HomeHome AutomationSonoff ZigBee Bridge U isn't what you think!

Sonoff ZigBee Bridge U isn’t what you think!

Sonoff ZB Bridge U has a secret!

Technically, ITEAD already has a Matter-compatible hub in their lineup. iHost was released over a year ago(read the review), and while it didn’t offer Matter at launch, subsequent OTA enabled this as an experimental option. On paper, Sonoff ZB Bridge U is the first official Matter hub in their collection. I have one here and have been using it for several days already. Listen up!

Sonoff ZB Bridge U

At first, I only knew the name of their next device: Sonoff ZB Bridge U. I didn’t think much of it, as it’s not the first Sonoff ZB Bridge released by ITEAD. I simply assumed the new iteration has a more capable ZigBee IC inside. Considering that the latest hub supports Matter, perhaps the “M” designation would be more fitting. Instead, the U stands for Ultra! Presumably, because “Pro” version of the Sonoff ZB Bridge already exists.

Now that we have the naming convention out of the way, let’s see what’s on offer. Just like the latest ZigBee sensors from the Sonoff lineup, Sonoff ZB Bridge U has ditched the rectangular design and comes with a more pleasant-to-eye look. It’s rounded, slightly bigger and comes with a dedicated pairing button, USB-C port and a new feature to the series: an Ethernet port!

The grill at the bottom exposes a pretty loud speaker which plays the same chime on boot as iHost. Unfortunately, Sonoff ZB Bridge U doesn’t support PoE and if you were hoping to use a single cable to use it, you may consider a PoE to USB-C adapter (AmazonUK|AmazonUS). Don’t worry, you can still use 2.4GHz WiFi to connect your Sonoff ZB Bridge U to the network (after pairing). Sonoff ZB Bridge U will use WiFi as a failover.

Sonoff ZB Bridge U comes with a $59.90 price tag which seems a little steep considering that you could get the Pro version for less than half the price. Read on, and there will be an explanation for the elevated price tag.

Pairing

In line with the latest releases, Sonoff ZB Bridge U uses a QR code to pair with the network. On the first power-up, the hubs should be in pairing mode, the eWeLink app instructions call for a 3-second press of the pairing button to turn the LED yellow, but the LED is actually blinking green in the pairing mode. Sonoff ZB Bridge U was fussy at first, and until I reopened the app and reset the bridge (5 sec button press) I had a hard time adding it to my eWeLink ecosystem.

Sonoff ZB Bridge U and eWeLink App

Just like Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro, the latest bridge comes with the security hub baked in. You can link an array of contact sensors, add PIR sensors and use a Presence detection sensor to set up pretty sophisticated security. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about the device limit as Sonoff ZB Bridge U allows up to 256 devices to be added in the child mode.

To alert you, a loudspeaker can play a selection of 14 sounds. These are split into 3 categories: alarms, sounds and doorbell chimes. If you have a Sonoff ZB Button in your collection, you could easily transform this hub into a doorbell – and make it even smarter by creating an automation that triggers recording from the Sonoff S-Cam.

Inside Sonoff ZB Bridge U

Considering how often I get questions and comments about flashing Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro with Tasmota, I’m expecting this bridge to spark the interest of the community too. Let’s open it up, and see how difficult ITEAD made it to access internals.

Unlike the Sonoff S60 I covered recently in this article, the enclosure of the Sonoff ZB Bridge U isn’t glued together. To open it up, you have to remove the rubber feet so you can access 4 screws.

Not what I expected

I have to be honest with you, I expected another iteration of Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro with a better ZigBee IC and Matter certification for their WiFi microcontroller. Turns out, the familiar boot-up chime of the Sonoff ZB Bridge U hinted more than I anticipated.

Sonoff ZB Bridge U has more in common with iHost, than with Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro, as the main processing unit is the lite version of the same Rockchip SBC that was used on iHost. Encouraged by the familiar footprint I inspected the main board.

Sonoff ZB Bridge U uses Fn-Link 6223A series to handle WiFi, Realtek RTL8201F brings 100M Ethernet and familiar EFR32 MG21A0 support for ZigBee, but perhaps in the future also for Thread, since the chip series offers support for both. There are dev pads associated with each IC, in case someone feels brave enough to poke about, but considering the lack of development of custom firmware for iHost (it already offers Docker and custom images), I feel this device won’t be tinkerer’s favourite.

Removing the shield from the CPU unit reveals, familiar to me, from iHost Rockchip RV1109 with Dual Core ARM Cortex A7 (supported by RISK-V MCU) clocked at 1.5GHz and supported by 8GB eMMC storage and 1GB RAM.

In a nutshell, Sonoff ZB Bridge U is a mini iHost, and I’m surprised to see it paired with your average bridge in the eWeLink app. The hardware shows promise for more and I for one cannot wait to see what ITEAD will do with it.

If you are looking into custom automation, for now, you should consider Sonoff ZigBee Dongle Plus instead (read this article) – as it was made to enable anyone with a Raspberry Pi (or similar) to run ZigBee2MQTT or similar instance and bridge their ZigBee devices with a custom server.

Sonoff ZB Bridge U vs Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro

As Sonoff ZB Bridge U shares the interface with Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro rather than iHost, I decided to compare it with the older bridge. To make it a fair “fight” I used the 1st gen Sonoff ZigBee Temp & Humidity sensor (as I only have one new Sonoff ZigBee Temp & Humidity sensor to see how both would report signal strength across my flat. Just note I’m running 3 different ZigBee networks at the moment (for review reasons) so there might be some interference.

At least that was my plan, but it turns out that the RSSI metric was only visible on Sonoff ZB Bridge Pro. What’s left is to move the sensors in the darkest corner of my flat and watch the updates unfold!

I didn’t expect any revelations, the flat isn’t huge and despite the interference, both hubs received timely updates from sensors. In a nutshell, Sonoff ZB Bridge U will be as good of a gateway for your ZigBee devices as the Pro version.

Matter

If you want to expose ZigBee devices to Matter, you can generate the code or enable pairing in the app and then use Alexa or Google Home to add the bridge and attached devices to your Matter network.

In my test, I was able to add the hub and the link temperature sensor to my Alexa ecosystem, but only information about the hub and temperature was sent to Alexa. humidity information was not enabled.

I don’t exactly know who’s at fault here, as the biggest pet hate about Matter right now is the fact, that you’ll never know what features on your Matter-compatible device are supported. We will have to wait longer for the protocol to mature. Until then, there are always skill integrations!

Shop with Sonoff

Take a look at the ZigBee and WiFi range of the devices compatible with eWeLink:

Final thoughts

ITEAD managed to surprise me. I don’t know what will happen to Sonoff ZB Bridge U in the future if this device turns into something closely resembling iHost. Right now, it’s good advice to keep a closer eye on this hub. You can get it now, and use it in your automation as any other bridge or splash out and get the iHost instead. Either way – I want to see what ITEAD will do with Sonoff ZigBee Bridge U. Let me know your thoughts in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.

PayPal

Nothing says "Thank you" better than keeping my coffee jar topped up!

Patreon

Support me on Patreon and get an early access to tutorial files and videos.

image/svg+xml

Bitcoin (BTC)

Use this QR to keep me caffeinated with BTC: 1FwFqqh71mUTENcRe9q4s9AWFgoc8BA9ZU

Smart Ideas with

Automate your space in with these ecosystems and integrate it with other automation services

client-image
client-image
client-image
client-image
client-image
client-image
client-image
client-image
client-image

Learn NodeRED

NodeRED for beginners: 1. Why do you need a NodeRED server?

0
To server or not to server? That's a very silly question!

Best Automation Projects

Tuya SDK for beginners: Intro to Tuya Cloud API

0
Working with Tuya Cloud API. A guide to Cloud automation for beginners, get started with REST!

NEST your old thermostat under $5

0
Nest-ing up your older thermostat under $5

Nora – Google Assistant in NodeRED

0
Integrate Google Assistant with NodeRED thanks to Nora - NodeRED home automation

Sonoff Zigbee Bridge – review

0
Sonoff line up will soon include Sonoff Zigbee Bridge and more Zigbee sensors - here is the first look

DIY Smart Washing Machine – for about 15 bucks!

0
Learn how to add washing machine notifications to your Google Home on the cheap

Smart Home

Aqara “Everything” M3 Hub

0
When I started my home automation adventure, the current problem was the number of ecosystems needed to outfit your smart home. Aqara M3 Hub has a long list of protocols to match that!

Sonoff ZB Micro did it! (and bonus ZigBee device)

0
A long time ago, I took an angle grinder to the humble Sonoff Micro, will I do this again? Meet Sonoff ZB Micro and Sonoff ZB Contact (SNZB-04P) - the latest devices from the ZigBee ecosystem.

This keyless entry is PRO: SwitchBot Lock Pro

0
SwitchBot Lock Pro offers comprehensive upgrades over the original, combining enhanced design, stronger performance, and a faster mechanism for keyless entry

I damaged the cheapest Smart Socket with power metering for you

0
Sonoff S60 has an exeptional price for a smart socket with a power meter - I decided to check it out and see how flashable it is

The end of Tasmota? Sonoff SwitchMan M5 Matter

0
These are one of the least expensive Matter devices to automate your lights. Will Sonoff SwitchMan M5 Matter put an end to Tasmota?