If there’s one single feature PC hardware companies have beaten to a bloody pulp by now, it’s RGB lighting. Some purists argue that it’s an unnecessary gimmick, but others can’t help but be drawn to the appeal of having a 24/7 party on their desktop. Lucky for them, there’s also plenty of LED lighting options to bring the party to the PC too.
Lighting up the interior of a PC is nothing new. Cold cathode light tubes, basic LED strips and LED fans have been used to light up builds for well over a decade now. But with more and more users showing off the inside of their clean builds, it was only a matter of time before RGB hit the interior lighting space. We checked out a ton of LED kits available to find the best way for you to light up your build. Here’s our favorites.
Some motherboards now support integrated RGB lighting controllers, that you can buy strips for. But our favorite kit is still the NZXT HUE+, which allows several extensions, fully controllable LEDs, and works together with NZXT's Aer RGB fans and CAM software to produce a fully coordinated system.
Razer Chroma HDK
We were excited to see the HUE+ finally have a promising challenger when Razer announced the Chroma HDK, but sadly we were disappointed in the end. Although the HDK certainly offers a whole lot of potential given that it supports four channels vs NZXT's two, the product in its current state just doesn't justify the whopping $80 price tag.
As of September 2017, the Chroma HDK doesn't automatically sync with all of your other Razer Chroma devices. It's a shame because this was a major selling point and one of the main reasons to choose the HDK over the HUE+. And while it does support four LED channels, the kit ships with two 16-LED (32 total LEDs) strips while NZXT's HUE+ ships with four 10-LED strips (40 total LEDs).
Like the HUE+, you can purchase additional LED strips but the Chroma HDK will only support a total of 64 LEDs while the HUE+ can support 80. For these reasons we found it hard to recommend the Chroma HDK over the HUE+ or a DIY solution.
Launched in 2012, the original HUE is a great solution for RGB case lighting. Unlike kits like the DeepCool RGB350, the HUE allows you to adjust the tint of each RGB diode to create your own custom color. It uses an analog interface with three knobs installed into a 5.25” bay to easily adjust the color and lighting modes. However, since a lot of newer cases have ditched the 5.25” bay installation can be tricky.
Despite its marketing photos and high price tag suggesting otherwise, we were surprised to learn that the Thermaltake Lumi features non-addressable LED strips. Instead of a remote control, the Lumi uses buttons on top of the controller meaning you won’t be able to change the color or mode of the LED strips unless you open up the system or install it externally.
BitFenix Alchemy 2.0
The BitFenix Alchemy 2.0 is definitely one of our favorite single color LED kits available with their magnetic strip and high LED density. Each kit packs 15 ultra-bright LEDs into a single 12” strip but the cost makes this hard to justify over the RGB350.
In the months since we've first published this article, few developments have been made in RGB lighting kits with the exception of the Razer Chroma HDK. But we've seen a ton of other RGB products announced so it wouldn't be too shocking to see even more options become available.
As usual, we’ll continue to update this story with new developments as we continue testing. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcomed. One of the LED kits we’re hoping to test next is BlinkyTape from Blinkinlabs. The LED strip uses its own USB-powered controller and software which potentially makes it an easier solution for custom lighting effects.
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