It may be because I was afraid of the dark as a child, but I love good lighting. Not horrible fluorescent white, but twinkling city lights.. neon signs.. warm mood lighting.. it makes me very, very happy. Now imagine my joy when I discovered Nanoleaf. I was happier than a 90’s kid that had just discovered lava lamps. I’ve used the Nanoleaf panels for 3 months now and can’t wait to tell you about how they light up my life. Cue my Nanoleaf Review.
Before diving head first into the luminous Nanoleaf joy, it’s worth taking a look at who Nanoleaf are. They’re from Canada, and have been making lighting products for the last 6 years. The also have offices in both Paris and then Shenzhen for production. When they first launched, they tried and succeeded in disrupting the tired old light bulb industry. They then went on to launch their highly successful light panels and have gone on to win many design awards for both products. They now in the midst of launching their next big product, the Nanoleaf Canvas.
I first came across Nanoleaf on my Twitter feed and was instantly hooked. I had been casually looking for some good lighting options for a few months and unbeknownst to me, the Nanoleaf light panels were exactly what I was looking for. I picked up a 9 piece starter kit and I had the option to get the Rhythm kit (more on that later), but chose to go with the standard panels. I lugged the fairly hefty box home and eagerly liberated my new Nanoleaf panels from their cardboard confines.
Right after opening the box, I was happy to see the minimalist packaging and focus on recycling. Not surprising for a company that created the worlds most efficient light bulb! Despite the rugged looking packaging, everything was snug in it’s designated spot, with very little wiggle room.
As for what’s in the box, there are 4 key components. First up is your lovely new Nanoleaf light panels and the small power connectors that you use to connect them together. Next up is the adhesive tabs that you use to stick your panels to the wall. You then have the power adaptor, brick and cable. Last but not least you have the instruction manual, should you be humble enough to acknowledge that you should read it!
I didn’t take many photos during the installation process, mostly because my hands were full of Nanoleaf panels, but it was a fairly simple process. Simple, but not necessarily quick, as there’s a lot of peeling and sticking to be done! Before jumping in and sticking things to walls, some people prefer to use a thin piece of plastic or wood as a backing board. They stick their panels to the board and stick the board to the wall. That way if they want to move their lights, or move to a new house, it makes that much much easier. I threw caution to the wind and stuck them directly on my wall. Rock and roll lyf, that’s me.
I’d take my time with this and set aside about 2 hours from start to finish. I started the process by sticking the adhesive tabs to all my panels. One side is made for the panel and the other for the wall, and while I’m not sure it’s absolutely critical that one gets it right, I made sure not to stick them the wrong way round. 27 tabs later and I decided I didn’t want little dog ears sticking out so I cut off all the ends.
I then decided to stick the base, which has the power and control buttons to the wall and got it connected to the power. The app allows you to map how you want to design your layout, but I decided to wing it. I started assembling my panels by simply slotting them into each other before sticking them down. This allowed me to build a design I liked, and I then just pulled off all the tabs and stuck the panels to the wall. A word of caution is that depending on your design, you want to make sure your first panel is straight, or you may realise very far into your design that it’s skew and these 3m tabs don’t come off easily. That could really ruin your day. As for the result of my lighting adventure? Et voila…
A press of the power button, a simple pairing with my phone and I was lost in technicolour magic. You can set up your own custom schemes, but there are many preset and community options, and they look so good that I haven’t even bothered to set up my own. The app is simple and effective. I’ve already mentioned how I got lost in the Discovery section of the app and you really could spend hours scrolling through all the different presets. You can preview a new theme and then hit the save button, to have it easily accessible from your shortlist. You can also change the brightness of a theme you like.
Once you’ve got a few different go to colour schemes, there are two things I love about the Nanoleaf’s. The first is that you’re able to schedule your lights to run when you want them to. For example, my lights are set to turn on every weekday at 5.30pm and turn off at 12:30am. Not that turning your lights on is a major chore, but it’s a nice not to have to think about it. You can also link your lights to Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant, which means that if you have something like a Google home, you can use voice commands to turn your Nanoleaf’s on, off, dimmer, brighter or even change colour schemes. Speaking of apps, you can even sync your lights with certain games through Razer Chroma… Naisu.
Continuing the theme of syncing your lights, I mentioned that we’d come back to the Nanoleaf Rhythm module! If you’re old enough, you’d remember that back in the Winamp days, you were only as cool as your Winamp skin and oscilloscope. The rhythm module turns back time by converting your Nanoleaf panels into a visualisation for your music. It’s a cool feature that uses a microphone to detect what you’re playing and will make your Nanoleaf’s pulse in time with your music. It’s worth noting that if you’re like me and use headphones 99% of the time, that you’ll need to get an aux splitter and run a cable to your rhythm module if you want your rhythm module to work while you’re not using speakers.
When it comes to using my lights, I’ve been really happy. They were easy to set up, have tons of choice when it comes to schemes and have made my man cave a lot more ambient. +10 to happiness. I was so happy with them that I went out and got another starter kit to up my total panel count to 18. If that’s not a vote of confidence I don’t know what is!
I now use my Nanoleaf’s as my primary source of light, and it’s worth bearing in mind that I use my room to take product pictures and video footage, whether that’s for YouTube or Twitch. When set to coloured schemes, the amount of light these give off really depends on the intensity/brightness of the colours. Set these lights to white and they make a great low profile and attractive source of lighting for streamers. As they’re LED based, they also use fairly little power. Begone those big bulky photographic lighting kits from Amazon! Couple it with an Elgato green screen, (tried, tested and works really well) and you have an extremely aesthetic and minimalist streaming setup that produces great results, provided you have the budget.
Speaking of budget, it’s worth taking a look at how these lights square up to the competition. There’s actually tons of LED lighting options out there, but few are as simple, or as good as the Nanoleaf setup. You get everything from coloured light bulbs to LED light strips, but they’re all a bit ad-hoc and don’t offer the same connectivity / ease of use.
The closest direct competitors would probably be the Philips Hue range and the LIFX Tile. Pricing wise, the Nanoleaf starter kit, including the rhythm module, controller and 9 panels is $230. If you’re keen on some ambitious designs, you can also get 15 panel and 30 panel versions from the Nanoleaf website for $315 and $552. The LIFX Tile on the other hand is $250 and comes with the controller and 5 panels. You can also look into the Philips Hue E27 Starter Kit, that comes with a controller and 3 light bulbs for around $200, but be aware that you’d need physical lamps for the bulbs in addition to the cost of the kit itself.
Given the need for the additional hardware, I think it’s likely that most people will hard pass on the Hues. The real battle then is LIFX Tile vs Nanoleaf. They’re similarly priced, but physically, you get more for your money with the Nanoleaf’s, with 9 panels vs 5 with the LIFX. When it comes to brightness, the LIFX tiles are brighter on paper than the Nanoleaf’s, but I’ve yet to test them myself. Given the my Nanoleaf setup is capable of lighting my green screen, I’d say they’re bright enough.
Looks wise, I think the LIFX tiles are capable of some really pretty patterns, but you have less panels to craft a creative design, which lets be honest, is half of the fun of getting these lights in the first place. Add to this that the LIFX panels are notoriously difficult to set up and pair. You can see that from the bad reviews on LIFX’s own website, whereas the Nanoleaf panels are really easy to set up. I get really frustrated when technology doesn’t work easily, so for me, that makes this almost a no brainer, it’s the Nanolife for me.
Now that I’ve lived the Nanolife for a few months, I can confirm that the future’s looking bright, and neon coloured. Next stop, the Nanoleaf Canvas. I’ll leave you with a bunch of photos of the Nanoleaf’s in action.