Home / Reviews / Aqara Smart Home Starter Kit review: This muddy smart home kit has a glimmer of promise

Aqara Smart Home Starter Kit review: This muddy smart home kit has a glimmer of promise

The success of straightforward, all-in-one smart-home methods like SimpliSafe has led to a flood of rivals trying to muscle into the market. These have achieved various levels of success, however they have an inclination to have one factor in widespread: They’re filth low cost.

Aqara is the most recent model to throw its hat into this ring, with its Aqara Sensible Dwelling Starter Package. This Zigbee-based, Apple HomeKit-compatible system consists of 5 elements. On the middle is the Aqara Hub, a chunky disc that connects on to wall energy. Because the brains of the system, the hub harbors a Wi-Fi bridge (2.4GHz solely) and an onboard siren.

This assessment is a part of TechHive’s protection of one of the best sensible house methods, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to think about when purchasing.

Two sensors—a door/window sensor and a movement sensor—are included within the field. You additionally get a primary sensible plug and a single-button wi-fi change that you should use for varied management operations. The {hardware} is all utilitarian in design however surprisingly compact and unobtrusive. Solely the outsized sensible plug fails to slot in with the remainder of the group.

aqara smart plug Aqara

The utility of the Aqara sensible plug is proscribed by its massive measurement.

Setup takes place by way of the Aqara Dwelling app, although if you happen to’ve acquired an Apple gadget useful you can even set issues up with HomeKit. Aqara and HomeKit have a barely rocky integration, and in my testing the Aqara app didn’t import any of my HomeKit settings (reminiscent of room names), nor did it incorporate different HomeKit gadgets on my community inside the app. Conversely, the Aqara gear did efficiently present up within the iOS Dwelling app.

aqara app 2 Christopher Null / IDG

The scattered Aqara Dwelling interface tries to jam every thing onto one display, and it type of succeeds.

After strolling by way of some easy setup directions to carry the Hub on-line, Aqara proceeds to attach the sensors and different equipment routinely. This was one thing of a shock to me, as I had but to even take away the plastic tab that engages the batteries to energy them up.

The app doesn’t even direct you to do that, however all of the sensors (that are presumably pre-paired) nonetheless present up within the Aqara Dwelling app. As soon as I powered up the sensors and linked the sensible plug, every thing turned lively within the Aqara Dwelling app, efficiently paired and able to work. One oddity: Aqara additionally routinely paired a wise gentle bulb to my app—although no bulb is included within the starter equipment.

Aqara’s app doesn’t provide essentially the most intuitive of interfaces, and it’s laborious to inform at first look whether or not its main operate is meant to be a safety system or a extra basic system for controlling sensible gadgets. The reply, in fact, is each. Aqara needs to be somewhat little bit of every thing, telling you whether or not the door is open, how a lot gentle is within the room (there’s a luminance sensor constructed into the movement sensor), whether or not the sensible plug is turned on, and whether or not the alarm is enabled—. There’s not lots of rhyme or purpose to any of this, although if you happen to don’t have too many sensors and equipment (the hub maxes out in supporting 32 anyway), it’s not tough to get a way of the system’s standing at a look.

[ Further reading: The best smart home systems ]

Placing all of this to productive use is one other matter, and it shortly turns into clear that Aqara has lots of rising as much as do, significantly as a safety resolution. Let’s begin there, as a result of the safety features of Aqara are terribly undercooked. By default, Aqara units up a rule that sounds the alarm if movement is detected or if the door/window sensor is tripped—which is a superb begin, however that’s actually all it may do. There’s no timer system that engages the alarm after a minute once you’re leaving the home, and no keypad for guests to disable the alarm once they arrive.

aqara hub Aqara

The Aqara Hub may also operate as a nightlight.

The included sensible button is a minimum of preprogrammed to be used to show the alarm on and off (in addition to the sensible plug, oddly, relying on the quantity and size of button presses), however this doesn’t strike this reviewer as a characteristic that gives any degree of actual safety. The siren is sort of tame even at most quantity, and the inclusion of varied sound results (reminiscent of “ghost calls”) feels frivolous slightly than safe and comforting. There’s no battery or mobile backup characteristic, both: The entire system may be disabled by merely unplugging the hub. Whereas Aqara does ship push notifications, it ought to most likely go with out saying that there aren’t any skilled monitoring options obtainable, both. As safety methods go, it’s merely not a lot of a deterrent.

On the plus aspect, Aqara features a curious, graph-based logging system for these seeking to maintain tabs on issues. If you wish to see when movement was detected, you will get an hour-by-hour take a look at exercise and drill down from there to get specifics. A “sensible logs” part, buried within the Profile tab, combines logs for all of your gadgets right into a single web page if you happen to really need extra element.

aqara 32 device limit Aqara

The Aqara hub can operate as a wise house controller, evening gentle, and native alarm, however you possibly can hyperlink solely 32 gadgets to it and it may’t hook up with a 5GHz Wi-Fi community.

You too can leverage an if/then-based guidelines system to tie varied elements collectively. If you wish to reprogram the button to manage the sensible change solely, that it isn’t laborious to do. Do you have to want extra complexity, Aqara sells a wide range of further sorts of sensors, together with vibration, water leak, and temperature/humidity sensors, every for beneath $20. But it surely bears repeating that the hub can management solely 32 gadgets. Alexa and Google Assistant help are additionally supposedly included, however Alexa was by no means capable of finding my Aqara gadgets in my testing.

For simply $130, the Aqara starter equipment compares favorably in worth to competing gear from the likes of Abode and Simplisafe, and it’s a superb worth contemplating the variety of sensors and equipment you get within the field. Whereas it doesn’t benefit a strong advice at current, significantly as a safety resolution, I do have some hope that future upgrades will a minimum of train it a number of new tips.

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