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Hue Play Sync Box Review - A Great Way To Bring More Color To Your Games And Movies

The Hue Play Sync Box is an excellent HDMI switcher that also provides a great light show with a vast palette of colors.

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In a year where movie theatres have closed down and our options for entertainment outside the home have dwindled, many people have opted to improve their home entertainment setups. Whether that's buying a new TV or improving a sound system, the home theater experience has been adopted by the masses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you already have a great entertainment center, there are still a number of ways to spice things up in your living room. I've been testing the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box for the last few months, using it as a way to sync my Philips Hue lights with my games and movies, and I've found it to be a great way to enhance the experience of watching movies and playing certain games.

The Hue Play Sync Box is an HDMI splitter that features four HDMI-in ports and one HDMI-out port but can also be synced to any compatible Hue lights. That means you need the Sync Box, Hue lights, and a Hue Hub, the latter of which makes it possible for all of your Hue devices to communicate with each other. It's a lot to ask for in both setup and cost, but if you want a great lighting experience to accompany your movies and video games, this is an excellent way to get it.

For my testing, I used the Hue Play double kit, which comes with two stick-like light bars that can be mounted to the included stands in both vertical and horizontal configurations. These lights are made specifically to be situated behind your TV, facing the wall. They look nice and discreet and are easy to set up. Getting the lights to react correctly to your media, however, is a bit more difficult. Everything is done with the Hue Sync smartphone app, and you'll need to create specific settings for each HDMI device to ensure your Sync Box knows which devices are for video games or entertainment. Of course, this means you may have to adjust some settings if you watch shows and movies on your video game console, but I didn't notice any issues while doing this. This setup can take quite some time to get right, but once you figure out how to get one device working correctly, it's easy to get other devices working as well.

When you get the Hue Play Sync Box running, it's a delightful addition to a home theater. The lights change as the color and temperature of scenes change, setting the mood for your entertainment. Gears 5's first area, for example, is blanketed in snow and ice and features blues and whites as far as the eye can see. My Hue lights adjusted to cooler blue colors appropriately. Once I moved forward to Gears 5's second area, however, the lights reacted to the new landscape's crimson red sand. It worked great with Gears 5, which has very distinct color palettes for each area, but it was also capable of working with other games with more muted colors. However, if it becomes distracting and you want to just keep your Hue on one color, you can set it accordingly in the app.

Unfortunately, the Hue Play Sync Box's passthrough capabilities pose a problem for the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. While the Hue box can pass through 4K and 60Hz with HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, it does not feature HDMI 2.1 support. This means if you have a 120Hz, HDMI 2.1 television and want to experience supported games with the high refresh rate or use features like VRR (variable refresh rate) and ALLM (auto low latency mode) then you won't be able to route them through the Hue Play Sync Box. If you don't have a capable TV, then you don't have to worry about the lack of HDMI 2.1.

The Hue Play Sync Box may not feature HDMI 2.1 ports, but it's still a very competent device that is by no means past its prime. With most next-gen games supporting only 4K and 60Hz, you'll do fine without the added benefits of HDMI 2.1. On top of that, movies and shows pose no problem for the Play Box, with its support for 4K and Dolby Vision HDR making it not only a great light show but also an excellent HDMI switcher.

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