Improved light bar needs better syncing

For the Philips Hue Play light bar, the Dutch electronics giant appears to have been inspired by its Ambilight television sets introduced in 2004.

These TVs had rear LEDs that cast coloured hues on the wall behind to create an ambience to match what was being shown on the TV screen in real time.

Philips divested its TV business in 2012, though the brand and Ambilight TVs live on. However, you do not need such a TV for a similar experience because you can now replicate it using the Hue Play, a standalone light bar that was launched yesterday in Singapore.

At around 25cm long and offering 16 million colours, the Hue Play is arguably an improvement as this lightweight plastic bar can be placed behind a monitor or TV or anywhere in the home.

Included in my review set – a two-pack ($209) of Hue Play light bars – are plastic mounts that let you place the bars vertically or horizontally. You can then mount them on the back of a monitor or TV using the included adhesive patches.

The kit also includes a power adaptor that supports three light bars, so you need only a single electrical outlet.

But Philips does not bundle the Hue bridge ($89) needed for the lights to work. This is probably because Philips Hue owners should already have such a bridge, which connects to the home router via Ethernet cable, for their other Philips Hue smart lights.

The Hue mobile app (available for iOS and Android) is used to set up and control the Hue Play light bar. But to synchronise the Hue Play with a monitor or TV screen for the ambient lighting, you will need to install a separate Hue Sync app on a Windows or Mac computer.

FOR

•Responsive with little lag

•Can be placed anywhere

AGAINST

•No native support for TV or game console

•Can be distracting

SPECS

PRICE: $209 (two-pack), $99 (extension kit with single light bar)

NET WEIGHT: 710g

TOTAL LUMEN OUTPUT: 530lm

LIFETIME: Up to 25,000 hours

RATING

FEATURES: 3.5/5

DESIGN: 4/5

PERFORMANCE: 4/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

OVERALL: 4/5

This is where the set-up gets complicated. The computer with the Hue Sync app installed must be connected to a monitor or TV via HDMI or a wireless display feature to enable the light sync feature. This also means the content – videos, games or music – has to come from the computer. The light sync feature would not work for videos played using the Netflix app in the TV, for instance.

A solution to allow the Hue Play to sync with content from TVs or game consoles would be to have the Hue Sync app available for these devices, but Philips probably sees this as impractical, given the diverse TV and console platforms in the market.

I tested the pair of Hue Play light bars by attaching them to the rear of a 65-inch TV. The speed at which the light bars change their colours in response to the images on the screen was impressive.

Besides changing the brightness of the lights, you can also choose between different immersion levels, from subtle to intense. The latter seems to make the lights change at the slightest shift in the colours on the screen, creating a more dramatic effect.

I would recommend a third light bar if you have a large TV. Philips sells a single Hue Play light bar for $99 (without power adaptor), but a pair will suffice if you are using a monitor.

In addition, the Hue Play works with the Razer Chroma lighting platform so you can have the light bars synchronise and execute the same lighting scheme as the LED lights present in Razer products such as keyboards and mice.

Like other Philips Hue lights, the Hue Play can be controlled with voice commands via the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa feature found in smart devices.

If you have other Philips Hue lights, you can also include the Hue Play in any preset routines, such as switching them on at a fixed time.

I can see the flashy Hue Play getting much attention at parties. But some users, such as cinephiles, will probably dislike the idea of ambient lights like the Hue Play as they can distract from what is being shown on the screen.

The lack of integration for TVs and game consoles also makes it less attractive for use in the living room.

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