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Tag: 2021-06-11 12:41

The M2 is a perfect starter hub. It’s easy to set up, and there is a minimal learning curve.

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8.80 / 10

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Aqara M2 hub Rear Ports

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The underside of the Aqara M2 hub

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Aqara Hub What's in the box?

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Aqara hub m2 front button

Aqara logo with hub on left side

aqara m2 hub logo detail

Aqara M2 hub Rear Ports

The underside of the Aqara M2 hub

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The M2 is a perfect starter hub. It’s easy to set up, and there is a minimal learning curve. For smart home beginners and those looking to test the water, this hub is a favorite.

Key Features

Up to 128 child device support

HomeKit support

Google Home/Amazon Alexa support

Bluetooth LE 5.0

Zigbee 3.0

2.4 GHz Wi-Fi/RJ45 Ethernet connectivity

Micro-USB charging cable

LED indicator

Onboard speaker

Aqara Home app

Specifications

Brand: Aqara

Dimensions: 3.95 ? x 1.21 inches (100.5 ? x 30.75 mm)

Weight: 135 g

Connectivity: 2.4 GHz Wireless, IR, Bluetooth LE 5.0, RJ45 Cable

Battery Life: N/A

Pros

Great starter hub

Easy setup and configuration

Support for a wide range of accessories

Excellent connectivity

HomeKit support is exceptional

Cons

Possible security issues

Onboard speaker is laughable

Alarm function

Limited ecosystem

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Aqara M2

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The Aqara M2 smart home hub has finally landed?after an almost two-year wait. It’s an interesting little device that integrates seamlessly into HomeKit and offers smart home consumers a wide range of budget-friendly supported accessories.

We’ve been fortunate enough?to test drive the M2 and explore many of its upgraded features. But does this hub justify its long wait? We’re going to answer that question and more in this product review.

To celebrate the launch, Aqara has provided us with a?15% discount code – use the code M2HUBPR1 to get 15% off your Amazon purchase. It’s valid until 11th June though, so be quick!

Aqara hub floating photo

When Aqara unexpectedly announced its M2 smart home hub in May 2019, there wasn’t much fanfare. Despite this, the then three-year-old Aqara had already begun making its mark in the smart home industry.

But the announcement of the M2 was something of a conundrum. Mainly because of how Aqara revealed the device. After Aqara updated its Aqara Home app, some Android users reported unexpected images of the forthcoming hub on the gateway selection screen. Supposedly, this was an internal error on Aqara’s part, but shortly after, the M2’s?image started appearing in the iOS version of the Aqara app.

By then, some outlets had already pounced on the story, and questions began to fly. Would this mystery hub have HomeKit support? Would the M2 be released outside of mainland China? Would it support Zigbee 3.0? Aqara fans everywhere began licking their lips, waiting for the M2’s official release.

Then, in August of 2020, that hunger was finally sated as the M2 officially launched in China. And in December 2020, Aqara added Europe to the regions the M2 was available. Now, in early 2021, the M2 is poised for a US release.

Aqara hubs are nothing new to the smart home industry, and Aqara’s previous hub model, the ZHWG11LM-1, received plenty of favorable reviews. That model also had HomeKit support. Unfortunately, some reviewers felt that the hub?was challenging to set up, and frequent disconnects were also commonly reported.

The M2 aims to change much of that negative press. Aqara has now redesigned the hub from the ground up. Aqara?has also tried to make the M2 the most future-proof hub it?sells.

aqara m2 hub logo detail

There are only a few primary differences between the Aqara M2?and the previous iteration. First and most apparent, the M2 has an RJ45 ethernet port for hardwiring the unit to a router. Secondly, the hub’s power cable is detachable, and rather than terminating in a wall plug, it terminates in a USB-A connection. This change opens the hub up to a wide range of power sources.

Third, are the additional aesthetic elements. The M2 is sleek black with only a single button on the side of the unit. The LED light ring that was a part of previous Aqara hubs is gone, and the perforated speaker grill that sat on top of prior hubs has been moved to the unit’s underside.

Finally, the M2 also sports a single USB-A port that Aqara labels only as “reserved.” My guess is users might access this port for manual firmware updates or other hardware connections. Aqara has not confirmed this suspicion.

As with previous versions, the M2 supports HomeKit, but now also offers Amazon Alexa and Google Home support. Additionally, the hub?includes an internal alarm system for home security, a 360-degree IR transmitter for remote control of devices, Zigbee 3.0, and Bluetooth LE 5.0. The inclusion of Bluetooth LE 5.0 is a bit strange because, at the time of writing, Aqara doesn’t sell any Bluetooth LE devices.

Another new feature of the M2 that many people will appreciate is IFTTT support. This support means that child devices can both trigger IFTTT automations and?can be controlled by IFTTT. So if you wanted to, say, use your Aqara motion sensor to trigger your Meross garage door controller to open your garage door then, you could. IFTTT is a powerful service, and incorporating?the M2 opens up numerous?additional automation possibilities.

As for child devices, Aqara claims that the M2 will support up to 128. For the most part, this is true. However, we’ll talk a bit more about child devices in a moment because there are a few things to know before pushing this limit.

Related: The Google Nest Hub: Everything You Need to Know

Aqara Hub What's in the box?

Inside the M2 packaging, you’ll find:

The M2 Hub

A USB-A to Micro-USB cable

The Aqara M2 Quick-Start Guide

That’s it. Unfortunately, you’ll have to find a USB adapter to plug the hub into the wall, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a few of those lying around the house.

Setup is a simple process. Plug the hub into power, connect the hub to your network via a 2.4 GHz wireless connection or the RJ45 connector (this was the method I used), download the Aqara Home app, and pair your accessories. For this review, Aqara also sent us several accessories in addition to the hub, but these are usually purchased separately.

I mention these accessories for two reasons. First, you’ll need accessories if you’d like to connect the Aqara hub to your smart home. Having the hub alone will not allow you to connect existing smart accessories unless you’ve used Aqara in the past.

If you’re just starting with your smart home, and have yet to add any sensors, switches, etc., then you’ll find the Aqara M2 hub functions well as the heart of your smart home ecosystem. That said, if you already own several other smart home accessories, then adding another stand-alone hub and app might not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

The second reason I mention accessories is that you’ll need to budget them into this hub’s overall cost. However, the Aqara offerings are some of the least expensive smart home accessories I have come across. Many are around $15 or $20, and you can purchase them as you need them. My advice would be to create a list of smart home items and add them one by one until you’ve automated everything in your home.

I also want to point out that setting up these accessories is so easy that I had seven of them installed and working with both the Aqara app and HomeKit in less than an hour. If prizes were given away for ease of use, then Aqara would certainly get my vote.

Aqara M2 hub Rear Ports

After a few-week test drive of the M2, I can confidently say that this hub is for smart home users who don’t want to spend a lot of time configuring their perfect abode. The budget-friendly and easy-to-use Aqara ecosystem is ideal for smart home beginners and folks looking for plug-and-play accessories that support Apple HomeKit.

On the flip side, I wouldn’t recommend this hub for those already deeply entrenched in the smart home realm. For someone like me who owns numerous smart home accessories and controllers, adding another hub to the mix only complicates things.

But, these complications are mitigated by the excellent HomeKit support that the Aqara hub offers. HomeKit connectivity is the primary draw of the M2. Sure, you’ll need to set everything up in the Aqara Home app, but once you’ve configured all of the accessories, then the app becomes superfluous.

In my time with the M2, I don’t think I’ve used the Aqara app more than a handful of times. Most of my interaction with devices has been through HomeKit.

Image Gallery (4 Images)

Aqara Home Main App

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Aqara Home App Device Screen

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If Then Automation Screen on Aqara Home App

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Aqara Home Scene Add Screen

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Aqara Home Main App

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Aqara Home App Device Screen

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If Then Automation Screen on Aqara Home App

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Aqara Home Scene Add Screen

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As for the Aqara Home app, adding devices is relatively straightforward. If you’ve used other smart home apps, then none of Aqara’s features will feel unfamiliar. Tap the?+ icon in the upper right of the main app screen to add a new device, and then select your device from the menus.

Additionally, the Aqara app offers a scene creator and automation creator. Both of these features are useful, but I prefer to use HomeKit to set up automations. If you’re not a HomeKit user, then the app could prove more useful for you.

Download: Aqara Home for iOS | Android (Free)

IoT Inspector Phone Home Screen

When testing the M2, I had two main concerns. First, I wanted to know if this hub was vulnerable to outside attack, and second, I needed to find out if this hub was sending data to a third party. Obviously, security on any IoT network is essential, as you don’t want hackers accessing your stuff.

Since I am a networking novice, I figured that if I could find a way to access this hub using readily available tools like OWASP Zap and IoT Inspector, then the M2 might possess?some high-level security issues. So, I fired up a copy of both applications to see what would happen.

First up was OWASP Zap, which searches for vulnerabilities primarily in web applications. However, you can point Zap at the IoT devices on your network by inputting their local IPs. So that’s what I did. Not surprisingly, Zap could not achieve a connection with the M2, despite using several of the standard “attack” options.

This information means that some outside attempts to access the hub result in connection refusals. Does this mean that the M2 is entirely safe from external attack? Probably not, but I trust that the hub won’t be an easy target.

OWASP Zap test screen

Next on the list was to use the Princeton-built IoT Inspector utility to see if the M2 was phoning home. IoT Inspector harnesses AP spoofing to record outbound data transmission from individual devices on the network. While I am not highly concerned with the possibility of my IoT network traffic being recorded, I figured that it might be a good idea to see what’s going on behind the scenes with the M2.

After a painful configuration process for the IoT Inspector command-line interface, I recorded web traffic from the hub to outside servers. During the 15 minutes or so I had IoT Inspector working, I found that the M2 contacted Aqara.com multiple times, and the unit also contacted Chinese public DNS service 114DNS. Does this mean that the hub is “phoning home?” Yes. Should this be a concern? That’s debatable.

As I said, I am not a network security expert, so these outbound contacts might be perfectly reasonable. However, if security is important to you, you’ll want to do your homework before deciding to pick up this hub.

Related: How You Might Attack Your Company Network With Shadow IoT

Aqara hub m2 front button

The best aspects of the M2 are the ease of use, installation, and configuration. Additionally, the ability to expand the system to support up to 128 devices is a boon. Users can add door sensors, window sensors, and motion sensors to this system without much effort.

This brings me to the number of potential devices that can be connected. While the numbers might make it seem like this hub can work with 128 devices out of the gate, this isn’t exactly the case.

To use more than 32, you’ll need some form of Zigbee repeater, such as a light bulb or other hardwired smart home device. Aqara states this limitation in the fine print of its M2 documentation.

The good news is, however, that most beginners probably won’t go past that initial limitation. Thirty-two devices is a lot, and even with a smart home setup as extensive as my own, I haven’t gotten close to that number of accessories.

Finally, I think my favorite thing about the M2 is how it disappears once it’s up and running. I plugged it in a few weeks ago and haven’t had to interact much with it since. It stays out of the way, and to me, that is the mark of an excellent smart home product.?The Aqara M2 connectivity has also been excellent.

Related: Common Internet of Things (IoT) Issues and How to Fix Them

The underside of the Aqara M2 hub

As for the negative?aspects of this hub, there are only four?that I can immediately identify. There’s the potential for security issues, which has been discussed. Then, there’s the built-in speaker.

This speaker is great if you’re looking to have an audible cue to set up additional smart devices or use the hub as an alarm clock or doorbell. However, this speaker is also part of a significant feature of this hub!the onboard?security alarm.

The problem here is that the speaker of the M2, even at full volume, isn’t very loud. Couple that with the strange alarm sounds (there’s one named “Sniper,” which sounds like a recording of a video game sniper rifle), and the alarm function seems like a novelty.

While there are ways to increase the volume by adding additional components, doing so again means extra cost. That’s why, in our view, if you’re looking for a dedicated alarm feature, then you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Additionally, the Aqara ecosystem is going to be limiting for some people. There are only so many motion sensors and light switches you can install into a home before you want to expand your setup to include more complex products and automations.

Of course, IFTTT is an option here, and Aqara also includes If/Then programmable control sequences in its app. But relying on the Aqara app to control all of your smart home stuff locks you into the ecosystem even further. If you’re planning on going big with?home automation, you’ll probably want to incorporate a more capable hub from one of the big three manufacturers.

Lastly, while Aqara made the M2 to be future-proof, longevity is questionable. However, that’s not necessarily the M2’s fault. If you’ve been following the smart home industry, then you know technology changes rapidly. An easy-to-see example of this rapid shift is single-band 2.4 GHz support.

Many higher-end smart home products these days are forgoing the single-band in favor of dual-band support. For Aqara to be future-proof, we would have liked to see dual-band support on this unit.

Aqara logo with hub on left side

That’s a big negative. Like many electronic smart home products, the M2 cannot be taken apart by the end-user.

The M2 is a perfect starter hub. It’s easy to set up, and there is a minimal learning curve. For smart home beginners and those looking to test the water, this hub is a favorite. HomeKit support means that even if you decide to expand your system, as long as you’re using an iDevice, you’ll be able to keep your Aqara accessories.

Ala carte accessory options also offer the ability to scale your smart home as the mood strikes you. And many of Aqara’s products are readily available through places like Amazon.

But, if security is a significant concern, you might want to choose another option. Additionally, if you’ve got complex automations in mind, we think you’ll be happier with a hub that has a more versatile ecosystem.

That said, the Aqara M2 has earned a place near the top of our list of smart home hubs. It’s an excellent value for those who appreciate both flexibility and ease of use.

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Related Topics

Product Reviews

IFTTT

Home Automation

Smart Hubs

Apple HomeKit

Smart Home

About The Author

Matt Hall

(58 Articles Published)

Matt L. Hall covers technology for MUO. Originally from Austin, Texas, he now resides in Boston with his wife, two dogs, and two cats. Matt earned his BA in English from the University of Massachusetts.

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