+ or Dolby Vision, the responsive bias light reverted to ‘ye olde' static bias. And finally, while this unit can do responsive bias for music, there is no analog audio in/out (the Sync Box is strictly HDMI) so when I want to play music, I still have to use my Panasonic UB820 UHD Blu-ray player.

As for "fine tuning" the system, there are various intensities you can choose. For "wow" factor, I used high intensity with brightness set at about 75%-80%. But for actual viewing, I use medium intensity with brightness set at around 30%. This gives a subtle yet distinct surround visual that I prefer. As for static bias lighting, I set the brightness at 35%.

I can finally have the Ambilight that I've always dreamed of. Better yet, this version of "Ambilight" is more akin to Ambilight on steroids! The price for the entire set should be lower OR have the Sync Box more complete in features. But as it stands, I still recommend this system to home theatre enthusiasts and gamers alike.

 





Article Tags:  david's take, philips hue, lights, play lights, sync box, smart home, smart lighting, hands-on review

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David's Take: Surround ‘Sound' For Your Eyes: Philips Hue Play Lights and Sync Box








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