How much can these inexpensive LED panels improve the ambiance in a room?
The only real down is in the Connectivity, but if you can get around the limitations of 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, you're all set.
If you are looking for a way to add unique digital artwork to a room or a streaming setup, the Monster Illuminessence Prism is a great choice.
Where To Get It
The Illuminessence Prism is a really great product for many uses. The most obvious use is for streamers looking for an easy way to create a unique backdrop. It will be important to remember that the backlighting could cause issues with your camera, but overall, it is a unique backdrop for a streamer. It also makes an interesting addition to a workspace. We currently have the Illuminessence Prism collections setup above our desks in our offices and, while providing a small amount of light, do add a unique atmosphere to the room. And, for the unique design element, the price (especially if you purchase through Walmart) is a great deal, especially when compared against other similar products from other brands.
To be blunt, we love this Design. Everything from the ability to create a Triforce on your wall through the magnetic mount is well thought out. But, let's talk about the details.
The design of the panels is very unique. The triangular shape allows for a wide variety of interesting shapes, not the least of which is the Triforce from the Zelda franchise. The surface of the panel is not flat, instead acting a little like a short pyramid. The center of the triangle is just over an inch tall, made up of its own triangles. This texture allows the lighting patterns to look more textured that they would if the panels were flat.
While the Illuminessence Prism is designed to be interacted with primarily through your phone or a digital assistant, the company still put a lot of thought into the design of the control unit. You are able to turn the unit on and off, change modes (white, color, scene), and even cycle through the settings all from the panel. The material on the front of the panel is different from the rest of the product, being covered with a silicon or rubber material. This makes interacting with it easier, while not making it stand out from the set. This is because the color is a perfect match. The only aspect that would be nice is if the power were able to be plugged in to the short side (as it is now) or the long side, so the controller can more easily be placed at the bottom of a design.
The connection scheme is also highly considered. Being able to snap the pieces, both panels and controller, together in any configuration you want creates a fun canvas on which to design your own digital artwork. The mounts, being a hexagon, allows you to create patterns at regular angles, while still making the mount sturdy without the possibility of rotating on the wall.
Like many other connected home products, all of the Monster Smart Illuminessence products run on the older Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz spectrum. Based on feedback on our Unboxed videos, many people struggled to Setup their devices because of this limitation on Connectivity. This is because many modern routers and modems with Wi-Fi ship with 2.4 GHz turned off. This requires knowing how to change the settings on your router to turn on the feature, or potentially contacting your internet service provider if they restrict your access.
In addition to the limitations on your router, many mobile devices also prioritize the more modern 5 GHz over the older spectrum. So, if your device has connected to both, it is going to be on the 5 GHz by default. This means that you really have to pay attention while going through the initial setup to ensure that you're on the right network.
The majority of the Controls for the Illuminessence Prism are exposed through the Monster Smart app. From here, you have the ability to Setup your Prism (or other devices), turn on and off your devices, and set the state of the lights. As with all of the Monster Smart Illuminessence products, like items can be grouped and controlled together. So, even if you have several of the light groups throughout the house, they can be controlled as a single unit, using the exact same interface as for a single Prism group.
For the Prism, there are a number of options for how they can be used. Whether you are picking a solid color or one of the advanced patterns, it is all done through the same interface. When selecting a single Prism, or a group of them, you will be greeted by a set of three tabs (if they are on). The first tab is white, with a color wheel going from warm to cool tones. Your selected tone will be displayed in the center of the wheel. At the bottom is a slider for brightness, ranging from 1% to 100%.
The second tab is Color, which presents very similarly to the White tab. From here, rather than warm to cool tones, your wheel is a full color wheel. Here you can choose any solid color you want, which will be represented in the center of the wheel. At the bottom are two sliders, one for brightness and one for saturation. The brightness slider, just like in White, ranges from 1% to 100%. The saturation slider ranges from 0% to 100%, with 0% being completely white and 100% being completely the color you chose.
The third tab is Scene. This is where the Prism really gets exciting. There are 16 pre-built scenes with animations ranging from Sunrise and Sunset, which are fairly calm, simple gradients of morning and evening colors, to Hypnotize and Vortex, both of which are fairly intense. The more complex scenes can really show off the capabilities of the Prism's color regions. You also get the ability to create your own scenes, with 4 custom options at the top. You can also edit the pre-designed Scenes, though, so you can have up to 20 unique, homemade patterns.
In addition to the Monster Smart app, you can also control your Prism through the big assistants - Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri. Using the Prism with Alexa and Google is pretty easy, as they have a proper connected home platform integrated. The devices get added into the ecosystem and that gives these two full control. However, Siri, without a proper connected home platform, requires you to create individual tasks for each action you want to make available. This is not a limitation of the Monster Smart platform, but a limitation of Siri.
Not everything is ideal, however. The primary issue is in the solid color controls. While you can customize and save a named version of a pattern, you cannot do the same thing with a solid color. So, if you find a specific color that you really like, you will never be able to get it back if you change away from it. Another solid color issue is in the input process. You can only choose a color from the color wheel - there is no way to enter any color information manually. It would be wonderful to have some sort of manual entry, like a HEX or RGB selector.
There is a slight Learning Curve to the product, peaking at the Setup process. Because setting up an Illuminessence Prism requires you to know something about your Wi-Fi router, and possibly how to change settings and turn on features on that router, it can certainly be a challenge up front. However, once you have gotten past the initial setup, the curve flattens out nearly immediately.
It is very easy to use the Controls of the Prism. Turning it on and off, setting a solid color or pattern, and even creating your own pattern is easier than we have experienced on other products. Adding the ability to control them from Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri means that it is as easy to change the state of the Prism as speaking.
The Build Quality of the Illuminessence Prism is far above average. The most common issue with products is in the injection molding, and we experienced almost no problems with any of the product we received. With a single panel, there was a slight misalignment on one edge with two pieces of plastic leaving a slight edge. This misalignment includes the corner of the panel, where the seam is pretty sharp. However, as the panels are designed to hang on the wall and not be handled regularly, this should not cause any problems. The main control unit does not have any similar issues.
The connector clips are equally well constructed. The plastic is thick enough to not bend while installing the lights and strong enough to help hold the panels together. The snap connectors fit into the gaps on the back of the controller and the panels perfectly flush, leaving no bumps to interfere with mounting. The connection also fits firmly enough to stay in place, but not so firm as to make it difficult to remove from the panels. This is important because the set is designed to be easily pulled apart and moved around.
The only issue we encountered was surrounding the adhesive strips on the back of the magnetic mounts. After our initial installation, the entire set fell off of the wall on which we installed it. A large portion of the issue came from the type of wall (highly textured wood) and the type of paint (bathroom matte) that we used on the old studio backdrop. However, this tape should have had some sort of hold, as these materials are not entirely unique to the studio setup (everything involved is part of normal home construction). Fortunately, the magnetic mounts have no electronics in them, so if you need to, you can drill through them and screw them into place.
When using the Illuminessence Prism, the majority of your time will be inside of the Monster Smart app. This app looks similar to other home automation apps but brings features that those other platforms lack. One of the other connected home product lines we have in the office has an app that looks like a cousin, but it is missing some of the features that make this one fantastic. Fortunately, we were able to bring those products into the Monster Smart app, adding functionality that was unavailable in the native app.
Like many connected home apps, you can create rooms, like your living room and bedroom, to organize your components. This gives you the ability to sort lights, switches, and outlets into where they live in the building. You can then share that home with others, like your family or roommates. You can also create groups of like elements to control them together. In the case of the Prism, this is incredibly helpful if you have a lot of panels. Only so many panels can be run off of a single control unit. So, if you want to create a large and complex design, you will need multiple controllers. Being able to control them as a group makes that an acceptable trade-off.
The one primary issue in the functionality of the Prism is in the grouping process. If you want to create a group of Prisms, you cannot hit the plus button from the home screen, the way you would for adding a physical device. Ideally, under that add menu, you would be able to create a group and then add your devices to it. Unfortunately, the process starts by selecting one of the devices that you want in the group and create it from the details screen of that device. The user experience for this functionality is backwards, and usually requires a little time for us to remember how it works if we have been away from it for a while.
The Size & Weight of the Illuminessence Prism are nearly perfect. The physical size of the panels is large enough to be able to easily cover a space with the starter kit, while still being small enough to be able to take advantage of the customization capabilities. If the panels were any bigger, they would overwhelm the ability to create your own patterns and shapes. If they were any smaller, it would require a lot more panels to cover a normal amount of wall space.
The weight of the panels is a little higher than you might expect at first glance. Since this is not a product that will be handled on a regular basis, the weight is not too important, so long as the mounting system is strong enough to accommodate. While the magnetic mounting disks are strong enough to hold the panels in place, the weight could overwhelm the double-sided tape. In our initial tests, the whole setup fell off of a wall because of the weight of the panels and the material of the wall on which we installed it. However, installed on normal painted drywall, we had no issues.
There are two separate and distinct types of Compatibility: controllers and connectivity. On the controller side, the Monster Smart platform and the Illuminessence Prism are capable of being controlled by nearly every platform available. The Monster Smart app is available for iOS (App Store) and Android (Google Play). Unfortunately, the app is not available for Windows (Microsoft Store), Amazon Fire (Amazon Appstore), or web. If the app were available through the Amazon Appstore, it would also be available for Windows, using the upcoming subsystem for Android.
The platform is also available through all of the major digital assistants: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. With Cortana shutting down her connected home integrations last year, this means that you can control your Illuminessence Prism using your voice no matter what assistant you use.
The only place where there is a real Compatibility issue is with Connectivity. Because the devices use 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, it does create a possible compatibility issue for those who either do not have a router that supports 2.4 GHz or do not have it turned on (as many modern routers default). For the most part, this is easily resolved by looking at your router's manual or calling your internet service provider (if your router is provided by the ISP).
Because of the issues with Connectivity, the Setup can be very confusing. Because of this, we created a How To video on the process. The main challenges come from the use of the older 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum that has been waning in popularity in recent years. For many users, this spectrum is turned off by default on their wireless routers of integrated cable modems. So, to configure the Illuminessence Prism, users have to learn a little about their Wi-Fi network.
Another challenge comes in the fact that modern mobile phones automatically switch back to a 5 GHz connection if both are available. But, as part of the pairing process, your device must be connected to the network you intend to use for your Illuminessence products. This means that during the Setup process, you need to be very careful which network you're connected to when you start the process. There is a particular screen, which we point out in the video, where it will remind you to verify that you're on the right network, but it can still be easy to miss.
Other than this singular, yet prominent, issue, the software setup process is fairly straightforward and simple. First, you need the Monster Smart app for Apple or Android. Then, you make sure the Prism is in pairing mode (it will be blinking if it is in the right mode), you search for the Prism, you give it a name, and you assign it to a room in your home. That is the whole process - the Monster Smart app makes it as easy as it can. In fact, under some circumstances, the app might recognize the device is in pairing mode and do the first few steps for you and take you directly to the naming phase.
As for the physical setup, it is incredibly easy. Everything clicks together using LEGO-like snaps with color coding and arrows indicating which direction the data should flow. The first Illuminessence Prism block will be the hardest to place on the wall, as you'll probably want to want to use a level to ensure the block is hung straight. But, once you've got the first one hung correctly, the others will naturally line up because of the snap-together design. So, it will be easy to build out a cool design without worrying about the pattern wobbling.
The magnetic and double-sided tape hanging mechanism also makes installation, as well as adjustability, a literal snap. You can pop the Prisms onto the wall with the sticky taps on the back of the magnetic mounts, and then on and off of the magnets once they are on the wall.