While the “gamer” aesthetic used to mean sharp angles and over-enthusiastic, absurdly proportioned artwork (opens in a new tab) decorating our hardware, now it’s about the RGB. If a piece of technology isn’t a halo of myriad addressable RGB LEDs, then it’s hard to pretend it’s designed for gaming.
And you don’t have to be a tech journalist with a few decades of experience to know that technology with colored lights brightening it up will do it. always perform much better than something that doesn’t use external power just to light up.
Even in places where you wouldn’t expect RGB lighting to be useful or even desirable, we’ve seen it added. Headphones, for example, where you can’t even see what’s going on around your ears, now go RGB. And SSDs too, because they don’t get hot enough by themselves.
And so, when I considered how to upgrade my humble home, there was really only one option. After all, I had never actually painted a wall or done any kind of interior design that required a permanent solution. No, I wanted to overclock my house the only way I know how, with slabs of RGB lighting on my walls.
Even in my bedroom where a thoroughly pink aesthetic was pushed by forces greater than my own. Somehow, I managed to squeeze a little toy into the boudoir, with the express permission of my partner. What a world we live in.
Nanoleaf is probably the biggest name in RGB home lighting panels, although Philips has its own claims for homebrew light shows with its Hue bulbs. But, thanks to streamers and YouTubists haloing themselves with Nanoleaf strips and panels, it’s become the company for your RGB computer background.
Nanoleaf is the established player and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a set of matte black light panels. But there is also an upstart, Govee, which has only been going since 2017, but has already gained a bit of a following. (opens in a new tab). You know, with the RGB opponents.
So I put the traditional white Nanoleaf Forms (opens in a new tab) triangular panels, against its new black triangles and the hexagonal Govee Glide Hexa Pro (opens in a new tab) panels in a battle for the ages. Well, a battle to see who gets the nod from my long-suffering partner and actually gets to go on our bedroom wall.
See, the bedroom wall panel is the gateway drug to RGB lighting for the whole house, allowing me to expand into the more difficult stuff: sticking a set of panels up in our hall and the family room, too.
“Instead of buying a new lamp for the bedside table,” I suggest, “how about we at least go and mount some panels on the wall?”
I’ll admit, I expected some pushback, not a willing collaborator. And yet here I am with addressable RGB panels lighting a different room in my home.
The different kits are similarly priced, with the Nanoleaf Shapes Triangle Starter Kit being $200 (opens in a new tab) (in nine panels, as I played), while the Govee Glide Hexa Pro kit (with ten panels) is on sale for $175. (opens in a new tab) right now Although I will say if you are hooked, the price of upgrading these kits is tall An additional three panels for either Govee or Nanoleaf comes in at $70. Ouch.
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In the end we actually decided on the Govee Glide Hexa Pro panels for a main position in the bedroom, which is perhaps a surprising choice given the popularity of the Nanoleaf panels. But the reasons are more about usability than aesthetics. Although the hexagonal panels, with their separated sections of addressable RGB lighting, do allow you to create more interesting 3D effects than with the more uniform Nanoleaf triangles.
But it was the ease of setting them up, and the fact that there is a very obvious, very physical “on” button that makes them more like a traditional lamp. If only wow more expensive The Nanoleaf panels also have buttons, so you don’t have to rely on turning them on with the smartphone app, but it’s not that intuitive and is positioned on the primary panel that feeds power to the whole group.
Because they are on the light panel themselves, the Nanoleaf buttons have been designed to be invisible. Which makes actually hitting the right one, and not the random disco light button, a bit of a lottery. The Govee button is along the power cable, away from the panels, and is just a single, physically depressed button that even my 3 year old can find at 6am to wake us up.
I also really liked the design help of the Govee app, which allows you to create the wall display you want virtually, and then helps you arrange the physical panels, with the connectors threaded into the right places, to weave your pattern on the wall . . Using the removable adhesive pads, it’s a simple matter to get your light show up and running.
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It’s also easy to connect them to your network so you can actually control them through your app. I run a Google Nest router at home, which has served me well over the years and, while the Govee panels will only connect on a 2.4GHz network, not 5GHz, they’ve had no problem with the Nest’s mixed signals. set up
You see, Google doesn’t have discrete connections for 2.4GHz and 5GHz, which isn’t usually a problem because most apps and devices are smart enough to handle that if they require one or the other.
Not so with Nanoleaf.
I know it’s a one-time setup deal, and that once you’re in place you shouldn’t have to worry about going through the trials of hooking your lights into your home network, but connecting the Nanoleaf panels to the Nest router almost had me in tears
In fact, I had to take it down, take a few hours’ breather, and come back again after I had calmed down enough not to put my fist through a still unlit triangular panel.
The problem is that the Nanoleaf’s connection isn’t smart enough to just train itself on the 2.4GHz network and needs manual intervention to convince it not to keep banging its head against the 5GHz wall and failing to connect. And what form did this manual intervention take? Walking around the garden on my cell phone, for the very specific amount of time the app allowed for a connection, until I got far enough away from my router, the 5GHz signal wasn’t available and it defaulted to 2.4GHz instead.
It was a frustrating time. And one I was careful not to repeat. Except that it was the same with the white and black panels. Although when I jumped through the hoops with the white version, I at least knew the measurements needed to connect the black anniversaries.
The setup is one thing, but what about the actual lights? Well, I will say that I actually prefer the lighting on the Nanoleaf panels. Although only the white ones.
But what about those fancy 10 year old black Nanoleaf panels? Well, honestly, they’re a little disappointing. Disappointingly dull compared to either the vibrant Govee or the traditional white Nanoleaf panels, and I’m afraid I hardly ever bother turning them on.
It seems obvious when you think about it, but the matte black Nanoleaf panels are much duller than the white ones, and you end up with a much weaker effect from them. The traditional white Nanoleaf triangles, however, can be blazingly bright and really light up a room.
Once connected the setup of the Nanoleaf app is also really good. Where the Govee software shows you how to nest the panels into each other to create the display you want, the Nanoleaf app is more user-oriented. You plug the panels into each other, and the app reflects the way you arranged them yourself.
And you can also download and upload templates. There are tons of user-created and official Nanoleaf light patterns that can change colors or react to sound in different ways, and it lets you keep things fresh if you want to change.
The Govee app, however, has quite a few different presets you can use—and they’re really effective—but as far as I know, that’s what you’re left with unless you want to start designing your own. That makes it feel much more limited, and the Govee software also doesn’t feel as slick and intuitive as the Nanoleaf.
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Both Govee and Nanoleaf can plug into your home network, though, as in your Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, or Amazon Alexa stuff. And that means you don’t have spend time messing with individual programs to light up your home. Assign a room to each, and then you can simply tell your phone or smart speaker to turn on the lights, turn them green, or have a disco full of pulsing light show wherever you want.
Although obviously voice control is still error-prone, and I’ve turned on the bedroom lights in the middle of the night, waking my partner in a blinding panic, when I actually just meant to turn off the lights downstairs.
Because yes, while Govee may have won the battle for the bedroom, with its ease of setup and physical controls, the white Nanoleaf panels won a place in my heart, and my home office, thanks to the realistic lighting effects and the fact that I . may change it when I inevitably get bored with the shiny jungle theme I’m currently rocking.