Zigbee vs. Z-Wave: What Are The Key Differences?

If you’re converting your traditional home into a smart home, there are many technologies you can use to connect your smart appliances with your home automation system. Two of the most popular options include Zigbee and Z-Wave.

While there are many similarities between these technologies, there are also numerous differences you should know about before choosing your smart home devices and ecosystem.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the key differences between Zigbee and Z-Wave.

What Is Zigbee, and How Does It Work?

Zigbee is a wireless technology that is an open standard for low-power and low-data rate applications. It’s based on the 802.15.4 network standard and is a highly effective alternative to Wi-Fi.

The protocol was mainly designed to be used for smart home devices, which include everything from security sensors to smart thermostats. Once Zigbee is installed, these devices can communicate with ease.

How Does Zigbee Work?

This open-source protocol works by using the mesh networking topology to ensure your smart devices can communicate even when you don’t have access to the internet. Every node or device is connected in a mesh network, which creates a more robust and reliable network. Because this configuration is decentralized, there aren’t as many points of failure.

Pros and Cons of Zigbee

The main advantages of using Zigbee in your smart home include:

  • Scalability – Since this technology is capable of handling many nodes, it can easily scale to support any number of smart devices you install in your home.
  • Mesh network – Zigbee is capable of handling as many as 65,000 nodes.
  • Low power consumption – This protocol uses a very small amount of power, which allows batteries to last for a long time.

The downsides to using Zigbee include:

  • Range – Zigbee only has a range of around 10 meters. If you are using it on a house, the range might be enough.
  • Hub Requirement – You’ll need to purchase a hub to use Zigbee devices.

What Is Z-Wave and How Does It Work?

Z-Wave is a wireless technology that allows smart home products to effectively communicate with each other. This technology is known for providing users with numerous security measures and a lengthy range.

How Does It Work?

The Z-Wave protocol is used primarily for home automation and runs at a frequency of 868.42 MHz in Europe and 908.42 MHz throughout the U.S. This technology also uses a mesh network to ensure your smart home devices can easily send signals.

Pros and Cons of Z-Wave

The primary reasons you should consider Z-Wave include:

  • Mesh Network – The mesh network included with this technology covers as many as 232 nodes.
  • Frequency – Z-Wave has a different frequency than Wi-Fi, which makes it possible to add devices to the network without degrading your home’s Wi-Fi signal.

There are a few downsides to using this technology, the primary of which include:

  • Compatibility – The technology isn’t compatible with as many smart home devices as Wi-Fi.
  • Hub Requirement – You’ll need to purchase a hub to use Z-Wave devices.
  • Dependence – Z-Wave is currently owned by Silicon Labs, which means that it’s a proprietary technology that can be altered without explanation.

Zigbee vs. Z-Wave: What Are The Key Differences?

There are many differences between the Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols, all of which are detailed below.

Frequency

Both systems use distinct radio frequencies. When using Zigbee, you’ll encounter a 915 MHz or 2.4 GHz frequency. As mentioned previously, Z-Wave mainly uses a 908.42 MHz frequency.

Speed

In general, Zigbee is the faster protocol because of the 2.4 GHz frequency it uses. However, high speeds come with worse power consumption, which means that batteries for the smart devices in your home may need to be changed more frequently.

Compatibility

Zigbee supports more products than Z-Wave. However, Z-Wave is still compatible with over 3,000 products.

Interference

Since these protocols have different frequencies, they also have different interference issues. It’s possible for the 2.4 GHz frequency that Zigbee uses to interfere with certain devices that are paired with your Wi-Fi network. Z-Wave, on the other hand, can receive interference from baby monitors or landline phones.

Connectivity

Z-Wave smart home networks can support up to 232 devices at once. In comparison, Zigbee supports up to 65,000 devices.

Reliability

Mesh networks are only as reliable as the protocol they’re paired with. As touched upon previously, only certain devices cause interference with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. Both of these systems are highly reliable.

Interoperability

When it comes to device interoperability, the Zigbee Alliance is in charge of ensuring device compatibility. Today, the alliance maintains more than 2,5000 devices and over half a billion chipsets.

Before the creation of Zigbee 3.0, Zigbee maintained different protocols, which meant that devices were only sometimes interoperable. Zigbee 3.0 was designed to unify these protocols and ensure that their products are interoperable going forward.

Z-Wave is overseen by the Z-Wave Alliance. They maintain interoperability by making sure that every device works with all Z-Wave controllers. In general, Z-Wave devices have better interoperability.

“Hop” Numbers

Z-Wave only allows four hops when a transmission is made from one device to another, which means that the signal won’t reach the fifth device within the connection. Zigbee allows an unlimited number of hops.

Signal Range

Zigbee has a signal range of 10 meters. In comparison, Z-Wave has a signal range of 35 meters.

Installation and Setup

Both systems are easy to install but require a smart home hub before you can connect your devices.

Security

While both technologies are based on the AES128 encryption standard, the Z-Wave protocol comes with an additional security layer, which ensures all smart devices are protected from DDOS attacks.

Power Usage

Zigbee and Z-Wave use low amounts of power. However, Z-Wave often uses less power.

Open and Closed Standard

Zigbee uses an open network standard, which means that anyone can access the protocol’s code. Z-Wave is based on a closed network standard. In this scenario, the code that can interrupt transmission operations can’t be altered and isn’t made public. Closed standards provide more security.

Cost Considerations

The cost of Zigbee and Z-Wave is comparable and mainly depends on the types of smart home devices you buy. Since Zigbee supports more products, it usually has more affordable options.

Are Zigbee and Z-Wave Devices Safe?

Zigbee and Z-Wave are both safe to use. While signals hop from one device to another, the devices in a mesh network are mostly decentralized. These signals are also encrypted.

Which Devices Work Best with Zigbee and Z-Wave?

Zigbee and Z-Wave are compatible with a wide array of smart home devices, which include Aqara products. For example, the Hub E1 is compatible with Zigbee 3.0. The same is true of the Camera Hub G3.

Most smart lighting products, door locks, cameras, and sensors from Aqara are compatible with Zigbee and Z-Wave.

While Zigbee offers some clear advantages over Z-Wave, you can’t go wrong with either protocol. Once you’ve determined which protocol you prefer, you should be ready to start searching for smart devices that are compatible with the protocol of your choice.

Aqara is the leading provider of smart plugs and a broad range of other smart appliances to assist you in building your smart home. To find Aqara products in your area, go to the “Where to Buy” page.

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