Aqara Hub E1 review: A tiny yet powerful smart home hub – TechHive
Looking as if it were a plug-in USB Wi-Fi adapter for a notebook, the Aqara Hub E1 squeezes a lot of smart home functionality into its small case. At just 4.3 x 1.2 x 0.3 inches (LxWxH), it’s about one-tenth the size of Aeotec’s Smart Home Hub. One of the smallest smart home hubs ever, it’s also very easy to hide.
Mentioned in this article
Unlike other hubs that are square and have an AC adapter cable, the E1 is dominated by its integrated USB-A plug. Just plug it directly into a USB port or a USB AC adapter and the hub fires right up; there’s no on/off switch. The E1 hub can swivel more than 180-degrees to aim its internal antennas, but it comes with neither a stand to sit upright nor—as is the case increasingly with smartphones—its own AC adapter.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart home systems, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
It might be small, but the Hub E1 is powerful enough to consolidate a smart home’s various devices, but with a twist. A compatibility island unto itself, the E1 works directly with dozens of Aqara Zigbee-based devices like lights, switches, cameras, locks and a variety of sensors. There are even devices for rolling and unrolling window shades.
Brian Nadel / IDG
On the downside, the hub doesn’t connect with generic smart home items. Instead, you need to set up an action using third-party software, like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit, and then use the E1 hub to trigger that event. You can also create IFTTT applets. It’s a little awkward but it works. The company is working with the Connectivity Standards Alliance’s Matter initiative to re-invent smart home hardware and software as something more universal.
The E1 relies on Wi-Fi to connect with the internet and lacks the hardwired ethernet option that the Aeotec Smart Home Hub provides. This allows it to be set up in the middle of a home or apartment for best coverage, but the E1 operates only on with 2.4GHz networks, and having a dual-band router can cause problems. It also lacks battery back-up and an LTE radio that would keep it going during a broadband outage.
When everything’s connected and working, the E1’s small LED light is solid blue, but blinks when it doesn’t have a live internet connection. When it’s ready to be configured it blinks yellow.
Yes, the Aqara Hub E1 really is that small.
Inside the Aqara Hub E1
Made by Lumi United Technologies in Shenzhen, China, you’d be hard pressed to find a smaller smart home hub, yet it can control up to 128 Zigbee devices.
A word of advice: if you have a dual-band router, turn off the 5GHz band before you do anything else. The Hub E1 only works with 2.4GHz signals and is sensitive to stray 5GHz transmissions. When you’ve finished setting up the hub, you can turn the router’s other radio back on.
At $30, the E1’s price is just as small as the unit, itself. It’s one-quarter the cost of either the $135 Aeotec Smart Home Hub or $130 …….