What is it?
Lightpack is a computer-based lighting system that you affix to the back of your TV. They describe it as a “content-driven lighting system”, by which they mean that it will take the video output from your home theater PC and use the LED lights to create a more immersive light-based environment to enhance your viewing experience. If you’ve heard of the MadCatz Cyborg gaming lights (based on the AMBX platform) it’s pretty much the same idea. Each Lightpack set consists of 10 LED light strips that you stick on the back of the TV which are all connected to a control unit which also affixes to the TV.
Who needs it?
Someone with a home theater PC or PC-based gaming system. If that’s not you, these won’t work. It will work with Windows, OSX, Linux, and Android. It will NOT work with just a TV, cable box, game console, mostly because Lightpack requires software to be installed in order to process the lighting effects.
Assuming you meet the above criteria, there’s a few reasons why you might want the Lightpack. First of all, it’s kind of cool. No really, if you’re looking to enhance your movie or TV watching experience without spending a ton of money, it really is kind of a neat effect. It’s not distracting at all and it does add to the experience. I can’t speak to the medical/scientific issues, but according to the Lightpack website, it reduces eyestrain and it also tricks you into thinking your display is larger.
They also made a point of making the product completely open source which is cool. I hope this means there will be a lot of cool plugins. I think there’s already an XBMC plugin – I use Plex so no plugin yet, but it works with the included software in any case.
Hardware, Installation & Setup
OK, first of all, Lightpack is not really designed for TVs that are wall mounted. According to their documentation, you need at least 5 inches between the wall and the LEDs. It’s not light they won’t work, but the effect is extremely diminished. ALSO – please keep in mind that you will need more than one Lightpack set if your TV is larger than 50″. It fits (barely) on my 47″ screen. The problem is that (1) the cords going from the LED light strips to the control unit are not that long, and (2) with only 10 LED strips per set, you won’t get proper coverage on a very large screen.
For me the biggest pain was to unmount the TV. Other than that, the printed quickstart guide was very easy to use. Basically you stick the control unit to the back of the TV, as close to the center as you can. Then you have 3 different patterns you can choose for the layout of the LED strips. Then you connect the strips to the control unit and the control unit plugs into power and your computer. That’s it.
They also give you extra adhesive strips so you can move the LED lights later as well as some cable management ties to tidy things up.
Oh, quick note: There’s a button you have to press on the control unit in order to update the firmware – it’s EXTREMELY annoying to have realized this AFTER I mounted the TV again. This wouldn’t be an issue if your TV isn’t wall-mounted. Also, I’m sure this will be fixed later but I noticed the unit doesn’t turn off when I turn my computer off, I have to remember to switch the system off before I power down my PC.
How well does it work?
My TV is too close to the wall when mounted but it still works OK. I might stick it back on a stand for a while to test the unit out, but it works well enough for now. The effect is certainly more immersive in comparison to the Cyborg/AMBX solution, and is cheaper for the same coverage. The Lightpack unit is available for preorder for $120, while a set of two Cyborg lights costs just under $100 on Amazon.
I’d say if you’re really into home theater it’s a cool gadget to add into the mix.