Aqara is finally officially releasing the HomeKit version of the G2 home smart camera – the G2H. For me, it has been more than seven months since the signing of the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) since I received this product, but now I can share my thoughts on this smart camera with you.
- If you prefer, you can read the Chinese version of this review.
- Para los que prefieran, aquí encuentran la version en español del review.
Since the receipt is a test unit, the packaging that came with it is very different from the official product you may end up buying. The packaging for the test version here is just a plain white box with the product label: smart camera G2H (gateway version), the product colour is white, as they didn’t have the other colours when it was sent to me.
There is practically no difference between the outward appearance of the Aqara G2H and the previous Aqara G2, with the only main visual exception being the HomeKit QR code on the base of the stand. The top has the same pill-shaped pairing button as with the G2. The package also contains the power adapter, Micro-USB power cord, a metal plate and some adhesive tape, a reset pin and the instruction manual.
The G2H works with both Apple HomeKit and Aqara Home apps and has also taken the lead in supporting iCloud security recording when it comes to usage in China. Due to iCloud recording, the G2H will not be supported by the Mi Home app, only the Aqara Home app. You can download the Aqara Home app during the pairing process, or you can set it up and use it directly within Apple’s Home app without having to use any third-party app, if you want the most native iOS smart home experience. Here we will cover two different settings.
At the time of writing, Aqara just launched a brand new version of their app, and the overall UI has changed a lot, which has also led to the invalidation of some of the previously set screenshots of the settings that I took when I set this camera up over seven months ago. However, the initial setup process has not changed much. The pairing process in the Aqara app can is quite simple and basic, but also not too elegant. You basically open the Aqara app, click the add button in the upper left corner and select the G2H smart camera, use the included card pin to long-press the reset hole for five seconds, release it after hearing the prompt, and continue to enter your Wi-Fi name and password in the app. The Aqaara App then generates a QR code containing the encoded Wi-Fi name and password. You then simply point the QR code at the smart camera’s lens, with the camera then reading the information contained in the QR code to connect to the corresponding Wi-Fi network. It takes a little adjustment to get the QR code in a suitable position, but the overall solution is practical, but not so elegant.
When it comes to Apple Home, things are a little different. We can open Apple’s Home app, select the + button to add an accessory, and then scan the QR code on the bottom of the camera to automatically complete the Wi-Fi setup process. If you still want or need to use the Aqara app, just open the settings page for the camera and select the Aqara app Card.
The base of the camera is basically a large magnet, which can be easily stuck to most metal surfaces. The camera body is very light, so the large area of the magnetic base can safely hold the weight of the camera and the cable itself, so installation is in this way is firm and reliable. If you want to affix it to a non-magnetic surface, the attached metal mounting plate can also play a role, as it also comes equipped with a double-sided adhesive patch of the same size. If you are afraid that the self-tapping screws that come with the camera will damage your chosen mounting surface, you can also use this double-sided adhesive the metal mounting plate just as easily.
The biggest feature of this camera is to support Apple’s home function. On this basis, it also supports the iCloud security recording function, and supports the encryption of video storage in the iCloud cloud. This is also one of the core selling points of the product.
The camera will appear as two accessories in HomeKit, namely the camera and a motion sensor. The camera supports HomeKit Secure Video (HSV). With a HomePod, Apple TV, or suitable iPad acting as a Home Hub, the captured video will use AI to intelligently recognise people, animals, or vehicles in the picture, and detect related actions. The gateway will encrypt the video clip and upload it to iCloud. This functionality requires the user to have a 200GB iCloud plan although the video itself does not use up any of your iCloud account storage capacity, and it can be stored for up to 10 days. The highest 2TB iCloud plan will allow for up to five cameras.
The camera can automatically confirm whether there is a family member at home, according to the family member’s iPhone, Apple Watch, etc. I set the G2H to allow viewing of real-time pictures when going out as well as record video. It’s set to automatically stop recording when someone is in the house, and only allow viewing real-time images and detection activities. If you are particularly concerned about your personal privacy, you can also set the camera to turn off at home. The included motion sensor will also stop working. (The motion sensor is based on video screen analysis, not an infrared (PIR) sensor).
Compared with older generation HomeKit smart cameras such as models by Netatmo or Logitech, the overall design of Aqara is not stunning, and the functions are very simple in some ways. The camera’s lens has a 140º ultra-wide-angle Field of View, so even narrow and long balconies can be fully captured by the picture. The thermal management of the camera is very good, so there’s never any heat buildup and there were no crashes or screen delays during use. 1080PHD picture quality, whether it’s night or day, looked really quite good.
In the Home app, it also supports the viewing of recorded videos, as well as the two-way audio function. Click the microphone button to initiate a voice call, and dial the progress bar to quickly view the previous video. In the lower right corner, you can also quickly control other accessories in the same room as the camera, such as the coloured light strips on the balcony in my case. Through Siri shortcuts, you can also set an automation, so if someone to break into the house when there is no one in the house, the lights will flash red, which will (hopefully) scare away some uninvited guests. The red dot on the screen indicates that the camera is currently recording and streaming video, with a blue dot indicating that the camera is working normally. Similarly, there is an identically coloured LED on the front of the camera.
G2H not only supports Apple’s Home app, but also expands its functionality via the Aqara app. The camera supports an up to 32GB SD card, and in fact, there is no problem with using a 128GB SD card, although it’s possible that they’ve limited it to 32GB for compatibility reasons. The G2H is equipped with a 256MB video cache, so if you don’t use an SD card to expand the storage space, you’ll still get the sound and motion recognition notifications in the Aqara app, along with a 10-second video preview.
Aqara G2H is not only a smart camera, but also a fully functioning Aqara Zigbee gateway, which also supports the latest ZigBee 3.0 child devices that are starting to come on the market, so you can add other Aqara family devices to be included in other scenes. In the example above, an Aqara motion sensor was moved from my original Aqara gateway for experimentation. The great news is that supported child devices also get exposed to HomeKit, and will appear in Apple Home. With the exception of the night light function on the original Aqara gateway, the G2H covers all other functions of the gateway.
The G2H is an affordable smart camera with many practical functions. It also includes a powerful, built-in Aqara gateway, 1080P high-definition video, a 140º FoV, and clear video without dead ends. A two-way voice call function, which is clear and loud. At the same time, it supports both Aqara and Apple HomeKit platforms, which further expands functionality. It is the first to support the HSV in China, and the cloud encrypted storage saves video without additional cost. No wonder Mijia doesn’t plan to support any HSV products. Otherwise, to whom is their VIP package sold? With Apple HomeKit and HSV, do I miss Mijia? Not at all!