UPDATED! The announced TI CC2652P based “Sonoff Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle Plus” from ITead, later renamed to “ZBDongle-P”, has been released and looks to be great value for a premium hardware package sold for a low price. It is based on Texas Instruments CC2652P radio chip and this “ZBDongle-P” variant is to be sold side-by-side as an alternative to their new “ZBDongle-E” variant that is based on Silicon Labs EFR32MG21 that SoC chips both practically have the same specifications on paper but uses different Zigbee stack firmware which will affect compatibility/support with different Zigbee gateway application implementations.
As sold at a lower price it is assumed ITead hope to make money on attach rate sales, so if you are new to Zigbee also recommend to buy some of their other Sonoff branded Zigbee devices as well:
I personally recommend Sonoff battery-operated Zigbee door/motions/temperature sensors and button. Suggest reading the articles by NotEnoughTECH if want independent reviews of those Sonoff sensors:
Also, I can personally recommend using a few of their USB adapters flashed as Zigbee Routers too.
UPDATES AND TIPS!
- Price of the “ZBDongle-P ” adapter rasied to $19.99, matching the price of their new Silicon Labs EFR32MG21-based “ZBDongle-E ” adapter which is sold side-by-side to offer an alternative.
- Price raised again, now from $14.99 to $19.99 in May 2022 due to increased components cost.
- Price raised from $10.99 to $14.99 in January 2022 due to increased components cost for all.
- First batch came pre-flashing with older firmware from 20210120 which works out-of-the-box with ZHA and Zigbee2MQTT, however, it is highly recommended to at least upgrade to firmware Z-Stack 3.x.0 build 20211217 or later
- Other than many bug-fixes the newer firmware offer +9dBm transmission power instead (instead of +5dBm transmission power) as well as the possibility to configure up to +20dBm transmission power via software settings in ZHA integration and Zigbee2MQTT respectively.
- To avoid EMF interference strongly recommended buy and use → Long USB extension cable
- Another reason for using a USB extension cable is that the USB-plug design of ITead’s Sonoff Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle Plus hardware adapter is a little short which makes it harder and sometimes impossible to plug it into some USB ports if the computer enclosure/chassis/casing is to thick around the USB-port as that will physically prevent the USB dongle from actually making a proper connection inside the USB port even if it looks like it is plugged in all the way that is possible.
- Also follow all the general tips in https://github.com/zigpy/zigpy/wiki/Generic-best-practice-tips-on-improving-Zigbee-network-range-and-general-stability as all Zigbee Coordinator adapters is very sensitive to EMI/RFI interference (e.g. a noisy radio frequency environment will jam the signal and prevent it from receiving all Zigbee messages to it without errors). Connecting the dongle via a long “shielded” USB extension cable in a USB 2.0 port or USB 2.0 hub (and not a USB 3.0 port) to get it away from EMF sources will usually help a lot if experiencing connection or pairing symptoms/issues.
- Win/Mac need Silabs drivers → CP210x USB to UART Bridge VCP Drivers - Silicon Labs
- ITead official FW flashing guide → SONOFF Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle plus firmware flashing
- Unofficial FW flashing without open case → https://github.com/JelmerT/cc2538-bsl/pull/114
- Dongle hardware can also be used as Zigbee router (a.k.a. repeater) → flash router firmware
Comparing “ZBDongle-P” vs. “ZBDongle-E” vs. barebone EFR32MG21 dongle
|Radio SoC/MCU chip||Texas Instruments CC2652P||Silicon Labs EFR32MG21||Silicon Labs EFR32MG21|
|Zigbee Stack (Serial Interface Protocol API/CLI)||Z-Stack v3 (ZNP 3)||EmberZNet (EZSP v8)||EmberZNet (EZSP v8)|
|Optional Zigbee Router firmware||Yes (9dBm firmware available from Koenkk)||Yes (20dBm firmware available from ITead)||Yes (20dBm firmware available from ITead)|
|USB to UART/Serial Converter Chip||CP2102 or CP2102N||CH9102F||CH340|
|USB EEPROM Product Description ID||SONOFF Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle Plus||SONOFF Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle Plus V2||None (no USB chip EEPROM)|
|Home Assistant USB Auto Disovery||Yes||Not yet||Not possible|
|Flow Control||None by default (Hardware flow control optional with alternative firmware and flipped dip-switch）||Software flow control||Software flow control|
|RF Transmit Output Power||9dBm (firmware hardcoded), Max: 20dBm||20dBm (default)||20dBm (default)|
|Antenna||External (rotatable and tiltable)||External (rotatable and tiltable)||Onboard circuit board antenna|
|Enclosure/case||Aluminum all-metal shell casing||Aluminum all-metal shell casing||None|
|Packaging||Retail-box with manual||Retail-box with manual||Anti-static bag only|
|Home Assistant ZHA||Supported||Supported||Supported|
|Zigbee2MQTT||Supported||Experimental support as still in development by zigbee-herdsman dev||Experimental support as still in development by zigbee-herdsman dev|
|IoBroker||Supported||Experimental support as still in development by zigbee-herdsman dev||Experimental support as still in development by zigbee-herdsman dev|
|OpenHAB ZigBee Binding||Not yet||Supported||Supported|
|Domoticz Zigbee Plugin||Supported||Supported||Supported|
|Jeedom Zigbee Plugin||Supported||Supported||Supported|
FIRMWARE UPGRADE REQUIREMENTS AND FLASHING SOFTWARE LINKS
New firmware for all popular CC2652 adapters is released relatively regularly by the community, and each release is based on latest upstream SDK from Texas Instruments and contains loads of bug-fixes.
Dongle firmware upgrade prerequisites key points are:
- Use a USB extension cable (due to USB plug on the dongle being very short it might not be fully inserted physically on some chassis/enclosures unless use USB extension cable with longer plug).
- Install official CP210x USB to UART Bridge VCP Drivers from Silicon Labs if using Windows or Mac → https://www.silabs.com/developers/usb-to-uart-bridge-vcp-drivers
- Get either the correct firmware image with name “CC1352P2_CC2652P_launchpad_.zip*” for Zigbee Coordinator → https://github.com/Koenkk/Z-Stack-firmware/tree/master/coordinator/Z-Stack_3.x.0/bin or alternatively get the correct firmware image with name “CC1352P2_CC2652P_launchpad_.zip*” for Zigbee Router → https://github.com/Koenkk/Z-Stack-firmware/tree/master/router/Z-Stack_3.x.0/bin
Adapters based on CC1352 or CC2652 chips can be flashed by putting them in the bootloader. After you have done this one of the following tools can be used to flash it. See your adapter manual on how to enable bootloader (boot mode) manually or use software that support automatic BSL mode for it.
Upgrade firmware with one of these (ZigStar GW Multi tool and cc2538-bsl support auto BSL):
- cc2538-bsl (open source multi platform Python based command line tool with auto-BSL trigger).
- llama-bslopen in new window (multi platform Python based CLI tool, a fork of cc2538-bsl).
- ZigStar GW Multi Tool (multi platform portable GUI tool).
- FLASH PROGRAMMER 2 by Texas Instrumens (Windows installer only, with auto-BSL trigger).
Technical overview from the perspective of Home Assistant users:
Most experienced Zigbee users in the community know that Texas Instruments CC2652P is together with the competing Silicon Labs EFRMG21 chips at this time the most capable and most powerful multi-protocol MCU with 2.4 GHz radios on the market. CC2652P radio chip is currently also the most popular as a Zigbee Coordinator and Zigbee Router in the DIY Zigbee userbase community because it is newer so the firmware is well maintained and is stable/mature in both Zigbee2MQTT and the built-in ZHA integration for Home Assistant. Just like Silabs EFRMG21, TI’s CC2652P feature an integrated Power Amplifier that is technically capable of +20 dBM amplification (though legally the firmware is probably not allowed to be configured to use more than +10 dBM amplification).
According to ITead’s marketing material, it will come pre-flashed with Texas Instruments Z-Stack 3.x.0 coordinator firmware and it should work out-of-the-box with either Home Assistant’s ZHA integration (which depends on zigpy so will probably work with Jeedom Zigbee plugin too) and Zigbee2MQTT (a.k.a. Z2M, which depends on zigbee-herdsman so will probably work with IoBroker Zigbee as well).
In addition, ITead specifically mentions that this TI dongle can alternatively function as a Zigbee router (presumably by flashing Zigbee router firmware instead and open access buttons as pressing a button to enable pairing/joining mode is usually required).
It is based on Texas Instruments CC2652P (CC2652 with integrated +20 dBm amplifier) Zigbee radio and features a metal casing + an SMA connector with an external antenna. It looks a little on the large side for USB 2.0 Type-A so could connect it directly if have no other USB devices but with this using 2.4 GHz frequency band like most other Zigbee adapters it is still recommended to always use a USB extension cable in order to get it away from the computer or any other electronic appliances (and their cables/wires) so it gets less radio frequency interference (RFI) and will thus achieve better signal reception.
It is based on Texas Instruments CC2652P (CC2652 with integrated +20 dBm amplifier) Zigbee radio and features a metal casing + an SMA connector with an external antenna. It looks a little on the large side for USB 2.0 Type-A but still recommend using a USB extension cable.
Interestingly it uses a Silabs CP2102N UART-to-USB chip so wonder if it will have unique ITead VID and/or PID strings specific for this adapter so can be added to autoomatic USB discovery in Home Assistant?
I understand ITead went with CC2652P instead of Silicon Labs EFR32MG21 for this “Plus” dongle version because of the current silicon chip shortage (which Silabs parts suffered for more than most).
Hopefully, we will also see ITead release a new redesigned/revised variant of their cheaper Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle (Silabs EFR32MG21 based adapter) with good RF shielding and corrected PCB antenna design or better yet a high-quality ceramic chip antenna with properly tuned components for the antenna used.
As we know, ITead’s previous ‘non-Plus Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle’ is/was based on Silabs EFR32MG21 SoC which has just as powerful MCU and radio, but sadly was proven that implementation in ITead’s first Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle PCB board revision had a badly designed integrated PCB antenna with poor tuning and no electromagnetic shielding which caused huge issues in radio reception, and to this date, it has been listed as “out-of-stock” since after the initial batch was sold out. Again, very sad since that could also have been a great Zigbee Coordinator adapter if it had been properly engineered. Hopefully, they will decide to take another stab and redesign that as a new product after the chip shortages as it would be great if they could also offer a Silabs EFR32 based alternative for extended compatibility.