Z Wave vs Zigbee: Which is the best choice for you?

The Z-Wave and ZigBee are two of the most used protocols for establishing smart home networks. These are wireless protocols that have been built specifically for home automation. Smart home applications necessitate a combination of their low power consumption and great dependability. Although they share many similarities, several crucial variances give rise to the comparison — Z Wave vs Zigbee. 

Z-Wave uses a frequency of 908 MHz, while ZigBee uses 2.4 GHz. Although ZigBee can send larger data at higher frequencies, the signal range is reduced. Obstacles limit the shorter range even further. In comparison to a low-frequency transmission, a high-frequency signal has a more challenging time passing through barriers.

How do you choose between Zigbee vs Z-Wave for your household? The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a smart home network that includes many devices. This guide will give you much-needed clarity over Zigbee and Z-Wave smart home automation. Keep scrolling!

Zigbee vs Z-Wave – Quick Comparison

IoT (Internet of Things) and consumer IoT spawned a slew of smart home gadgets from manufacturers. Communication between these devices was required. For this purpose, protocols like Z Wave and Zigbee were developed. 

Wireless protocols such as Zigbee and Z Wave enable your linked devices to “speak” to one another. Zigbee and Z Wave use low-energy radio waves to communicate across your smart home ecosystem rather than using Wi-Fi or short-range Bluetooth. 

If you’re looking for a smart home system, one of these two may be a better fit than the other. Z Wave vs. Zigbee: Which is better for your wallet?

Communication between smart home devices is supported via Z-Wave and Zigbee. Connecting to the internet is essential for smart devices to accept instructions from apps and transmit data. However, devices that are distant from the routers may have poor signals, making it challenging to receive instructions from apps or even relay them. 

Several Z-Wave and Zigbee-based smart home gadgets employ a mesh network to ensure that every device has a robust wireless connection over a mesh network like the SmartThings or Philips Hue. 

Wireless networks such as Wi-Fi and Zigbee use a “leapfrog” strategy to communicate with smart home devices. Once it leaves the smart hub, the radio signal will “hop” to another device in line and others until it reaches the one needing the data. 

As a result, no matter how far the data needs to pass, the device will receive it. This form of network is known as a mesh network since all of the devices are linked.

What is Zigbee

Zigbee is a network that circularly connects devices. You don’t have to connect every Zigbee device to your Wireless network for the signals to hop between them. Instead, there is usually a focal point. 

No restriction to the number of hops across devices makes this choice highly versatile for bigger and more demanding smart homes. Zigbee devices can communicate at distances of up to 20 meters. 

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) established 802.15.4, a private area network standard, with the intended goal of delivering low-speed, cost-friendly communication between devices. Zigbee devices use this IEEE standard. 

Although Zigbee is theoretically able to handle 65,000 devices, you’d run into connectivity challenges even before you hit this speculative figure. However, this highlights the resilience of Zigbee as a communications technology. 

Using AES-128 encryption, you don’t have to worry about Zigbee devices communicating securely. Online banks employ this standard. 

Zigbee 3.0 runs at 2.4Ghz and has fast transmission speeds. This, however, has an inherent flaw. There are a lot of distractions at this frequency since WiFi devices use it as well. For those in the United States, Zigbee may also be used on 915MHz. Because data transmission drops from 250 kbps down to 40 kbps, you may not be thrilled with the trade-off.

Zigbee: Pros and Cons

Zigbee is a well-liked wireless technology that is widely used. While many people are unaware of it, those who use it generally have nothing but pleasant things to say. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Zigbee. 

Pros of Zigbee 

  • The power consumption of Zigbee is relatively low. You won’t have to worry about it dying between uses because the batteries are long-lasting. 
  • It’s also less expensive than Z-wave, so it’s an accessible option. 
  • Zigbee offers such a wide range of connecting options. It has a 15-hop range, so you can take it outside or use it in large spaces. 
  • Zigbee has no cap on the number of devices that can be linked together. You can connect as many as you want. The type of use you put it to will typically determine this, although having no restrictions is always preferable and more enjoyable. 

Cons of Zigbee 

  • Those who want to use it at home will have difficulty as it is intended for sizable spaces and bigger usage. 
  • Zigbee requires professional expertise for the initial setup and upkeep.

How Does Zigbee Work

A radio transceiver is used to connect Zigbee smart devices. The chip uses the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol, which you may know as the same frequency range utilized by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Zigbee, unlike Wi-Fi, has a limited interior range of around 10 to 20 meters since it consumes less power than the Wi-Fi standard. Zigbee devices’ battery life is significantly improved as a result of this. 

Zigbee devices can communicate with one other and exchange data. Zigbee devices can duplicate and forward Zigbee data from one device to another. This implies that you may connect several smart devices to the central hub, even if some of these devices are located outside of the hub’s direct (i.e., wireless) coverage area. 

  • Zigbee devices can exchange data with other Zigbee devices. 
  • With just one hub, devices can communicate with each other. 
  • Device-to-device communication is possible using Zigbee, which can transmit messages over a greater distance.

What is Z-Wave

Z-Wave leverages low-energy radio waves to connect your smart home’s devices and equipment as a mesh network. A central hub is required for both business and residential automation. Controlling your gadgets via a keypad or through a wireless key fob is also doable. 

In 2001, Zensys, a Danish corporation, created z-Wave as an alternative to Zigbee that was both less expensive and simpler to use. 

Z-Wave devices can only communicate with each other over four hops, making it less flexible than Zigbee. However, most smart homes will be fine with a network capacity of 232 devices. 

Z-Wave uses the same AES-128 standard as Zigbee in terms of security. Even though it isn’t completely impenetrable, it’s not something to be alarmed about. In addition, if you’re concerned about smart home security, we recommend that you avoid the urge to automate your entire house. 

Z-Wave devices use radio frequencies in the 800-900 MHz range. This is a major selling factor because you won’t have to deal with any interruptions. 

Z-Wave: Pros and Cons 

Z-Wave has several appealing characteristics that make it a popular option among Z-wave users, but there are also some disadvantages. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Z-Wave. 

Pros of Z-Wave

  • It uses a very high frequency, which ensures that it will not interfere with any other router. 
  • Z-wave is simple to use. If you don’t know a lot about technology, you can easily set it up. You don’t have to be an expert to do so. With the help of the included handbook, it can be set up immediately. 
  • One of the most appealing aspects of Z-Wave is that it works with a wide range of devices. You can use Z-Wave to link almost any smart home device. 

Cons of Z-Wave

  • After a short period, a battery replacement is required. It’s a significant disappointment for folks who want to use it frequently because they die out earlier than Zigbee. 
  • Z-Wave is a bit pricey. Some folks may not be able to afford it.

How Does Z-Wave Work 

Using the Mesh Network architecture, Z-Wave technology can communicate with each other. What exactly is a mesh network? Just like the name suggests, devices in the network are “meshed” together. 

Multiple communication paths are created by interconnecting all the devices in the network. 

Z-Wave SoC (System on Chip) devices can interact with other Z-Wave devices, assuming they are in the range of one other. It doesn’t matter what Z-Wave-certified gadget you have in your house; each is a node in the mesh network. 

It is possible to communicate with a Z-Wave device even if it is outside the range of the central controller, as each linked Z-Wave device may transmit a signal or instruction to the target device. 

However, there is a limitation to how far you can go. The maximum number of nodes via which a message can be transmitted is four. This shouldn’t be much of an issue if the Z-Wave devices have a 100-meter transmission distance.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Should I Choose Just One

Your smart home can handle both Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. 

While the two protocols don’t connect directly, a wide range of devices can use them. The SmartThings hub by Samsung supports Zigbee and Z-Wave. GE appliances, Yale smart locks, and Honey thermostats also work well with both protocols. 

That said, if you plan on building a smart home with gadgets from both the Apple and Google ecosystems, it’s worth investing in a hub that can communicate with both, or you’ll encounter problems.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Features

We will evaluate both Z-Wave and Zigbee wireless protocols in seven main categories. For each category, we’ll list the smart home approved winner; Zigbee vs Z-Wave.

Reliability

The reliability of any smart home gadget, appliance, or network protocol is essential. Whatever the scale of your security system, you’ll need an accurate signal to manage it. When it comes to home security systems, uncertainty could be pretty dangerous. 

Aside from the 800 MHz band, Z-Wave works in the range of 800-900 MHz. Z-Wave avoids the 2.4GHz bottleneck that Zigbee has to deal with; therefore, there is less danger of lost or variable transmissions. A Z-Wave mesh network can build stronger and superior connections since there is no rivalry for resources. 

A well-arranged Zigbee network is not unstable, although Z-Wave, in general, is more dependable. 

Who wins? Z-Wave is the victor in this competition.

Signal Range and Compatibility

When two points of contact are made, Z Wave can travel a distance of 100 meters. Unless you wish to connect to a garden shed or have a lot of gadgets spread around a large property, this is a good length for an ordinary home. The Z-Wave SoCs (system on a chip) enable you to insert extra sensors in exclusion zones to increase signal strength. 

On the other hand, Zigbee has a range of just 10 meters, so you’ll need to place your devices closer. As far as 30m is possible based on your building material, but it is not guaranteed. As a result, it’s still a viable option, but you’ll want to take that into account for homes with a lot of space. 

At 232 devices, Z-Wave is limited, but Zigbee can support 65,000 or even more. Those are significant shifts in perspective. But, unless you’re one of the rare smart home users who have more than 232 smart gadgets, it should have no impact on your decision. You may desire that level of integration within the next few years, considering the pace of technological change.

Who wins? Z-Wave takes the cake in terms of signal range, while Zigbee has the upper hand in compatibility. 

Frequency Used

The devices you may connect to your Zigbee or Z-Wave mesh networks depend on their frequency. There are two sorts of radio frequencies used by each type. Z-Wave uses a frequency of 908.42 MHz, while Zigbee uses a frequency of 2.4 GHz or 915 MHz. 

A Zigbee-enabled device cannot connect with a Z-Wave-enabled device. So, if you want to set up a mesh network in your house, you’ll need to select one and stick with it. 

Who wins? Z-Wave takes the upper hand. 

Interference With Other Devices

Your smart home gadgets will interact differently because of their differing frequencies. For example, wireless networks and microwaves may be affected by Zigbee’s frequency of 2.4 GHz. 

Z-Wave may interfere with wireless landline phones and other devices using a 900GHz frequency spectrum (such as baby monitors).

Who wins? Both can interfere as per frequencies. 

Network Connectivity 

Devices in a mesh network can only communicate with one another, and there is a limitation on hops. 

As many as 232 smart home devices can be linked to a Z-Wave network at the same time. Even though it seems like a lot, there is only a maximum of four hops between any two compatible devices. The data won’t reach your device if it’s over four hops away. 

A staggering 65,000 devices can be connected simultaneously with Zigbee. It’s great to know that you can link so many, even if you never do. Zigbee can accommodate an infinite number of hops is one of the best things about its connection.

Who wins? Zigbee dominates the category.

Speed

Speed of data transmission is measured in Kbps. There’s a correlation between Kbps and speed. When sending large amounts of data, speed might play a role. 

Zigbee has a top speed of 250 Kbps. Comparable to Z-Wave’s 100 kbps speed. Zigbee operates at speeds that are only roughly two times as fast as Z- Wave. 

Most smart devices don’t care about speed since the amount of data they send is so little. 

Who wins? Zigbee vs. Z-Wave speed comparison shows that Zigbee has a 150 Kbps advantage over Z-Wave.

Number Of Products Supported

In comparison to Zigbee’s 65,000+ devices, Z Wave can handle up to 232 devices. Neither of these protocols will cause any issues for the average homeowner. Most of us will be happy with Z-Wave or Zigbee. 

If you run a big commercial space and are exploring smart protocols, We recommend sticking with Zigbee to avoid being limited in the future.

Zigbee has more approved, interoperable products (3,500) on the market, while Z Wave has roughly 3,200. 

If we dig a little further, we find that over 300 million Zigbee-certified items are currently in use worldwide. The number of Z Wave devices sold worldwide is less than one million. 

You can trust numbers. The smart home product market has moved in favor of Zigbee. The expiration of smart home products is a real worry for many users. In the absence of a real standard, the concern is that their smart device would become obsolete, using a protocol that is no longer available.

Who wins? Zigbee comes out on top by a wide margin when it comes to home automation.

Power Usage

While WiFi consumes a lot of energy, the best part is that Zigbee and Z-Wave consume significantly less. Because many smart home gadgets are battery-powered rather than hard wires, you wouldn’t want a communication protocol that consumes much power. 

This is yet another category where Zigbee has the upper hand over another protocol. Even though this gap is narrowing, it consumes less energy. 

If you want to connect numerous gadgets, such as security systems and sensors, Zigbee is the preferable option. 

Who wins? Zigbee is crowned the winner in this competition.

Security

Online banking systems prefer the AES 128 standard of encryption used by Zigbee and Z-Wave. In terms of safety, that should be plenty. 

Although no smart home is immune from tampering, you won’t have to worry about compromised signal encryption regardless of whatever protocol you use. 

Earlier, organizations avoided using high-level encryption that gave the Z-Wave brand a bad image for security failings in the beginning. Z-Wave became fed up with this and has made AES128 a certification criterion. Taking this a step further, manufacturers must now incorporate the newer Security 2 (S2) architecture, making any security compromise almost impossible. 

And although Z-Wave has moved things to another level, it’s only fair to say that both protocols are equal in this regard because they both essentially prevent the possibility of the signal getting hacked. 

Who wins? It’s a tie.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Price

Zigbee is less expensive, supports more devices, and is advancing more rapidly. 

Installing and customizing a system is a snap with Zigbee, making it an excellent choice for IT experts and do-it-yourselfers alike. The Zigbee network is interoperable and scalable, allowing users to manage their environment. Samsung, Hive,  Amazon, Philips, and Honeywell are some of the top manufacturers of Zigbee devices. 

Zigbee is the ideal choice for smart home gadgets made by well-known brands if you’re looking for a more rapid connection. 

A more reliable but costly option is Z-wave. 

If you’re just getting started with the latest technology breakthroughs, Z-Wave is the perfect solution for you. It’s also for people who want their home automation systems to be uncomplicated to use, secure, and low maintenance. Z-Wave is compatible with many famous companies, including Samsung, Honeywell, Wink, and more. 

People who are looking for greater range and compatibility, as well as more stable connections, should consider Z-Wave.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have compared both Z-Wave and Zigbee in a head-to-head battle. Let’s tackle some other related questions around Zigbee vs Z-Wave. 

What is better Z-Wave or Zigbee?

It’s best to go with ZigBee if the range between devices is low or if you want to use a lot of gadgets. If you use Z-Wave, the fewer devices you have and the greater the distance between them, the better it is for you.

Is Zigbee and Z-Wave the same?

No, they are two different protocols. In the United States, Z-Wave uses the 915 MHz ISM band and the 868 MHz RFID band, whereas Zigbee uses the 2.4 GHz ISM band (in Europe). All of Zigbee’s hardware can be used in any nation, thanks to its worldwide standard.

Is Alexa Zigbee or Z-Wave?

Alexa only supports Zigbee. All of the Echo products with Alexa are compatible with Zigbee and can be used for smart home automation.

Is Google Zigbee or Z-Wave?

Using a smart hub to connect Google Home to a Z-Wave device gives a way to use Google Home with Z-Wave devices. But it is not directly compatible with both Z-Wave and Zigbee. 

Conclusion

You must decide whether Zigbee vs Z-Wave protocol is more crucial to your house before engaging in head-to-head combat. Zigbee comes out as the obvious winner in terms of reliability, compatibility, and signal range, while Z-Wave comes to the frontline in terms of power consumption. 

However, like with other aspects of constructing a functional smart home, your selection is totally up to you. It is our goal that you use this guide as it was intended: as a reference. Let us know if it helps you in deciding better for your smart home automation.

About Melissa

Hey! I'm Mel, I write the occasional article for Spacehop, amongst other things. I love meeting new people and chatting, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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