Philips Hue Play, we tested it: playing on PC with this ambilight system is simply great
A few days ago Xataka Selection published an offer to which It was difficult resist me: two Philips Hue Play light bars and the Hue Bridge for 136.99 euros. In recent months I have been improving the lighting in my office, where I work and play, with smart bulbs and an LED strip that add to the lighting of my PC, but I was missing something. I was missing an ambilight on the monitor, lighting that modified itself according to what was playing, and these light bars looked very good.
Total, that I bought and installed them. And yes, it is true that It can set up an ambilight for the PC with an Arduino board, some commands and any LED strip if you know how to program and have enough patience, but what do you want me to tell you, These light bars seemed simpler to me and a good way to add ambient light to the monitor. I’ve been trying them since I bought them and in this column that I publish every Saturday I would like to tell you how they are doing and what the experience is like.
Some preliminary considerations
The first thing we have to keep in mind when buying the Philips Hue Play is that they are not standalone devices. Like much of the Philips ecosystem, it is necessary to connect them to the bridge that, in this case, came in the pack, but in another context it would have to be purchased separately. And it makes sense, since this is what we will use to connect the light bars to the PC.
Another question that may arise is whether it is necessary to have the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, and the answer is “it depends”. Broadly speaking, the Hue Sync Box is used to connect the light bars to the TV via an HDMI cable and synchronize the image with the lights. This on PC is not necessary if we are only going to use them to play, since Hue Play, the tool that we will have to install on the computer, monitors the screen by itself and is in charge of giving the instructions corresponding to the lights.
Now, if we want to see a movie on Netflix, Disney +, etc. with ambilight from the PC, it will be necessary. Why? Because the content of streaming platforms has DRM and Hue Play is not able to “burn the screen” to detect color. We can only do one workaround if we have the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, something that in my case is not viable because 1) I use DisplayPort to take advantage of the 144 Hz of the monitor and 2) I do not want to sacrifice fluidity for lighting. In any case, if you want to use them on TV, the Sync Box will be completely necessary.
With that said, let’s talk about the setup. Setup is extremely easy And it literally takes no more than two minutes. You just have to connect the bridge to the router, start the Hue app on your mobile and connect to the bridge. Then we plug in the light bars (up to three can be connected to the same outlet), the bridge detects them and we simply have to mark in which position we have them (ideally one on each side of the monitor).
How do they get? There are two options: on a stand on the desk or behind the monitor. Two types of bases come in the package, one for each purpose. I put them on the desk first, but the light did not cover the entire wall well, and finally I decided to put them behind the monitor. You simply have to screw them to the base and stick the base to the back of the monitor using a double-sided sticker that is included in the box. It is very strong and does not move the least bit.
You have to put them one on each side, more or less centered. In this way we will ensure that the light spreads correctly throughout the wall. What’s more, try to leave a gap between the lights and the wall, since if you stick them too much the light will fill in a smaller area and the experience will be poorer. With about 10-15 centimeters it is more than enough. And now yes, let’s go with the lights.
This is really playing
Philips light bars are not like a LED track. They only light up in one color (with different intensities and tones), so if we have green, blue, red and yellow in an area of the screen, the light will illuminate in the most predominant color. If we want a more complete ambilight we will have to bet on other more complex solutions. Something that I liked is that over the lights there is a white diffuser, something that improves and softens the light.
To give you an idea of what I mean by the fact that they only light up in one color, you can see the video below these lines. If it were a full ambilight, the color of the light at the bottom of the monitor would be different from the light at the top, but no. Really the left bar lights up one color and the right one another That, yes, it changes very fast and without too high a latency.
How do we synchronize the light bars to the PC? With Hue Play. It is a free app for Windows and Mac. You just have to download it and make sure that we have the Philips bridge connected to the same network as the PC. The tool will automatically detect it and ask us to start the light synchronization. Me because I only have the light bars, but if I had bulbs, LED strips and other Philips devices connected I could synchronize everything with the game. And this is where the magic begins.
We can choose several modalities, but the one that works best is “Video”. It is similar to “Game” mode, but my impression is that it is more sensitive to changes in light. We can also choose between different intensities and I personally prefer the highest modality. It is the one that illuminates the most and the most sensitive to changes in light. In any case, if you are interested, you can try the different types and choose the one you like the most.
The timing of the lights is almost instantaneous. There is a sparkle of delay, hardly noticeable, but the light changes perfectly as we move our character. The lighting is not totally precise since, as we said, each bar lights up in one color. However, each bar is capable of reproducing 16 million colors and 50,000 shades of warm and cold white light, so the experience is very immersive.
The brightness level is quite high when we set it to maximum, but light bars win integers when we play in the dark or in dim light. During the day the light is perfectly visible, there is no doubt, but at night or in the evening the effect is simply impressive. In the images below you can see how it looks during the day and how it looks at night / with the blinds completely down.
If you have Razer peripherals, as is my case (keyboard Razer Huntsman and Basilisk V2 mouse) you can synchronize the lighting with these peripherals, but to me it is something that, personally, it has not convinced me too much. The peripherals and the lights move at different speeds and, to my taste, the feeling of immersion is lost a bit.
Another thing that I did not like is that when we have a black wallpaper the lights don’t go out completelythey reduce the brightness to a minimum. That means that if you play at night you can see a subtle reflection on the wall. It is not too obvious and you have to pay attention, something that will not happen if you are immersed in a shootout or in killing the raid boss, but it is there.
Be that as it may, the ambilight effect is simply fabulous. When we have our eyes focused on the screen, we hardly notice that the light bars only reproduce one color. The feeling is great and you feel deep in the game thanks, above all, to the faithful representation of the colors and the immediacy with which they change as they change on the screen.
It is a relatively expensive product, no doubt, but works almost perfectly. Also, the price is in line with other Philips home automation products, so it is something we have to assume. Worth? If we are looking for a more immersive experience, without a doubt, playing like this is another roll, but it is not something completely essential. The effect is very, very cool, and it will surely win integers if we have more company lights, like an LED strip below and above the monitor.
Philips Play Adjustable Bar, Compatible with Apple HomeKit and Google Home, White and Colored light, White + Hue – Controllable connection bridge via WiFi
This article is part of a weekly section of Jose Garcia dedicated to addressing technology from a more relaxed, personal and informal point of view that we publish in Engadget every Saturday.