The dynamic backlight “Ambilight” is well-known to many technology enthusiasts. The Dutch company Philips introduced it a few years ago and integrated it firmly into its televisions. Today Ambilight can be retrofitted with products from a number of external suppliers. We show you how it works!
What is Ambilight?
There are more accessories for home cinema than TV furniture and fancy keyboards or universal remotes. Ambilight is a Philips-developed screen technology that extends the color of image content beyond the TV screen.
The built-in system allows the LEDs to respond to the displayed image on the screen, dynamically adjusting the colors of the backlight to match the image. The aim is to enlarge and improve the viewer’s field of perception.
Reduce Eye Strain
In addition, eye complaints that occur during watching TV are to be reduced many times over. Ambilight technology does not only have a single concentrated light source, but the light source is evenly distributed. In this way, the eyes are no longer overstrained.
Ambilight adapts to the environment
The innovative technology only works so well because it reacts to its environment. Dynamic is the key word here, because it is not enough just to switch on the lights. There are light sensors at the edge of the screen that detect how much brightness there is in the environment.
The stronger the ambient lighting, the brighter the TV screen becomes. Conversely, the lower the ambient lighting, the darker the screen. This automatic adjustment of brightness makes watching television more pleasant.
Retrofitting Ambilight lighting
Philips has patented Ambilight technology built into their TVs – which is why other manufacturers do not incorporate these dynamic LEDs into their devices. Fortunately, the lighting technology can be imitated with external technology.
Several manufacturers offer external sets for retrofitting Ambilight, including Philips itself. In this context, external means that they have to be retrofitted to the television set independently after purchase. The various Ambilight kits differ from one another, particularly in terms of the time and effort required to set them up and in their price. Everyone has to find the ideal solution for themselves.
To make this easier, we present a few Ambilight sets with which you can retrofit the feature.
Our Ambilight Alternatives
Until the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box was released, Signify, which sells its products under the Philips brand, offered only an upgrade option for Mac and PC. Now, with the Sync Box, there is finally an alternative for TV.
How it works
The box has several HDMI connections. Using them, up to four HDMI devices can be connected and linked to the television. A Hue Bridge and lamps from the manufacturer are also required. Other lamps are not compatible. The box can control up to 10 Hue lamps at the same time, which should be sufficient for normal household use, especially when using LED strips as those can help achieve a broader lightning effect.
The update, announced for summer 2020, should bring additional features such as the possibility to connect with voice assistants and compatibility with Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
The big advantage of the Philips Sync Box is the easy handling during setup and the easy control by the Hue app. In addition, the manufacturer already has a lot of experience with lighting technology through their Ambilight TVs. However, this is not the cheapest option considering the purchase of the Hue-Bridge and lamps. Nevertheless, for laymen, this method is a simple and reliable option to retrofit Ambilight.
Lightberry offers a DIY system that is also based on the Raspberry Pi. This method is particularly suitable for people with technical affinity who like a challenge and already have previous knowledge.
The Lightberry variant is the most favourable in terms of price. However, a Raspberry Pi is required, which should already be available in best case. All other necessary components, such as an HDMI converter, a memory card, an adapter and of course the LED strips, can be obtained from the manufacturer. Information on the construction and configuration of the Raspberry Pi is also provided on the website. For users with previous knowledge and those who enjoy tinkering, Lightberry is particularly suitable for retrofitting Ambilight.
Simple and good – LED light chain
You don’t need dynamic LEDs that adapt to the TV picture, but just want to add a little flair to your living room? Try a chain of LED lights.
The health benefits are just as good here as with Ambilight: the existing background lighting protects the eyes when watching television and reduces discomfort. With a small investment, atmospheric lighting can also be provided in the room.
The LEDs do not necessarily have to be attached to the TV, but are also suitable as a practical addition to the skirting board. The brightness and light color can be easily controlled via the remote.
How it works
The installation of a light strip is very easy. The strips are placed around the housing of the TV and then connected to the power supply. The supplied remote control can display any light that is displayed as a color on the remote control.
Of course, it is not necessary to attach the chain of lights to the television – this is also a nice and above all inexpensive way to immerse your living room in atmospheric light.
Programmable LED light chain
If you need something a little more sophisticated, there are also controllable LED light chains. Just like the Philips Hue, these can be programmed using an app to generate dynamic light.
Please note that is light chain is not very everybody: The app works fine on PCs and Macs, but on TVs it looks different. Only TVs with Android TV 5.1 or higher can download the paid app to control the light strips. Most Sony TVs can therefore be retrofitted with Ambilight.
How it works
Simply attach the light strips to the back of the TV and plug the included power supply into a wall outlet. The light strip is then connected to the Dream Color Light Box, which in turn is connected to the PC, Mac or Android TV via USB. Programming and control is done by the respective app.
|Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box||Total cost with Hue-Bridge and lamps starts at 400 USD|
|Lightberry||Without Raspberry Pi from below 100 USD|
|LED Lightchain||From 15 USD|
|Programmable LED Lightchain||From 20 USD|