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Bias lighting is a great way to subtly enhance the viewing experience of your living room TV or desktop computer. Here are the best ways to get some sweet LEDs on the back of your display.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, bias lighting is lighting you put behind a bright screen (like your TV or computer monitor) in order to semi-equalize the light levels between the ambient light in the room and screen. By placing the light behind the screen you get the benefits of not sitting in the dark watching the screen (and straining your eyes in the process) but avoid the glare a side table lamp or the like might create.
So what do you need to get started? For any kind of LED lighting strip, you need three components: the LED strip itself, a power source, and a controller mechanism. Most of the cheap models integrate all three of them in one, with USB power via your television or monitor’s spare port and an infrared remote control. Just stick the strip to the rear of the display, plug it in, and you’re ready to go. But if you want more extensive options, you can upgrade the system so the controller works with smarthome tech and voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant. Desktop PC enthusiasts have more particular needs if they want to integrate the lighting around their monitors or desk with the lights inside their machine and on a keyboard and mouse. We’ll cover all of them in the picks below.
If all you want is a quick and easy backlight for your television, this one will do the trick. It combines the LED strip and controller into a single package with power delivery via a slim USB port—just plug it into the storage or maintenance port on the back of your TV.
Unlike other inexpensive LED strips, the unique design of the Luminoodle allows you to bend and stick it at 90-degree angles, letting the lights follow the edge of the screen without peeling back at the bend points. The cheapest three-foot version of the cable has only white LEDs, but you can go as long as thirteen feet for massive screens, and RGB colors with multiple dimming and fading options. The RGB version even includes a wireless remote.
If you want cool-looking lights that you can command with your smarthome hub and/or voice tools like Alexa and Google Assistant, Philips’ Hue brand is pretty much the only game in town. In addition to the familiar network-connected light bulbs, Hue offers LED light strips that can be used for bias lighting on TVs and monitors, or as easily-hidden accent lighting elsewhere.
Like other Hue lights, they can be put on timers, controlled with mobile apps and base stations, and respond to specific voice commands. Expansion strips are reasonably cheap ($30) if you already have some Hue hardware, but starting out from scratch with the regular strips can get pricey quickly. They’re compatible with Apple, Amazon, and Google smarthome tech, as well as the more generic tools like IFTTT and SmartThings.
Razer likes LED lighting like a fish likes water. Maybe more so, since a fish doesn’t make such a big deal about it. And as corny as some of its RGB-soaked products can be, they’re undeniably at the forefront of this particular niche. The company offers light-up keyboards, mice, controllers, mouse pads, speakers, headphones, headphone stands—if it’s possible to cram some LEDs into a product, Razer has done so. It’s also expanded its proprietary Chroma system beyond its actual products, with a controller and accessory package that can direct LED lights both inside and outside a desktop PC.
If you want the bias lighting behind your monitors or under your desk to sync up with the fans and lightstrips inside your computer, not to mention all your snake-branded gaming accessories, the Chroma Hardware Developer Kit can do it. (Don’t let the name fool you: while developers can indeed do some neat stuff with this gadget, it’s quite accessible to regular users as well.) The little box can be mounted inside your PC like a hard drive or externally with its own power, and LED strips can be daisy-chained out of it and to your surrounding setup. Chroma’s software, running on Windows, can be set up to react to the current game you’re playing or even indicate alerts like unread emails. The hardware kit can cooperate with Phillips Hue, too, if you’re looking to integrate it with the lights elsewhere in your home.
Those who want to see the benefits of a bias light with the minimum possible investment should check out this generic brand on Amazon. A good-sized 39-inch white LED strip is just ten bucks, with the full maxed-out kit including thirteen feet of RGB LEDs and an RF remote (so you don’t have to walk around to the side of your TV) topping out at just $25.
The sets don’t do anything particularly fancy, but both the white and the RGB variants can support multiple brightness levels and color-cycling modes, and they conveniently plug into any USB port for power. If you want to try out bias lighting or RGB accent lighting on the cheap, this is the best way to do so.
Image credit: Shutterstock/eranicle
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