Product Reviews

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever.

James Bruce 18-12-2018
Our verdict of the Nanoleaf Canvas:
The Nanoleaf Canvas is a stunning, vibrant, modular lighting centrepiece. Get creative and make your own design; then load your own unique music reactive lighting scenes.

Modular, customizable, sound and even touch reactive: the Nanoleaf Canvas is just stunning. It’s a vibrant and creative smart lighting installation for your wall or ceiling, with all the smart features you’ve come to expect.


What’s In The Box?

In the starter kit you’ll find:

  • 1 controller panel
  • 8 standard panels
  • Power adaptor
  • 8 connector strips
  • Lots of mounting stickers (3 per panel, plus a spare or two)

Each panel measures 6 inches (15cm) square. The controller panel lights up, just as the standard panels do, but it also houses the microphone and capacitive buttons.

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas contents 670x447

The starter kit costs $250 (also available from HomeDepot [No Longer Available]). Additional panels can be purchased in packs of four, at a cost of $80. UK folks: unusually, the Nanoleaf Canvas is actually cheaper for you, available for £180

Design Your Layout

Before mounting your Canvas, you’ll need to use the layout designer in the app to plan your design. You can randomise a starting point, then drag and drop panels until you have your desired shape.


Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas link designer 670x377

Since the rear of the Canvas panels is asymmetrical, you’ll need to refer to the link view when connecting the panels. Use three mounting stickers per panel. Some panels will need to rotated in order for the connectors to line up, and the app will let you know if your layout is invalid (as in the screenshot above).

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas putting on stickers 670x377

The upside to this slightly more complex connector arrangement is that panels can be offset, and not simply laid out like a pixel block display (though you can of course do that too, if you wish, you’re not forced to offset the panels). This allows for far more creative freedom, and meant I was able to create a small circular design from just the 9 panels included in the starter set.


Your controller panel can be located anywhere on your design, as can the point at which you inject power from the adaptor. So as long as you follow the link layout outlined in the designer, putting your pattern together couldn’t be easier.

Trio of Smarts: Alexa, Google, and HomeKit

Nanoleaf support all three of the major voice assistant and smart home standards, which we applaud. All three systems support color and scene selections via voice control. Adding the Canvas to our HomeKit was as simple as scanning the QR code on the power adaptor: the app even knew exactly how our design was laid out, without any input from us.

Note that like most smart home products, Nanoleaf requires a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network. If your router only broadcast a 5GHz network, you won’t be able to connect these.

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas app knows layout 670x377


Not a fan of voice assistants? Not a problem. The app has a few scenes out of the box, but we’d strongly recommend you connect it to Wi-Fi anyway, then use the Nanoleaf app to download new scenes. As well as those made by Nanoleaf, the community has created thousands, all free to download. If that’s not enough, use the designer to create your unique patterns and color pallete.

Play Games on Your Lights

New to the Nanoleaf Canvas is a touch sensor in each panel. As well as adding a little interactivity to basic color scenes, you can enable gesture controls, such as double tap to turn on or off, or swipe up to increase brightness.

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas touching 670x377

This feature has also opened up some more interesting interactive scenes. Currently available to download are:

  • Conway’s Game of Life simulation
  • Whack a Mole
  • Simon
  • Memory
  • Pacman

Some of these games—like Conway’s Game of Life or Pacman—don’t make much sense on a small, 9 panel circular design. For those you really need a much larger install, well beyond that of a typical consumer budget. Simon and Memory games work great even on smaller installs, though. Obviously, they aren’t the most compelling gaming experiences ever, but it’s a fun feature for children or guests. I can see these being a hit in hotels or corporate lobbies.

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas touch games 670x377

Unlike color and rhythm scenes, there’s currently no way to create your own interactive experiences. For STEM teaching, this could be a great avenue for Nanoleaf explore in future, so I’m interested to see where this goes.

Nanoleaf Rhythm Light Panels: What’s the Difference?

Some of you may recall my review of the Nanoleaf Rhythm Light Panels Nanoleaf Light Panels: Smart Lighting Doesn't Get Any Better Than This Nanoleaf Rhythm is the coolest smart lighting kit, ever: customizable, modular, expandable, and visible even in the daytime. The music reactive Rhythm mode is incredible, and it doesn't need a smartphone to work. Compatible with... Read More earlier in the year. Those are still available for $230, compared to $250 for the Canvas. So what’s the difference?

  • Obviously, these are square, while the Light Panels are triangular. This might seem superficial, but it’s easier to translate a logo or think of a specific design made from square pixels, than it it to think of it in triangles.
  • The Light Panels were limited to connecting in only a single way on each side. The Canvas’ connector pattern means panels can be connected either straight on, or offset, though this does complicate installation a little. This allows for even more creative freedom with laying out your design.
  • The Light Panels had a separate controller and Rhythm module which plugged into the panels. This was a little clunky, and restricted your design in terms of where the power could be injected. The Canvas integrates the discreet capacitive control buttons and rhythm module into a single, special panel. Apart from the buttons, the control panel looks and behaves the same as any other, and can be placed anywhere convenient in the design. Power can then be injected from any edge with a slimline cable.
  • The Canvas adds a touch sensor to every panel.

Otherwise, the products are functionally identical. The same Nanoleaf app is used, the same color and rhythm scenes can be downloaded, and the same smart voice features work on both products.

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas setup 670x377

How Does Nanoleaf Canvas Compare?

At $250 for a 9 panel set, and $80 for an additional pack of 4 panels, the Nanoleaf Canvas doesn’t come cheap–but then smart lighting rarely is. To put that in perspective, a 5 x 10 pixel Canvas installation would set you back about $1000. The Canvas emits about 100 lumens per panel, so the starter kit has a total light output of a little more than an a 60w bulb (that is, enough to light up an entire room).

Comparing the Nanoleaf Canvas to Philips Hue smart lighting is fair: they both offer a similar feature set of voice control, smart home integration, and music reactive modes. Philips offers a more developed and open API, so you’ll find lots of third party apps and integrations The 7 Best Philips Hue Apps for Android and iPhone Looking for the best Philips Hue apps to use with your smart lights? Here are several great apps for iPhone and Android. Read More to extend functionality. You can even use your Hue bulbs as an ambilight for your PC. A Hue starter kit including four color bulbs costs around $200. Each bulbs emits about 800 lumens. Purely in terms of light output, Hue represents better value, though you will of course be limited in terms of suitable light fixings. Standalone Hue devices such as lightstrips are also available, but cost considerably more. The Nanoleaf Canvas is entirely standalone.

However, while a smart bulb such as Philips Hue is effective only when there’s little or no ambient light, the Canvas panels are perfectly visible in daytime. Each panel concentrates its color into the frosted panel facade. The results are incredible.

Nanoleaf Canvas: Coolest. Lights. Ever. nanoleaf canvas light throughout room 670x377

The Canvas gives you the best of both worlds. It’s a stunning centrepiece during the day, and a great ambient or party light at night. The photos and videos really don’t do it justice, and I had no end of difficulty exposing shots properly. In reality, the colors are utterly vibrant, night or day. There’s really no comparable product on the market.

If you don’t particularly care about the touch sensitive features, the original Nanoleaf Rhythm Light Panels are available for a slightly cheaper $230. They are otherwise functionally identical. The only real difference is the aesthetic of pixel blocks versus triangles, so ultimately it comes down to which aesthetic you prefer.


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Nanoleaf Canvas Starter Kit

Related topics: LED Lights, MakeUseOf Giveaway, Philips Hue, Smart Lighting.

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