The Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is a luxury lighting system designed to enhance your immersion when gaming or watching TV. It’s undoubtedly cool, but it’s also (a bit too) expensive.
The Lightstrip gets a lot of things right – it’s easy to set up, it can sync with your TV, it boasts fantastic performance, and it sits in a market on its own with no real competitors or at least none with these capabilities.
To use the device, you also need a Philips Hue Bridge (if you already have one, you can use that), which isn’t cheap at $109.95 and frustratingly doesn’t come in the box. And to get the most out of the device, you need the Philips HDMI Sync Box, which is an expensive add-on at $549.95.
This will allow you to sync the colours of the Lightstrip with the colours on the TV screen, but it isn’t compatible with smart TV apps or standard television.
If you can afford it, you’ll love the Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip. It adds dynamic lighting to the background of your TV. However, I’m not convinced many people will want to spend over $1,000 on some colourful lights.
- Bright at 1,100 lumens
- Easy to setup
- 16 million different colours
- Accurate TV sync
- Very expensive
- Colour sync must go through an HDMI device to work
- Need other devices to get the most out of the Lightstrip
The Lightstrip comes in three sizes with varying prices. The 55-inch version costs $439.95, the 65-inch costs $484.95 and the 75-inch costs $549.95.
It’s important to remember that the Lightstrip requires a Hub if you don’t already have one, which costs an extra $109.95 for the Hue Bridge device. Also, to get the most out of the Lightstrip and enable light syncing with your TV, you’ll need an HDMI Sync Box which costs $549.95.
Altogether this makes for a costly package. For the smallest version of the Lightstrip, you’re looking at paying over $1,000 if you don’t have any of these devices already.
As mentioned, the Lightstrip comes in three sizes. It’s important that you get one that matches the size of your TV because if it’s too big or small, it won’t work well.
It’s a flexible strip of LED lights that you fix to the back of your TV. The box comes with plastic mounts, kitted with strong Command adhesive that you fix to specific positions. It’s easy to set up, and most importantly, the Command adhesive is secure. Not once did the mounts come unstuck.
I had some difficulties putting them on my wall-mounted TV, though. In the end, I had to take the whole thing off, attach the pieces and mount it again. This wasn’t a biggy, but it was significantly more challenging than a table-based TV.
Throughout the Lightstrip are LEDs. The 65-inch version of the Lightstrip I was reviewing houses 80. You can change the colours of them all via the Philips Hue app – it’s straightforward.
The Lightstrip is bright with a 1,100-lumen output – the equivalent of a 75W lightbulb – it can be customised between 16 million different colour hues, it can be set to white light with a temperature range of 2,000k to 6,500k, and it requires 20w of power. It’s bright and effective.
On the box, it says “Personal Wireless Lighting.” This doesn’t mean the Lightstrip doesn’t require cords or cables. It simply means it’s controlled via your phone or a different device. If you have a wall-mounted TV and you like the clean look of no wires hanging down, you will need to feed the Lightstrip’s power cable through a hole in the wall. Otherwise, it will hang beneath the TV or to the side. Something to consider when planning the setup.
Setting the Lightstrip up is easy. The box comes with an easy-to-follow guide on how to set these mounts best, and Philips have also released some easy-to-follow tutorials on YouTube.
There are five mounts in the box, and they have arrows on them to indicate where they go on the back of the TV. There are four corner mounts and a centre mount. As mentioned, they come with solid Command adhesive, and they create a secure hold on the back of your TV.
The Lightstrip is bendy and manoeuvrable so wrapping it around the plastic pieces is incredibly easy. The Lightstrip locks into place, and it’s done. There’s also a power adapter with adhesive, so you can stick it to the back of your TV, also.
If you don’t already have one, you must purchase a Philips Hue Bridge. This connects directly to your Wi-Fi router via an Ethernet cable and is used to control the Lightstrip. Open up the Hue app on your phone, and you’ll have to sync the Lightstrip with the Bridge. I had no problems with this. Setting it up on the app is just as easy as the physical installation; it’s a doddle.
The Hue app is easy to use. It connects with the Hue Bridge and, from there, automatically finds your Philips Hue lights.
In the app, you can change the colour of the lights and the brightness. You can also select from several premade scenes. There’s also an option for creating automation in which the lights will turn on and off at select times with select colours.
If you have more than one Philips light, you can set them up in different rooms and control them independently. You can turn off the lights in the kitchen while leaving the lights on in the lounge, or you can change the colour of the lights in the garage while having different colours around the house.
It’s important to know that all the lights need to be on the same WiFi network as the Hue Bridge, so if you have a larger house, that may be something you need to consider.
Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box
Although not a requirement, to get the most out of the Lightstrip, you’ll want the very expensive Hue HDMI Sync Box.
This lets you sync the Lightstrip with what’s happening on your TV. You can adjust the lights from within the app and choose between three different lighting categories: game, cinema and music.
I found I had the best results when tinkering inside the app, depending on what was on the screen. Game mode did a much better job of keeping up with fast movements in games and lent itself well to action-packed movies. The lights were able to better keep up with the colours on screen. Music was better for well… music. And Cinema was best for slower-paced films or TV shows.
The HDMI Sync lighting is incredibly accurate. It did an excellent job representing the on-screen colours, and it added to the experience. Big explosions in action films lit up the wall behind my TV, games felt more immersive and watching colourful movies like Moana or Avatar were great experiences.
It does pay to remember that the Lightstrip is located on the back of the TV. Although impressively bright, even in sun-filled rooms, it won’t fill the space with colour, instead spreading light around the wall behind it. Because of this, it works best when the TV is close to a wall. For most people, this will probably be the way their TV is set up, but it’s something to pay attention to.
The HDMI Sync Box does come with some limitations. For it to work it must feed through an HDMI-compatible device. This could be a streaming device like Apple TV, or it could be a console like PlayStation 5 or Xbox. You plug an HDMI cable into one end of the box, then use another HDMI cable to connect it to the TV.
The problem with this is if you have apps downloaded directly on your smart TV or you’re watching normal television like Sky, the sync function won’t work. It’s a significant drawback. One of the reasons you have a Smart TV is so you don’t need an external device for apps like Netflix or Disney+. This will be a significant putoff for a lot of people.
While you can still use the Lightstrip simply as a light, you can’t sync it with content on the TV, and without this feature, I’m not sure it’s worth it.
The Sync Box is also very expensive. It’s a massive investment for what is essentially just fancy lighting and therefore is what I would consider a more luxury product.
The Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is a lighting setup for a specific kind of person. That person is someone who wants to get the most out of their home theatre experience.
It’s not for everyone. Some people will question the benefits of having flashy lights behind their TV, while others will love them. I loved it. I think the lights add a level of immersion to games and films, and it’s also cool to show friends and family.
It’s easy to set up and has impressive performance capabilities, but it’s expensive, too expensive. The HDMI Sync Box is a must-have; it sets the Lightstrip apart from the competition, but at an extra $549.95 on top of the roughly $500 Lightstrip and $110 Hue Bridge, it’s a massive investment. You can get 4K TVs for cheaper than this.
It also doesn’t work with smart TV apps and standard television channels, which is a setback.
If you can afford it, you watch most of your TV via a device like Apple TV, and if you want to add another dimension to your home theatre movie or gaming viewing experience, you’ll love the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip. But being able to afford it is a massive hurdle here. It’s very expensive, and I think for most people, it’s not worth the investment.