My favourite smart light company is back with its most compelling option to date. Canada’s Nanoleaf continues its winning streak of smart lighting innovations with the new Shapes Light Panels. For this review, I’m working with the Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagon Smarter Kit, a package that includes everything you need to create your own unique, wall-mounted, smart lighting installation. Whether you use it for mood lighting, task lighting, decoration, to pulse in beat with your music—or all of these applications—the Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagon lights are both smart and incredibly cool.
Unboxing the Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagon Smarter Kit
For this review, I was sent the Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagon Smarter Kit.
Whatever Nanoleaf panel system you decide on, you should always start with the “Smarter Kit” version. Everything you need to create a Nanoleaf installation is inside these kits, so you don’t need to purchase anything else.
In this case, that means seven Shapes Hexagon light panels, two-way tape for each panel, linkers, a power supply, and a controller.
Familiar, but improvements over previous generation Nanoleaf light panels
If you’ve used Nanoleaf light panels before, the Shapes Hexagon (and all Nanoleaf Shapes series) incorporates several big design improvements.
First, the panels have a removable base plate for mounting. This is a single plate that’s mounted to the wall (or any flat surface) with the included two-way tape. The big win here is that it’s a lot easier to remove panels if you change your mind. Previous generation Nanoleaf light panels used multiple two-way tape mounts around the outer edges. That worked well, but I learned from personal experience that the multiple adhesion points meant that removing a panel could be a bit of a project. With the Shapes series, this will be much easier.
The second big change is the design of the linkers that connect the panels. These used to be flat connectors that slid into place. With the Shapes series, the linkers are a stronger plastic that snaps securely into a socket. This design also makes it easier to remove a panel that’s in the middle of an installation. With the slide-style linkers, that was a challenge.
The change in linkers means that the Shapes series panels can’t be connected to previous generation Nanoleaf systems: Canvas and the original Nanoleaf Light Panels.
Like the Nanoleaf Canvas Light Panels, Nanoleaf Shapes supports touch interaction. Running your hands over the panels can change the colours in a ripple effect, and touch input can even be used to play games like tic-tac-toe.
Nanoleaf Shapes are interchangeable, expandable
You may not be able to connect the Hexagon light panels to older Nanoleaf setups, but this time around Nanoleaf has released several options in the Shapes series that can be used interchangeably for much more elaborate designs. In addition to the Shapes Hexagon, there are also Shapes Triangle and Shapes Mini Triangle sets. Each of the three Shapes options—Hexagon, Triangle, and Mini Triangle—is sold as a Smarter Kit and as expansion packs with just the panels.
The controller included with a Shapes Smarter Kit can support up to 500 connected Shapes light panels. The power supply included in the kit can power up to 22 Hexagon light panels. If you expand your Nanoleaf Shapes installation beyond that, additional power supplies can be connected.
It’s worth noting that the controller is pre-programmed with a selection of scenes. You get far more out of this system by connecting it to Wi-Fi, but the Nanoleaf Shapes can be used with just the controller.
Easy setup and operation with the Nanoleaf App
Nanoleaf has been constantly improving its mobile app over the several years I’ve been using it. The app makes setup easy, including connecting the panels to your Wi-Fi network (you’ll need to be able to connect to a 2.4GHz band). It includes functions to help with laying out light panel patterns virtually, and it will automatically recognize the layout of your installation to optimize the light show based on how you have the panels placed. The app also offers other functions including scheduling, firmware updates, and light panel calibration.
The Nanoleaf App includes a wide range of light scenes, including Rythym scenes. You can download more scenes for free—or create your own. The Shapes Hexagon panels support 16 million colours, with 100 lumens of brightness and a colour temperature range of 1,200K to 6,500K. In other words, this lighting system is extraordinarily flexible. I use the Nanoleaf light setup in my office for mood lighting, and they can also be used for task lighting.
One word of advice: don’t lose the insert that includes a bar code used in setup. If you ever change your Wi-Fi network or need to reconnect the Nanoleaf lights to your network, you’ll need it.
Compatible with your favourite personal digital assistant
If you’re into smart home control, voice assistants, and/or automation, you’ll have lots of fun with the Nanoleaf Shapes. Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, and IFTTT—Nanoleaf supports them all.
Make your music, home theatre, and gaming more immersive
I mentioned Rythym scenes in the Nanoleaf App. These use the microphone in the command module to animate panels based on the music being played. This music visualization gets a lot of use in my office. I frequently evaluate audio gear, and I use my Nanoleaf setup to amp up the experience.
In addition, Nanoleaf offers a desktop app for Mac and Windows PC with a screen mirror feature so your lights automatically reflect the content on your computer. This can add a new level of immersion to gaming and movie streaming.
My favourite smart lighting system is better than ever
Smart lighting systems live up to their name. They let you do much more with light than simply illuminate a room. And Nanoleaf Shapes takes smart lighting to an entirely new level. It offers all the advantages that you might expect from smart lights, including WI-Fi connectivity and remote access, compatibility with voice assistants, music visualization, and colourful lighting scenes. But Nanoleaf Shapes elevates smart lighting to customized artwork that’s unique to your space and easily expandable to create increasingly complex patterns.
Pick up a Nanoleaf Shapes Smarter Kit and you’ll be hooked.