Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
7.4 Total Score

$229.99

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  • Great for gaming
  • Can turn itself on, but it depends on the device

The Philips Sync Box is a product I have been looking forward to for a long time, but I’m having some struggles with the final product.

Check the end of this review for some important things to know before purchasing.

Setup

Prior to the Sync Box, my setup was fairly simple. I have a Samsung TV to which I connect an Apple TV 4K, a BluRay player, and a Nintendo Switch. I use a Harmony Hub to control all of the devices and it works great, so I didn’t want to add the complication of the HDMI switcher on the Sync Box since I was already happy with my setup.

Even if I wanted to use the Harmony Hub with the Sync Box, I’m not sure how I would. There is an IR receiver on the front of the Sync Box, but no remote included in the box, so I can’t use the Harmony Hub’s learning feature to learn the IR blasts for the Sync Box. Also, the Harmony Hub does not have the Sync Box in its database at this time (November 2019).

Therefore, I only connected the Apple TV 4K to the Sync Box, then connected the Sync Box to the TV. Setting up the Sync Box requires the download of a separate app (grrrr) called “Hue Sync”. The app guided me through connecting the Sync Box to WiFi and performing an oddly long firmware update (took about 15 minutes to complete).

When I powered up the Sync Box and set my TV to HDMI 1, all I saw was a flashing screen. I took the Sync Box out and connected the Apple TV directly to the TV, and everything was fine. I tested the Sync Box with several HDMI cables and different devices, and found the following: you must use the HDMI cable included in the box between the Sync Box and the TV. Why would that not explicitly state this somewhere in the app on in the instructions in the box?

Sadly, the included HDMI cable is very short, so I had to do a lot of rearrangement of my cable management to get the Sync Box in a suitable position.

Philips Sync Box while playing Mario Kart
Example of the Hue Play Bar lights (bottom corners) and an LED light strip (top) powered by the Sync Box while playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch

Performance

OK, everything was finally connected properly and I setup the Sync Box to work with a 1st-gen Hue Lightstrip (which the app complained would not be “vivid” enough) on top of the TV, and to Play Bars on either side of the TV. I streamed some shows on the Apple TV and was, sadly, disappointed.

The delay between what happens on screen and when the lights change seems just a tad too long. Sure, it takes less than a second, but when watching a show where there is some back-and-forth scene changes (which is basically every show), the lights become more of a distraction than they should. It’s like seeing something out of the corner of your eye and looking to see what it is.

In some cases, it works really well. For example, when viewing a scene with a smooth pan across a landscape, the lights really help complement the scene. However, any fast changing colors on screen become too distracting. The system’s setup is the reason for the delay: the Philips Sync Box must connect via WiFi to your router, which then sends a signal to the Philips Hub, which then sends a wireless signal to your lights. Obviously, this would be prone to a small delay and I don’t believe this is something that can be fixed in a future firmware update.

Later, I moved the Sync Box to my Nintendo Switch and actually liked the experience more. I found the lights to be less of a distraction when playing and helped add to the gaming atmosphere. Therefore, I plan to use the Sync Box for gaming instead of movie and TV watching.

Things to Know Before Buying

  • The Sync Box must connect to an external HDMI device, such as an Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, cable box, Bluray player, etc.
  • The Sync Box will not work with your TV’s built-in apps since they play directly on your TV (not via HDMI)
  • The Sync Box will not work with channels you receive from an antenna since they play directly on your TV
  • The HDMI cord included with the Sync Box must connect between the Sync Box and the TV
  • There is an IR receiver on the front of the Sync Box, but as far as I know, it is not usable (as of November 2019). That means no integration with Harmony nor other universal remotes.
7.4 Total Score
OK

The Philips Sync Box, in theory, will allow your Hue lights to complement your TV viewing. However, the slight delay between the screen and the lights can serve as more of a distraction than a complement. However, I have found the Sync Box enjoyable for gaming.

Setup
7
Performance
7.8
PROS
  • Great for gaming
  • Can turn itself on, but it depends on the device
CONS
  • Slight delay can be distracting
  • Setup takes some trial and error
  • Does not work with apps built-in to the TV nor OTA channels

Philips - Hue Play HDMI Sync Box - Black

$229.99
Impactradius Best Buy U.S
Last update was on: December 7, 2019 2:14 pm

Works with up to 10 existing Hue White and Color Ambiance bulbs and fixtures; transition of up to 4 HDMI devices; comes with HDMI cable

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