Lightpack Review (kickstarter-funded DIY Ambilight)

This review is for anyone who, like me, always thought Philips Ambilight TVs were cool, but never got one. Last year, there was a Kickstarter project for Lightpack, a kind of DIY Ambilight that would run off a PC. As a cord-cutter, we watch all our TV via my PC connected via HDMI. They recommended at least two units for large TVs, so we got two for $120. The current pre-order price is $120 for one. As with any Kickstarter, you're skeptical about whether you might ever get the product. Well, they came through.

Packaging was surprisingly nice:

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Each box comes with the Lightpack unit, 10 LED strips, 10 extra adhesive strips, AC adapter, and cable management tools. My only gripe so far is that the AC adapter's size and orientation makes it NOT powerstick-friendly. In an application where you already have a million things plugged in, this was a bit of a problem.

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The unit itself is small and light, and easily sticks to the back of your display.
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The LED strips are flexible and farily well made. Each contains three LEDs. Some backers have reported receiving strips with cracked plastic. I wonder if it has to do with them being shipped in the extreme cold and losing their flexibility.
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Instructions are a little sparse, but I eventually realized what I was supposed to do. AFTER plugging in the USB cables, you install the control app, Prismatik. The software detects the Lightpack units, and then asks you how you want to arrange them on the back of your TV (there are some pre-defined patterns).

It then displays colored squares on your display, representing each LED's grab zone. You can drag and resize these zones however you'd like. For example, I chose not to light the bottom of my display at all, so it only placed zones around the other three edges.

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Each LED lights up to match one grab zone. You then simply stick the LEDs behind its grab zone.

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The controller app, Prismatik, is in alpha, but basic functionality is there. (Note, in the screenshots below, it says "Gaming" because that's the name of my current profile.

The Mode tab lets you choose between "Mood Lighting" and "Screen Grabbing", as well as some lighting threshold tweaks.
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The Device tab lets you alter color, brightness, and transition smoothness.
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Perhaps its best feature is the ability to set up profiles, which include the grab zones and other settings: Rmtjore_medium

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Here are the profiles I'm currently using.
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4:3 Pillarboxed content (we're watching X-Files on Netflix): Katecq8_medium

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For the most part, it works: Skxsmk0_medium

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It also has support for plugins (for example, an email notification flash) and some experimental features that I haven't tried. I have a dual monitor setup - I think this could work if I simply added more lightpacks, and kept each unit's zones on the separate displays (e.g. 1-20 on one monitor, 21-30 on the second display).

It's pretty striking when you set the grab time to 1ms (minimum) and smoothness to zero. Here's a video of it working with a video called "Volus" (http://vimeo.com/channels/staffpicks/84713245):

"Volans" video can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/channels/staffpicks/84713245
It's working with the desktop background, fullscreen video from Chrome, VLC, and the like. However, I have not yet gotten it to work with fullscreen games or Windows 8.1 (fullscreen) video apps like Netflix. I suspect that this is a problem with the lightpack talking to DirectX, but it's a known issue and they're working on it. The company also says that there are speed issues with some AMD cards. I haven't experienced this yet.

Bottom line - I think these are great. They have some software problems, but these are pre-release units running on alpha software that is being updated regularly, so I'm not worried. The hardware is solid and responsive. We're having a lot of fun with it here, and I'm tempted to by a third for my monitor.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/woodenshark/lightpack-ambient-backlight-for-your-displays http://lightpack.tv/
Also note that there are real DIY kits out there you can buy for much less, but I'm not one for soldering, so I went with this.