After astonishing smart home users (including us) with smart, touch-sensitive light panels, Nanoleaf has launched a “Essentials” line of more traditional smart lighting products, including an A19 color light bulb. Like most Nanoleaf stuff, the Essentials A19 comes with a few twists, including its trippy, 120-sided design and support for Thread, an IP-based Internet of Things (IoT) protocol supported by Apple, Google and Samsung SmartThings.
Thread is a low-power, high-reliability, security-focused protocol that has been running for more than six years, but is backed by only a handful of products, which means its potential has not yet been fully realized. The same could be said for the Nanoleaf Essentials A19 bulb, which boasts some interesting features – including the ability to sync with music, Mac and PC monitors and Nanoleaf’s own Shapes light panels – which are not yet ready for prime time. Another wrinkle is that the most advanced features of the bulb are based on a Thread border router – a device that acts as a bridge between a Thread network and another network, such as Wi-Fi – and, for now, there is only one Consumer model: $ 99 Apple HomePod Mini.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart light bulbs, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide with features you should consider when buying this category.
However, the $ 20 Essentials A19 is a compelling smart bulb, which, with its unique design, easy setup, and compatibility with Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant. And if you’re not ready to invest in a HomePod Mini, you can control the bulb via Bluetooth.
So far, there are only two products in Nanoleaf’s Essentials line: the A19 bulb we are examining and a $ 50 smart LED strip. A promotional image from Nanoleaf describes a variety of other interesting lights, including BR30 bulbs, decorative candle bulbs and GU10 and / or GU24 bulbs, but the A19 and the lighting strip are the only two products that have been officially announced.
The most attractive thing about the Nanoleaf Essentials A19 bulb is its elegant, 120-sided shape, also known as rhombicosidodecahedron (yes, that means nine syllables). Functionally speaking, however, the A19 is a typical bulb with an E26 base that will fit into a standard light socket.
Rated to last up to 25,000 hours, the Essentials A19 bulb is adjustable from a warm 2,700 Kelvin, similar to a bedroom incandescent bulb, to a cool 6,500 K, which is closer to daylight on a foggy day. The bulb can also throw up to 12 million colors, which you can choose from a circular palate in the Nanoleaf app. Capable of emitting up to 1,100 lumens of brightness (roughly equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb), the A19 had no problem lighting my bedroom and would serve just as well in lighting an office or other workspace.
Commissioning the Nanoleaf Essentials A19 was easy. Using the Apple Home app, I just scanned the QR code from the bulb; the Home app quickly added the bulb to my collection of HomeKit devices and that was it. (Want to learn more about the HomeKit? Read this story.) If you prefer Google, you can use the Google Home app to add the bulb to smart devices controlled by the wizard.
You don’t need an Apple HomePod Mini to start using the light bulb; if you want, you can simply control it via Bluetooth. However, the Bluetooth control of the bulb involves some pretty significant limitations, starting with the fact that you’ll need to be in the same room (or reasonably close by, as it is at about 33 feet) to connect to the bulb. You will still be able to add A19 to scenes and programs, but if your phone is out of range, the scenes will not be applied and the programming will not be able to trigger.
To take advantage of the more advanced functionality of the Essential A19, you will need that HomePod Mini or another Thread Border router. I started testing the A19 using Bluetooth because the HomePod Mini was not available. Once the smaller Apple smart speaker arrived, I didn’t have to do anything special to plug it in; as they like to say in Cupertino, it worked.
With the Essentials A19 connected via Thread, it suddenly started responding to my commands much faster (it was a bit slow when using Bluetooth) and I was able to control the light bulb in my entire apartment or even in the city. (Like the full-size HomePod, the HomePod Mini acts as a HomeKit hub that allows out-of-home control of HomeKit devices).
Features and functionality
Nanoleaf has ambitious plans for its Essentials light collection, including the ability to mirror colors on your Mac or Windows screen, sync with Shapes light panels, and sync with your music. Essentials bulbs, including the A19, will work – Finally – and with the new HomeKit adaptive lighting function, which automatically adjusts the hue and brightness of the lights according to the time of day in your particular region. For now, however, those features are still in the works and once they are do arrive, all will need a Thread connection.
Essentials A19 has a lot of ready and prepared features. Take circadian lighting, which (similar to Apple’s adaptive lighting function) automatically adjusts the light according to the time of day. We especially appreciate that Nanoleaf’s circadian lighting function works with both Thread and Bluetooth connections.
The Nanoleaf application offers a color palette with a redesigned touch screen, which makes it easier to choose a color or a white temperature; you can also connect a hexagonal color code or RGB value to get an accurate color, a rare option in a smart light bulb app. You can also group the Essentials A19 bulb with other Essentials lights, Nanoleaf Shapes light panels or other compatible smart lights (including those from Philips Hue) to create color scenes.
One thing you can’t do using the Nanoleaf application is any form of programming (which is otherwise possible for the Nanoleaf Shapes series). If you want to put an Essentials A19 bulb in a program, you can do so using the Apple Home or Google Home app, which offers both standard daily and weekly programs, as well as sunrise / sunset triggers. You can also add A19 to HomeKit automation and Google Assistant routines, including the Sleep Assistant’s Sleep and Wake feature (which gradually dims the light at bedtime and increases the brightness in the morning).
While the Essentials A19 bulb is (as you’ve probably gathered so far) compatible with HomeKit and Google Assistant, it is not compatible with Alexa, which marks a break with Nanoleaf’s previous intelligent lights. A Nanoleaf representative did not provide a timeline for when Alexa assistance might arrive or if it would arrive at all.
As I said before, Nanoleaf’s Essentials line, including the A19 bulb reviewed here, shows a lot of promise and we can’t wait to see the full final range of features. We are also looking forward to the arrival of more Thread border routers, including some cheaper options than the HomePod Mini. For now, however, this A19 bulb remains very much in use.