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NZXT HUE 2 Review: A Full Lighting Solution

By Robert Baddeley on September 17, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

NZXT HUE 2 Review: A Full Lighting Solution

The PC Gaming industry has come a long way from the days of sitting next to a giant, dull, gray box that housed your hardware.  We’ve entered an era of pizazz and flair and NZXT has been leading that charge with their RGB options.  Fresh from their warehouse we have the brand new NZXT HUE 2 Ambient RGB Lighting Kit, including back-of-the-monitor ambient lighting and under-chassis glow. There are also RGB cable combs that were out of stock (but rest assured will be purchased by yours truly) and brand new HUE 2 fans that will be making a debut soon.  NZXT pulled no punches it brings it home by offering all the lighting you could possible need to customize your chassis and workstation.

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Specifications

HUE 2 RGB Lighting Kit

  • MSRP: $74.99
  • Dimensions: 76 x 100 x 15mm (2.5” Drive Bay Form Factor)
  • Control Method: CAM Software
  • Output Channels: 4
  • Output LED Quantity:
    • Up to four LED strips w/ 10 LEDS per strip
    • Up to five Aer RGB Fans
    • Up to six HUE 2 accessories
  • LED Dimensions: 300mm (x 4 strips) x 10mm (width)
  • Included Cables:
    • 600mm Micro-USB cable
    • 300mm Molex power cable
    • 500mm Connection cable x 4
    • 500mm Extension cable
    • 300mm Extension cable
    • 100mm Extension cable x 2
  • Warranty: 2 Years

HUE 2 Ambient

  • MSRP: $99.99
  • Dimensions: 76 x 100 x 15mm
  • Monitor Support:
    • 21” - 26” (AC-HUEHU-A1)
    • 27” - 35” (AC-HUEHU-B1)
  • Control Method: CAM Software
  • Mounting:
    • HUE 2 Ambient controller - 3M Dual Lock (velcro tape)
    • LED strips - Double-sided tape
  • Included Cables:
    • Micro-USB cable 2.5m
    • 150mm Connection cable x 2
    • 150mm Extension cable x 2
  • Output Channels: 2
  • LED Strip Length:
    • 21-26” - 300mm x2, 250mm x4, 200mm x2
    • 27-35” - 300mm x4, 250mm x4
  • LED Strip Width: 10mm
  • Warranty: 2 years

HUE 2 Underglow

  • MSRP: $34.99
  • Dimensions:
    • 300 x 20 x 8mm (300mm Underglow)
    • 200 x 20 x 8mm (200mm Underglow)
  • Form Factors:
    • 300mm Underglow for EATX/ATX Cases
    • 200mm Underglow for mATX/mITX cases
  • Output LED Quantity: 2 modules / 15 LEDS per module
  • Included Accessories:
    • Primary underglow module w/ connection cable
    • Secondary underglow module w/ connection cable
    • Expansion slot bracket w/ connection extension
    • 100mm keyed to 4-pin adapter cable
    • 3M double-sided tape x 4
    • Cable holder x 2
  • Warranty: 2 years

Packaging

NZXT has never really been one for a lot of flair with their packaging which is okay considering their products contain all the flair we could ever want.  I ended up receiving a Lighting Kit, which housed the control unit, associated cables, and four RGB strips.  In addition they included an additional two RGB strips which is something  you can grab for yourself on their website if you’re okay dropping the extra $25 bucks.  Lumping in with the control unit is the underglow kit.  I’m not sure what I was expecting and my initial surprise at seeing a matte finish over the LEDs was quickly replaced with a “Of course, they need it to diffuse to look good” head smack on my part.  If you want to talk about dull boxes the underglow kit was in a completely brown box with almost no labelling at all.  I don’t have a problem with that - it was just interesting to see that kind of packaging from a company like NZXT.

Installation

If you’ve never installed lighting in your computer case I want to warn you that it can be an involved process.  It’s not hard by any stretch of the imagination, it just requires routing cables.  This isn’t so bad if you’re doing everything all at once in a fresh build but it’s a different story when you’re taking your previous generation of NZXT lighting out to put the new one in.  A big thank you to NZXT for changing their controller module as well - the new one looks a lot better and is easier to hide for people who don’t want it to be seen.  The controller fits in a 2.5” form factor area which in many new cases will allow it to be mounted behind the motherboard, or at least out of site, as well as front and center in the SSD spots that exist on the PSU shrouds of a lot of today’s modern chassis.  The LED strips come with both magnetic strips and adhesive.  This came in handy for me in particular - the magnets worked great for keeping the strips where I wanted them on the bottom and sides of my case but for routing up top near my AIO radiator they couldn’t stay flush against the metal so they lost their effectiveness.  The adhesive came to the rescue here and I was easily able to stick the top strip in place.

The Ambient Kit was easily what I was most excited about.  When Chris asked me if I wanted to review the NZXT lighting kits I thought, at the time, that the ambient kit was just a way to sync your lighting effects to your bias lighting on the back of your monitor.  Which it is, don’t get me wrong, it is completely capable of doing that but it’s not really the best part of having the kit. The Ambient Lighting Kit reads the color of the pixels near the edges of your screen and changes the LED color to correspond - delivering an immersive experience to game playing and video watching.

Setting up the Ambient Kit is just about as easy as easy gets, owing largely to the fact that you don’t have to take anything apart.  I used the larger kit for my 27” monitor which comes with four 300mm strips and four 250mm strips.  The 300mm strips, for me, were used for the vertical edges while two combined 250mm strips each made up the top and bottom horizontal edges.  You have two channels, however, so onn channel was a vertical edge (one 300mm) and a horizontal edge (2x250mm) - the other channel was the other set. 

Writer Note: The sample I received was not the retail sample, but the engineering sample.  For transparency sake I’m obligated to disclose that I had issues with getting the ambient kit to properly perform while plugged into a USB 3.0 port on my rear I/O.  Once plugged into a USB 2.0 port it worked flawlessly, and continues to do so.  Upon contacting NZXT they ensured that retail Ambient kit will work with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 without issues.

After mounting the controller on the rear of the monitor and the strips it was a simple matter of running a USB cable to the PC and booting up the CAM software.  If you plan on using the ambient kit for the dynamic edge lighting, like shown in the included video, you will have to calibrate it.  The process was simple - turning individual strips on each channel red and having me click which strip it was in the software on a virtual picture of a monitor. As you chose them and moved on they would turn green, and, when fully complete would change to match the edge colors of your display.  The effect is gorgeous and there’s something incredibly satisfying about dragging a small window back and forth across the top of your screen and watching a bright white backlight move back and forth with it along the wall.

Software

With the new HUE 2 comes an updated CAM software as well.  Nothing has changed about the interface that I can tell, you still have to log in every time and are greeted with the various readouts from your PC.  When it comes to lighting effects, however, there does seem to be some new ones - at least compared to the first HUE I was using.  I’m not going to go into all of them but the new processors and techniques used for LED addressing by the HUE controller lends itself to some really nice and smooth effects.  I know one of my huge beefs was how choppy a rainbow wave could look on the original HUE+ if you slowed it down and the new CAM and HUE 2 seems to alleviate that particular issue.  Even at the slowest setting, something like the Super Rainbow preset is butter smooth.

Conclusion

I purchased the original HUE + kit, light strips and fans a little over a year ago and loved them.  I love having RGB options to customize my battlestation day to day based on my mood.  If you’re someone that enjoys RGB and the customizing options it brings then I see no reason why you shouldn’t invest in the ambient lighting kit if you don’t have any RGB options right now.  When it comes to the Ambient kit I think everyone should have one.  No only does bias lighting reduce eye strain but the dynamic aspect is just as immersive as promised - NZXT really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Pros

  • Ambient lighting is incredibly immersive
  • Lighting presets are beautiful
  • Fairly easy installation and setup

Cons

  • Still uses molex for power
  • Expensive to purchase it all

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.