Philips Hue has been one of the more popular smart home systems and if you’re like, then you’ve decked out your room or house with Hue bulbs.

Last year, Signify introduced a new way to sync your Hue lights with your TV with the (quite a mouthful of a name) Hue Play HDMI Sync Box.

I’ve been using the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box for a while and while it works great, it has some issues.

Design & Hardware

The design of the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is very simple. It’s basically a black box with some Hue branding on top.

The front of the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box has a single LED light, it’ll show white when it’s on and it’ll blink yellow when it gets disconnected from Wi-Fi.

On the back of the device, you’ll find four HDMI 2.0b in ports and one HDMI out port. With four HDMI inputs, you can plug in about any device, from an Xbox One or PS4, Apple TV or Roku player to a Blu-ray player. Since I was already using a TCL 6-Series Roku TV, I plugged in my Xbox One X and Fire TV Stick 4K to the box and both worked great.

One helpful thing is that the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box uses the same power supply as the Hue Play bar.

The Hue Play bar and the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box come with a power plug that has three ports on it.

That means you can plug three Hue devices into one power plug, so I was able to plug the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box and the Hue Play into one plug and down the line, I could plug in another Hue Play to it.

As the name implies, the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box lets you connect an HDMI-enabled device like a streaming device, game console, Blu-ray or DVD play or even your laptop and have your Hue lights react to what’s on-screen.

The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box has support to light sync with 4K 60z and HDR10, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ content. Prior to a recent software update, the box could only show Dolby Vision and HDR10+ content via pass through without light syncing.

There is also Dolby Atmos support in passthrough and light sync modes. For those with a soundbar, the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box supports audio-video receivers, ARC mode and soundbars via a music mode.

You will need a Hue Bridge to use the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box if you don’t have one already (so it can talk to all your Hue lights).

For lights, I have the Hue Play light bar, the new Hue Go (2019) and two colour Hue bulbs. The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box will work best with coloured Hue bulbs. All of these Hue lights I would recommend, especially the Hue Go because it’s portable and you can put anywhere in your room.

Hue Go (2019)

The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is available now from Best Buy Canada for $299 CAD ($229 USD). The company also sells a starter kit that includes the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, Hue Bridge and two Hue Play Light bars for $479 CAD.

Software

To control the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, you’ll need the Hue Sync app for Android or iOS. Once you’ve downloaded it, plug in your Sync Box and you’ll get a prompt to connect to the device over Bluetooth and then connect it to Wi-Fi.

The Hue Sync app looks very similar to the Hue Sync app for Windows 10 and Mac, where you’ll get to choose the light sync mode, Video, Music or Game, change the brightness and the intensity.

The main Sync page shows you which device you’re syncing with at the bottom and can turn off/on syncing. When you are syncing your lights with the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, you’ll see a message pop-up in the main Hue app that says, “Lights that are currently syncing with entertainment cannot be controlled before sync is stopped.”

There are settings in the Hue Sync app that let you auto switch HDMI inputs when an HDMI device is detected and turns on. You will need to set up entertainment areas to select which Hue lights you want to sync.

For the most part, the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box does a great job of syncing your lights with what’s on-screen, I tried it with my Xbox One X when playing games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and films on Blu-ray.

Syncing your lights with what’s on your TV is a great way to make it more immersive. I’d highly recommend watching something like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, especially in 4K since there’s a lot of colours on the screen that pop and having your lights flash and match the screen is cool.

One issue that I had was that the Hue Sync app would continually crash on my Pixel 4 XL running Android 10. I opened the app and it would freeze and crash. I tried the app on some other devices such as the Pixel 3 XL and HTC U12+ running Android 9 Pie and the OnePlus 7T running Android 10, all of which had no issues.

Signify has recently rolled out the update that allows for voice control (Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri) as well as IR remote control. In that same update (via the Hue Sync app), the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box can now sync your lights to Dolby Vision and HDR10+ content, previously it could only pass through that content.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve already invested somewhat into the Hue ecosystem, the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box makes a great addition and with recent updates, can now support Dolby Vision and HDR10+ light syncing.

Pros

  • Accurate colour syncing
  • Can sync 4K HDR content
  • An easy way to sync your lights with your TV for an immersive experience
  • Four HDMI ports
  • Works with almost all Hue bulbs
  • Hue Sync app is easy to use

Cons

  • On the expensive side
  • It only supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks.
  • App crashes on certain devices

Update – May 28th, 2020: Signify has rolled out a software update for the box that enables the voice control, IR support as well as light syncing of Dolby Vision and HDR10+ content. This review has been updated to reflect that.

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