When it comes to transforming a regular home into a smart, automated haven, every detail counts. That's why, in my quest for a seamlessly connected space, I recently had the pleasure of testing out the Aqara’s Curtain Driver E1.
In this comprehensive review, we'll delve into the strengths and weaknesses of this unique offering from Aqara, as well as its integration into my existing smart home ecosystem.
What's in the box?
- Aqara Curtain Driver E1
- Curtain Driver Rail Holder Unit (For Rod Version)
- USB A to USB C Charging Cable
- Clear Plastic Tape
- Plastic Clips x8
Right out of the box, I was impressed by the sturdy build and quality of the Curtain Driver E1. With its white plastic exterior, it exudes a modern and clean aesthetic. The device houses the motor, controller unit, and a 6000mAh battery, providing ample power for smooth operation. There is a convenient physical button on the side which can be used in pairing and setting up the device, while an ambient light sensor enables automation based on external light conditions. Moreover, the inclusion of a USB-C port at the bottom for charging showcases Aqara's attention to futureproofing their products. Aqara claims to have a yearlong battery life on the driver E1 so it’s not very often that you’d need to use the charging port.
Since this is a retrofitting product running on regular curtain slides, Aqara Curtain Driver E1 offers two versions, rod and track, to suit different curtain systems. While the motor unit remains the same, the rod version is slightly more expensive due to the need of additional sliding mechanism. This product is compatible with the Zigbee 3.0 protocol, so it require either an Aqara Hub or a Zigbee Hub for it’s connectivity, control and management.
Installation & Setup
Installing the rod-version of the Curtain Driver E1 proved to be simpler than 0I anticipated. Once the slider system was clamped down on the rod, I joined the device mechanically on the slider. When the button is pressed down twice, the device clamps down automatically to the right strength required to move around freely. This prevents the need to guesswork out of how hard to clamp down since the curtain driver handles the clamp downforce for you, so you don't push down too hard.
Pairing the device with the Aqara Hub E1 was also a breeze, taking less than a minute to establish a seamless connection via the Aqara app on my phone. Once that was set up it was time to connect the driver to my Aqara Hub. The hub detects the device automatically and starts setting up the end points of the rod by it’s own. What's noteworthy is that the app intuitively sensed and prompted me to physically tighten the device, ensuring a secure fit within the rod.
Aqara claims that the driver can support heavy curtains up to 12kg, but it worth to check Aqara's exact compatibility requirements to make sure of a worthy purchase. For example, curtain rods must be between 0.98-inches (25mm) and 1.26-inches (32mm) in diameter and cannot be telescopic.
Connectivity and Aqara App
The Curtain Driver E1 offers two connectivity options: through an Aqara Hub or a Zigbee hub if integrated into a Home Assistant Server. Personally, I connected my motors via the Aqara Hub E1 using the default Aqara Home app. The device boasts compatibility with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant ecosystems, providing a wide range of control options. Additionally, Aqara has committed to future proof the device by offering Matter support when used with Matter-enabled Aqara hubs.
The Aqara Home app can be used for basic functions like opening and closing, checking battery level or checking errors to make sure if there are any obstructions to the motor's movement. Along with the connection guides, the app also has options to add IFTTT like processes based on time, or motion or the ambient light available to close and open the curtains. Since all other devices on my Smart Home ecosystem are synced with Apple Homekit and Amazon Alexa, I set up automations for the curtains from the smart home ecosystem directly rather than using Aqara’s native app.
The only configuration I changed on the Aqara App was to set up two curtain drivers as a set to open or close my curtains on two sides at the same time. The app guided me through the process easily and made the set of two to act as one while still leaving option to control the drivers individually.
The device offers three convenient control options. Firstly, via the Aqara app which provides seamless control, allowing for precise and reliable curtain movement. Secondly, by integrating with popular voice assistants like Google Home, Alexa, and Siri. Lastly, the semi-automatic mode which impressed me the most. By simply pulling the curtain over 10cm, the device intelligently detects the movement and opens or closes the curtains fully, even when connectivity is temporarily disrupted. This feature proved to be particularly useful for my less tech-savvy parents who still prefer manual control.
I have paired the device with the Aqara’s Door sensor and linked it with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple Homekit Ecosystem to make my curtains open or close when I’m entering or leaving home during certain hours of the day. What I love the most is when the curtains open in the morning right after I wake up to welcome the first light of the day into my room.
Performance and Functionality
In terms of performance, the Aqara Curtain Driver E1 exceeded my expectations. The device swiftly and reliably opened my curtains, providing a smooth and accurate movement. The motor operates notably quieter compared to other competitors in the market, adding to the overall satisfaction of using this device. Additionally, the Curtain Driver E1 accurately maps out the travel distance between end points on the rod, offering the flexibility to open curtains halfway or to a specific percentage as desired. While the device is not necessarily quiet per say, it is certainly manageable as it only takes 5 seconds for my curtains to move anyways.
Price and Value
I think the Curtain Driver E1 offers one of the best available solutions for retrofitting existing curtains with multiple ecosystem support, long lasting battery life and newer Zigbee 3.0 and Matter integration. Priced around 100 USD, it provides an excellent balance of functionality and affordability, especially for users already invested in the Aqara ecosystem or seeking HomeKit integration. However, it's important to note that costs can increase if multiple drivers are needed for a pair of curtains, along with the requirement for an Aqara or Zigbee 3.0 hub adding the costs further. As technology evolves and more manufacturers enter the space, prices are expected to become more competitive, making smart curtain solutions even more accessible.
In my quest for a truly connected and automated home, the Aqara Curtain Driver E1 has proven to be a standout solution for retrofitting existing curtains with smart functionality. Its ease of use, sturdy build, and seamless integration with popular smart home ecosystems make it a compelling choice for those seeking to elevate their home automation experience for an affordable price.
Disclaimer: The Aqara Curtain Driver E1 was provided by Aqara for review purposes. However, all opinions expressed are solely based on my personal experience after extensively using the product for over a month. Transparency is paramount, and this review represents an unbiased and genuine assessment of its features and performance.