Don’t Buy Philips Hue Lightstrips Until You’ve Seen These!
Multicolored, animated pixel lighting strips with music sync capabilities built-in, the Govee Dreamcolor strips represent ridiculously good value for money at 5 meters / 16.4 feet for just $40.
You probably know that Philips Hue lighting commands a premium price, and until now I’d have argued that it was worth paying a few extra dollars for the added features. But no more: the Govee Dreamcolor light strips offer more lights, more features, on-board music sync, and LED animations, for a much lower cost.
After reading this review, you’ll never want to waste money on Philips Hue lights again.
What’s Different About the Govee Dreamcolor LEDs?
Philips Hue light strips can only show a single color at a time, with a single controller telling each LED to display the same color. Most of the competing LED strips you’ll find on Amazon offer similar features, but they work over Wi-Fi, instead of the Zigbee based mesh-network that Hue uses.
Govee Dreamcolor strips feature an individual control chip for every single LED. You might also know these sorts of LEDs by the brand name Neopixel, or just pixel LEDs. I’m a big fan of the creative freedom offered by pixel LEDs, and have made quite a few DIY projects with them . Having individual control over the LEDs means you can display different colors at different points on the strip, as well as animate the strip as a whole.
On top of that, the Govee Dreamcolor strips come with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi control, which means you don’t need a separate hub. Philips Hue run on a mesh-based Zigbee, so they require yet another smart hub to be placed somewhere in your home.
Note to UK readers: the Govee brand was previously known as Minger, and you’ll still find that older brand being used on the UK store and packaging. Don’t let that unfortunate naming mistake put you off though!
Govee Dreamcolor Design and Specifications
- 150 individually addressable Pixel LEDs (5050), encased in clear plastic
- 16.4 feet / 5 meters (+ 1 meter to the controller, + about 1.5 meters to the power socket, which could be extended)
- Inline controller
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (5GHz not supported)
The only downside to having over 16 feet of LEDs is that it might be too long. According to Govee, you can’t cut the strip down to size, so you’ll need to hide the excess somewhere. Don’t run the strip when it’s coiled up, as they may overheat.
Also in the box, you’ll find:
- 12v 2a power supply
- Plastic strip clips
Although the entire strip has an adhesive backing, in my experience the ends of any LEDs strips tend to be most vulnerable, with the power cord often pulling the whole thing down. Along with suitable cable tidies, these clips should ensure it’s mounted as securely as possible.
Main Features and Modes
There are three main features offered by the Govee Dreamcolor LED strips:
Obviously, you won’t always want multicolored flashy lights, so the Dreamcolor strips can also do your basic single color mode, or your choice of cool / warm white lighting. Voice assistant and Wi-Fi control is limited to this mode only. The inline remote also has a dedicated button to cycle through several single color scenes.
Using the Govee app, you can group a number of strips together for operation as a single device. Grouping works in a similar fashion to that offered by both major voice assistants anyway, but it’s nice to have for those who don’t want recording devices plastered throughout their home.
Featuring spectrum, strobing, or laser-like bursts, there’s a number of music reactive modes available via the inline controller. The microphone is built-in, so this doesn’t require you connect your phone. For more customization, like changing the colors used for music reactive modes, you’ll need to use the Govee app and be in Bluetooth proximity.
Music reactive mode is not available over Wi-Fi or voice assistant control methods.
If you have a specific color palette or animation speed in mind, you can use the simple DIY designer to save your own schemes. Having programmed my own pixel animations with an Arduino before, the options offered by the Govee app feel very restrictive. They’re limited to:
- Flickr (Strobe)
Each mode has some options too, like whether to affect the whole of the strip at once, or in subsections.
This could easily be expanded in the future though since it’s only a software and interface issue. The hardware is surely capable of more.
You can save any number of custom animation, but these are only saved in the app and not on the lights. This means that while you can soft power-off the LEDs from the controller without losing the current mode (or power off from a voice assistant), you can’t cut the power at the plug or switch into another mode. Doing so will require you to open the app, and send your saved animation again to each strip.
In addition, you can set up a basic schedule to automatically turn the lights on, as well as a sunrise routine.
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Alexa?
Despite the lack of equality between features offered over Wi-Fi, I really appreciate the dual control system. In the past, I’ve often wanted to take some Hue lighting to events I run–a Halloween night, discos etc.–but been put off by the fact I’d also need to take the Hue hub, wire it into the network of the community center, and set everything up again. It would be an enormous hassle, and smart home tech is temperamental at the best of times.
I’m not usually a fan of Bluetooth control of anything, due to inherent range limitations, but for simple effect lighting, it makes perfect sense. The Govee Dreamcolor strips don’t need to be reconfigured if you take them to an event, and they don’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi to operate.
In fact, with the inline controller’s built-in music modes, you may not even need Bluetooth.
The only thing you won’t be able to do is to synchronize all of the strips and remotely control them. For that, you’ll be paying hundreds of dollars for professional DMX controllers. For most of us, the built-in music modes or DIY options with Bluetooth will be more than sufficient.
Should You Buy the Govee Dreamcolor H6163 LED Strips?
At around half the price of Hue for more than twice as many lights, with music reactive multicolored animation modes, the Govee Dreamcolor LEDs are unbeatable value for money.
The triple control methods of inline remote, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, while lacking parity with features offered, means they’re versatile enough to use even when Wi-Fi isn’t available, or you don’t want to use the app.
And the inclusion of basic Alexa and Google Home support makes these a great choice for your smart home. The only thing lacking is Siri/HomeKit support and IFTTT for custom automation–neither of which is a deal-breaker.
I’m really struggling not to buy another ten of these.