Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box: how to enjoy Ambilight on any TV!

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Mis à jour le 13 October 2022.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box review
The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box + Play Gradient Lightstrip + Bridge system lets you enjoy Ambilight technology with any TV.

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box synchronizes Philips Hue smart lighting with the images displayed on the TV. This means you can enjoy Ambilight technology, previously only integrated in certain Philips TV ranges, with a TV from any brand. You simply have to add a specific LED lightstrip to the back of the screen and a Philips Hue Bridge box. It is even possible to match the color on the screen with the Philips Hue light bulbs to immerse your living room in the atmosphere of a movie!

Available for €519, does the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box + Play Gradient Lightstrip + Bridge pack improve viewing comfort and immersion?

Packaging & accessories

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, LED Lightstrip, Bridge and smart light bulbs
This Philips Hue pack includes the Play HDMI Sync Box, the Play Gradient Lightstrip (65”) and the Philips Hue Bridge. We added a pair of Philips Hue White & Colors light bulbs to increase the range of the pack.

Each element of this Philips Hue system comes in its own box alongside a mains adapter. The HDMI Sync Box also comes with an HDMI cable (1m) to connect it to a television. Note that its mains adapter can power up to three Philips Hue devices, such as the Play Gradient Lightstrip. This is practical if you don’t want to plug everything into the power strip behind the TV.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box power supply
The Play HDMI Sync Box can power a total of three Philips Hue devices.

Philips includes five mounting brackets to stick on the back of the TV with the LED strip. There is also a small control box to install in between the strip and the power supply.

Presentation

The smart lighting used for this review included the Play HDMI Sync Box, the Play Gradient Lightstrip (65”) and the Philips Hue Bridge

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box analyses the HDMI signal of the connected sources. It then synchronizes the paired Philips Hue lights so that they emit a light that is the same color as the picture on the TV. With the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, any television can now benefit from Ambilight synchronized ambient lighting.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box + Play Gradient Lightstrip (65")
The pack used for this review is composed of a Play HDMI Sync Box, a Play Gradient Lightstrip (65”) and a Philips Hue Bridge.

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is compatible with game consoles that have an HDMI output (4K at 60Hz). It also handles HDR10+ and Dolby Vision content played on a 4K UHD Blu-ray player or a network media player. The system is controlled via the Philips Hue Sync mobile app.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box: connectors
The Philips Hue Sync Box is equipped with four HDMI 2.0 ports to connect a 4K Blu-ray player, a game console, a network media player or a set top box.

The Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip (65”) is suitable for TVs measuring 65 inches or more. It is installed behind the screen to cast a colored halo of light. For this review, we paired it with two Philips Hue White & Color light bulbs that we added to two lamps. These bulbs can diffuse 16 million different colors or white light. It is possible to select the color temperature (warm or cold). The brightness reaches 806 lumens.

Philips Hue White & Color smart bulbs
The Philips Hue White and Color E27 Bluetooth smart bulbs can diffuse millions of different colors, as well as warm or cold white light. They have a peak brightness of 806 lumens.

The Philips Hue Bridge is the heart of all Philips Hue smart lighting systems. Once connected to the home internet box, it provides a bridge between the control app and the smart lighting.

Philips Hue Bridge
The Philips Hue Bridge is connected to the internet router or box to control the various Philips Hue smart lights in the home. It can control up to 50 different lights and 10 accessories (smart switches, motion sensors…).

Key specifications

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

  • Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and 4K 60Hz compatible
  • Voice control (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri)
  • 4 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output
  • Power consumption (standby/Max.): 1W/7W
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 18.2 x 2.3 x 9.9cm
  • Net weight: 0.455kg

Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip (65″)

  • LED lightstrip for 65” (164cm) TVs
  • Color variation
  • Ambient light effect
  • Color temperature: 2,000-6,500K
  • Power consumption (standby/Max.): 0.5W/20W

Philips Hue Bridge

  • Network interface for Philips Hue smart lighting
  • Max. number of accessories: 10
  • Max. number of light bulbs: 50
  • Android and iOS control app
  • Power consumption (standby/Max.): 0.1W/1.25W
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 88 x 26 x 88mm

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box: configuration

Before using the Philips Hue smart lights, you have to install the Philips Hue Bridge. This small box is the heart of the system and centralizes the controls via the local network. Once it was connected to the Netgear Orbi RBK852 router via Ethernet, we simply had to launch the Philips Hue app to configure it. We then launched the detection of Philips Hue lights. The app found them quickly, and prompted us to name them and enter the room in which they were installed.

Philips Hue App
The Philips Hue guides the user through each step to configure the Bridge and the smart lights.

Next, we installed the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip on the back of the TV. We began by sticking  the different brackets behind the screen before clipping on the lightstrip. Then all we had to do was insert the control box between the power supply and the strip. The latter immediately lit up and was detected by the app.

The last step was to install the Philips Hue Play HDMI Box in between the HDMI sources and the television. For this review, we connected a Pionnier UDP-LX500 4K UHD Blu-ray player, as well as a PlayStation 4 to test the responsiveness of the lighting with video games.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
By connecting a Blu-ray player and a PS4 to the Philips Hue Sync Box, we were able to enjoy the ambient lighting with our movies and video games.

We then had to open the Philips Hue Sync app to configure the system. We first selected the lamps to be synchronized by the HDMI Sync Box. The app then asked us to enter their position in relation to the TV. Once this was done, it synchronized with one of the HDMI sources connected to the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box. This allows the box to analyze the images it receives and generate the appropriate lighting. We were then able to enjoy ambient lighting synchronized with the image on the screen.

Philips Hue Sync App
The Philips Hue Sync app lets you precisely calibrate the lighting in your living space. A diagram allows you to position each light in relation to the TV and even adjust their height.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box + Gradient Lightstrip: our impressions

We have to admit that we were initially rather skeptical about how effective this system would be. Of course, it is recommended to have ambient lighting when watching TV at night or in the dark to avoid tiring your eyes, which are sometimes subjected to a very intense brightness with recent 4K HDR TVs. But we were afraid that such a device would be distracting and draw us away from the image. 

This was the case at first. We couldn’t help but be distracted by the new lighting, checking to see if it was synchronized with the image. However, after a few minutes, we forgot about it and the system became a part of the environment. We could focus on the movie once again, and we realized that this lighting offers real benefits. The brightest scenes seem less aggressive and the movie’s visual atmosphere is brought into the room for better immersion. 

With Uncharted, the experience was impressive, both during the very bright aerial scenes and when Nate was mixing a cocktail in a trendy club with dimmed lighting. The Philips Hue system reacted instantly. The light cast onto the walls immediately matched the colors on the screen.

With the game Persona 5, the lighting produced by the Philips Hue kit extended the subjective range of the images to the entire area around the screen. During attacks, the whole room was a festival of lighting effects!

It is clear that the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box isn’t just a gadget. Combined with the Gradient Lightstrip and the Philips Hue light bulbs, it transforms the viewing experience with movies and video games. It’s easy to see why most Ambilight TV owners stay loyal to Philips when they change TVs. Once you’ve tried this system, it’s hard to go without! 

What is remarkable with this system is that it is globally very responsive. We only noticed a very slight delay between the colors on the screen and those diffused by the lights during extremely fast scenes. But it wasn’t detrimental to the immersive experience offered by the Philips Hue lighting.

Lastly, we were a little disappointed that this system doesn’t allow you to enjoy Ambilight with content viewed via the TV’s smart interface. In order to enjoy this feature with Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and so on, you have to use a network media player or an internet TV box, connected to one of the HDMI ports of the Philips Sync Box. It’s a pity that there isn’t an HDMI video return channel similar to the HDMI ARC audio return channel! 

Another solution is to purchase a Philips TV that features the Ambilight system, such as the models in the Philips PUS8807, Philips OLED807, Philips OLED907 and Philips OLED937

Philips Ambilight TV

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box: who is it for?

If you want to enjoy Ambilight on your current Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL or Hisense TV, this Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box system is made for you. We particularly recommend it for very bright 4K HDR TVs, as it allows you to create ambient lighting that will prevent eye fatigue.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box pack: conclusion

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box brings Ambilight, a technology previously reserved for Philips users, to the masses. This is good news for those who want to enjoy dynamic mood lighting without changing their TV. They’ll also appreciate being able to extend the range of this lighting simply by adding one or more Philips Hue smart bulbs to the basic package.

We liked

  • The easy installation
  • How responsive the system was
  • That it worked with both movies and video games

We would have liked

  • To have discovered it sooner!

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