Nanoleaf Canvas
7/10
The Good

Bright, smart, colorful and with customizable options
So many colors!
Lots of smart options with app, IFTTT, and more.

The Bad

Not cheap for larger installations
Too many features you pay for that you won't use

Bottom Line

A really fun accent to your gaming den, your room, or your bar, and high-quality, but unlikely to be your main source of light.

Nanoleaf Canvas review: Light it up!

Here at DGiT, we’re all about tying the room together. And it’s more than just the rug. Lights matter. So can the Nanoleaf Canvas do the job? Read our review!

The Nanoleaf Canvas is a pack of LED light panels that color-change, respond to sound and voice, are touch-sensitive, and are bright enough to light it up. What’s not to like? We’ll get to that in our full review of the Nanoleaf Canvas Starter Kit, plus Expansion Pack!

Nanoleaf Canvas: What you get

The square Nanoleaf Canvas light panels are super-adaptable tiles, each measuring 15cm x 15ccm (5.9 inch x 5.9 inch). Each panel can be connected to another panel through connector links. This quickly allows you to create a block-based pattern or design completely of your choice. Each tile can be stuck to a wall or whatever-you-like with provided sticking tape, with each spot for tape labeled. All you need is a spot in your home where you might like some funky lights, cool ambient colors, or something completely much grander.

Nanoleaf Canvas manual and box

 

Installation and setup: What you need to do

You will need to put a little bit of thought into this project. Unboxing the full set of light panels and links and power cables is easy and it’s a premium sort of product, But once you have it all in front of you, you’ll need to plan the right shapes, pattern, and design that you want in your house or space. You’ll need to do some planning for the super-modular nature.

Nanoleaf Canvas Smarter Kit unboxed full package

The maker Nanoleaf is trying to be helpful – it offers a planning tool or layout assistant in its app, which will be a big help for the initial design and checking as you start to install each panel or tile.

Sticking each panel involves double-sided adhesive stickers. Some people have said these are bad and recommend the likes of 3M Command strips. I didn’t have any trouble with them being sticky, and with three for each panel, provided plenty of stick. Your mileage may vary, but they’re very stuck on to start with which is encouraging.

The trick is in the links. While Nanoleaf does as much as they can to guide you, there’s still a chance you’ll forget to bridge between two panels as you go about sticking them, or fail to plan. (Sidenote: from experience, it’s impossible to try and stick two links together at right angles, at once. I hope you don’t find this out but if you do, know that Nanoleaf does sell flexible connectors to help with life’s little mistakes.)

There are some smart design choices made to help make life easier here. You can plug the power cable into any single tile by itself, and they all connect to any single tile, so you can lots of different ways to connect and turn on. There is one block that has some touch controls to change modes and turn on/off, too. Yes, you will need to run power to the tiles at all times, so if you can think of a way to hide the cable it may look a bit tidier, but it’s not a big deal.

Ok Google, turn on my Nanoleaf

Once you have all the panels in place, and the power cable hooked up, now you can have some fun. There are buttons on the main control panel for a manual interface, but the real smarts come with hooking it all up. The Nanoleaf Canvas is a smart device and can be connected to in a myriad of ways, all via WiFi (to a 2.4GHz frequency) for external control. It covers most of the smart home connectivity options from Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa to Apple HomeKit and Siri, to IFTTT, to just the app from Nanoleaf as well.

The most popular IFTTT recipe is “Turn on my Nanoleaf Light Panels when I arrive home,” which uses your location to fire up the panels only when needed. Not that the LED lights have high power consumption – the tech specs listing says up to 1W per panel, making it a pretty environmentally reasonable installation.

Built in, the panels have some nice features. Included is ‘Rhythm Mode’, which causes the lights to dim or flash or change colors to music or the sound of your voice. This all happens locally, rather than via WiFi, so it’s snappy and there’s no data problems – just assemble some beats, and you’ll have lights flashing away in tune. No additional bits are required to make this happen and it’s good that this works out of the box. Note that does mean there is a microphone, but the Privacy Policy addresses this and it’s kept on-device.

The panels are also touch-sensitive. This is massively unuseful, but you can press them. Press one and it’ll turn on or off, with long presses changing color. There’s some games to play whack-a-mole and such but this is not a fun gaming experience. Look, the touch part is a borderline irrelevant feature: most people will stick the tiles on a wall, out of reach. If you are touching them all the time, great.

Overall, the smart device tech is well done.

Quality and appeal of light

I feel like we need a section on the quality of the light. Ultimately, these have to look good when turned on – and they do! Happily, these are not some weak lights that only work when it’s pitch-black. Each diffused square tile gives off about 100 lumens. Obviously, the more you have connected together the more light they’ll give off, but it’s enough for either soft ambiance or some more pulsing effects to light and delight a room. The colors really are spectacular – the box says 16.7 million colors are on offer, and it’s a brilliant effect.

I’d suggest you’d need at least 14 to 18 tiles for functional lighting in a kitchen or loungeroom, depending on the size of the space and layout.

Here’s how it looks, although do note it wasn’t easy to capture the light/dark balance without high-end cameras:

Nanoleaf Canvas review

Pricing, availability, recommendations

Now we get to the interesting part. All these clever design choices by Nanoleaf, all the features, the connectivity, the app, the links… that doesn’t come cheap. Neither should it – it’s okay for something to be a higher-end product. And all the foresight and design ideas here does lead to cost. The nine-tile starter pack is $199 or so right now on Amazon, or more than $20 a tile. There’s a big 25-pack for sale direct through Nanoleaf’s shop, and it goes for $500, or $20 each on the mark.

That’s not cheap. Is it worth it? That will depend. For a gaming den, for an office, for a bar, the cost is probably acceptable, given it does provide quality variable lighting as a fun decoration. They’re more of an accent piece, than a main source of lighting, so we’re not comparing costs with a lightbulb but other decorative solutions – such as the original triangular Nanoleaf Light Panels, or competing products from LIFX.

Perhaps the real cost problem is that getting more panels doesn’t scale. There are no serious volume discounts on offer – Nanoleaf does offer 10% off or 15% off if you spend over $300 or $500 respectively, but there’s not really a way to get a lot of panels cheaply.

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