1. Jason Cockerham's Avatar
    Smart lights are cool. If you’ve never used any before, you’re really missing out. Sure, they aren’t at all necessary and are probably overpriced but man they’re so much fun.

    Shortly after my wife and I got married, we outfitted our house with smart lights. We got everything connected up to our Google Home and our smartphones and we can’t ever imagine going back. The convenience and functionality of being able to turn on my lights with my voice and set routines for them to turn on and off when I need them too is absolutely every techie’s dream.

    At that point, I thought my Hue color lights were about the coolest thing I’d seen in a while. Then I tried Nanoleaf and discovered a whole new level of awesome.

    [REVIEW] Nanoleaf Hexagons: The Coolest Lights You'll Ever Own-shapes_hex_16x_battlestation_800x450.jpg

    Design

    Nanoleaf is unlike any other smart lights I’ve ever used. Their entire purpose is to add some pretty incredible customization to your home decor and they’re modular which means you can create whatever kind of design you want on your wall to fit your style.

    The original Nanoleaf lights that came out a few years ago were triangular but the ones I tried are part of their new “Shapes” collection and these are shaped like hexagons. They have a couple other shapes at the moment and are supposedly planning to add more in the future but I didn’t get any sort of timetable on that.

    The starter pack comes with seven hexagons that can be arranged on your wall in any pattern you choose. Each hexagon has a mounting plate you attach to it, then you stick it to the wall with the provided adhesive. If you’ve ever used the deocaring hooks that stick to the wall before, it’s a very similar concept.

    The adhesive is designed to hold quite well so you’ll definitely want to lay them out on the floor to get a good idea of how you want the lights to look on your wall before you mount them. The lights mount to the wall via mounting tabs that are stuck to the wall with the adhesive. The adhesive tabs aren’t reusable and you only get enough in the package to do it once so make sure you like the layout before you mount them. I appreciated that the mounting plates mount separately from the lights themselves as it makes them easier to take on and off the wall.

    We’ll get a whole lot more into the app a little later but it has a layout assistant feature that uses any AR enabled smartphone to help you see how the lights will look on your wall. I had trouble getting it to work for me but it can be helpful if you can get it to work. Nanoleaf also has a really cool Instagram page with lots of great designs on there if you need some inspiration.

    Each panel connects to the one next to it with little “connectors” that allow power to pass to each panel from the power source. Nanoleaf has truly designed these to be modular as the power cable can be attached to any side of any one of the panels.

    There’s also a controller that can also be attached to any side of any one of the panels. The controller allows you to turn the lights on and off, adjust the brightness, skip to the next preset scene, skip to a random scene, and sync with your music.

    Features

    Customization is the name of the game with Nanoleaf. The entire purpose of these lights is to let you do basically whatever you want with them. No matter what you’re feeling, there’s a color and a scene that fits your mood.

    The panels are touch enabled where you can set touch actions to turn them on and off and swipe between scenes, and if you use Apple HomeKit, you can set up certain scenes to turn on and off with a touch. I got this to work for me about 60% of the time but I also probably didn’t have enough time to play with them to really figure it out. There is certainly a decent amount of user error here as well.

    As a side note: when the lights arrived they were running firmware 5.1.3 with an update to 5.2.4 that arrived toward the end of my review period so that may have improved the touch functionality. I did notice it get better soon after, but I didn’t get much time with the update.

    The Nanoleaf app is the command center for all the stuff you want to do with these lights. The controller offers basic functions like I mentioned above, but the app is really where things come alive.

    There’s A LOT of things you can customize with these guys and honestly I don’t think I’ll ever discover their full capabilities.

    When it comes to setting your mood, there are quite a few options to choose from. For starters, in addition to the included light scenes, Nanoleaf and the community at large have created hundreds of different scenes you can download and enable on your lights if you want.

    Or, if you really wanna nerd out, you can create your own. If you are brave enough to venture down this path, you can do everything from just a simple solid color to as complicated as a playlist that will scroll through several different scenes.

    Let me preface this by saying that as great and feature-packed as the app is, it’s probably my least favorite part of the whole experience. There’s so much you can do with it that it can be pretty overwhelming and has a somewhat confusing interface.

    I don’t necessarily fault Nanoleaf for this though, because they have so many incredible features to pack into it, that I imagine it was fairly difficult to find a simple way to do this. I’m sure they went through several design iterations and tried to land on the one they thought would be the best for everyone. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t really make me want to spend more time than I have to in the app.

    Ok, back to the custom scenes. Like I said, there are basic colors you can do, or you can get a little crazy and create a scene. Scenes allow you to change the colors of the lights set to specific patterns that Nanoleaf has created. For instance, fireworks. I can pick the color I want and set it to the “Fireworks” rhythm and the lights will flash in my preset colors and attempt to pop like fireworks. It works pretty well and is pretty fun. There are a few different rhythms you can play with to find the one you like.

    Get this, there’s even a microphone built into the controller that can sync your lights to your music or TV. Yeah, that’s right. Whatever you’re listening to, watching, or playing, you can have your Nanoleaf lights sync up to the beat. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

    If you want to get really crazy, you can create a Playlist which is basically just a list of different scenes that will rotate through at set intervals. It’s crazy how in-depth you can get with these things and I absolutely did not have enough time to play with everything in my couple weeks with these lights.

    Basically, if you’re someone who likes to customize every single aspect of your home setup, these are absolutely the lights for you. The colors are practically endlessly customizable and the wide array of scenes and rhythms ensures you never get bored with them.

    Integration

    Thankfully, Nanoleaf did not make their lights proprietary. They are designed to integrate quite well with your smart home gadgets. Full disclosure, I did not test them with Alexa or anything other than Google Home and Apple HomeKit.

    Nanoleaf did a really good job at building their lights to work with Google and Apple as I had no trouble using them with either one. I will say this though: there is much more functionality and capability built for iOS and Apple HomeKit than there is for Google Home. I don’t know why to be honest, but I would assume it was something to do with the data Nanoleaf has collected on their customers and they probably had more Apple users or something.

    It could also be that Apple HomeKit just offers more of the customization options that Nanoleaf wanted to offer their customers. Who knows. Just be aware that if you do have an Android phone and Google smart home gadgets, you’ll still be able to use these lights just fine, and include them in your routines and stuff, and still retain full use of the Nanoleaf app, you just won’t have quite as many customization options as you will with Apple.

    I’m absolutely not saying you should avoid them if you don’t have Apple devices, just be aware that you will not have quite as many options available.

    [REVIEW] Nanoleaf Hexagons: The Coolest Lights You'll Ever Own-shapes_hex_10x_gaming-room_800x800-1-.jpg

    Final thoughts

    These are absolutely the coolest freaking lights I have ever owned, and are one of my favorite tech gadgets in my house. The amount of customization available and the deep integration with my Google and Apple smart home gadgets is incredible. I thought my Hue lights were the coolest things I had, I was wrong.

    As I’ve said before, no tech gadget is perfect, however, and Nanoleaf isn’t without its flaws either. For starters, while they did do a better job of making them removable and remountable with this newer design, it’s still not a perfect experience. You have to purchase extra mounting strips and risk pulling paint off your wall if you ever want to move them. My wife wants to relocate them at some point soon so I’ll find out then.

    Secondly, the Android app and functionality with Google Assistant and Google Home is a bit lacking. It certainly has plenty of useful features, but it is more limited than what you’ll get with Apple HomeKit enabled devices.

    Lastly, the price. These things are absolutely not cheap. My starter pack of 7 hexagons with the included controller is a cool $200. There’s a lot of things you can get with $200. And aside from the cool factor, there’s not much practical use for them, unless, of course, you want to replace your overhead lights with these. I don’t judge. You do you.

    One final nit-pick I’ll add is the power cord. This is a technical limitation that Nanoleaf can’t do anything about (cuz, ya know, physics) but you might want to try to get creative if you don’t want a white cable dangling down your wall.

    I can honestly say that these lights have definitely appeased my inner (maybe not so inner if you ask my wife) tech nerd in a big way. They are just fun. I loved being able to sync them up to my music, video games, and TV and just play with them to my heart's content. They are certainly pricey, but I’m sure you’ve got a birthday or something coming up right? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are right around the corner. Think about it.

    Head on over here to pick yours up today.
    05-25-2021 09:32 PM

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