MediaLight Mk2 Flex Bias Light Review
By Chris Heinonen on
Despite what we’ve been led to believe, the ideal viewing environment for a home theater isn’t a pitch black room. In a pitch black room the swings from dark to bright can happen before your eyes can adjust, causing you to miss details. With HDR that can be far brighter than SDR, this can be even worse today. The ideal solution to this is a bias light behind the TV so that you have light in the room, but it doesn’t reflect onto the screen and hide shadow details or cast reflections. I’ve been using the MediaLight Mk2 Flex bias light with my TCL 825 TV in the family room to see how well it performs.
An Updated Idea
Bias lights are not new. When I had an RPTV DLP back in 2006 I added a backlight to it. But as that DLP was replaced by a plasma and more flat screens, that old backlight no longer worked since it was a CCFL bulb and too large to fit behind a wall mounted screen. The MediaLight Mk2 Flex is a strip of LEDs that are powered by USB so they can fit behind a TV even if it is wall mounted. Unlike a generic LED light strip, like a Philips Hue, these LEDs come at the reference D65 white point and with a very broad spectrum of light. This means that unlike other LED light options, they won’t add a color tint that will impact the quality of the image on screen.
Everything you need to install the MediaLight is included in the box. I needed a 5m version to cover the four sides of my TV, and you can order it in whatever length you need. You’ll want to make sure to go with too long rather than too short, since you can easily trim the LED strip to make it fit. The light strip is powered by USB, though they offer an optional AC adapter for TVs that don’t provide enough power over their USB ports. There is an in-line USB IR receiver that lets you adjust the intensity and turn it on or off with the included remote control. A few included rubber hooks make it easy to route the cables on the back of the TV so the install is clean. It would be much easier to install this with the TV turned around or even laying down flat, but I was able to install it in around 15 minutes without moving the TV at all.
The final step is to dial in the level of the bias light. Spears and Munsil offer a test pattern on their UHD disc that gives you an on-screen light level that you want to match with the bias light. My Murideo Seven pattern generator also has the same test pattern from Spears and Munsil so I used that to set the level. You can also get a pattern from MediaLight to set this correctly, which is around 10% of your peak SDR level. Once I had this dialed in, I was ready to test.
MediaLight Mk2 Flex Performance
Simply put, the MediaLight Mk2 Flex in that it does the job exactly as it says it will. I measured the performance with CalMAN and an i1Pro2 spectrometer, and it was right by the D65 white point and had the broadest spectral response of any light I have measured to date. If your TV is calibrated, or at least in the most accurate image mode, the MediaLight won’t take away from that performance at all.
What my family liked the most about the MediaLight is that it let them see in our family room at night while watching a movie without taking away from the image. Usually we wanted a bit of light in the room, if only to see the remotes and food on the table, but hated the glare on the screen. With the MediaLight it was much easier to see things in the room but it also improved the image at the same time. For around a week my kids enjoyed playing with the level of the backlight, but their interest quickly faded and we left it at the ideal setting after that.
The only downside I have with the MediaLight Mk2 Flex is that it wasn’t completely automated. The USB ports on the TCL are always on, so I had to use the remote to turn it on and off when I was watching a movie, while I’d prefer it just turn on when the TV was turned on. Of course this isn’t an issue with MediaLight, and this is far better than my old bias light where I had to come up with a way to turn it on and off before WiFi home control was common.
MediaLight also just introduced a cheaper bias light, the LX1, for people that might not want to spend as much as the Mk2 Flex costs. Compared to the LX1, the Flex Mk2 has a higher LED density, a broader spectrum light with a higher CRI, and a longer warranty. It also includes the AC adapter, IR remote, mounting clips, and the USB extension cord that the LX1 lacks, which means you can adjust the level with the Mk2 while you can’t with the LX1. Given my previously mentioned USB issue with my TV, I’d get the Mk2 just for the remote control, but you can add it for only $7.
I know a few people that have installed a Philips Hue light strip behind their TV for a backlight since it’s very easy to control, and offers far more adjustments than the MediaLight does. But it isn’t set for the D65 standard, and the color spectrum isn’t as broad, so using one is likely to cause your eyes to see a shift in the colors you see on-screen and it isn’t ideal. The Philips Hue light is great for different things, as I have one in my home, but not for this.
A few months in, I’ve got nothing to complain about with how the MediaLight Mk2 Flex has performed. After years of not having a bias light, it’s been great to have one again and surprisingly the rest of my family has come to love the side benefits of it. I’m also now likely to install an LX1 on our bedroom TV so we can have a bit more light while watching at night, and on my PC monitor since it will help with editing photos and videos in the dark. If you don’t have a bias light and often watch your TV in the dark, I’d highly recommend adding one of the options from MediaLight, especially since with the LX1 the cost is now so low to do so. It will improve your overall viewing experience.
Provides a full spectrum, easily adjustable and accurate bias lighting for watching movies or TV.
Might require an AC adapter with some TVs, have another remote control to deal with when using it, LX1 option might provide a better value for most people.
The MediaLight Mk2 Flex Bias Light is easy to install and provides as highly accurate bias light to make watching TV or movies easier in the dark. The included accessories make it easy to have a clean, hidden installation and it has the additional benefit of making it easier to get around the room while watching a movie.