Zigbee Diary: Aqara is a gateway to a more reliable HomeKit setup

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Upgrading your smart home to Zigbee comes with plenty of perks like quicker response times, higher reliability, and increased range compared to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Aqara’s platform encompasses all of those while bringing HomeKit support and more into the mix. That feature pairing recently caught my eye. Now, after using Aqara’s system for a few weeks, I’m sold on what the brand has to offer. Head below for a closer look.

All it takes to begin your journey into home automation is a smart plug, and then everything can snowball from there. But after collecting a batch of devices from various brands, as what tends to be the case for those just getting started, growing pains can make it harder to get the most out of your setup. Previously we’ve highlighted how adopting Z-Wave into your setup can provide a variety of perks. In the same light, we’re now turning our attention to what Zigbee has to offer. 

Checking out what Aqara has to offer

There are plenty of Zigbee systems out there, but today we’re diving into how one of the more popular options, Aqara, stacks up. The brand isn’t exactly new, but after debuting in the United States at the end of last year, it has quickly caught the eye of smart homeowners thanks to its comprehensive features and a long list of supported devices. And after a few weeks of use, those aspects have certainly appealed to me, as well. 

I opted to spring for the starter kit from the company, which includes five different smart home accessories. At the center of Aqara’s smart home stable is a Zigbee-enabled hub that powers the overall experience. Not only does it allow you to connect various devices, but the hub also doubles as a siren to enable home security capabilities. A built-in multicolor LED completes the package. 

Aside from those features, the hub itself is pretty simple. It plugs right into the wall and lacks any ports, preferring Wi-Fi connectivity over Ethernet. On paper, I wasn’t too thrilled about that, especially given that the whole point of Zigbee is to move away from Wi-Fi devices. But in practice, I’ve had zero connectivity issues. The entire system is about as responsive as my Hue kit, which is, in fact, wired right into the network. 

While the hub is the brains of the operation, the whole Aqara experience continues with four other devices. There’s a typical smart plug, motion detector, door, and window sensor, as well as a remote. 

At a glance, you’ll notice just how tiny the three battery-powered devices are. Coming from other systems with pretty bulky sensors, it’s easy to see why Aqara carries the reputation it does. While I can’t speak to how the compact designs effect battery life yet, the included replaceable batteries are said to get around 2-years of usage before being to be swapped out.

HomeKit steals the show

What originally drew me to Aqara was its out of the box HomeKit support. As someone who primarily uses Siri for smart home control, the ability to integrate everything this system has to offer with the rest of my devices is a huge plus. It also means you don’t even have to touch the brand’s default app; as everything can be managed from right within Apple’s interface.

Another perk with Zigbee is that the Aqara ecosystem can easily be built out with a parade of devices. The base package comes with a pretty standard assortment of accessories. But the ability to expand later with one of the more robust offerings from a single brand is hard to beat. 

That being said, the lack of support for third-party devices is one downfall here. It would have been great to pair any Zigbee accessory on the market to the Aqara hub. But that’s kind of open-ended functionality typically means you’ll have to give up perks like HomeKit. So it’s a fine trade-off at the end of the day.

Get in the Aqara game for yourself

The Aqara starter kit that I’ve been using typically fetches $130, but right now, you can get it for $100 when clipping the on-page coupon at Amazon. You’ll also be able to save 30% on nearly its entire selection of add-on accessories when applying code AQARA925 at checkout.

Final thoughts 

As someone who has yet to really dabble in exploring what the world of Zigbee has to offer outside using Hue lights, Aqara sets the bar very high. It’s proved to be a notable option for trying out what Zigbee has to off, all without having to replace my entire setup or switch from what I’m used to. The HomeKit integration really offers the best of both worlds, too.

All this is to say that I’ve found the system to be a compelling introduction to Zigbee. It doesn’t sacrifice all the out-of-the-box perks that smart homeowners have come to expect, making it a notable way to see what all of the fuss is about.

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