It’s not every day you wake up to a FedEx guy delivering you a new lighting system for review, but that’s what we got a few weeks back from Nanoleaf. You may have seen these lovely Light Panels show up in the background of some of your favorite Youtube and Twitch feeds and not know what they were or what to think of them. Today, we’re going to play with a set of them to see what they’re capable of and how you might be able to use them best.
Nanoleaf sent us a set of their 9 panel Smarter Kit with the new Rhythm addition, which is the smallest setup they have. The way this system works is that one of the panels must serve as the primary port of power, as you can see in the versions we created below where we made a digital kitty. (Or, for you It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World fans out there, a giant W.) Each light is hung on the wall using two double-stick adhesive strips, one side for the panel and one for the wall, which makes them easy to mount individually.
Once you stick one up, you insert a connection chip between the first panel and the second one you wish to connect. This way they’re not all hanging off the same system, and are still connected so that the signal is properly sent. Each individual LED panel lights up when the programming is sent to them, but the only piece that gives off any heat is the power supply. The lights themselves stay cool, even when cranked up to their brightest setting. This is key for anyone thinking this will be a giant power drain or a hotspot on the wall since the lights themselves are set up to basically be about as power consuming as a night light.
Another benefit that doesn’t get talked about a lot is that you’re getting some very powerful lights that take up little space. As you can see from the side view below, they’re thinner than most picture frames you’d hang on a wall. So in a weird way, you’re getting a piece of wall art that works like a lamp, only it doesn’t take up the same space and uses a fraction of the power. Even though the price of a Nanoleaf system is up there (which we’ll discuss later), you’re getting something that solves a few practical purposes on top of looking pretty cool.
The system has a few different settings depending on what you want to do. The primary control of the panels comes from the Nanoleaf app, which you can download for free online. You do need to have a wifi connection as it will use this to communicate with the device. You can manually power it on or use the app to do so. One of the latest additions to the app that you’ll be greeted with is the ability to have Daylight, Reading Light, or Warm White as stationary lighting features for the room. You can select the Color menu to swap between programmed effects, such as Forest which gives you a blend of greens that change shades, or Bedtime (seen below) which gives you purples and blues to fall asleep to.
There’s a section that you can click called Discover, where people have made their own versions of color programs, where we discovered one called Netflix & Chill, matching the streaming service’s colors. Or one called Red Alert, which flashes bright red across all panels like in Star Trek. The Rhythm section is an absolute delight to use. In our pack, we got a small device that listens to all the sounds in the room (you can see it in out pictures on top in the middle). This will create a sensory light show based on what’s being played in the room and reacts to any sound. So you can play music, videos, have a conversation, or just clap your hands and watch it react to everything you do. We played Foo Fighters’ The Color & The Shape all the way through on a couple different settings like Soda and Fireworks, and enjoyed the show.
One of the coolest things to play with on the Nanoleaf is the programming, as you can create your own patterns from scratch on the app and make whatever party scene you want. You can even create custom mood lighting to go off on a timer, so if you know the sun is setting at 8pm, you can adjust it so that it slowly lights your room up to match what’s happening with the change of day. You can program the Rhythm attachment to react to video games and movies playing in the background to create effects that match what happens in the game. It even comes with an audio jack in the side of the unit so you can hook up an independent audio feed and have it act directly to your media.
One more aspect that was kind of so-so for us was the ability to work with the Apple Home app. You can program the lighting to react to any number of asks or programmable events in the system, depending on what you have hooked up. A friend of mine brought over one of their motion sensors, as we watched in awe as the lights reacted to someone walking into the room. However, Home doesn’t have as many options for lighting as we would like. You get one color, and the majority of them are washed out. Even if you go in and choose your own color, you can only have one. We were also disappointed to see that we couldn’t program Home to work with our iPhone and send light alerts for is we got a phone call or a text message or an email. That would have been an awesome addition, and we hope to see it get added down the road.
Right now, the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit with the Rhythm addition currently runs for $230. Some may scoff at the price but think about what you’re getting. An interactive LED lighting system that works with anything audio related and can be programmed from your phone. That’s pretty much interactive entertainment that can also serve a practical use in your life. Granted, we realize this isn’t for everyone as we’re sure some will not enjoy the way you have to hang them or the way the lighting needs to be programmed. But those looking for a little something extra in their house for lighting and to put on a show during parties need look no further. Plus, just imagine what designs and creations you could make with a set of 30 or more…
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