Aqara smart home products – First look

Aqara smart home is an emerging smart home brand that has a 100+ range of Zigbee hubs, sensors, controllers, door locks and smart lights.

You will find the range at Aqara’s AU Home Store, Amazon Store, JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee, mWave and more.

We are having a first look at the Camera Hub G3 (it’s a combo security camera and Zigbee 3.0 hub) and the Roller Shade (Blinds) driver E1.

What is Aqara?

Contrary to what you read Aqara (Est 2016) is not a Xiaomi subsidiary – unlike Roborock (robovacs), Ninebot Segway, Viomi, and Yeelight (among many others). Aqara has been a long-time partner of Xiaomi and manufactures many of Xiaomi’s smart home devices.

It is active in the USA (since 2019) and sells via 45 online Aqara Home stores to more than 192 countries. Australia is next on the list.

It is part of the Matter Consortium – read Does it Matter? Not with new smart home compatibility standards (IoT network)

Privacy – Pass+

You select the cloud location on app Installation. There are clouds in China, the USA, Europe, Russia, South Korea, and Oceania (likely Singapore).

The Privacy policy is GDPR EU and California CCPA compliant, and Aqara undertakes not to sell or disclose data to third parties. If you link to voice assistants, you are subject to those policies. In all, the policy seems benign.

The Camera Hub G3 is certified by Apple, Google and Amazon to meet their security standards and works with all.

Setup – Pass+

Download the Aqara Home app for Android and iOS. Most of the Aqara products are HomeKit, Google Assistant and Alexa aware.

All Aqara accessories (called Child Devices) use Zigbee 3.0, which means you need a Zigbee 3.0 hub. In this case, we have a Camera Hub G3 (a nifty 360° Pan and tilt camera) that supports both Wi-Fi 2.4 and 5Ghz.

Here is a chart of the available Zigbee Hub options (not all relevant here, and you need an Oceania Region-locked device). The prices below are from Aqara Home Store AU and list other Aqara sensors, door locks and curtain/shade controllers.

Item Wi-Fi ProtocolChild devicesZigbee 3.0PowerSpeakerOther
Aqara Hub2.4GHz32NoBuilt-in plugYesNo
Aqara M1S2.4GHz128YesBuilt-in plugYesNo
Aqara M2 $99.992.4GHz / Ethernet128YesUSBYesIR transmitter
Aqara G2H2.4GHz64NoUSBYesCamera
Aqara G2H Pro $109.99 2.4GHz128YesUSBYesCamera
Aqara E1 $49.992.4GHz128YesUSBNoWi-Fi repeater
Aqara G3 $194.992.4/5GHz128YesUSB-CYesP/T camera with facial recognition
Xiaomi Mi Smart Gateway2.4GHz128YesUSBNoBluetooth/Mesh gateway/no region local restrictions

Aqara Camera Hub G3 and manual

If you like Cat Ear cameras, then this is it. This is not a full review, although we have installed it, and it appears to do everything advertised.

The biggest shock is that it is a smart Cat with onboard AI that can recognise faces, gestures, and pets.

Other features:

  • 2K, 2304 x 1926 camera resolution with fall back to 1080p in HomeKit
  • IR LED mono night vision
  • 360° Pan/tilt/rotation, 110° field-of-view and pre-configured cruising path
  • Wi-F AC 2.4 or 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • Indoor only
  • The USB-C 5V/2A/10W (charger supplied) power socket supports UVC RGB video out to video capture devices for live streaming
  • Hardware privacy protection
  • WPA3 data encryption
  • Facial recognition. If you import specific people’s photos into the App, it can recognise them and initiate a push notification. If unknown, the notification says so.
  • Back home comfort mode: Enables privacy mode for recognised people
  • Smart Gesture recognition: It can recognise V (victory), Four, High Five, Finger Gun and OK and carry out defined activities
  • Zigbee 3.0 hub exposing up to 128 Child Devices to voice assistants
  • IR controller
  • Microphone and speaker for siren and Emergency alert message
  • Schedules
  • Micro-SD slot to 128GB for H.264 video – no cloud subscription
  • Fully C-Tick approved for ANZ use

As a security camera, it is fine with bright, detailed and colourful video in the Aqara App. Itr integrates with Google Home, but does nit show an image – we will work on that.

G3 as a Zigbee Hub – Pass

The Camera is also a Zigbee 3 hub that uses the Aqara App to add Zigbee devices. I added an Aqara Roller blind controller E1, and it is fine. It also shows up in Google Home (and we presume other assistants).

I had a few Xiaomi Mi Home Zigbee devices – Temperature and Humidity, Door/Window Sensor, and Switch. I used the Aqara app to add the devices (there were similar ones in the App), and they were recognised.

I am not sure if other Zigbee devices work – that’s the subject of further testing. Ideally, it should recognise any brand Zigbee device simply by its pairing command (push button)

Aqara roller shade driver E1 $119 from JB

It works with most ‘beaded’ roller blind chains and slat Venetians and turns a manual operation into an electric one – an easy retrofit.

The setup is easy. Add it to the Aqara Zigbee 3.0 hub, replace the existing lower roller (it screws on – screws and plugs supplied) with it and calibrate the maximum up and down limits. It has adapters for different bead sizes.

It is Google Home and HomeKit compatible, and you can set up schedules and routines like raising the blinds with the sunlight or if it gets too hot (although that may need other Zigbee sensors). A good capability overview is here.

It is USB-C rechargeable, and we understand that it should last months. Make sure you can get a power cable or power bank to it when you need to recharge. Or easily detach the device from the base plate and cog. A recharge takes about 2.5 hours at 5V/2A/10W (cable but charger not supplied)

You can use the Aqara App, voice assistants, or Zigbee switch to control the blinds.

It takes about 40 seconds on 2m blinds (technically 1m per 18 seconds) and has a low-noise operation. That is a little slow, but it does look after the blinds/cog well.

There is also a standard curtain track version that works with most U and I rail curtain tracks.

CyberShack’s view – Aqara smart home products seem pretty good

  • Privacy – tick
  • Quality – tick
  • Performance – tick
  • Price – tick

Overall it is an excellent introduction to a new brand, and I see no downsides in buying Aqara products. But remember that Zigbee is still a little experimental in terms of adding devices, and Matter is coming soon.

Aqara begins Matter transition with a free hub update in December

Sydney, Australia 22 November 2022 – Aqara, a leading smart home tech provider, has lifted the veil on its latest plan to support Matter in Australia. From next month Aqara will begin rolling out a free over-the-air (OTA) update to the Aqara Hub M2, which will allow existing Aqara Zigbee devices to become Matter compatible. 

Aqara has been working closely with the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) and partners such as Apple, Google and Samsung on early testing programs to ensure a smooth transition towards the unifying standard, Matter. 

After the OTA of the hub, a wide range of Aqara Zigbee devices attached to the Hub M2 can be used in any Matter ecosystem. 

Aqara has always been about helping people build all-round compatible and future-proof smart homes for changing tech. Ultimately Aqara is planning for more than 160 Aqara Zigbee products to receive Matter support across the global market.

David Su, Aqara senior sales manager.

Aqara has also released details on its first Matter-over-Thread devices, which run on the low-power, low-bandwidth mesh networking protocol. The company has plans to launch a range of Thread-based devices, including smart sensors, hubs, controllers, and lights. 

Following strong growth in Australia, Aqara has announced a retail partnership with JB Hi-FI, with the retailer stocking the brand’s popular roller shade driver, AI-enabled security G3 camera and smart home control centre, the Hub M2, among others. 

With more than 850+ technology patents, Aqara is known for its comprehensive product categories, including sensors, cameras, roller shade/curtain controllers and smart door locks. “We’ll be bringing our Light bulb T1 and Curtain Driver E1 products to the Australian market in December, with more to come soon.”