Aqara recently announced the long awaited M3 Hub at CES 2024, promoting the new Matter Controller along with a couple of other new devices. Thread and Matter are the two main focus terms of Aqara’s expo in Las Vegas, releasing a new smart lever lock, a Thread border router smart plug and promoting Home Copilot, a generative AI chatbot which can be used in their Aqara Home app.
This article answers all your questions about the new Aqara M3 Multi-protocol Hub including the most important one – Should you upgrade to the M3 from one of their other hubs?
Aqara M3 Hub Specification Overview
The Aqara M3, labelled as model ZHWG24LM is a squared shaped multi-protocol smart hub measuring at 105×105×36.5mm. The device can be powered by an included 5V2A adapter or a POE input of 48V⎓0.27A. It’s resilient enough to operate in ambient conditions with temperature ranges -10°C~50°C and 0~95% relative humidity with no condensation.
The M3 supports a couple of wireless communication protocols, starting with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Zigbee 3.0/Thread IEEE 802.15.4 and Bluetooth 5.1 for onboarding Matter devices. The device supports Matter out of the box, which ensures seamless integration of your existing Aqara devices.
Aqara M3 as a Matter Controller
The most appealing feature for smart home early adopters is definitely the fact that the Aqara M3 hub acts as a Matter Controller and a Thread Border Router. Besides being a Zigbee 3.0 hub for Aqara devices, the M3 can now be used with other brands communicating over Wi-Fi and Thread to Matter.
What this means essentially, is you can use the M3 as your main Matter controller and form networks with devices not within the Aqara ecosystem, bringing them all under the Matter umbrella. This functionality is on par with Thread border routers like the HomePod Mini and Google Nest devices.
The Bluetooth 5.1 radio is used precisely for onboarding compatible Matter devices to the M3 hub and their app, while Aqara also uses something called MagicPair for seamless integration of their own devices.
To Illustrate this functionality thorough an example, you can now add a Matter-over-Wi-fi smart bulb from any brand in the Aqara Home app and control it without the need for other proprietary apps. This will not expose the bulb to other Matter ecosystems like HomeKit, but since Matter allows for adding a single device to multiple controllers, you can easily link them both and control them from whatever app you want to.
Additional Features of the M3
Besides the obvious listed above, there are some other very interesting features home automation enthusiasts might want to know about.
- Two-way, 360° IR blaster:
- The M3 is equipped with a powerful two-way 360° IR blaster with status detection capable of cloning and controlling your dumb IR remotes and devices.
- Speaker and Custom Ringtones:
- The M3 includes a robust 95dB speaker that serves as both the siren for the Aqara Home Alert System and for personalized voice announcements.
- Privacy Focus:
- The M3 prioritizes user privacy by not having a camera or microphone. It also supports secure local storage with end-to-end encryption for device logs and user data, guaranteeing the confidentiality of home events.
- Local Control:
- The M3 moves data storage from the cloud to the device, ensuring security through end-to-end encryption. It can locally process automations and run them on your network, even if the internet or cloud connection is unavailable.
- Backup Hub:
- A second M3 hub can be setup as an automatic backup of the main M3. If you have two or more Hub M3 devices, your automations are mirrored to the secondary hub, ready to take over in case the main hub fails.
- Thread Direct Binding:
- The M3 supports direct binding between Aqara Thread devices, allowing two devices to communicate directly, bypassing the need for the hub or an internet connection. For example, a temperature sensor could be bound to a thermostat and communicate directly.
- Flexible Installation:
- The M3 can be mounted on a wall, ceiling or seamlessly hidden out of sight behind furniture
Should you upgrade to the Aqara M3 Hub?
While the Aqara M2 Hub supports Matter and received a POE version recently, the feature is only available for Asian markets. Further, there is no Thread radio in the M2 so if you are looking to future proof, you will be better off upgrading to the M3 hub. I would advise you decide by answering these simple questions:
- If you are using other Aqara hubs:
- Thread is the next-gen communication protocol used in Smart Homes, so you should definitely consider upgrading to the M3.
- The ability to add devices from other brands to the M3 is also an invaluable feature, currently not present in the M2 or other hubs.
- If you are using Home Assistant:
- There is no need to upgrade, Home Assistant handles Matter-over-Wi-fi and Matter-over-Thread by itself, so you can integrate any device you want to directly.
Another deciding factor will be the pricing of the M3 Hub, which Aqara has not revealed yet. Considering the M2 retails for $59.99 on Amazon, it is reasonable to expect a price tag of at least $70 or more for the M3.
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