Review Alfawise A9 DIY Decorative Smartlights for $109.99
Many a YouTube channel nowadays decorates its setting with such deco lights. And many have also discovered them as a beautiful lighting element in their own homes. Of course, there are also Chinese alternatives. We tried a set of LED panels from Alfawise: the Alfawise A9.
The lights are LED panels, each weighing 206 grams, which are assembled into one unit via small plug connections. The more individual parts you use, the larger and more unusual the shapes can become. The starter set contains a total of nine panels, others can theoretically be bought later.
The LED panels
The triangles are white and completely made of plastic with an edge length of 24.5 cm. On each side there is a small gap about the size of an SD card slot. Here the individual panels are assembled with small connectors. However, the small plugs do not provide any support, but are only used for signal transmission, so you don’t get a stable construction that can be lifted as a whole.
The direction of the connectors is decisive. One side is labeled “Pre” and the other “Next”, which indicates from which panel the signal comes. This allows a row to be formed, which is important for animations that move through the individual panels. A cable is plugged into the first panel, which is either plugged into a USB port or a corresponding socket adapter. The cable also contains the control unit that transmits the Bluetooth signal.
Theoretically, the panels can be used without an app by simply plugging in the power. But then you don’t have the possibility to set color or animation. The panels can be attached to the wall with the enclosed adhesive strips.
The panels in action
As complicated as the setting at the beginning is (see app), the lights look good. There should be something for almost every taste, whether you want monochrome, weak light, an animation flashing in different intervals or atmospheric transitions. Especially during the color change, a slight flickering is noticeable; not really disturbing, but visible.
Possible places of use are for example living room or bedroom, where the lights can be fixed to the wall as a simple decorative element. In the party cellar, flickering disco light is better, even if the panels are not bright enough to really illuminate a room. In any case, it is maximum decorative background light. It can also make sense to integrate the lights into your Smart Home and equip it with an appropriate adapter.
With more panels it is theoretically possible to build larger displays. You can either buy a second set of nine panels or single panels. The latter are more expensive per piece.
The app recommended in the manual has the simple name “LED Hue”. It is available for Android and iOS, but equally bad for both operating systems. There are exactly two different “menus”: In the start screen, Bluetooth signals in the vicinity are displayed in the upper half. Here you can also find the signal of the LED panels called SP110E. In the field below you can switch through different profiles, which are not explained in detail. Where the difference between RBG, GRB and GBR lies here, I couldn’t find out even with the umpteenth time. The names in the right slider are even more cryptic: SK6812 or LPD6803, what do you prefer?
These are probably designations of different light sources, but you can select almost any option and still get results with the LEDs. After all, you can find some really nice animations by trying them out.
Click the Enter button at the bottom to open a new view. Here you can select even more animations by switching through 100 different modes in a circular slider. If you find one that you like, you can mark it as a favorite. You can also select specific colors and adjust brightness and flashing intervals, which is more of a game of chance. To be honest: After several tries I still don’t know how exactly this works and what which icon does. Everything seems to be random, but after a short time you usually find something you like.
For me it’s one of the least user-friendly interfaces I’ve ever seen. And that means something.
You may have noticed that the name Alfawise doesn’t appear anywhere on any of the photos. That’s because the product has nothing to do with this name. Alfawise is a brand that belongs to GearBest and under which various products from other manufacturers are sold as GearBest-exclusive. Okay, you can do that. Might even make sense when selling to the West. But here (so far) one has apparently not even bothered to print one’s own packaging or instructions.
These are products of the brand “Shangke Shi Jiaju”, translated as “beautiful home decorations”, with the English additional title “Thank’s Home”. The English manual also uses only the name Thank’s Home and the product name SKS-SP110E. It’s possible that GearBest will adapt this, but so far you get the original version without reference to the brand Alfawise. But this doesn’t change the product anyway. It would be conceivable (and desirable) to develop a new app with the new name.
Conclusion – Unfortunately (still) too expensive
The LED panels from Alfawise or Thank’s Home are a fine thing in themselves. The installation is simple and despite the immature app you can easily set up a cool lighting. There is only one real problem: the price. The better known Nanoleaf panels are also available from about 150 to 200 Dollar – at Amazon or local dealers, with shorter shipping and a more sophisticated app. The reasons to buy a worse Chinese version here are somehow missing.
If a Chinese manufacturer succeeds in bringing a much cheaper alternative, we would like to have a look at it. The Alfawise LED panels are unfortunately not yet a real option.To the gadget