The Bottom Line
Philips Hue Play light bars are an elegant smart lighting solution that costs more than you’d expect. While more affordable alternatives have similar lighting features, they can’t match the Play Light Bars’ versatile form factor or Philips Hue’s overall product ecosystem.
If you appreciate flexibility and envision more RGB smart lighting in your future, we think it’s worthwhile to invest in Philips Hue. If you’re just looking for lights to fulfill a specific purpose, go with a more specialized cost-effective option.
In this review of the Philips Hue Play light bars, I share my experience using them for over a year as a PC gamer, remote worker, and gaming setup enthusiast. Many of the features that initially excited me now rarely see use. Yet, I still rely on this product daily. After reading this, you should have a good understanding of what this premium lighting kit offers and whether it’s right for you.
Setup & Installation
As with most Philips Hue products, you also need a Hue Bridge to get full functionality from the Hue Play light bars. It’s an annoyingly expensive additional purchase but makes sense why it’s not included. Your home is only meant to only have one Hue Bridge to control up to 50 different Philips Hue products, so it wouldn’t really make sense to package one with every Hue product. But the $60 price tag definitely hurts as a first-time Philips Hue product owner.
Buy-in pains aside, installing the Hue Bridge is as simple as plugging in a power cable and connecting it to your router via ethernet cable. This could be a sticking point if you’re in a shared living environment with limited ethernet ports or router access. Otherwise, it’s a straightforward installation and pairing process and seems to perform well. My router is two rooms away from my Play light bars and I haven’t experienced any issues with connectivity.
The light bars themselves were also easy to configure. Different provided mounts give you the option of standing them up either vertically or horizontally, or onto the back of your TV or computer monitors.
Even though they look pretty sleek as standalone lamps, I ended up mounting them to the back of my monitors to clear up desk space and to provide bias lighting for my screens.
Philips Hue Play Functionality
Philips Hue Play light bars advertise the ability to display over 16 million different colors and 50,000 shades within the color temperature scale. While the two light bars can change dynamically and combine to display colorful gradients, each light bar actually only displays one color at a time.
Static Smart Lighting
For basic functionality, you can choose from preset color schemes called Scenes to set your light bars to a static color combo.
Pre-set Scenes include standard color temperature variations as well as more interesting color schemes like “Tyrell”, which is displayed in our featured build by Arcwise. You can also design your own Scenes in the Philips Hue mobile app.
As smart lights, you can set schedules and control your lights via voice command with Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s Siri. I start most of my workdays saying “Hey Google, turn on Energize” to wake myself up with a bright white light that mimics the morning sun. As the day goes on and my room gets darker, I change my light bars to a warmer tone.
Admittedly, I primarily use my Philips Hue Play light bars nowadays as static bias lighting for my monitors. But this product gets a lot more exciting when you take advantage of its Light Sync features.
Dynamic Light Sync
Activating Light Sync synchronizes your lights with the media you’re currently consuming. For music, your lights pulse within a chosen color palette to the beat of the music. For videos and gaming, your lights mimic the colors on your screen, extending your media experience beyond your monitors.
I made great use of Light Sync when I mainly watched movies and TV shows on my computer. But ever since I bought a TV for my living room, all of my Netflix consumption moved there.
When I looked into setting up my Play light bars for Light Syncing with my living room TV, I quickly realized it wasn’t a simple setup. I would’ve either needed to use my TV as my computer monitor to use Light Sync or purchase yet another Philips Hue device: the Play HDMI Sync Box.
As for gaming, since I mainly play competitive games, I’m usually more focused on performance and minimizing distractions. If I played more story-based and visually-enticing titles, I could certainly see myself enjoying the immersion Light Sync offers.
Since I’m not currently using the Play light bars’ Light Sync features, a simple LED strip like this one from Govee could technically achieve the same results. But it’s nice to know I have tons of options for when I do branch out to different games or change my setup.
Versatility is where the Play light bars really shine. They can be used:
- As elegant standalone lamps
- As bias lighting for your computer monitors or TV to reduce video game eye strain
- As dynamic ambient lighting for an immersive media consumption experience
- Or as some combination of all of the above like I am
Additionally, the Hue Bridge buy-in cost may be steep but it opens you up to a whole ecosystem of unique products like the Hue Go and the Signe that all work together using the Philips Hue Sync software. If you value versatility and future expansion, the Philips Hue Play is tough to beat.