Sometimes, a gadget comes along that seems to have no discernible purpose or function. But there's a small part of your monkey brain that insists you need it. Whether it be something shiny, strange or just plain 'cool', there are just some things you convince yourself you absolutely need. The Philips Hue Play light bars are one of those things. Nobody needs them, and yet...
I've spent the last two weeks taking the Philips Hue Play light bars for a spin, and now, having had my first experience with smart lighting, I have two questions to ask:
- Who thought this was necessary?
- Why do I love it so much?
Philips Hue Play
WHAT IS IT?
Programmable ambient lighting for your home entertainment system.
$90 per single, $180 per double
It spices up any entertainment setting up and works a treat.
It feels very bougie.
So, what is it?
The Philips Hue Play light bars are the latest addition to the popular Hue smart lighting range. They are not, as I originally believed, standalone lights, but ambient lights.
They're designed to be placed facing a wall behind a television screen or entertainment set-up to jazz up and colour-fy any living space. The Hue Play light bars generate a warm, programmable halo of colour (16 million colours, according to Philips) that can be set however you desire.
Feeling like a tropical beach? Here, have an orange-hued sunset. Want to get your zen on? There's a brilliant cool blue, waiting just for you.
The Philips Hue Play, operated by the Hue Bridge has a variety of cool entertainment features and modes to guide you on your ambience journey. It can even be synced to the colours of your TV or desktop to add some much-needed drama to your action night. Explosions have never seemed cooler with the Hue Play's colourful light bursts.
It's backed by a powerful array of LEDs, giving you a rainbow of colour options in multiple shades, as well as adjustable brightness. When I first unboxed the lights I set them up as front-facing spotlights, which they are... not. So I nearly blinded myself. They pack a punch, that's for sure, but even as I struggled, I was impressed by just how bright they were.
Just make sure you've turned them the right way around when you're setting them up. Just to reiterate, the right way is the back.
How does it work?
The Philips Hue Play lights hook up to the Philips Hue Bridge, the 'brain' of the Hue range, and then connect to either a mobile or PC app, depending on your preference.
Both have similar interfaces, and give you the tools you need to get your living room looking funky and fresh. There's a range of modes, from 'music' to 'games' to 'entertainment' and each works a bit differently. Music gives you the option of adding a rhythmic pulse to your lighting set up, while the 'game' setting integrates your lighting colour scheme with the action of whatever you're playing (Garfield Kart, anyone?) to really set the scene.
But if you're looking at setting up your entertainment area for some Netflix, you might run into some difficulties. Hue Sync colour integration is only native to PCs and Macs - there isn't a Hue app that's native to your TV.
This means that if you want to take full advantage of all the pulse-pounding pleasure that your new light rig can bring, you'll need to hook up a laptop or home PC to your television via a HDMI cable and stream your entertainment that way.
It's the same deal with connecting your lights to a gaming console, like a PlayStation. To accomplish that, you'll need to set up Remote Play on your computer and stream your gameplay via the app.
It's unfortunate, because as cool a feature as Hue Sync is, it doesn't feel like you can take full advantage of it on your favourite devices just yet. Maybe at some point down the line, there'll be a Hue native app for home consoles. But for For now - keep your HDMI handy.
What's good about them?
Despite how perplexed I am by these lights, there's plenty that's great about them.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy
Setting up the lights for the first time is a breeze, and the app UI is great. The different modes are easy to access and understand on both mobile and PC, and you can customise your light preferences easily.
Once you're all set up on the app, you have a range of options. If you don't want to sync up the lights to your TV or desktop, you can run them as standalone with the app and select any colour that your little heart desires. The blurple, chartreuse and magenta shades are particularly delightful.
The Hue entertainment tab in the app lets you integrate your lighting with a range of apps including Razer's Chroma Workshop, which controls the lighting of all Razer PC accessories.
Once I'd set up the lights to sync with my home PC, I had an absolute blast. I found Chroma Workshop a lot more versatile than the Hue app, largely because it lets you program fun sequences into your lights, like a rainbow ripple. This also synced up to my mouse and keyboard, making my whole study into a one-person rave. Good stuff.
Great colour wheel and versatility
Speaking of the colour wheel - it's pretty nifty. The 16 million colours claim might be a little bit ostentatious, and some of the finer colours are washed out by the power of the brightness function, but there's a lot of options there.
Is your favourite colour aubergine? What about jacinthe? Celadon? Cinnabar? Cerulean? They're all here, waiting to join the party.
Better yet, they're waiting for you whenever you want. With its programmability, the Hue Play can be turned on and off at the touch of a button, wherever you are. Coming home in the dark? Not anymore. Just set your lights to a timely routine and you can brighten up any corner of your living space.
Waking up in darkness? Let there be the light.
What's not so good?
Feel the ambience
While the Hue Play certainly has its ups, it isn't without its downs.
Native entertainment set-up
As mentioned earlier, the native entertainment set-up is pretty woeful. If you're watching Netflix, you'll want to watch it directly through your smart TV. Wasting time setting up a HDMI display loop just to illuminate your favourite shows is pretty impractical if you're not already streaming it off a desktop.
You can purchase a multi-coloured, remote-controlled, dimmable LED for $15 on Amazon. It won't be nearly as bright, functional, fancy or flashy, but if you squint hard enough, it might have the same impact. At up to $310 for the Hue Play double pack and the required Hue Bridge connector, these lights will be prohibitively expensive for some people.
They're definitively bougie, but if you really want to bring back the ambient glow of the lava lamp craze and live like a real 80s rock star, the Hue Play is ready and waiting for your eager, grabby hands.
It's not something you need — it's something that ends up in your Amazon cart after a long night, or in a state of delirium.
For what amounts to simple lighting, it's fairly expensive, but in the end, it is a luxury product, and one designed to spice up your already-extra entertainment set-up.
Should you buy it?
Look, the bottom line is - you don't need the Hue Play light bars. They're lights. They change colour. They give your room a fancy little glow.
Are they cool? Yes. Are they necessary? No. But when has that ever stopped anyone from making rash and mildly regretful decisions?
So, should you buy it? Listen to your heart, and you'll know the answer.