As great as using our voices and apps to control our smart home accessories, there are times when physical control is simply more convenient. Instead of taking out your phone and waiting for an app to launch or another failed voice command, smart buttons and remote controls require nothing more than a quick press or gesture for the magic to happen.
However, most buttons or remote controls are generally for tasks such as controlling the best smart light bulbs, so they tend to live on the wall, diminishing comfort. The Aqara Cube, which we tested in recent months, adopts a different approach to smart controls, with a unique design that incorporates a number of easy-to-use gestures. Aqara’s cube is reliable, responsive and simply fun to use, but there are a few gotcha you need to know before you buy.
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Bottom line: The Aqara smart cube brings fun and convenient controls to smart Aqara home accessories at a great price. However, limitations such as the lack of HomeKit support prevent it from being a must-have for everyone.
- Six configurations
- Fast and responsive
- Aqara application
- The push gesture is not reliable
- Does not work with HomeKit
Aqara Cube: Price and availability
Aqara Cube – Like most Aqara smart accessories, it is only available for purchase through Amazon in North America. Cube has an incredibly affordable price of only $ 18.99, and the price drops even lower at different times of the year, as Aqara frequently conducts sales and promotions. You can now save 10% of your purchase price by cutting a coupon off the Amazon list and, with Prime delivery, it can be on your doorstep in just two days.
Aqara Cube: Unique, fun and convenient
As the name suggests, the Aqara Cube has a boxy, seamless design, completely white, clean and compact. The cube measures 1.77 inches on each side and weighs just 3.84 ounces, but the device feels surprisingly premium and sturdy in the hand. The exterior of the Cube is devoid of buttons or lights and, apart from the fact that it has an Aqara logo on one side, it could easily pass as a generic home decor – which is a plus in my book.
In most cases, the assigned action is triggered within 2-3 seconds and, on the rare occasion, when it lasted a little longer, it was only a few seconds.
Aqara’s Cube operates on a single CR2450 coin battery with an estimated lifespan of approximately two years, with typical use. The battery is accessible by removing one of the side panels of the Cube, and inside is a small reset button and a status indicator light. Hidden inside the Cube is a low-power Zigbee wireless radio that allows for long battery life and transmits actions from the accessory to an Aqara hub – which is necessary.
Like its design, I like the way the pairing process for the Aqara Cube is also unique. After starting the pairing in the Aqara Home application – or manually clicking a button on one of the Aqara hubs, all you need to connect the cube is a quick swing gesture. Once paired, you can assign the Cube as a trigger for other Aqara accessories, such as the Aqara Smart Plug, which is in the Aqara Smart Home System starter kit or an Aqara Smart Light Switch
The cube can also trigger some of the additional functions found in Aqara hubs. These features include turning on and off built-in lights or playing alarm tones and funny sounds through the built-in speakers, which is neat. The cube supports a total of six customizable gestures thanks to the inclusion of a gyroscope and accelerometers: two for flips (90 and 180 degrees) and one for double touching, shaking, pushing and rotating.
The assignment of an action takes place in the Aqara Home application, which is available for both iOS and Android. The process follows a familiar if that then that format that is easy to use and, after creation, I like how you can easily enable or disable actions without deleting the entire configuration. I also like how the Aqara app provides a history in an easy-to-read view of the history of all Cube actions, so you can refer to it for diagnosis if needed.
Aqara Home app
The Aqara Home app is the command center for the Aqara Cube, where you can assign custom actions to each of the device’s six gestures.
Now in performance, where Cube exceeded my expectations, the device constantly taking over all but one of six fun gestures (more on that later). As impressive as the accuracy of the Cube is, I am more impressed by how quickly the assigned action takes effect. In most cases, the assigned action is triggered within 2-3 seconds and, on the rare occasion, when it lasted a little longer, it was only a few seconds. Finally, the Cube seems to be doing well with long periods of inactivity, as I did not notice any additional delay in response times after resting for hours or days.
Aqara Cube: Does not work with HomeKit
Of course, there are some things I don’t like about the Aqara cube. First, the Cube requires an Aqara hub device to operate, so there are a few additional costs if you don’t already have one. Compatible options include the basic Aqara hub found in the company’s starter kit, as well as the excellent Aqara Camera Hub G2H. No matter which hub you go with, this is another hub device, adding an extra configuration.
Furthermore, if you read my previous reviews about Aqara smart accessories, you will know that I have some dissatisfaction with the Aqara Home application. To schedule actions for Cub, you must use the Aqara app, which is slow and somewhat confusing to navigate. I constantly face issues where the app will freeze a few seconds before the screen transition and selection failures when the data is refreshed, leading to a frustrating overall experience.
As mentioned earlier, all of the Cube’s gestures work fine, except for one. The push gesture – which is supposed to be as simple as sliding the Cube forward on a flat surface, is never recognized, even after several attempts at different speeds. Because the other gestures work the way they are published, it’s not the biggest offer and I might just do something wrong, but you should keep that in mind if you need more than five.
The biggest problem with the Aqara Cube is that no more plays nicely with other Aqara accessories. It’s a shame I can’t use the cube with my HomeKit devices natively, as it just seems like a natural fit – especially considering that almost all other Aqara accessories support the Apple platform. There are workarounds, such as setting up actions with an Aqara accessory exposed to HomeKit, which triggers a HomeKit accessory through automation – but let’s face it, it’s more complicated than it needs to be.
Aqara Cube: Competition
When it comes to competition, the Aqara Cube does not have a real direct competitor, because it is dedicated only to Aqara accessories. If you were to step out of the Aqara ecosystem, there are options such as the best HomeKit buttons and remote controls that offer controls for a wide range of smart devices.
Our top choice for the best HomeKit button is Eve Button, thanks to its premium design and three-award actions. However, the Eve Button is based on Bluetooth connectivity, which responds considerably slower, and also has its share of limitations – such as working only with HomeKit accessories. The Eve button is also more expensive at a price of $ 50.
Although not currently on our best list due to ongoing availability issues, the Nanoleaf remote control is the closest competitor to the Aqara cube. The Nanoleaf remote control has a total of twelve programmable actions, works with HomeKit and accepts gestures such as rotation, although they are limited to controlling the brightness levels of Nanoleaf products. Like the Eve Button, the Nanoleaf remote control is also more expensive as it starts at $ 30.
Aqara Cube: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if …
- You own or intend to purchase an Aqara hub device
- You want a convenient way to control your Aqara accessories
- You want a unique smart home accessory
You shouldn’t buy this if …
- You do not own an Aqara hub or accessories
- You want smart control for HomeKit accessories
- You do not want to use the Aqara application
Because the Aqara Cube only works with Aqara accessories, it is essentially a niche product that is only useful for the Aqara ecosystem. Aqara Cube does not work directly with HomeKit, so you can forget about using it to control your existing accessories – at least without resorting to difficult solutions, limiting its overall potential for automation. However, if you already own or plan to build an Aqara hub, the Cube is a fun and extremely reliable way to add convenient controls.
As much as I enjoy the short response time of the Aqara Cube, the reliability and the playful gestures, the lack of compatibility with the accessories outside the Aqara ecosystem makes it difficult to recommend. Even if you already have an Aqara hub device, you may not have an accessory that can take advantage of the Cub, making it an even more difficult sale.
If you happen to meet all the requirements, then yes, Aqara Cube is an excellent addition that will make controlling your accessories convenient and fun. If you don’t already have a hub and don’t want to go through additional circles, you’ll need to resolve this.
Bottom line: If you are already in the Aqara ecosystem, the Aqara Cube is a delightful way to control your accessories with multiple gestures, fast execution and solid reliability.
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