Govee Envisual T2: The camera-based Philips Ambilight alternative in a hands-on
Interactive TV lighting for retrofitting. Without much effort, the Govee Envisual T2 can be used to upgrade just about any TV with Ambilight-like backlighting, which can provide more immersion and, of course, a style factor not to be scoffed at.
Alexander Waezel, 👁 Enrico Frahn, ✓ Brian Burriston (translated by DeepL / Ninh Duy), Published 🇩🇪 🇸🇪 …
Anyone who equips their smart home with interactive lighting these days will sooner or later be looking for a way to make their own entertainment area glow accordingly. Ideally, this lighting should be reactive to the screen content of the TV at home and thus provide more immersion and atmosphere.
So far, such solutions are rare and were natively reserved for Philips’ Ambilight devices. Now that the class leader itself has a (costly) solution on offer, Govee is also trying an alternative. While the Signify Hue competitor taps the HDMI signal and passes it on to the corresponding LED strips, the newcomer’s Envisual T2 relies on a camera placed on the TV. We will find out how well this works and whether the T2 is worth a look in our hands-on test.
The T2 comes well packaged, with everything needed for operation. Besides the camera, the LED strip, the controller unit and additional safety clips are of course in the compact package.
The heart of the retrofittable Ambilight alternative is of course the camera, which is also (almost, but more on that later) the only visible element that reveals the new lighting. The case has a premium feel, and although it is of course a conspicuous object on the upper edge of the screen, Govee has done everything here to maintain a pleasing impression. The camera is covered with a gray fabric, while the mount itself is made of high-quality plastic.
The T2 LED strip consists of four elements, each of which is connected with a short cable. Govee states that TV sizes from 55″-65″ can be covered. While this flexibility is of course very laudable, it results in a small problem with our 55″ LG OLED. The connecting cables are quite long and in the worst case protrude beyond the edge of the screen.
The LED strip can be easily attached with the already attached adhesive surfaces and even after three weeks, nothing has come loose or loosened. Self-adhesive plastic clips, which are attached to the respective ends of the LED strips according to the instructions, provide additional security.
The Asian manufacturer includes two additional clips, which are probably intended as replacements, but could also be used well in our case to fix the protruding connection cables out of sight. Due to the stand mounting of our LG TV, we also had to move the lower LED strip up a few centimeters and in this case, too, a few additional mounting clips, like in the example shown, would have been very useful.
After all LED strips are attached, you only have to connect them to the controller unit together with the camera.
Generally, the installation goes quickly and without problems or obstacles thanks to the clear instructions.
Now that everything is prepared on the hardware side, all that remains is to download the “Govee Home” app to put the lighting into operation. The setup is quick and in our case without any problems. While the app looks relatively clean and functional as far as dedicated tab for the T2 is concerned, the “Scene” and “Store” tabs look somewhat cluttered to our eyes.
During the first startup, the camera is calibrated for its own TV. For this, seven colored foam squares are glued to the TV (we could not find any residue on the surface after 2 times of use) and their position is aligned with the corresponding points via the camera image. After that, all that really remains is to adjust the lighting to your own preferences.
With factory settings, the lighting was too saturated for us and the colors did not really match the screen content either, but reducing the saturation in the app and a bit of “trial and error” with the white balance slider quickly eliminated the problem.
What are the benefits of a backlight that is adapted to the screen’s activity for Netflix, gaming and the like? During the first tests, we thought it was quite nice. Especially when gaming on the TV, the LEDs expand the gaming action and “enlarge” the TV beyond the edge of the screen. Once you get used to the effect, it again looks quite bare when you deactivate the T2.
By the way, this is also one of our points of criticism. Since the lighting and TV are not directly connected, switching on or off always has to be done manually. Unfortunately, the user always has to perform this process via the app, but otherwise, we did not have any problems with the Govee solution in active use.
How well the effect works and how accurate the colors are always depends very much on the selected content. While Avatar with its already exaggerated color design is an absolute prime example, “realistic” series or even normal television programs cannot quite convince. Especially with skin tones or desaturated yellow-red gradations, the camera is often quite far off the mark, which sometimes rather distracts from what is happening on the screen.
In contrast, the Ambilight alternative is convincing in gaming, except for the mentioned color deviations. The LEDs also keep up with fast movements and react sensitively enough without the effect being distracting. We always used the T2 in “Movie” mode, but the “Game” setting was a bit too hectic.
Apart from the few real points of criticism, the Govee Envisual T2 is completely convincing. The long connection cables are probably only a problem for 55″ TVs, and with a bit of patience and dexterity, you can certainly achieve a much better result here. You can also get used to switching it on manually via the app, especially when you consider that the lighting is not suitable or desired for every type of content.
Then, there is only the problem of the aforementioned color deviations, and here, everyone will have to decide for themselves how much value is placed on an exact color reproduction. We can confirm that the TV lighting can be really distracting in some examples (very specifically in a “Designated Survivor” binge marathon), but this is contrasted by our test runs with Uncharted 4 and Avatar, which again completely convinced us.
Of course, when it comes to interactive TV lighting, you can’t ignore the offering from class leader Philips and the corresponding Ambilight system. While the native solution has the advantage of not needing a camera and extra light strips, it is only available with Philips TVs. With the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box and the Gradient Light Strip, Philips also offers a competing product for retrofitting.
While no camera is used here either, but all devices are connected via HDMI, you have to dig deep into your pocket, as is typical for Hue, and the corresponding set of Play Box and LED Strip costs more than 400 Euros (~$434). In contrast, the Govee T2 is almost inexpensive with an RRP starting at 150 Euros (~$163), and while we unfortunately couldn’t test the Philips solution yet, the pricing will be the deciding factor for many lighting enthusiasts. And this discrepancy will probably be admitted even by fans whose smart lighting otherwise comes exclusively from Philips.
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Alexander Wätzel, 2023-01-15 (Update: 2023-01-16)