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

In 2016, I examined out Nanoleaf’s smart, shade-switching LED wall panels at the CNET Good House. That was the first, triangular version, originally referred to as Nanoleaf Aurora — two many years later, I was tests out the sq.-formed, contact-enabled Nanoleaf Canvas panels that followed them, this time at the CNET Good Apartment in downtown Louisville.

Like

  • Fantastic-looking design and style
  • Detachable mounting plates
  • Countless options for animated outcomes
  • Good lighting’s finest songs-syncing method
  • Supports monitor mirroring outcome by means of Razer Synapse
  • Seamless integration with Apple HomeKit, supports Google Assistant, also

Will not Like

  • Overcomplicated application
  • Unreliable integration with Alexa

Now, Nanoleaf has an additional new established of wall panels established to start on-line in early September, with retail availability predicted by October. They’re 6-sided this time — rebranded as “Nanoleaf Styles – Hexagons” — and they offer in a 7-panel starter kit that fees $199. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I’m finally tests them out in my own household. 

I say “finally” simply because, as significantly as I have appear to appreciate the bold novelty of Nanoleaf’s lights, I have never ever fairly been tempted to get in myself. The Toronto-centered firm’s plucky panels make a lot of sense as a high-tech decoration for a youngsters space or a dorm space, or as a backdrop for a budding Twitch streamer most likely — but outdoors of that, bringing them into your household feels like a Jetsons-esque dedication to a degree of modernism that isn’t really fairly mainstream nonetheless.

But with vivid, excellent-looking colours, much easier mounting, and the identical amazing listing of characteristics and integrations as ahead of — together with the excellent, songs-syncing rhythm method, contact sensitivity, and voice management by means of Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant — the Hexagons make the pitch much better than any panels Nanoleaf has at any time generated. A few of unexpected kinks in those connections give me pause, particularly for Alexa people, but if you have put in the previous five months or so staring at your partitions and you are itching to combine issues up, then it’s possible these superb-looking gentle panels in shape the monthly bill.

Each individual Hexagon panel is a tiny even bigger than an adult hand with fingers outstretched.


Ry Crist/CNET

Let’s listen to it for hexagons

With cameo appearances in science and mother nature ranging from snowflakes to Saturn’s north pole to the molecular makeup of graphene, the 6-sided standard polygon is an properly geeky option for Nanoleaf. In architecture, hexagonal grids are about as effective and structurally sound as it will get, which is why you see them convert up in everything from beehives to blast shielding. Grids like those are common board sport fodder, also, many thanks to the multiple factors of make contact with offered from each and every room. At any rate, it is late and I’m owning fun looking up hexagon facts. 

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Each individual Hexagon has connector sockets on all 6 sides, and each and every has its own, detachable mounting plate on the back again. That can make it a great deal much easier to get your panels — and additional importantly, their sticky tabs — off of your partitions.


Ry Crist/CNET

Whether or not you like hexagons about triangles and squares is completely up to you, as Nanoleaf plans to hold on offering the prior panels along with the new ones. Apart from the simple fact that the triangles aren’t contact delicate and require a individual insert-on accent in get to empower the songs-syncing Rhythm method, the 3 are functionally identical. Nevertheless, there are a few of subtle changes with the Hexagons that make them the finest pick of the 3.

The biggest improve is the way you mount them. Nanoleaf utilised to inquire you to implement sticky tabs to the back again of each and every panel and stick them straight to your partitions, which can make it a soreness to rearrange them. With the Hexagons, each and every panel now pops in and out of its own tiny sticky-tab-geared up mounting plate. That usually means you can get a panel off the wall individual from the mounting plate from there, the sticky tab is significantly much easier to clear away with the panel itself out of the way.

The connectors that backlink each and every panel together are distinctive now, also. Right before, they seemed like dual-sided Lightning plugs that would slide straight into tiny slots on the edge of each and every panel, form of like the pegs that keep Ikea home furnishings together. With the Hexagons, you get new, plug-design and style connectors that snap into the backs of the two panels they are becoming a member of. 

The end result is that set up feels sturdier. It really is however of course additional of a arms-on system than just swapping a gentle bulb, but it is leaps and bounds much better than ahead of, and significantly less probable to rip up your partitions when the panels appear down. I will also insert that the Nanoleaf app’s Structure Creator, which allows you organize your panels in the application and then see how they are going to glance on your wall utilizing augmented reality, is a pleasant, valuable contact for the duration of set up.

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


Ry Crist/CNET

The other level of take note with those new connectors is that they are the new normal. Transferring ahead, Nanoleaf plans to insert other “Styles” to the collection, with plans to permit you combine and match distinctive designs on your wall. The aged triangles and squares really don’t get to appear together on that experience, because they each and every use the aged, slot-design and style connectors.

The Hexagons are also Nanoleaf’s finest-built gentle panel nonetheless. Each individual just one is pleasant and big, adequate so to in shape your complete hand with fingers outstretched. That can make it much easier to tessellate the issues throughout your partitions than it was with the scaled-down, sq.-formed Canvas panels — and as opposed to those Canvas panels, the gentle isn’t really sectioned off into odd-looking quadrants (whilst the corners are admittedly a tiny bit rounded). 

Speaking of those sq.-formed predecessors, the Hexagons ditch the unsightly contact buttons that marred the clear design and style and usability of the Canvas panels. As a substitute, you connect a small, unobtrusive management bar with physical buttons onto any facet 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 regardless of what you are listening to. It can aid up to five hundred panels at once.

In the meantime, you connect a individual, 42W electricity source into an additional facet of the panels to hold up to 21 of them run. At 2W for each panel, the Hexagons keep to Nanoleaf’s custom for performance, which dates back again to its days offering 3D-printed, tremendous-effective LED gentle bulbs. In simple fact, if you ran all seven panels in the Hexagon starter kit at full blast for a full year, 24/seven/365, it would only insert about $13.45 to your energy monthly bill. For comparison, a single 60W incandescent gentle bulb would insert a tiny under $sixty to your monthly bill about the identical span.

A person last take note on electricity usage: Operating the issues at one hundred% is absolute overkill. Each individual panel presents an amazing blast of brightness at top configurations, adequate so that I have a difficult time imagining lots of instances exactly where you would actually want that significantly gentle radiating out from your partitions. In my tests, the ambient sweet spot was a great deal closer to 25% brightness — dazzling adequate that the colours however glance excellent, but dim adequate that the panels aren’t distracting or not comfortable to glance at.

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There is certainly a great deal to perform with in Nanoleaf’s application, but it is overcrowded with options and unintuitive to use.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Killer characteristics and a clumsy application

The to start with thing I did just after sticking a complete of ten hexagonal panels onto my bed room wall was to make absolutely sure that Rhythm method, my preferred Nanoleaf characteristic, however worked as nicely as ahead of. The characteristic makes use of a microphone constructed into the controller bar to translate sound into gentle designs that dance throughout the panels in distinctive approaches dependent on what preset scene you are utilizing. The processing all occurs correct there at the wall, with no require to ship audio to the cloud — that keeps latency pleasant and low, and it is fantastic for your privateness, also.

Guaranteed adequate, the characteristic however will work like a appeal, particularly if you have received a stereo or a smart speaker parked nearby. Request for your preferred playlist with just one of those Rhythm presets jogging, and presto, you have received your own tiny disco going. I cranked some Bowie and had a subject working day seeking out distinctive presets to locate the ones I preferred finest — and if you want, you can build your own presets with the precise colours and animations you like.

You can expect to do all of that utilizing the Nanoleaf application on your Android or iOS gadget. The app’s household monitor presents primary controls for electricity and brightness, together with multiple lists of scenes to try out out, together with a extensive range of animated scenes, Rhythm scenes that use the microphone, and makeshift sport modes that make use of the simple fact that each and every panel is contact delicate. If you head to the Uncover tab, you may locate an comprehensive catalog of person-created scenes that you can tap to try out. If you locate just one you like, you can download it for free of charge, rename it, and even tweak its configurations. Want to build your own scene from scratch? The application allows you do that, also.

Nanoleaf hides some of its finest characteristics in the gadget configurations, together with auto-brightness, Touch Gestures and Apple HomeKit Touch Steps.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Faucet the 3 dots in the higher correct corner of the household monitor to navigate to the gadget configurations for your panels, and you may locate some additional fantastic characteristics to perform with, together with an auto-brightness method that makes use of an ambient gentle sensor in the management bar to instantly regulate the brightness of the panels in a custom vary centered on how dazzling the space is to begin with. I established mine to instantly regulate in between ten and 50% brightness, and it worked flawlessly. You can also customise contact controls on the panel — e.g., swiping up on a panel to maximize the brightness, double-tapping to electricity it on and off, or swiping correct to shift to a new scene.

If you are an Apple HomeKit person, you can also activate “Touch Steps,” which permit you bring about other HomeKit-appropriate devices with a tap, a double tap, or a extensive push. Which is up to 3 automations for each panel, some thing smart household geeks can have a great deal of fun with. The only rub is that you may require a HomeKit hub (an Apple Television set, an Apple HomePod, or a devoted, usually-on iPad) in get to use them.

All of that aids to hold the panels experience fresh new and hugely customizable, but it isn’t really approximately as intuitive as I would like. Each individual monitor in the Nanoleaf application looks to cram additional information into body than is required, and common responsibilities like altering the combine of colours in a scene feel needlessly cumbersome. Simplified, phase-by-phase equipment for effortless scene creation would be a big aid.

Fortuitously, Nanoleaf’s integrations with voice assistants and 3rd-celebration smart household platforms signify that you really don’t require to be completely reliant on the application to management these issues. A quick voice command to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant will get the job done, and it is effortless to timetable them to convert on and off or change in between scenes at specific situations.

I encountered a few hiccups with Nanoleaf’s 3rd-celebration integrations, together with a few unresponsive moments in the Google House application and an whole working day with a wonky Alexa connection.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

But those connections were not usually seamless. At just one level, the panels stopped responding in the Google House application, and I had to wait a few minutes ahead of the connection started out doing the job once more. Then, there was Alexa. Not extensive just after creating the connection, Amazon’s assistant appeared to fail to remember how to management the panels altogether. I would inquire to improve the brightness or soar to a new scene, and I would listen to that my command was not supported. A related information showed up in the Alexa application, exactly where controls for the Hexagons failed as nicely. 

Following about a working day, issues just started out doing the job once more, but it was absolutely odd specified that the panels (and my household Wi-Fi network) were doing the job correctly if not. By the stop of my tests, the connection with Apple HomeKit and with Siri was the only just one that never ever gave me any issues.

Maybe those issues were just a end result of the simple fact that the Hexagons are however in prelaunch for an additional month or so. There are usually lots of tiny 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 absolutely stunned that issues didn’t go additional easily listed here. A hiccup, most likely, but just one worthy of noting.

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Ry Crist/CNET

The verdict

I can’t convey to you how lots of situations I walked into my bed room owning overlooked that I would set these panels up, discovered them shining on the wall, and believed, “Huh. Those people glance genuinely pleasant.” Whether or not I established them to a mild shade cycle when typing in mattress (really don’t judge), established them to gradually wake me up in the morning with an artificial dawn or just established them to a new and random scene as I went about my working day, I was usually happy that they were there.

In other phrases, I’m offered. In between the enhanced design and style and the excellent brightness, shade quality and performance, Nanoleaf’s Styles are a high-quality smart household novelty that you may use and appreciate every working day. Even with a few kinks in the Alexa controls, they built me like staying in my household a tiny additional — and these days, which is worthy of some thing. Whether or not or not it is worthy of $two hundred is up to you, but if you like the way these issues glance, then I say go for it.