Philips Hue Sync Box finally catches up with 120Hz TVs – but with a 4K catch

Philips Hue Sync Box plugged into TV
(Image credit: Philips)

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is a wonderful bit of home entertainment kit, offering a connector between your smart TV, smart lights, and various media devices and consoles – but it’s only now that it’s getting support for 120Hz passthrough to help display those PS5 games and Xbox Series X games in the highest refresh rate possible.

While the Sync Box formerly was only able to support 60Hz images from connected consoles and 4K Blu-ray players, that figure is going up to 120Hz in an upcoming software update, so that any Sync Box owner can benefit from the upgrade.  The update is set to come “Fall 2021” – so likely September or October this year – and comes amid a number of Philips Hue upgrades including Spotify integration with color-changing smart bulbs.

But 120Hz is increasingly the desirable refresh rate for high-end gamers with a PS5 or Xbox Series X console – and while relatively few games support 120Hz, it’s a good spec to have for the titles that do, ensuring smooth images far beyond what was possible on earlier consoles.

There are, however, a few limitations to this 120Hz upgrade. We’re told that “Users will be able to update their sync box to be compatible with the newest game consoles’ 120Hz support, ensuring competitive players to be on top of the game with the highest refresh rate. The sync box is able to support 120Hz with an image resolution of 1080p and 1440p. Alternatively, if the highest image resolution is preferred, the current sync box also continues to support a 4K image resolution up to a refresh rate of 60Hz.”

So, the option is between 120Hz gameplay at 1080p/1440p, or 60Hz at 4K resolution. That means you won’t get the maximum 4K/120Hz performance possible on the latest game consoles and 120Hz 4K TVs, given the Sync Box doesn’t support the HDMI 2.1 input specification to allow for it.

Analysis: A halfway house to HDMI 2.1

We expect this software update is something of a halfway house, improving the support available before Philips is ready to release a new hardware iteration with HDMI 2.1 ports built in. The current Sync Box was released in October 2019, so it’s very possible we could see another version shortly – within the next year, that is – though we’re asking Philips for clarification on this point, and wouldn’t be surprised if the hardware took a little longer than that still.

If you’re after that HDMI 2.1 spec, then, it’s probably best to make sure your console-connected Sync Box isn’t reducing the capabilities of your HDMI 2.1 TV.

You might also want to check out the capabilities of HDMI on PS5.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.