ITEAD’s move to ZigBee was welcomed and anticipated. The low power protocol offers mesh connectivity for battery-powered sensors and devices which act as routers. This is where I find the release of Sonoff MINIR3, S-Mate and now Sonoff Switchman R5 very confusing, as they come with a new way to talk to each other: eWeLink-Remote.
Sonoff MINI3 and M5 series are more
At first glance, Sonoff MINI3 isn’t different to Sonoff BasicR3 or DUALR3 as far as communication goes. It connects to 2.4GHz WiFi and offers single-channel switching in Live & Neutral configurations. I couldn’t be further from the truth, as Sonoff MINI3 brings a new communication protocol alongside the included WiFi: eWeLink-Remote. Somehow I completely missed that with the release of the Sonoff Switchman M5 series. Even though the menu for eWeLink-Remote was already there!
So far, my PR contacts are very quiet about the tech aspects of the protocol. From the way eWeLink-Remote is poised in the article, it is meant to replace the trusty RF433MHz used by the Sonoff RF series, with the new wireless protocol.
The devices I received for testing have their IC scrubbed clean from marking, so I can’t look up the datasheets to tell you more, but ITEAD guys are promising ZigBee alike device management, fast offline response time and up to 150m range in open spaces.
It won’t be back-compatible with ZigBee or RF devices and will require the presence of “hub” devices (like Sonoff MINIR3, Switchman M5) to add the subdevices to the network.
Sonoff MINIR3 $9.99
Unlike other Sonoff devices, Sonoff MINIR3 is not ESP based. At heart, we can find BL602/BL604 RISC-V WiFi & Bluetooth 5.0 LE SoC. A move to RISK-V is an interesting jump as the replacement for ESP8266 with a similar price point and better specification.
It also means that anyone hoping to flash is, can’t rely on the usual toolchain used for ESP based devices. I have no doubt that thanks to RISK-V’s “opensourceness”, we will see appropriate tools to handle that, but if you are hoping to get one now with the intention of tasmotising it – you will be disappointed.
In other words, until then, you can piggyback on eWeLink API to talk to the switch from Sonoff’s cloud. It’s a single channel relay, which supports up to 16A and uses L & N to latch into your power lines. With only 4 terminals Sonoff MINIR3 relies on S-Mate to integrate wall switches or other triggers available in the eWeLink app.
It works fast over the cloud and included LAN mode only, and thanks to the inclusion of the hardware button, it can be toggled manually. In the eWeLink app, you will find support for inching, timers, schedules and restoring power states after a power cut.
Sonoff S-Mate (subdevice) $7.49
The launch of Sonoff S-Mate confused me even more. We already had the Sonoff MINI series to handle in-wall switches and Sonoff ZBMINI-L to give people like me, in-wall switching without neutral. Sonoff S-Mate comes in to fill the no-neutral gap. It acts as a remote button between your wall switch and Sonoff MINIR3 (or SwitchMan M5) linked to your lights or appliances.
In devices like Sonoff MINI, switching would happen thanks to extra terminals present on the device to detect the position change of the switch. Sonoff S-Mate uses an internal battery (CR2032) to stay powered up, while it updates Sonoff MINIR3 about changes. It supports up to 3 inputs.
It’s a flexible approach, which enables the owner to use it anywhere within a working range of Sonoff MINIR3 at the cost of keeping an eye on the battery life.
To use Sonoff S-Mate, remember to pull out the battery tab stopping it from engaging as, without the battery, the S-Mate won’t work or pair. Once paired (press any toggle linked to the S-Mate in the paring mode). S-Mate has terminals for L, however, it is only used for installation and the unit works off a battery. The device has a dip switch on one of its sides to set two working modes: pulse/toggle.
The biggest advantage of the S-Mate is that it can be used with any type of switch. As these are no longer connected to mains voltage, but use the S-Mate logic, you can use pushbuttons, main wall switches and whatever else your soul desires. Unlike the Sonoff Switchman R5, S-Mate has only one configurable action per channel.
Sonoff Switchman R5 (subdevice) $12.49
Design with the same principle as other switches from the Switchman M series, Sonoff Switchman R5 works completely wirelessly. Just like Aqara Opple, it offers an array of buttons to set up and configure.
It uses 2 x CR2032 batteries and comes with an easy mounting plate, which you can fix to a wall with tape or screws. Inside the box, I also found extra stickers to label 6 push-button operated switches. Just like S-Mate, it requires Sonoff MINIR3 (or SwitchMan M5) in the network to work. In line with other wall switches, Switchman R5 has a footprint of 96×96 mm.
Each button comes with 3 programmable actions in the eWeLink app for a total of 24 actions (click/double/long). That should be enough for all your switching actions. Something tells me, you will need a list of commands with this one!
The pairing process is simple, press any of the buttons when Sonoff MINIR3 is in pairing mode and the device will be added to your eWeLink account. You can control what each button does by creating new automation in the Scene panel. One thing I really liked about this was the fact that you can configure all six channels in a single scene with only 3 scenes required to map all 18 actions.
In use, Switchman R5 is fast with actuation times under 500ms, and the corresponding button’s LED blinking red once when the command is issued. The buttons are easy to press and can be actuated from anywhere on the button slice up to 50% of its surface. As the device is battery powered, the LEDs don’t light up at night.
More devices with eWeLink-Remote
These are the first devices to support eWeLink-Remote, but not the only ones. ITEAD has other devices in the pipeline with the support for eWeLink-Remote.
- Sonoff B02-BL Bulb
- Sonoff S40 & S40 Lite plug
Just as any other eWeLink devices, these integrate with Alexa and Google Home and come with all bells and whistles of the cloud ecosystem including timers, schedules and support for scenes.
With Matter around the corner and countless requests to include Sonoff DIY in more products or support the 3rd party integrations via MQTT or REST just like Shelly does with their Shelly Plus series, the decision to include yet another proprietary communication protocol is already fragmented as heck IoT world strikes me as odd. I have no doubt that some of you will find it useful for niche scenarios, but something tells me this is now what we all hoped to see from ITEAD. Got thoughts on the matter? Let me know in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.