Nanoleaf Essentials Light Bulbs Review: Light Up Your Smart Home | Jobs Reply


The Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs are fully customizable smart LED lights. You can set them up and control them with the Nanoleaf app, Apple HomeKit and Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. The color range extends to more than 16 million colors, including any shade of white you can imagine. The bulbs themselves have a distinctive geometric shape rather than the typical round or oblong shape. They also connect to Thread, which is purported to be a faster and more stable network technology to enhance the smart home experience.

Like

  • More than 16 million colors
  • Attractive bulbs
  • Views can be set
  • Thread-enabled
  • It can be grouped with multiple bulbs

I do not like

  • Nanoleaf App is not intuitive
  • Difficult to access all features

You don’t need a special lamp for the Nanoleaf Essentials Bulb, as they will work with any standard wattage-appropriate lamp. I tested them in a floor lamp and two table lamps that were before smart lighting and they worked fine. You can buy one Nanoleaf Essentials bulb or you can buy several and sync them in the app, which is what I did.

These bulbs will fit nicely in any smart home, but they weren’t as easy for me to set up as I had hoped. If you don’t mind taking some time to sort out the settings, or if you’ve already set up a smart home and just want to add a few extra lights, you’ll love the Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs. Retailing for $20 for one or $50 for three bulbs (cheaper if you can find them on sale), they’re a bit cheaper than other color-changing bulbs from HomeKit such as Philips Hueespecially considering the fact that they connect over Wi-Fi and therefore do not need any additional hub hardware.

A Nanoleaf Essentials bulb in a floor lamp glows a magenta purple shade

Nanoleaf Essential Bulbs

Karen Freeman/CNET

Nanoleaf smart home compatibility and design

The Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs look like typical light bulbs except for the unique geometric design. If you use an opaque or translucent lampshade, you won’t even see that, but it’s a fun touch regardless. At their white light settings, each bulb will put out the same amount of brightness as a typical 75W bulb from an actual power draw of just 9W. It maxes out at 1,100 lumens, which means it’s putting out 122.2 effective lumens per watt.

Hand holding the Nanoleaf Essentials bulb

The Nanoleaf Essentials bulb has a cool geometric design

Karen Freeman/CNET

These bulbs are Thread-enabled, but what exactly does that mean? Thread-enabled devices communicate with each other and connect to create a reliable, self-reinforcing mesh network over your existing Wi-Fi network. I didn’t test before and after, but I found the connection of the bulbs to be quite fast and stable, with no dropped connections and no noticeable lag in the controls. Note that if you have a compatible Thread border router, for example Apple HomePod Mini already set up in your home like I do, the Nanoleaf Essentials Bulb will automatically start using Thread. No additional steps are required. I checked my settings in the Nanoleaf app, and my Nanoleaf bulbs are indeed connected to the Threaded Network.

Nanoleaf will also be supporting Content, a new, universal language that will “speak all your favorite platforms” to enable smoother cross-platform smart home connections. The standard is still in the middle of its launch – some features are Enabled Matter live on Androidwith iOS and Thread support coming in early 2023. Nanoleaf promises to be at the forefront of this technology as it rolls out, so it’s a safe bet that these bulbs will be ready to take full advantage of Matter in the coming year. Even if it is absent, these bulbs already work with all the big players — Apple, Amazon, Google, etc. — so they will be able to fit right in with any smart home setup.

Two Essential Nanoleaf Bulbs in default white, in table lamps on side tables located on either side of the sofa.

The default white mode of Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs looks nothing like the light from regular bulbs

Karen Freeman/CNET

Nanoleaf performance and features

I had mixed results in my performance testing. Don’t get me wrong: the bulbs themselves performed beautifully. The light they shed is beautiful, and I enjoyed experimenting with different colors and brightness settings. However, I found the user interface of the Nanoleaf app to be quite frustrating, with no easy way to access and control all of the great features of the bulb, such as colorful scene settings. I also used the Apple Home app, which is a bit easier to use for basics like grouping lights and turning them on and off, but more limited and lacking advanced product-specific features.

Setting up the bulbs in the app is pretty easy: It’s a matter of scanning the code on the side of the bulb (or the packaging) and following the on-screen prompts. You can do this in the Nanoleaf app, the Alexa app, the Google Home app or the Apple Home app. I first set up one of the bulbs in the Apple Home app and the other two in the Nanoleaf app, and it worked fine either way. From there I was able to group the bulbs together in the Nanoleaf app, which wasn’t intuitive at all, but I figured it out. At least the group I set up in the Nanoleaf app automatically showed up in the Apple Home app as well.

Nanoleaf app screenshots

Karen Freeman/CNET

I started testing the group controls in the Nanoleaf app. It was easy and intuitive to turn the bulbs on and off as a group, but sometimes I had to double tap the on/off button to get it to take over. I did the same test in the Apple Home app, and it worked better: I didn’t have to tap it twice.

I tried voice control, in my case “Hey Siri.” Siri voice commands worked fine to turn on the grouped bulbs. But when I tried to turn them off through Siri, I got an error message saying, “That’s not supported.” When I tried to control one of the bulbs through a Siri voice command, it gave up on another. I realized that was due to operator error, though: I had named one of the bulbs “Nanoleaf” and the others “Nanoleaf K” and “Nanoleaf B.” When I tried to control Nanoleaf K and Nanoleaf B through Siri, it only heard “Nanoleaf” and acted accordingly. So, I changed the name of the bulb “Nanoleaf” to “Nanoleaf L” and now Siri works fine. So, a word to the wise: Make sure each bulb has a unique name, and that one is just a shortened version of another.

Next, I tested the Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs white. There is a wide range of whites from almost blue to yellow. The default white is just as white and bright as the standard bulbs I’ve been using. The smallest setup is as slim as you’d expect.

Then I used the Nanoleaf app to set the bulbs to the following colors: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, pink, cyan. Most of the colors aren’t the exact primary or secondary colors you’d expect, although I aimed smack in the middle of the range in the color picker. Red is pinker than red. Blue is a type of purple blue. Yellow is lemon yellow, softer than primary. Lime is green enough. Orange has a red/pink cast. Purple is on the lavender side. Pink is fuchsia. Distance is just distance. All colors are definitely less than white, even on the brightest setting, which is what you’d expect. You can save up to seven favorite colors in the Nanoleaf app or up to five in Apple’s Home app.

Three screenshots showing missing or difficult-to-use features in the Nanoleaf app.

The Nanoleaf app is limited and not very intuitive

Karen Freeman/CNET

Nanoleaf app gets the way

I tried using the Nanoleaf app to create a mixed color scene. But it wasn’t intuitive at all. I couldn’t figure out how to create a blended view or no view at all. The Nanoleaf app has a lot of really cool preset scenes, which I could download and play with a tap. Many are created by the Nanoleaf community and are intended for the company’s colorful light panels. However, I could not figure out how to apply colors to my bulbs, or create scenes of my own. I couldn’t even stop the scenes easily, I had to tap and hold each bulb within the Nanoleaf app to adjust it back to white.

The Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs offer Circadian Lighting, which automatically adjusts color temperature to complement your body clock. In other words, the lights will be warmer in the evening when you are getting ready for sleep and cooler in the morning when you wake up. I set this up in the Nanoleaf app (or at least I thought I did; it seems to be configured correctly in the app) but I can’t visually detect a difference in color temperature myself.

Nanoleaf Essentials bulb glowing blue in a floor lamp

Karen Freeman/CNET

Final thoughts

Whether you already have a smart home setup or are looking to dip your toe into smart home waters, Nanoleaf Essentials Light Bulbs are a great addition to your home. If your needs are simple enough, you’ll have them up and running in no time, no matter what platform you’re using to secure your connected living space. Since the bulbs are Fiber-enabled, you can expect a fast and stable connection, even better than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and thanks to Matter, you can expect connections with smart home devices from other brands even more streamlined in the coming year. Be prepared to spend some time exploring and experimenting with the app to find out how best to make these bulbs work.

It’s worth noting that while there are tons of app-enabled color-changing bulbs on the market, not many of them are Apple HomeKit-enabled. Few notable brands like Philips and Lifx make colorful HomeKit-enabled smart bulbs, but the Nanoleaf Essentials Bulbs are much cheaper. That makes these smart lights intrinsically valuable for anyone, and especially great value for Apple HomeKit users.



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