Nanoleaf Shapes review: a decade within the making

Nanoleaf Shapes

MSRP $159.00

“Classy, polished, and feature-rich. A couple of performance hiccups do little to damage the shine on the Nanoleaf Shapes light tiles.”


  • A great deal of animations to find
  • Vastly improved PC sync
  • Smooth app experience
  • Easy installation


  • Thread border routing still lackluster

Nanoleaf is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a limited edition black version of its triangular Shapes LED light tiles. I’ve been having fun with their square Canvas products for some time now, and have since tacked on just a few Essentials. Rather a lot has modified within the Nanoleaf ecosystem since then. Let’s take an in depth take a look at how the pre-eminent brand in wall tile lighting has evolved.


Arrange of Nanoleaf Shapes was a giant upgrade from my last run with its Canvas tiles. Mounting plates allow you to remove the tiles from the wall so you possibly can cope with the adhesive pull-tab individually. The Shapes mounting plates are also somewhat recessed, so the sticky pads stay flush with the hardware. The Canvas tiles had ugly tabs protruding the side, and there have been widespread reports that the included adhesives didn’t last. I’m feeling more confident concerning the wider, greater adhesives that the Shapes tiles ship with. Beside my Shapes array, the old pock-marks left behind by less kind adhesives hammered home my appreciation for the present standard.

The instruction booklet was laid out prefer it got here out of an Ikea box, primarily using illustrations. The app has a Layout Assistant to assist work out your design, including a shuffle mode that takes the variety of tiles you may have and puts them right into a working configuration. The iOS version has an augmented reality viewer that projects the layout at scale onto your wall so you possibly can work out measurements and fit. Though a somewhat advanced feature like that has lots of potential to go awry, I discovered it quite accurate. Too bad it was nowhere to be seen on Android. For somebody who has already arrange light tiles up to now, it’s easy to breeze through the method, however the app really needs a wizard for installation. For instance, Govee will undergo every little thing step-by-step: First, measure your space, now put your linkers in, now put the adhesive sticker on, now press and hold the tile on the wall, and so forth. Without some hand-holding, it’s easy to assume a novice forgetting to place a linker in before applying a tile on the wall.

The underside of a Nanoleaf Shapes light tile with the mounting plate and adhesive pad showing. Simon Sage / Digital Trends

Once the lights are on the wall and the ability is plugged in, the app gets involved with pairing. NFC pairing helps you to simply tap your phone to the panel to kick things off. After that, there’s somewhat communication to feed the lights your Wi-Fi password. I’ve found NFC pairing inconsistent up to now, but glad to have it working easily with the Shapes panels. Otherwise having to dig around for pairing codes is a little bit of a hassle.

Since I’m old and boring, a single diagonal line is about as exciting as my design sensibilities get, but the choices are really astounding. Multiple connection points let you construct and extend your Nanoleaf collection incredibly easily with a big selection of Nanoleaf Shapes extension kits. That said, the connector type on the Shapes was different than my Canvas tiles. This recent Connect+ format was somewhat easier for installation, nevertheless it is a strike against the large selling point of the platform’s modularity. Potential buyers might want to wonder if it’s going to be value investing within the ecosystem if the connectors are prone to change in just a few years. In case you do find yourself getting industrious together with your extensions, you’ll have to be mindful of the ability supply, for the reason that packaged one can only handle so many lights.


Screenshots from the Nanoleaf app. Simon Sage / Digital Trends

Nanoleaf Shapes tick the entire boxes you’ll expect from a contemporary smart light. You’ll be able to set them to a bewildering range of colours. You’ll be able to set schedules so that they turn on and off at certain times of the day. You should utilize voice commands via Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa to regulate them. A microphone within the control module lets the lights react to music in real time. Third parties like IFTTT, SmartThings, and Razer have plug-ins that give much more utilities. Nanoleaf provides a wealthy choice of user-generated light recipes to peruse and the tools to cook up a few of your individual. These range in types from solid colours to music syncing to set animation cycles. This catalog is markedly richer than what you see with Philips Hue, though Govee’s DIY section is about on par.

When it comes to lighting quality, Nanoleaf Shapes deliver even colours with sufficient brightness. Saturation is flexible enough to cover muted tones and wacky neons equally well. Nanoleaf Shapes earn particularly high marks for smooth transitions between colours. My experience with Govee lights produced barely more jagged results, and Philips Hue lights don’t even provide animations out of the box. The source of sunshine is absolutely clear within the Nanoleaf Shapes on the tip of every triangle point. These LEDs were higher hidden of their Canvas tiles. Govee’s Hexa Glide light panels were capable of diffuse the sunshine higher as well.

Nanoleaf Shapes tiles mounted on wall, shining a pattern of red colors. Simon Sage / Digital Trends

Considered one of the larger things I used to be looking forward to with the Shapes tiles was finally having a Thread border router in the home. Thread guarantees to be the muse for the following generation of smart home networks, with increased responsiveness across the board. Matter shall be a wider standard built on top of it which should allow for interoperability with a spread of brands. And not using a border router just like the one included in Shapes to act as their hub, my Nanoleaf Essentials bulbs and lightweight strips have been a little bit of a nuisance to work with. They’ve principally just been Bluetooth lights that must be commanded individually from every little thing else. Not long after installing the Shapes, the Essentials were all robotically tossed onto the brand new Thread network. This meant the Essentials could finally be included with Google Home management, and PC sync. Unfortunately, Google Home commands still aren’t making their approach to those Essentials though they’re recognized as existing. That’s a step in the appropriate direction and all, however the Thread implementation remains to be not all the way in which there yet. Hopefully, future software patches will close the gap.

My old Canvas tiles are all running along the ceiling, so the touch features hadn’t got lots of use. With my recent Shapes layout reaching down right next to my desk, I used to be capable of spend a bit more time with the touch options. Swiping within the 4 cardinal directions could be mapped to basic controls. This implies you possibly can swipe left and right on a tile to undergo your saved music scenes, or up and right down to undergo the traditional color scenes. That’s handy, if somewhat redundant when the control module has hardware buttons that accomplish much of the identical. It doesn’t help that there’s a consistent bug that prompts these touch commands even if you’re not touching the tiles. The Interactive section of the sunshine recipes goals to leverage the touch sensitivity of the tiles with ambitious premises like Whack a Mole, PacMan, and Simon games. They haven’t proven super intuitive to make use of, but even the indisputable fact that normal light recipes have a level of responsiveness to the touch stays a novel offering within the grand scheme of wall light tiles. The black frame on this particular model is a definite break from the remainder of the Nanoleaf lineup and lends itself to mixing in with other darker furniture. It’s easy to assume setting them up in properly dark areas so that they can blip to life seemingly out of nowhere. The one downside here is that with the dark color combined with the touch interactions and the matte finish, fingerprints can change into quite visible.

Nanoleaf Shapes light tiles mirroring a video on a screen.Simon Sage / Digital Trends

PC sync is one in all my major use cases for smart lights. Nothing is sort of like watching a nature documentary and having your whole front room awash in greens while exploring a rainforest. Gaming is extra immersive when explosions fill the room with a flash of red and orange. I’ve been capable of enjoy this type of stuff going all the way in which back to a TV backlight system called Lightpack, and prolonged it further with my Philips Hue bulbs. My early attempts at doing the identical with Nanoleaf Canvas tiles had long been a powerful failure. The PC app had a great deal of trouble pairing with my lights, so I simply made do with the opposite lights I already had arrange. It was great to offer this feature one other go because Nanoleaf has squashed a great deal of bugs. Though the Thread network did not get my Essentials onto Google Home, the PC app was capable of add them to the syncing mix.

The Nanoleaf desktop app provides the entire tools you might want to take what’s happening in your PC and project it onto Nanoleaf lights. You’ll be able to position your whole lights relative to the display throughout the app so that they react appropriately. For instance, a light-weight to the appropriate of the TV blooms with yellows and reds while a movie is showing a sunrise on that side of the screen. It’s especially nice with the ability to rotate this layout because you’ll likely need to flip the mirroring if the Nanoleaf lights are behind you. 4 different mirroring modes provide lots of versatility. 4D is effectively a 1:1 reproduction of what’s happening in your screen. This makes for rapid light changes and could be somewhat overstimulating if there’s lots of movement happening. Chameleon is the softest of the mirroring profiles and my favorite of the batch. It casually samples the colour palette of the screen and flitters it across the tiles at a leisurely pace. This helps add atmosphere without distracting you from the fundamental event. Again, it’s great to see the Nanoleaf PC app working properly.

Our take

The culmination of 10 years of labor really shows in the newest generation of Nanoleaf’s flagship light tiles. Smooth transitions, a great deal of animation options, all of the appropriate third-party plug-ins, and a smooth app with little clutter all amount to a terrific overall experience. Small hiccups here and there aren’t dealbreakers, and the continual support of products buys me lots of patience with Nanoleaf.

How long will they last?

LEDs have a protracted life, and the Nanoleaf Shapes tiles have a solid frame. It’s more likely that the app will stop support before the lights die out. Nanoleaf offers a two-year warranty on defective parts should yours cack out early. You’ll be able to get a way of the longevity of Nanoleaf products with our follow-up take a look at the Lines lights.

Is there a greater option?

There are many other light tiles on the market, but Nanoleaf may be very much the unique. Govee is available in an in depth second, nevertheless it has only just added PC sync, and its lighting transitions aren’t as smooth. The one saving grace is that Govee is cheaper. Seven tiles within the Nanoleaf starter kit go for $160, while Govee provides 10 Glide Triangles for roughly the identical price.

Do you have to buy them?

Nanoleaf Shapes are fun, colourful, and add a load of atmosphere to your own home. They’re expensive decorations, but ones that afford years’ value of novelty. Pick them up if you desire to add an attention grabbing accent to your own home.

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