Aqara Hub M3 evaluate – The Ambient

I want I might say it was well worth the wait but it surely fails at what actually Issues…

The Aqara Hub M3 is arguably one of the best Aqara sensible house hub to date however, and it’s an enormous however, it’s solely actually on the Aqara entrance that I can at present suggest the M3. When it comes to a Matter sensible house, there’s an extended approach to go earlier than it may rival model agnostic hubs like SmartThings and Homey, because it at present stands it’s all a bit shambolic. Nonetheless, Aqara is a model that customers have come to know and belief prior to now few years for budget-friendly, dependable, sensible house tech and I’ve no doubts that updates will arrive within the coming weeks and months that permit the Hub M3 to reside as much as its full potential. Within the meantime although, it’s nonetheless one of the best Aqara hub cash should purchase and, when you’d no doubt very a lot be within the ‘early-adopter’ camp when you make the leap, you’d be future proofing your Aqara-run sensible house.


  • Nice migration instrument for current Aqara hubs

  • Energy-over-Ethernet choices

  • Matter suitable(ish)

  • Works with Third-party manufacturers(ish)

  • Slick design


  • Restricted Third-party assist

  • System Binding not working

  • Matter is at present a multitude

Aqara Hub M3: Introduction

Sensible house nerds, like me, have been ready for this one for a very long time. An Aqara sensible house hub that not solely does all of the issues we’ve come to count on from the Chinese language Zigbee specialist but additionally throws Matter and third-party assist to the combo.

So, was the Aqara Hub M3 well worth the wait?

The brief reply is not any… it’s a little bit of a let-down.

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The lengthy reply, which I’ll cowl in far more depth beneath in my Aqara Hub M3 evaluate, is that it in all probability will probably be, as soon as the proposed characteristic record turns into the precise characteristic record.

Aqara first teased the Hub M3 final 12 months and it then bought its formally unveiling again in January at CES 2024.

For an Aqara hub it’s considerably on the dear aspect, with a launch value of $129.99 within the US and £129.99 within the UK, however that’s as a result of it’s extra than simply an Aqara hub; it’s the model’s first Matter controller.

Earlier Aqara hubs, such because the Hub M2, have merely acted as Matter bridges to get Aqara’s plethora of Zigbee sensible house units up and operating together with your Matter sensible house.

The Aqara Hub is, on paper no less than, a fully-fledged Matter controller that may work with non-Aqara Matter sensible house units and can also be a  Thread border router too.

That signifies that it’s not simply native Aqara units might be managed, however Matter units from third-party manufacturers, with native management and all of the bells and whistles Matter brings.

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In concept, no less than, learn on to search out out why – on the time of writing – the Hub M3 isn’t but able to be a real rival to the likes of the Aeotec SmartThings Hub and the Homey Professional.

I’ve had the Hub M3 up and operating for just a few weeks now, right here’s every little thing you must know…

Design and construct

Aqara Hub M3 reset button
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

The Aqara Hub M3 is the slickest trying hub from the model to date. Positive, it doesn’t have cute cat ears just like the Hub G3, however you could possibly all the time glue some on if that’s a deal-breaker for you.

As an alternative, the Hub M3 takes its design cues from the M2, with a smooth shiny black matte impact in a sq. kind issue measuring in at 105 x 105 x 36.5mm. On the highest is somewhat LED that’s typically blue if issues are okay.

On one edge you’ll discover a pairing button (which can also be used as a reset button if wanted) in addition to the QR codes you’ll must pair with the Aqara app and likewise HomeKit. There’s no bodily Matter QR code, as an alternative you’ll generate this contained in the Aqara app when you’ve bought it paired.

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Aqara Hub M3 underneath
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

You possibly can mount the M3 utilizing the bracket you’ll get within the field however I’d guess most individuals will merely simply place it on a flat floor.

Flip it over and also you’ll see a few ports; a USB-C one for powering up, and an RJ45 slot for an Ethernet cable.

Aqara Hub M3 power options
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

In addition to wired knowledge, that Ethernet-in can be used for Energy over Ethernet (PoE), which is a superb choice in order for you most web connectivity.

Aqara Hub M3 power over ethernet poe
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

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Additionally built-in, and visual on the underside, is a 95dB speaker that can be utilized for alerts and as a part of a DIY house safety system, however I’ll discuss extra about that in a bit.

Setup and migrating previous hubs

In addition to that Ethernet choice talked about above, you do even have the choice of getting the Hub M3 synced up with your property community over 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi.

No matter connectivity mode you go for, you’ll discover that including the Hub M3 to your Aqara system is so simple as including a sensible sensor, possibly even simpler.

Whenever you first plug the M3 in, you’ll discover that LED flashing yellow and when you hearth up the Aqara app then it ought to robotically detect it and also you’ll be requested to scan the Aqara QR code.

Aqara Hub M3 pairing
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

When you don’t get the auto-detect choice for no matter cause, merely faucet the add accent choice within the app and the M3 will probably be found by your smartphone utilizing Bluetooth and also you’ll need to enter the QR pairing code manually.

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When you’re all synced up you’ll be requested to ‘Start the journey of IoT’. What this implies is you’ll have to decide on between a Matter or HomeKit sensible house system. When you select the previous it is going to, in fact, nonetheless work with the latter, and I’ll come again to that in a bit.

I selected, and presumably most individuals will select, the Matter route because it’s sort of the purpose of the brand new Hub.

The subsequent step is deciding whether or not to have the Hub M3 because the chief of your current Aqara hubs as proven on this diagram right here…

Aqara M3 Hub topology network
(Picture credit score: Aqara)

… or selecting emigrate your current hub over to the M3. I selected the latter as that’s how one can make use of the superior Edge and ARK options, which I’ll come again to in a bit.

The excellent news is the migration instrument itself is superb certainly; it pulls over all of your current Aqara ‘baby units’ (their terminology, not mine) and retains all their names, automations and guidelines. This hasn’t been doable on earlier Aqara hubs, so it’s an awesome new addition.

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Even when your current Aqara units are powered down throughout this migration course of, the Hub M3 will sync with them after they subsequent energy up.

You should definitely learn via the migration wording although and, remember, your present Aqara hub such because the M1S or an M2 will really be manufacturing facility reset as a part of the migration course of.

The migration course of solely takes just a few seconds and it is best to then discover that each one your baby units at the moment are listed underneath your new Hub – and, as talked about, any related automations or guidelines inside the Aqara app ought to nonetheless be in place.

I seen that a few my previous Aqara units confirmed up within the new record however had been greyed-out. Nonetheless, I discovered that it was straightforward sufficient to ‘repair’ these by lengthy urgent the pair button on the units that had been unresponsive. That appeared to un-grey them (that’s not a technical time period however I’m going with it) and all of their current automations had been fortunately nonetheless in place.

Controlling Aqara units on the Edge

The Aqara Hub M3 is Aqara’s first ‘Edge Computing’ hub. What meaning is that machine settings, automations and the like are now not cloud primarily based however are run domestically from the machine itself. The M3 really has 8GB of on board storage to maintain every little thing saved.

Working on the Edge permits your Aqara system and units to be immune from web outages, and, thanks Aqara’s ARK Mode 2, you probably have a pair of M3s and one goes down, the opposite one can take over. I haven’t been capable of take a look at this although, as I solely have the one M3 Hub in for testing.

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What I’ve been capable of take a look at is Aqara’s ‘System Binding Functionality’ characteristic, the place we’re instructed that if the web fails, or Aqara’s cloud server goes down, and the M3 Hub itself additionally goes down then sure units will nonetheless have the ability to function.

At present the LED Strip T1, the Relay T2 and the Ceiling Mild T1M are supported for this characteristic and I examined it utilizing an Aqara Wi-fi Mini Change as an finish level. It didn’t work with both the T1M or the Mild Strip.

Aqara says that this characteristic will enhance over time and that wired-Thread controllers will probably be a part of the System Binding celebration.

Speaking Thread and the Movement and Mild Sensor P2, and the Door and Window Sensor P2 are the one Aqara Thread units in the mean time and each at present have fairly restricted options and settings inside the Aqara app, however I’d count on performance on these to be ramped up fairly rapidly.

It goes with out saying that you may nonetheless add common Aqara Zigbee units to the M3 Hub too.

Every little thing is managed via the Aqara app, the place it’s tremendous easy to arrange automations, create teams and extra – check out our detailed Aqara sensible house system evaluate for extra info on all of that aspect of issues.

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I’ve talked about the loudspeaker up prime and there’s loads of scope to place this to make use of within the app, comparable to utilizing it as siren for a DIY sensible safety system, having alerts when sure guidelines are met, taking part in particular sounds when preset circumstances are met and so forth.

For instance, I’ve my Hub M3 in my backyard workplace and it barks like an aggressive canine if the primary door is opened in a single day whereas I’m sleeping. It’s tremendous easy to add an MP3 to create no matter sound impact you need.

Matter issues

Now we transfer onto Matter… though I actually want I didn’t need to. Matter integration on the Hub M3, for launch no less than, may be very disappointing.

I’m assured, understanding Aqara as a model like I do, that this case will enhance fairly drastically within the very close to future however for now, it’s a little bit of a multitude. Truly, it’s a variety of a multitude.

That Matter emblem on the field, we had been instructed, was speculated to imply that customers might seize a Matter product on the retailer, take it house, and it could simply work. So long as they’d a Matter controller in place, every little thing would simply work.

Nonetheless, with the M3 Hub as a Matter controller, that’s fairly removed from the case. Nothing actually works because it ought to.

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At launch there are solely three manufacturers formally supported for getting Matter units synced up with Aqara; Philips Hue (by way of the Hue Bridge), Nest Thermostats and Leviton Switches and Dimmers.

I’ve managed to get my Hue Bridge synced with the M3 but it surely reveals as an ‘accent’. Not one of the lights the Bridge are related to appear to point out anyplace.

Matter was speculated to be model agnostic. Throughout the board we’ve seen ecosystems like Alexa, SmartThings, HomeKit and Google Dwelling sluggish to react to sure machine varieties – i.e. something launched from Matter 1.2 onwards comparable to air purifiers and robotic vacuum cleaners – however that is the primary time I’ve come throughout a Matter controller being fussy with the manufacturers it helps.

Aqara did simply announce that it has “expanded connectivity to extra third-party Matter units and the Hub M3 now helps these Matter-compatible machine varieties: Contact Sensor, Occupancy Sensor, Mild Sensor, On/Off Mild (Wall) Change, Dimmer (Wall) Change, Thermostat, On/Off (Sensible) Plug, Matter Bridge.”

Aqara additionally states although that “attributable to restricted sources, we haven’t examined all third-party Matter units, and as third-party assist continues to be a ‘lab characteristic’, interoperability points might come up.”

In order that’s all fairly naff and a little bit of a kick within the balls for early M3 adopters. However once more, I’m certain it is going to all be rectified fairly quickly.

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Add Matter device to Aqara Hub M3
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

The excellent news is that I efficiently added a TP-Hyperlink sensible plug to the M3 utilizing Matter, so plainly issues are shifting alongside no less than.

I’ve been testing the Hub M3 with a spread of Aqara baby units, each previous and new, but it surely’s value noting that you just don’t really need to make use of an Aqara Matter controller (simply the M3 at current) to get your Aqara Matter-over-Thread sensible house units – such because the Movement and Mild Sensor P2, and the Door and Window Sensor P2 – working inside a Matter sensible house ecosystem. You possibly can sync them with non-Aqara Matter controllers such because the HomePod 2 or an Amazon Echo Hub.

That’s the entire level of Matter, if it has the Matter emblem on the field then you definately don’t want to fret about what manufacturers work with what.

That’s the massive concept anyway, though this evaluate proves that it’s probably not understanding that manner in observe.

Integrations with different ecosystems

Now, keep in mind once I talked about first establishing the M3 and the selection between a Matter and a HomeKit system?

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Effectively, there’s just a few issues you must get your forward round in case you are in Camp HomeKit, earlier than you make that call.

The very first thing to notice is that you may select the Matter system choice, out of the field, and nonetheless sync every little thing up with HomeKit, that’s not an issue. Nonetheless, remember that HomeKit will pull within the Hub M3 as a brand new bridge within the ‘Dwelling Hubs & Bridges’ part, and ask you so as to add all of its baby units to the rooms they’re in.

So, if you wish to migrate from an previous Aqara hub to a brand new one, then make sure you do this migration earlier than including the Hub M3 to HomeKit over Matter.

You’ll then need to delete your previous hub as a bridge from HomeKit, and that may then kill of the present baby units too, so that you’ll need to redo any Apple Dwelling automations that these had been a part of. You’ll additionally need to rename them and reassign them to any rooms.

That goes for Alexa and SmartThings (and presumably Google Dwelling too, though I haven’t examined on that platform but) when you’ve bought your M2 already added via Matter  – the Hub M3 turns into the gateway for the kid units and different platforms gained’t know these are basically the identical units however with a brand new chief.

In HomeKit, utilizing the Matter-system mode, you gained’t have the ability to add the Hub M3 itself as a ‘machine’ and assign it a room; so that you gained’t have the ability to use its alarm features as a part of safety automations – you’ll need to configure these inside the Aqara app straight.

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This isn’t Aqara or Apple’s fault although; Matter doesn’t but assist alarm techniques.

Within the HomeKit system mode – i.e. you ignored all of the Matter stuff throughout setup – you need to use the M3 as a siren in an alarm system and HomeKit additionally provides extra baby machine options, comparable to adaptive lighting. There’s at present no choice to make use of the siren when you’re going direct via Alexa.

When you did go down the Matter-system route and also you care about such issues, you may examine in case your Hub M3 has joined an current Matter-over-Thread community by looking for ‘Router C4’ in no matter community tree instrument you utilize.

The one exception to those baby machine guidelines are Aqara’s Matter-over-Thread units. The likes of the brand new P2 duo gained’t be pulled throughout to different ecosystems because of being paired to the M3, they may have to be added individually to the likes of Alexa and Google as which are standalone Matter units. That goes for 3rd-party units too, just like the TP-Hyperlink I added to the M3 utilizing Matter-over-Wifi.

I wasted hours making an attempt to get the P2 sensor duo synced up with Matter and the Hub M3 utilizing Thread and ultimately simply gave up. I believe my current Matter Thread community was inflicting issues, I don’t suppose the M3 is able to merging Thread networks, simply creating a brand new one. Once more, that’s not what Matter was meant to do.

One other complicating factor I’ll add to the combo right here (wasn’t Matter speculated to make every little thing simpler?) is that you may, when you actually wish to, really use each Matter and HomeKit setup modes concurrently… however I can’t even be bothered to open that specific can of worms.

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The truth is, I’d completely keep away from ‘cross contamination’ of something because it at present stands. I grabbed the pairing code and added the M3 to Alexa over Matter and, whereas it pulled over all of the baby units, they had been largely unresponsive or sluggish.

IR blasting

The addition of a two-way 360° infrared blaster means you may even get your AC and AV gear singing and dancing in your Matter sensible house.

This can be a very good characteristic of the M3 Hub. Not solely can it hearth indicators to your TV, AC unit and the like, the IR blaster can also be consistently listening. That’s a sport changer, I don’t suppose I’ve come throughout something like this within the IR blasting world.

What meaning is that, even when you decide up your previous dumb distant to manage your AC, these indicators are picked up and replicated contained in the Aqara app, or certainly HomeKit or Alexa, the place the temperature adjustments are mirrored within the digital controls.

Pair Aqara Hub M3 to aircon
(Picture credit score: The Ambient)

Nonetheless, I couldn’t really get the two-way IR management with my AC working in any respect. I’ve seen movies on-line of individuals doing this so I’m guessing it is a me drawback, not an Aqara drawback. I can get my AC unit recognized and might management it no drawback, each via the Aqara app and thru Apple Dwelling, however I can’t get distant management button management adjustments mirrored in both app.

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I’ve reached out to Aqara about this, and plenty of different points I’ve lined on this evaluate, and I’ll replace as I hear and study extra.

Remaining ideas

Sure, the Hub M3 is very large disappointment when it comes to Matter assist, and there’s work to be accomplished on a few of the extra superior Edge and ARK applied sciences however I’ve each religion that Aqara will tackle these points within the very close to future.

As an Aqara-only hub it’s fairly superior already, with quite a few options that set it other than its predecessors and so, when you’re seeking to create or improve a rock-solid sensible house with Aqara on the entrance and middle, you may’t go incorrect.

I’ll readdress this evaluate quickly to incorporate particulars on any updates and enhancements that land, and there’s an excellent likelihood the star ranking might see a major increase if the Hub M3 finally lives as much as its lofty billing.

So make sure you examine again for updates.

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How we take a look at

Once we publish our opinions, you may relaxation assured that they’re the results of “dwelling with” long run assessments.

Sensible house hubs and bridges play a key half in controlling, a sensible house ecosystem, or a spread of merchandise that – supposedly – all work in concord.

As a result of we’re testing sensible house package all day, on a regular basis, we all know what issues and the way a specific sensible controller compares to options that you may also be contemplating.

Our opinions are complete, goal and truthful and, in fact, we’re by no means paid on to evaluate a tool.

Learn our information to how we take a look at sensible house hubs to study extra.

FAQs

Is the Aqara Hub M3 a Matter controller?

Sure, the Hub M3 is billed as a full Matter controller / Thread border router combo; which signifies that it’s not simply native Aqara units might be managed, however Matter units from third-party manufacturers too.

Does Aqara work with Amazon Alexa?

Sure, however it’s a must to add it via Matter.

 
What Aqara hubs can migrate to the Hub M3?

You should use the migration instrument emigrate the M1S, M2, E1, G3 and G2H Professional. You possibly can’t at present migrate the M1 or the G2H.

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