After the introduction of the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter product line last month, I’ve spent nearly a week testing the new devices. These use Bluetooth and/or Thread for their connection and are available in a $19.99 A19 bulb and an 80-inch Light Strip kit for $49.99. How well do they work? Great once you have them paired to a Thread network. But there are currently some limitations.
Effectively, these smart lights are the same as previous Nanoleaf Essentials products. They gain a pre-installed firmware update for the Matter certification badge
Thread radio, however, making them available to use with the Matter standard. That’s what allows the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter lights to work with your choice of smart home ecosystem and digital assistant.
you have to use it’s recommended to use the Nanoleaf app for the Matter pairing. (See my update below as not using the app worked better for me)
The process is no different from setting up other Matter devices. You simply open the app, click to add a device, and scan the Matter QR code. Unlike my prior Matter experiences, the pairing itself takes two seconds or less. I had no problems pairing either the bulbs or the light strip when using the Matter app. And at that point, I had full control of both lighting products but only in the Nanoleaf app itself.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. If you’re using an iOS device and pair one of these with the Nanoleaf app, you will get the option to add it your Apple Home. I did and that worked. However, I couldn’t get the bulbs to connect to my Google Home. I’ll explain why shortly.
Likewise, if you use Android and the Nanoleaf app, you get the option to add the bulbs to your Google Home. I did that as well during testing and it too worked perfectly. However, I couldn’t then see the Nanoleaf products in my Apple Home app. I did see them in the Google Home app on both Android and iOS.
As it stands now, there doesn’t appear to be a way to connect the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter products to multiple platforms. Nanoleaf does point out these phone platform requirements and limitations in its online manuals, but you might not have known that at the time of purchase. And I fully expect the process to change in the future so these lights do work across multiple platforms. Nanoleaf says it’s working on adding Google Home onboarding for iOS devices with the expectation that the feature will be soon available. That will resolve the basic pairing to an ecosystem challenge. However, there’s still the open question of supporting multiple platforms in a Thread-based smart home.
UPDATE: After several hours of removing and re-adding the bulb and light strips from both Apple HomeKit and Google Home, I eventually did get multi-platform support working. During my troubleshooting, I noticed that the products were appearing multiple times in the iOS Matter Accessories list. I cleared those out from iOS and chose not to use the Nanoleaf app for the setup process. Onboarding the devices through Apple Home and Google Home did work. I am now able to control the lights with Google or Siri. I’ll attribute some of my experience with the HomeKit issues I’ve been having since iOS 16.1HomeKit issues I’ve been having since iOS 16.1. At least one commenter just received his Nanoleaf Essentials Matter product and he hasn’t had the problems that I did.
Having said that, how well do these smart lights work? If you’re familiar with the current Essentials bulbs and light strips, they provide the same experience. The only difference here is the Matter support, which preps your smart home for the future.
I was able to control the products by voice and apps (Apple Home, Google Home and the Nanoleaf app, depending on the test setup) with no issues. And thanks to Thread, device latency is practically non-existent. It’s an immediate device response when changing the brightness or colors. Both of these lights support Nanoleaf scenes and music-coordinated playlists as well.
As much as I like my Philips Hue bulbs, I find the color saturation of the Nanoleaf products a bit more robust. While I’m not a fan of the funky bulb shape on the A19, the truth is, I can live with it. I set my bulbs up so that you really don’t see them; you just see the light output.
If you’re looking for Thread-based RGB lights that also support tunable white temperatures, Nanoleaf provides a solid option. I suspect many people won’t be concerned about the multi-ecosystem challenge in its current state. I have three different ecosystems in my home whereas others have likely centered around Amazon, Apple, Google or Samsung. These don’t yet work using Matter with Amazon Alexa because Amazon has only introduced Matter over Wi-Fi, not Matter over Thread. I didn’t test SmartThings compatibility because I don’t have Samsung gear.
So if you’re unlike me and have just one smart home system, namely from Apple or Google, I think you’ll like these Nanoleaf Essentials Matter lights. If you do have multiple platforms in your house, you might want to wait and see how the multi-controller support shakes out.
Updated on 4/14/2023 to reflect that Matter’s multi-platform support is working.