Cal was lucky enough to get his hands on the latest offering from Nanoleaf; the Canvas. So, did it light up his life?
High intensity illumination with vibrant colour output.
Flexibility of installation allows for a creative lighting installation.
Easy to setup and play with.
Mounting hardware provided could be improved.
Network resilience needs work.
A large array of Canvas panels is needed to truly utilise the screen mirror function, which is a costly outlay.
Immersion. It’s what gamer’s strive for and what publisher marketing execs have made cliche. Now, with the recent development of cheap, high output colour changing LED’s and wireless automation, we now have lighting that aims to assist you in feeling more involved in your favourite movie or computer game.
This has been widely adopted by the content creation community with what seems every second you-tuber or streamer showing off whatever colour of LED illuminated goodness their heart desires.
Nanoleaf have been catering to this market for sometime with many a famous content creator adorning their walls with their popular light panels - such as Deadmau5’s amazing installation which can be seen on his mixer stream. The multicoloured LED triangle that can be synced to music; allowing the user to not only create some amazing colours, but linked together to create some fantastic dynamic wall art.
Now, Nanoleaf have brought out a new development - the Canvas. I was lucky enough to get a 9 piece smarter kit to put it through its paces.
What’s in the box.
In the smarter kit you get:
9 canvas panels, including a control square
Links, which are small lengths of printed circuit boards with tabs that allow you to connect the panels together.
Tabbed double sided tape for mounting the canvas panels.
Put simply - enough to mount, wire and power up the canvas.
Instructions do come in the box, but they are deliberately light on detail. If you want more detailed how to information, there is a QR code which sends you to a bunch of very useful YouTube videos.
Installation… the good and the bad.
The installation in a nutshell is pretty simple, but there are pitfalls. First, lay out the panels face down and to suss out the design you want. For this I enlisted some expert help; my 9 year old daughter whom is infinitely times more creative than I.
Each panel has slots on the corners in which the links slide into to make an electrical connection to a neighbour. This will constrain your design decisions as you need to make sure your panels interlink, otherwise no light. Fortunately there is an app that can be downloaded that you can use to test your design before committing. Fear not, with a little thought and planning I couldn’t see too many designs which couldn’t be installed.
Now, for the wall mounting. As mentioned the kit comes with enough double sided mounting tape pieces to fix around three or so pieces per panel to a surface. The mounting tape provided are the type which has a tab that allows you to pull it and remove the tape without marking. However, you need to be very careful and deliberate in your tape placement as the tab is very short, and without being very very careful, the tape will break mid pull - which happened to me several times. I recommend not using the provided tape and spending an extra $20 and getting longer tape pieces from 3M, as they are far more forgiving.
Secondly, trying to align the link piece while mounting a panel, and keep it straight AND not accidentally stick it to the wall takes some doing…. I think I have a link lost between the wall and my panels when one slipped out just as I was about to mount a panel. Plus, I ran out of tape tabs, so my control panel now sits precariously on top of all the others. I am also not looking forward to ever having to remove my panels; as some of the ‘removable’ tabs are behind other panels - meaning there will be some very gentle persuasion needed otherwise my plan to repaint my study will be brought forward.
Setting this up is a breeze - downloading the app, follow the installation instructions and within about 2 minutes I had my panel running off of my phone.
The android app is intuitive; and allows you to choose from a range of pre-installed scenes, ranging from various whites through to simple automated colour scenes, rhythm scenes that react to sound and interactive ones that utilise the touch inputs of the panels.
The app allows you to download other scenes and colour selections from a cloud site, based on other user’s designs. The app also allows you to create your own scenes; with the app automatically identifying the configuration of your panel installation, which I thought was very cool, and then giving you a full range of colours, automations and inputs to play with.
Where the canvas comes into its own however is through the PC app. This web based app has all the functionality of the mobile one, but also allows you to instigate screen mirroring. Setup is again simple; choose the alignment of the panels, pick your output screen to mirror and flick a switch.
I also chose to integrate this into my google home profile. This was a simple exercise to start with. Setting this up allowed me to start playing with voice activation, which the Canvas responded well to. What the Canvas doesn’t respond well to is loss of network connectivity. Due to my protest against my aforementioned daughter spending too much time on Roblox I decided to switch the router off. This in turn meant that the Canvas loss all sense of the network, and itself. After an hour, removing all existence of the Canvas from all apps and several choice words, all was well again; however it did reveal a flaw with the Canva’s network resilience.
I Can See the Light….
From a performance perspective, the Canvas panels work really well. The LED’s punch out a good light intensity without being a glare source and the colour richness is even and vibrant. On white, you could even use the starter as a key light for streaming if you wanted to justify another use for it.
Ambient lighting (to which this system lends itself) is meant to set a mood within a space. The Nanoleaf Canvas excels at this task, throwing a diffuse, rich light within a room.
The screen mirror function aims to mimic the colours as an ambient light to what you see on the screen. I tried this with both a TV show and games and was impressed with the responsiveness of the panels to the screen output. Possibly due to the location of the panels to my screen, or the layout of my panels I didn’t feel that it greatly increased the immersion into what content I was consuming; but I did love the effect. A larger canvas panel set may have also helped improve this effect also.
The Canvas advances on the success of the light panels; not only delivering a square module rather than a triangle, but offering additional functionality of providing touch sensitivity on each panel. Now, at a press of a panel and with the right settings, each panel will change colour. I did not test this extensively, but my daughters did enjoy playing with the tiles on some scenes, with the touch functionality working well; responding to inputs quickly and with minimal force needed.
To sum up, the Nanoleaf Canvas is a cool system. It allows you to design very easily, vibrant and interactive lighting installations that can be reconfigured with minimal damage to your wall. It can act as a backlight or a feature ambient light with equal success and integrates reasonably well into common home automation systems. The screen mirror function is impressive; although I am unsure of its use for gaming, and is possible better suited to a theatre room environment.
At a RRP of $319 AUD it is on the expensive side; even in comparison to what could be considered its contemporary such as the Phillips Hue lighting bars (which are about half the price). That said, the Hue doesn’t have the functionality, flexibility or element of creativity the Canvas has.
If you are wanting an ambient lighting system which is easy to install, use and can be admired equally as a work of interactive art as well as a lighting source, then the Nanoleaf Canvas is for you. If you want to just provide some funky RGB background lighting on your twitch stream, the Canvas is an expensive option; and to be fair would be severely underutilised.