Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights review: driving home (automation) for Christmas

The smart way to light up the festive period

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights around a banister
(Image: © Nanoleaf)

TechRadar Verdict

The Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights are a much cheaper alternative to the Phillips Hue Festavia Christmas lights, and provide more than enough to experiment and have some fun with. If you already have Nanoleaf products, and if you like to put on a show for Christmas, these are a no-brainer.


  • +

    Can be used indoors or outdoors

  • +

    Matter, Google Home, Apple Home, and Alexa compatible

  • +

    Great selection of scenes and very customizable


  • -

    iPhone application is a bit wayward

  • -

    Some features difficult to access or poorly explained

  • -

    Indescrete black cord

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Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights: One-minute review

LED Christmas lights have been around for a while now, filling our homes with potentially headache-inducing flashing festive patterns. Now, thanks to the wonders of home automation you can induce those headaches remotely, and in 16 million colors.

Joking aside, these smart Christmas tree lights are very good, which should come as no surprise given that Nanoleaf makes some of the best smart lights. While the Philips Hue Festavia lights come in three different lengths (depending on what region you’re in) the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights come in one size only: 66ft / 20m, with 250 bulbs split into two 33ft / 10m strips for easy tree decoration. However, they’re a lot cheaper – Hue’s alternative of the same size come in at $219.99 / £199.99 / AU$359.95 whereas Nanoleaf’s are $119 / £119. There’s no availability in Australia as of writing. 

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights

(Image credit: Future)

The lights are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, but have a similar design flaw to the Festavia lights from Hue – the black wire. It’s such a silly oversight given that most people are decorating green trees, and it makes them a lot less discreet. Another similarity I’d rather not see is how sparse these lights are – they’re spaced 3.15 inches / 8 cm apart, so you won’t find it easy to achieve a densely lit tree with these lights.

The lights are controlled with Nanoleaf’s companion app, and I found the initial setup straightforward. After a while though, the application started to alert me that there was a firmware upgrade which then disappeared by the time I got to the screen used to update it.

When it did eventually find a more recent firmware and updated itself, the lights then became unavailable in Apple HomeKit. The situation was not resolved until I uninstalled the Nanoleaf app, removed the device from Homekit, and then reinstalled everything. I experienced similar black holes of wasted time troubleshooting software issues with the Nanoleaf 4D TV-syncing strip lights, but it’s worth noting that this may be attributable to the amount of change in my Home automation setup and that both products were very new at the time of testing. However, these repeated issues do not inspire confidence in the quality of the software. I wasn’t able to test the selection of themes via HomeKit because the themes were simply not there.

Nanoleaf app print screens showing the Palette List and Color Picker

(Image credit: Future)

On the whole, though, the app is nicely laid out and uncluttered. The phone application comes with nine preconfigured scenes for you to select from, or you can create your own. Each scene consists of a palette of up to seven colors, and one of nine ‘motions’ (sequences). 

The scenes are very effective, and serve as a showcase for what’s possible with a little experimentation – and I found myself experimenting a lot. It’s commendable that Nanoleaf allows you to create your own scenes, although after experimenting with half a dozen of my own I couldn’t find a way to delete the ones that were rubbish. Also, some of the names of the scenes and palettes are the same, meaning it’s easy to get confused. 

It’s also possible to forgo the cycling patterns and have the lights react to sound via the microphone in the base unit, and you can also use a button on the wire to shuffle through the preconfigured scenes, which is a nice touch.

The ‘Crackling Fireplace’ theme certainly made me feel like breaking out the chestnuts – which is impressive, given that even if you had the most powerful microscope in the world, you would not be able to find my Christmas spirit. 

‘Jingle Bell Rock’ is also wonderful for its simple color choice, and is one of the two stock example schemes featuring sound-activated ‘motions’. The ‘Reindeer Gamer’ scheme is a nod to Nanaoleaf’s gamer roots, which worked well to entice me.

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights wrapped around a racing chair

(Image credit: Future)

I also found the set of nine Motions interesting and unusual; the ‘Organic’ light pattern, in particular, is very interesting, and I could imagine it being even more entertaining after a Christmas tipple. 

It’s worth mentioning the ease with which you can pack these lights away, and when you come to do this you’ll realize why splitting the lights into two lengths is the way to go. They bundle up very neatly, avoiding the yearly ‘tangled mass of wires in a biscuit tin in the attic’ scenario – it would be even easier if Nanoleaf implemented a feature that lit only the last bulb on each string, which would make taking it off of the tree so much easier.

Darth Vadar figurine holding the Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights

 “I find your lack of Christmas spirit disturbing.”  (Image credit: Future)

The sound-activated motions kind of work, but are limited by the microphone in the base unit. The base unit will probably end up on the floor, so it will respond to footsteps rather than any music playing through your speakers, which is a bit annoying. 

Placing the base unit next to a subwoofer works pretty well; however, there is a slight delay, and it doesn’t always do what you think it would do, but it’s good enough – and Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine was probably not the best choice of track to test the feature with, in fairness. There’s plenty of scope for creating a fantastic light show with this feature if you set the lights up around Grandma’s chair for when she falls asleep snoring after the Christmas meal. 

Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights around a computer

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights: Price and availability

  •  List price: $119 /  £119 

The Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights are available for $119 / £119 directly from the Nanoleaf website, and at the time of writing, they were discounted slightly. You can also buy them from Amazon.

This makes the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights significantly cheaper than their biggest competition, the Philips Hue Festavia, which come in at nearly double the price. Given that this product is arguably better for most users, I’d say that’s a huge win. As of writing, there’s no availability in Australia, but hopefully, that’ll be rectified in time for Christmas next year! 

Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights: Specs

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Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights
Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights
Price:$119 / £119
Designed for:Indoor and outdoor (IP44)
Dimensions:65.6ft / 20m, 250 bulbs total, LED spacing 3.15 inches / 8cm
Colours:16 million
Lifetime up to:10,000h
Smart home compatibility:Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Matter
Mobile compatibility: iOS, Android

Should I buy the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights?

Buy it if...

You already have other Nanoleaf products

If you’re already stocked up with some of Nanoleaf’s other bulbs, strips, and shapes, the Nanoleaf smart holiday lights are the perfect addition. 

You want to upgrade your old festive lights

Untangling Christmas tree lights and tweaking every bulb to find the one that is blown is not a Christmas tradition, it’s a fire hazard.

You hate Christmas, but you love tech

For just $99 / £119 you can achieve world peace. Bargain.

Don't buy it if... 

You’re on a budget

If your existing lights do what you want (and are safe) you’ll manage without these; or you can opt for dumb lights for a fraction of the price.

You have an enormous Christmas tree

Twenty meters sounds a lot, but if you need to go around the back of a large tree as well it won’t be enough.

How I tested the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights

  • I installed the Nanoleaf application and added the lights to Apple HomeKit
  • I tested each of the nine preset scenes and created several custom palettes
  • I tested the features where practical

I wrapped the lights around several objects in my house (I don’t have a Christmas tree), and tried to imagine what would be important to a person whose interest in Christmas was greater than zero.

I unpacked and packed the lights away several times to test the likelihood of the lights and packaging lasting for several years – this is something that’s particularly important for devices that only get used once a year, and these are not cheap lights, although they’re versatile enough that they could be put to a more general use throughout the year. The lights passed this test.

I did not count all 16 million colors, but I can say that they’re bright and colorful. I was disappointed that I could not voice-activate the schemes through Apple HomeKit, but not disappointed enough to go to the trouble of making it work through an Apple shortcut or something. I can’t think of a scenario where voice activation would be of any benefit anyway, other than scaring the jingle bells out of Santa as he emerges from the fireplace.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed December 2023


For 20 years, Les has worked in and around software development, meaning he's a pretty dab hand with a computer. Beyond that, he's known as "Gadget-man" to his friends, constantly in search of the latest and greatest tech to geek out over. In his spare time, you'll find Les in his man cave, also known as "the Lab", whether he's trying out 3D modeling and printing, gaming, practicing software development, or playing with electronics. He's a huge F1 fan, a lover of all things Star Wars and DC, and an avid LEGO builder.