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Aqara review: The sensors your HomeKit home has been looking for

Aqara review: The sensors your HomeKit home has been looking for

You'd be forgiven if you've never heard of Aqara's collection of smart home sensors and switches, but you're probably familiar with Xiaomi (they of the fantastic Roborock vacuum fame). A Chinese electronics manufacturer known for its cheap but good hardware, Xiaomi makes a lot of stuff, including smartphones and an impressive lineup of smart home devices, which are sold in China and elsewhere under its Mi brand.
Aqara is a spin off of the Mi brand for the US market. Self-owned, but under the Xiaomi company Lumi Technology, Aqara recently started selling its excellent collection of smart home sensors and gadgets through Gearbest. Brilliant news for those of us looking for inexpensive, reliable ways to expand our Apple HomeKit,  Alexa and Google powered smart homes.

We spent a month living with Aqara's Smart Home Starter Kit, a
DIY home security / smart home system. Read on for our full review.

Aqara: Features, design and setup

A Zigbee-based system, Aqara relies on a central hub that works with Alexa, HomeKit and Google Assistant, and can expose all of Aqara's battery-powered sensors and smart gadgets (up to 32 per hub) to your voice-controlled smart home system of choice.

Aqara also works as a stand-alone smart home system managed through its app, but we're going to start out by saying don't do this.

The app is Aqara's weak point. It's confusing, fiddly, has a steep learning curve and doesn't give you access to any devices outside of the Aqara system. Plus, the developers need to spend a bit more time with an English dictionary.

hardware on the other hand is top notch and follows Xiaomi's ethos of
selling devices with top-of-the-line specs and hardware for rock bottom
prices. Simple and sturdy, all white and nicely made, Aqara's sensors
and switches aren't showy devices, they're designed to blend in while
still being functional, and by and large they are simple to set up and

Most importantly however, they're cheap. Starting at just $16.99 for a contact sensor and going up to $129.99 for the whole starter kit, these are good prices for good hardware. At least $5 to $10 below most of the comparable competition, and significantly less than HomeKit offerings from Eve and Fibaro.

We tested the
smart home starter kit, which comes with a hub (that includes a built in
color-changing LED light and speaker), contact sensor, motion sensor,
smart switch/button and a smart plug.

We also tried out the other devices currently available in the
U.S. - the temp/humidity sensor, vibration/tilt sensor and leak sensor.

was easy, all the devices in the starter kit were already pre-paired to
the hub, so once we plugged it in (it goes directly into an outlet and
doesn't need to be hardwired to your router, but it does cover two
outlets) and walked through the setup process in the Aqara Home app,
they all just showed up.

Adding the other devices was also straightforward. Using the app you select Add Accessory, press the device's reset button and the Hub announces that it's paring and when it's connected, or if it failed.

A nice touch, the app comes with pre-set automations, such as
single press the switch/button to turn on/off the smart plug, or double
press the switch/button to arm the Hub (Aqara fancies itself as a home
security system, it's not - more on that later). You can also create
your own.

Installing the devices themselves was also a breeze thanks to
pre-applied adhesive as well as spare pieces of pre-cut tape (there are
no hardware mounting options).

The only hiccups we encountered were with pairing devices, one
contact sensor would pair but refused to show any status change in the
app. We ended up getting a new one, which worked fine. The leak sensor
refused to pair four times, but then on the fifth try it did.

are also not fans of the app. While it provides a lot of access to each
device - including a timeline of activity and settings to tinker with,
the whole setup process was disjointed and slightly confusing. A fair
amount of broken English and warnings such as don't use dual band
routers (we did), as it won't work (it did), didn't instill confidence.

Also, setting up the native Automations and Scenes was not
intuitive, even though it employs a simple If This Then That-type setup -
although they did work once we figured it all out.

Overall, the best way to use the Aqara Home app is to get the
devices set up then hide it away to call on solely for firmware updates
while you use one of the other smart home apps it works with for daily
control (read on for more on this).

Aqara: In Use

Here's how we configured our Aqara Smart Home:

The hub has a built-in, color-changing LED light and a speaker that can
produce a loud-ish siren. We plugged it into an outlet in an upstairs
hallway to act as a nightlight.

Smart Plug: A large, standard
looking smart plug with an on-device switch, this was installed in the
kitchen attached to a button-press kettle.

Switch/Button: Placed by a bedside table - this diminutive smart button
was set up so that one press would turn on the aforementioned kettle
before we got out of bed. It could also be mounted to a wall and used as
a switch to operate connected smart lights.

Motion Sensor:
Tiny and with a handy adjustable mount, we installed the sensor at
bottom of the main stairway, so when it senses motion it triggers the
Hub light to come on. When the system is in the Alert Mode (see Aqara As A Home Security System) it will trigger the hub's siren.

Sensor: Another small component, we attached this two part door/window
sensor to an interior bedroom door, set to send an alert when opened and
to trigger the hub's siren when the system is in Alert Mode.

Vibration Sensor: Placed on interior side of the front door we
set this up to send an alert when someone knocks on the door or the
door's opened. Or, when the system is in Alert Mode, it will trigger the
hub's siren. This is also a tilt sensor so could work as a garage door

Leak Sensor: Placed under the dishwasher in the kitchen we set this to trigger the hub to sound a siren when water is detected.

Temp/Humidity Sensor: We installed this in the bedroom to monitor comfort levels.

has a decent and growing ecosystem of products - and while only eight
devices are available here now, the US website lists a light bulb, a
curtain controller, a wireless rocker light switch, an AC controller and
an indoor camera as coming soon.

Head over to the Xiaomi Mi site and you'll find a smart home
smorgasbord, with hundreds of devices from robot vacs to plant monitors,
IAQ detectors and GPS tracking devices - this is definitely a company
innovating quickly in the smart home space.

With all this tech you could easily create a pretty comprehensive
Aqara smart home, but for most users it's the fact that all Aqara's
devices work with Apple's HomeKit,  Alexa and Google Home that
makes them really interesting.

Read on for the skinny on how to use Aqara in your current smart home set up.


Aqara: Integrations

In our opinion, the real reason to invest in Aqara gear is its solid integrations with HomeKit, Alexa and to some extent Google Assistant. While you could just use Aqara products, the Aqara Home app doesn't let you integrate other manufacturers' devices.

Pair it with any of the above and you can use these inexpensive
gadgets to trigger Homekit Automations and Scenes or Alexa or Google
routines to turn on any compatible smart lights, adjust thermostats,
plugs, switches - basically anything that works with Alexa, Google or

to each ecosystems limitations, not every Aqara device works with every
system. But those that do worked really well, triggering any
automations we set up quickly and effectively.

One of Aqara's advantages over much of the competition in this
space is it uses Zigbee rather than Bluetooth or WiFi. This means each
device can act as a repeater so you can place things like contact
sensors far way from your HomeKit hub or Alexa and they won't lose

Here's what will show up as soon as you pair your Aqara Hub to
HomeKit (it has a HomeKit code), Alexa (using a skill) or Google Home:


  • The Aqara Hub - shows as a light, so you can trigger the built in LED to turn on and change color
  • Smart plug
  • Motion sensor
  • Contact sensor
  • Temp/humidity sensor


  • The Aqara Hub - shows up as a light
  • Smart plug
  • Contact sensor
  • Temp Sensor


  • The Aqara Hub - shows up as a light and separately as a Security System (see below)
  • Smart plug
  • Contact sensor
  • Motion sensor
  • Vibration sensor
  • Temp sensor (doesn't work as a trigger)
  • Smart button/switch
  • Leak detector

Setup Tip: When you pair the Aqara Hub to HomeKit make sure to go in to the Home app and choose Show as separate tiles. Then you can move each Aqara component into different rooms and use each device individually.

Aqara: A flawed home security system

selling point of the starter kit is that it acts as a basic DIY home
security system. We say basic because there's no option of professional
monitoring and it's lacking some features that are key for home

But the biggest issue currently is that once you turn on Aqara's
Basic Alert Mode, you can't turn it off... for 24 hours! This means
every time you walk past your motion sensor your alarm goes off. Not

If and when they do fix this, if you're looking for an
inexpensive, basic security setup that works with HomeKit, Aqara is
pretty much your only option. (Abode's more advanced system works with
HomeKit, but it's a steeper up front investment).

There are four Alert Modes for the security component: Basic,
Away, Home and Night. You can configure each one to react to different
devices (i.e. turn off the motion sensor in Home mode), and when any
connected device is triggered while the system is armed the Hub will
blare a loud sound of your choice (including police sirens or a doorbell
ringing) and flash red.

HomeKit you can only control the Basic Alert Mode (not the other ones,
yet), toggling it on or off in the HomeKit app or by adding it to a
HomeKit Automation such as "When the last person leaves the house turn
on the alarm." All the alarm setup must be done in the Aqara app and
only Aqara devices can trigger the siren.

It's not a great
security solution overall, even if it was possible to turn it off. It's a
fiddly set-up, there's no professional monitoring and the alarm isn't
very loud - your neighbors aren't going to hear it. But it will alert
you on your phone as well as audibly and visually through the hub if
someones' sneaking around your house.

Aqara Smart Home Starter Kit

Aqara's Zigbee hub and small, but growing, list of compatible
sensors that work with Alexa, HomeKit and Google is a must-have for
anyone serious about putting their smart home to work. These devices are
the glue that will make all your connected devices work together - and
they're cheap! The Aqara Smart Home Starter Kit offers a lot of great
functionality for not a lot of money. Just look elsewhere if what you
really want is a decent security system.

Aqara Window Door Sensor ( Xiaomi Ecosystem Product )



Aqara WSDCGQ11LM Temperature Humidity Sensor ( Xiaomi Ecosysterm Product )



Aqara ZHWG11LM WiFi Zigbee Smart Gateway HOMEKIT Version ( Xiaomi Ecosystem Product )



Aqara RTCGQ11LM Human Body Motion Sensor ZigBee Wireless Connection with 7M Distance Detection 2 Years Battery Life for Smart Home Security ( Xiaomi Ecosystem Product )



Aqara Two-way Module ( Xiaomi Ecosystem Product )



Aqara Smart Home Water Sensor ( Xiaomi Ecosystem Product )



Aqara Smart Light Switch Wireless Version ( Xiaomi Ecosystem Product )



Xiaomi Aqara Air Conditioning Companion Gateway3 Temperature Sensor control illumination Detection



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