It seems a long time ago since Aqara’s next-generation M3 hub was initially announced, but it has finally begun to surface in China. Aqara has it listed on their Chinese website, and some third-party sellers on Taobao are now selling it. You could be forgiven for wondering what the M3 is, given the long gestation period, but in essence, it’s an M2 hub on steroids!
As we’ve noted in previous posts, the M3 takes on many of the M2’s standout features but adds to them in significant ways. For example, like the M2 it’s a Zigbee 3.0 hub for Aqara Zigbee devices, as well as including a built-in IR blaster. However, it can also act as both a Thread Border Router, and as a Matter Controller for Matter over Thread or even Matter over WiFi devices from other brands. This is in line with the functionality of the HomePod Mini, or Samsung’s Smart Station, both of which take on these dual roles. It also comes with Bluetooth 5.1, facilitating both Matter onboarding and Aqara’s own MagicPair technology.
This means, for example, a Matter over Thread bulb from Nanoleaf can be added to Aqara’s ecosystem, thereby using Aqara’s powerful automation features. This does not mean that Matter devices added to the M3 will be automatically exposed to Apple Home, however. Still, as you can add a Matter device to multiple ecosystems anyway, it’s not necessarily an issue if you want to control a Matter device on both platforms.
Another plus point of the M3 is that whilst it has an upgraded power port utilising USB-C now, it can also be powered by the ethernet port that connects it to your router or modem, as long as your respective hardware supports this functionality.
One major bonus for many existing Aqara users is that the M3 is purported to allow for migrating all of your existing devices from one Aqara hub to the M3, which is something many Aqara fans have asked for.
As it’s presently only available in China, and only by third-party resellers, there seems to be an element of price-gouging, as the hub is listed in one store for RMB989, which roughly converts to US$138 | UK£109 | EU€127, which seems a bit on the high side for a hub, even given its extra functionality. I’ll go out on a limb and predict the price will be lower than this once the international model is released, where it should be officially announced at CES2024 next week. Until then, we just have to wait a little while longer…