(Pocket-lint) – One of the big things that stands Philips apart from other television manufacturers is Ambilight, the built-in system of lighting on the rear of the TV which can project colour across the walls.
The aim is to increase the sense of immersion, while bringing a sense of occasion to TV watching, and giving ambience choices within the room.
The Govee Immersion smart lighting kit aims to bring some of that effect to your TV – whatever its brand – in a self-install system. But is it as good as the real thing?
What’s in the box?
The system is comprised of a number of parts. The critical part of this system is the RGBIC LED light strip (RBGIC meaning it can show multiple colours simultaneously, rather than just one colour at a time).
This strip works in partnership with a camera which looks at your TV screen to coordinate the colours.
Both elements connect through a controller box and there’s a powerpack to drive the whole thing. Beyond that, there’s some adhesive clips to aid installation, instructions, and some calibration blobs – which we’ll explain in a minute.
Setup and calibration
- Designed for 55-65in TVs
- Everything you need in the box
- Govee Home app
There’s a fair amount of setup needed to get running, but it’s not a difficult process. All the supplied parts have adhesive stickers on the back, as most of the kit needs to be stuck to your TV in some form.
For us, this meant removing the TV from the wall, because we needed access to stick everything on. The kit is designed for 55-to-65-inch televisions and the length of the light strip corresponds to this size, with each side getting its own length, connected by a short ribbon cable section to make it easy to turn the corner.
Finding a location for the controller box is key, as this needs to be stuck to the back of the TV without getting in the way of mounts, and far enough in so that the connected cables are out of sight.
Fitting the light strip is actually very easy as you simply have to peel off the backing strip and stick it on, but take care to ensure that it’s not going to be too visible from the front. If the strip is slightly too long for your TV, you can double it back or run it into the centre of the rear a little to use up some of that slack.
There are additional adhesive clips supplied which are useful to reinforce the corners or secure the light strip – we used it to keep some of the ribbon cable tidy.
You’ll then have to secure the camera. There’s the option to mount the camera at the top or the bottom of the TV and this wide-angle lens looks at the screen, detects the colours, and passes this information through to the light strips so the colour is coordinated. It also uses adhesive backing to stick it in place.
Where you site the camera will be personal preference, but this is the most intrusive part of the kit, because it’s visible all the time – especially if you put it at the top. If your TV is on a stand, perhaps with a soundbar, you might be able to hide the camera behind the soundbar, but it projects forward about 100mm and you’ll have to think about what’s going to look best in your setup.
Once the camera is in place, it connects to the controller box via USB and you’re ready to connect and calibrate, for which you’ll need the app.
Once plugged in, you’ll use the app to connect the light strip to your Wi-Fi network and you can then get the calibration started. The app walks through each step, so it’s easy to complete.
Calibration involves sticking orange foam blocks to the front of your TV, which you’ll then identify using the image from the camera that appears in the app. You can adjust things slightly by dragging the points in the app around, but basically you’re telling the camera where the corners of the TV are, so it can coordinate the lighting.
Don’t worry – we found that the orange blocks didn’t leave any sticky residue behind once calibration is done. Then you’re ready to watch TV with coloured backlighting!
Can you use Govee Immersion on smaller TVs?
The kit is designed for 55-to-65-inch televisions and there’s no smaller kit – it’s designed to fit the most popular sizes.
We actually installed it on a 50-inch model without issue. In this instance we had to take more care in working on the corners – as there’s more light strip than you need. By drawing diagonally towards the centre of the TV at the corners, and securing it with the clips, we found it was easy enough to get a good finish.
It’s a little messy to look at from the rear, but this is a kit that’s designed to be hidden, back against the wall.
The camera is also fine with a smaller screen and we had no problem calibrating to a 50-inch display.
Govee Home and smart connectivity
- Works with Alexa
- Works with Google Assistant
You can operate the Govee lights using the app you need for setup. It allows for firmware updates, while also offering various modes. Those modes will let you control the response it offers – changing to match the video on the screen, static colours, or working with music.
It can also be set to react to sound instead of vision, if you want, which some might prefer when listening to music as a sort-of party effect.
You can set the brightness and saturation, as well as set timers, so you can control when the system is on or off. There’s also an “effects lab” where you can find a whole range of options to customise the effect the lights are giving out.
The Govee lights don’t exist in isolation, however, and you can easily add them to Alexa or Google Assistant, so you can control them or group them with other devices. While you’ll want the TV lights to work with the TV, you can equally use them as part of a room group, with Alexa, for example, allowing brightness and colour controls too.
This means that those with existing systems will be able to coordinate devices and once setup is complete, so there’s very little need to use the Govee Home app, as you can just use Alexa voice control, for example. You can’t, however, pair with Philips Hue lights that you might already have.
The Govee system actually works very well, with camera quick to detect changes on the screen and reflect that on the light around the TV. One advantage over input systems is that it will react to anything on the screen from any input.
The system works really well when you have consistent colouration, so sports look really good because often you have the constancy of the grass to set the main colour to green, occasionally changing to pickup colours from highlighted sections.
The system can be a little less enjoyable when you have a scene that’s cutting from one shot to another though. That’s typical of scenes when people are talking – where they have different colour backgrounds, so you’ll find the lights switching with each camera view, which some might find a little much. In movies we’ve found it to be really effective, picking up on those explosions to bring those red and orange hues across the room, really adding to the immersion of a film.
There are options to control some of this behaviour. You can choose to have the main colour from the display as the surrounding hue (called “all”), or different zonal sections of the screen can be reflected with different colours (called “part”). The latter means more colour and more colour changes, but can better spread the actions across your walls. The former is slightly more sedate, with fewer colours, which makes for a nice background ambience.
You can see the difference between these settings in the two images below.
ZONAL COLOUR RECOGNITION
In both cases you have the option of “movie” or “game”, the former with slower transitions, the latter with faster changes. Between these options, it’s easy to find something that suits your preference. Adjusting the brightness helps too, some might prefer more intensity, some might want something more subtle – and this can also be changed on the fly in the app or through voice if you’re connected to Alexa or Google.
There’s plenty of brightness available, so you can see these lights in daylight, but the effect is going to depend on your setup, wall colour and ambient light. Obviously, it’s a lot more effective in lower light conditions.
There’s the option to have “sound effects” reflected in the lights too, which sticks with the video colours but can then pulse with soundtrack. That can suit some settings, but might also be a little distracting.
Govee Immersion rolling music mode is a bit lively. pic.twitter.com/SKY4sh7Rz3
— Chris Hall (@christhall) September 21, 2021
The music options are interesting, picking up things like the bassline and pulsing in time with the music. There are options here, as you can also set these lights to take their cue from your phone, using your phone’s microphone, or the mic that’s built into the camera.
Again, you can have various types of music response, including a rolling colour option, if you really want to get the party going.
From a performance point of view, we’re happy with the results, but the need to have the camera permanently positioned looking at your TV screen will be a turn off for some. It is, however, much cheaper than systems from Hue or buying a new Philips TV, which might make it a compromise some are happy to accept.
The Govee Immersion system offers a viable and alternative solution to Ambilight on a Philips TV or the Hue HDMI box. It’s considerably cheaper than buying a new TV or even buying Hue lighting to do the same – and its effectiveness makes it an option worth considering.
The compromise, of course, is that you need the camera affixed to look at your TV screen to pickup the colour changes and drive the system. For some people, the addition of visual clutter on the edge of the TV will not be acceptable; for others, it’ll be a compromise worth making.
Integration with other systems make this Govee system easy to live with, slotting right into an existing Alexa system, playing its part both in ambient lighting and boosting TV viewing experiences.
Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box
Hue dominates coloured lighting, with the HDMI sync box lifting the colour information before it hits your screen, so there’s no need for a camera to monitor the display. It doesn’t work with all sources, however, and it’s an expensive system to install – but it does integrate with other Hue products.
Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .