Nanoleaf Shapes Review
These new panels are a big improvement over the old set, letting you mix shapes and now lighting edge-to-edge. With excellent control options, including Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, the Nanoleaf Shapes fit easily into all homes. However, they’re a bit fiddly to install and look a tad dull when turned off.
- Lots of ways to connect shapes
- Easy to expand
- Plenty of control methods
- Clever lighting effects
- Look a little dull when turned off
- Can’t rearrange once on the wall
- UKRRP: £89.99
- USARRP: $119.99
- EuropeRRP: €99.99
- CanadaRRP: CA$149.99
- AustraliaRRP: AU$119.99
- Lighting typeThese smart lighting panels stick to the wall in your desired pattern, giving a bit of interest to an otherwise plain wall.
- ConnectionCurrently, these lights connect to your home network using Wi-Fi, but an update will enable Thread, a new low-power smart home protocol.
A lot of smart lights require you to replace a system you already have, but this isn’t so with the Nanoleaf range of lighting panels, which has always been about fun, creating a wall of colour-changing light. With the Nanoleaf Shapes, the company is back with its most flexible wall panels yet, letting you mix different shapes (triangles, hexagons and mini-triangles).
Presenting a huge number of control options – including HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – plus a great app, these are some of the most flexible smart lights you can buy. However, while installation has improved, the light panels are still quite tricky to get right, and they don’t look great when turned off.
- Range of shapes to choose from
- Improved installation method, but it’s still fiddly
- Can’t rearrange pattern once everything is stuck to the wall
Nanoleaf has come a long way since its first product, the Nanoleaf Light Panels, which didn’t light all the way to the edges and were only available in triangles. The new Shapes product enables you to mix and match from your choice of hexagons (20cm tall), triangles (19cm tall) and mini-triangles (10cm tall). All have panels that light edge-to-edge.
For this review, I’m using the triangles; but the improved flexibility will certainly make it easier to create more interesting patterns.
Buying options include kits, which comprise a set of shapes plus a power supply and a controller. These range in price from £89.99 to £269.99, depending on the product you pick and how many panels you get. You can also buy expansion kits that include just additional panels, so you can mix and match your shapes.
You do have to be aware of the maximum number of panels you can power from a PSU, and you may need to buy additional power supplies to meet power requirements. The handy PSU calculator makes this job easier, allowing you to choose between the standard 42W PSU and the high-power 75W PSU. The controller supports up to 500 panels, so you’ll only need one.
If you’re going for an installation that requires multiple power supplies, the app has a mode that will show you where best to connect each supply. There’s also an optional in-wall PSU that requires electrician installation, but has the benefit of concealing all cables.
Installation is fairly straightforward, although it’s important to plan how you’ll lay your lights out before you start. Using the AR-powered set-up tool in the app is the best way to design your final layout.
I do recommend that you buy all of the shapes you think you’ll use first, since this makes it easier to plan. Technically, you can add lights after installation, but you’ll limit your options.
Once you have a plan, you need to stick each panel to the wall. With previous panels, such as the Nanoleaf Canvas, you simply used the adhesive pads to stick the panels to the wall. With the Shapes, there’s now a removable mounting plate: the adhesive sticks to the plate (and wall), while the light panel clips to the mounting plate.
It’s an improved system, as you can pull out a panel without having to peel off the adhesive. This makes it easier to replace a defective one, for example, or to get to the back of a light panel.
Panels are connected together via the connectors provided in the box, which plug into the connector points located around each shape. These click into place, rather than sliding, which makes building your final shape easier.
However, since mounting plates are still stuck to the wall, it isn’t particularly easy to completely change the shape of your final design: this is the reason it’s important to plan and get everything right in the first place.
As well as connecting the panels, you’ll need to plug the power into one panel, plus attach the controller. This offers some physical controls, plus provides the Wi-Fi connection and smarts that control the panels. A future update will add Thread support, which will let the Shapes connect directly to a Thread hub such as the HomePod Mini.
- Excellent range of scenes
- Powerful integrations
- Touch controls are fiddly
Once powered up, you can add your Nanoleaf Shapes to the app. Android users can use NFC to tap their phone to the controller, then follow the wizard. If you have an iPhone, you do the same, although this also adds Nanoleaf Panels to your Apple Home via HomeKit.
If NFC doesn’t work, the controller has a HomeKit code that you can scan. It’s located on the back of the controller, so you may need to unplug it to scan, which is inconvenient. Fortunately, on Android and iOS, NFC worked for me.
Once connected, the main method of control is via the app. Here, you’ll find a number of default scenes that range from basic colours (red, green, and so on) or lighting types (daylight or reading) to dynamic scenes, where colours flow across your pattern.
The former is good for adding a bit of mood lighting, but dynamic lights are great if you want to make your Nanoleaf Shapes more a bit of moving artwork.
With the controller’s built-in microphone, the Shapes can also be set to respond to music, flashing colours to turn your home into a disco.
Don’t like what’s on offer? You can easily design your own scenes, choosing the layout and colours you want and how colours should move, if at all.
If you don’t want to reach for the app, then you can also use the controller, which has buttons to adjust brightness, move between scenes, turn on the music mode and toggle power. It’s surprisingly useful to have this kind of control, as you can make changes quickly.
Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support are available, too. All three systems let you toggle power and adjust colour. However, only Siri and Amazon Alexa let you select one of the scenes with your voice.
Nanoleaf has also built in touch controls. By default, you can double-tap to toggle power, plus there are customisable swipe controls. I set mine so swiping up and down adjusts brightness, and swiping left or right changes the scene.
It sounds great, but the reality is that touch controls aren’t very sensitive. Double-tapping with a finger, the panels rarely worked; I had to practically slap them to get them to turn on. Swipe gestures weren’t much better. They work best when you can slide across multiple panels, but your layout will dictate how this works: with my layout, there are only two areas where I can swipe vertically between two panels.
HomeKit support is good to see, and you can control the Nanoleaf Shapes entirely from the Home app. There’s also a special option in the Nanoleaf app that lets you turn each panel into a HomeKit button with configurable actions for a single-press, double-press or long-press. You can configure these to do anything from playing/pausing a HomePod to changing the colour scene. However, the problems with responsiveness remain; it isn’t entirely successful.
HomeKit support doesn’t extend to Adaptive Lighting – Apple’s technology to automatically adjust lights to match daylight through the day. Nanoleaf has a similar circadian rhythm option in the app, but I couldn’t get it to work with these lights.
Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT round out the integrations, providing a huge number of ways to control or automate these lights.
- Mood lighting rather than a replacement for a bulb
- Great array of scenes to choose from
- Looks a little dull when turned off
The Nanoleaf Shapes panels range from between 20 to 100 lumens, which isn’t particularly bright; buy a Philips Hue Light Strip and you’re looking at 1600 lumens. As such, I wouldn’t think of the Nanoleaf Shapes as a replacement for existing lighting, but more of a way of changing the mood or adding a different ambience to a room.
In that regard, the Shapes excel. Colours are excellent and even across the board, and dynamic scenes gently flow around your design. If you have a bare wall that needs sprucing up, then this is a great choice.
On the flip side, the basic white finish to the Shapes means that when they’re turned off they can look a bit cheap and ugly.
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Should you buy it?
If you have a bare wall that looks like it needs a bit of excitement adding, these light panels are a fun way to create some interest.
Although the Nanoleaf Shapes are easier to install than previous versions, they’re still fiddly and you can’t easily rearrange a pattern. They’re not that bright, either, so if you want to properly illuminate an area then opt for something else.
An improvement over the previous Nanoleaf panels, the Nanoleaf Shapes offer greater flexibility and layout. However, the system isn’t cheap, and it’s mood lighting only – but the excellent range of smart home integrations and a huge range of scenes are great for adding a bit of excitement to a bare wall.
You can connect up to 500 panels with one controller, although the types of panel you have will determine how many PSUs are required.
Each product is a different size: hexagons (20cm tall), triangles (19cm tall) and mini-triangles (10cm tall).
They use Wi-Fi at the moment, but there’s an update that will add Thread support.