There are so many options on the market these days for DIY home security camera systems. So the approach from Aqara initially wasn’t one that we saw tremendous value in, but quickly reading about the Camera Hub G3 showed it’s a really smart camera.

The basics are that it’s an IP camera for inside your home, but there’s so much more to it. There are AI features, including facial recognition; it’s a ZigBee 3.0 Hub and can operate as an IR remote control

Setup, design and features

When you open the box, you’ll find the camera, a decent-length power cable, a power brick and an instruction manual. Honestly, though, that instruction manual isn’t of enormous value providing you can search the Play Store for the Aqara Home app. Once you install the app, setup is remarkably quick and simple; scan the QR and follow the bouncing ball. The Camera Hub G3 is just one of many devices the app caters to, so having the setup process as simple as it is was a great indicator for other products.

The physical design of the camera is somewhat curious, with silicone cat ears atop the device. Even having used the camera for a few weeks now, I’m not sure — apart from “cute” — what this adds to the camera. The aesthetic aside, there are a few factors in the design that I really like starting with the fact that USB-C powers it.

It’s also designed on a weighted base that offers a full 360-degree viewable angle, with 2k resolution which delivers stunning video quality, even under the almost invisible to the eye IR lights. At this point, while the picture quality is really smooth and clear, the important point to make is that there’s so much more to the feature set on this than most other cameras in this price range on the market.

The features I’m referring to are a number of onboard AI options. Yes, onboard, not requiring the camera to return data to cloud-based servers and, for those who don’t like the concept, this is the case too for captured footage being kept on the device but still viewable from anywhere with an Internet connection. No subscriptions are required to access the full suite of features on the Aqara Camera Hub G3.

NB. You’ll need to install the SD card, it’s not included in the package, this is accessed under the “eyes” when the camera is sleeping.

As a starting point, the 360-degree viewable area of the camera is complemented by tracking capabilities. This is for people — including face detection and notifications — or animals to actively follow them through the camera’s coverage.

I don’t have any pets at home, so wasn’t able to check the accuracy of the animal tracking but it effectively tracked the kids even when they were barrelling through the living space at warp speed. It did this consistently and reliably, with great accuracy, which is an impressive delivery for a motorised camera like this.

There is a bit of setup involved (taking and uploading pictures of people) to have the person recognition and notifications setup. But this is a surprisingly impressive feature, capable of providing notification to parents when kids arrive home from school and even “unknown person detected” when the camera is enabled. Once setup, the G3 just completes all of the functions described automatically.

I’m personally not a huge fan of having cameras that are accessible from outside the home in my living space. I’m careful with passwords and work to best practice, but there are too many horror stories; Compromised accounts, server hacks and outright errors allowing third parties access to footage and streams.

In some respects, this is covered by the privacy screen that you can engage by timer or by manual trigger. This rolls the camera back into the housing and leaves the “cat” looking camera, showing eyes that look as though it’s asleep. Again, a cute look but would be just as functional without the aesthetics.

Smart features and integration

Among the other features, the Aqara Camera Hub G3 has an inbuilt infrared remote control capability. This is really useful if you’ve got the camera located in your living space for control of items in your home. This can theoretically be any IR device and can be linked with the gesture recognition on the device which can be locked to individual “recognised” faces. I tried it with the TV and aircon, and while the TV worked flawlessly, the Aircon (although I suspect the issue is the near 15-year-old unit) was hit and miss…

Zigbee is perhaps a little misleading here; they’re present but, even by Aqara’s own documentation, are somewhat locked to Aqara equipment:

The Camera Hub G3 is not only a camera but also an embedded smart home hub. It can connect up to 128 Aqara devices and enjoys home automation, remote control and more.

This oversight of Zigbee aside, if you’re prepared to lock into a single brand and their — in this case, pretty extensive — range of connected equipment.

Should you buy it?

The short story with the Aqara Camera Hub G3, is that I’m impressed. They’ve crammed so many features into such an affordable device that it presents outstanding value. Selling at $159.99 it’s cheaper than a lot of cameras with a smaller features list. It can operate without need for cloud sync all the time and doesn’t have ongoing subscription costs; provided your Internet is online, it’s going to do its job for you and do it well.

If you’re wary of ongoing subscriptions but want to have an AI capable home security base then this has to be right at the top of the list. Particularly when you add in the infrared remote control capabilities of it, the Aqara Camera Hub G3 becomes not just great value but hugely functional and critical to your homes smart functions.

You can pick one up from a variety of retailers, including Bing Lee, Mwave, Center com and the official eBay store.