You know those gadgets you show your friends when they come over? The ones that make guests ooh-aah at the marvels of modern-day technology? That’s the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip to a tee. Unlike the standard Philips Hue Gradient Lightstrip, this lightstrip mounts to the back of your TV, and the lights match the content on screen for a truly immersive experience. The good news is it does so with aplomb. It’s a simple setup process for both the hardware and software, it has a very customization-focused interface for specific types of viewing (or gaming), and the cool factor is through the roof.
While the extravagant price is a bit of a turnoff, particularly with the necessary Hue Sync Box to go along with it, the investment is the definition of worth it, especially for anyone looking to improve their home entertainment area significantly. This is one of the best Philips Hue smart light products on the market. Sure, voice activation and color matching aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be to make the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip the best option for mounting a lightstrip to the back of your TV.
The Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is an easy to install, highly customizable lightstrip that impresses on your first watch. The colors are bright, the matching is impressive, and the ease of installation is remarkable. If you want a lightstrip for the back of your TV, you just found it.
- Integrations: Google Assistant, Alexa, HomeKit
- Protocol: Zigbee
- Hub Required: Yes
- Music Reactive: Yes
- Service Life: 25,000 hours
- Voltage: 100V-120V
- Wattage: 19 W
- Type: Lightstrip
- Working Temperature: -4°F to 113°F
- Easy to set up
- Extremely customizable
- Comprehensive mobile app
- Cool factor through the roof
- Pretty expensive
- Imperfect color matching
- Spotty voice activation
Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
Right out of the box, the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip was much sturdier than I expected. This is no flimsy lightstrip. At almost an inch thick and weighing just over two and a half pounds, there is no risk of bending, twisting, or breaking anything. At least not by accident. The robust plastic casing around the lights also adds durability and makes mounting it to your TV easy.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was to mount this lightstrip on my TV. The five plastic mounts have a simple peel-off sticker on the back, making it easy to place them in the four back corners of the TV, with one along the top middle for support. I just eyeballed it, and that worked out pretty well, but the manual recommends some measurements to ensure you aren’t too far off. Once the mounts are stuck to your TV, getting the lightstrip attached is even easier. Just push it in at the marked locations on the strip with the slightest bit of force, and you’re ready to go.
I’m lucky enough to have a TV that matches up perfectly with one of the three available sizes (55-inch, 65-inch, and 75-inch), and if you don’t, that is a problem. Because the lightstrip matches specific TV sections – at 1650 lumens, no less – being just a few inches off can significantly impact the viewing experience.
As for what’s in the box, you’ve already heard about the majority of it. The lightstrip and the five mounts can be found immediately, as well as the power cord and an adapter for international plugs. You will need a Zigbee-powered Hue Bridge to get started, which isn’t ideal if you don’t have one, but if you’re adding a color-matching lightstrip to the back of your TV, there’s a good chance you’ve already got a few Hue smart bulbs floating around your home.
Performance, software, setup
Hue is famous for the quality of its software and performance on its many smart lights, and the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is no exception. It works with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and even Apple’s HomeKit. The mobile app experience is straightforward and comprehensive. Plus, the setup process is a lesson in hand-holding ease of use, although it will take some time to get started, which should be expected from such advanced technology.
Perhaps the only downfall is that voice activation functionality. It was not nearly intuitive enough, even for a smart home expert like myself. While the device could easily be turned on with your standard smart light phrase (“Turn on the TV lights”), there was no way to command it to sync with your TV, as far as I could tell. Subsequently, I had to go into the Hue Sync mobile app to connect the lights every time I wanted to watch, which felt like a hassle, but that’s only because I’m very lazy.
Customizability was vital when starting out with the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip. At first, it was a bit overwhelming. The default settings were way too much to handle, particularly with certain shows like sitcoms that change camera angles often and abruptly. In fact, for a moment, I began to regret my desire to have one of these lights on the back of my TV.
However, once I opened the Hue Sync app – which is different from the standard Hue app – I realized that the lightstrip Intensity was set to “Extreme,” which absolutely described how it felt to watch. Once I changed the setting to “Subtle” or even “Moderate”, the experience improved substantially, providing a more fluid viewing experience that didn’t feel like it could activate someone’s epilepsy. The mobile app also has three sync modes – video, music, and game – which is how I discovered that the Extreme setting is primarily designed for gaming. For example, it made playing Fall Guys an intense and exciting endeavor.
All in all, the cool factor contributed significantly to how much I enjoyed the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip. I was in the middle of rewatching Game of Thrones when I first installed it, and particularly with a show like that, which changes from beautiful locations like Dorne to barren landscapes like Winterfell, I was in awe at how much it added to the viewing experience. Sure, sitcoms aren’t ideal for it because of the bright lighting and abrupt camera changes, but in an era filled with movies defined by their groundbreaking cinematography, this lightstrip is a serious must.
You’ll need a Philips Hue Sync Box
You may be wondering how a simple gradient lightstrip could be equipped to not only display beautiful colors but also match the content on your TV. The answer is, it’s not. Along with the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip, you’ll also have to buy the Hue Sync Box, a small black box with four HDMI ports and a single HDMI cable to connect to your TV. This will enable your lightstrip to connect to your TV, adding another hub to your Hue ecosystem.
This is why the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is so expensive: you can’t just buy it on its own to utilize the TV functionality. The $250 price for the lights is intimidating enough, but when you add on the fact that you need to buy the Philips Hue Sync Box as well, which also costs $250, you’re looking at a $500 investment to get these lights setup. You really can’t do much better, though, so if you want the best of the best, that investment is the price of admission. Plus, you get four HDMIT ports, which is a nice perk for those of us with only three.
Fortunately, setup is pretty easy, although you will have to get up from the couch to get within inches of the device with your phone, a small effort that is obviously worth it. The result is some truly impressive color matching that rarely lags at all and only occasionally suffers a brief connection issue when switching between particularly different settings.
The color matching did seem a tad off at times, opting for orange over an obvious yellow. The finale of Severance, for example, had some wild color effects that blended together almost too well, confusing blue and purple through the fluid motion. Still, this is barely noticeable if you aren’t looking for it, and it’s easily fixable thanks to the robust customizability.
Spoiler alert for later episodes of Apple TV’s Severance in the clip below
Should you buy it?
Absolutely. If the price isn’t too much of a burden, and you’re in the market for a lightstrip to mount on the back of your TV, there is no denying that the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is one of the best options out there. The easy setup process, the robust customizability, and the significant cool factor have made it one of my favorite tech products around the house. And these pros outweigh the cons substantially, with a lack of voice activation and occasionally imperfect color matching registering as slight inconveniences at worst.
Remember, though; the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is specifically designed to be mounted on the back of your TV. If you’re looking for a lightstrip to attach to a wall or piece of furniture, you will want to go with the standard Philips Hue Gradient Lightstrip (without the word Play in the title). It has the same color effects and can sync with some devices, but it’s not designed for the back of your TV.
Buy it if…
- You need a color-matching lightstrip for the back of your TV
- You’ve got some expendable income
Don’t buy it if…
- You don’t have a 55-inch, 65-inch, or 75-inch TV
- You’re not looking for a fun gadget
Q: How does the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip compare to the Philips Hue Gradient Lightstrip?
The Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is specifically designed to be mounted to the back of your TV, whereas the Philips Hue Gradient Lightstrip is a general-purpose lightstrip for pretty much anything else. Both are capable of color-matching technology depending on the device you use and both are excellent examples of the technology.