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Nanoleaf Canvas Review: A New Look for Your Game Den

By Christopher Coke on February 13, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Nanoleaf Canvas Review: A New Look for Your Game Den

If you’re anything like us, building up your battlestation is about more than just your PC. After your PC and accessories are set, it’s time to start looking into the rest of the room and designing your perfect, modern gaming center. Today, we’re looking at the first of two Nanoleaf smart products with the Canvas. They’re customizable, integrated with your smart networks and IFTTT, and look great, but are they right for you? Find out in our full review of the Nanoleaf Canvas.


Specifications

Current Pricing: $249.99 (Nanoleaf Website)

  • Key Features
    • Modular Light Squares that offer endless design possibilities
    • Touch-enabled experiences, voice controls, app customizations
    • Built-in Rhythm music visualizer
    • Supports large installations and works with the Nanoleaf API
    • No WiFi? No Problem! Works out of the box without WiFi
    • Hundreds of color Scenes and animations pre-loaded
  • Operating Environment: Indoor Use Only
  • Waterproof: No
  • Rated Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Network Connection: 2.4GHz WiFi
  • Color Temperature: 1200k - 6500k
  • Color Range (RGBW): 16.4 million colors
  • Maximum Power Draw Per Light Square: 1W
  • Height: 3/8 inch, 9.5mm
  • Software Upgradeable: Yes
  • Power Supply: 24W
  • Maximum Light Squares Per Power Supply: 25
  • Maximum Light Squares Per Control Square: 500
  • Cable Length: 2.5m, 8'2"
  • Customization: Open API, SDK
  • Warranty: 2 years

The world of colored wall lighting is a new one to me. Honestly, the world of RGB anything outside of my PC is a new one. We’ve never invested in Philips Hue bulbs or LIFX, always opting for the the usual mix of warm and daylight bulbs. After walking by the Nanoleaf Aurora kits at my local Best Buy trip after trip (and seeing every techtuber under the sun with a set on their wall), I decided to reach out and see if Nanoleaf might be willing to let me check out a set for myself to see if they were really worth the pricey $249 cost of entry.

The Canvas is their latest kit and newest member of their Smarter catalog, fully integrating with smart assistants like Google Home, Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. Interestingly, they also tie in with THE online automation program If This Then That (IFTTT) for embedded notifications for a whole host of custom apps users have built. See our recent review of the Das Keyboard 5Q on how that program works, but I was genuinely surprised to see that level of “smart” come through in these lights. Of course, you can also adjust them wirelessly through your usual voice commands, just as you would expect from a modern smart home device.

Like the Nanoleaf Aurora before them (now the Nanoleaf Rhythm thanks to the included Rhythm Kit upgrade), the Canvas are customizable RGBW light panels for your wall. That means they can display 16.4 million colors as well as pure white. After having seen them fairly consistently displaying custom lighting schemes and functioning as accent lighting, I was surprised to find that they actually work rather well as normal lights. They’re not bright enough to light up a whole room like a good lamp will, but they’ll provide enough light to illuminate a desk or other space right around them.

The other thing I was surprised by is just how vibrant they are. Pastels are very popular in the techtuber community apparently, which lead me to believe that they would seem washed out but the truth is anything but. The Canvas comes preloaded with a selection of scenes that subtly shift between a palette of colors. The above is an autumnal theme and really shows how saturated the panels can become. They may work as normal lights in the near range but they absolutely shine as accent lights.

Inside the app, can choose from a wider array of options and customize each for speed and transition “motions” between colors (how they fade and shift). You can select basic static lighting, if you want to keep things simple, or engage the build in microphone for sound-responsive rhythm effects.

Since the panels are touch sensitive, you can even select from some interactive options which enterprising community members have used to develop games. My five year old and I had fun playing a game of Simon. These interactive options can also be layered on top of lighting schemes. The practical use is pretty limited right now, but it is neat nonetheless. The biggest benefit come from the controller panel which allows you to turn the lights on and off, cycle presets, turn on rhythm settings and adjust the brightness.

More useful is the ability to set schedules for different lighting scenes. I’ve been on the market for a daylight alarm clock, so imagine my surprise when I found out these lights can be programmed to do exactly that, mimicking the light of the rising sun to wake you up in the morning. If only I had another set for my bedroom! Scheduling also makes it easy to change the atmosphere of a room just by the time of the day.

Setting all of this up is very easy using the Nanoleaf app. The app guides you through the setup process and wastes no time recommending you head online to download new scenes and motions created by the community. One of the benefits of buying into a mainstay Best Buy product like the Nanoleaf is that lots of people have had it before you and are actively creating new “content” for you to download and enjoy. I’m not the most creative person in the world, but I always enjoy trying out neat lighting effects other users have created. It’s one of the reasons I so enjoy Corsair and Razer’s RGB keyboards! Nanoleaf has also created many themselves, too, so there’s a lot of options to explore.

The hardest part in getting up and running with the Nanoleaf Canvas was creating a pattern I was comfortable mounting on my wall.

The starter kit comes with nine 6-inch by 6-inch panels that link together from the three connection points you can see above. Since only three corners are open for connections, and you have an odd number of panels, it was actually rather challenging for me to come up with a nice symmetrical design I could be happy with. Contrary to the triangular shape of the Rhythm panels which allows you to create more abstract lighting designs, the Canvas panels can act almost like pixels if you have enough of them.

Word to the wise: plan it out before and, trust me on this, don’t lay them out on the floor to do it if you have pets in the house. The backs of the panels were littered with little bits of dog and cat hair I couldn’t even see on my hardwoods.

To get them mounted, you’ll need to bust out the level and, if you’re like me and care about things being centered, the tape measurer. Nanoleaf includes enough paint-safe 3M strips for every panel to have three and achieve a nice, firm mount. Once they go on, though, they’re stuck tight, so, yeah… use that level. You’ll also need to plan on where you want the controller to go and where you want the cord to hang. Or, more ideally, where you’ll want to feed the wire behind the wall for the cleanest look. My wife wasn’t exactly keen on my drilling more holes in the walls of our new house, so dangling wire it was for me.

Overall though, I’m happy with my sideway I-cross thing. People have asked if I was going for a particular pattern and the answer is no. I was going for whatever the heck I could make that would look decent. Thankfully, the app supports a layout planner for the Nanoleaf Rhythm panels that even includes and AR planning module. Hopefully, they’ll release an update that includes support for the canvas.

There’s one other thing worth mentioning that’s demonstrated in the picture above. For whole room white lighting the Nanoleaf Canvas panels aren’t quite bright enough, but in a dark room, the colored lighting is perfect for giving you enough light to game by. The purple pink lighting in the picture is great for when I want to turn off the normal lights and sink into a game. I can see everything I need to around me but the entire environment is dark enough to let me zone out and immerse myself into my game world.

Final Thoughts

The Nanoleaf Canvas lighting kit really impressed me. It looks much better in person than I expected it to based on other pictures I’ve seen. I was a bit worried they wouldn’t be big enough to fill up the section of wall I had available but I needn’t have as the design I settled with is a good 30x18 inches. They’ve turned out to be quite the eye-catching addition to my office and look great in the background on stream.

But, and this is a big but, at $249 they’re expensive. Then again, compared to the Philips Hue ecosystem where a single RGBW light bulb will run you $49, this kind of pricing goes with the territory. You’re paying for the smart home integration, the app control, the active community building profiles, and that distinctive, modern look not many other people will have. If you’re a streamer, they’re a great way to add color to your background and make your video more appealing to look at. Whether or not that’s something worth the investment is a more personal call than most other things we review here.

If cost isn’t a factor, however, these things look great and tie the room together in a way few other things can.

Pros

  • Vibrant and bright; definitely eye-catching
  • Very customizable with many downloadable profiles
  • Full-featured app with direct control and update functionality
  • Touch controls and gesture options

Cons

  • Quite expensive, 4-panel expansion kits an additional $79
  • Somewhat cumbersome setup
  • No layout planning in-app at this time

The product discussed in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight