If you’ve already upgraded the sound and screen at home, the Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box gives you that little bit more for a more immersive experience. You just need to be comfy with the price.
Creating the perfect setup for movies at home often relies around the best screen you can afford accompanied by the best sound setup, though often it’s in reverse. A great screen is nice, but a brilliant sound system is typically better, and while it’s nice if you can cater for both, we’d typically focus on the latter first, with the screen second.
But if you’re already there with both taken care of, what next? How do you make the home cinema that much more exciting?
One way is to go all out with lighting, employing a degree of smarts to allow the TV to talk to lighting in your home, and kind of marry the two together. It’ll see the lighting come alive in a way that feels more connected with the movies and shows you watch, but making it have that connection is also not that easy.
To make lighting work with a TV, you need the lights, and there’s always the software solution, or even using a dedicated TV from Philips with the tech built in. But if you already own a TV of another brand and are happy, what then?
For that, there’s a special box made to convert the colours you see on your TV into the lighting effects that can occur around you, available in the $499 Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box.
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What is the Hue HDMI Sync Box?
One of those gadgets you may not need, the Hue HDMI Sync Box is a way to turn the signals from your TV into lights around the place.
Think of it as an interpreter of sorts: the Philips Hue HDMI box reads the colours found on the edges of each frame, and relays that to a synchronised set of Philips Hue lights, positioned around your room to allow the colours to bleed off, as such.
The box is fairly simple, with four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output for going back to the TV, plus a power plug that can actually share the same power source as the Hue Play lights, which itself has a plug capable of supporting three Hue devices, and the Hue HDMI Sync Box can be one of those.
The box can handle most of the resolutions you might want these days, covering Full HD to 4K, with Full HD at 120Hz and 4K at 60Hz, though there’s no support for 8K in this box. Consider dropping it back to 4K if you want Ultra HD. Good news, though: Dolby Vision is supported on HDR.
It’s not just about HDMI ports, even if they’re important, because there’s 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2 support, the latter of which is used for installation while the former is used to connect to the WiFi lights in your home. And let’s just say it out of the box, no pun intended: you really need Philips Hue lights in your home if you want to use the Hue HDMI Sync Box.
What does it do?
This is a system made to sync the lights in your home with the entertainment you’re watching, so you need those lights and you need the Hue Sync Box to bring it all together. Plus, of course, something to plug into them all, like an Apple TV or Sony PlayStation 5, if you can find one. Really anything that you’re going to be using.
Plug those devices in the HDMI Sync Box and then set up the box using the Hue Sync app on your phone, and you’ll find a way to connect your lights with the position of your room. You’re basically creating a zone that the Sync Box can be responsive on, matching the colours from around the frame of what you watch with the lighting in your home.
If that sounds complex, the idea is this: you’re using the lights in your room to emulate the colours of what’s happening on the TV at the time. The sync box is just interpreting this for you. It’s that easy.
Does it do the job?
After you’ve set it up, using the Hue HDMI Sync Box is easy, too. It’ll handle HDMI signals without needing the lights to be switched on, but when you want to be properly amazed, you’ll just control it from the app.
Hit start and you’re good to go. The lights should switch on automatically, and the more Philips Hue lights you buy and add to your setup, the more you can make it shine, effectively turning your room into a dazzling explosion of colour and light.
White walls will help make the case, because it’s a perfect shade to bounce light, and this thing is all about light. Light and colour, and colour and light.
It’s especially great with cartoons, something that should be hardly surprising given the extravagant and extreme colour found within, but we found it was a lot of fun with live-action movies, as well. Star Wars was a great example, with the pew-pew red lasers firing behind the screen, and the blue and green of lightsaber battles flashing the room beautifully.
The experience turns your TV room more into something like a private cinema, only without the massive screen. With the right lighting, the Hue Sync Box makes movie viewing that much more immersive.
Is it worth your money?
The biggest problem with the Phillips Hue HDMI Sync Box switch isn’t that it’s not good at what it does, though. The problem is that it’s a little overpriced for what it is.
Officially priced at $499 in Australia, the Hue Sync Box is an expensive addition to make the home theatre that much more interactive, and feels like an overstep in pricing. Even the sale price is a bit much, with a $399 price possible in Australian stores if you look around.
We’d say a max of $249 seems right for this gadget, which does offer an HDMI switch, but really only primarily exists for one purpose: changing the colours of your lighting near your TV. That’s without the cost of lights, which can range from $30 to $200 depending on what you want and what you have. Add it all up, and a total Philips Hue setup gets expensive fast.
For the price Phillips is asking, we have trouble finding value, or anything remotely close to it. The problem is there’s nothing else that does what this does, so the value is whether you can make use of it enough to get it worth that $500 tag.
Yay or nay?
If you can find a better price or have money to spare, plus the lights and a room with white walls that can bounce the light beautifully, the Philips Hue Sync Box is a gem, and one that really helps make the viewing experience that much more magical.
It’s a little reminiscent of watching a movie on a big screen like at a cinema, except without the positively massive size. The vibrancy of the colour in films helps the entertainment stand out in a big way, while video games feel more immersive than you simply staring at a screen. Rather, you’re being swallowed by it, colour and all, in an effect that’s so tantalising, it makes you wonder “is this really real?”
It is — it’s in your living room — you just need to account for the price. If you can do that, the Hue HDMI Sync Box will colour your room for a cost, though it’ll make you and your family smile in the end.