Nanoleaf Elements review: A more natural look?

2 months ago 20
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(Pocket-lint) - If there's one brand that's managed to become synonymous with the entire culture of live streaming, it might just be Nanoleaf - its iconic lighting panels have added a splash of colour to the blurred-out backgrounds of literally countless content creators over the last few years.

However, as useful as those panels might be for adding some flair to a video, they can be a little "gamer-y", dare we say it, and Nanoleaf is clearly aware that it could stand to make panels that could more easily fit into other aesthetics.

Hence Elements, a different look for Nanoleaf - and a fresh option for its fans. We've been testing these light-up panels out and are ready to spill the beans on our thoughts...

Design and looks

  • Width: 23cm / Height: 20cm / Edges: 11.4cm
  • Thickness: 0.6cm / Mounted thickness: 1cm
  • Laminate PVC wood-style panels
  • Starter kit contains seven panels
  • 22 lumens output per panel
  • Colour temp: 1500-4000K

Nanoleaf's first option in the Elements line (and there may well be more down the line) are wooden-look hexagons that have a pale wood-like finish. From a distance they look convincingly wooden, but up close and to the touch you'll realise it's all laminate PVC, also known as plastic.

Each panel has a grain design on it, so you can arrange them to have this grain follow through the pattern of your choice, or leave it to chance for a bit more contrast.

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 A more natural look? photo 3

As with any Nanoleaf kit, half the challenge is in picking your own shape and pattern to go with, but they handily come with a card showing some popular arrangements, while the Nanoleaf app also makes it really easy to see what your options will look like using augmented reality (AR) via your phone.

Either way, Elements attach to your wall using Command Strip-style adhesive stickers, which can easily be removed when the time comes to change things up. Each panel connects to the next using a small connector to daisy-chain power through the pattern, while one panel needs to be connected to an actual mains plug using a braided white cable. This means you will have a cable coming down off the wall, but it's pretty easy to hide.

Finally, there's a control hub that can also attach to any edge you like, to let you turn the lights on and off, shuffle through various lighting scenes, or turn on their reactive music mode without needing your phone or a voice assistant.

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 A more natural look? photo 4

The controls work smoothly and quickly, and you'll be grateful to have them when you're not sure where your phone is or don't want to flaunt your Alexa (or Google Assistant, or Siri) setup while in company.

The real proof for Elements is in the lighting, though. Switched off, the panels can look a little out of place on your wall, although no more so than Nanoleaf's older panels.

Elements can cycle through a few types of lighting, but it runs from white to warmer white (more orange tint), and no further. You can have the hexagons light up with colder light or the warmer tones of a sunset or flickering fire, and we found the lighting options pretty pleasant all in all.

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 A more natural look? photo 2

In addition to colour temperature you can also set patterns, so that they'll fade in and out or move in waves through your layout, giving a bit of dynamism. The overall brightness is pretty low, though, by design - so these won't be a great option as the only source of light in a room. For mood lighting, though, they're really pleasant.

Effectively, if you think that a less glaring version of Nanoleaf's panels could be up your street, Elements is a great choice, but they're a bit more limited as a result of that wood-like aesthetic; for some people, of course, they just won't fit into their decor.

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Setup

  • Control hub and power connector required
  • WiFi 2.4GHz b/g/n - not 5GHz compatible
  • One connector per panel

Setting up the panels is impressively easy. First up you connect your first panel to both mains power and the control hub using its little connectors. This will enter the setup mode and you can then swap over to your phone or tablet.

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 A more natural look? photo 8

The experience is similarly smooth on Android or iOS, and you just scan a QR code in the Nanoleaf app to initiate things, once you've double checked that you're on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network (the only type Elements will work with, it's not 5GHz compatible, but most modern routers can auto-switch between the two).

Once you've added the first Elements panel to your home networks - and if you add one to your actual smart home setup more widely - you can then get some panels on walls. Each panel has its own adhesive to remove before you stick it up.

It's a simple matter of clicking in the connectors for the subsequent panel, sticking it to the wall with some gusto, then rinsing and repeating until your pattern is complete, with each panel powering up as you click it into place satisfyingly.

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 A more natural look? photo 9

Once they're all on the wall, you're basically done - the panels are automatically synced with each other and you'll be able to control them in a few ways, most easily through the control node or via your phone.

App and controls

  • Compatibility: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, SmartThings

That brings us on to the other big element of Nanoleaf's setup, which is the app - it's a tried-and-tested system by now, though, so if you've ever used it on a different type of panel you know what to expect.

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Nanoleaf Elements software photo 1

The app lets you firstly check out what your arrangement is going to look like, as we mentioned, provided your phone can handle the AR experience, and we found it a useful way to prepare for the act of putting the Elements panels onto the wall.

Once installed, you get access to a wide range of controls - including preset scenes that let you pick from various ambiances, and the option to make your own. This is really handy, and allows you to decide whether you want some dynamic movement or just a static look for your lights.

You can even choose a circadian option that will have the lights change intensity and colour through the day to mirror real daylight a bit (although their output can't hold a candle to something like a proper Philips Hue light).

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Nanoleaf Elements software photo 2

It's all nice and responsive and works well, while adding the lights to your Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit setup is similarly easy. Once you activate it, you can be using voice commands to turn the lights on and off really easily.

Verdict

Nanoleaf has made a smart play by making Elements easier to slot into your home decor than its other existing light panels, but the high cost and modern looks won't be for everyone.

The Elements light panels are super-easy to setup, work well once in place, and look enough like wood when viewed from a distance, making them a better fit for plenty of potential aesthetics.

That said, they're still pretty out-there in the looks department - and up-close are clearly plastic - so Elements will likely be more to some people's tastes than others.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 3 August 2021.

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