Philips Hue Play light bars review

Smart lights for your TV.

Friends watching TV lit by Philips Hue Play light bars.

I’ve had Philips Hue smart lightbulbs in my house for years now and I like them. They’re simple to set up, last a long time and give me fine-grained control over the lighting in my house either using the app and, more recently, Alexa or Siri. As a bonus they light up in different colours, which is lots of fun.

The new light bars add to the experience by not only lighting up the room, they also “expand” my television.

While you can use the bars as lamps, they come into their own when you attach them to the back of your TV or computer monitor.

Using a different Hue app, you sync the lights with content you’re playing, and the light bars replicate the colours at the edge of the screen. If you have other Hue lights in the same room, you can sync those up as well, making the effect more dramatic.

A scene showing how the Hue Play lightbars work behind a TV screen.
Hue Play Light bars in action

The lights change quickly with little lag. They’ll dim in dark scenes and you can even have the intensity change based on the volume of the sound in a scene.

It starts as a bit of a gimmick but quickly becomes an enjoyable experience, especially for action and brightly coloured scenes, when the enhancement is really noticeable.

But there’s a massive downside: the app and the lights only work via a computer. So, the only way to get it running on my TV, was either streaming over WiFi from my laptop or connecting it via an HDMI cable.

This is annoying because this isn’t how most people watch TV. I don’t want to have to muck about connecting a laptop to my TV when I’m just trying to stream something.

It’s this large limitation that drops the Hue Play Light Bar from a great product to just a good one.

The pack includes two light bars, but you’ll also need a separate Hue Bridge (which plugs into your router) to control them via the Hue app. The bars work best when you attach them to the back of your TV.

All the items included in the Hue Play light bar pack.
What comes in the Hue Play light bar pack

The app to sync the lights is not the same as the regular Hue app. It allows you to set “entertainment zones”, specifying which lights to include and where they are in the room. For example, your zone could include two light bars behind the TV (left and right), plus another lamp to the left of the couch and one to the right of the TV.

PHILIPS HUE PLAY LIGHT BAR Price: $225 (+$90 to add Hue Bridge)

First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons. These lights were loaned to the writer by Philips.

Member comments

Get access to comment

M C.
21 Feb 2020
Add the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box?

Adding the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, allows the lights to change in sync with your AVR or Sky Box or Bluray player and so on.
I would love it if you could also test the Sync Box, and also compare and contrast these Light Bars versus Philips Hue Light Strips?

Consumer staff
24 Feb 2020
Sync box

We've contacted Philips to see if that device is sold in New Zealand, and if so we'll consider getting one to add to this review.

Hadyn Green
Senior Technology Writer

Jonathan B.
09 Feb 2020
21st Century decadence

Just what has been missing from my life. Fine grained control over the quality of light in my home.

Rombout V.
08 Feb 2020
Philips Ambi light

Perhaps not as effective like the Hue Play Light Bars, but the newest Philips tv's with built-in Ambi lights offer the same effects. Surely a more decorative surrounding than just a screen. Even the pictures in the screen of the actual series are fantastic/realistic.