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Nanoleaf Elements review

Wood-style panels to create lighting effects in your home

Nanoleaf Elements
(Image: © TechRadar)

Our Verdict

Nanoleaf Elements are a new take on the brand’s Shapes light panels. Emitting moving color effects, these tiles feature a wood-style finish that looks attractive whether the lights are on or off. They’re expensive, but also easy to fit and simple to control, providing a great way to jazz up your home.

For

  • Fun lighting effects
  • Can act as a Thread border router
  • Integration with HomeKit, Alexa and Google Assistant

Against

  • White tones only
  • Expensive

Two-minute review

Nanoleaf has been producing smart lighting since 2015. The company’s initial offerings focussed on shaped wall panels that could be slotted together, in snaking patterns to close-knit arrangements, to create illuminated art. However, price-wise they weren’t cheap. More recent additions to Nanoleaf’s light range, the Nanoleaf Essentials smart bulb and Nanoleaf Essentials light strip, are considerably more affordable and, ensuring the company’s offering now includes smart lights to suit every budget. 

The square-shaped Nanoleaf Canvas was the first of the company’s most recent batch of smart lighting panels, and was quickly followed by Nanoleaf Shapes, which comprises both hexagonal and triangle designs that can be fitted together. Nanoleaf Elements is the latest offering and available in the same hexagonal design of the Shapes package, but the white plastic finish of the latter has been switched out for a wood-like finish, ensuring a panel that looks as stylish when illuminated as it does when it’s off. 

Available in a starter pack of seven tiles, the bundle also includes seven plastic connectors to link the panels, a controller and a power supply. You can also purchase expansion packs containing three tiles for $99.99 / £69.99 / AU$129.99, for those who wish to create a larger installation. Part of the appeal of the Nanoleaf Elements is the way the tiles fix to the wall: there’s no need to pull out your DIY tool kit, since these are fitted using sticky pads, which makes them far less time-consuming to install.

Each of the panels can be illuminated in a static hue that ranges from cool to warm white – there are none of the bright colors of the Nanoleaf Shapes available here. However, even more eye-catching are the lighting effects, transitioning from cool to warm tones, for example. There are 12 pre-defined scenes that mimic the effects of everything from a crackling fire to a waterfall, or you can create your own scenes and transitions. In addition, you can tap individual panels to change their color, or even set the lights to pulsate in time to any music playing.

Integration with Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit means that as well as using the controller or the app to set up and adjust lighting effects, you can use your voice assistant, too. 

At $299.99 / £199.99 / AU$399.99, the Nanoleaf Elements are expensive smart lights – but those looking for a creative way to light their home, or an interactive experience, will find they’re worth the hefty investment. 

Nanoleaf Elements price and availability

  • List price:  $299.99 / £199.99 / AU$399.99 

The Nanoleaf Elements starter pack is priced at  $299.99 / £199.99 / AU$399.99 and is available worldwide from Nanoleaf’s website and online retailers including Amazon. It comprises seven tiles, connectors and a power supply.

Expansion packs containing extra tiles will set you back $99.99 / £69.99 / AU$129.99. In the event that the plastic connectors that link the tiles break – they do feel rather flimsy –  they can be replaced for $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$17.99.

Nanoleaf Elements

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Wood-grain veneer finish
  • Hexagonal design
  • Sticky pads ensure easy installation

The Nanoleaf Elements smart lighting is designed to make a statement on your wall, and as such, the panels certainly aren’t compact – each hexagonal-shaped panel measures 9 inches / 23.1cm across. They can be installed either horizontally in a snaking pattern, or vertically if you opt for a clustered arrangement. 

As mentioned, rather than the white plastic of the Nanoleaf Shapes, Elements feature a wood-effect finish that looks more Pine when they’re switched off. Nanoleaf Elements can only illuminate in cool to warm white tones, rather than the multi-colored hues offered with the brand’s other light panels.  

Bundled with the seven panels in the starter pack are seven small plastic connectors that join the light tiles together. The small plastic connectors have raised squares at either end, which slot into the corresponding holes on the rear of the panels with a reassuring click. Each panel also comes with a sticky foam pad on the rear, allowing you to affix the tiles to the wall without the need for any drilling. The foam pad sits on a swiveling plastic disc, allowing you to easily remove the panels from the wall if you change your mind. The starter pack also includes a wood-effect controller, which can be attached to the side of any panel of your choice using a plastic connector, and a power supply. 

We found the Nanoleaf Elements relatively easy to install. We did have an issue with the connectors remaining in place while we were planning out our designs on the floor first. However, once the panels were attached to the wall, they remained securely attached. Once the panels were on the wall, we plugged in the power supply. It has a 8.2ft / 2.5m cable, so they don’t need to be positioned close to a power outlet. 

We set up the Nanoleaf Elements through the app using an iPhone, so set up was super-simple thanks to HomeKit support: we just scanned the QR code on the quick-start guide and we were ready to go. 

Nanoleaf Elements

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Performance

  • Responsive color changes
  • Panels can pulsate to music 
  • Range of cool and warm tones

The Nanoleaf Elements panels offer plenty of scope for creativity, so whether you want the panels to glow one static color or flash variations, the app lets you achieve the look you want in just a few taps. 

On test, we found Elements panels were responsive to adjustment in colors and motion, and changes in the app were reflected in the panels themselves within a second or two. However, the point on each edge of the hexagonal panels creates a slight shadow when illuminated, which may not appeal to those looking for a solid hue across every inch of the panel.

Even though the panels offer only tones of white, rather than multi-color, there’s still plenty of choice available in terms of lighting. In addition, you also have a choice of motions: we particularly enjoyed ‘Fireflies’, which gradually illuminates random panels in a warm amber color for a few seconds at a time.

Like many of the best smart lights, the Elements panels can be dimmed or brightened using a slider in the app, or set to automatically adjust brightness levels based on the surroundings. We were also able to set schedules, so the light panels automatically illuminated in a specified color, or with optional motion, at set times. We were particularly impressed by the Rhythm scenes, which see the panels pulse in time to music playing in the room. 

A Circadian Lighting feature, which adjusts the tone of the light to match the time of day automatically, will also be added to Nanoleaf Elements in the near future. 

Nanoleaf Elements also support Thread smart home technology, which improves the stability of the connection, putting an end to smart home devices failing to respond. In fact, the Elements controller also doubles as a Thread border router, so you’ll be able to control the smart lights even if you’re not at home. 

Nanoleaf Elements

(Image credit: TechRadar)

App

  • Easy to navigate
  • Offers both pre-defined lighting effects and the ability to create your own
  • Integration with Google Assistant and HomeKit

The Nanoleaf app is well designed, making it simple to change the color, turn on motions and even set schedules for the Elements light panels. Open the app and you’ll be presented with the different rooms in the home, with the relevant Nanoleaf smart lightly underneath the section it’s been assigned too.  

Just tap the Nanoleaf device you wish to control and you’ll see a list of the predefined lighting effects that can be applied to the panels – these are a mix of solid colors, color transitions and colors that react to sound. You can set any of these effects as favorites, or even add multiple scenes to a playlist. The current selected scene will be displayed at the top of the screen, along with a slide to adjust its brightness. 

To create your own scenes, press the button labelled Basic to browse the color wheel and select a solid color. Tap Scene to create a lighting effect with different motions or one that will react to sound. 

The Discover tab lets you browse and download lighting effects created by other Nanoleaf owners, while the Explore tab provides information on Nanoleaf products as well as tips and tricks. Finally, the Schedules section allows you to create schedules for when the lights should illuminate or switch off. 

The app also lets you connect the light panels with Google Assistant and HomeKit, so you can ask your voice assistant to change the color the panels illuminate, adjust the brightness, or even turn them on or off. 

Should I buy Nanoleaf Elements?

Buy it if...

You want to create light effects
The ability to create motions and transitions, as well as different hues, means the Nanoleaf Essentials will suit those who want to do more than just light a room.  

You want stylish smart lighting
Nanoleaf Elements look a bit more stylish with their wood-effect finish over the Shapes’ plain white plastic. If you want light panels that look good when they’re switched on and off, these are for you.  

You want Thread-enabled smart lighting
Nanoleaf is one of the few brands that currently includes support for Thread smart home technology in its gadgets. Thread makes connections between devices stronger and more stable, so if you’re fed up with laggy smart lights, then the Nanoleaf Elements are a top choice.   

Don't buy it if...

You’re on a budget
At $299.99 / £199.99 / AU$399.99, the Nanoleaf Elements are some of the most expensive smart lights on the market. If you’re on a budget, opt for the Nanoleaf Essentials range of smart bulbs and light strips instead. 

You want smart lights that can be moved
While the Nanoleaf Elements light panels are easy to install, the use of sticky pads means that if you decide to move the lights, then you risk damaging your wallpaper or paint. If you’re after a more flexible smart lighting solution, these aren’t for you.  

You want colored and white smart lighting options
The Nanoleaf Elements are white lights only. They don’t offer a multitude of colors – in part because the wood finish would impact the hue of the light panels. If you want color as well as white smart lights, then opt for Nanoleaf Shapes instead.  

First reviewed: June 2021

Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner is Smart Home & Appliances Editor at TechRadar and covers smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, and blenders. She’s also a keen baker and can often be found rustling up cake in her spare time.