Following the review of the smart bulbs from Nanoleaf, I now look at the Nanoleaf Essentials light strip. The light strip does not need an additional hub and also connects to your HomeKit setup using Thread via the HomePod mini.
The Nanoleaf Essentials light strip comes in a 2 meter light strip and can be extended via optional extension kits. In this review, I look at the 2 meter Nanoleaf Essentials started kit design, setup, performance and how it performs with Thread and HomeKit.
Nanoleaf Essentials light strip specs
- Price: £42.99/$49.99/€49.99
- Strip Length: 2 meter
- Light strip Width: 1.5 cm
- Extendability: 10m
- Power Cable Length: 180 cm
- Average Brightness: 2000 lumens
- Max Brightness: 2200 lumens
- Colour Temperature: 2700k – 6500K
- Cut Ability – Yes, cut marks every 13 inches
Wireless: Bluetooth, Thread.
- No hub required
Nanoleaf Essentials Light strip review in pictures
Nanoleaf Essentials Design
The Nanoleaf Essentials light strip has 21 LED sets per meter, 2 warm, 2 cool per section along with a LED that produces colour. You can cut the strip at around 33cm intervals, identified with cut indicators, and can be extended up to a maximum 10m. But like most light strips on the market, once you have trimmed the strip you cannot reattach the trimmed piece or extended. The reverse side of the light strip features a 3M sticky strip to help attach it to a surface.
The light strip can handle 16 million colours via the 21 LED’s and a Colour Temperature range of 2700k – 6500K.
Unlike other rival light strips, the Nanoleaf version comes with a control switch. Which features a power button, dimmer controls and a button that can cycle through pre-set colours. You will also find the power port and the opposite end the port to insert the light strip connector. Finally, the control box has two 3M sticky pads to help with placement and a HomeKit setup code.
In terms of accessories, you get a power supply which has a 180 CM cable along with the relevant socket connection. You also get a basic setup guide along with a card that has HomeKit setup code on it.
Nanoleaf Essentials Setup
If you have set up previous HomeKit devices, then setting up the Nanoleaf smart light strip is no different. So with the Nanoleaf light strip you can either use the card provided or the HomeKit printed on the control box. If you have a newer iPhone, then you can use NFC by bringing the iPhone close to the control box to pair.
Going through the setup process asks you to confirm a few details like naming your device, assigning to a room and automations options.
Once everything is set up in HomeKit, I then placed the light strip behind my TV stand in the games room in the place of an existing light strip.
One thing to highlight is that the backing on the 3M sticky strip is in one piece. I think it would have been better if they cut this into sections for easier placement.
Performance and colour
The Nanoleaf light strips supports 16M colours. The average brightness is 2000 lumens, with a max brightness of 2200 lumens. When using the smart light strip in my games room, I noticed an increase in light over what I had in place before, which for reference was the Philips Hue light strip.
I have also found the Nanoleaf Essential light strips offer a very good colour accuracy when cycling through the options. The smart light strip performed very similar to the Hue lights that are more expensive.
Just like the Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulbs, the light strip does not 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 strip 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 noticed, and it is the same with the smart bulbs. If you use Circadian Lighting and operate the Nanoleaf Essential light strip 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 lighting strip, you can turn it off and on using the control tile. This method will turn on the light to 100% or off, depending on the current state of the strip. However, if you want more precise control, you can set the light levels to the desired brightness, such as only 50%.
You can 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 Games room light strip” or “Hey Siri, turn the games room light strip to red.” Both commands worked as expected.
But like with most HomeKit lighting products it is when you bring HomeKit automations into play 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 the light strip in my movie scene to turn them it on and a pre-selected colour.
I also used the Nanoleaf smart light strip with the Philips Hue dimmer, and this worked without issue when setup in the Home App.
The Nanoleaf app works pretty much in the same way as the Home app. This is because it tightly integrates into HomeKit. So you can control the brightness of the light strip, adjust the colours using some pre-selected choices. Plus, use the app to select the desired colour or white or warm colour temperature.
You can also update the Nanoleaf Essential smart light strip latest features, particularly the Circadian lighting feature. Plus, when Nanoleaf deliver on HomeKit adaptive lighting, this update will probably be through the app.
The control unit
While I like that, Nanoleaf has included controls on the light strip. I didn’t find I used them half as much as I expected. But this is down to placing the light strip behind a TV unit, and it was a lot easier to use the Philips Hue dimmer in that room.
However, if I had used the Nanoleaf light strip on one of my studio desks, I could see how this would have been useful to control it.
No hub and Thread makes the difference
One attraction of the Nanoleaf Essentials range is you do not need a hub to use them with HomeKit. The light strip either works 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 smart light strip will connect using this technology and appear in the Home app as normal. Although you won’t 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. Changing the bulb’s colour was quick thanks to Thread. You also get remote control via the HomePod mini outside the home.
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. While the smart bulbs had a noticeable lag, which sometimes was up to 8 seconds. The Nanoleaf Essentials light strip didn’t appear to suffer this.
One point to make and as with any Bluetooth device and you do not 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. Bluetooth also has a short range for connectivity, so the controlling device or HomeKit hub needs to be within about 10 meters to connect reliably.
Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulbs review summary
The Nanoleaf Essentials smart lighting strip has impressed me during the testing period for this review. The light strip is solid and well made and very easy to set up. I have found the light performance to be good and the colour range is excellent.
I love the fact it comes with Thread support built in and not only provides near instant response because of this. Although I experienced slow response with the smart bulbs, the Nanoleaf light strip didn’t have this issue.
I also like that the smart light strip comes with a long power cable at 1.8 meters. So you have far more flexibility over placement in your home.
Although I got little use of the controls on the control box because of its location in my home. This could be useful for certain placements, and its great Nanoleaf has included it to give users the option.
Like with the Nanoleaf smart bulbs, 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, like I found in the smart bulbs, the feature is deactivated if you use any control option via the HomeKit route.
Best HomeKit light strip of 2021?
This may be a premature statement given its only February, but I think the Nanoleaf Essentials light strip could be a genuine contender for the best HomeKit light strip of 2021? The smart light strip is a solid well made device with excellent performance and colour depth. Coupled with the fact it works with Thread and does not need a hub all for a price of £44.99/$49.99.