The smart home still needs buttons. Or — in the case of the new $22.99 Aqara Cube T1 Pro — gestures. Voice control and sensors, while useful, aren’t always the best way to turn the lights on, open the shades, or kick off routines or scenes. Sometimes you just want a tactile remote control to do the job for you. The Cube T1 Pro is an updated version of Aqara’s wireless Cube controller that fills this niche with a host of new gestures for controlling smart home devices, while adding support for Apple Home and Amazon Alexa.
The Cube T1 Pro lets you push, flip, twist, shake, or tap the cube to activate your gadget or scenes. It shows up as six wireless buttons in HomeKit and six motion sensors in Alexa. From here, you can tie each side to a different smart device or scene.
For example, flip the Cube to side 1 (each side is numbered) to trigger a Movie Time Scene that turns down your lights and lowers your shades in HomeKit. Or, in Alexa, flip it to side 2 to turn on your Good Morning Scene that raises your shades, adjusts your thermostat, turns on your lights, and starts the radio playing from your Echo smart speakers.
Each side can be programmed to control an individual device, too. Basically, any automation or gadget you can control in either ecosystem can be kicked off with a quick rotation of the Cube.
As with all Aqara devices, the Cube requires an Aqara Hub. It works over Zigbee 3.0, which Aqara says provides faster response time and better reliability than the previous version. There’s more functionality if you use it with Aqara’s own devices, including push, shake, rotate, flip, and tap. For example, rotate it clockwise to close your curtains connected to Aqara’s curtain motor or counter-clockwise to open. A similar gesture could be used to brighten or dim lights.
While there are dice-like indicators printed on each side, the Cube still has the problem that you need to remember what you programmed each side to do. Although those blank white sides are just calling out for some emoji stickers.
I could see myself using a gadget like this in a single-purpose setting — such as in my office on my desk where I could flip once to activate my Zoom Scene, which turns my lights to a softer, more flattering glow and turns off my music. Then flip it again to return to my Work Scene with more energizing lighting and some inspiring tunes.
Another good spot would be on the bedside table set to trigger a Good Morning and Good Night scene. If I set it to do too many things — like also turn all the lights on in the house and lock the doors — I would probably forget what I programmed it to do.
Aqara says the Cube T1 Pro is “expected to support Matter via the Aqara hubs through an OTA update.” This should allow it to control any Matter-enabled device — further expanding its potential usefulness. The Hub M2 is scheduled to be the first Aqara hub to receive the Matter update later this year.