ZigBee and Z-Wave are two of the most important wireless protocols used in smarthome products. But they do not connect each other and for all their similarities they have important differences, advantages and disadvantages. Knowing what to use when is the key to a smooth smarthome.
If you have not purchased your first smarthome product yet, you will need to make several decisions on the way you should go. What name should you buy? Which voice assistant should you use? ZigBee or Z-Wave? As with the first two, we can boil down the choice between ZigBee and Z-Wave to some important differences and specific scenarios. No response is right for everyone, because unfortunately the smarthome industry is a mess. Here are some differences and similarities between the two protocols to help determine who to choose.
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ZigBee is an open standard; Z-Wave Is Not
There is a better than even chance that you have seen a ZigBee product in action, even if you do not realize it. One of the strengths and weaknesses of ZigBee is that it's an open protocol and nobody owns it. This is good because the code can be checked and you can not go anywhere. This is also bad for someone to take the code and change it to suit their needs. This is just what happened to Philips Hue, the first ZigBee product that meets most people. Due to changes made by Philips in the protocol, Hue products need their hubs, even if you already have a ZigBee-compatible hub. But if you are faithful to open source, ZigBee is the winner here.
Unlike ZigBee, Z-Wave is a closed standard, owned by Silicon Labs. It has been changed several times now, which can be considered an unstable factor. However, as a closed system, the protocol should generally not be changed, and specific device hubs should not be necessary. Unfortunately, it is not always true. Z-Wave adds additional security by requiring each device to use a unique ID to communicate with your hub which makes it easy to identify. Each Z-Wave device must meet demanding standards and avoid problems that some "ready for ZigBee" products have seen when they will not talk to each other as expected. If your general feeling is that closed systems are safer, Z-Wave takes victory over ZigBee.
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Z-Wave's Mesh Network has a longer Range
Both Z-Wave and ZigBee create A networking network between the different devices you have in your home. Of course, they are not compatible with each other. Z-Wave will only be paired with other Z-Wave devices, and ZigBee will only be connected to other ZigBee devices.
A distinct advantage for Z-Wave is how far apart these devices can be. Z-Wave can connect devices as far as 550 meters away, while ZigBee is maximized at about 60 feet. You especially notice the smaller distance to ZigBee if you do not have a ZigBee device in each room. You may need to move a device or hub closer for a stable connection. If you have a big home and do not want a smart device in each room, Z-Wave can be a good choice to close the gap without spending so much money.
ZigBee's mesh network allows jumping through more devices
With its networking networks, each device can instead connect directly to a hub connecting to the next device to form a kind of chain to the hub. The signal then jumps from one device to the next until it reaches the hub.
Z-wave can only make four hops. If it and the nearest three closest devices are too far out to reach the hub, the chain is broken and will lose the connection.
However, ZigBee can jump through as many devices as needed to reach the hub. While Z-Wave mitigates this problem, some with its larger range, you can extend the signal to your secretest distance by adding more ZigBee devices. If you plan to cover your house in sensors, incandescent lamps, locks and more, ZigBee can present a simpler solution to get each device to reach the hub.
ZigBee requires less power
ZigBee devices require less power and so long longer between battery replacement. This is a hatch that closes, because Z-Wave Plus devices require less power than the devices that came before. However, ZigBee is still in the power game. If you know that you will use many sensors, locks and other devices that require battery power, ZigBee is the stronger choice.
Z-Wave has fewer congestion problems
In the US, Z-Wave operates on a less-used radio frequency 908.42 MHz while ZigBee runs at 2.4 GHz and can compete with Wi-Fi. The transition can quickly upload between hosted ZigBee devices that you may need to maintain a reliable networking network, your Wi-Fi, your neighbor Wi-Fi, and other devices that operate at the same frequency.
Z-Wave does not & # 39;
Amazon Key Only Works With ZigBee Devices
Amazon Key is a service that allows strangers to deliver packages to your home while away. It requires a smart lock and a connected camera. But the only smart lock that works with this is ZigBee devices. Amazon made a similar decision with its Echo Plus device, a voice assistant and hub that only supports ZigBee. Although this may seem a curious choice, it probably comes from another strength of ZigBee.
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ZigBee is better when moving to other countries
Whether you are in Europe or the United States, ZigBee uses a 2.4 GHz radio frequency . While you may need an AC adapter, a ZigBee device will probably work as well, wherever you are.
However, Z-Wave uses different radio frequencies depending on country. So if you move abroad, you are likely to need to buy Z-Wave devices again. This is an advantage for Amazon, for example, because they can create an Echo Plus device that works everywhere.
So, which should I choose?
Since both standards have their pros and cons, two factors in your decision should be how many devices you plan to have and how far apart they will be.
- ZigBee: If the distance between devices is short or you plan to have many devices (or both), ZigBee is probably the better choice.
- Z-Wave: The fewer units and the farther apart, the better you are with Z-Wave.
The other important factor is that while many popular devices support both ZigBee and Z-Wave, only one standard supports.
- ZigBee: ZigBee supports Philips Hue, Amazon Echo Plus, Belkin WeMo Link and Hive Active Heating products.
- Z-Wave: Z-Wave supports August Smart Lock, Kwikset Smart Lock and Logitech Harmony Hub Exten there.
So, if you have already invested in any of these products, it may turn your decision. However, there is another thing you should know.
You can use both standards if you get the right hub
The best option is to get a hub like SmartThings or Wink that can work with both protocols. That way if you've selected Z-Wave and need a device that only comes in ZigBee (or shown versa) they can talk to the hub and the hub can help them work together.
Devices using a default will not get any networking benefits provided by the other standard, but you will at least be able to control these devices. And you can do things like using your Amazon Echo Plus (a ZigBee device) to control your Z-Wave products.
It's still a good idea to choose a standard and stay as much as possible. But using a hub that supports both protocols opens at least your options. And that's important, for now nothing is guaranteed in the smarthome world.
Image Credits: Oleksii Lishchyshyn / Shutterstock, Amazon.com