If you had to start from scratch would you go skyconnect or sonoff?

So new to the HA world but we are in the process of designing our house and want to make it as smart as my smooth brain can manage. If you had to build your future smart home and you wanted to start from scratch which Zigbee/Thread dongle would you suggest to connect to the HA Green.

Thanks!

Which integration are you planning to use?

I’ve read/seen/heard their are benefits to either. I don’t feel strongly (maybe I should) so I was probably going to just use ZHA.

Which one you choose is purely a matter of personal preference and both have their cheerleaders. ZHA is HA’s “own” integration, so it should be relatively future-proof in that respect. Z2M is an independent project and will work with other smart home packages.

The difference between them is partly one of philosophy. ZHA expects devices to be standards compliant. If they are, they should work out of the box; if not, they will need a special device handler (a “quirk”) which may take some time to appear. Z2M provides a bespoke device handler for every device, compliant or not, and there is a very large community of people producing them so they appear quite quickly.

Unfortunately Zigbee is a bit of a free for all at the moment, with large numbers of dodgy devices. They may be non-compliant for two reasons:

  • The manufacturer has added extra features (which they are allowed to do). Devices like this from solid companies like Philips tend to get recognised by both integrations quite quickly.
  • The devices are just plain buggy. You’ll find a lot of people in the forum asking for help with Tuya and Aqara.

You need to be very careful about the devices you buy.

The post I linked to above makes excellent suggestions, but if you’re starting from scratch you might also consider other options like Z-wave.

There are several Zigbee guides:

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Regardless of which I would recommend to use one dedicated radio dongle for Zigbee and one dedicated radio dongle for Thread.

While they work to get started I do not recommend using a single Multi-PAN multi-protocol dongle in the long run.

Also do read and follow these best practice tips in your setup → Zigbee networks: how to guide for avoiding interference and optimize for getting better range + coverage

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I would use a PoE connected dongle like these:

https://tubeszb.com/

This way you can place the coordinator centrally in your house as it is not tied to your Home Assistant server via USB and can be anywhere you have network cabling and even powered from your network switch, assuming it has PoE.

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I’ve used GoControl CECOMINOD016164 HUSBZB-1 with ZHA for multiple years without issue and have been very happy with its performance. Not sure why it’s not on the recommended list, maybe age. I actually tried out the Conbee II and one of the Texas Instruments based radios and found the GoControl had the best range.

Because it uses an old chipset for both Z-Wave and Zigbee.

I would run a lot of Ethernet to a server closet. You can never have too much Ethernet.
Zigbee, Thread, WiFi, Z-Wave- You are eventually going to have all of them.
Most of my devices are on WiFi. Partially because half of them are things I made using the Wemos D1 Mini and more recently the ESP32. Lately I have been adding some Zigbee devices, but like Z-wave, Zigbee devices tend to be a lot more expensive than WiFi.

My personal recommendations to avoid high-priced things like Hue. I just don’t see the enthusiasm for being able to change the color of the lights. Dimming, yes, but you can do that with a smart WiFi switch and cheap LED bulbs.

I would definitely standardize on KNX, see this post

HUSBZB-1 and ConBee are both using older (different) radio SoC chips that are outdated so not getting firmware updates

Any idea if there has been some big improvement in firmware that would be a driver for me to look at a newer device? Has the protocol added new features that are expressed in the firmware?

Higher security is the main difference. Newer firmware also have some new features but other than install code support non of the other new features are exposed in ZHA or Zigbee2MQTT as of yet.

While you from an end-user experience would not notice it feature-wise, when you form a Zigbee network from scratch using a Zigbee Coordinator with newer Zigbee 3.0 based firmware then it will form a Zigbee 3.0 network and connect Zigbee 3.0 devices using a higher security standard, (older Zigbee devices will still connect but use older security standard, e.i. the highest security they support. e.g. usually Zigbee Home Automation 1.2 or Zigbee Light Link 1.0). This is even more granular since there are several different revisions of Zigbee 3.0 so using latest firmware Zigbee Coordinator should give higher security.

However if you use an Zigbee Coordinator with older Zigbee 1.2 based firmware (like the ConBee II) then all devices connected will be connected using a lower security standard, but as long as a device can be paired/joined then it should still be possible to use all the devices features, hence you not noticing any difference from an end-user experience point of view.

There might also be a few rare Zigbee 3.0 devices on the mark that do not offer any backwards compatibility mode and can thus not be paired/joined at all to an older Zigbee Coordinator but that is extremly unusual.

The point is, if starting from scratch then do not go out and buy an older Zigbee Coordinator adapter, and do not recommend buying an older Zigbee Coordinator adapter to people that do not already own one.

So which of the two is the “older” coordinator?

Listen, the much newer EFR32MG21 based dongles like Sonoff ZBDongle-E (and CC2652P based dongles like Sonoff ZBDongle-P) use modern chips and only cost around $20 so why not just buy one of those, then you know the manufacturers will continue to release new firmware for it for several more years from now.

Both dongles you mentioned use older chips with less rousources (so even though they did get bug-fix firmware released until a few years back, the hardware is outdated so neither should be recommend for a new purchase as they are slow (meaning that you can not add as many devices to it as one based on a faster chip) and they will never get newer firmware than what is out for them today.

I would not through them out if already in use and working fine with all your devices, (they are both known to be very stable with latest respective firmware), but suggest that it is probably time to start consider an upgrade if getting close to 50 devices, and do not recommend the same old adapters to others just only it is good enough for you, (hell those old adapters even cost more than a new modern adapter because they are not manufactured any longer).

HUSBZB-1 technically more obsolete since is based on the old Silicon Labs EM357 chip which only has 12KB RAM and 192KB Flash Storage. It can be updated to Silabs EmberZNet Zigbee 6.7.x Zigbee stack firmware version at the very latest which at least is a Zigbee 3.0 firmware from Silabs Gecko SDK 2.7.x released in December of 2019, (and it has supports for Silabs standard EZSP v8), so not extremly old firmware but the Silicon Labs EM357 is still obsolete and have very low RAM, Flash, and CPU.

ConBee II is based on Microchip ATSAMR21E18A which as 32KB RAM and 256KB Flash Storage, but the firmware does not support Zigbee 3.0 since it was desigbed to have the same Zigbee funtionality as the first ConBee, however there is no new firmware since May of 2019. Note that ConBee III (ConBee 3) was announced in November of 2023 and it is based on Silicon Labs EFR32MG21 but uses a custom application firmware.

Newer chips like example EFR32MG21 have 96KB RAM and 1024KB Flash Storage + features security acceleration and more modern radio design so less sensitive to signal noise, …and the fact is that EFR32MG21 is no longer new any longer either, and we should probably expect EFR32MG24 based dongles to become available relativly soon too and those features 256KB RAM and 1536KB Flash Storage.