Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip review: A bright, affordable and Thread-enabled LED light strip

Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip review: A bright, affordable and Thread-enabled LED light strip

Smart LED light strips that are well designed yet reasonably priced are hard to come by, which is why we’re enthusiastic—to a degree, anyway—about the Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip. Compatible with Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant, this bright, 80-inch light strip benefits from easy setup and Nanoleaf’s sleek mobile app. And at just $50, it’s considerably less expensive than the competing Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus. But like Nanoleaf’s other Essential’s product, a 120-sided A19 smart bulb, the Essentials Lightstrip comes with some important and potentially deal-breaking caveats.

For starters, the Lightstrip’s most advanced features depend on Thread, the IP-based wireless protocol backed by such tech stalwarts as Apple, Google, and Samsung. Thread is attractive for a number reasons, including low latency, low power consumption, and—best of all—beefed-up security. Thread requires a “border” router, and the only consumer model on the market right now is Apple’s $99 HomePod Mini. If you don’t already have one, that adds a hefty premium to the Lightstrip’s cost of entry.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart LED bulbs, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping this category.

A cheaper alternative would be to skip the HomePod Mini and control the Lightstrip via Bluetooth; doing so, however, means you’ll miss out on some of the Lightstrip’s best features, including the ability to control it outside your home. And speaking of key features, many of them—namely the ability to sync with computer monitors, music, and Nanoleaf’s Shapes light panels—aren’t ready for prime time yet.

Finally, you might have noticed an important smart home integration that the Essentials Lightstrip decidedly doesn not support: Alexa. That alone could be a deal-breaker for smart home users who are deeply invested in Amazon’s smart home ecosystem.


There are currently just two products in Nanoleaf’s Essentials line: the Lightstrip reviewed here, and the A19 Essentials color bulb. Nanoleaf says that more Essentials products are on the way, and we’ve seen promotional materials that picture BR30 floodlights, decorative candle bulbs, and GU10 and GU24 downlights, but Nanoleaf hasn’t made any of those lights official yet.

The Lightstrip itself is about two meters (80 inches) long and a little over a half-inch wide, with about 21 LEDs per meter in groups of five. You can also add up to eight 1-meter extensions ($25 each) to the Lightstrip, for a total length of 10 meters; if you add more extensions beyond 10 meters, the brightness of the LEDs will start to dim.

There’s a peel-and-stick adhesive backing on the opposite side of the strip, while a 5.7-inch cable connects a palm-sized controller to one end. That controller, in turn, connects to a nearly two-meter power cord, which terminates in a chunky AC adapter that’s large enough to block nearby outlets. It’s worth noting that only the Lightstrip “Starter Kit” includes the controller and the AC adapter, while the 1-meter extension comes only with the light strip itself.

nanoleaf lightstrip essentials controller Ben Patterson/IDG

The in-line controller for the Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip includes buttons for power, brightness, and for cycling through color scenes.

Rated to last up to 25,000 hours, the Essentials Lightstrip’s white light can be tuned from a warm 2,700 Kelvin (about the same color temperature as a warm-white bulb for a bedroom) to a cool 6,500K (which is equivalent to daylight on a hazy day). The Lightstrip can also glow in up to 16 million colors, but only in a single color at a time; in other words, don’t expect to see any rainbow patterns.

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