Right now, when it comes to automating lights, two choices spring to my mind. You could go with Chinese Sonoff Mini (review) or Bulgarian Shelly 1 (review). So which one is better?
I have tested both for some time now and I think I’m ready to pick my favourite. You don’t have to agree with my choice, but if you read Sonoff Mini vs Shelly 1, you’ll find out what both devices excel at and what are the shortcomings. Neither is perfect, unfortunately.
The main difference between Sonoff Mini vs Shelly 1 is the power rating. Shelly 1 wins this* with extra 6 Amps (16A vs 10A), but don’t despair. 2200W (10A) is more than you need for all your lights, and enough for most of the sockets.
Taking a peek inside paints a little different picture. Shelly 1 is rated for 8A inductive load, while the Sonoff Mini comes with 16A-rated relays which would suggest a better inductive load (not tested, was not able to confirm that via the spec sheet).
EDIT: Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Sonoff Mini comes with ESP8285 while Shelly uses ESP8266.
It’s a draw, but, if you pay attention to online listings, you could snatch Sonoff Mini for about $6, even if the RTP is the same for both $9.99. So if you are patient and look around, outfitting your home may save you a decent amount! I have not seen any significant offers for Shelly 1.
At the first sight, Shelly 1 is the clear winner with its smaller dimensions and a more compact enclosure, but once you try to install it, you will find yourself adding extra wires and clips to split the wires correctly. I actually run out of space underneath my ceiling light fitting due to that! So against the first impressions, Sonoff Mini wins this one – comes with 6 terminals for 6 wires – the way it should be.
It’s a draw, both Shelly Cloud and eWeLink app come with the app (obviously) and integrations like Amazon Echo, Google Home or IFTTT. Shelly 1 gets extra praise here for having a web client running, so you can actually access the interface directly through the browser – no need for the app.
But if you are not a filthy casual…
If standard functionality isn’t your thing, and you love to watch things burn just to troubleshoot them for hours… then you are more like me and I like you already!
DIY mode vs Shelly Cloud
DIY Mode sucks, and Shelly Cloud shines. Shelly 1 is a clear winner here as it comes with REST API. You can easily integrate Shelly devices with NodeRED or HomeAssistant without losing the app or smart speaker functionality! Sonoff guys have lots to learn!
Shelly wins hands down, even if you can’t use MQTT with the app or smart speakers at the same time, you don’t have to flash anything to take advantage of this protocol. If you want to use Sonoff Mini with MQTT you have to flash Tasmota or AFE Firmware.
3rd party firmware
It’s a draw. Both modules are ESP8266-based, so there are plenty of alternatives. Both devices can be flashed, so you are no longer required to solder anything. Shelly 1 gets extra points for already available headers, but Sonoff Mini matches that with the OTA flash and additional GPIO exposed.
- Sonoff Mini comes with an external antenna
- Sonoff Mini doesn’t use high voltage to operate the switch (you can use 3.3V rated toggle buttons
- Shelly 1 comes with switch behaviour options
- Sonoff Mini has inching options
- Shelly 1 can issue HTTP requests directly
- Sonoff Mini case can be opened
Check out other devices from the Shelly series to build your ultimate DIY automation:
Shop with Sonoff
Take a look at the ZigBee and WiFi range of the devices compatible with eWeLink:
In the Sonoff Mini vs Shelly 1 fight, it’s hard to pick a clear winner. If all you care is the app, and smart speaker functionality (I don’t judge) Sonoff Mini would be my recommendation (if you can stay under 10A). If you want more than that, the choice gets harder, I absolutely love the Shelly 1 REST API, so as long as I can fit inside with all the clips – I would pick the blue gadget. Otherwise, it’s Sonoff Mini as I can still integrate Alexa with NodeRED, even with their rather peculiar DIY Mode. I’m sorry Shelly lovers, If I cannot fit it under the ceiling light, I won’t use it. Which one is for you? Let me know in this Reddit thread.