Organizer
Gadget news
Nanoleaf Skylight starter kit review: Nanoleaf is looking up
4:00 pm | April 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

One-minute review

The Nanoleaf Skylight is an alternative indoor lighting solution that can provide everything from strong white lighting to subtle mood lighting in whatever brightness or color you desire, and easily sits among some of the best smart lights. The simple square panel design belies the true nature of the device, which reveals itself once it’s brought to life in brilliant technicolor via the app or PC/Mac software. 

It’s not all sweetness and light though. The installation is a bit more involved than the usual Nanoleaf ‘stick the LEDs onto something and plug them into a power outlet’ scenario. 

The main panel is the same as any other ceiling light, in that it’s hardwired into the lighting circuit. If you have experience installing traditional light fittings, you shouldn’t find it too challenging, but, as always, get a professional to install it if you’re at all unsure; this is dangerous work.

Once the lights are up and running, you can control them with the free Nanoleaf software for PC, Mac or phone app, and it soon becomes apparent just how flexible the system is. I put it through its paces for a couple of weeks and its performance impressed me. I can see a broad range of uses within my home, but the cost seems prohibitive and I did have a fair few teething issues. So, is it worth the asking price? Read on.

Nanoleaf Skylight mounted on the ceiling

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Skylight review: price and availability

  • List price: starts at $249 / £229 / AU$469 for a three-light starter kit. Other options include;
    • Expansion pack (1 panel): $69.99 / £69.99 / AU$139.99
    • Starter kit (6 pack): $459.96 / £418.61 / AU$609.90
    • Starter kit (9 pack): $669.93 / £623.64 / AU$889.90
    • Starter kit (12 pack): $879.90 / £828.66 / AU$1,309.90
  • Available in the US, UK and Australia 

The Nanoleaf Skylight was released in February 2024 and the starter kit is available for $249 / £229 / AU$469 directly from Nanoleaf’s US, UK and Australian websites and Amazon

The starter pack consists of one main unit, which is wired directly into the mains electricity, and two expansion panels. Larger kits are available from Nanoleaf consisting of six, nine, and twelve lights, and there’s also a single-panel expansion pack. 

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Specs

Nanoleaf Skylight components

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Design

  • Minimalist and unobtrusive (when they’re off)
  • Modular design allows for a multitude of configurations
  • Unique ceiling-mounted lighting system

Anyone who enjoyed playing on the Atari 2600 in the 70s will get a kick out of the look of these lights. I like the pixel-esque aesthetic and would love to create some huge ceiling icons with a 9x9 square - if only it were possible to control the color for each square individually. I mean, who wouldn’t want a 2.7-square-meter Space Invader or Pac-Man on their ceiling? Unfortunately, that would set me back approximately £5.5k and 1300 Watts, so this vision will forever be a dream.

The combined equal depths of the housing and diffuser are nicely proportioned to the 300 x 300 face but I’m not completely sold on its shiny surface. Maybe a matt finish wouldn’t diffuse the light so well or look any better, though.

The cable management inside the units is well-designed but a little fragile. Each side has two cable routing holes that allow for some more interesting offset configurations if you don’t just want a symmetrical layout. The rubber bungs for these holes can be left in situ as the cables can be passed through slits in them. 

Little features like this make it feel like Nanoleaf spent a great deal of time and effort getting the hardware design right, but then rushed the component selection and software testing. I’ll cover this in more detail in the performance section. 

As is the running theme with this review, the Nanoleaf Skylight’s design is akin to the troubled second album by your favorite band. You buy the record because you love what they do but feel they have let you down.

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Installation

If you skipped over the one-minute review, I will reiterate: if you have experience installing traditional light fittings, you shouldn’t find it challenging, but, as always, get a professional to install it if you are unsure.

Your existing wiring will likely be too inflexible to follow the path to the connectors in the Skylight and it only requires two wires. The rest of the wiring must be out of the way above the ceiling. I replicated the connections within the existing light fitting and increased the size of the hole in the ceiling to do this. 

Image 1 of 2

Nanoleaf Skylight wiring rework

(Image credit: Future)

This bundle of wires was never going to fit in the Nanoleaf Skylight.

Image 2 of 2

Nanoleaf Skylight wiring

(Image credit: Future)

 Up, up and away. 

The next hurdle is the rather poor installation instructions, which erroneously show the plasterboard self-drilling fittings as being screwed through the housing, for example. In reality, the fittings should screw directly into the ceiling and the screws should go through the housing and into those fittings. I say “should screw directly into the ceiling” as during my installation, two of the supplied fittings broke off in the ceiling before I gave up with them. 

Fortunately, I had some more robust metal fittings to hand, which saved the day. To be fair, my ceiling is ‘mature’, and perhaps drilling a 4mm guide hole first would have reduced the mortality rate of the plastic fittings. There are, however, plenty of other inaccuracies in the installation instructions, which add to the confusion. If these instructions were a cake, the missing ingredient would be “care”.   

A bit more wiggle room in the screw holes would also be of benefit as screwing or drilling into a ceiling is prone to error unless you are Spider-Man. Usually, fittings have a combination of horizontal and vertical slots that allow for errors made during drilling or screwing. I’d also recommend ensuring that someone is available during installation to provide placement directions, as it’s not easy to get things straight on a ladder facing upwards. 

Once the primary unit is up, the others are very straightforward. I found it much easier to install the data wires (the short wires with square connector blocks at the ends) between the light units first, and then push through the power wires. Alternatively, the rubber grommets can easily be removed but they may be needed at a later date, should you want to move or reconfigure the lights. Routing the cables between the lights is made easier by the numerous clips built into the unit for this purpose, but, as I learned when I managed to break one, they are a little fragile.

After restoring power at your dwelling’s fuse box and flicking on your light switch at the wall, the Skylight will initially come on at low brightness. It will then increase in brightness to signify that it’s ready to pair with the Nanoleaf app.

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Performance

The first thing that struck me about the Skylight was how much light it gives off. If you sometimes need a bright, even white light while assembling something or taking things to bits, this light is your friend. It’s reminiscent of old-school fluorescent lighting without the irradiation and mercury poisoning. 

The Skylight can, of course, emit any color you wish, but be warned that the color is not uniform across the surface of the diffuser. Inevitably, though, you will need to address the elephant in the room – the Nanoleaf app.  

In previous reviews of Nanoleaf products, I’ve described the Nanoleaf app as “wayward”. Perhaps I am just unlucky, but every time I add a new Nanoleaf product to my network there is a period of chaos. Some of the mayhem may be due to the many and varied devices that I have, and the synchronization between the home automation systems and their cloud accounts. Whatever the root cause, there will be a couple of days of rebooting, deleting, and adding devices until everything works again. The app will invariably have a different view of reality, which may or may not change depending on whether you look at it. Schrödinger’s app.

App issues shown in the Nanoleaf app

No, I do not have any Nanoleaf devices in the entrance or kitchen. No, I do not have three hall lights and no, I cannot delete them. An example of the app's version of the truth.  (Image credit: Future)

The sense of frustration was further compounded by the hardware itself misbehaving. I had a period where the light was flickering when set to white light at full power. Following this, the unit then point-blank refused to switch on even after I removed the face plate to press the reset button. Flash forward to the time of writing, I can’t replicate the flickering and it has behaved itself consistently for a few days. 

It’s like having a cat on your ceiling; you ask it to do something and it will ignore you, show you its backside, and walk away. Schrödinger’s app and cat… On the plus side, the supplied scenes are good, you can create your own or use scenes created by others, and these can all be synchronized and used in Apple Homekit. You could avoid using the Nanoleaf app altogether, but you would miss out on firmware and app updates. It’s a necessary evil. 

I have spent many hours with the Nanoleaf app thanks to one of my favorite bits of kit, the Nanoleaf 4D. I was looking forward to using Sync+ to extend the screen colors to the Skylight but, no, it does not work. So, I have two products that support Sync+ but do not support each other… right. 

Not to worry, as Nanoleaf should be applauded for developing a desktop app for both PC and Apple Mac (both Intel and Apple Silicon), which offers screen mirroring. The screen mirroring via the desktop app is a great idea and works well with the 3-pack starter kit laid out in a straight line, but I do wonder how the app would know if you have offset your units in a stepped layout. It also didn’t work with all of the games I tried. I wanted to watch a film via Apple TV+ while mirroring the screen to the Skylight, but the Mac was unhappy about sharing. Thank you, Apple. 

It’s a similar state of affairs with the rhythm feature – a great idea but it falls at the last fence. You can select which source the sound is coming from, but that doesn’t seem to work as well now as it did when I first received the device. Having said that, it is good enough and as I write the Skylight is gently pulsing color along to the music. Wonderful.

Unlike dumb lights, the best smart lights offer a host of control options but that’s not always a boon with wired lights like the Nanoleaf Skylight. When the Skylight has been powered off at the wall, it will take about a minute to appear online within your home automation system or the app when you flick the switch on again. 

Normally that’s not an issue with smart lights, but the problem with the Skylight then becomes the almost imperceptible little ticking noise that the skylight makes when it has power but is not on. It’s akin to Chinese water torture and drives you nuts after a while. I’d strongly recommend using one of the best smart switches for easier control and happier ears.

On top of all this is the lack of Matter support and no built-in thread border router as promised at CES 2023. I like Nanoleaf, I like its ideas and that it makes these feature-rich products happen, but a simple thing like testing could make them so much better. 

Nanoleaf Skylight: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

The Nanoleaf Skylight is, as far as I’m aware, a unique product, so it is difficult to find a direct equivalent. Here are some alternatives if you want to dip your toe into smart lighting, but don’t want to give it the full beans.  

Nanoleaf Skylight: How I tested

  • I used the Skylight for work and play for over a month.
  • I tested the PC/Mac application on both platforms where possible. 
  • I controlled the device from both the Nanoleaf iPhone app and Apple Homekit.

I installed the Skylight in the room where I spend the majority of my time during the dark winter months. I tried to understand what each feature within the application does and how reliable/repeatable they are. Any inconsistencies were investigated but I have yet to find any form of event logging to help me understand exactly what it thinks it is doing.

I powered down my whole house to simulate a power cut to see how it would recover and also rebooted the Wi-Fi router and other devices in my smart home setup at various points.

I kept a log of any updates to the versions of the applications and the device’s firmware. I avoided using Beta versions of the application.

For the majority of the time it performed as expected but it is not bulletproof.

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit review: say “Halo” to a major smart home cinema upgrade
8:23 pm | January 23, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Nanoleaf’s 4D TV-syncing strip lights are a first for the brand, which is known best for making some of the best smart lights available. With Nanoleaf 4D, the brand has easily accomplished one of the best Ambilight alternatives and created some serious competition for established brands in the space such as Philips Hue and Govee. 

The set is available in two sizes, one for screens up to 65 inches and the other for models up to 85 inches, and come in at a fairly affordable price of $99 / £89 / AU$189 and $119 / £119 / AU$229 respectively. 

Out of the box, the Nanoleaf 4D kit consists of an LED light strip that is attached to the back of the screen and plugged into a control box, which in turn connects to a camera that detects the colors displayed on the screen. The kit illuminates the LEDs to match the picture on your screen, throwing the colors onto the wall behind the screen for a pleasing synchronized glow around the screen. 

The camera can either be mounted atop the TV with the included armature, or placed on your TV table using its built-in stand, and those concerned about prying digital eyes around their home will be pleased to learn that the camera also comes with a magnetic privacy cover.

The screen camera of the Nanoleaf 4D poinging at the. screen

(Image credit: Future)

One of the slight niggles I found when setting up the lights concerned how the cables that connect the lights and camera to the controls are positioned. The rather vague instructions in the handbook encourage you to begin your light strip placement in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, meaning the wire for the lights trails from that corner, while the camera cable falls centrally. 

This leaves you with a choice of either bending and sticking the light strip wire or having the control sit somewhere near the right-hand side of your screen, lest you run out of wire length to play with. All in all, although not a major issue, I value a neat home entertainment setup and this doesn’t necessarily facilitate that.

Installation is otherwise very straightforward, although you will need to remove your television from the wall to fit the lightstrip, and potentially need a second pair of hands if you’re a real perfectionist. I cheated as my test screen is on a stand! The kit comes supplied with corner mounting blocks which allow the strip to curve around the corners (rather than creating a loop out of the strip which would create problems in accurately matching the colours to the screen.)

The Nanoleaf 4D LED strip fitted to the rear of a TV

(Image credit: Future)

There are 10 color zones per meter and 30 LEDs per meter, and the strip can be cut to length at specific 10-centimetre intervals. This does mean you might end up with a gap or excess of the strip when they meet at the end, but a little trial and error with placement before sticking anything on will minimize this. 

Once that’s done, simply peel off the tape backing and stick that strip down, and you’re all set. The strip does tend to peel away from the back of the screen where the two ends meet, but that’s easily resolved by applying some more double-sided sticky tape.

The Nanoleaf app is nicely laid out and works well most of the time, but can occasionally crash. Whilst I appreciate that all software has bugs, some sort of an error message would be nice. Having said that, the things that you can do with this software and the kit impressed me; the Nanoleaf 4D does all of the usual colored lighting tricks that LED strips do. But let’s face it, screen synchronization is what we’re here for. 

The Nanoleaf 4D camera calibration setup

(Image credit: Future)

The app guides you through mapping out your TV lights, and once you’re set up, you can create your own scenes, or you can use the Magic Scenes feature to create a palette based on a mood or keywords (although I found that the latter favored washed-out hues).

You can choose between four settings (or dimensions, between 1D and 4D), which range from an ambient white glow to the aforementioned screen-matching lights akin to the gold standard Ambilight-style experience. It’s a little tricky to find clear guidance on what each of the dimensions does, so here is my take on it.

1D: White light that’s well suited to documentaries and general viewing

2D: Block color that’s great for ambiance, representing an average of the color displayed on-screen 

3D: Splashes of color reflective of on-screen action, but not extending the screen 

4D: Colors extend from the edges of the screen for full immersion

You can change the color settings by cycling through the controls or via the app. 

Nanoleaf 4D features the same sound-reactive functionality boasted by its smart light siblings, and as a bonus, responds to sound far better than the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights I reviewed last month.

Once I had finished playing with all of the settings I played a few games and films and noticed that one side of the screen was not displaying the screen colors correctly. Further investigation revealed the problem; I needed to close a white door that was being reflected on the screen. You have a choice: either be mindful of the lighting and reflective objects in the room or spend between 4 or 5 times as much on a Philips Hue system for its HDMI linking.  

Image 1 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 7 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
Image 8 of 8

The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)

The only feature I found myself missing is a perennial issue for non-HDMI smart screen lights – automatic screen detection. Call me lazy, but I’d prefer my lights to come on when they detect on-screen activity, rather than requiring me to use the app or physical control.

Overall, I’d say the Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit is a great low-cost alternative to the Philips Hue system that just edges out the other low-cost alternatives in several areas; it’s easy to install, well-designed and the results can be spectacular. This thing is so versatile and colorful that it made me want to get some Nanoleaf wall tiles to test their claim of the 4D’s ability to “extend the screen sync effects across 50+ Nanoleaf RGB lights”. Look, somebody’s got to do it…

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit: price and availability

List price:

  • TVs & monitors up to 65-inch: $99 / £89.99 / AU$189.99
  • TVs & monitors up to 85-inch: $119 / £119.99 / AU$229.99
  • Camera only kit: $79.99 / £69.99 / AU$149.99

The Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit are available directly from the Nanoleaf website, starting at $79.99 / $69.99 / AU$149.99 for the camera-only kit. You can also buy the camera-only kit from Amazon in the UK but curiously, not the full kit - however in the US, you can buy all three packages on Amazon

The camera-only kit is a great cost-effective option which can be used with the Nanoleaf RGB LED light strip or any RGB light strip that has USB-C connection.

Value-wise, the Nanoleaf 4D is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best value smart TV lights - the Philips Hue alternative for 75-inch and over TVs is nearly $100 / £100 / AU$300 more expensive at $249.99 / £209.99 / AU$509.95, and you'll need a Philips Hu bridge if you don't already have one. Govee's lights sit squarely in between but don't offer such consistency or smooth light performance as Nanoleaf. 

The Nanoleaf 4D in its box

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit review: Specs

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit review: How I tested

  • I installed the Nanoleaf application and added the Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit to Apple HomeKit 
  • I tested all of the modes and scenes against different types of content (i.e. films, TV programs, Games) and resolutions 
  • I tested each claimed feature e.g. “Reacts to music” where possible 
  • I tested the kit under various lighting conditions. 

I had already tested a pre-release version of this kit last year which was unfortunately defective and a very frustrating experience. The days that I spent trying to get it to work reliably were not wasted though as it gave me a good understanding of how the thing works and how it has been improved.

I was pleased to be able to make use of scenes in Apple Homekit which I  could not get to work when I tested the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights last month. I switched off Bluetooth on my phone and ran all of the tests again to find out if there was any function that used Bluetooth and everything behaved normally. 

The room I use to test things is the worst-case scenario for the Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit as it is almost completely white. Everything gets reflected on the screen, especially in daylight which affects the colors that the camera detects. I was pleasantly surprised during testing to find that some of the reflection problems could be dialed out using a custom vibrancy set which allows you to change the values for Dynamic range, saturation, and white balance.

Govee Curtain Lights review: I’m obsessed
2:39 am | December 24, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

Govee Curtain Lights: five-minute review

Smart light technology and designs just keep getting better and better, and Govee seems to be winning in that arena. The Govee Curtain Lights are another fantastic addition to our best smart lights list. And while the brand is currently promoting them as another offering in its smart Christmas light catalog, they deserve to be left up on your wall or windows – and not just 'til January, as that Taylor Swift song goes.

Truth be told, I'm kind of obsessed with the Govee Curtain Lights, and I'm not just saying that as a strong supporter of smart lights. They add a much prettier and much more romantic ambiance to any setting, whether that be my otherwise messy living room or your garden, that no other smart light – not even the recent smart string lights that recently hit the market – can replicate. 

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

That's not just because these are curtain lights, made of up 20 rows of individual string lights that all hang side by side like delicate willow tree stems. Although, if I'm being perfectly honest, that really does add to their appeal. 

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

It's more than that, though. Like all the other smart light products in its arsenal, Govee made the Govee Curtain Lights to be incredibly customizable and capable of displaying millions of different colors and light scenes. What sets them apart from others is that using the brand's RGBIC technology, they're also able to display images using the 520 light beads embedded into each of those 20 strings.

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Basically, you don't just get light patterns with them; you can actually create visual representations of things you see in the real world – falling leaves, pumpkin patches, Santa riding his sleigh, the face of your favorite pet, and you can do all that using your phone on the Govee app. That capability is a massive game-changer, especially to those folks who go all-out for Christmas.

They're not just for Christmas, however. Put them up in your reading nook, and they'll cozy up that space even more with twinkling warm lights. Set them in your dining space, and they can elevate the ambience not just for dinner parties but also during winter when morning tend to be dark and dreary.

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Naturally, since they're customizable via the intricate Govee app, you can also choose from the many light presets that Govee has on offer, from simple groovy and rainbow swirl patterns to Christmas scenes that give you familiar images of the holiday season (a Christmas tree, a Christmas wreath, Santa's face, and more) to night scenes like a forest with fluttering fireflies and a spaceman doing a space walk.

Image 1 of 3

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 3

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 3 of 3

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

You would think that a smart light set as complex as this would be a little harder to install, but Govee also has a knack for simplifying things for the end user. Setting up the Govee Curtain Lights is so simple that I was thinking the whole time that I must have missed a step or done something wrong. But no; it's really as easy as putting up  regular strip lights, if maybe slightly more delicate since you don't want to make the same mistake I made, and put my step stool over a light bead, stand on the stool and damage the bead.

The thing about curtain lights is that they're slightly harder to mount because they are heavier than regular string lights. Govee thought of that too by offering you three mounting options and providing you with all the tools you need for all three, giving you mounting flexibility. I choose to use the VHB gums provided, sticking the lights to my sliding door frame because I felt that was the easiest route for me. But you can also hang them on your existing string or rod using the included G4 hooks or on the seamless nails, all of which are included in the box.

If you also choose to use the VHB gums, you'll be glad to know that they've got impressive hold. I've had mine up for two weeks now, and not a single one has peeled off my sliding door frame.

Image 1 of 2

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 2

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Each of the 20 string lights that make up the Govee Curtain Light is made well; light yet robust, made up of three thin wires inside that connect all the light beads and are encased in clear casing that kind of helps diffuse the lights illuminating from the beads while also not taking the focus away from them. It's an appropriate choice, as using an opaque cable jacket would have ruined the effect.

The cord for the plug, which itself is encased in a clear cable jacket, is amazingly long, maybe too long, but you can always coil up the rest of it if your outlet is nearby. Perhaps, there's a point to it, too – these lights can be used outdoors with their IP65 waterproof rating, so if you're setting them up in your garden, there's enough cable to reach your outdoor outlet. Just know though that the adapter plug is only at IP44, so you'll need to plug it in to an outlet with waterproof housing.

Image 1 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 3 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 4 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

I do wish that the light beads were a little bigger though; and I also wish that the strings lights weren't so far apart from one another. That would have made the images you create a little clearer.

Still, as they are, these lights are bright and vibrant, and they do paint a clear picture of the effect you're trying to achieve. You can see from the photos I took that people will know what they are – or at least, a chunk of them. I didn't actually try to DIY my own images because I simply did not have enough time to do so, but many from the Govee community have shared their own creations, and a lot of them are just fantastic.

Image 1 of 6

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 6

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 3 of 6

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 4 of 6

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 5 of 6

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 6 of 6

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Fortunately for people like me who don't have the time to create, the Govee app has a long list of presets. My particular favorites are Forest Fireflies, which has moving yellow lights that represent the fireflies (it reminds me of all those warm summer nights I spent with my grandparents in the Philippines, where we'd see all these fireflies around), Rainbow Swirl, Love, Christmas Wreath, Moon, and the super neon Love Heart, which is so vibrant that it reminds me of Tokyo.

I also adore all the animal presets, especially the Fox, Jellyfish, and A Fishing Cat.

Image 1 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 3 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 4 of 4

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

As far as controls, the Govee Curtain Lights not only come with their own control panel, but also have app control and voice commands via Alexa and Google Assistant. As with all of Govee's smart light products, they're very responsive, taking a fraction of a second to respond when you're changing the lights on the app or with a voice command. It's all so seamless.

These smart light stunners are a fantastic addition to any home, especially if you're all about making it cozy and pretty. I know I'll be using mine every day and every night for the rest my life… well, at least until Govee produces an even better model.

Govee Curtain Lights: Price and availability

  • How much is it? $129.99 / £159.99 (about AU$190)
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where is it available? Available in the US and the UK 

For what they offer, the Govee Curtain Lights are actually more affordable than expected. I was expecting them to be a little over $200 / £200, but they're actually just $129.99 / £159.99 (about AU$190) – you can always count on Govee when it comes to making fantastic products that are more accessible in price than the competition. And, at the time of writing, they're also discounted in the UK for just £119.99. That's a lot more affordable than the Philips Hue Festavia String Lights, with its 250-light version costing a hefty $219.99 / £199.99 / $359.95.

Unfortunately for Australian customers, however, the Curtain Lights are not yet available in the region. However, they already have a listing on Amazon Australia, so it likely won't be long until they're available there.

  • Value: 5 / 5

Govee Curtain Lights: Specs

Should I buy the Govee Curtain Lights?

Govee Curtain Lights during author's testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Govee Curtain Lights: Also consider

How I tested the Govee Curtain Lights

  • I tested the Govee Curtain Lights for a couple of weeks
  • I hung them over my sliding door
  • I tested their performance, features and customizations using Alexa and the Govee app

Testing the Govee Curtain Lights for two weeks, I had them hanging over the sliding door in my living room where my neighbors can admire their Christmas-themed images. Naturally, I tested many of Govee's other light scenes and presets as well as some of the ones that users in the Govee community created. 

During this time, I noted their performance, not only in terms of how vibrant the colors and how bright the lights are but also in terms of how fast or slow they respond to app and voice commands.

I've been a smart home devotee for a few years, with Philips Hue light bulbs being my very first smart home device. I've also been testing smart home devices, from smart lights and smart speakers to smart appliances like robot vacuums and heaters, since owning my first light bulbs.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed December 2023

Philips Hue Festavia string lights review: brilliantly bright but lacking identity
12:18 am | December 16, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Tags: | Comments: Off

Philips Hue Festavia: Two-minute review

If bold but minimalistic lights are your go-to at Christmas, or you just like the idea of syncing your Christmas tree with the rest of your smart lighting, then the Philips Hue Festavia smart string lights might be for you. Philips Hue’s lights are among the best smart lights, so it’s no surprise that the brand has ventured into string lights. While these smart lights were initially released in December 2022, there were a lot of issues with stock, and the lights were for indoor use only; you can use 2023’s edition outdoors, as well as in your home. 

Available in different lengths directly from Philips Hue as well as third-party retailers like Amazon (pricing detailed in the next section), these lights are marketed predominantly as tree decorations, but are weatherproofed and therefore also suitable for outdoor use. They offer much the same features and functionality as Philips Hue’s wider smart lighting line, as well as the robust design and build quality we’ve come to expect from the brand. 

Philips Hue Festavia smart string lights next to a felt polar bear.

Christmas has come b-early! (Image credit: Future)

However, if you want a little more from these lights – specifically features and functions you’d commonly expect from standard tree lights, you’ll likely find yourself disappointed.

The string lights are split into two halves, A and B. Both halves start in the middle of your tree, with the former working upwards and the latter downwards. It’s worth noting that because of this, if you’re using the lights to decorate something other than a tree, the power supply is situated in the middle of the light strip.

I opted against using Hue’s lights for my tree after careful consideration; they were ever so slightly shorter than what I needed for full coverage. The split strings can make them a little difficult to use for anything beyond tree decoration, but in my home, I used them to line two living room walls, which ended up giving a lovely effect. Each individual light is round, roughly 1.11 inches / 3cm long, and spaced 2.95 inches / 7.5cm apart. 

Philips Hue Festavia smart string lights

With the lights fully dimmed, the Festavia lights shine brightly (Image credit: Future)

Although Hue’s bulbs are remarkably bright, when I quickly trialed tree placement following Philips Hue’s detailed instructions on my  7.2ft / 2.2m tree, I realized the particular shape of my tree and its size wouldn’t do the lights justice in photos. That’s largely to do with the tree I bought this year, but I also prefer densely lit trees; the spacing of these lights makes them ill-suited for those who dislike darker voids on their tree. This is worth noting, as Philips Hue suggests that the 500-bulb version I tested offers coverage for trees over 7ft / 2.1m tall but, as mentioned, they proved unsuitable.

The black cord used to connect the lights also seems like a poorly thought-out choice when many string lights are green to match the tree or come in a choice of colors. Add to that the thickness of the wires, and it can be quite apparent when the lights are hung up. 

I did appreciate the Festavia string light’s brightness, which was just right for that gentle, homely feeling I want from festive lighting. If you did want to use them for anything else throughout the rest of the year, though, the max brightness might be a little low compared to Philips Hue’s strip lights. 

As with all Philips Hue smart lights, the Festavia string lights can be controlled using Philips Hue’s app via either a Philips Hue Bridge or Bluetooth connection. It’s superbly easy to set up, and from the app you’ll have access to almost all of the usual features and options, including the 16 million color options and six special effects: Candle, Fireplace, Glisten, Sparkle, Prism, and Opal. Personally, I favored Glisten (a bolder flickering off-white), Sparkle (gentler flickering off-white), and Prism (rainbow gradient), as both Candle and Fireplace were too fiery, and Opal was a bit twee with its pastel palette.

Philips Hue Festavia smart string lights

(Image credit: Future)

Plus, you can sync the Philips Hue Festavia string lights with your other bulbs, or with your entertainment, provided you’ve got a Hue Play HDMI Sync box for your TV or a Spotify account for music. 

Otherwise, these lights feel distinctly unchristmassy; it’s almost as if Philips Hue can’t decide if they’re regular string lights or festive ones. Yes, the profiles are great – but why are there only one or two settings versus the six or seven often included in dumb lights? Why can’t you adjust the colors, the speed, or design your own patterns?

For such a pricey product I felt rather let down by the Festavia lights’ lack of identity, but I’m nonetheless impressed as ever by Hue’s light quality and general features. With just some small software tweaks – and the option of different cable colors – these could easily be the smart lights of the future, and even worth their lofty price tag; but right now I’d say they’re only really worth it for the devout Philips Hue fan, given that other smart and colorful string lights exist at a much more affordable price, such as those from Twinkly and Nanoleaf.

Philips Hue Festavia: Price and availability

  • How much is it? $219.99-$359.99 / £109.99-£199.99 / AU$199.95-$589.95
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where is it available? Directly from Philips Hue and at Amazon

The Philips Hue Festavia smart string lights cost a pretty penny, there's no two ways about it. The three different string lengths have varied availability from region to region: 

When compared to more affordable options like the Nanoleaf holiday smart string lights, which are a lot more festive-first, this makes the Philips Hue Festavia extortionately priced.

  • Value:  3 / 5

Philips Hue Festavia: Specs

Philips Hue Festavia lights set up next to a polar bear plushie

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Philips Hue Festavia?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Philips Hue Festavia: Also consider

If the Philips Hue Festavia aren't for you, here are a couple of excellent alternatives

Philips Hue Festavia smart string lights

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Govee Christmas String Lights

  • I used the Philips Hue Festavia lights to decorate my living room
  • I also briefly trialed them on my Christmas tree
  • I paired the Festavia lights with the Philips Hue app

I set the Philips Hue Festavia string lights up in my home, opting to use them to line my living room walls following a quick trial on my Christmas tree. I compared them to two sets of non-smart string lights to assess the brightness, color payoff, spacing and wire quality.

After decorating, I connected the Philips Hue Festavia to the Hue companion app, a setup I’m familiar with from testing smart lights over the past two years, and went to work testing out Philips Hue’s standard features on the lights. Additionally, I tried some of the Festavia-specific effects and the standard effects.

I’ve been testing smart home devices for two years, using my expertise and experience in tech testing and everyday use to assess the key strengths and weaknesses of products.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed December 2023

Govee Christmas String Lights review: stylish smart holiday lights for economizing Yule-lovers
8:00 am | December 15, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Tags: | Comments: Off

Govee Christmas String Lights: Two-minute review

The Govee Christmas String Lights seem like a dream come true if you’ve grown tired of dealing with the nightmare that is the annual putting up (not to mention taking down and putting away) of the dreaded Christmas string lights.

For many of us, the holiday season is the joyous time of the year, even for those who don’t celebrate Christmas. But the tradition of putting up the tree – and all your holiday decorations, if you’re the type to go all out – is not all merry and bright. At least when you get to the part where you’re putting up those lights. Dealing with tangled string lights, bulbs burning out, and constant snagging may ruin the vibe and put a momentary damper on your holiday decorating merriment.

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Not having to stress out about all that is the goal, and the Govee Christmas String Lights may just be an ideal solution. Govee opted for a twisted rope design with embedded light beads here – there are five individual wires or conductors, each of which is encased in a clear cable jacket, that are then twisted together in a rope-like manner, resulting in a string that’s about 4mm thick. In addition, instead of the traditional LED bulbs and sockets that jut out from the string, Govee opted for tiny light beads – embedded throughout the length of the string are 100 square lamp beads (200 if you get the 20m version), resulting in an elegant and unique look that I found attractive. 

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

More importantly, it means that you no longer have to deal with the bulb sockets snagging or getting caught on the string or each other. In fact, the whole thing is less likely to snag and much easier to untangle – though you still have to deal with the string occasionally twisting in some parts. Taking the string lights down and putting them away is also a breeze. The lights even come with a plastic reel so you can just neatly coil them up and store them.

Image 1 of 2

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 2

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

A couple of important things to point out here is that because this Govee string light doesn’t have that traditional design, it comes with minor disadvantages. Since the light beads aren’t jutting out, they won’t give you a randomized light placement effect. When wrapped around a tree, these lights naturally follow the spiral arrangement of the string. I don’t mind it much personally. However, I know that a lot of people prefer the former so it’s worth pointing out. 

Another disadvantage is that because of the clear cable jackets used, these string lights won’t blend in, especially if you have a green tree. That means that they will be very noticeable and may affect the overall look you’re trying to achieve.

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Most traditional string lights give you 250 light bulbs for a 20m version that’s best suited for 6-foot Christmas trees. So you might be disappointed that you’re not getting as many light bulbs on the Govee Christmas String Lights, but I honestly do not think you’ll notice the difference. Plus, I found the light beads to be incredibly bright and vibrant, with the clear cable jackets also helping reflect their light, even if it’s only less than a centimeter on either side of each light bead.

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

There is a control box with a power button that doubles as a reset button when you hold it down for 5 seconds and a mounting tape in the box if you’re seeking a more permanent setup. These lights may be designed specifically for holiday decorating, they’re great for year-round use as well if you want to light up your porch, your bedroom, or your garden, for example. It’s an addition that can come in handy from time to time, but seeing as these are smart lights, there’s almost no need for it.

That is, apart from its built-in mic. This mic allows for the lights to react to ambient audio, which is fantastic for syncing them to whatever music or movie is playing through your speakers. It’s a fun feature that I use quite often.

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Of course, the easy setup is not the only reason to get these lights. Just like the rest of the lights in Govee’s catalog, the Govee Christmas String Lights have the same functionalities as the best smart lights on the market including app and voice control, scheduling, and a slew of customization options. That adds to their ease of use even more. Think about it: no more having to bend down and unplug or manually switch off your Christmas lights when it’s time for bed; you can simply set it to turn on and off at specific times of the day or when your smart speaker detects a person’s presence in the room. Or just ask Alexa to do it.

What's more, Govee has mastered the smart home functions of its lights so whether you're using voice commands or the app to control these lights, you can rest assured that it'll respond accurately within a fraction of a second. 

Before you can take full advantage of their smart functions, you do have to connect it to the Govee app as well as your Alexa app. While that is one more step, doing so is easy as pie since the Govee app makes it so. Because the app immediately detects the lights as soon as you plug it in, all you need to do is follow the steps on the app. Once it’s connected to the app, the Alexa app will automatically detect the string lights as well and ask you whether or not you’d like to add it to your device list.

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Not to play favorites here, but the Govee app is probably my favorite smart light app of all. It’s so easy to use while offering a slew of features, from the music sync I mentioned above and the long list of light scenes to letting you create your very own light scenes and color schemes. It’ll also let you set brightness, set up timers, and use the Music DreamView feature to sync the Govee Christmas String Lights’ lighting effects with all your other Govee smart lights for an even more immersive experience.

Because these are, first and foremost, Christmas lights, these have Christmas-themed light scenes that aren’t available on other Govee smart light sets. Among those scenes are Christmas Tree, Sled, Christmas Gift, Candy Cane, Christmas Eve, Santa Claus, and Christmas Gift. If none of these appeal to you or are a good match for your holiday decorations, however, I recommend taking the time to design your own via the app’s DIY module. 

Combining these customizations with its other smart home conveniences makes the Govee Christmas String Lights an incredibly versatile smart home device that takes your holiday decorating to a whole new level. Thanks to them, it’s finally time to retire your old, and at times infuriating, Christmas string lights and make your holiday decorating an even more enjoyable experience.

Govee Christmas String Lights: Price and availability

  • How much is it? From $59.99 / £59.99 (about AU$90) 
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where is it available? Available in the US and the UK 

The Govee Christmas String Lights are more expensive than traditional string lights, many of which you can find for under $20 / £20 / AU$35. However, next to other Christmas lights with smart home functionality, they’re the slightly more affordable option. Coming in two lengths, they will set you back $59.99 / £59.99 (about AU$90) for the 33 ft (10m) option that’s best for Christmas trees 4 feet (1.2 meters) and shorter, and $89.99 / £89.99 (about AU$135) for the longer 66 ft (20m) that’s ideal for trees 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8m).

In comparison, the 66-ft (20m) Nanoleaf Matter Smart Holiday String Lights retail for $119.99 / £119.99 (about AU$180) while the Philips Hue Festavia String Lights of the same length cost a hefty $219.99 / £109.99 (about AU$330).

The Govee Christmas String Lights are now available in the US and the UK. However, they’re not available in Australia at the time of writing.

  • Value: 4.5 / 5

Govee Christmas String Lights: Specs

Govee Christmas String Lights on a small tree during testing

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Should I buy the Govee Christmas String Lights?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Govee Christmas String Lights: Also consider

How I tested the Govee Christmas String Lights

  • I tested the Govee Christmas String Lights for a week
  • I used it on my little Christmas tree at home
  • I tested its performance and features using Alexa and the Govee app

While I don't have space in my apartment for even a four-foot Christmas tree, I did put up the Govee Christmas String Lights on the 1.5-foot tree that Govee had provided with the lights where it stayed during my week-long testing. During this period, I used the lights day and night to add a little holiday flair to my otherwise Christmas decoration-bare home. 

My testing included testing its smart home features, its response to voice commands and app control, and its ability to display the many light scenes available on the app. I also experimented with creating my own light effects and color schemes, making note of how accurately the lights would display them.

A big smart home fan, I've been a smart home user for a few years, with Philips Hue light bulbs being my very first smart home device. I've also been testing smart home devices, from smart lights and smart speakers to smart appliances like robot vacuums and heaters, since owning my first light bulbs.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed December 2023

Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights review: driving home (automation) for Christmas
6:44 pm | December 14, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights: One-minute review

LED Christmas lights have been around for a while now, filling our homes with potentially headache-inducing flashing festive patterns. Now, thanks to the wonders of home automation you can induce those headaches remotely, and in 16 million colors.

Joking aside, these smart Christmas tree lights are very good, which should come as no surprise given that Nanoleaf makes some of the best smart lights. While the Philips Hue Festavia lights come in three different lengths (depending on what region you’re in) the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights come in one size only: 66ft / 20m, with 250 bulbs split into two 33ft / 10m strips for easy tree decoration. However, they’re a lot cheaper – Hue’s alternative of the same size come in at $219.99 / £199.99 / AU$359.95 whereas Nanoleaf’s are $119 / £119. There’s no availability in Australia as of writing. 

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights

(Image credit: Future)

The lights are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, but have a similar design flaw to the Festavia lights from Hue – the black wire. It’s such a silly oversight given that most people are decorating green trees, and it makes them a lot less discreet. Another similarity I’d rather not see is how sparse these lights are – they’re spaced 3.15 inches / 8 cm apart, so you won’t find it easy to achieve a densely lit tree with these lights.

The lights are controlled with Nanoleaf’s companion app, and I found the initial setup straightforward. After a while though, the application started to alert me that there was a firmware upgrade which then disappeared by the time I got to the screen used to update it.

When it did eventually find a more recent firmware and updated itself, the lights then became unavailable in Apple HomeKit. The situation was not resolved until I uninstalled the Nanoleaf app, removed the device from Homekit, and then reinstalled everything. I experienced similar black holes of wasted time troubleshooting software issues with the Nanoleaf 4D TV-syncing strip lights , but it’s worth noting that this may be attributable to the amount of change in my Home automation setup, and that both products were very new at the time of testing. However, these repeated issues do not inspire confidence in the quality of the software. I wasn’t able to test the selection of themes via HomeKit because the themes were simply not there.

Nanoleaf app print screens showing the Palette List and Color Picker

(Image credit: Future)

On the whole, though, the app is nicely laid out and uncluttered. The phone application comes with nine preconfigured scenes for you to select from, or you can create your own. Each scene consists of a palette of up to seven colors, and one of nine ‘motions’ (sequences). 

The scenes are very effective, and serve as a showcase for what’s possible with a little experimentation – and I found myself experimenting a lot. It’s commendable that Nanoleaf allows you to create your own scenes, although after experimenting with half a dozen of my own I couldn’t find a way to delete the ones that were rubbish. Also, some of the names of the scenes and palettes are the same, meaning it’s easy to get confused. 

It’s also possible to forgo the cycling patterns and have the lights react to sound via the microphone in the base unit, and you can also use a button on the wire to shuffle through the preconfigured scenes, which is a nice touch.

The ‘Crackling Fireplace’ theme certainly made me feel like breaking out the chestnuts – which is impressive, given that even if you had the most powerful microscope in the world, you would not be able to find my Christmas spirit. 

‘Jingle Bell Rock’ is also wonderful for its simple color choice, and is one of the two stock example schemes featuring sound-activated ‘motions’. The ‘Reindeer Gamer’ scheme is a nod to Nanaoleaf’s gamer roots, which worked well to entice me.

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights wrapped around a racing chair

(Image credit: NAnoleaf)

I also found the set of nine Motions interesting and unusual; the ‘Organic’ light pattern, in particular, is very interesting, and I could imagine it being even more entertaining after a Christmas tipple. 

It’s worth mentioning the ease with which you can pack these lights away, and when you come to do this you’ll realize why splitting the lights into two lengths is the way to go. They bundle up very neatly, avoiding the yearly ‘tangled mass of wires in a biscuit tin in the attic’ scenario – it would be even easier if Nanoleaf implemented a feature that lit only the last bulb on each string, which would make taking it off of the tree so much easier.

Darth Vadar figurine holding the Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights

 “I find your lack of Christmas spirit disturbing.”  (Image credit: Future)

The sound-activated motions kind of work, but are limited by the microphone in the base unit. The base unit will probably end up on the floor, so it will respond to footsteps rather than any music playing through your speakers, which is a bit annoying. 

Placing the base unit next to a subwoofer works pretty well; however, there is a slight delay, and it doesn’t always do what you think it would do, but it’s good enough – and Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine was probably not the best choice of track to test the feature with, in fairness. There’s plenty of scope for creating a fantastic light show with this feature if you set the lights up around grandma’s chair for when she falls asleep snoring after the Christmas meal. 

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights around a computer

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights: Price and availability

  •  List price: $119 /  £119 

The Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights are available for $119 / £119 directly from the Nanoleaf website, and at the time of writing, they were discounted slightly. You can also buy them from Amazon.

This makes the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights significantly cheaper than their biggest competition, the Philips Hue Festavia, which come in at nearly double the price. Given that this product is arguably better for most users, I’d say that’s a huge win. As of writing, there’s no availability in Australia, but hopefully, that’ll be rectified in time for Christmas next year! 

Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights: Specs

Should I buy the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

How I tested the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights

  • I installed the Nanoleaf application and added the lights to Apple HomeKit
  • I tested each of the nine preset scenes and created several custom palettes
  • I tested the features where practical

I wrapped the lights around several objects in my house (I don’t have a Christmas tree), and tried to imagine what would be important to a person whose interest in Christmas was greater than zero.

I unpacked and packed the lights away several times to test the likelihood of the lights and packaging lasting for several years – this is something that’s particularly important for devices that only get used once a year, and these are not cheap lights, although they’re versatile enough that they could be put to a more general use throughout the year. The lights passed this test.

I did not count all 16 million colors, but I can say that they’re bright and colorful. I was disappointed that I could not voice-activate the schemes through Apple HomeKit, but not disappointed enough to go to the trouble of making it work through an Apple shortcut or something. I can’t think of a scenario where voice activation would be of any benefit anyway, other than scaring the jingle bells out of Santa as he emerges from the fireplace.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed December 2023

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk review: a show-stopping lamp meant to last you 60 years
3:45 am | November 3, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk: Two-minute review

The Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk lamp is essentially an upgraded version of the Lightcycle Morph that has been available in select markets for a while. Like the Lightcycle, the Solarcycle Morph also comes in two variations – a desk and a floor lamp. For this review, I was sent the desk version, which is currently the only model available in Australia where I am based.

With the update comes a sleeker design compared to the Lightcycle, moving away from an industrial look to what I think is a showpiece, especially in its Ambient mode where the light diffuses through its perforated stand.

Other than its Ambient mode, there are three other settings on the Solarcycle Morph – Task (focused white light), Indirect (warm light pointed upwards) and Feature (a spotlight for decorative items in your home). So, as you’ve probably surmised, the light temperature can be adjusted, plus there’s a daylight tracking option that sets the lamp to mimic sunlight hues inside your home. So it can even be your wake-up call in the morning.

From the different modes, you’ve also probably realized that the lamp can be adjusted into different angles – the entire stand turns 360º on its base, as does the jointed arm so the optical head can point in a heck of a lot of directions.

Amongst its other headline features are a motion sensor capable of sensing movement from a foot or two away, plus auto-brightness depending on the ambient light. The lamp also goes into standby mode after five minutes of no motion detection. It can even be scheduled to turn on and off intermittently in the evening hours while you’re away on holiday to give the impression that someone’s home.

As nicely as it’s designed, its base has a large footprint, taking up a heck of a lot of desk (or bedside table) space, while the rest of it can tend to feel quite fragile. It’s hard to test the lifecycle of the LED bulb, but Dyson promises that it will last you up to 60 years with no change in the light quality, thanks to the heat sink within the swivel beam of the lamp.

Its physical controls are touch and slide, but you can also use the MyDyson app to control the Solarcycle Morph, including setting up schedules.

Unlike other smart lights, there’s no way to control the Solarcycle Morph via voice assistants. During my testing, that really wasn’t a dealbreaker for me as a lot of the other features aren’t found on any other smart light I’ve tested. Despite that, I still find it hard to justify its premium price.

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk in Ambient mode

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk review: Price and availability

  • Desk lamp retails for $649.99 /  £499.99 / AU$899
  • Floor lamp priced at $849.99 /  £649.99 / AU price TBA
  • Available to buy now in select markets

There is no denying that the Dyson Solarcycle Morph is an expensive lamp, even the cheaper desk version. Sure, it does a lot of things that no other smart lamp can match but, at $649.99 /  £499.99 / AU$899, it’s still very premium.

While the Solarcycle Morph Desk is available to buy in most markets, the floor version – which will set you back $849.99 and  £649.99 in the US and the UK respectively – is yet to come to Australia, potentially being available Down Under some time in 2024.

While it might be hard to justify the high price, it’s also just as difficult to compare it with any other smart light, even Philips Hue, as there’s really nothing else quite like it on the market. It’s probably just a matter of time before dupes become available, but if you have the cash to spare, the Solarcycle Morph might just be the best lamp you get for your home.

Value score: 3 / 5

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk on a table

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk specs

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk review: Design

  • Clean, modern design
  • Large, heavy base
  • Integrated USB-C port

While Australia gets just one silver and white colorway of the Solarcycle Morph, there are two other options in select markets, including the US. These are a full black option and a brass one with black accents.

As with all things Dyson, the design aesthetic is simple and elegant. It might be tubular and plain, but once set up, the Solarcycle Morph looks beautiful. The only part of it I am not a fan of is its round base which, for a desk lamp, is rather large and very heavy. Most of the 3.5kg weight of the lamp is in that base.

Another element that’s a bit of an eyesore if visible is the power brick, which is as big as what we used to get with some laptops from a few years ago. That said, depending on how you place the lamp, it could easily be hidden, as the cable is quite long.

Image 1 of 3

The touch and slider controls on the arm of Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk, beside the copper heat sink

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
Image 2 of 3

The control buttons under the arm of the Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
Image 3 of 3

The black, circular magnet on the stem of the Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Move your eye upward from the base and that’s where the beauty lies. My review unit was a matte-silver hollow tube that features a 5V/1.5 amp USB-C port in its lower third, so you can charge a phone or tablet. There’s perforations the rest of the way up the tube, which can turn 360º on the vertical axis. The perforations aren’t for heat dissipation, but for setting the lamp to its Ambient mode.

This is possible because the optical head housing the LED bulbs can be positioned face down for the light to diffuse through the holes, providing mood lighting. To keep it from swivelling away by accident, a circular magnet pops up from the top of the tube to lock the optical head in place. The arm pivots a full 360º horizontally around its joint, as well as turning around a full 360º so you can point the optical head at any angle.

There are physical controls on the top and bottom of the pivoting part of the arm. On the top, there’s a copper tube, which is the heat sink to keep the LEDs cool, in turn extending their life and quality that, Dyson promises, will last up to 60 years. Also on the top, towards the optical head, are two sliders – one to adjust the light temperature, the other to change the brightness.

The integrated USB-C port on the stem of the Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

On the underside of the pivoting arm are three buttons. The one farthest to the optical head controls the brightness sensor – pressing this one will turn the sensor off, which is on by default right out of the box. The middle button is for the motion sensor that, when on, will adjust brightness gradually as you approach or move away from the lamp, and also put the Solarcycle Morph into standby mode if no motion is detected in 5 minutes. The button closest to the optical head is the synchronization button that allows the lamp to mimic the light temperature of the daylight cycle in your location. 

There are lights on these buttons that glow if the sensors are on – if you see them flashing, don’t panic as that’s just a firmware update being pushed out via the MyDyson app.

The top of the optical head is a touch-sensitive control to power the lamp on and off. This is extremely sensitive and I found that if I mistakenly – very gently – touched that spot while making angle adjustments or using the sliders and buttons, I’d switch off my lamp.

Design score: 4.5 / 5

The pivot on the arm of the Dyson Solarcyle Morph Desk

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk review: Features

  • Useful motion sensor
  • Auto-brightness sensor
  • Versatile light settings

As I’ve already mentioned, the Solarcycle Morph is extremely versatile. Just given the plethora of physical adjustments there are, it’s easy to envision how the four main modes – Ambient, Indirect, Task and Feature – would look. You can have custom settings for your light too, but you will need the MyDyson app for this. In fact, the app gives you full control of the lamp so you don’t need to touch the Solarcycle at all… except to perhaps give it a wipedown to keep it clean.

While its standout feature is its ability to mimic the daylight cycle in your location – which you can set in the app – I think it’s the motion sensor that should be the headline act here. It’s both very handy and equally annoying too... at least to me. Of course, for this to work, you need to leave the lamp on standby. Dyson doesn’t specify what the maximum distance is for motion detection but I found it’s capable of picking up movement about a meter (or 3 ft) away. This allows the lamp to turn on, but will remain dim if the motion is still distant. As you approach, the lamp will increase brightness automatically. It goes back into standby mode after 5 minutes if no motion is detected after it’s turned on.

Image 1 of 3

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk on a table

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
Image 2 of 3

Dyson Solarcycle Morph on the MyDyson app

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
Image 3 of 3

Dyson Solarcycle Morph on the MyDyson app

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

This is where I found it annoying. I used the Solarcycle Morph in my home office, and even though I was at the desk typing at my keyboard, it couldn't detect that movement and kept going into standby mode. It happened during video calls too and I make a lot of hand gestures when I talk!

I also like the fact that if I’m going away on holiday, I can set the start date in the app and the lamp will power on periodically between 4pm and 11pm in a time zone to tell possible intruders that people are still inside the home. 

The lamp is capable of auto-brightness too, which is handy to have, depending on where you position it. I appreciated it when I was using the Solarcycle Morph in my home office, which doesn’t get a whole lot of natural light, but it was a little disconcerting in the bedroom as the change can be quite sudden and distinct.

I cannot finish this section without waffling on about the lamp’s Ambient mode – it’s absolutely stunning. In this mode, if your lamp is set at its brightest, it will reduce brightness automatically with light temperature dropping between 1800K to 3400K, depending on what hue it’s already set at.

Features score: 5 / 5

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk in Spotlight mode

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk review: Performance

  • 60-year lifecycle
  • Sensitive controls
  • Good brightness

While the Solarcycle Morph matches the light temperature of some other smart lights out there (2700K to 6500K when not in Ambient mode), it isn’t as bright as some popular smart bulbs on the market today. For example, the Philips Hue White Ambiance smart bulb tops out at 1,600 lumens and the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter bulb is 1,100 lumens. While a maximum brightness of 850 lumens is enough for a bedside or desk lamp, it’s not quite enough to light up a whole room.

Dyson claims the Solarcycle Morph will last up to 60 years, without any damage to the light quality. I couldn't test this for this review of course, but Dyson engineers have used a simple heat sink – that's also a lovely trim adding to the overall look of the lamp – to make sure the light lasts as long as possible. You'll see the slim copper tube on the top of the swivel arm – it houses a few drops of water that evaporates as heat from the LEDs build up. If you were paying attention in science class at school, you'll know that evaporation results in cooling. And because the tube is also sealed, the water drops condense inside and are ready to carry on being an effective coolant.

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk in Ambient mode

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

As I’ve already mentioned, I found the motion sensor both excellent and annoying. Excellent because it can pick up movement from about two feet away – although it did pick me up a couple of times while I was approximately three feet away – and it turns on, but annoying because it can’t pick up fingers and arms moving while I’m just inches away. 

Another little annoyance I found was if I didn’t completely exit the MyDyson app, it failed to connect to the light the next time I opened the application on my phone. I’d have ignored it if this happened once in a while, but it happened often. Perhaps a firmware update will sort this out at some point…

Other than that, I have absolutely no complaints about the Solarcycle Morph’s performance. It does everything it says on the tin, and does it remarkably well.

Performance score: 4.5 / 5

Should I buy the Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk on a table beside some books and a photograph

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

There really aren’t any like-for-like alternatives to the Dyson Solarcycle Morph, although opting for a smart bulb or two from Philips Hue or Nanoleaf could be a decent alternative as you can adjust the light temperature and brightness to suit your needs. Where the Nanoleaf smart bulb supports colors by default, you can get white or color globes in the Philips Hue range. You can find out more about the former in our Nanoleaf Essentials Matter Smart Bulb review.

While neither of these will do everything that the Solarcycle Morph does, you can use them to mimic sunlight in the morning to wake up. A lot of smart light systems offer this feature. None are going to be showpieces like the Dyson, but you could find yourself a beautiful lamp stand.

How I tested the Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk

  • Tested in two different rooms
  • Left it on standby most of the time to test the motion sensor
  • Tried different modes and settings

Dyson Solarcycle Morph Desk in Ambient mode

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

I was sent the Dyson Solarcycle Morph for testing for just a few weeks, and I used it in two different locations in my own home. It was initially set up on work desk in my home office, then moved to the bedroom.

In the first location, I left it on standby most of the time to see how well it would react to me leaving my desk and returning at random intervals. In the bedroom, it was set up to turn on at 6:30am.

To see how well it responds via the app, I saved custom settings for light hues I personally prefer – which tend to be on the warmer side than white light – and I tried out all the presets as well.

Read more about how we test

[First reviewed November 2023]

Philips Hue Bloom review: a capable and colorful bias and accent light
5:30 pm | October 30, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

One-minute review

As well as its ever-growing range of smart bulbs, Philips Hue has been producing table and floor lamps for a number of years, many of which qualify as some of the best smart lights.

Way back in 2013, the Hue Bloom was the first non-bulb smart light to start this trend – a successful gambit, given it’s still a fan favorite to this day. It can be purchased from Amazon, directly from Philips Hue, and from some third-party retailers for $79.99 / £79.99. It’s a little expensive for what it is, especially in the UK; but it’s one of Hue’s more affordable table lamps. Petite at 4 x 5.1 x 5-inches / 10.1 x 12.9 x 12.6cm (h x w x d), the Bloom is a versatile table lamp that works as well for rudimentary bias lighting as it does for accent lighting.

Philips Hue Bloom table lamp

(Image credit: Future)

It sports a fairly discreet appearance, especially when it’s off, with a sort of ’70s sci-fi look; neutral, curvy, and clad in white plastic and metal. The front of the light is a flat, angled disc with a small bezel; however, you’re most likely to only ever see the rear or side of the light, since it’s for indirect lighting and performs best when facing walls and corners. The light sits on a short stem, which is home to the power cable; the cable exits through a small arch at the front-facing side of the lamp. Depending on where your power supply is in relation to the lamp, this can prove a little fiddly to set up.  

You can set up the lamp via Bluetooth or the Hue Bridge. The latter comes at an additional cost of $59.99 / £49.99, and enables further devices to be connected, while also bringing more features such as remote control. As with all Philips Hue lights, the Bloom is super easy to set up in the app, with the overall user experience splendid. Adding the light to your smart home ecosystem is just as easy, and it’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. 

Philips Hue Bloom table lamp

(Image credit: Future)

Its slightly low lumen output somewhat betrays the age of the Bloom – and that’s despite it having had a few generational updates over the years. At just 500 lumens at 4000K, which is about as low as you’d ever want a table lamp to go. However, Bloom isn’t designed to spray light across the room, just to provide an interesting and ambient splash of color – and for that it’s perfectly balanced. There’s also a welcome softness to the Bloom as a result of the frosted covering, which diffuses the light wonderfully.

With the now-standard full 16 million array of colors, the Bloom can produce some beautifully vibrant hues, and you can adjust the temperature and brightness with ease using voice controls with the best smart speakers or via the app. As time has gone on, and Bloom has evolved through different Hue generations, color accuracy has improved significantly, and the most recent version I’ve been testing is exemplary of that evolution.

Philips Hue Bloom table lamp

(Image credit: Future)

While there are still a few niggles that I’d have expected Hue to have tackled by now (the cable exit in the stem really irks me, for example), overall the Philips Hue Bloom is an excellent – albeit basic – bias or accent light, offering vibrant and bright ambient lighting in your home. It’s discreet enough to work well in any room, but still a good-looking device in itself.

Philips Hue Bloom review: Specs table

Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Philips Hue Bloom review: Also consider

How I tested the Philips Hue Bloom

  •  I tested the Philips Hue Bloom for a month 
  •  I used it as part of my smart lighting setup  
  •  I paired it via the Philips Hue Bridge and Alexa 

To test the Philips Hue Bloom, I set it up in my living room for a month, alongside a set of other smart lights from other manufacturers. 

My primary smart speaker controller is Alexa, which I used in tandem with the Philips Hue app to test the responsiveness, accuracy and ease of use when operating the lamp. I compared its color accuracy to smart lights in various form factors and from different manufacturers, too.

I used the Bloom as both a bias light behind my TV screen and as an accent light for a display cabinet, as well as a table-side light to add some more color spray to my smart light setup

Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes review: Nanoleaf’s most chic smart light panels yet
5:24 pm | October 29, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

One-minute review

Nanoleaf has fast become a popular brand, producing some of the best smart lights on the market. In particular, its ranges of wall panels and lines have been allowing smart lighting fans to unleash their creativity and design their own illuminating wall art. 

The standard Nanoleaf Shapes range includes three different form factors; Canvas, Hexagons and Triangles, and with the release of the Nanoleaf Ultra Black Triangles last year, and Hexagons this year (UK and US only as of writing), its Ultra Black Shapes lineup is now following suit. For this review, I tested the Hexagons.

Offering simple setup and installation and great app controls, the Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes are a quick, easy, and effective addition to any room; but with the starker black coloring, I’d say they best suit an office, studio, or rooms with darker walls.

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black turned on

(Image credit: Future)

Despite the dark backdrop, the lights are surprisingly vibrant and bright; although not enough to the degree that they’re able to illuminate a room, rather just provide some ambiance. Much like the standard Shapes, the color doesn’t quite reach the corners and edges – personally, I’d prefer if they did.

The standard nine-pack allowed me to create a small but mighty bat-shaped accent piece, but I think both the design and technological capabilities of the device are best demonstrated through a larger design. The number of devices one controller can handle (500) is truly impressive, but it would be nice if the power cable could supply more than 21 panels.

All in all, the Ultra Black Shapes are a wonderful, slick addition to Nanoleaf’s wall paneling, and although I did experience a couple of bugs and quirks, in general I found them to be supremely easy to use and a beautiful addition to my workspace.

Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes review: Price and availability

  •  List price: $219.99 / £179.99 / AU$369.99 
  •  Expansion sets: $69.99 / £49.99 / AU$119.99 

The Nanoleaf Ultra Black Hexagons and Triangles are priced the same as the starter kits; $219.99 / £179.99 / AU$369.99 (although at the time of writing, the Hexagons have yet to be released in Australia.) You can buy them from Nanoleaf direct, Amazon, as well as through some other third-party sellers.

Included in this kit are nine panels, nine connectors, a power cord, a controller, and mounting tape, allowing you to start formulating your wall art. You can opt to expand your design, or mix and match shapes with the expansion kits, with each containing a further three panels and connectors for $69.99 / £49.99 / AU$119.99.

This puts the Nanoleaf Ultra Black panels at the higher end of the smart light price point spectrum, especially given that these are slightly pricier than the already-expensive standard white wall panels. I’d say they offer fairly good value for money thanks to the breadth of controls in the app and the build quality of the panels, but I’d be far more impressed if they’d come in at a slightly lower price point.

Value: 4/5

Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes review: Specs table

The Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black when turned off

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes review: Design

  • Slick, matte black front 
  • Robust and well made 
  • Easily installed 

Elegant and slightly imposing, these all-black panels offer a much more sophisticated look than the standard white Nanoleaf Shapes, making them a real statement piece whether they’re on or off. This very fact makes them slightly better suited to slightly different room types; namely, rooms with darker walls, or spaces such as a study, bedroom, or studio.

Both the Hexagons and Triangles have the same dimensions; 7.75 x 9 inches / 20 x 23cm, and are 0.24 inches / 60mm thick, meaning they sit impressively close to the wall. They feel robust and well made, capable of handling a few bumps – although I wouldn’t readily drop them from great heights. The included mounting tape is super strong and bonds quickly, which makes for easier and quicker installation.

When creating your design with the panels, you need to consider the placement of the controller and power cable(s). The former can control up to 500 panels and is shape ambiguous, and the power cord can supply up to 21 panels. Otherwise, creating a design with your panels is a breeze with the in-app layout assistant; or there are plenty of suggested designs available to give you some inspiration.

You can choose wherever you fit the controller on the side of one of the Shapes, and it’s fairly subtle, although I’d prefer for it to be slightly more remote or attachable to the power cord instead – but it’s a negligible interruption to your chosen design. 

My one minor design gripe is that the color doesn’t fully reach the edge of the Shape; it comes pretty close, but especially into the corners, it doesn’t quite go the distance. This is true for all Nanoleaf Shapes, as well as many competitor products, but it’s a lot more noticeable on the black backdrop. As such, my former comment about the wall color being important is most relevant to this issue; placed on a darker wall, this is unlikely to be as noticeable as it is on a bright white wall. It’s just as the white panels stand out more on dark walls.

Overall I really appreciate the design of the panels, even if they’re a little starkly contrasting on my white walls – but I’d happily design a darker feature wall or room around these beautiful panels. 

Design: 4.5/5 

Image 1 of 4

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black on a wall

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 4

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black on a wall

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 4

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black on a wall

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 4

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black on a wall

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes review: Performance

  • Vibrant, but dimmer than standard Nanoleaf Shapes 
  • App offers great controls 
  • Can be a little buggy 

Setting up the Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes is very easy through the Nanoleaf app (more on that later), and you’re pretty much ready to go as soon as they’re designed and installed – unless you want to spend time finessing the output in the settings. 

I did attempt to re-calibrate the colors, but couldn’t make it through the entire process without it bugging; this happened on multiple occasions and through different software patches.

The app is pretty intuitive and offers a huge range of customization and design options, as well as downloadable scenes or a scene creator if you want to branch out. It’s super easy to control via the app, with minimal delay unless you’re fiddling with some of the settings I mentioned above.

The rest of the features perform similarly to other Nanoleaf products; in brief, MusicSync is great, so long as the sound source is close by and well directed, or otherwise loud, and Touch Gestures are a little temperamental.

Having tried out a number of different smart lights, including Nanoleaf’s standard range, the first thing I’d note about the Ultra Black range is that, despite Nanoleaf’s best efforts, there’s a slight impact on the color output and brightness.

On the former, certain colors have a slight muddiness to them – one I’d expect with the interference of the all-out black design, but since these are slightly pricier than the standard white panels, I’d have liked better attention to the light technology. It’s most noticeable with lighter colors – pure white is quite gray, yellow looks more saffron, light blue is more powder or eggshell blue, and pink is more peachy. Still, the colors are impressively vibrant given the device's design. 

Personally, I don’t ever consider smart light panels to be primed for illuminating a room, but rather for ambiance and design, so I didn’t find the Ultra Black panels’ dimness too problematic. However, they’re definitely dimmer than the standard range, which is worth noting if you’re looking to bring proper light into a room.

Image 1 of 2

The edge of the nanolead shapes panels, showing slight disruption/fraying to the light

The edge of the Nanoleaf Shapes panels, showing slight disruption/fraying to the light (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 2

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black on a wall

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black on a wall (Image credit: Future)

The black backdrop also draws attention to any lights that aren’t quite perfectly aligned; there’s a small blip on the edge of a few of mine, although you have to be up fairly close to notice.

There’s also some weirdness in the color assignment with certain smart home controllers - in my case, Alexa. For some reason, white always turns out a variant of peach or pink, unless I specifically pick out white in the app or use a white scene. 

I tested these lights for a couple of months alongside a few different brands, and I’d say Nanoleaf was among the buggiest; the panels got stuck on certain colors, and were non-responsive or behaved strangely on occasions. Overall, though, they worked well. 

Should I buy?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if... 

Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black review: Also consider

Still not sold on the Nanoleaf Shapes Ultra Black? Here are two other options you might want to consider. 

How I tested the Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes

  • I spent two months testing the Ultra Black Shapes 
  • I used them in tandem with other, non-Nanoleaf lights and paired with both Apple Home and Alexa 
  • I tested color vibrancy, brightness, responsiveness and sturdiness, as well as all the in-app features. 

I used the Nanoleaf Ultra Black Shapes for two months in my smart home. I installed and paired them following the in-app instructions, evaluating the process for speed and user-friendliness.

With the app being the primary controller, I tested all of its features, from creating scenes to trying the MusicSync and touch control features. I also adjusted the settings to calibrate the lights to my specific needs.

I paired the light panels with both my Amazon Alexa and Apple Home controllers to see how quickly they responded to various commands, while also considering how well the panels integrated with my non-Nanoleaf lights. 

Iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switch review
4:30 pm | October 28, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Smart Lights | Tags: , | Comments: Off

One-minute review

If you’re updating your home decor and furnishings and want something a bit special, these switches could be the ones for you. The sleek Italian design is eye-catching, even without the added visual appeal of the backlight. 

In common with some of the best smart switches, they are 25mm deep, requiring at the very least a 35mm deep backbox (more on that later) and modern ‘switch-first’ wiring with a neutral wire in the light switch socket. 

Most pre-1990s UK properties are not wired in this way, so I’d recommend you enlist the services of an electrician to assess your wiring.

All in all, these are beautiful switches that, once fitted, are highly capable and easy to use. For physical operation, you simply press on the touch-sensitive faceplate, or you can use the plethora of supported smart home ecosystems to control your home lighting.

Beautiful as they may be, they’re pretty pricey and given that I’d strongly recommend using the services of an electrician to fit the switches, there are added installation costs to consider. 

iotty E1/E2 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switch review: Price and availability

The iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switches are exclusively available in Europe at the time of writing, though some crafty US smart home enthusiasts have found ways to acquire them. In the UK, both the one-gang and two-gang switches retail for £99.90 and are available at Amazon

There are also three and five-pack discounts on the iotty UK website, but trying to place an order is a bit of a minefield. I spent a while trying to navigate this; I think you can get three switches for the price of two, but navigating the checkout process is about as manic as playing Tetris at higher levels, so I’m not sure. Note too that the switches will be shipped from Italy, so you’ll need to pay import duty at 20%. 

Iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switch: Specs table

iotty E1/E2 Plus main console

(Image credit: Future)

Iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switch review: Physical installation

  •  The switches can’t be directly connected to solid wiring 
  •  Space inside the backbox is at a premium 
  •  Wiring the two-gang switch can be challenging 

Generally speaking, the installation of a single-gang iotty Plus switch shouldn’t present too many problems, assuming that you have the prerequisite wiring and 35mm back boxes. 

There are, however, some complexities worth noting. I installed the iotty E1/E2 Plus switches for this review, but I’d personally recommend using an electrician unless you’re very confident, or have more modern wiring at home. That aside, I can share some of my experience installing the switches.

I found that connecting the switch directly to a standard solid light circuit made things really difficult if not impossible; there needs to be more flexibility in the wires to allow the switch to be manoeuvred inside the backbox without using undue force. 

To remedy this, I used the same flexible, stranded cabling used inside a ceiling light bulb fitting (if it’s good enough in a light fitting then it must be good enough in a light switch, I figured) and connected lengths of it to the terminal block before joining them to the relevant solid cable using Wago lever connectors, which can be purchased from various hardware stores.

The Wago connectors also allowed me to very quickly swap wires for testing purposes (like when I found an error in the in-app wiring diagram and paper documentation; the single gang switch uses the RL2 connectors and not the RL1. Worth knowing).

iotty E1/E2 Plus being wired

(Image credit: Future)

The main bulk of the switch is in the centre, so I moved the stiff solid wiring out of the way and into the space surrounding it. It just took a little bit of thought and cable management for it to be ready to be screwed on and powered up.

I’d also recommend taking care when using the supplied aluminium screws, as they’re much softer than the steel ones typically supplied with UK light switches. They appear to be made of bubble gum; expensive Italian bubble gum, but still bubble gum. 

iotty E1/E2 Plus on at the wall

It's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE! (Image credit: Future)

Fitting a pair of two-gang switches presents more of a problem as, at least with my home’s wiring, you end up with a now-redundant extra solid wire cable, so I would recommend fitting a 47mm back box if you’re faced with this situation. 

It also took a fair amount of head-scratching and testing, as well as a little experimentation in the app, to figure out how to use the multiway configuration with the two-gang switches. It turns out, only one of the two gangs needs to be physically connected to the wiring. The other gang, I assume, uses witchcraft…

iotty E1/E2 Plus app showing setup

(Image credit: Future)

Otherwise, the faceplate snaps on snugly, and is tight enough to stay put but easy enough to remove. It would be a real positive if the faceplates were available for purchase separately so that you can try out different colourways, but then the faceplate could be fitted to another manufacturer's cheaper switch, I suppose.  

Iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switch review: Performance

These switches have a range of sensors that help to drive your automations: 

Additionally, the iotty switches also support some pretty neat added features, which make the switches especially useful when used across multiple rooms in your home. The first is multiway switching, which allows you to control one light from two switches – for example, one by your bed and one by the door.

The switch can also fetch information from the internet, like sunset and sunrise times, geolocation data, and weather information, opening your smart home up to a plethora of new smart lighting automations. They also work as a pulse switch for a gate or garage door.

Naturally, they also work well when used as a physical touch switch. The only problem so far after six weeks of testing was following a series of power cuts, meaning one of the switches needed to be reset and reconfigured in the application.  

iotty E1/E2 Plus app showing setup

(Image credit: Future)

Iotty E1/E2 Plus Smart Switch review: Application

  •  Good step-by-step installation and Wi-Fi connection instructions 
  •  8 classes of automation 
  •  10 example scenes 

The app performs well and is visually pleasing, bearing a strong resemblance to Samsung SmartThings, which is probably due to them both using the Tuya AI+IoT platform. I do find the drill down ‘>’ buttons are a little on the small side, meaning it’s easy to turn the light on or off by accident. 

It can also be a little bewildering, especially if you’re new to smart home devices, as it uses quite a few technical terms, many of which feel superfluous.

Basic automations are very easy to create but are fairly singular; it would be nice, for example, to be able to switch a light on automatically both during the day and when a large storm passes over, to keep your home from plunging into darkness. 

You could of course use the plate light sensor, but you might not want the automation to trigger after sunset, for example. Then there are annoying niggles, like when you ask Siri to turn off the bedroom light and the sensor immediately switches it back on. 

The multiway feature is very useful, but it’s easy to lose track of what is connected and where, so make sure to rename your switches and plates as you go along, otherwise chaos will reign supreme.

My home automation setup is based around Apple Homekit, and I found the Siri shortcuts to be a real plus. Through this feature, I have created ‘switchglow’ and ‘switchdim’ shortcuts so the backlights won’t interfere with your sleep, but will provide sufficient illumination to prevent you from walking into doors, stubbing your toe on the bed, and other slapstick comedy moments.

Iotty E1/E2 Plus Smart Switch review: Should I buy?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if... 

iotty E1/E2 Plus smart switch review: also consider

Iotty E1/E2 Plus Smart Switch review: How I tested

  •  I added the switches to Samsung SmartThings 
  •  I added the switches to Google Home 
  •  I added SmartThings plugin to Homebridge 
  •  I used Apple Siri to turn the lights on and off 

My home automation setup is based around Apple Homekit, but I have various Google, Samsung, Sony, Denon, Ring, Tapo, and Nuki accessories. I use a Raspberry Pi running Homebridge to connect these devices to Apple Homekit and bring them all together.

I investigated the Homebridge Tuya plugin, but it involves creating a cloud development project and other convoluted steps. It was easier to add the devices to SmartThings and use the Homebridge SmartThings plugin.

I’ve been using the iotty smart switches as the main light controls in my home for six weeks. I did find that one had to be reset after a power cut, but generally they worked swimmingly for the course of my testing. 

Next Page »