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Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box Under Test: Different and more than just Ambilight for the TV

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box im Test: Anders und mehr als nur Ambilight für den Fernseher

tl; dr: In the review, the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box shows that it's not just an Ambilight replacement for the TV. Provided that the user has time to synchronize the lighting synchronization and accept the missing scenes and profiles, which makes changing the setting awkward.

The Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box brings color to the television picture suitable lighting in the living room by synchronizing the entire Philips Hue lighting in the room with the TV picture. It is therefore not an Ambilight replacement, which only visually enlarges the television picture, but rather brings the PC software Hue Sync (test) on TV sets.

Up to four players connect to the sync box

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is connected via HDMI between the TV and one or more players. It then evaluates the image to match the colors and effects of the lamps to the image content. Unlike Ambilight, not only does the screen edge evaluate and translate to the lights, but Hue Sync tries to apply the mood of the image to the room. The type of player plays it initially irrelevant – no matter whether game console, satellite receiver, Blu-ray player, PC, laptop or streaming devices such as Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. Up to four players can simultaneously be connected to the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, which automatically switches the input to this image source when you turn on a device. This does not always work smoothly in practice when multiple players occasionally send out a signal, such as Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV likes to do.


Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

Technical specifications

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box comes in a classic black set-top box design with dimensions of 18.2 × 2.3 × 9.9 cm (W × H × D). The maximum power consumption is 7 watts in operation and 1 watt in standby. The power supply of the Hue Play HDMI sync box allows up to two hue lights to be used, such as the Play Lightbar, as Signify uses the well-known three-port power supply. In addition to the box Signify provides an HDMI cable and the power supply with.

On and off also via USB and CEC

At the front there is only the IR receiver for control via optional remote controls and the on-off switch, which also switches the signal inputs as a button. At the back are the four HDMI inputs and an HDMI output for connection to the TV. In addition to the connection for the power supply Signify built a USB port, but this can only be used to detect the power state of the TV. If you connect the USB port to a USB port of the TV, which is only active when the TV is switched on, the box detects whether the TV is switched on or off and switches itself on and off accordingly. This feature duplicates the cross-component CEC control functions that the box provides independently, and serves only as a backup solution if CEC does not work or is not supported.

Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

4K with up to 60 Hz and HDR

The box supports image signals with a resolution of up to 4,096 × 2,160 pixels at a refresh rate of up to 60 Hz with HDR10 via HDMI 2.0b connections with HDCP 2.2. Apart from 8K televisions, the sync box thus does not create an unwanted limitation in image quality.

HDCP is decrypted and re-encrypted

HDCP is a good keyword, because protected content is surprisingly no problem for the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box. It breaks this encryption, parses the image and re-encrypts it for output to the TV. One way to tap the signal unencrypted, there is not. This actually works in the test without any noticeable delay, whereby the box in turn can synchronize the output with the light again.

Hue bridge and colorable hue lamps required

Apart from this technical data, the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box requires pairing with the Hue bridge to connect to the lamps in addition to suitable color-capable Hue lamps or lights. Control and communication between each other are not possible via Bluetooth. Bluetooth 4.2 also supports the box, but this is only needed for the initial setup, until the WLAN connection to 802.11 b / g / n with 2.4 GHz was established – 5 GHz does not support the WLAN of the sync box.

Initial setup via entertainment areas

The cost of the initial setup of the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box depends in particular on whether you set up a completely new Hue system or have it already in operation and only expanded.

First, otherwise the Hue Bridge must be set up and connected to the lamps. To set up the box must then be connected to the TV and at least one player. The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is set up using the new Philips Hue Sync App. The WLAN of the box is set up via a Bluetooth connection and, if necessary, an update of the software of the box is carried out. Only then does the coupling with the bridge take place, for which the switch must be pressed.

If no entertainment areas are defined that can now be selected, one must now be created via the Philips Hue app. In these you add all lights, which will be synchronized later with the image of the TV. Important is the correct arrangement of the lights in the room around the screen, whereby the height can be defined. The choice of height is rather rudimentary with “TV height”, “ceiling height” and “floor height” and makes the difference to Ambilight clear – it is not about a centimeter-accurate arrangement of the lamps around the TV. This created entertainment section will now be selected in the Hue Sync app. Afterwards, the user can name the HDMI inputs according to the connected devices and thus provide a better overview.

Up to ten lights dive the living room in color

Up to ten lights can be combined in this way to an entertainment area, where no special lamps are needed – all color Philips Hue lights and lights work with the new Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box.

Mode, intensity and brightness can be controlled via the app

You can then choose whether the lights should be synchronized with the picture or sound signal via the Sync app. When selecting “Music” is not the image content to control the color and the color change, but the sound signal. When playing videos or movies, however, you should always select “Video”. The “Game” mode differs from the “Video” mode in that the edges of the image remain completely unnoticed during the analysis, since they often contain a HUD or other fixed elements. Unlike Hue Sync on the PC, the sound has no effect on the lighting, even in this mode. Longer effects in games do not change the brightness of the sync box – a feature that may come with an update.


Initial setup of the Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box
Initial setup of the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

Initial setup of the Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box
Initial setup of the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

In addition, the user can adjust the intensity of the lighting effects and their brightness in the app. Even though the highest intensity (“extreme”) and maximum brightness have the strongest effect and provide the greatest aha effect after the first setup, a lower (“high”) intensity level and a slightly reduced brightness will prove more suitable for everyday use the effect of the disco feeling – which, however, also strongly depends on the number of integrated lights and their arrangement. It is also worth noting in the longer test that despite the wireless communication and the evaluation of the image signal, the luminaires react without noticeable delay and can react quickly to the smallest picture changes, especially at maximum intensity.

As the comparison of the intensities in the video shows, the hue lights in the setting “subtle” sometimes even stay off. Contrary to “High” the setting “Extreme” is characterized by a clear flicker, if the light conditions in the picture change fast. The “High” setting ignores this fast flickering and leaves the lights evenly lit.

It should be noted that the brightness can only be adjusted for the entire entertainment area. Any further control of the individual lamps or a general percentage deviation of the brightness between the lamps can not be adjusted and the automatic settings must be trusted. Due to the different lights that can be used, and their completely different position in the room, however, such a different brightness control would be desirable in order to be able to optimally adapt the system to their own needs.

But Hue Sync is already differentiating itself here. Luminaires placed on the side generally react less quickly and shine darker than luminaires directly next to and behind the TV. So it should be achieved that they do not look distracting, but only support the mood of the picture.

More and different than just Ambilight

A striking feature of using the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is that the lighting effects are significantly different from Ambilight. While Ambilight's approach to lighting the wall behind the TV is to visually enlarge the image by projecting the color of the image's edge onto the wall, Philips Hue analyzes the entire image and reproduces the dominant mood and color. Red hair from the protagonist in Aquaman, for example, provides a red light at the top of the TV, even if it is in the middle of the picture.

Ambilight also independently controls the light from the LEDs built into the back of the TV so that different colors can be displayed on the side of the TV – such as the green of a lawn in the lower corner and the blue of the sky in the upper corner , With Hue lights and the Philips Hue Play HDMI sync box, there is only one color for this position, as they themselves can not be divided again and the position is only roughly defined. This completely different approach of both systems, which is also technically conditioned, must be aware of the buyer.

Lighting the room more interesting

In fact, the charm of synchronized lighting on the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box in everyday life, however, not only in the direct lighting of the environment of the television, but especially in the complete coordination of the room. A laterally slightly offset backwards Signe floor lamp next to the sofa has a greater appeal than yet another lamp next to the TV – even if the lighting of the TV environment is to be regarded as mandatory.

Content crucial, immersion increases

How intensively the attitudes are selected and when Hue Sync is used, on the one hand left to each one on the one hand, on the other hand actually depends on the contents. A trailer with fast-changing cuts and hectic image content, in contrast to a quiet comedy, provides effort and not relaxation through the light at a high intensity, which in turn shows that the immersion is definitely increased.

The LED strip can not be split

Even if Philips Hue even offers a LED strip with the Lightstrip, which now offers itself for the position around the TV, it can always display only one color and can not be divided into several areas in the app, around an arrangement around to cope with the TV and cover the sides and top with just one LED strip. For this purpose, the use of three individual LED strips is currently necessary.

On the next page: AV receivers, entertainment areas, limitations and conclusion

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