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Aqara makes a range of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices that are stocked in Apple Stores around the world. This review takes a look at some of Aqara's latest products, including its TVOC Air Quality Monitor and Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1, which launches today.

aqara-tvoc-sensoor-roller-shade-driver-hub-m1s-review.jpeg

With these new accessories, I was able to add to the HomeKit setup that I created with some of Aqara's devices earlier this year and put the company's new additions to the smart home to the test.


While Aqara does have its own app for controlling and setting up the accessories, it is possible to control, automate, and manage them entirely through Apple's Home app.

Hub M1S

To connect the new devices, I used the Aqara Hub M1S. The Hub M1S serves as a smart home control center for the wide range of Aqara sensors, controllers, and other child devices using the Zigbee 3.0 protocol, which can connect up to 128 devices. The Hub M1S will also support Matter, a new smart home protocol built by companies including Apple and Amazon, via an over-the-air software update in the future.

In terms of design, the Hub M1S features a compact, circular design with matte white plastic. There is a patterned speaker grille on the front, an RGB 18-LED ring around the outside, and a convenient HomeKit pairing sticker on the top.

aqara-hub-m1s.jpeg

Unlike many HomeKit hubs, the M1S plugs directly into a power outlet, with no need for additional cables or adapters. This design is much more convenient, although it comes at the cost of not having an ethernet port for a wired connection to a router. As a result, the Hub M1S connects over Wi-Fi, but I did not notice any significantly slower latency compared to other wired hubs.

aqara-hub-m1s-top.jpeg

The design of the hub itself extends further back than one may expect owing to the need for a built-in adapter, but it is slim enough once plugged in to be discreet and broadly as good-looking as you could hope for with such a device.

The Hub M1S integrates with the Home app seamlessly, initiated by a simple scan of the HomeKit code sticker on the top. The initial pairing process was frustration-free and any subsequent devices paired with the Hub M1S automatically appear in Apple's Home app.

The Hub M1S also supports all four of the native HomeKit alarm modes and features a surprisingly loud two-watt built-in speaker. The speaker does not sound like a high-fidelity component, but since it is not for music, the quality is adequate for brief alerts and can easily project across a large room. Like other Aqara hubs, the Hub M1S uses its speaker to talk you through the setup process and pairing other accessories, and it can also be used to deliver alerts through automations in the Aqara app.

The illumination sensor and RGB LED array are similarly configurable in the Aqara app, with options for brightness and color. While the speaker and the LED ring do not integrate directly with the Home app due to Apple's limitations, they do allow the Hub M1S to be used as an alarm, a doorbell, or even a night light via the Aqara app, in addition to its HomeKit capabilities.

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1

The Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 is a new product that allows users to easily retrofit smart home functionality to their existing roller shades by motorizing its beaded cord. The design mirrors other Aqara products with matte white plastic but is surprisingly heavy owing to its motor and internal battery. It feels very substantial and well-built, and is subtle enough to not be an eyesore when attached to a wall.

aqara-roller-shade-driver.jpeg

The Roller Shade Driver features a detachable plastic runner on its rear with screw holes to screw directly into a wall. The correct screws and wall anchors come in the box, as well as an optional adhesive strip. While it does demand screwing into a wall, as any other shade driver would require, the installation process is relatively simple thereafter.

The Roller Shade Driver offers two power modes. You can either operate the device wirelessly, and then recharge its internal battery around every two months via its USB-C port, or leave a power cable inserted all of the time to avoid the need for recharging.

The Roller Shade Driver comes with a selection of four adapters to accommodate different beaded cords, meaning that it should work with most roller shade cords with beads between three to six millimeters thick, as well as both plastic and metal chains. After simply feeding your shade's cord into the adapter, it is very easy to pair the shades to an Aqara hub like the company's other devices using Zigbee 3.0, with a simple press of the pairing button and instant connection with the Aqara hub, which also automatically adds the shades to the Home app.

aqara-roller-shade-driver-adapters.jpeg

In the Aqara app, you can tweak the pre-set open and closed positions so that the driver knows when to stop opening or closing the shades and understands percentages within that range. After that, you can use the Home app alone, and set up automations to control the shades, such as based on sunset and sunrise time, or add the shades to scenes and shortcuts. One excellent addition to the design is physical buttons for quick manual control, just in case you do not have a Siri-enabled device nearby and want to close or open the shades.

In day-to-day use, I found the motor to be much quieter than some competing HomeKit roller shade drivers, and also was much less prone to slippage and loss of the exact open and closed positions. Crucially, I have found that reliable connectivity is the biggest problem with some of the existing brands that offer roller shade drivers, but the Aqara Roller Shade Driver's connection was consistently reliable. Its USB-C port for power and manual buttons are also excellent practical advantages over some competing products.

The Roller Shade Driver launches today as the product begins to roll out to a range of countries around the world, starting in Europe and Asia.

TVOC Air Quality Monitor

Aqara's TVOC Air Quality Monitor is a small HomeKit-enabled temperature, humidity, and air quality sensor that can show this information directly on the sensor itself via an e-ink display. This means you can watch changes in real-time and glance at the current metrics without needing to open Siri or use the Home app, but still feeds these metrics to the Home app for when you want that functionality.

aqara-tvoc-sensor.jpeg

Pairing is extremely fast and easy once you have an Aqara HomeKit hub set up, with a simple press of the top button to pair via Zigbee 3.0, which also automatically adds it to the Home app. The Home app displays the sensor's current temperature, humidity, and air quality information, which allows you to use these metrics to trigger automations, in the Shortcuts app, or simply take a glance at the current statuses in the Home app.

The design is very small, slim, and compact, with the front perspex being set into the matte white casing. The back of the sensor is flat and magnetic, allowing users to stick it to a surface like a refrigerator if desired.

aqara-tvoc-sensor-back.jpeg

The Air Quality Monitor is powered by two small disposable batteries, which Aqara says should power the device for around a year before needing replacement. When attempting to replace the batteries, I found the plastic backplate extremely difficult to pry off, even needing to use a flathead screwdriver to get enough leverage, but thankfully this won't be something you need to do often.

The Bottom Line

With these accessories, Aqara maintains its high standards of design, easy pairing, and reliability. The company's support for HomeKit and focus on seamless integration in Apple's Home app continues to be better than many other smart home brands. Aqara's practical designs, easy setup process, and reliable connectivity are still present with the Hub M1S, Roller Shade Driver, and TVOC Air Quality Monitor.

The Hub M1S, while not quite as full-featured as the Hub M2, has an outstanding minimal design that cuts down on cables, and I wish more smart home brands would embrace this more practical design for their hubs. Added features such as the speaker LED ring make an otherwise unexciting product more useful, even if these aspects do not integrate with the Home app.

The Roller Shade Driver is an affordable and convenient way to upgrade your manual roller shades with smart functionality and offers a distinctively better experience than other competing devices that I have tried. Although the need to screw into a wall may put some users off, once completed, the setup is fairly effortless and it becomes a device that works reliably in the background.

The Air Quality Monitor makes a great addition to any desk with its glanceable e-ink display and minimalist aesthetic, but is also useful within the Home app for any growing HomeKit setup. While it is a little pricey at $44.99, the combination of the e-ink display and HomeKit integration, as well as multiple metrics, will make it worth its cost for many individuals.

How to Buy


Aqara is currently offering a 15 percent discount on the Roller Shade Driver E1 on its Amazon store in the UK with the promo code RSDE1PR1, valid through to September 24, 2021.

Note: Aqara provided MacRumors with a Roller Shade Driver E1, TVOC Air Quality Monitor, and Hub M1S for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Article Link: Review: Aqara's Roller Shade Driver E1, TVOC Air Quality Monitor, and Hub M1S Are Reliable and Well-Designed HomeKit Accessories
 

bakerzdosen

macrumors regular
Apr 11, 2006
111
82
Man, I got really excited to see the E1 available outside of China (been available there for a few months). But alas, not yet in the USA. :(

Hopefully soon though. I really want to see a direct comparison between this and the Soma (and I have to admit, the Soma's solar panel does give it an edge for me in my use case...) Even if the E1 comes in at roughly half the Soma, those solar panels ain't cheap...
 

4jasontv

Suspended
Jul 31, 2011
6,272
7,526
I was trying to buy the shade driver only to realize it’s a UK exclusive. That’s to bad as opening my blinds is the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. Being able to schedule sunlight would be wonderful.
 
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archer75

macrumors 68040
Jan 26, 2005
3,115
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I wish the roller shade motor worked with non beaded cords like soma does. Ours aren't beaded. In fact never in my life have I had roller shades that have a beaded cord. They're all non beaded. I'm not sure I've even seen a beaded cord in a house period.
 
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zorinlynx

macrumors 604
May 31, 2007
7,469
14,579
Florida, USA
No more hubs. I'm done buying hubs, I'm not against them but I have enough. There's a ton of tech redundancy between them and, with more standards like Matter emerging, there's less actual need for them, than ever.
I was going to buy a Eufy Homekit security camera a few months ago, and was ready to pull the trigger on the purchase when I read that it required me to buy Eufy hub of some sort, that cost almost as much as the camera.

Yeah, screw that. I put it back on the shelf.

I wonder if these companies realize how many sales they're losing because they require an extra expensive accessory and don't make it obvious in their marketing. I bet a lot of those Eufy cameras get purchased and returned for that reason; the need for the hub is not made obvious on the box. It's tiny print at the bottom.
 

chucker23n1

macrumors 604
Dec 7, 2014
7,300
9,463
Eve Room looks a little nicer but costs twice as much (unless you factor in the hub). Is it also twice as good?

Also, what does this hub do? It seems to be a Zigbee bridge? I can presumably use any other Zigbee bridge, too?

At first I was like there are smart Corona test kits now? Really? after seeing the first picture ?

Same!
 

Rychiar

macrumors 65816
May 16, 2006
1,331
2,930
Waterbury, CT
I feel like Aqara is the only brand I hear about lately for HomeKit news... why is everyone else so quiet. I'd never buy into another hub system. the only interesting thing here is the blind roller thing and it's not even available in the US. I want an announcement of an apple Homekey lock asap
 
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archer75

macrumors 68040
Jan 26, 2005
3,115
1,743
Oregon
I was going to buy a Eufy Homekit security camera a few months ago, and was ready to pull the trigger on the purchase when I read that it required me to buy Eufy hub of some sort, that cost almost as much as the camera.

Yeah, screw that. I put it back on the shelf.

I wonder if these companies realize how many sales they're losing because they require an extra expensive accessory and don't make it obvious in their marketing. I bet a lot of those Eufy cameras get purchased and returned for that reason; the need for the hub is not made obvious on the box. It's tiny print at the bottom.
Only some eufy cameras need a hub. The newer models don't it seems. I have 2 different models, about 8 of them, and no hub required. 5 of them are the 2k indoor cameras, I think I got those for $29ea. I actually put 2 of these indoor cameras outside, under the eves so they are protected by the rain and they work perfectly.
3 are their new outdoor cameras and came with a 32gb SD card, 2k, spotlight, etc. those were $99 each
 
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4jasontv

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Jul 31, 2011
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I feel like Aqara is the only brand I hear about lately for HomeKit news... why is everyone else so quiet. I'd never buy into another hub system. the only interesting thing here is the blind roller thing and it's not even available in the US. I want an announcement of an apple Homekey lock asap
Might be the pandemic, but I agree. The only other HomeKit company I hear about is Hue, and most of their stuff has been nearly impossible to buy. The other big names (Logitech, Ikea, Eve, D-Link, etc.) have gone dark. Maybe there was a shortage of some homekit part?
 

macduke

macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
12,223
17,432
Central U.S.
No more hubs. I'm done buying hubs, I'm not against them but I have enough. There's a ton of tech redundancy between them and, with more standards like Matter emerging, there's less actual need for them, than ever.
Matter just connects systems together. There will still be hubs to an extent. I think you're thinking of Thread? I think thread is going to be like BlueTooth but for the home (so use spectrum that more easily passes through walls long range, but doesn't necessarily need a lot of speed), and basically will use similar technologies to existing Zigbee and Z-Wave but standardized and more secure. For now I actually wish I had gone the hub route. My WiFi network gets extremely crowded. That's where some of these things like Zigbee and Z-Wave are nice, they operate on different spectrum and can't bog down my WiFi. My upstairs mesh node seems to get especially bogged down and things will pop offline. This wasn't the case when I had fewer things on the network.
 

GregoriusM

macrumors regular
Jun 28, 2008
151
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I wish the roller shade motor worked with non beaded cords like soma does. Ours aren't beaded. In fact never in my life have I had roller shades that have a beaded cord. They're all non beaded. I'm not sure I've even seen a beaded cord in a house period.
I have vertical blinds that have one beaded cord and one rope cord. Sigh.
 

cvtem

macrumors member
Jun 8, 2016
37
32
This are much the same as Xiaomi Mi Home devices.
The Aqara name is like, the Phillips Name, or the Ikea name, Mijia name, even Honeywell, just different names and slight variations on similar products, they all have their own take, but they all use the same hubs and work together.

Also good news is they can operate with no internet connection, and don't need to phone home to china to work (as long as you use something like Home assistant or OpenHab), and do not affect wifi or alike.

Their battery life is incredible on some devices, about 2 to 3 years on temp/humidity and 3 to 4 years on motion and door sensors.

They are in the end, Zigbee devices, and it gets more interesting, you don't even need the hub. https://www.zigbee2mqtt.io
This is the most common system out there, look at what's supported: https://www.zigbee2mqtt.io/information/supported_devices.html

*source - I have a large mix of these devices with all brand names attached, connected to 1 hub, I have experimented with zignee2mqtt but have no need to switch yet, the hub covers my entire fairly long (40m) house, and has been problem free for many years.
I do NOT use them with anything other than home assistant so I can manage the hub and make sure it never touched the internet.
Home assistant links to Google Home and HomeKit perfectly, and also lets me filter what each see's, so I don't have 100+ devices on HomeKit, just the 20 or 30 that are't purely for automation.
 

Killbill2

macrumors member
Oct 24, 2017
56
151
For the most part I’d say Aqara products work well and are reliable. My experience with TVOC sensor has been iffy as it regularly seems to reset with resulting data that goes really high or down to zero, so the graphs become unusable. You can’t seem to edit or export the data either. And no it wasn’t detecting a real reading, it’s almost like a recalibration.
CDD95A62-FC5D-4A5D-8EB3-7C0B7743F548.png
CDD95A62-FC5D-4A5D-8EB3-7C0B7743F548.png
 
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DogHouseDub

macrumors 6502a
Sep 19, 2007
538
1,223
SF
How do the devices communicate w the hub? Looking for more distance and reliability than the bluetooth devices
 

827538

Cancelled
Jul 3, 2013
2,322
2,832
I was going to buy a Eufy Homekit security camera a few months ago, and was ready to pull the trigger on the purchase when I read that it required me to buy Eufy hub of some sort, that cost almost as much as the camera.

Yeah, screw that. I put it back on the shelf.

I wonder if these companies realize how many sales they're losing because they require an extra expensive accessory and don't make it obvious in their marketing. I bet a lot of those Eufy cameras get purchased and returned for that reason; the need for the hub is not made obvious on the box. It's tiny print at the bottom.

I'm pretty sure Matter/Thread will eventually make hubs obsolete. The standards are very new, I don't even think Matter is officially out in stable form yet. It's going to be one less obstacle to adoption/ one less cost to the consumer to buy whatever HomeKit device. Make's good business sense to rely on Matter/Thread and not require a proprietary hub.
 

827538

Cancelled
Jul 3, 2013
2,322
2,832
I feel like Aqara is the only brand I hear about lately for HomeKit news... why is everyone else so quiet. I'd never buy into another hub system. the only interesting thing here is the blind roller thing and it's not even available in the US. I want an announcement of an apple Homekey lock asap
I really hope Level bring out support for Homekey and Thread soon. I won't buy their locks until they do.
 

kk200

macrumors regular
Jan 6, 2021
179
188
No more hubs. I'm done buying hubs, I'm not against them but I have enough. There's a ton of tech redundancy between them and, with more standards like Matter emerging, there's less actual need for them, than ever.
except one Homekit/Matter only sensor can already buy a set of Zigbee sensors. And with hub you get logging, sensor merging, history view etc.
 

kk200

macrumors regular
Jan 6, 2021
179
188
I was going to buy a Eufy Homekit security camera a few months ago, and was ready to pull the trigger on the purchase when I read that it required me to buy Eufy hub of some sort, that cost almost as much as the camera.

Yeah, screw that. I put it back on the shelf.

I wonder if these companies realize how many sales they're losing because they require an extra expensive accessory and don't make it obvious in their marketing. I bet a lot of those Eufy cameras get purchased and returned for that reason; the need for the hub is not made obvious on the box. It's tiny print at the bottom.
They simply get a more safe/stable business. They can work with google/apple/amazon and won't worry about one day Apple cancel their MFI cert.
 
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