Review: Govee AI Gaming Sync Box

Review: Govee AI Gaming Sync Box
May 2023

[photo1]Simon Hill8/10Smart lighting is a great way to spice up your gaming rig, add some ambiance to a room, and make gaming sessions more immersive. No one offers a more diverse range of customizable lighting options than Govee, and it scores several entries in our Best Smart Lighting guide. Its latest release seeks to illuminate your desktop.The Govee AI Gaming Sync Box Kit comprises an RGB strip, two light towers, and an HDMI box capable of accurate color matching with AI that can recognize in-game actions and direct a light show to match. Billed as the ultimate in desktop-gaming smart lighting, it is expensive, and while the light syncing impressed, there are some cons to consider.[photo2]Unpacking the Govee AI Gaming Sync Box Kit, you will find a light strip divided into four sections to fit the edges of a monitor between 27 and 34 inches in size. Simply peel off the backing and stick it on. Govee includes cable management to keep things as tidy as possible. There are two stylish light towers, and all you need to do is fit the bases and find a spot for them on your desk. To complete the setup, plug the strip and towers into the rectangular sync box.The box sports three HDMI 2.0 inputs and a single HDMI 2.0 output that supports up to 4K at 60 Hz, 1440p at 144 Hz, and 1080p at 240 Hz. There's also support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10+, but falling short of HDMI 2.1 means there's no 4K at 120 Hz. Most folks will plug in a PC and run the HDMI out to the main monitor they game on. You could also plug in a console or a Blu-ray player. It strikes me that this design would be more at home under your main TV; perhaps Govee will release a TV version down the line.[photo3]The Govee Home app for Android or iOS enables you to configure your new system. It is enormously versatile, but there are so many options that you will need time to get to grips with it. It's a shame there's no d

esktop version, but the mobile app works well and connects swiftly via Bluetooth. You can select from a wide range of colors and lighting effects. There are 24 individual LED zones to customize, 14 on the light strip and five on each light bar.If you have other Govee lights in the room, you can also have the sync box control them, setting their relative positions in the app for a coordinated light show. The syncing is what sets this system apart. It can sync to music, match the onscreen colors, and employ AI to react to the onscreen gaming action.[photo4]The lights are vibrant, the color matching feels pretty accurate, and there is no delay (a common flaw with older systems that rely on a camera). But none of that stuff is new. The headline here is Govee's AI. While the color matching breaks the screen into a grid to match colors in the relevant zones, the AI is supposed to recognize in-game actions and spark lighting effects that tell you something.Sadly, this only works with a handful of titles, including Apex Legends, Valorant, Overwatch, and League of Legends. Customized game lighting effects include red flashes when you take damage, green for a med kit, or flashing and sparkling to celebrate victories. It's a smart idea that works well and adds genuine utility to the lighting. Govee promises that support will grow. Only time will tell. As cool as they are, these effects are best suited to fast-paced FPS and action games.Because it analyzes the picture through HDMI, the Govee AI Gaming Sync Box can conjure reactive lighting for anything you play on your monitor, including movies and TV shows. While it is accurate and eliminates the slight lag of systems like the Govee T1, which I've been testing with my TV, it can prove distracting at times. For most TV shows, movies, and slower-paced games, light syncing simply isn't desirable, but it's nice to have background block colors to set the mood and help the screen pop.The obvious comparison is the overpriced Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, which is significantly more expensive than this system when you add a strip and light bars. The color-matching features are very similar, though the Hue Play HDMI is aimed at your main TV and lacks the AI smarts.A better option for desktop gamers is the more recent Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip for PC (8/10, WIRED Recommends). Interestingly, Philips moved away from HDMI with this light strip, relying on software to match the screen instead. There are pros and cons to this. It means less clutter, but streaming services like Netflix interpret it as recording and won't run with light syncing.I favor a minimalist desktop, and I like the diffuser on the Philips light strip, so it's not ugly to look at directly. The Govee light strip is not designed to be viewed directly, and it looks horribly messy. You ideally only want to see the reflected light from it. You also need considerable space for the light towers and the box, and the Govee system adds a bunch of messy cables to your desktop.The plastic box lights up too, but it often failed to sync with the rest of the system during testing, and it does not appear in the app as a customizable option. I was also a little disappointed that the system failed to turn on or off with the input source, though you can link the Govee app to your Google Home or Amazon Alexa setup and use voice commands.Ultimately, I'm not a huge fan of any of these systems right now. The Govee AI Gaming Sync Box Kit is expensive, adds clutter, and the novelty wears off. But if you're dead set on desktop lighting, it is the system to beat right now. It delivers immersive, vibrant, and highly customizable lighting to your desktop, and the AI features are super cool (provided you play one of the supported games).