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If you want more from your TV bias lights than a subtle glow that boosts contrast and eases eye strain, this responsive LED light strip from Govee is worth a try. A relatively inexpensive way to make your TV more immersive, Govee’s DreamColor for TV bias lighting kit comes equipped with a camera that scans your screen, which allows the LED strip to sync—to one degree or another—with the images on your TV. Lag is an issue, however, and the amount of precision and drama you actually get from Govee’s lighting effects varies depending on what you’re watching, as well as the configuration of your set.
This review is part of our ongoing coverage of bias lighting for TVs and computer monitors. For more information on this topic, and links to reviews of competing products, take a look at this in-depth story.
Installation and setup
The Govee lighting strip arrives on a reel like many other bias lighting strips we’ve seen, but this one is a little different: Instead of a single long strip, the Govee comes in three segments joined by a pair of short coiled cords. Once you’ve peeled off a plastic film to reveal the adhesive backing, you stick the first part of the strip along the right rear edge of your TV, then secure the second part along the top edge of your set, and then the third segment down the left edge.
Because the strip comes in three connected pieces, you can’t simply cut it to fit your TV like other bias lighting strips we’ve tried. If you use the Govee on a TV that’s smaller than 55 inches (as I discovered to my chagrin when I installed it on my 46-inch Sony Bravia TV), you might find that the first two segments are too long, and cutting them will disconnect the other sections. I was able to tuck the excess lighting around the curved corners of my set, but I’d recommend you only install the strip on a TV that’s the recommended 55- to 80 inches (measured diagonally).
Next comes the compact Govee camera, which you’re supposed to stick on top of your TV near the middle, with the camera lens parallel to the floor. Positioned this way, the camera gets enough of a look at your TV screen to gauge the images and colors in the picture.
Finally, you’ll need to stick the Govee control box (which is roughly the size of a deck of cards) onto the back of your TV, and then connect the lighting strip and the camera via a pair of USB Type-A ports, while an AC adapter plugs into a barrel-shaped power port.
Now comes the software, which comes in the form of the Govee Home app for iOS and Android. Once you install the app and fire it up, it’ll prompt you to create a Govee account (which you can only do within the app, not on a desktop browser), and then to discover new Govee devices via Bluetooth. The app quickly found and paired with my Govee lighting strip.
Connecting the Govee to my Wi-Fi network proved to be a bit more tricky. As with too many other smart devices, the Govee only connects to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, and it refused to connect to my dual-band network. I had to tweak my network settings to create a 2.4GHz-only network, then tap in the SSID manually into the Govee’s Wi-Fi settings screen. (The app automatically fills in the name of the network that your mobile device is connected to, but it won’t scan for other available networks.)
After you have the Govee connected to Wi-Fi, you can integrate it with Amazon Alexa or Google Home, which allows you to control the lights via voice commands (e.g., “Alexa, turn Govee light strip off.”)
Last but not least, you’ll need to calibrate the camera’s lens to ensure it’s accurately tracking your TV’s screen. Once at the calibration settings, you’ll see a still image of what the Govee’s camera sees, and you can help focus the camera’s gaze by dragging a series of five points to the four corners and the top of the screen.
It’s worth noting that the Govee strip doesn’t come with a physical remote control; instead, you must control it using the Govee Home app.
Once you have the Govee’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections figured out, you can start playing with its lighting modes. At the most basic level, you can switch between eight color presets, or use a pair of sliders to fine-tune a color.
The Govee also offers eight lighting scenes, from Sunrise and Sunset to Candlelight and Snow Flake. Sunrise, for example, slowly (and repeatedly) fades in a warm glow, while Snowflake has more of a cool, pulsating look. You can also create custom lighting scenes with your own colors and effects.
Next up is a Music mode that uses a built-in microphone to sync the lights with whatever music (or any noise at all, actually) is within earshot. Four Music settings (Energetic, Rhythm, Spectrum, and Rolling) dial up a variety of pulsating effects, and the results are eye popping and crowd pleasing.
Finally, we get to the main course: video syncing, which you can enable by tapping the Video button in the Govee Home interface. Once you tap the button (and assuming you’ve calibrated the Govee’s camera correctly), the Govee lights should begin syncing with the action on your TV screen.
With all our installation and setup completed, how does Govee’s bias lighting look once it’s syncing with your TV? Well, it depends.
I got the best results when watching full-screen (or 1.85:1 aspect ratio) movies and shows, which give the Govee’s camera the most picture to scan. The Govee also loves bright, bold colors. I found that the Govee worked particularly well with James Cameron’s Avatar (which is presented in a full-frame 1:1.85 aspect ratio on home video), with the purple Tree of Souls and the big Navee attack near the end of the film yielding big, multi-color splashes of color on the wall. That said, there was a little lag as the Govee struggled to keep up with the action on the screen, and the lights occasionally made some odd color choices before righting themselves.
For movies and shows with drab colors, however, the Govee’s lighting effects become much more subdued. As the doomed astronauts explored the derelict ship in Alien, the Govee light strip tended to park at a bluish-purple hue, although the lights would kick up again during close-ups of fluctuating CRT displays. The same thing happened as Ron Howard and friends cruised in their cars in American Graffiti; more purples and blues. Even the black-and-white Psycho got the blue treatment, an effect Hitch probably wouldn’t approve of.
To be fair, my particular TV could be partially to blame. Not only is its 46-inch screen smaller than the recommended 55-inch minimum, it also has large bezels that leave the Govee’s camera lens a good four inches above the actual image, or closer to seven inches away in the case of widescreen (2.35:1 or greater) movies that have been letterboxed.
In any event, the Govee’s camera is quite sensitive to your particular TV setup, which means your mileage will vary in terms of its syncing performance.
Beyond its TV syncing abilities, the Govee bias lighting kit also helps alleviate eye strain by boosting the overall ambient light in the room without casting light directly on the screen. The lights also boost your TV’s apparent contrast, but the bright pulsing colors could also have the effect of distorting the actual colors in the picture, while also robbing detail from darker areas of the screen.
The Govee DreamColor for TV with Alexa is one of the least-expensive bias lighting kits we’ve seen that’s capable of syncing with your screen, but its performance varied wildly depending on what we were watching. If you decide to give the Govee a try, keep your expectations in check.
Best Prices Today: Govee DreamColor for TV with Alexa
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.