Back in 2013 Philips unveiled their latest set of TVs that came one huge difference, it was called Ambilight and was basically a series of LED lights along the back of various Philips-branded televisions that expanded the display of the television from the panel to the wall behind the TV with light, effectively expanding the amount of picture you get from your television with one set of LEDs, and boy did it look cool.
The sad thing is that no one has really followed on from Philips with their own alternatives to Ambilight and up to now, it actually seems as though the platform may be dying.
Thankfully there is one third-party product that will allow you to do all of what Ambilight does but with any TV and in an open fashion.
That product is called Lightberry.
We emailed the guys over at Lightberry to see if we could get our hands on one of their kits a couple of months ago, they look amazing and it doesn’t look like many of people have noticed it yet but as you can tell from the title of this article, we are about to bring this awesome piece of tech to your attention.
We received a Lightberry HD kit for the purpose of this review, which includes the LED strip to go along the back of your TV, the sticky brackets to hold it on, an LED controller and the HDMI switcher which takes your source signal and splits it to your TV and the Raspberry Pi that you will need to control the whole thing.
For this review, we used the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B that we picked up for our smart home setup guide recently.
The guys over at Lightberry were gracious enough to provide us with a preloaded microSD card that had all the software on it to use this tech, so the set up was extremely minimal. You can grab one of those microSD cards too but if you would prefer not to then you should be ready for a little more install than we had to go through (thankfully, Lightberry has an awesome guide for all of it here).
Once it arrived the process was pretty easy.
First, we placed the LED strip around the back of the TV that we were using (in this case it was a 32-inch Samsung TV, we also used it with a 45-inch one). After that, we plugged the HDMI cable that we were using for a source (an Xbox One) into the splitter, then another HDMI cable from the splitter to our TV, and then the LEDs into the controller, and finally the USB cables into the Pi alongside the power cable for the Pi.
After that, you are almost done.
Now you just need to plug a third HDMI cable into your TV and Raspberry Pi and then load up the source for the Pi, you should see the Kodi interface come up.
There’s an app that comes preloaded with the software that you will need to complete the setup process called the “Hyperion Config Plugin”, we just loaded this plugin up and followed the prompts, which were simply to select the Lightberry kit that we were using and then tell it how many lights were laid out along the sides of the television.
That’s pretty much it, Lightberry lets you know this with a wonderful rainbow lighting effect that congratulates you about your ability to set up things.
And rainbows aren’t the only thing that Lightberry can do.
You can watch content right from the Kodi interface if you don’t want to use another source, however, we got straight into trying this thing out with the Xbox One and instantly we knew that this thing was what it said on the box.
As soon as I plugged everything in and got the settings sorted Lightberry was ready to show off its skills, the system was quick to recognise the colours that were being shown and as I went through the menus of my Xbox One the Lightberry quickly followed on.
Of course, I didn’t stop at menus. For the purpose of this I watched everything that I normally do but with Lightberry going but to start off I wanted to check out how it performed with a couple of trailers, which is where you are really going to find the big difference.
Here’s how it looks with the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 trailer:
And here’s a look at the Thor: Ragnarok trailer with Lightberry:
These were without any customisation to how Lightberry performs and they were both filmed straight out of the box. One of the first things that you will notice is that the lighting isn’t always perfect, particularly in the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, within which you might notice that the Lightberry doesn’t notice all of the colours and so it can be a bit dark.
You can customise the configuration file over ssh (more details are on Lightberry’s website), which does make things a little more complicated and so we didn’t want to go through that.
That all said unless you look extremely close to the lights, you probably won’t notice.
The other problem that I had with Lightberry is that it is a segmented system that consists of a separate HDMI splitter, LED controller, and Raspberry Pi unit. I would love to see Lightberry transform itself into an all-in-one solution that includes all of these in one place (probably just a slot for the Pi) as this would make things much neater, however, I don’t really know how possible that would be.
If you want something extremely cool for your living room (or wherever else that you have a television) and something that is a little more than a standard LED system then you should definitely think about picking up a Lightberry system.
If you are interested in Lightberry then you should definitely check out the Instant Lightberry HD bundle, which is one of the best options as it includes all of the Lightberry gear and a Raspberry Pi for from €158 depending on your TV’s screen size.
There are other versions including a bundle that doesn’t include a Pi and even a version that has been designed for a curved screen, you can check all of them out on the Lightberry store.
Disclosure: Lightberry sent us a sample unit for the purpose of this review.