Smart lighting is an underrated way to transform any space, but it’s especially suited to gaming PCs. Colorful light sets a mood, and dynamic accent lighting can add an extra layer of immersion for music, movies, and games. The Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip for PC does exactly that. It attaches to the back of your monitor and works via the Hue app on your phone.
“Gradient” denotes its ability to display different colors simultaneously, and the lightstrip syncs with content through a desktop app. Philips Hue might be the go-to brand you think of when you think of smart lighting, but its wares come at outrageously high prices, and the Play Gradient Lightstrip is no exception. There are three lightstrips for monitors: 24 to 27 inches ($170), 32 to 34 inches ($190), or a bundle for a trio of 24- to 27-inch monitors ($280)—the latter two aren’t available in select markets yet. You also need a Hue Bridge ($50).
I have long had my eye on the Philips Hue Play system for my big TV, but that setup also requires a Sync Box ($250) you must run content through (and it doesn’t work with smart TV apps). Though still pricey, the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip for PC is a far more affordable and straightforward prospect.
The lightstrip is rubbery and flexible with a curved diffuser. You get plastic guides in the box that stick to the back of your monitor and hold the strip in place. The instructions are clear, and even with my curved widescreen, attaching the strip was quick and easy. The only hairy moment came when I tried to plug the cord in (be careful not to bend the pins).
Hardware in place, I braced myself to tackle the software, but it was even easier to set up. I installed the Hue Sync desktop app, and since I already have a Hue Bridge, a tap of the button on the front was enough to add the lightstrip. It immediately appeared in my Hue app and also in my Google Home app. If you have an RGB lighting setup on your desktop PC, you may also want to use Corsair’s iCue software to sync lighting effects with your PC components, keyboard, and mouse (the Hue app offers Razer integration, too).
Most folks will use the refreshingly simple Hue Sync desktop app. You can choose Scenes, as with other Hue lights, which are suited to different activities or are just moody blends of colors. But there are also modes for syncing with various types of content.
The real reason to snag the Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip for PC is for light syncing, and the desktop app has modes for Games, Music, and Video. Within each mode, you can select Subtle, Moderate, High, or Extreme and tap a button to begin syncing. These options determine how frequently the lightstrip tries to match the onscreen action or the audio you are playing.
You’ll want to experiment. I found a higher frequency worked well with action-packed movies, first-person shooters, and electronic dance music, for example, but I preferred a lower intensity for most content. The Extreme mode can be a bit jarring for music and distracting for movies, but transitions are generally smooth, and the lightstrip does a great job of color matching.
The strip works especially well with games. It was merely a pleasant addition to Total War: Warhammer III, but it pulled me deeper into Cyberpunk 2077 and really ramped up the atmosphere of horror games like Alien Isolation.