Review: Aqara’s E1 roller blind driver, TVOC air quality monitor and M1S hub are reliable and well-designed HomeKit accessories
Aqara manufactures a range of HomeKit-enabled 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.
With these new accessories, I was able to add to the HomeKit setup 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.
Although Aqara has its own app to control and configure accessories, it is possible to control, automate, and manage them entirely through Apple’s Home app.
To connect the new devices, I used the Aqara Hub M1S. The M1S Hub serves as a smart home control center for the wide range of Aqara children’s sensors, controllers and other devices using Zigbee 3.0 protocol, which can connect up to 128 devices. The M1S Hub will also support Matter, a new smart home protocol built by companies such as Apple and Amazon, via an over-the-air software update in the future.
In terms of design, the M1S Hub features a compact and circular design with matte white plastic. There’s a patterned speaker grille on the front, an 18-LED RGB ring around the exterior, and a handy HomeKit pairing sticker on the top.
Unlike many HomeKit hubs, the M1S plugs directly into a power outlet, without the 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 M1S Hub connects over Wi-Fi, but I didn’t notice significantly slower latency compared to other wired hubs.
The design of the hub itself extends further than expected due to the need for a built-in adapter, but it’s thin enough when plugged in to be unobtrusive and overall as beautiful as you might expect with such a device. .
The M1S Hub integrates seamlessly with the Home app, initiated with a simple scan of the HomeKit code sticker on top. The initial pairing process went without frustration, and all subsequent devices paired with the M1S Hub automatically appear in Apple’s Home app.
The M1S Hub also supports all four native HomeKit alarm modes and has a surprisingly powerful two-watt built-in speaker. The speaker doesn’t look like a high fidelity component, but since it is not intended for music, the quality is adequate for brief alerts and can easily be projected in a large room. Like other Aqara hubs, the M1S Hub uses its speakerphone to walk you through the setup process and pairing other accessories, and it can also be used to send alerts through automations in the Aqara app.
The light sensor and RGB LED matrix are also configurable in the Aqara app, with brightness and color options. Although the speaker and LED ring do not integrate directly with the Home app due to Apple’s limitations, they do allow the M1S Hub to be used as an alarm, doorbell or even a night light through the app. Aqara, 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 adapt 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 due to its motor and internal battery. It feels very substantial and well-built, and is subtle enough that it won’t be an eyesore when strapped to a wall.
The Roller Shade Driver features a detachable plastic slide on the back with screw holes for screwing directly into a wall. The appropriate screws and plugs are supplied in the box, along with an optional adhesive strip. While it does require screwing into a wall, like any other shadow conductor, the installation process is relatively straightforward afterwards.
The Roller Shade Driver offers two power modes. You can either run the device wirelessly and then recharge its internal battery about every two months via its USB-C port, or leave a power cable inserted all the time to avoid having to recharge.
The Roller Shade Driver comes with a selection of four adapters to accommodate different bead cords, meaning it should work with most blind cords with beads three to six millimeters thick, as well. than with plastic and metal chains. After simply inserting your awning cord into the adapter, it is very easy to pair shades to an Aqara hub like the company’s other devices using Zigbee 3.0, with just a push of the pairing button and connection instant with the Aqara hub, which also automatically adds nuances to the Home app.
In the Aqara app, you can change the preset open and close positions so the driver knows when to stop opening or closing the blinds and understands the percentages within that range. After that, you can use the Home app on its own and set up automations to control the shades, for example based on sunset and sunrise times, or add the shades to scenes and shortcuts. A great addition to the design are the physical buttons for quick manual control, just in case you don’t have a Siri-enabled device nearby and want to close or open the blinds.
In everyday use, I have found the motor to be much quieter than some competing HomeKit Shade drivers, and also much less prone to slipping and losing the exact open and close positions. Importantly, I have found that reliable connectivity is the biggest issue with some of the existing brands that offer blind drivers, but the connection of the Aqara Roller Shade driver was still reliable. Its USB-C port for power and manual buttons are also great practical advantages over some competing products.
The Roller Shade Driver is launched today as the product begins to roll out in various countries around the world, starting with Europe and Asia.
TVOC air quality monitor
Aqara’s TVOC air quality monitor is a small HomeKit compatible temperature, humidity and air quality sensor that can display this information directly on the sensor itself via an e-ink display. This means you can watch changes in real time and take a peek at current metrics without needing to open Siri or use the Home app, while pushing those metrics to the Home app whenever you want. this feature.
Pairing is extremely quick and easy once you’ve set up an Aqara HomeKit hub, with just one press of the top button to pair it via Zigbee 3.0, which also automatically adds it to the Home app. The Home app displays current sensor temperature, humidity, and air quality information, allowing you to use these metrics to trigger automations, in the Shortcuts app, or just to throw in a at a glance at the current states in the Home app.
The design is very small, slim and compact, with the front plexiglass inserted into the matte white housing. The back of the sensor is flat and magnetic, allowing users to stick it to a surface like a refrigerator if they choose.
The air quality monitor is powered by two small disposable batteries, which Aqara says should power the device for about a year before needing to be replaced. When I tried replacing the batteries I found the plastic backplate extremely difficult to remove even though I needed to use a flathead screwdriver to get enough leverage, but luckily it won’t. not something you will have 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 its focus on seamless integration into 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 M1S Hub, Roller Shade Driver and TVOC Air Quality Monitor.
The M1S Hub, while not as comprehensive as the M2 Hub, has an exceptional minimal design that cuts down on cables, and I would like more smart home brands to adopt this more practical design for their hubs. Added features like the speaker LED ring make an otherwise uninspiring product more useful, even if those aspects don’t fit into the Home app.
The Roller Shade Driver is an affordable and convenient way to upgrade your manual shades with smart features and provides a significantly better experience than other competing devices I’ve tried. While the need to screw into a wall might put some users off, once done the setup is pretty straightforward and it becomes a device that runs reliably in the background.
The Air Quality Monitor is a great addition to any office with its visible e-ink display and minimalist aesthetic, but it’s also useful in the Home app for any growing HomeKit setup. While it’s a bit pricey at $ 44.99, the combination of the e-ink display and HomeKit integration, along with several measurements, will be worth it for many people.
How to buy
Aqara is currently offering a 15% discount on the Roller Shade Driver E1 in its UK Amazon store with promo code RSDE1PR1, valid until September 24, 2021.
Note: Aqara provided MacRumors with an E1 roller blind driver, TVOC air quality monitor, and M1S hub for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.
Article link: Review: Aqara’s E1 roller blind driver, TVOC air quality monitor and M1S hub are reliable and well-designed HomeKit accessories