Making it big on Twitch is about more than the games you play. It’s about your personality and presentation. The first one lies squarely on your shoulders, but when it comes to presentation, there are plenty of options to help your production look more professional. Today, I’m looking at the Elgato Light Strip, a WiFi-enabled RGB lighting strip aiming to add a dose of customizable color to your live streams. At $59.99, does this premium light strip offer enough to make its high cost worthwhile?
Elgato Light Strip
Elgato Light Strip – Design and Features
The goal of the Elgato Light Strip is to provide camera-friendly customizable lighting to streamers. It’s WiFi-enabled which means it can be controlled wirelessly with a free application for Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac. It has a few unique tricks up its sleeve, but at its core, it’s fulfilling the same purpose as much more affordable strip lights. Coming from Elgato, a brand synonymous with high-end streaming gear, it’s also in direct competition with more expensive options from LIFX and Philips Hue. This is a product that exists in the middle and has a lot to prove to win over either audience of prospective buyers.
Inside the box, you’ll find everything you need to get started. You have the LED strip, coiled together in a convenient roll, the control box, a modular AC adapter, and three regional plugs to fit different sockets. There’s no USB support, so you’ll need a spare outlet to plug in. The strip comes in at 79-inches, just over 6.5-feet, which is enough to wrap around the edges of most gaming desks but may fall short if you plan to trace a piece of furniture in the background. Though both ends have connections that appear ready-made to string together in extended lengths, this does not work and every 6.5-foot length will require its own control box and bulky AC adapter.
Part of the reason for this is that each strip requires more power due to its much higher brightness than competing strips. The Elgato Light Strip is rated for 2000 lumens of output. The Nanoleaf Essentials RGB strip matches this brightness output, but most others don’t. The Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus comes in at 1600 lumens. The LifX Z multicolor light strips are even less at 700 lumens each. Generic light strip options often don’t publish their light output, but in my testing, even the highly regarded Govee DreamColor RGBIC strips are significantly less bright than the Elgato Light Strip.
Unlike generic light strips, the Elgato is an RGBWW light strip, which means it can accurately portray 16.8 million colors in addition to accurate white light. It accomplishes this using three separate LEDs. The large RGB LED chip in the middle is flanked by White (W) and Warm White (WW) LEDs. The presence of these additional chips is important and allows the Elgato Light Strip to accurately produce white colors from warm white 3500K to cool blue 6500K. This is more limited than the Elgato Key Light and Key Light Air which could drop to a near-amber 2900K. A normal light strip, like the Govee DreamColor, uses a single chip for colors and white, often delivering a white that is cold and inaccurately tinged with color. The presence of three LEDs is a key element to the strip’s peak brightness since all three LEDs work in tandem to deliver the majority of its color palette.
The other key difference between the Elgato and other strips is that they are designed with filming in mind. Depending on how they’re made, normal strips can pulse, strobe, or even create moving scan lines when filmed at common frame rates. You can see an example of this in the picture above from my review of the Razer Kiyo Pro webcam. Elgato has addressed this by increasing the pulse width modulation, or refresh rate, of the LEDs. By increasing the pulse rate of the LEDs, the lighting will look smooth and consistent to a camera the same way it does to a human eye.
Getting up and running with the light strip is straightforward but requires more setup than a plug-and-play strip. Elgato recommends cleaning the surface it will be adhered to ahead of time, but then it’s as simple as removing the paper backing from the strip and pressing it into place. Elgato opted for TESA adhesive, which is well-regarded for long-term adhesion. It stayed in place after being pressed down but time will tell how it holds up in the long-term. Once that’s done, the connector end needs to be connected to the control box, which also plugs into the AC adapter for power.
As a WiFi strip, it needs to be added to your home network to function. It uses the same free Control Center app as the Key Light and Key Light Air, and the strip was immediately detected after choosing the Add New Accessory option in the settings menu. From there, I had to provide my WiFi credentials and the strip was able to connect. Once the strip has been paired, it appears in the list of Elgato devices in both the smartphone and PC apps automatically without any additional setup.
Elgato Light Strip – Software and Performance
With the light strip added, controlling it is very simple through both the smartphone or Windows app (I wasn’t able to test Mac but the experience should be mostly the same). On the home page, you’re able to control brightness, but by clicking on the color you can customize which hue or shade of white you would like. The choices update in real-time so you can make micro-adjustments to really dial in the hue you would like. These can then be saved to quickly recall at another time. Brightness is also controlled using a slider. These options are identical, if a little harder to see, on the PC interface.
Compared to the majority of cheaper strips, Elgato’s strip offers much more fine-grained control. The bulk of those cheaper strips use remote controls with locked options. Likewise, the white hues are a huge improvement versus those strips. Each of the generic strips I’ve tried would approximate white but always muddy it with a pink or green tinge. Here, you have real, true white thanks to the additional pure white and warm white LEDs.
Elgato Light Strip – Software
The Light Strip also integrates with Elgato’s Stream Deck. This provides a greater degree of control without ever bringing up an app. You can control brightness or hue with the touch of a button and even automate color changes using multi-actions with delays. The integration with the rest of Elgato’s ecosystem and its subsequent ease of control is a big differentiating factor compared to the competition.
That isn’t to say it’s perfect, however. The biggest disappointment is that this is purely a single-color light strip. This puts it on par with the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus but also significantly behind the Govee Dreamcolor RGBIC light strip, which retails for less than half the cost and allows for custom lighting schemes and even animations for flowing displays of color. As a company under the umbrella of Corsair, one of the leading RGB companies in PC gaming, I would have expected even something as basic as breathing or color cycling, but no such luck. Another oddity is that the app doesn’t actually state what white color temperature you’re at when using the slider. Both Key Lights display this. It is arguably less important for a backlight, but is strange nonetheless.
Unlike the LIFX, Philips, and even budget WiFi light strips, the Elgato Light Strip isn’t smart home compatible. This isn’t something I personally use, but if it’s connected to the network and cheaper light strips provide this functionality, the fact that the Elgato can’t is definitely noteworthy.
Elgato Light Strip – LED Comparison
As a result, it really seems that what you’re paying for here is the added brightness and flicker free design. When it comes to how bright the light strip can get, it really is a big difference. This is most noticeable with white colors. I had the Govee Dreamcolor RGBIC 6.5-foot strip on-hand for comparison and the Elgato absolutely puts it to shame with white colors.
The difference is less profound with colors but still noticeable. For most hues, all three LEDs activate but even when it’s just the center RGB LED, it still produces more light. For desks positioned close to a wall, this allows it to produce more of a wash light effect. The light directly behind the edge of the desk is more intense and reflects further outward than a traditional light.
When it comes to the flicker-free design, Elgato has nailed it. Even breaking the shutter speed rule of twice your frame rate, flickering and scanlines didn’t occur in any reasonable filming rate. This is also where it earns its keep against the $10 less expensive Nanoleaf Essentials strips which produced noticeable scanlines. That said, this isn’t a universal issue. I’ve had cheaper light strips that didn’t flicker either but then my Philips Hue lights always do. Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t often publish PWM rates, so finding a cheaper strip that doesn’t is a game of trial and error.
Elgato Light Strip – RGB Backlight Examples
The ultimate question here is whether they’re worth the still-high $59.99 asking price for a 79-inch strip. That’s a challenging proposition when you can literally buy two-packs of 16-foot strips for less than $25 on Amazon. Those cheaper strips will be dimmer, RGB-only, and be limited to remote control color selection, but at less than half the price, those trade-offs might be reasonable depending on how you would like to use them.
It’s really the standout strips, like the Govee DreamColors, that make the Elgato Strip Light a hard sell at the current price. They’re not as bright, but work perfectly well for accent lighting, and offer significantly more customization thanks to individually addressable LEDs. It’s also available in longer lengths that can be cut down to match your exact lighting needs. The biggest drawback is white reproduction and total output, both of which will matter less if you’re only interested in colored lighting.
The more favorable comparison comes against the Philips Lightstrip Plus. The Elgato Strip Light costs twenty dollars less and doesn’t require a WiFi bridge for setup. For users not already in the Hue ecosystem, the Elgato Light Strip renders it obsolete.