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Razer Chroma HDK: Chroma Backlighting For Your Gaming Den

By Christopher Coke on August 09, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Razer Chroma HDK: Chroma Backlighting For Your Gaming Den

The age of RGB has arrived and it’s never been easier to make your setup look amazing. Today we’re looking at a product you may not have heard of: the Razer Chroma Hardware Development Kit (HDK). Looking past the name, we find Razer’s own LED lighting kit made to run inside or outside your PC and fully compatible with Philips Hue. Ready to improve your desk game? This is one you won’t want to miss.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $79.99 (Philips Hue components extra)
  • Razer Chroma HDK module with 4 lighting channels
  • Install inside or outside your PC case
  • Works with Razer Synapse 3 and Chroma Studio
  • Razer Chroma SDK enabled
  • Package Contents:
    • Razer Chroma HDK module
    • 2 LED strips (16 LED’s each)
    • 2 Extender cables
    • Micro USB data cable
    • USB to DC power cable
    • 4-pin Molex to DC cable
    • DC power adaptor
  • Pre-applied double-sided adhesive tape for mounting
  • Dimensions:
    • Razer Chroma HDK: 10 cm / 3.9 in (Length) x 7 cm / 2.7 in (Width) x 1.5 cm / 0.6 in (Height)
    • LED strip length: 50 cm / 19.6 in
    • Extender cable length: 30 cm / 11.1 in
    • Micro USB data cable: 100 cm / 39 in
    • USB to DC power cable: 150 cm / 59 in
    • 4-pin Molex to DC cable: 30 cm / 11.8 in


Pictured: Razer Chroma HDK Base Kit (front), Additional Lighting Pack (right), x2 Philips Hue Go lights (rear, left and right, unboxed), 80” Philips Hue addressable RGB light strip (rear top, left), Philips Hue Bridge (rear top, right)

You might recall from a prior review that I recently moved into a new house and built up my own gaming den… er, office. For the first time, I was really able to have a space for my PC and consoles and had the expendable cash to make it look nice. Being an RGB junkie, you know I had to look into backlighting kits. It started with this set from Minger, but when I discovered that Razer made their own, I had to reach out and see for myself.

I expected a small box but was surprised to find the package was probably twice as large as I expected. Razer wanted me to see the full experience and threw some other goodies in the box. All told, we have the base kit, which includes two RGB strips and extension cables, power connections, and the control box for $79.99. We have the supplementary lighting kit with two more cables and extensions for $29.99. Two Philips Hue Go lights and an 80” addressable strip, $79.99 each and $89.99 respectively, and the Philips Hue Bridge wireless control unit, which is another $59.99. This is enough lighting to deck out an entire room and a pretty good representation of what you can expect if you’re already using Philips Hue in your home. Getting started with the HDK is as low as $79.99, however, and Hue isn’t required to function.

The lighting controller is small enough to attach to the back of a desk or monitor and features four connections for lighting strips. You can power it over USB or through a DC power adapter. If you plan to use it inside your PC, it even comes with a molex adapter to connect to your power supply.  The lights are plenty bright but I would definitely recommend connecting it with the adapter or molex adapter as it gives the LEDs a nice bump in brightness.

The two strips that come in the base kit are each nearly 20” long, which makes them perfect for case lighting. For anything else, such as rimming the edges of a monitor or a desk, the additional lighting kit is a solid upgrade, not only to give you additional reach but also to prevent gaps in your lighting. This depends on your setup and personal preference, of course, but with a desk of 55” or more, you’ll find unlit space that personally drives me crazy. If that’s you, or you’re looking to illuminate a dual monitor setup, spend the extra $29. Trust me.

Programming and synchronizing your lighting is made simple with Razer’s Synapse software. Like their other peripherals, you can choose from a handful of preset lighting effects like fan-favorite Fire, or waves, breathes, and startlight. Or you can make your own, synchronizing across your different devices. This is where things really get interesting and the Razer Chroma HDK comes into its own.


RandomFrankP does a great job of showcasing this kit and is well worth a subscribe. Check out his take on the lights here.

Most lighting strips, even when connected over WiFi or Bluetooth, allow you to customize the strip as a whole but the Chroma HDK allows you to program all sixteen LEDs on each strip. On the presets, this allows you to select Chroma staples, like the Fire effect (which looks way cooler across a whole desk instead of just your peripherals) which pulse and fade in a unique rhythm. Inside the Chroma Studio, though, you can create your own unique effects.

A bit like Photoshop, Synapse allows you to select individual LEDs and apply colors and lighting effects to them. Using this, you can make a unique setup that animates in ways you simply can’t with the $20 lighting strips you’ll find on Amazon.

If you have Philips Hue or are buying everything together, you can extend this to your entire room. Above you can see just the two Philips Go lights I had setup before the adding the lighting kit. Combining that with the Chroma HDK is as simple as downloading the Philips Hue module in the Synapse smartphone app.  In a small office like mine, just placing these in opposite corners of the room from my desk allows the entire room to be awash in color.

All of this works with Razer’s selection of apps and programs, too, which allows your lighting to react to what’s happening in your game. Having your desk area respond is one thing. When your lighting changes all around you, that’s something else entirely and honestly is more immersive.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to light up a single tower, desk, or, with Philips Hue, an entire room, the Razer Chroma HDK provides a solid option. Filling out all four channels will cost just under $110, which is a bit expensive, but they’re easily the most customizable lighting kit we’ve found, and if you’re already running Razer peripherals, the easy synchronization is a major selling point. If you crave more control over your lighting than the standard $20 strips on Amazon can provide, this is well worth a look.

Pros

  • Reasonable price if you’re already running Razer Chroma peripherals
  • One of, if not the best, looking backlighting kit you can buy
  • Synapse allows for advanced customization and synchronization with other Razer peripherals
  • Can be used inside or outside of a PC
  • Philips Hue integration

Cons

  • Base kit only includes two strips/extenders
  • Pricey if you’re not interested in synchronization

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

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.