Cyborg lights review

My first reaction when opening the box was “they’re small”. I don’t know why, but from pictures I’d seen I was expecting something the size of saucers! My second reaction was “where do you plug the connectors?” It took me a little while to find where the holes had been concealed.

I installed the software on a XP machine that already had the original amBX software installed and, after a couple of “you need to restart your computer” reboots all my Philips amBX lights, plus the two Madcatz lights came on. The software had put a short cut for Illuminate in the start-up folder, so I removed this as I prefer to run Illuminate when I want, not at boot-up.

I also installed the software on Windows 7 64-bit PC that already had the amBX software installed, but no amBX lights connected. The software installed, with no requested restarts and my existing amBX software was automatically updated at the same time.

The lights worked OK on both PCs

The lights were recognised in the amBX control panel – I just had to position them where I wanted them. The Madcatz and Philips lights work fine together and while testing the lights out, I had both the Madcatz and the Philips lights working.

The lights aren’t recognised in Philips DirectControl, presumably because they’re not Philips, which means that you can’t use them in any of the DirectControl custom scenes (1-10). They will work with the pre-made scenes (11-15) though.

Compared to the wallwasher lights, the lights are brighter, although because of the way I had the lights positioned, I’m not sure if one light was the equivalent of the whole wallwasher, but then you do get two lights, so that more than makes up for that.

I don’t have any amBX games so I couldn’t tell how the lights worked with them. I normally use the amBX system for ambient room lighting. Although I might occasionally use Illuminate, I normally use Aurora Synesthesia for the lighting effects. Depending on what I want, the lights can either be controlled by sound via the audio input to the PC (the Synesthesia part of AS), or the on-screen display (the Aurora part of AS). This includes watching movies etc. The Aurora side also includes AS own version of Illuminate. I used AS when testing the lights.

In aurora mode, the colour changes in relation to the screen seemed a lot quicker than with the Philips lights. There may be a slight difference in the hue of some colours when comparing the Madcatz to the Philips, this may be partly due to the brightness of the lights. Obviously this won’t be noticeable if you only have the Madcatz lights installed and even if you are using the different lights together, it shouldn’t normally be noticeable when the colours are continually changing. With the amBX system, the colour of any light can change, depending on it’s position in the hardware setup anyway. The only time you are likely to notice the difference in colour between the two makes of lights is when all the lights are the same colour – such as when Illuminate is running, for example.

The lights are compact and, in fact, the closed light remind me of a ladies powder compact or a clam shell.
The actual light is fixed to the base by two different hinges, allowing the light to be positioned through about 200 degrees from the closed position, which means you could even use it as an uplighter.
The base of the light is almost circular, and is 11.5mm at its widest point and 4mm tall when closed. When open to he vertical position, it is 12.5mm tall. The top of the light is 8.5mm, and the light itself is 7 mm diameter (all measurements are approximate).

The compactness makes it ideal to fit in a small space, whether it is behind the TV / monitor, on the side somewhere, or indeed anywhere you want to use it as a spot , floodlight, or discrete lighting in a confined space. They even look good in the garden in the dark, if partly hidden so they can’t be seen full on – I know, I’ve tried!

Ambient lighting
Other than for games use, the amBX lighting system adds more to the enjoyment of watching a movie if you have lights at the side / behind the TV. amBX lighting is also ideal if you want some mood lighting – here “more is better”. Spread the lights around the room and for effects, use them linked into the music during a party. For relaxing, there is nothing better that using Illuminate or, better still, the AS version of Illuminate to light the room as a background when watching TV or whatever. Or, if you want to listen to some music and relax, choose some suitable music and set AS to Synethesiser mode so that the lights reflect the music. My main use of the amBX system is for ambient lighting and I don’t know what I’d do without it now.

Both the Philips and the Madcatz lights are good for ambient lighting, so don’t get rid of your Philips lights when you buy the Madcatz ones. The Madcatz have the advantage over the Philips lights for mood lighting in that they can be more easily concealed. There is also more flexibility with the Madcatz connections. However, you need to be careful where you position the lights for ambient use so that they don’t cause shadows. Unlike the Philips lights, the Madcatz lights can have a “ghosting” effect on shadows with the edges of the shadow showing a red green and (to a lesser extent) blue border, depending on what LEDs are illuminated on the light. This ghosting isn’t really noticeable on gaming etc. where the light colour is always changing, but can be distracting if you have a steady colour, such as when using Illuminate.  

There are two connections to the lights – the USB connection (via a mini USB socket) and a low voltage power connection. Each light is supplied with a 2m USB – mini USB cable and each set of two lights comes with a Power Supply Unit. The PSU is lightweight and is about the size of a mobile phone charger. It plugs into a mains wall socket, or can be plugged into an extension cable trailing socket / multi-way adapter. Because the PSU is small, there is no problems with plugging them side by side. The PSU has two power cables, one for each light. Each cable is 2m long.

As supplied, the spacing of the lights is limited to 2m either side of a mains socket. This should be plenty of space if you have a mains socket near the PC. If you have a trailing socket, this can be placed anywhere. The other spacing limitation is that the furthest you can have a light from the PC is 2m. For normal use, the spacing is probably quite sufficient. If you want to place the lights further away, especially for ambient lighting, this limitation can be easily overcome.

One of the advantages of the Philips lighting was that all you needed was one USB connection for five lights (the two sidelights and the three lights in the wallwasher). You also only needed one PSU. The wallwasher was the control unit and controlled all five lights, the wrist rumbler, the fans and the relay for the subwoofer. The disadvantage was that if you wanted to extend the lights you had two options – move the wallwasher to where you wanted the lights, and extend the USB cable or, if you just wanted to extend the sidelights, you would need a special, expensive cable for each light.

The advantage of the Madcatz lights is that they are independently controlled. Extending the lights just means extending the USB cable and using a different mains socket for the adapter or using an extension mains lead.