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Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Which is the best for you?

In case you don’t know, Zigbee and Z-Wave are wireless protocols which are meant to ensure all of your smart home devices are in sync with each other. There are higher chances that you have encountered the terms Zigbee and Z-Wave on most of your smart home products. They play a crucial role in ensuring that communication is achieved between appliances for home automation. Therefore, between these two protocols, which of them is likely to play a bigger part in your home automation journey?

Zigbee vs Z-Wave
Zigbee vs Z-Wave

These wireless protocols are paramount in a manner that they utilize low energy radio waves to ensure your smart home gadgets remain connected to each other. This outshines the use of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth which are known to be power intensive. Therefore, there is much need to go for the best wireless protocol between the two. They depict some common similarities, however, there are some notable differences between them. This will enable you to settle for the one that best suits your smart home needs. Hence, below are the exhaustive comparison and in-depth analysis between the Zigbee and Z-Wave.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Network Configuration

Both Zigbee and Z-Wave wireless protocols are known to be a mesh network. This mesh network has its signal originating from the central hub. However, unlike the star network which has all the devices communicating from the central hub, the mesh network allows your devices to pass signals to each other. This, therefore, enables all the devices in the network to function as a repeater, hence, making them versatile.

The Z-Wave is only capable of making four hops. This involves the connection of one device to the other by forming some kind of chain to the hub. The Z-Wave, therefore, allows the signal to hop from one device to the next until it reaches the desired hub. If it, alongside the three closest devices will be out of range to reach the hub, the connection will terminate.

On the other hand, the Zigbee mesh network is not limited to the number of hops. It is capable of allowing hopping on as many devices as possible. Thus, it will be easier for you to connect a good number of devices in your smart home. Before reaching the hub, Zigbee can make uncountable hops between the controller and the destination device.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Power Consumption

The most amazing thing about the Zigbee and Z-wave wireless protocols is their low power consumption. It is clear to everyone that any devices utilizing the Wi-Fi network will have much of its power consumed by the Wi-Fi. This is not the case for these two wireless protocols which uses very little power required by Wi-Fi. This is such an amazing thing as most the smart home devices run on batteries rather than the hard wiring. Therefore, you will not need to use a power-hungry protocol.

Despite both wireless communication wireless protocols having a low power consumption, the Zigbee is known to use lesser power than the Z-Wave. The gap is, however, closing as the newly introduced Z-Wave plus devices require lesser power as well. But still, compared to the Z-Wave, Zigbee stands out with its little power usage. Therefore, it will be the best choice for you in case you will be using several devices including sensors, locks among other battery-powered gadgets.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Standard

Talking of standard, we are referring to the open and closed standards. By open, it means that it is an open-source platform which is owned by no one. In this case, the Zigbee is an open standard that is owned by no one. Being an open protocol means it has its strengths and limitations. The goodness with it is that the code can be checked and it won’t go anywhere. However, the problem comes when someone can take the code and manipulate it to suit their desires.

The Z-Wave on the other side is a closed standard which is currently owned by the Silicon Labs. It has an added functionality of improved security which requires every device to use a unique ID. This allows the devices to communicate to the hub for easy identification. This makes the Z-Wave much secure, thus, making the closed systems secure.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave:  Signal Range

The Z-wave is known to outshine the Zigbee in terms of the signal range.  Zigbee has a signal range of up to 40 feet indoors and 10 feet going downwards although this depends on the material making up the wall and the general line of sight. The cause of this somehow poor range is the high frequency that Zigbee operates on. Although high frequency allows for more data transmission, the high-frequency signals find it harder to penetrate walls when compared to lower frequency signals. Z-wave signals, on the other hand, travel up to 50 feet in the presence of obstructions them and 100 feet where there are no obstructions.

Z-Wave
Z-Wave

Using Zigbee in your smart home will prompt you to have your devices close to each other. This is not efficient especially when you a large home or one that is spaced out. Hence, Z-wave will allow you to expand your smart home to other rooms like the garage or even the back yard.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Supported Devices

The number of devices supported to play a crucial role in the smart home environment. This is likely to provide you with a wise decision on the type of communication protocols to use. The Zigbee steals the show with a great number of supported devices it offers. It can support more than 65,000 devices. This is quite an enormous number, thus, offering more room for smart home functionalities. On the other hand, the Z-Wave is capable of supporting 232 devices which is quite a small number compared to its competitor. However, it can still be sufficient for most smart homes.

The following are some of the smart home devices that work well with Zigbee:

  • Samsung SmartThings
  • Honeywell thermostats
  • Amazon Echo Plus
  • The Philips Hue
  • Wink Hub
  • Yale smart locks
  • Hive Active Heating
  • LG SmartThing
  • GE Appliances

The devices that work with Z-Wave include the following. Some of which are also working with the competitor.

  • August smart locks
  • ADT Security Hub
  • Hogar Milo
  • Somfy
  • Kwikset smart locks
  • Logitech Home Harmony Hub Extender
  • Wink Hub
  • Samsung SmartThings

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Reliability

The reliability of any given device or accessory is a necessity, especially in the smart home environment. Every smart home devices need to be dependable and so includes wireless communication protocols. For instance, a reliable signal is needed when you are trying to control the security in your home or when controlling a single smart lock among other operations.

With the frequency range of between 800-900 and a 2.4 GHz frequency, the Zigbee protocol is known to consume more power and causing various interference like your Wi-Fi. This can be quite unreliable when you would need to operate other devices in your smart home. The Z-wave on the other side operates on a lower frequency, thus, having no interference to your smart home gadgets. This makes the Z-Wave more reliable than Zigbee.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Security

Both Z-Wave and ZigBee use the same encryption standard, the AES 128 encryption standard. This encryption is reliable as it ensures no one can hack the signal and gain access and control to your smart home. However, some devices might be vulnerable. For instance, Z-wave was previously reputed with having security lapses but this was because of implementation errors from companies. Some of these companies chose not to use the high-level standard of encryption.

The Z-wave alliance now demands the AES 128 for the certification of a device. Moreover, it requires the new security 2(S2) framework to be implemented on any device that is receiving certification. All chances of a device being compromised are therefore eliminated.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Price

The final deciding factor is the price of the devices that utilize these wireless communication protocols. It is quite a concern to settle for the device which is within your reach. However, there is no reasonable gap between the price of the devices that use Zigbee and Z-Wave. There might be a disturbing question putting in mind that Zigbee is open source and while the Z-Wave is a closed standard.

After a detailed analysis of the devices using the Zigbee and Z-Wave, we concluded that there is no discrete difference between the value of the devices using either of these protocols. Therefore, the price factor is not a major concern here.

Zigbee vs Z-wave: Bottom Line

Now, it all comes down to the point where you need to decide whether to go for the Zigbee or the Z-Wave communication protocol. From the provided in-depth research and description of these protocols, it will now depend on your tastes and preferences. From this analysis, we recommend the Z-Wave as the best pick for you in cases of reliability, the range of the signal, mesh network hopping, among other functionalities and features. Moreover, the Zigbee protocol is likely to fit the desires of most users with its able features. It has the largest number of supported devices, less power consumption, and open-source feature among others. The final decision will now come to you as you pick the device with the best wireless protocol to suit your personal needs.

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