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New Ambilight mode makes Philips TVs perfect for impromptu dance parties

Tom Morgan
17 Mar 2015
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Gamers get in on the action too with new Ambilight presets on Philips TVs powered by Android

We're big fans of Ambilight at Expert Reviews - the colour-shifting LEDs built into the back of Philips TVs create a greater sense of immersion when watching films or sports, but we've often wished they were a little more exciting when doing other things, like playing games or listening to music. It seems TP Vision thinks the same way, as the company just announced a dedicated music mode for its 2015 Ambilight TV line-up.

Rather than adapt to what is shown onscreen, Music mode instead analyses the audio stream being sent to the TVs speakers and adjusts light colour and intensity based on tempo, volume or intensity. Multiple modes will let you splash random colours across your wall, keep in time with the beat, or display an EQ-style volume indicator that peaks with the loudness of your tracks. It sounds perfect for parties, with lights and colours adjusting automatically with no need to control it manually.

It's also the perfect addition to the company's Android-powered TV line-up, which will include Google Play and Spotify music streaming out of the box. It will work with every input, meaning you could use it when watching a music channel on TV, streaming YouTube videos online or playing games through a console.

A smartphone companion app will let you set specific moods, colours or effects. This means you'll be able to limit the effect to a specific colour range to suit the decor of a room, or go wild and throw in all the colours of the rainbow.

We also got the chance to see Ambilight's Game mode. Although it made its debut last Autumn as part of TP Vision's 2nd half 2014 TV range, it was the first time we'd been able to give it a try. It works in a similar way to standard Ambilight, analysing the screen edges and grabbing pixels on a per frame basis, then adjusting the colour and intensity of the LEDs behind the panel to match the action onscreen. This algorithm can tweak contrast, colour saturation and time constants to closely match even small details, as seen in the video below when explosions occur on the edge of the frame during the opening scenes of a Call of Duty level.

This kind of dynamic light would be far too jumpy for a movie, which is why Ambilight fades in and out on its default setting rather than flashing brightly. It's perfect for games though, adding an extra layer to shooters and racing games. We particularly liked the effect of driving through a tunnel in Gran Turismo, although the demos we were shown were videos rather than live gameplay, so we’ll just have to wait until we get a set into the office for review in order to see how well it works in practice.

Both modes will work with any Philips Hue light bulbs you have in the room as well, although they are more optimised for movies (ie subtle changes) than the high-intensity flashes of colour Ambilight is capable of. You can also assign each one to any input source, meaning your games consoles could default to Ambilight's Game mode while the optical audio connection is reserved for music.

All the Android-powered TVs announced earlier today will support Music mode, although not at launch. According to the TP Vision rep we spoke to the companion app was still in the pre-production stage and there was no proposed date for when TVs would get an update enabling the feature. Unfortunately existing Ambilight TV owners are out of luck too, as there are no plans to roll the update out to older TVs.

However, with the new range expected to go on sale from April onwards, we hopefully won't have to wait too long to turn our TVs into a disco light show.

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