From Toronto Canada, these smart light panel kits vended here in NZ by MacGear let you integrate the system into Apple HomeKit or just run them from your iPhone or iPad.
Featuring an interlocking PCB electrical tab that lets you quickly attach any of the three sides to another panel, and then the power supply to any spare slot, this 9-panel Smarter Kit lets you create several shapes from the get-go.
Virtually ‘paint’ individual panels or let effects sweep through, and of course brighten and dim, these can be oh-so-subtle or party-garish at the touch on the free iOS app interface.
You’d think this could be gimmicky, but no. Because you can configure them several different ways and because you can get the Aurora panels to play subtle effects and also dim them almost to nothing, seamlessly, they’re refreshingly sophisticated and effective in many situations. They can display over 16 million colours.
Each panel is 24cm in length and 24cm high, and weighs just 210 grams thanks to a braced plastic structure on the back (above – all the tech specs are online).
Mounting — If I had any issues with these at all, it would be wall mounting. In the kit, the only option is 3M sticky tabs, although Nanoleaf has been generous, providing 28 (plus an extra PDB connector). The black sides will stick forever to the back; the red side goes n your wall, and is supposed to be removable, but in my experience, this can remove paint. Here’s a great tip, though – you will really need to get it properly lined up on the wall. Since there’s a level in your iPhone already, try that (just open the Compass app and swipe to the side).
To mount the Aurora panels properly on a wall in a placement you want to keep for any length of time, MacGear has various accessories available like the mounting kit with thumb tacks (NZ$60) which has 12 screw mounts, 12 wall anchors, 12 steel screws and four flex-linkers. These sturdier anchors would be preferable for many walls and for many applications once you are sure you have the configuration and placement you want. You could even mount them on come ceilings.
The flex-linkers are also available separately (NZ$40 for 9) – with these you can mount the panels so they go around corners, for example. Also available are more of the straight PCB tabs, a panel expansion kit (3 panels and tabs for $120 – the supplied power supply can handle up to 30 panels!) and the $100 Nanoleaf Aurora Rhythm Module with gets the panels pulsing to sound – how’s that for party coolness? I’d really like to try that.
Another issue for some might be that the white of the plastic the panels are mounted in might clash or just look wrong with some darker wall colours.
The app or not — The power module plugs into the normal wall power outlet. Current gets daisy-chained through all the panels via the connector tabs, and you can pull out a panel and plug it in somewhere else while it’s on. Even without an app to control it with, you can use the Aurora – the power module has an On/Off switch on it plus another that initiates preset lighting programs through the panels – it cycles through the presets with subsequent presses.
However, the app (it’s free, of course) lets you dim the lights and this is a good thing, as they can verge on harshly bright to look at, evenings. Fifty-percent is nice and ambient, but right down to 10% can be effective in a dark hallway or even a child’s bedroom as a night-light.
Beyond that, thanks to HomeKit support, you can add in other products like Phillips’ Hue lightbulbs and change their colour along with the Aurora, should you want all these to be doing the same thing.
But you can also get pretty creative with the app, painting individual panels with colour, or creating your own light transformation effects. You can change the speed of transitions. You can also set a time for them to come on, to automatically light a hallway from 7.30pm.
Voice Control — You can also set a voice control to turn them on via Siri. Power to the panels must always be on for voice or app control to work, then turn the lights off likewise – ie, not with the power button. This will avoid the need for the panels to search for and rejoin the wifi hub (which you set up easily via the app when you first load it up – it’s the most painless Wifi setup I’ve ever used). This has to be done each time the Aurora loses power.
Room and individual light names are set by you within the Nanoleaf app. This must be done before using voice control, or else Siri won’t really understand what you want it to do. Nanoleaf has a list of commands you can use.
Power — These aren’t going to suck your house dry of power. The most all panels together will draw is 20 watts (.5-2W per panel depending on brightness and 2W for the controller module, and up to 60W with the 30 panels that the one power module can control. They’re rated for 25,000 hours of use.
Conclusion — They’re great, I love them! Consider this for the home, but also for effective controllable lighting in commercial applications like bars, cafés and shops for flashy pizazz right down to subtle ambience. I think the price is pretty reasonable, too, considering how configurable they are. And here’s an additional benefit: shifting lights against your windows and curtains can look like someone’s home and doing stuff.
What’s great — Subtle or flashy, very controllable, this is effective, easy to use and configurable. The accessories already available add a lot more to the equation.
What’s not — Getting your configuration right, in the right place, can be a test. But since the 9 panels come with protective paper between them, these come in handy for practicing layouts with Blu-Tac for example.
Needs — Those with sophisticated, malleable lighting needs.
Nanoleaf Aurora starter kit, NZ RRP $339.99 (You can see this in operation at iStore in Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore).
System — any place with mains power. The app is for iOS, and it has HomeKit and Siri support too (you can turn it on and off by voice.) I feel it’s almost hard to describe in words and pictures but there are some good videos online, and I suggest you check them out: Here’s Nanoleaf’s, Apple has posted one, and here’s 5 Minutes for Mom’s.
More information — MacGear NZ.