soundscience Halo Bias Lighting Review
Reviewed by: BluePanda
Reviewed on: July 26, 2011
soundscience is a subsidiary of Antec Inc. founded in 2010 to provide audio- and video-enabled products for PC and home entertainment. Currently, soundscience only offers two items for purchase: the "ruckus 3D", a 2.1 speaker system, and the "halo 6 LED bias lighting kit", the item up for review.
The soundscience halo 6 LED bias lighting kit is designed to provide your monitor with professional backlighting to help reduce eye fatigue and increase perceived image clarity during extended use. Since most offices, bedrooms, and other places are often lit from above, the wall behind your monitor tends to be a dark shadow. Lighting up the wall behind your monitor not only keeps your screen from blinding you at night but it also increases its apparent contrast ratio. Your black levels will seem darker and your colors will look more vivid.
The concept is valid, but does it work? Let’s take a look and find out.
The bias lighting kit comes curled up in a rather generic glossy package. The box sports a grey, not quite uni-color appearance, with a picture of a backlit monitor on the front. On the back you will find the installation instructions and a product description printed in white text. A hanger is built into the box, allowing it to be hung at any retail store. It reminds me of something I would find at the front of a store in the checkout line. The back of the box displays the easy installation instructions: remove from box, stick on, and then plug ‘n play. Opening the box reveals nothing but the curled up light strip inside.
When taken out of the package, the strip uncurls easily and is rather flexible. It has a soft, rubbery feel and becomes even more flexible when the protective film is removed. Due to the placement of resistors and LED circuitry, the strip indicates only two locations where it may be cut to fit smaller monitors. The spacing is roughly 4 inches between cut sites and limits the number of LEDs you can place on smaller monitors; each cut removes two of the six LEDs.
The length of the cord, which is just over 4 feet, provides reasonable length to plug into your computer. However, considering most monitor cables are usually about 6 feet long, I'm surprised they didn't go with a similar measurement. Since the device simply pulls power from a USB port, no drivers are required and the lights come on when it is plugged into the computer. The LED lights provide uniform illumination across the strip.
Mounting the strip is as easy as removing the adhesive backing and sticking it to the monitor. The strip uses 3M adhesive and holds itself in place with no problems. The downside (or upside) to this is that once it is placed on your monitor it cannot be easily removed and re-applied. Once the strip is placed, it is on there to stay. Attempting to take it off will leave you with some sticky goo that isn’t difficult to remove, but I cannot attest to how well it will come off months down the road. The last thing to note is how the cable comes directly out the end of the strip, which means it may stick out the side of your monitor rather than hang down and around.
4 feet 3 inches (1300mm)
Light Strip Length
14.6 inches (370mm)
5.9" (H) x 5.5" (W) x 0.6" (D) / 150 mm (H) x 140 mm (W) x 15 mm (D)
1.0 oz (28.3 g)
- Reduce Eye Fatigue
- Enhance Color Definition
- Increase Viewing Hours
- LCD Monitor – up to 24" in size against light colored wall
- Available USB port or powered USB hub spot
All information courtesy of Soundscience @ http://soundscienceaudio.com/products_Bias-Lighting.php
Testing the bias lighting kit required some lengthy use of my monitor. What better way to catch up with some friends, play games, get some work done, and enjoy a late night movie? I installed the light strip on the back of my monitor and plugged it into a USB port on my PC. The LEDs projected a nice glow onto the wall behind and around the monitor.
- Monitor: ASUS 19" 5ms Widescreen LCD (1680 x 1050)
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X3 720 @ 3.6 GHz
- Motherboard: MSI 790XT-G45
- Memory: 8 GB DDR2 Wintec AmpX @ 800 MHz
- Video Card: Diamond 4870x2 2GB
- PSU: Antec TruePower New TP-750
- Hard Drives: 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 RAID 1
- Optical Drive: N/A
- Case: Cooler Master HAF 932 Black Edition
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit SP1
The real testing began when I completed the same tasks with and without the bias lighting. First, I played a variety of games including Minecraft (a simple game), Left 4 Dead (a darker game), and Age of Conan (a free-to-play MMO). Then I actually did some work using Microsoft Word, MATLAB and Excel spreadsheets. I wrapped up the night with a quick movie on Netflix. The next day, I performed the same tasks but with the bias lighting kit turned on.
The subjective results were as follows:
Eye fatigue has always been an issue for me playing games -- I just don't seem to blink nearly enough, and playing with the lights out because I don't want to stop to turn them on, doesn't help. Working for long periods of time writing papers and such doesn't make it any easier either. My brain gets tired, and my eyes being tired just means I don't want to work anymore.
The Eye Fatigue Graphs bellow represent scores with the lowest being the best result.
Contrast levels are important no matter what you are doing with your monitor. For games and movies you want your blacks to be black, and your whites to be white. With the lights on and off, I found the contrast levels to be improved in both games and movies.
The plots below represent Contrast levels -- the higher the score the better.
In the end, the bias lighting kit did light up the wall behind my monitor – even at greater distances when used as a home theater monitor. If nothing else, the light provided a new ambiance to my games and movies. The added light may or may not have reduced eye fatigue or improved how long I could game, but the glowing effect somehow made me feel good about sitting at my computer late into the night.
The cost of the bias lighting kit is on the lower end. It’s a fun product to try out for only $12.95 MSRP if you have an available USB port on your case or hub. The lighting seems natural and is not a distraction like a desk lamp or overhead light. People often pay a lot more than $12.95 for case lighting that doesn’t even do anything besides appear fancy. This product both reduces eye strain and looks good doing it.
The only two major flaws I found arise from the design perspective, perhaps something that will change in later generations: 1) length of the cable and 2) cable orientation. Unfortunately both issues come down to a problem with the cable itself. Since the cord is about 2 feet shorter than your average monitor cable, count on purchasing a USB extender or a USB hub for your desk unless your case is nearby. The second concern is that the cable comes straight out from the end of the strip, causing it to protrude from the side of your monitor. My computer is close enough that I can bend the cable downwards to avoid having it stick out the side, but I foresee the less-than-sturdy joint being a potential failure point.
Overall I’d say it’s a strange concept but a fairly decent one at that. I wouldn’t jump to buy it, but it would be a nice gift for the tech junkie who already has everything.
- Easy to install
- LED lights don’t get hot or appear "yellow"
- Not very expensive; practical for a gift
- Cable protrudes from the side of the monitor
- Cable doesn't easily reach case USB port; may require hub or extender
- Adhesive intended for one-time use only