Review of Nanoleaf Essentials: Impressive but with a Few Hitches (Updated) - Stacey on IoT

Cupertino, December 11, 2023

After the introduction of the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter product line last month, I spent almost a week testing the new devices. These use Bluetooth and/or Thread for their connection and are available in a $19.99 A19 bulb and an 80-inch Light Strip kit for $49.99. How well do they work? Great once you link them to a Thread network. But there are some restrictions at the moment. In fact, these smart bulbs are the same as previous Nanoleaf Essentials products. However, they will receive a pre-installed firmware update for the Matter certification badge Thread radio, making them available for use with the Matter standard. That's what allows the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter lights to work with your chosen smart home ecosystem and digital assistant. Image courtesy of K. Tofel

Currently, you need to use the Nanoleaf app for the Matter link. (See my update below as not using the app worked better for me) The process is no different from setting up other Matter devices. You simply open the app, click to add a device and scan the Matter QR code. Unlike my previous Matter experiences, the pairing itself takes two seconds or less. I had no problems connecting the lights or the light strip when using the Matter app. And at that point I had full control over both lighting products, but only in the Nanoleaf app itself. Here's where things get a little tricky. If you use an iOS device and pair one with the Nanoleaf app, you'll be given the option to add it to your Apple Home. I did that and it worked. However, I was unable to get the lights to connect to my Google Home. I'll explain why soon. Image courtesy of K. Tofel. If you're using Android and the Nanoleaf app, you'll also get the option to add the lights to your Google Home. I also did that during testing and it also worked perfectly. However, I was then unable to see the Nanoleaf products in my Apple Home app. I did see them in the Google Home app on both Android and iOS. As it stands now, there doesn't appear to be a way to connect the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter products to multiple platforms. Nanoleaf does point out these phone platform requirements and limitations in its online manuals, but you may not have known that at the time of purchase. And I fully expect the process to change in the future so that these lights work across multiple platforms. Nanoleaf says it is working on adding Google Home onboarding for iOS devices, expecting the feature to be available soon. That will solve the basic link to an ecosystem challenge. However, there is still the open question of supporting multiple platforms in a Thread-based smart home. UPDATE: After several hours of removing and re-adding the lamp and light strips from both Apple HomeKit and Google Home, I finally got cross-platform support. During my troubleshooting, I noticed that the products appeared multiple times in the iOS Matter Accessories list. I removed this from iOS and opted not to use the Nanoleaf app for the installation process. Onboarding the devices via Apple Home and Google Home did work. I can now control the lights with Google or Siri. I'll describe some of my experience with the HomeKit issues I've been having since iOS 16.1. HomeKit issues I've been having since iOS 16.1. At least one commenter just received his Nanoleaf Essentials Matter product and he hasn't had the problems I had. That said, how well do these smart bulbs work? If you're familiar with the current Essentials bulbs and light strips, they offer the same experience. The only difference here is the Matter support, which prepares your smart home for the future. I was able to control the products via voice and apps (Apple Home, Google Home and the Nanoleaf app, depending on the test setup) without any problems. And thanks to Thread, device latency is virtually non-existent. It is an immediate response from the device when changing brightness or colors. Both lights also support Nanoleaf scenes and music-coordinated playlists. As much as I like my Philips Hue lights, I find the color saturation of the Nanoleaf products to be a little more robust. While I'm not a fan of the funky light bulb shape on the A19, the truth is I can live with it. I set up my lights so that you really can't see them; you just see the light output. Image courtesy of K. Tofel If you're looking for Thread-based RGB lights that also support adjustable white temperatures, Nanoleaf offers a solid option. I suspect that many people will not be concerned about the challenge of the multi-ecosystem in its current state. I have three different ecosystems in my house, while others are probably centered around Amazon, Apple, Google, or Samsung. These don't yet work with Matter with Amazon Alexa, as Amazon has only introduced Matter over Wi-Fi, not Matter over Thread. I have not tested SmartThings compatibility as I do not have Samsung equipment. So if you're unlike me and only have one smart home system, either from Apple or Google, then I think you'll like these Nanoleaf Essentials Matter bulbs. If you have multiple platforms at home, you might want to wait and see how multi-controller support plays out. Updated on 2023-04-14 to reflect that Matter's multi-platform support is working.

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