There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
The Tester: Stefan Vazharov, a heavy user of connected appliances
The Brief: Nanoleaf took less than a decade to build a stellar reputation for making high-quality connected light panels with customizable designs and seamless smart home integration. While some of the brand’s fantastic products can be a bit pricey, Nanoleaf recently launched an Essentials lineup of affordable products with smart bulbs that start at just $20. Needless to say, I instantly jumped at the opportunity to test them out.
The first thing that impressed me about the Nanoleaf Essentials A19 lightbulbs was their insanely futuristic shape. The striking design makes other smart lightbulbs look dated and nowhere near as high-tech — making them ideal for exposed bulb light fixtures and lamps.
Setting up the lightbulbs is incredibly easy, too. All you need to do is install them into the socket of your preferred light, then follow their companion app’s onscreen instructions. Available on iPhone and Android devices, the Nanoleaf app allows you to adjust the bulb’s color (there are millions to choose from) and brightness, as well as set schedules for its operation, among many other features. There are lighting presets you can access as well.
Circadian lighting is a handy feature that really had me sold while testing the A19. Based on your location, it tunes your lightbulbs to match the daylight patterns in your area — a feature I found particularly helpful on cloudy days to help me stay energized and focused.
My favorite thing about the smart home integration of the Nanoleaf Essentials A19 is that you don’t need a hub to access it. This feature is what really puts these bulbs in a league of their own compared to their pricier competitor. For comparison, if used without a hub, the Philips Hue lights rely on a less sophisticated Bluetooth connection, preventing you from being able to control them remotely (which is kind of the whole point of these futuristic bulbs.)
It’s important to note that while the Essentials A19 lightbulb is compatible with Apple HomeKit and the Google Assistant, it does not offer smart home integration with Amazon Alexa.
Closing argument: I’d pick the Nanoleaf Essentials A19 lightbulbs over their Philips Hue rivals in a heartbeat. They’re cooler, plenty feature-packed, and, most importantly, are significantly cheaper. A trio of lightbulbs — enough for a significant home makeover — will cost you only $50, while single units cost only $20. For comparison, a standalone Philips Hue white and color ambiance lightbulb with Bluetooth connectivity will set you back $45.
According to their maker, the A19 lightbulbs have a lifespan of 25,000 hours. The Nanoleaf Essentials lineup also includes an easy-to-install light strip with an adjustable length.
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