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February 28, 2024
Android & iOS App & Software Review

Nanoleaf Essentials Matter smart lights review: A better bulb

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Nanoleaf’s new Necessities Matter sensible lighting line is a large step in the precise path for the sensible residence. With three lights obtainable now — an A19 bulb, a BR30 bulb, and a light strip — and extra coming quickly, the Necessities are cheap, straightforward to arrange, and can work with each platform. They’re cheaper and brighter than Philips Hue bulbs and have lots of the similar options with no need a proprietary hub. They work over Thread, which makes for a speedy mild bulb, and as Matter units they’re suitable with any Matter ecosystem. This contains Google Residence, Apple Residence, Samsung SmartThings, and Amazon Alexa, which simply introduced its Matter-over-Thread assist. 

However there are caveats, particularly for Apple Residence customers. First, these are Matter-only units. Not like the outdated Nanoleaf Necessities line, these lights are usually not HomeKit licensed. Though they work with Apple Residence by means of Matter, they don’t assist Apple-specific options like Adaptive Lighting. In addition they require a Matter controller and a Thread border router (which will be one system however should be from the platform you wish to add them to) to make use of them exterior of Nanoleaf’s app. You’ll wish to do that as Nanoleaf’s app is restricted in comparison with quite a lot of lighting platforms, such because the absolutely featured Hue app. For instance, it doesn’t assist schedules for the Necessities bulbs, and Matter bulbs can’t be added to teams with different Nanoleaf lights. 

The Necessities Matter line is superb worth for full colour, tunable white, and dynamic lighting-capable lights.

If you wish to broaden or get began with sensible lighting, the Nanoleaf Necessities Matter lights are a great possibility. However Apple Residence customers, particularly these with earlier Necessities bulbs, will discover them a step backward — at the least for now. It’s attainable these points will get resolved because the Matter customary matures, if Apple provides Adaptive Lighting functionality for Matter bulbs, and as Nanoleaf strikes its new and current merchandise to Matter. The corporate has stated its outdated Necessities line is not going to get upgraded to Matter and has been discontinued, however it would proceed to be supported.

How we fee and assessment merchandise

I examined the Nanoleaf Essential Matter A19 bulb ($19.99), BR30 bulb ($19.99), and 80-inch light strip ($49.99, $19.99 for 40-inch expansion strips). Nanoleaf additionally has a GU10 bulb ($49.99 for a three-pack) and a recessed downlight ($34.99) on the way in which. It’s not an unlimited ecosystem in comparison with rivals like Philips Hue, GE Cync, and WiZ, however it’s a great begin. Particularly when you think about that with Matter, it’s simpler to combine and match sensible bulbs from completely different producers. 

The Necessities Matter line can be glorious worth for full colour, tunable white, and dynamic lighting-capable lights. Comparable Hue merchandise start at $49 for a single A19 bulb, the identical value as a three-pack of Nanoleaf bulbs. Merchandise from TP-Hyperlink, GE Cync, and WiZ are cheaper however use Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth Mesh, in comparison with Thread for Nanoleaf and Zigbee for Hue. Thread is a low-power, low-latency, native mesh community constructed for sensible residence units. The extra powered Thread units — like sensible bulbs — you’ve gotten, the stronger the connectivity will likely be. Wi-Fi will be much less dependable and slower to reply, though WiZ’s Wi-Fi lights additionally assist Matter.

The Nanoleaf BR30 has a most brightness of 1000 lumens and a colour temperature of 2700 to 6500K.

The A19 Nanoleaf (1100 lumens) is as shiny as Hue’s highest lumen $49 bulbs, with higher colour readability and deeper dimming. The BR30 (1000 lumens) and light-weight strip (2200 lumens) are equally shiny and colourful. However as an ecosystem, Nanoleaf falls behind Hue on product vary, software program, and options. The app is sluggish and laggy, complicated to make use of, lacks primary options corresponding to scheduling and grouping past rooms, and there aren’t as many equipment to manage your lights. 

Nevertheless, when paired with a suitable Matter platform, Nanoleaf’s lights carry out excellently, making them a good selection if you wish to construct out a Matter sensible lighting setup. Management by means of the Apple Residence app, Google Residence app, and SmartThings app is on the spot, really quicker than flicking a light-weight swap (apart from the very fact it’s a must to get out your cellphone and open the app…). Voice management is a beat behind the app however barely noticeable.

You’ll be able to pair the lights with movement sensors and sensible buttons from different producers (together with Hue) in any Matter platform. I examined them with a Hue movement sensor and a Wemo Stage Scene Controller in Apple Residence, and the lights reacted shortly and concurrently. Which means all of them got here on on the similar time, with no “popping” or delay. Often, I had some temporary “no response” issues in each the Matter and Nanoleaf apps, which can be associated to Thread community points; extra on this later.

If you have already got sensible lights arrange and wish to add to them, Matter units will work with any platform and with any system already on that platform. So, when you’ve got Hue bulbs arrange in Apple Residence or GE Cync bulbs by means of Google Residence, you may add Nanoleaf bulbs to that platform and management all of them concurrently in teams and scenes utilizing movement sensors or sensible switches.  

Important options

Nanoleaf’s new mild strip is RGBCW with a most brightness of 2200 lumens and a colour temperature vary of 2700 to 6500K.

All three Necessities lights have the identical options and colour choices, with RGB colour altering, tunable white mild, and dimming functionality. The whites are clear and shiny, and the colours are deep and wealthy. The bulb’s design — a sequence of triangles, squares, and polygons (technically a rhombicosidodecahedron) — appears to refract the colours higher than the standard clean form. However it’s a particular look that received’t attraction to everybody. 

The sunshine strip additionally isn’t subtle, so that you do need to take care of that pinprick look if it’s seen — because it was in my setup, put in beneath a kitchen counter. However I do just like the included controller on the strip that permits you to not solely flip it on and off but additionally dim, brighten, and alter scenes manually. 

The Nanoleaf app comes with a number of preloaded scenes you need to use to show the Necessities into mood-setting lights. My two private favorites are Blaze, which units the lights to a type of flickering firelight, and Cocoa Seaside, which is a mod-ish pink, blue, apricot melange that matches in properly with my mid-century fashionable styled residence. 

There are a whole bunch of choices, which do must be downloaded to every bulb — a considerably laborious course of. It’s also possible to create your personal and even dial issues into the precise RGB worth if you happen to’re an excellent colour geek. When you create a scene — which works throughout all Nanoleaf lights, together with its LED panel merchandise — it may also be synced to different apps, corresponding to Apple Residence, through the cloud. However it would solely work on Nanoleaf lights. 

Nanoleaf’s Necessities Matter A19 mild bulb has a max brightness of 1100 lumens and a colour temperature of 2700 to 6500K.

Nanoleaf additionally has its personal circadian lighting function that robotically adjusts the lights from a mild glow within the morning and night to simulate dawn and sundown to a brighter, brisker daylight tone in the course of the day. That is one thing I search for in sensible bulbs, because it’s one in all my favourite sensible lighting options.

However Nanoleaf’s implementation is sort of primary and really fiddly to make use of. I additionally discovered it unreliable, solely generally efficiently shifting to the right hue. Nanoleaf solely permits for 3 time intervals — morning, daylight, and night — which I discover too limiting. Philips Hue’s comparable Pure Mild operate breaks the day into 5 customizable time intervals — together with an evening mild setting so that you’re not stumbling round in the dead of night. 

Nanoleaf’s earlier line of Necessities bulbs labored with Apple’s Adaptive Lighting function, however the Matter bulbs don’t assist it. Nanoleaf founder Gimmy Chu informed me that he hopes Apple will permit Matter units to make use of Adaptive Lighting. Within the meantime, the circadian lighting function within the Nanoleaf app is healthier than nothing.

Connectivity Issues

The Nanoleaf Necessities are all Matter-certified sensible lights. Pairing to any Matter-compatible platform requires scanning the Matter QR code on the system. The sunshine strip’s code is on the again of the connected controller.

An enormous promise of Matter is simple setup and cross-platform compatibility. With the Necessities lights, at the least a type of issues is true. Setting them up with one sensible residence platform was straightforward, whether or not I did it on to the platform or by means of Nanoleaf’s app, as the corporate strongly recommends. Nevertheless, pairing it with a second or third platform was the place issues obtained sticky.

To arrange the lights in Apple Residence, I opened the Residence app, tapped the plus button, and chosen Add Accent. I scanned every system’s Matter QR code and went by means of the usual onboarding course of for Apple Residence — title the system, add it to a room, and so forth. I did have to have an Apple Residence hub that helps Thread — which incorporates all present Apple HomePods and most Apple TVs.

I additionally tried setting the lights up from Google Residence initially to see if the method was as straightforward. It was — simpler even. After resetting the bulbs, I simply introduced my Android cellphone shut to every one, and the cellphone detected there was a Matter system prepared for pairing. An alert popped up proper on the house display screen — that means I didn’t even need to open an app. After tapping the notification, I scanned the system’s QR code, and the cellphone offered me with obtainable apps to pair with — on this case, Google Residence and Samsung SmartThings. 

I selected Google Residence, and the system checked I had all the required necessities (together with a Matter controller and Thread border router — on this case, a Nest Hub Max). As soon as previous this approval course of, the setup proceeded similar to including any system to Google Residence, permitting me to call it and assign it to a room.

With each setup flows, the preliminary pairing course of within the app took a great couple of minutes because the software program and {hardware} did their factor behind the scenes. However I didn’t need to do something — no account sign-up, no linking of clouds, no Wi-Fi password getting into, no swapping between apps or the cellphone’s settings. None of that fiddly setup you’ll be accustomed to if you happen to’ve ever arrange a sensible system. I simply sat and watched some colourful animations.

From right here, I might add the bulbs to the Nanoleaf app if I wished to entry Nanoleaf-specific options — corresponding to the colour scenes and adaptive lighting — and for firmware updates. For this, I needed to obtain the Nanoleaf app, create an account (or select Apple or Google sign-in) and permit the app community entry.

The suitable bulbs then confirmed as obtainable for setup within the Firmware Replace part of the Nanoleaf app, and I scanned the bulb’s QR code so as to add it to the app. At present, you will have the Nanoleaf app for firmware updates. It’s additionally attainable to arrange the bulbs beginning in Nanoleaf’s app after which pair them to any obtainable Matter platform from there. That is additionally the path to take if you happen to don’t have a Thread border router, because the lights can pair to your cellphone utilizing Bluetooth.

The truth that Thread border routers from completely different producers don’t discuss to one another but is a giant difficulty for Thread units and Matter usually.

The one hiccup I encountered in these two setup flows was with Google Residence. The bulb paired high-quality however then was unresponsive within the Residence app. Troubleshooting decided that my Google Thread border router wasn’t shut sufficient — and I didn’t have sufficient Google Nest Thread units between the bulb and the Google Nest Hub Max to create the connection. I’ve 5 Thread border routers in the identical room as the sunshine bulbs, however none of them are from Google, so none of them work with Google Residence. (It labored high-quality as soon as I moved the Nest Hub nearer.) 

The truth that Thread border routers from completely different producers don’t discuss to one another but is a giant difficulty for Thread units and Matter usually, as Thread is one in all two wi-fi protocols the usual makes use of. It’s extra of an issue for “mature” sensible houses than the newer ones. I’ve 5 Thread networks in my residence proper now — one Apple, one Google Nest, one Eero, and two from SmartThings — and I don’t foresee a simple path for merging all of them into one.

Theoretically, they aren’t competing with one another, and Matter units on one Thread community can nonetheless talk with Matter units on one other — at one level, I had the BR30 bulb on the Google Residence Thread Community and the A19 bulb on the Apple Residence Thread community, and all the pieces labored high-quality. However one Thread community will likely be extra strong and dependable than 5 separate ones.

Multi-admin remains to be a large number

The Nanoleaf Components Matter mild bulbs and light-weight strips require a Matter controller and Thread border router to work with Matter, corresponding to an Apple HomePod Mini or Google Nest Hub Max.

Within the above setup situations, I paired the bulbs to 2 platforms individually. However a giant promise of Matter is Multi-Admin — controlling your units from any platform and with any voice assistant, due to a simple, native sharing course of between the platforms. All it’s best to have to do is generate a code from one app and enter it into the opposite, and your gadget will work regardless of which voice assistant or app you utilize to manage it. 

Once I tried including the bulbs to a second or third platform from Apple Residence and Google Residence, I bumped into issues — simply as I’ve each time I’ve tried to do that with Matter merchandise.

When you’ll nonetheless see a lot of Matter’s advantages in a single-platform family — higher safety, native management, and quicker response time — utilizing a number of platforms is helpful. If I pair the Nanoleaf bulbs to Apple Residence initially, I ought to then be capable to add them to Google Residence, so my daughter can activate the sunshine utilizing her Android cellphone or Samsung SmartThings so I can flip it off from my Samsung sensible fridge. However Multi Admin is inconsistent and irritating to determine, and more often than not, it simply doesn’t work. 

Multi Admin is inconsistent and irritating to determine; more often than not, it simply doesn’t work. 

I might pair the Nanoleaf bulbs from Google Residence on an Android cellphone to Apple Residence on iOS by producing a QR code in Google Residence and scanning that with my iPhone. I might share a bulb from Apple Residence to Google Residence on Android by manually typing in a pairing code generated by the Apple Residence app. (When Google Residence’s iOS app helps Matter, this course of will likely be simpler.) However I couldn’t add units to SmartThings from both platform. 

Whereas I finally obtained all three Nanoleaf lights engaged on all three sensible residence platforms (I didn’t take a look at on Amazon Alexa because the function wasn’t obtainable but), I used to be solely profitable when ranging from Samsung SmartThings on an Android cellphone utilizing a SmartThings Station as a Matter controller and Thread border router, then sharing to Apple Residence or Google Residence.

The frequent failure level right here is SmartThings, and whereas it’s seemingly an edge case that anybody would need or have to pair a light-weight bulb to 3 completely different platforms, the very fact is it ought to work, and it doesn’t — not with out leaping by means of quite a lot of hoops in a selected order. 

The primary Nanoleaf BR30 sensible bulb shares the distinctive form of the A19 bulb.

One other huge promise of Matter is mixing and matching Matter-compatible lights from any model and utilizing them in any sensible residence ecosystem with out making a bunch of third-party consumer accounts and connecting them to the platforms within the cloud. And right here, the Necessities labored flawlessly. 

Nanoleaf’s cheap bulbs can do all the pieces Matter permits — which is restricted by the Matter spec to turning on/off, dimming, and altering colour. In the event you don’t go all in on Nanoleaf bulbs, then the cool additional options in Nanoleaf’s app aren’t going to do you a lot good, however that’s the case with another sensible lighting line, together with Hue’s.

Mixing and matching will make it simpler to outfit your private home with sensible lights however on the expense of among the extra attention-grabbing options of sensible lighting — colour scenes, circadian lighting, and so forth. Every sensible residence platform might allow a few of these options, however there’s a pressure right here. Producers like Nanoleaf danger turning into commodified by permitting their signature strikes to be open to any outdated mild bulb with Matter certification. Because of this Wemo not too long ago pulled out of constructing Matter units.

There are quite a lot of corporations providing colour LED lighting, many with comparable options to Hue and Nanoleaf: GE Cync, WiZ, Wyze, Meross, and TP-Hyperlink Kasa and Tapo, to call just some. However just a few of those have promised Matter assist, and just one has delivered — WiZ, whose bulbs will be had for as little as $8.50 each, began rolling out its replace final week.

Nanoleaf is at the moment the one possibility that works over Thread. When it comes to brightness, colour high quality, dimming, and response time, the Nanoleaf Matter bulbs are nearly as good as Hue’s for a lot much less cash, although they lack a number of Hue options like scheduling and grouping. And whereas many Wi-Fi choices are cheaper, in my expertise, Wi-Fi-connected bulbs are sluggish and unreliable. Whereas Thread nonetheless has points to work out, its pace, stable efficiency, and comparative reliability are three issues I do know I wish to see extra of in my sensible residence.

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