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Want to decorate your walls with glowing, pulsating light panels? If you don’t want to shell out the dough for Nanoleaf’s popular, touch-enabled light panels, Govee has a (marginally) more affordable alternative: the Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels, an obvious gloss on Nanoleaf’s Shapes line.
Like the Nanoleaf lights, Govee’s Glide modular panels can be arranged in different patterns and can shine in millions of different colors, and you can choose from more than a dozen elaborate animations or create your own. The Glide Hexa Light Panels are also smart, capable of being scheduled or controlled with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands.
But while Govee’s panels look pretty snazzy once they’re installed on your wall, they’re harder to install than the Nanoleaf panels, and they’re more restrictive in terms of the possible arrangements. The Glide Hexa panels also lack the Nanoleaf’s touch abilities, and they don’t offer support for Apple HomeKit or Thread, as Nanoleaf does. Finally, you can’t share your customized light animations with other members of the Govee community, a key benefit of the Nanoleaf panels.
Now, it makes sense that the Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels are missing some of Nanoleaf’s features given that they’re cheaper than the Nanoleaf panels, but they’re not that much cheaper: A 7-piece kit of the Glide Hexa Light Panels has a list price of $169.99, just $30 less than a 7-pack of Nanoleaf Shapes panels. (We reviewed Govee’s 10-panel kit, which retails for $199.99.) It just seems like you’re giving up a lot of functionality for only modest savings.
If you prefer the look of the Govee panels to that of the Nanoleaf lights (the competitors do have some key design differences) of if you’ve already invested in other Govee lights and want to say in the same ecosystem, the Glide Hexa Light Panels make for an eye-catching way of decorating your walls. But the Nanoleaf light panels offer much more bang for the buck.
Budget smart home manufacturer Govee specializes in low-cost versions–some might say knock-offs–of popular smart lighting products, with mixed results. We were fans of the Govee Glide, a cheaper “clone” (as our reviewer put it) of the LIFX Beam, as well as the Govee Lyra Floor Lamp, which bears a strong resemblance to Philips Hue’s far pricier Signe floor lamp. We were less impressed by the Govee Immersion Light Kit, Govee’s take (albeit using very different technology) on the Phillips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box. Govee also has some nifty ideas of its own, such as its clever LED Neon Rope Light.
Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels design
When you open the Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels box, you’ll find a neatly wrapped series of the 0.6 inch-thick Govee panels, each of which measures about 6.25 inches across (for comparison’s sake, Nanoleaf’s Shapes panels are 8 inches across). Similar to Nanoleaf’s panels (a phrase we’ll be using a lot in this review), each Govee panel comes with a snap-on mounting plate and pull tape (two extra pull tapes are included). There’s also a three-button controller, a chunky AC adapter, a tiny level, and an “orientation” tool that helps you align the panels properly.
The panels themselves are hexagonal–again, similar to Nanoleaf’s Hexagons in its Shapes series, although the Govee panels have a thicker border around the lit portion, and they also glow from behind, throwing light back onto the wall. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I thought the Glide Hexa panels looked pretty attractive once installed.
Besides the panels and mounting plates, you also get 10 linking cables that connect the individual panels together. These “cables” are more like long, thin, and flexible metal strips, with delicate connectors on either end that slide into slots on the panel hubs. Unlike the snap-in links that come with Nanoleaf panels, the Govee linking cables feel somewhat flimsy, and as I’ll describe in a moment, they don’t actually hold the panels together.
The panels can glow in up to 6 colors simultaneously, allowing the light to smoothly transition from one color another. While Govee didn’t supply a lumen rating for the lights, they can get fairly bright when turned all the way up, especially if you set the color to white. Still, the Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels are designed more for setting a mood than illuminating a room or a workspace.
Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels installation and setup
Before you start sticking any panels onto the wall, you’ll first need to connect the Glide Hexa’s control box to your Wi-Fi network using the Govee app; the app will step you through the process, and it worked on the first try for me. Once that’s done, a setup wizard will ask that you test each panel by connecting them directly to the Glide Hexa controller one by one.
Once all the testing is completed, it’s time to dream up a design. The Govee app boasts a tool that lets you devise your own design, or you can select a pre-made arrangement if you’re not feeling creative (that’s what I did). As you build your design, the app will show you where you can–or can’t–place more panels; while Nanoleaf lets you connect more panels on any available panel edge, the Govee app only lets you add the next panel to the one you last placed, one after the other. A preview tool lets you see how your design will look on a generic wall, but you can’t visualize your panels on your own wall with AR as the Nanoleaf app allows.
When you’re ready to start applying the panels to your wall, you’ll have to do so in the correct order, with the linking cables attached to the correct numbered slots; the app will guide you as you go, one panel at a time. If you want, you can use the tiny level to ensure that the first panel is parallel to the floor; I used my iPhone’s level instead.
Since the individual panels don’t actually snap onto each other, you use the “orientation tool”–basically an angled plastic guide–to help ensure that the next panel you install is properly aligned with the previous panel. The flexible linking cables will (unnervingly, until you get used to it) bend and fold over themselves as you move the panels into position.
The Govee and Nanoleaf panels may have very different installation procedures, but they are similar in terms of their nearly identical mounting plates, while the (again, nearly identical) pull tape allows you to remove the panels without damaging your wall. That said, the Govee mounting plates lack the screw holes present in the Nanoleaf versions, meaning that sticky-tape installation is the only option.
Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels features
The Govee app comes loaded with 30 preset animations for the Glide panels, ranging from Forest, Ocean, and Sunset Glow to Breathe, Energetic, and Kaleidoscope. The animations range from subtle and soothing to garish and borderline annoying (the app even displays seizure warnings for some of them), but they’re all customizable, and there’s a DIY tool that lets you create (but not share, as you can with Nanoleaf panels) your own animations. There’s also a music mode that syncs the brightness and color of the panels with any music picked up by the controller’s built-in microphone.
Besides animations, you can also set the Glide panels to glow in solid colors, with different colors for each panel, or you can use a tool that suggests color themes based on various styles (like “Elegant,” “Gorgeous,” or “Science Fiction”), scenes (such as “Work,” “Leisure,” “Joy,” or “In Love”), and “color matching methods” (complementary colors, contrasting, gradient, and so on). What the various style and scene names mean is pretty vague, but it’s fun to mix and match them.
The Glide panels can be grouped with other Govee lights, and they can be scheduled on a daily or weekly basis. You can also set up a light scene that’s triggered when another Govee light is turned on or off.
One key feature that the Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels lack is any touch functionality. In contrast, Nanoleaf Shapes panels can be tapped and swiped to change light scenes, adjust the brightness, or even control compatible smart home devices.
Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels smart home integrations
The Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels work with both Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to turn the lights on and off as well as adjust their color and brightness via voice command. You can also schedule the lights or use them in smart routines.
While the Govee panels are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, they don’t work with Apple’s HomeKit platform, a key feature of Nanoleaf’s light panels, which also boasts controllers that double as Thread border routers. You can, however, configure Siri shortcuts to work with the Govee lights.
Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels: The bottom line
Govee’s modular light panels cut a lot of corners compared to Nanoleaf, its obvious inspiration. The installation process is considerably clunkier, the arrangements you can make are more limited, there’s no touch sensitivity, no HomeKit, no Thread, and no theme sharing. The good news is that the Govee panels look striking once they’re installed, they answer to Alexa and Google Assistant, and they offer plenty of customization when it comes to animations. In short, the Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels are good at what they do, but Nanoleaf does it better, and for not much more.
Best Prices Today: Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels (10-pack)
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.