DreamScreen Mega Dynamic TV Lighting Review
Do it yourself Ambilight
What is DreamScreen?If you’ve ever looked enviously at a Philips TV with its Ambilight feature and fancied having that on your own TV then DreamScreen might be the answer. This new product is the result of a Kickstarter campaign and is designed to add smart LED backlighting to the rear of your TV in much the same way as Philips’s proprietary Ambilight technology. The box contains strips of LED lights with an adhesive backing that you attach to the rear of your TV. There a Hub box that you connect your devices to via HDMI and an included HDMI cable for attaching the Hub to your TV. The Hub analyses the incoming signal and changes the LED lights accordingly, whilst the entire system is controlled from a free app available for both iOS and Android.
DreamScreen comes in three different versions – the Classic which is designed for 32-45” screen sizes and costs $139.99, the Mega which can handle 45-65” screen sizes and costs $159.99 and the Xtreme which is for larger screen sizes from 65-80” and costs $179.99. The three versions are essentially identical except that as they get larger they include more LEDs which accounts for the difference in price. You can order directly from DreamScreen, who will include the correct plug for the voltage adapter and charge an additional $25 for international mail (if you want priority shipping that’s $50). We are reviewing the DreamScreen Mega which will cover most popular screen sizes but we would expect all three versions to operate in the same way.
The current model that we have for review supports Full HD (up to 1080/60p) but a newer version is in the works that will also support Ultra HD (4K/60p, HDR and HDCP 2.2). The benefits of having illumination behind the screen, often referred to as ‘bias lighting’, are well known and can both enhance the perceived black levels on your TV and reduce eye fatigue for a more comfortable viewing experience – especially at night. In fact we have long advocated the use of bias lighting, with many enthusiasts creating DIY solutions of their own, and DreamScreen might offer something similar with an added level of sophistication and control. So is DreamScreen a valuable addition to your home entertainment setup or an unnecessary gimmick, lets’s find out.
What's in the box?Regardless of whether you buy the Classic, Mega or Xtreme versions you get the same accessories in the box. First of all you obviously get the LEDs themselves and in the case of the Classic there are two horizontal strips of four and two vertical strips of two, making twelve strips in total. For the Mega version there are two horizontal strips of six and two vertical strips of three, making eighteen strips in total and for the Xtreme version there are two horizontal strips of eight and two vertical strips of four, making twenty four strips in total.There is also the AC power adapter and power cable with the appropriate type of plug for the country you live in, along with an HDMI cable. Finally there is the DreamScreen Hub which connects all the LEDs to your TV and devices. The Hub has three HDMI inputs and an HDMI output, along with a connector for the AC adapter and two connectors for the LEDs – one for use with the included LEDs and another if you decide to use DreamScreen’s optional Flex or DIY options. There’s a 3.5mm jack for an audio input, a mini USB port and buttons for selecting the source and the mode.
Everything you need is in the box and setup is very straightforward
Features and SpecificationsThe DreamScreen LEDs can react to whatever you’re watching at up to 60 frames per a second and the Hub we had for review can pass 1080p sources. The Hub offers three different modes for the LEDs – Video, Music and Ambient. In the Video mode the LEDs respond to the colours on your TV screen, replicating them on the wall behind the TV. The Music mode is designed to offer an accompanying light show when listening to your favourite songs either via HDMI or the audio input. There’s a choice of four different audio visualisers and advanced music colour systems via the control app. Finally the Ambient mode allows you to choose from a number of scenes such as “Ocean” or “Fireside” and again these can be customised using the control app.
Setup and OperationSetting up the DreamScreen LEDs is very straightforward. Firstly you simply clean the back of your TV to make sure it’s free of dust and moisture and thus ensure the LED strips adhere well. Then you start from the bottom left of the back of the TV, working around the outer edge in a clockwise direction. To attach each strip simply peel off the adhesive cover and attach, the adhesive is designed to be forgiving during installation to allow for any adjustments. Once complete you will have LED strips along the top, bottom and both sides, which on their TVs Philips refer to as 4-sided Ambilight.
Once you have attached all the LED strips to the rear of your TV, you then connect the LEDs to the Hub. You then connect your TV and any sources to the Hub via HDMI and plug in the power adapter. If you like you can connect an audio source to the Hub using the 3.5mm jack and you can connect the Hub to the TV via USB, as an alternative to CEC if you want the Hub to power down when you turn the TV off.
You can cycle through sources and modes using two buttons on the side of the Hub, with indicator lights to show what you have selected but the best way to control the DreamScreen system is with the app. If your TV supports CEC then you can use the TV to turn off the DreamScreen LED lights or you can set the Hub to turn off the LEDs when USB port on the TV that it’s connected to turns off.
The DreamScreen app is freely available for both iOS and Android smart devices and connects to the Hub via WiFi. It’s very easy to add the DreamScreen Hub to your network and if you have more than one you can also name and group them. The app itself is well laid out and simple to use with the name of the selected DreamScreen device at the top. Beneath this is the power on/off and Video, Music and Ambient mode selectors, a brightness control, the HDMI source selection (with a maximum of three) and whether you are listening to music from the audio jack or via HDMI.
There is also a Settings menu where you can select the installation type and the horizontal and vertical LED count. You can also adjust the RGB channels for rear walls that aren’t white, set the widescreen detection, adjust the reaction speed of the LEDs, adjust the saturation and set the minimum brightness irrespective of the content on screen. You can also select the Audio Visualisers and adjust the colour and intensity of the treble, middle and bass responses of the LEDs. You can also control the zones of the TV that are active, such as just sides or just top and bottom and the intensity of these zones. There is also a control to delay the frame rate of the LEDs if they are changing faster than the TV itself.
The DreamScreen certainly works but we'd like to see a neutral white option added
PerformanceThe DreamScreen certainly works and thanks to the remote app it’s very easy to set up and control. How successful you’ll find the DreamScreen really depends on whether you enjoy multi-coloured lighting effects behind the screen. There are certainly plenty of people that love this type of approach and Philips have used their similar Ambilight technology as a unique selling point on their TVs for years.
In the Video mode the DreamScreen Hub will analyse the incoming video signal and adjust the brightness and intensity of the LEDs to match the images on screen. There are plenty of opportunities to customise your experience and if you find the idea of the wall behind the TV lighting up to match the picture on the screen then the DreamScreen might be just what you’re looking for.
There are people who particularly like gaming with rear lighting effects because it makes the experience more involved and immersive. The good news here is that using the DreamScreen didn’t adversely affect the input lag, we got the same measurement with or without the Hub between the tester and the screen.
We are less convinced by these colourful lighting displays and when we talk about biased lighting being a good idea what we mean is a neutral white light that matches the industry standard of D65. The Philips Ambilight TVs have just such an option and it really can make nighttime viewing more comfortable and the blacks on LCD TVs appear darker. Unfortunately the DreamScreen has no such option, so unless they add one via a firmware update it’s the school disco or nothing. We have suggested that DreamScreen add a neutral white option in a future app update, this should be easy to do so hopefully they'll take our advice. We hope so because as we said at the beginning, it’s a matter of personal preference but multi-coloured LED backlighting really isn’t our cup of tea.
However, whilst we remain unconvinced of the benefits of colourful LEDs behind the screen when watching video content, we can see the appeal of the smart LED backlighting whilst listening to music. It can certainly bring a party to life and the Ambient mode can also be quite relaxing, depending on which setting you select – Random, Fireside, Twinkle, Ocean, Pride, July 4th, Holiday, Pop and Enchanted Forest.
The downsides to DreamScreen are that you have to stick the LEDs to the rear of your TV and that might be an issue if you decide to sell it later. You also have to connect your sources to the Hub and then to the TV which increases the number of cables, although if you use a soundbar or receiver you could connect everything to that first and then to the TV via the DreamScreen Hub. The DreamScreen is also restricted to HDMI and a single 3.5mm jack, which means you can’t use the LED lighting effects with other music sources. As we mentioned earlier, the unit we were reviewing was restricted to 1080p but future models will support 4K at up to 60p with HDR and HDCP 2.2.
- Good connectivity
- Easy to setup
- It actually works
- App very effective
- No neutral white option
- Currently limited to 1080p
- Requires more cables
- Effect only applies to connected sources
DreamScreen Mega Dynamic TV Lighting ReviewThe DreamScreen Smart LED Backlighting system is a clever and effective way of adding dynamic bias lighting to your TV. The system comes in three different versions, depending on the size of your screen, and you’ll find everything you need in the box. There are the LED strips themselves along with the DreamScreen Hub, an HDMI cable and a AC power adapter. The setup is very straightforward thanks to an adhesive backing on the LED strips and the Hub includes WiFi so it can be controlled by a highly effective remote app that is freely available for iOS and Android smart devices. The app provides a huge amount of customisation, as well as modes for Video, Music and Ambient experiences. We certainly appreciate the benefits of bias lighting but would like to see the option of having a neutral white backlight as well as the multi-coloured light show.
The DreamScreen isn’t for everyone but if you’re one of those people who likes dynamic lighting on the wall behind the TV that matches what is happening on screen then the DreamScreen will certainly be of interest. You could of course buy a Philips TV with Ambilight and get the same features as well as a dedicated neutral white setting but DreamScreen is a cost-effective way of adding this dynamic functionality to any TV. Personally this type of effect isn’t to our tastes but we can see why some people would find it appealing for gaming, listening to music or relaxing. However if you’re an enthusiast looking to add neutral bias lighting behind their TV then some D65 white strip LED lighting will do the trick with less cost and cabling.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £160.00
Value for Money8
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