Review Aqara Hub E1: An excellent entry point for HomeKit

Cupertino, November 12, 2021

Source: Adam Oram / iMore

Whenever I talk to someone about smart home technology, the reason they usually opt for an Alexa or Google Assistant based system is the price. Although most people I know are happy to take advantage of the best iPhone or iPad, the thing that gets them out of the HomeKit ecosystem is usually the high cost of entry.

If you've been on the HomeKit train for a while, you'll know that it's true that the best HomeKit devices generally cost more, especially when you consider the manufacturer-specific hubs you need to pick up.

This is what Aqara, a manufacturer of HomeKit accessories, aims to solve with its range of affordable devices - even more so with the latest hub for connecting them: Aqara Hub E1. With a space-saving design and a cash-saving price tag, it's the best entry point to HomeKit for many people.

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Aqara Hub E1 and packaging

Read Hub E1

Conclusion: If you are starting with HomeKit or want an affordable way to add more sensors around your home, using Hub E1 to enter the Aqara ecosystem makes perfect sense. Its compact, swivel design helps it save space, and its price helps you save some money.


  • Accessible
  • Compact, space-saving design
  • Reliable connectivity
  • Supports up to 128 devices
  • Wi-Fi extension capability

The river

  • No speaker
  • May block the second USB port / socket
  • No Ethernet
  • No USB-C

Read Hub E1: Price and availability

Aqara Hub E1 in use next to an iMac

Source: Read

Aqara's E1 Hub is the most affordable hub to date, retailing for just $ 30. In the HomeKit bridge device market, it is an excellent value proposition and one of the main advantages of this product that I will mention later in this review.

It is available for purchase in the US, Canada, the UK and France, with Amazon being the best place to buy one in those regions.

Read Hub E1: What's good

Read Hub E1 Review

Source: Adam Oram / iMore

When examining individual HomeKit devices, such as cameras, sensors, switches, or lights, there is much to say about features, functionality, and performance, but reviewing a HomeKit hub is slightly different.

The hub or bridge device is usually a "set it and forget it" device that you connect to once and don't really think about until it's time to pair more accessories. It's probably a bad thing if you have a lot of thoughts about your hub. Ideally, if the hub works well, you will hardly think of everything and it is through this lens that I review the Aqara Hub E1.

It is not much bigger than a USB flash drive.

Compared to other Aqara hubs such as Aqara Hub M2, Aqara Camera Hub G2H and Aqara Hub M1S, Hub E1 is a more basic offering with additional features such as IR blasters, cameras and night lights off to leave only the essentials.

In terms of physical design, it's much smaller than those other hubs - not much bigger than a regular USB flash drive - and connects to power directly via an integrated USB-A connector. Its compact design means it takes up as little space as possible and only takes up one USB port that many sockets and power outlets currently have, so you can easily find space for it.

Better yet, that USB connector is located on a swivel hinge so you can tilt the hub to fit in different places, either behind a couch or inside your smart hub cabinet (we all have one of these , not?).

Review Aqara Hub M2

Source: Adam Oram / iMore

Being smaller and simpler in its feature set means that its price is also much more affordable. Coming in at just $ 30, it's half the price of other Aqara hubs, making it the best entry point for newcomers to Aqara or HomeKit in general. The E1 hub makes the entire Aqara ecosystem much more attractive (and it was already cheap).

Although the Aqara Hub E1 does not have a built-in camera, night light, IR blaster or the siren of its other counterparts, it still supports up to 128 Aqara devices, just like those more expensive models. However, some still need to be "repeater" devices that are always powered as a smart socket or a wired light switch.

I only have a few Aqara devices, but I moved them all from Aqara Hub M2 to Hub E1 to test the new hub in detail. Once paired, I did not notice a significant change in reliability or speed, despite the fact that Hub E1 does not have Ethernet. It still connects to Aqara's accessories via Zigbee 3.0, so maybe it's not that surprising.

Aqara devices work reliably and do not cost a fortune - huge benefits in the HomeKit space.

When configured, Hub E1 is displayed in the Home application as a security system with the default settings Off, Home, Away, and Night. They can be used in scenes and automations in the Home application as a DIY security system, although Hub E1 does not have a speaker, so it cannot be used as a siren.

One feature that the E1 Hub has over alternatives is the ability to function as a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi extender. This is easy to set up in the Aqara app, although it only supports two connected devices, so it may be of limited use, unless you have a few devices that are out of reach of the main router.

We've covered a lot of Aqara products here at iMore, and the company always seems to be bringing new devices to market. Its products are not the most brilliant or the most advanced, but they usually work reliably and do not cost a fortune, which is a huge advantage when it comes to HomeKit.

Read Hub E1: What's wrong

Screenshots of the Aqara Hub E1 review

Source: iMore

When I first set up Aqara Hub E1, I couldn't add the device through the Aqara app because Hub E1 didn't appear in the list of supported accessories. Instead, I had to configure it in the Home app using the QR code, after which it appeared in the Aqara app to manage its settings. It worked well beyond that, but a strange weird one that is worth noting for those who might face the same problem.

Although I'm a big fan of the direct USB connection, especially with the swivel hinge, the Aqara Hub E1 is wider than a regular USB cable, so it can lock adjacent ports or sockets depending on your configuration. It's a minor inconvenience and can be fixed with Easily plug it into a USB wall outlet, but it's worth considering when you think about its place in your home.

Read Hub E1 Review

Source: Adam Oram / iMore

On the subject of USB, I would have preferred Hub E1 to use USB-C (or at least include an adapter). As I gradually move everything from my life to USB-C, this device will remain stuck in the USB-A past. Most people probably won't care, though.

But my main problem with the Aqara Hub E1 is the lack of a speaker. Although the one in Hub M2 that I reviewed earlier is small enough to be used as a ringtone or alarm, it is useful when pairing devices, as it confirms that the process has been completed successfully. On the E1 Hub, you have to rely on the flashing LED to do that job, which is less obvious.

Read Hub E1: Competition

Read Tvoc Review

Source: Adam Oram / iMore

Manufacturer-specific hubs really only compete with other hubs from the same brand, so the Aqara E1 Hub faces the HomeKit-compatible M2 Hub, the M1S Hub, and the G2H Camera Hub. That being said, Aqara has done a great job in differentiating its products.

If you need an IR blaster, choose M2. If you want a strong siren or a night light, M1S is for you. Do you want a hub that works as a security camera? Get G2H. Where the E1 Hub stands out is the price. If you want the most accessible entry point into the Aqara ecosystem, it is the obvious choice if you can give up the bells and whistles of the other hubs to save some money.

Read Hub E1: Should you buy it?

Read Hub E1 Review

Source: Adam Oram / iMore

You should buy this if ...

  • You've just started with HomeKit and Aqara
  • You want an Aqara hub that takes up as little space as possible
  • You don't need a siren or night light function

You shouldn't buy this if ...

  • You are not interested in the HomeKit range of devices from Aqara
  • You have already set up another Aqara hub
  • You need a hub that can double as an alarm siren

Those who are just starting out with HomeKit can't go wrong with the cheap Aqara product range. Its hubs are already quite affordable, but Hub E1 has even lower prices, making the Aqara offer even more attractive.

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If you want the most affordable Aqara hub, Hubs E1 is the best fit, although it's definitely not worth switching to if you've already set up an Aqara hub. If you want or need the more sophisticated features of other Aqara hubs, or if a direct USB connection doesn't work for you, then look for alternative Aqara hubs to meet your needs.

Aqara Hub E1 and packaging

Read Hub E1

Conclusion: Those new to HomeKit or the Aqara ecosystem have little reason not to consider Hub E1. It's as powerful as Aqara's other hubs, except for a few niche features, while costing less, and still allows you to take advantage of Aqara's range of affordable switches and sensors.

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