Nanoleaf Lines review: These smart, backlit light lines put on a show

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Nanoleaf has always prided itself on breaking the mold with its smart lights, from its earliest light panels to its Shapes and recent Elements line. Heck, even Nanoleaf’s 120-sided “Essentials” A19 bulb dances to its own beat. Now Nanoleaf has something new up its sleeve: Lines, a modular smart lighting product with backlit, foot-long “line lights” that shine in up to 16 million colors and snap onto hexagonal connectors, allowing for a variety of customizable designs.

Unlike Nanoleaf’s previous smart lighting product, the Elements light panels, the Lines aren’t understated or subtle. While the monochromatic, “wood-look” Elements were designed to blend in to your dining room decor, the colorful, eye-catching Lines are practically begging to go with your RGB-equipped gaming rig, where they can jazz up your Twitch stream and even mirror the colors on your screen. And while the handsome Elements look pretty good when they’re not glowing, the same can’t be said of the Lines, which are a bit of an eyesore when they’re powered off.

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

I’ve been testing Nanoleaf Lines for about a week, and they’ve been a blast to use. Installed above my MacBook’s external 4K display, the easy-to-install Lines look sensational, and they’re easy to control and schedule using both the Nanoleaf app and Apple’s HomeKit platform. (Nanoleaf Lines is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, too.) Lines can also pulsate along to music, and you can group your Lines installation with other Nanoleaf lights.

But Nanoleaf dropped a key feature of the Elements and Shapes panels from its new Lines series: touch sensitivity, meaning you won’t be able to wow your guests with touch-enabled light games or by tapping a line to trigger a HomeKit smart plug. Also (and as with Nanoleaf’s other smart lighting products), the Lines don’t come cheap.

Specifications

Available at the end of November for $200 (pre-orders have already begun), the Nanoleaf Lines Smarter Kit contains nine “light lines,” each of which is roughly 11 inches long, 0.78 inches wide, and about a third of an inch deep.

nanoleaf lines light bar Ben Patterson/IDG

Roughly a foot long, the “light lines” in Nanoleaf’s Lines Smarter Kit feet incredibly light.

Weighing only 0.08 pounds each, the light lines (or “bars,” take your pick) feel extremely light. Of course, this featherweight design is the result of Nanoleaf’s aforementioned decision to jettison the touch sensitivity feature found in the Elements and Shapes light panels. I’ll discuss the ramifications of that omission in a bit.

Also in the box are nine hexagonal mounting connectors, which act as compact hubs for up to six light lines; nine caps that you snap onto the mounting connectors once you’ve attached the proper number of light lines; and 10 mounting plates, which each have double-sided pull tape as well as a pair of mounting holes for screws.

nanoleaf lines connector Ben Patterson/IDG

You can attach up to six “light lines” into each mounting connector, and when you’re done connecting, you secure the lines with a connector cap.

A tenth mounting connector doubles as a controller, with its own snap-on cap equipped with clickable power and control buttons, as well as a captive cable that attaches to a slim power connector containing a Thread border router. The power connector, in turn, connects to a second cable that terminates in a chunky wall wart.

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