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Nanoleaf Shapes (Hexagons) smart lighting review
Look at me, I'm a Real Gamer now.
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Nanoleaf Shapes smart panel lighting system is easy to set up, fun to use and takes any space (whether it’s an office, gaming nook or kid’s room) to the next level. On the downside, they are pricey, the app needs some serious work, and they’re more of a nice-to-have than a must-have. That said, there’s nothing else quite like them on the market, and if you’re looking to brighten up a drab space with something fun and colourful, you’ll struggle to find something better.
- Easy to set up
- Looks amazing
- Smart home integration
- Endless customisation options
- Clunky, unintuitive app
You’ve seen them in your favourite Twitch streamer’s setup, on the walls of some cool new tech startup’s HQ, or maybe even out in the wild. But for the average Joe like you or me, you might be wondering why you’d want Nanoleaf Shapes smart lights beyond the fact that they look cool.
The thing is, looking cool is kind of their whole gig - and that’s not a bad thing. I may not be a streamer, but damn if these lights don’t make me feel like one, and after a couple of months of testing, I’m ready to confess my love.
Nanoleaf Shapes price
Let’s rip the bandaid off nice and quick: Nanoleaf Shapes are not cheap. Starter packs come in packs of five or nine panels. If you opt for the five-panel option, it’ll set you back $229.99. The nine-panel set, which we tested, works out to be better value (but still expensive) at $349.99.
There are expansion packs and bundles available if you’re after something to cover more wall space, but you’re looking at $119.99 for three extra panels and up to a staggering $819.99 for a 24-hexagon bundle.
You can also choose which shape you want your panels to be. We opted for the more recently released hexagons, but Nanoleaf also offers triangle panels. Both shapes can be mixed and matched, though again, you will need to fork out for expansion packs to do so.
In our research, we found most retailers were maintaining Nanoleaf’s RRP, so the best you can hope for is a sale. At the time of writing, only Amazon had a sale, taking the 9-hexagon pack down to $314 and the 9-triangle pack to $309. Elsewhere, you can find them at Apple, The Good Guys, JB Hi-Fi and Officeworks.
Nanoleaf Shapes setup and design
To be completely honest, I was dreading putting these things together. It looked like high-stakes Lego and I’m not all that great at low-stakes Lego. In the end, it was actually a very simple process, and surprisingly, quite the arm workout.
In the box, you’ll find the light panels, some panel linkers, a controller, power cord, mounting brackets and mounting strips. The instructions are minimal (almost IKEA-esque) but necessary to follow if you want your panels to adhere properly.
Before you do anything, it’s worth downloading the Nanoleaf app and using the layout assistant to help you figure out where the panels are actually going to go. Unless you want to eyeball it like I did (not recommended, see final product below), I’d suggest using a pencil and a level to mark where you want the controller panel to go, at the very least. You’ll also want to avoid textured walls, otherwise, your panels may come crashing down on you.
From there, it’s a matter of sticking them on a clean, relatively untextured wall, applying some pressure and rubbing in a circular motion for 30 seconds per panel to ensure adhesion (this is the aforementioned arm workout, by the way).
In the Nanoleaf app, I chose the inset design for my Shapes and stuck them above my keyboard so I could feel like I was in a vaporwave landscape while bashing out “Heart and Soul”. (Just kidding, I would never do that. Unless under duress.)
Here’s the result. I thought I did a good job… until I noticed they were very slightly not level with the keyboard. Please, people, learn from my mistake and use a level.
Regardless of this minor flaw, they look bloody fantastic - particularly in the early evening when the sun starts to go down. You will notice tiny black spots between the corners of your panels where the light won’t reach, but you’ll quickly become used to them.
Nanoleaf Shapes features
It feels kind of weird talking about the features of a lighting product, but damn, you can fit so many features in this bad boy *slaps hexagons* *they light up* *yes, these things are touch-responsive*.
From the controller that comes with the starter pack, you can turn your Shapes on or off, decrease or increase the brightness, “shuffle” between different lighting modes and play the next rhythm scene (basically, lighting schemes that respond to whatever music is playing out loud).
Nanoleaf Shapes are also compatible with just about every smart home system, including Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings. We tested it with Google Assistant, and the integration was seamless and easy.
Once you’ve got the app, however, you can do so much more. In addition to the above, you can create your own colour scheme, download ones created by other Nanoleaf users, and configure another set of lights. All useful features, right? The only problem is the app itself. It’s buggy, unintuitive and far more complicated than it needs to be.
Are they worth it?
The Nanoleaf Shapes is one of those things I never realised I wanted until I actually got my hands on one. Do I need it? No. Does anyone? No. But that’s the thing about smart lights. Generally speaking, they’re not a necessity - just a nice-to-have. And, given the events of the last 18 or so months, I think it’s important for people to focus on the little things that make them happy. I never thought colourful hexagonal smart lights would be that little thing for me, but here we are, in the midst of yet another lockdown, and they genuinely bring me some much-needed brightness and joy. For that, I reckon they’re absolutely worth it.