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Philips Hue Play Light Bar Review: Upping My Lighting Game

By Christopher Coke on August 31, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Philips Hue Play Light Bar Review: Upping My Lighting Game

At the MMORPG offices, I’m known as the RGB guy. I love it. My peripherals are RGB. My PC is filled with RGB. I even have two sets of Nanoleaf lights on the walls of my office making my whole room RGB. When I saw that Philips had a brand new set of Hue products aimed at gamers, I knew I had to take a look. This is our review of the Philips Hue Play Light Bars and how I integrated it into my setup to take my lighting to the next level.


Current Pricing

  • Philips Hue Play Bars (2-kit): $129.95
  • Philips Hue 6.5-ft LightStrip: $69.99
  • Philips Hue Smart Hub: $49.99
  • Philips Hue Go Smart Table Lamp: $70.93

The Story That Lead to This Review

I’m going to take a bit of a different approach with this review than I usually do and share a little “behind the scenes” of how this review came to be. What you need to know, other than I’m an RGB-aholic, is that I have a thing about my PC setup. I want a powerful PC and I want my setup to look as good as I can possibly make it. Maybe that’s vain - heck, I know it is. But growing up… well, we struggled. I didn’t have my first PC until I was a teenager and my local BOCES ran a giveaway and I happened to win. It was nothing fancy but it was mine and it lasted me until I went off to college.

It wasn’t until I became an adult and started my career that I was finally able to start putting together the setup I always wished I had. I’ve built systems, brought in desks, dressed the walls up in Nanoleaf panels and Displates, and turned my “office” into my own little geek den. It’s funny, isn’t it, how we carry these little marks of achievement from childhood? Now that the big pieces are in place, it’s about perfecting this little room and making it as cool and “my own” as I possibly can.

The Price of Going Cheap

Which brings us to Philips Hue and the subject of lighting. Even with cool Displates on the walls and LED fans in the PCs, room lighting has a way of tying everything together. But, even though I’ve invested quite a bit in my room, I’m not afraid to tell you that Philips Hue originally scared me off. These products are expensive. When Philips first started releasing their colored Hue lightbulbs, I was a new teacher on a new teacher’s salary and at $50 a lightbulb, I pretty much classed myself right out.

What did I do instead? I’ve spent the last few years trying out all kinds of RGB lights. I’ve done RGB LED strips. I’ve done Bluetooth RGB light bulbs. I’ve done RGB flood lights and even have a pair of RGB light wands sitting under my desk right now. Do you know what I’ve found about RGB lighting? You get what you pay for. With the exception of light strips, affordable RGB products nearly all lack brightness.

Take, for example, my recent foray into Novastellar Bluetooth RGB light bulbs. In my mind, I thought I’d found it - an alternative to Philips Hue bulbs. I was going to use them to light up the wall behind me for YouTube videos and get that cool, colored that makes the scene so interesting. Except, the bulbs were so dim that even right on the wall, they illuminated a small circle. Never mind, I thought. I’d put the lamp behind my PC tower and just have a cool, lit up corner. You could barely see it.

Floodlights it is, I reasoned. Except, these were either a) too bright or b) the colors were so inaccurate I could never get a color I was really happy with. Red was pink or orange. Blue was like a washed out purple. On top of that, they got hot and one of the pair I bought failed within a month.

When all was said and done, I’d spent enough trying other lights that I could have just bought into Philips Hue in the first place. Last year, when I was finally able to try a Hue setup for myself courtesy of Razer’s HDK lighting kit, it hit me. With Hue, it just works. It’s exactly like you would expect it to be. They’re bright, they’re customizable, they’re color accurate. So, since then, I’ve been using a pair of Philips Hue table lamps at my main desk. You can see how it looked with a pair of Hue table lamps in the picture above. Each bowl has to be twice as bright the generic RGB bulbs I’d been trying.

Philips Hue and the Play Light Bar Kit

Fast forward to today with the Philips Hue Play Light Bars. Each bar is about ten inches long and just under two inches wide and is bright. You can stand them upright or lay them on their side with the included stands. Up to three can be connected to a single AC adapter. After you’ve connected them to your Philips Hue Smart Hub (you need that too, remember), they’re completely customizable.

In fact, what you’re seeing here is a scene the Hue smartphone app intelligently created based on a picture. I find this to be quite neat because it will assess the picture and assign colors to every light to pull of the ambiance captured in the picture. It also has a number of different scenes you can apply that just plain look pretty.

Place behind my monitor, they created and excellent backlight effect.

Bear something in mind here. What you’re seeing is in broad daylight and a photography light and it’s still this bright. Turning off the photography bulb and waiting until there’s less natural light in this room allows these Play Light Bars to shine. Literally. The effect is fantastic.

The other thing to take note of is the table lamp (light bowl) off to the left. I was able to add these two lights and the 80-inch light strip to my existing setup just by allowing the bridge to scan for them. After that point, any scene I applied factored in all of the lights. If I wanted to separate my two desks, it’s as easy as creating two groups and I could apply custom scenes to each one.

Another thing that’s killer is that Philips Hue lights integrate seamlessly with Razer Synapse. That’s a big deal for gaming because it means they integrate seamlessly with years worth of pre-built lighting effects and game integrations.  That you can also sync your whole room with your Razer peripherals is also very cool. Playing GTA V and having my entire room light up in red and blue when the police are chasing me is extremely cool and definitely more immersive than without. The same thing is true for Diablo 3, it’s downright ominous as that red glow settles in.

Between the brightness, vivid colors and saturation, customization, and game integration, Philips Hue really does have an edge over the competition. My only qualm really is that all of this comes at a premium and newcomers to the system will have an additional premium through the required Smart Hub on top of that.

Final Thoughts

Philips Hue really is the best RGB lighting I’ve encountered. It’s bright, color-rich, accurate, and has natural gaming integration thanks to Philip’s partnership with Razer. It’s expensive. There’s no way around that and, as a result, it won’t be for everybody. My advice, find out what you really need. Hone in on that. You’ll spend less but get a much better looking setup as a result - and if building a gaming den isn’t your thing, this same effect can be had anywhere in your house.

Pros

  • Much brighter than cheaper alternatives
  • Colors are accurate and vivid
  • Lots of customization
  • Integrates with Razer Synapse for cool game-based lighting effects

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires the Philips Hue Smart Hub to customize (there are no buttons on the Play Light Bars like the Table Lamps)

The products described in this article were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.


Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight