Nanoleaf has expanded its smart device product line up to include some affordable smart home lighting options. Just like the panels from the company, you do not need an additional hub. But the feature that makes them stand out is they work with Thread with HomeKit via the HomePod mini.
The Nanoleaf Essentials range comes in E26 and B22 smart bulbs and a 2 meter light strip. But in this review, I will take the smart bulb range through its paces. Although I used the E26 fitting, the B22 is identical other than the fitting type.
So if you are looking for some affordable HomeKit supported smart bulbs that work with Thread. I have installed 4 of these in my home and have put them through some in-depth testing. So continue reading this Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulb review to find out more.
Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulb specs
- Price: £17.99/$19.99/€19.99
- Dimensions: 2.4 in x 4.4 in | 6 cm x 11 cm
- Diameter: 2.38 in | 6 cm
- Style: A60/A19
- Fitting: E26/B22
- Average Brightness: 806 lumens
- Max Brightness: 1100 lumens
- Colour Temperature: 2700k – 6500K
16M colours and tunable white
Wireless: Bluetooth, Thread.
- No hub required
Nanoleaf Essentials Design
The Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulb has a unique design that makes it stand out from other bulbs. Which makes it it just as nice to look at when it’s turned off. I have found the means it’s a superb choice for light fixtures that leave bulbs more exposed if you want to go with something a little different.
This is still a regular A60 style bulb or the A19 US equivalent, and the design doesn’t make the bulb any larger than a traditional bulb. So the Nanoleaf Essentials A60 bulb still fits anywhere a standard bulb can, and despite the price point, the Nanoleaf smart light feels solid and well built.
The smart bulb comes in E26 and a B22 fitting, so plenty of options in most homes. Connectivity is provided via Bluetooth, but also Thread via the HomePod mini and I will talk about these later.
Nanoleaf Essentials Setup
Like with any HomeKit device, you need to scan the setup code. So with the Nanoleaf smart bulb you can either use the card provided. Plus, Nanoleaf has printed the HomeKit setup code onto the bulb itself.
After inserting in the Essentials bulb into your fixture, you then add it either directly through the Home app or via the Nanoleaf app. The latter also adds it to HomeKit as well.and vice versa. I used the Home App and Just like with any HomeKit accessory, simply scan the HomeKit code, name your device, assign the device to a room. The bulb is then ready in the Apple Home app. You can at a later time setup automations and scenes if you wish.
Performance and colour
The Nanoleaf Essentials bulbs support 16M colours. The average brightness is 806 lumens, with a max brightness of 1,100 lumens. When using these in my home, I noticed a significance increase in light over similar priced smart bulbs like the Ikea Tradfri range.
I have also found the Nanoleaf Essentials are very good at colour accuracy. The smart bulbs performed very similar performance to the Hue lights that are double the price of the Nanoleaf Essentials. One thing to call out is the overall brightness is a little lower when using a colour, but this is common with smart bulbs.
Currently, the lights don’t support HomeKit Adaptive Lighting, which changes colour temperature to match that of current daylight. This is despite the packaging listing this feature. Although Nanoleaf has said that an update is coming later in the year to bring support.
But you get Nanoleaf’s Circadian Lighting, which lets you pick three colour temperatures, from morning, daytime and night to use throughout the day, with the bulb changing automatically. this works very similarly to how most phone screens can change colour tone throughout the day and into the night. So during the morning and evenings the light will be warmer, whereas during the day it will be a cooler blue colour. This matches the colour of natural light.
One thing I did notice is that if you use Circadian Lighting and operate the Nanoleaf Essential bulbs with HomeKit either via the Home app or automations. You will need to re-enable Circadian Lighting in the Nanoleaf app again, as it seems to deactivate.
When using the Home app to control the smart bulbs, you can turn them off and on using the toggle. This method will turn on the light to 100% or off, depending on the current state of the bulb. However, if you want more precise control, you can set the light to the desired brightness, such as only 50%.
If you adjust the colours of the bulbs, you can also set your choice of colour either using the pre-selected choice or using the colour wheel. You also have the option to alter the colour temperatures.
Using Siri voice assistant to control the lights works well too. You can use commands like “Hey Siri, turn on the tall lamp” or “Hey Siri, turn the main light to 75%.” Both commands worked as expected.
It’s when I came to HomeKit automations that I got the most out HomeKit control. This is because I included the Nanoleaf essential smart bulbs into my existing HomeKit automations. Which allowed me to turn off and on at certain points in the day. So, for instance, I included them in my goodnight scene to turn them off. But also included them in a scene in my cinema room to turn on when activated.
The Nanoleaf app works pretty much in the same way as the Home app. This is because it tightly integrates into HomeKit and uses the same standards to control the lights. So you can control the brightness of the bulb, adjust the colours using some pre-selected choices. Plus us the colour to select the desired colour or white or warm colour temperature.
The other reason to use the Nanoleaf app is to update the firmware. This is something I recommend you do to get the latest features for the Nanoleaf Essential bulbs, particularly the Circadian lighting feature. Plus, when Nanoleaf deliver on HomeKit adaptive lighting, this update will probably be through the app.
Thread makes the difference
One attraction of the Nanoleaf Essentials range is you do not need a hub to use them with HomeKit. The smart bulbs either work via Bluetooth or Thread and the method you use for connecting will depend on the type of hardware you have in your HomeKit setup.
For Thread, you will need a HomePod Mini that supports this wireless protocol. Thread is a similar technology to Zigbee: a low-power mesh network designed for smart home devices. But if you do not have a HomePod mini, then the connection will be via Bluetooth to your HomeKit hub or iOS device.
So connecting via the Thread option, the Nanoleaf Essentials bulb will connect using this technology and appear in the Home app as normal. Although you wont notice anything different just by this and you don’t specifically get any additional features. But the biggest difference is Thread responds faster than Bluetooth and offers a better range. Making changes to the bulb’s colour, I was impressed by how quickly the lights responded. With Thread, you also get remote control via the HomePod mini outside the home.
The other benefit the Nanoleaf essentials bulb will work as a mesh point for any future Thread based devices that you get. So in my case I had have several Thread devices and these all connect and provide a stronger, more stable network.
I did find in my testing that when I just had one Nanoleaf bulb connected and when I turned off my HomePod Mini. The Nanoleaf light was unavailable altogether in the Home app. It didn’t reconnect via Bluetooth to either my full size HomePod’s or my two Apple TV Hubs.
Bluetooth vs Thread
If you don’t have a HomePod mini in the home, then Bluetooth provides the same features both through the Nanoleaf app and Home app. But there’s a noticeable lag which sometimes was up to 10 seconds for the light to turn on and compared to Thread, which is almost instant.
The other downside to Bluetooth is that if you don’t have a HomeKit hub such as the original HomePod or an Apple TV in your Home. You will not get remote access when outside your home. Additionally, Bluetooth has a short range for connectivity. So the controlling device or HomeKit hub needs to be within about 10 meters to connect reliably.
But please don’t come away from this part of the review with the impression I am slating Bluetooth for iOT devices. Bluetooth plays an important part in the smart home ecosystem, but for the right products. So until recently with HomeKit, the only way to have a device with no hub particularly for a smart bulb has been via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. So Bluetooth will still play a part in HomeKit and smart home, but for the right product. But now Thread has taken off, it is going to be great to see more devices like this adopting this wireless connectivity option.
Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulbs review summary
The Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulbs are impressive and they have surprised me with the performance given the price point. At £17.99 they are over just over half the price of the Philips Hue colour bulbs. I also like the design aspect, you can use them hidden away in a fitting. But you can also use them in a more exposed lighting feature because of its unique design.
I have found the light performance better than lights round the same price point and while the colour performance just falls short of the Hue standard. These smart bulbs have earned a place in my HomeKit setup and replaced the Ikea colour bulbs I had already.
I love the fact they come with Thread support built in and not only provide near instant response because of this. But they also help play a part to build out the Thread mesh network in the HomeKit setup. Whereas Bluetooth is not as quick as Thread and slightly lets them down. This is not necessarily a fault of the product. Rather than how that standard works.
I like that Nanoleaf has thought about the health benefits of the right lighting in the home with the Circadian lighting feature. But I want them to come through with support for HomeKit adaptive lighting. The reason being is that Circadian feature does not seem as good as Apple’s own. Plus, the feature is deactivated if you use any control option via the HomeKit route.
The bottom line on the Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulb is that you get a solid, well made and good performance for the price point at £17.99/$19.99. I do think Philips Hue have something to be worried about in the Nanoleaf Essentials range. So it’s going to be interesting to see how they react.