Nanoleaf Elements Review – With Thread and HomeKit support

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I already have the Nanoleaf Shapes in my living room and really enjoy the colours, animations and HomeKit control. However, I have recently updated my dining room and I didn’t think the Shapes would go. So when offered the chance to review the Nanoleaf Elements, I jumped at the chance.

The Nanoleaf Elements, while featuring the similar hexagon shape, come in a new wood look finish and offer white temperatures ranges from 1,500 to 4,000 Kelvins. They also work with Homekit, Alexa and Google Home and features Thread border Router support. So let’s find out in the Nanoleaf Elements review how they perform.

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Nanoleaf Elements review in pictures

Nanoleaf Elements Review Key features & price

The Nanoleaf Elements Starter Kit retails for £199, includes everything you need to get started. It comes with seven light panels, a power supply, connectors, mounting sticky pads, and a single control panel. Nanoleaf also offers an Elements Expansion Kit, which includes three additional light panels for £69.

In terms of the smart home side of things, the Element panels are compatible with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Alexa. Plus, they do not need an additional hub and they connect via Wi-FI and Thread. For the rest of this review, I will be using them with the Nanoleaf App and HomeKit.

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Its worth noting that 5GHz networks are not compatible with Nanoleaf products. Plus, you can only attach 22 panels per power supply and 80 panels per controller. However, I dont see this as a limitation as most installations are going to be below this number.

Design

The Nanoleaf Elements feature the same 9 x 7.75-inch footprint, weigh the same 208 grams as the Nanoleaf Shapes Hexagons panels. They also feature the same linker connectors and fix to the wall using 3M adhesive pads, but that is where the similarities end.Nanoleaf Elements design

So unlike the Nanoleaf Shape light panels which are white plastic when switched off. The Nanoleaf Elements feature a wood like surface, which is like laminate flooring. Although you can tell these are not wood, they don’t look cheap and I think it works well.Nanoleaf Elements control module

The starter pack also includes a wood-effect controller, which has got a slightly different finish. This needs to be attached to the side of any panel of your choice using a plastic connector and you also get a power supply.

Setup

Setup is fairly straightforward and is aided by the use of Nanoleaf’s layout assistant in the App. You can pull together a design and superimpose it on the wall to see how it will look. I used this and it gave me a good idea of the overall size and design before I started sticking the panels to the wall. This for me is a nice addtion as you get a sense of what the Nanoleaf Elements will look like on the wall. Plus it saves damage to the surface later if you had to remove them.Nanoleaf Elements AR app

Once you have your design decided, the next step is to fix them to the wall. You first start with peeling off the plastic back of the adhesive pad and fixing the first linker in place. You then fix the first panel to the wall and then follow the same process with the second one and level up with a spirit level. Then repeat the process for each panel until complete and finish off connecting the power supply and the control module.Nanoleaf Elements install

Once you have all the panels on the wall, it’s now time to set them up in your smart home. You can use the Nanoleaf App or the Home App for HomeKit and, in my case, I choose the latter. But whichever setup app you use, it will appear in both apps because HomeKit is the centre of things if you are using Apple’s smart home platform. Setup up in the Home App is like any other device in HomeKit, you scan the code, add to a room and include in another automation that have been selected.

From opening the box to setting them up in the Home App, I could get the panels up on my wall in about 20 minutes. This for me is an important measure when reviewing a product and devices should not be complicated in this day and age.

Nanoleaf App

Opening the Nanoleaf app and navigating to the control tile gives you the option to turn the panels on and off. You can also adjust the brightness via a control slider from 1% to 100% range. Unlike the Nanoleaf Shapes, the Elements only support white temperatures ranges from 1,500 to 4,000 Kelvins.

The Elements can produce Cool White through to Warm White along with a combination via scenses, which i will talk about further on. I do feel that the cool white look better on the panels as the warm white looks a little on the orange side.

This best bit about the Nanoleaf app is it comes pre-loaded with 11 scenes that take advantage of the panels lighting effects feature. Which is a combination of different motions of light white temperatures across the panels.Nanoleaf Elements App

You can create your own scenes in the app, but I found this was long winded and was happy with the built in scenes provided. You can also or download more from the Discover tab in the app.

As with the Nanoleaf Shapes, Elements panels work with Touch Gestures and Touch Actions. I will cover the latter in the HomeKit section. But the former lets you use various swipe actions to turn the lights on or off, dim or brighten them, and switch scenes.

During my testing for this review, I found the Touch Gestures hit and miss. This is despite repeated attempts and various resets. Not sure why this to be the case, but they didn’t always work for.

Control and music rhythm

Outside of the app and HomeKit, you have some manual controls and this is via the control unit. You can turn them off and on, adjust the brightness, skip to the next scene, randomise and turn on music sync.Nanoleaf Elements white motion

Speaking of Music Rhythm, which is a feature that uses the built-in microphone to adjust the light panels to the beat of the music. This works well, but unlike the Shape panels, the music sync is better suited to slower paced tracks like jazz or romantic tunes rather dance, RnB and Hip Hop. While this is a preference of mine, I think the latter music choice is best suited to the Nanoleaf Shape panels because of the RGB colour selection. Whereas the Nanoleaf Elements white colour temperatures favour slower paced music.

HomeKit

The Nanoleaf Elements appear just like any other smart light device in HomeKit with dimming, colour temperature in the Home app. So right in the Home App you can control the brightness of the panels and adjust the white colour temperatures using the scroll wheel. I found this to be fast and responsive and if I was not using a scene, this was my choice to control them.

They also work with Siri, with commands like Hey Siri — turn on the lights. I found this worked fine and with no noticeable lag.Nanoleaf Elements Home App

HomeKit button

As previously mentioned, the Nanoleaf Elements feature touch actions to act as buttons for HomeKit scene’s and accessories. As a HomeKit button, I can set an entire scene just by tapping a panel.

Touch Actions are configurable through the Apple Home app and the Nanoleaf App. However, in the Nanoleaf App, you can only link scenes to button presses. Whereas in the Home App you can link a button press to scenes and other HomeKit accessories. But you first need to activate this in the Nanoleaf app and then jump pack into the Home App.

I set the single press to my “Dining” Scene and this worked consistently. I then set a double tap to turn all off. But the long press I found hit or miss and it really needed a lot of pressure to activate.Nanoleaf Elements HomeKit button

Just a general note, the Touch Actions require a fair bit of force. This is not like touch controls on an iPhone or iPad. So be mindful of that when you are setting them and considering how to use them.

Automations & Scenes

As with any other HomeKit accessory, you can include the Nanoleaf Elements in automations. During the review period, I used the Elements with my Philips Hue dimmer and again this worked without issue.

You could also pair it with a motion sensor, so if someone walked into a room, the Elements would spring to life. I think if you put your mind to it, HomeKit automations could be really beneficial for this type of product.

In terms of scenes you can include them in scenes, but the scenes found in the Nanoleaf app are also transferred over to the Home App. You can also include these theses in automations. So, for instance, I used the “calming waterfall” scene with the Philips Hue dimmer button presses.

HomeKit Thread support

After a recent firmware update, Nanoleaf has updated the Shapes and the Elements to support Thread. This means that both panels can connect via Thread when used with a HomePod mini or new Apple TV 4K within HomeKit. While Thread support is welcome and will help in the overall Thread network by having another device. I didn’t notice any performance difference compared to Wi-Fi, and this is what I expected.

However, it’s the other bit of the Thread picture that really adds the value for the Element light panels. The Nanoleaf Element panels to act as a Thread Border Router. Previously, you needed a HomePod mini or the new Apple TV 4K to establish a Thread network. But that has all changed and now both the Elements and the Shape panels can act as a Thread Border Router.Nanoleaf Elements Thread border router

However, in my testing for this review, it would only appear that Thread devices from Nanoleaf appear to stay in the Thread network. As when I remove the HomePod minis and Apple TV from my HomeKit network, the Eve Thread devices would fall back to Bluetooth.

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After further investigation, it would appear that Nanoleaf has not yet fully implemented the iOS 15 Thread network protocols. However, Nanoleaf has said this is going to change, but gave no timeline when this will happen.

So right now, the Elements and Shapes panels will only act as a border router for its own branded products.

Nanoleaf Elements Review summary

When I first look at a device at the start of a review. I also look at what other options are on the market. But in this case, Nanoleaf has a unique product with the Elements and the closest thing is the company’s own shape panels.

But both products offer something very different and suit different type of rooms. I think in the right room setting; the Elements are much more impressive than its colour changing sibling. The texture of the wood grain and the edge-to-edge illumination make these a great option. I also like that when they are turned off, they still look nice on the wall. The whiter temperatures also look better when used with the panels, the warmer colours can appear more on the orange side. This is just a personal taste, but I feel the orange makes the wood affect a little more fake.Nanoleaf Elements wood effect

I did, however, find them lacking in some areas. The Touch Gestures didn’t appear to work very well for me during my review period and the Touch control long press was cumbersome. Plus, the Thread Border Router support appeared not to work with another brand of devices.

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The Nanoleaf Panels work well in HomeKit and I like the scenes created in the Nanoleaf App transfer over into the Home App. Although the Touch Gestures take a little force to make them work, I like I can use the panels as a HomeKit button.

Thread support is also welcome and when Nanoleaf updates the firmware to support the full iOS 15 Thread Network protocols. Then this will make the device more appealing.

Should you buy the Nanoleaf Elements

Then we come to the price, yes at £199 they are on the pricey side. But when you put that into perspective. You get 7 light panels and a control unit that can act as a Thread Border Router. Yes, they are more expensive than the Nanoleaf Shapes that offer full RBG colour range. But I have found that you need to spend more on the Nanoleaf Shapes to appreciate the product and get the most out of the design options. Whereas I think a starter kit of 7 is enough to make a statement. But ultimately the subject of price vs value is down to the individual and only you can make that decision.

You can buy the Nanoleaf Panels from Nanoleafs own website and Amazon starting at £199.99 for a 7 pack starter kit.

So that’s a wrap on the Nanoleaf Elements Review and hopefully you have found it useful. Don’t forget to subscribe for more HomeKit and smart home reviews. If you have a question or a comment, then leave it below. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube and Instagram.

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