Nanoleaf Hexagons review: Color-changing lights made it easier to be stuck at home

In 2016, I analyzed out Nanoleaf’s good, color-shifting LED wall panels at the CNET Wise Property. That was the original, triangular version, initially named Nanoleaf Aurora — two many years afterwards, I was screening out the sq.-formed, touch-enabled Nanoleaf Canvas panels that adopted them, this time at the CNET Wise Condominium in downtown Louisville.

Like

  • Wonderful-on the lookout structure
  • Detachable mounting plates
  • Countless solutions for animated effects
  • Wise lighting’s very best tunes-syncing manner
  • Supports monitor mirroring influence by using Razer Synapse
  • Seamless integration with Apple HomeKit, supports Google Assistant, also

Really don’t Like

  • Overcomplicated app
  • Unreliable integration with Alexa

Now, Nanoleaf has yet another new established of wall panels established to start on-line in early September, with retail availability predicted by Oct. They are six-sided this time — rebranded as “Nanoleaf Designs – Hexagons” — and they offer in a 7-panel starter package that fees $199. Many thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I am eventually screening them out in my possess dwelling. 

I say “eventually” for the reason that, as substantially as I have appear to recognize the daring novelty of Nanoleaf’s lights, I have never very been tempted to obtain in myself. The Toronto-primarily based firm’s plucky panels make a great deal of perception as a superior-tech decoration for a young ones home or a dorm home, or as a backdrop for a budding Twitch streamer potentially — but exterior of that, bringing them into your dwelling feels like a Jetsons-esque dedication to a degree of modernism that just isn’t very mainstream however.

But with vivid, terrific-on the lookout hues, less complicated mounting, and the exact same impressive record of attributes and integrations as prior to — which includes the exceptional, tunes-syncing rhythm manner, touch sensitivity, and voice management by using Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant — the Hexagons make the pitch greater than any panels Nanoleaf has ever made. A few of surprising kinks in those people connections give me pause, specifically for Alexa end users, but if you’ve got used the past 5 months or so staring at your partitions and you happen to be itching to blend matters up, then maybe these excellent-on the lookout light panels in good shape the bill.

img-5348

Each Hexagon panel is a small greater than an adult hand with fingers outstretched.


Ry Crist/CNET

Let’s hear it for hexagons

With cameo appearances in science and character ranging from snowflakes to Saturn’s north pole to the molecular make-up of graphene, the six-sided regular polygon is an properly geeky preference for Nanoleaf. In architecture, hexagonal grids are about as productive and structurally seem as it gets, which is why you see them change up in all the things from beehives to blast shielding. Grids like those people are well known board video game fodder, also, many thanks to the various details of call available from every place. At any price, it is late and I am obtaining enjoyment on the lookout up hexagon information. 

img-5310

Each Hexagon has connector sockets on all six sides, and every has its possess, detachable mounting plate on the back again. That helps make it a good deal less complicated to get your panels — and far more importantly, their sticky tabs — off of your partitions.


Ry Crist/CNET

Whether you choose hexagons more than triangles and squares is completely up to you, as Nanoleaf strategies to maintain on promoting the past panels along with the new ones. Apart from the actuality that the triangles are not touch sensitive and call for a separate increase-on accessory in get to permit the tunes-syncing Rhythm manner, the a few are functionally identical. Continue to, there are a few of delicate variations with the Hexagons that make them the very best select of the a few.

The most significant alter is the way you mount them. Nanoleaf utilised to talk to you to use sticky tabs to the back again of every panel and adhere them straight to your partitions, which helps make it a discomfort to rearrange them. With the Hexagons, every panel now pops in and out of its possess small sticky-tab-outfitted mounting plate. That indicates you can take a panel off the wall separate from the mounting plate from there, the sticky tab is substantially less complicated to eliminate with the panel by itself out of the way.

The connectors that url every panel collectively are unique now, also. In advance of, they looked like twin-sided Lightning plugs that would slide straight into small slots on the edge of every panel, kind of like the pegs that hold Ikea furniture collectively. With the Hexagons, you get new, plug-design and style connectors that snap into the backs of the two panels they’re signing up for. 

The consequence is that setup feels sturdier. It’s nevertheless definitely far more of a arms-on method than simply swapping a light bulb, but it is leaps and bounds greater than prior to, and much less probably to rip up your partitions when the panels appear down. I’ll also increase that the Nanoleaf app’s Layout Creator, which lets you organize your panels in the app and then see how they’ll appear on your wall making use of augmented actuality, is a nice, practical touch throughout setup.

img-5324

Nanoleaf’s new connectors snap into the back again of every panel.


Ry Crist/CNET

The other level of observe with those people new connectors is that they’re the new regular. Going forward, Nanoleaf strategies to increase other “Designs” to the assortment, with strategies to let you blend and match unique designs on your wall. The outdated triangles and squares don’t get to appear together on that ride, because they every use the outdated, slot-design and style connectors.

The Hexagons are also Nanoleaf’s very best-made light panel however. Each a person is nice and large, more than enough so to in good shape your entire hand with fingers outstretched. That helps make it less complicated to tessellate the matters throughout your partitions than it was with the smaller sized, sq.-formed Canvas panels — and not like those people Canvas panels, the light just isn’t sectioned off into odd-on the lookout quadrants (although the corners are admittedly a small bit rounded). 

Speaking of those people sq.-formed predecessors, the Hexagons ditch the hideous touch buttons that marred the clean structure and usability of the Canvas panels. Instead, you link a little, unobtrusive management bar with physical buttons on to any side of any of the panels you like. That controller also homes the system’s Wi-Fi radio and the microphone it makes use of to sync the lights with no matter what you happen to be listening to. It can assistance up to five hundred panels at when.

Meanwhile, you link a separate, 42W electric power offer into yet another side of the panels to maintain up to 21 of them powered. At 2W for every panel, the Hexagons hold to Nanoleaf’s custom for effectiveness, which dates back again to its times promoting 3D-printed, tremendous-productive LED light bulbs. In actuality, if you ran all seven panels in the Hexagon starter package at comprehensive blast for a comprehensive calendar year, 24/seven/365, it would only increase about $13.45 to your electricity bill. For comparison, a single 60W incandescent light bulb would increase a small below $sixty to your bill more than the exact same span.

One previous observe on electric power utilization: Working the matters at one hundred% is complete overkill. Each panel presents an impressive blast of brightness at best configurations, more than enough so that I have a tricky time imagining a lot of instances exactly where you’d really want that substantially light radiating out from your partitions. In my exams, the ambient sweet place was a good deal closer to twenty five% brightness — shiny more than enough that the hues nevertheless appear terrific, but dim more than enough that the panels are not distracting or uncomfortable to appear at.

nanoleaf-shapes-hexagons-app-shots

There’s a good deal to enjoy with in Nanoleaf’s app, but it is overcrowded with solutions and unintuitive to use.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Killer attributes and a clumsy app

The very first thing I did after sticking a total of ten hexagonal panels on to my bed room wall was to make certain that Rhythm manner, my favorite Nanoleaf function, nevertheless worked as very well as prior to. The function makes use of a microphone developed into the controller bar to translate seem into light patterns that dance throughout the panels in unique strategies based on what preset scene you happen to be making use of. The processing all occurs suitable there at the wall, with no have to have to mail audio to the cloud — that keeps latency nice and low, and it is great for your privacy, also.

Sure more than enough, the function nevertheless is effective like a allure, specifically if you’ve got got a stereo or a good speaker parked nearby. Inquire for your favorite playlist with a person of those people Rhythm presets running, and presto, you’ve got got your possess small disco likely. I cranked some Bowie and experienced a area day hoping out unique presets to uncover the ones I liked very best — and if you want, you can develop your possess presets with the exact hues and animations you choose.

You are going to do all of that making use of the Nanoleaf app on your Android or iOS product. The app’s dwelling monitor presents fundamental controls for electric power and brightness, together with various lists of scenes to check out out, which includes a broad variety of animated scenes, Rhythm scenes that use the microphone, and makeshift video game modes that make use of the actuality that every panel is touch sensitive. If you head to the Learn tab, you are going to uncover an intensive catalog of person-made scenes that you can tap to check out. If you uncover a person you like, you can obtain it for free, rename it, and even tweak its configurations. Want to develop your possess scene from scratch? The app lets you do that, also.

Nanoleaf hides some of its very best attributes in the product configurations, which includes car-brightness, Touch Gestures and Apple HomeKit Touch Steps.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Faucet the a few dots in the higher suitable corner of the dwelling monitor to navigate to the product configurations for your panels, and you are going to uncover some far more great attributes to enjoy with, which includes an car-brightness manner that makes use of an ambient light sensor in the management bar to mechanically alter the brightness of the panels inside of a custom array primarily based on how shiny the home is to get started with. I established mine to mechanically alter concerning ten and 50% brightness, and it worked flawlessly. You can also customise touch controls on the panel — e.g., swiping up on a panel to improve the brightness, double-tapping to electric power it on and off, or swiping suitable to go to a new scene.

If you happen to be an Apple HomeKit person, you can also activate “Touch Steps,” which let you cause other HomeKit-appropriate gadgets with a tap, a double tap, or a lengthy press. That is up to a few automations for every panel, something good dwelling geeks can have a good deal of enjoyment with. The only rub is that you are going to have to have a HomeKit hub (an Apple Television, an Apple HomePod, or a dedicated, generally-on iPad) in get to use them.

All of that will help to maintain the panels sensation fresh and really customizable, but it just isn’t almost as intuitive as I might like. Each monitor in the Nanoleaf app appears to be to cram far more facts into body than is important, and typical tasks like changing the blend of hues in a scene experience needlessly wearisome. Simplified, action-by-action tools for simple scene generation would be a large assistance.

Thankfully, Nanoleaf’s integrations with voice assistants and 3rd-celebration good dwelling platforms imply that you don’t have to have to be completely reliant on the app to management these matters. A rapid voice command to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant will get the job done, and it is simple to timetable them to change on and off or switch concerning scenes at specific times.

I encountered a handful of hiccups with Nanoleaf’s 3rd-celebration integrations, which includes a handful of unresponsive moments in the Google Property app and an complete day with a wonky Alexa connection.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

But those people connections were not generally seamless. At a person level, the panels stopped responding in the Google Property app, and I experienced to wait around a handful of minutes prior to the connection started out doing work once again. Then, there was Alexa. Not lengthy after setting up the connection, Amazon’s assistant seemed to overlook how to management the panels altogether. I might talk to to alter the brightness or soar to a new scene, and I might hear that my command was not supported. A identical concept showed up in the Alexa app, exactly where controls for the Hexagons failed as very well. 

Right after about a day, matters just started out doing work once again, but it was unquestionably peculiar specified that the panels (and my dwelling Wi-Fi network) ended up doing work flawlessly normally. By the stop of my exams, the connection with Apple HomeKit and with Siri was the only a person that never gave me any concerns.

It’s possible those people concerns ended up simply a consequence of the actuality that the Hexagons are nevertheless in prelaunch for yet another thirty day period or so. There are generally heaps of small bugs to iron out with integrations like these. But the Hexagons are functionally identical to other Nanoleaf panels that have supported these integrations for many years now, so I was unquestionably stunned that matters failed to go far more efficiently below. A hiccup, potentially, but a person worthy of noting.

img-5379

Ry Crist/CNET

The verdict

I are unable to convey to you how a lot of times I walked into my bed room obtaining overlooked that I might place these panels up, recognized them shining on the wall, and thought, “Huh. People appear actually nice.” Whether I established them to a gentle color cycle although typing in bed (don’t choose), established them to step by step wake me up in the early morning with an synthetic dawn or just established them to a new and random scene as I went about my day, I was generally happy that they ended up there.

In other words, I am bought. Amongst the improved structure and the exceptional brightness, color good quality and effectiveness, Nanoleaf’s Designs are a superior-good quality good dwelling novelty that you are going to use and recognize every day. Even with a handful of kinks in the Alexa controls, they built me like becoming in my dwelling a small far more — and these times, which is worthy of something. Whether or not it is worthy of $two hundred is up to you, but if you like the way these matters appear, then I say go for it.