Thursday 5 March 2020 2:49 pm

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box review: Transforms your living room into an immersive light show

The Hue Sync Box synchronises your Hue smart bulbs to your television, changing the colour and intensity of individual lights in the room based on what’s happening on the screen. 

On paper that might sound like a gimmick, but in practice the effect is unexpectedly mesmerising. The box sits between up to four HDMI-enabled media devices – your Amazon Fire TV, set-top box, Chromecast – as the Hue Sync algorithm intelligently picks out which colours to fire where and when, turning the whole room into an extension of the screen. 

Blockbusters that previously looked lifeless on the small screen reclaim their scale and vigour.

Blockbusters that previously looked lifeless on the small screen reclaim their scale and vigour. Forest scenes bathe your room in lush greens, explosions send shockwaves of red and yellow coursing across your living room, simple transitions from day scenes to night plunge your room from bright whites into cosy twilight.

Even episodes of Coronation Street become delirious phantasms, the pinkish-red hues of Ken Barlow’s cheeks painted up and down your walls, like you’re trapped in some kind of a waking dream. Gaming takes on a 360-degree quality, music makes the entire room pulse and shimmer with the beat.

Philips Hue Sync Box

It’s both impressive and slightly worrying how easily our guileless brains can be transfixed by flashing lights and changing colours – and it’s only a small exaggeration to imagine that this might be how people felt when they first clapped eyes on colour television. It really is that effective a trick. 

All of this spectacle requires some outlay, especially if you’re new to Hue. At least two existing colour-changing bulbs in the room are essential (around £40 per bulb), but recommended too are the ancillary pair of Hue Play light bars (pictured, £119), which are aimed towards a back wall to throw light up and behind the television set. This is on top of the price of the box itself, an additional £229.

But for Hue users already flush with bulbs, the Hue Sync Box offers a way to greatly elevate an existing entertainment centre without upgrading to a larger television, while getting additional use out of your lighting setup.