The new Sonoff iHost is a smart home hub on the box, but it is a smart home server powerhouse in reality. It has the processing power similar to a Raspberry Pi4 with the added connectivity suite of a smart home server. Furthermore, it is using Docker images for the add-ons, basically opening it up to whatever ideas you may have.
By the end of the article you should see why I see this devices as something refreshing for the whole out-of-the box and DIY users.
The hardware inside the Sonoff iHost
The iHost smart hub consist of two independent board to process our smart home requirements. in 2022 Sonoff published a photo asking for beta testers with early details, but now we already know there will be a base and a stronger variant.
The main processing power will be provided by the Rockchip core board in two variations: RV1126 and RV1109:
- Dual-core Arm Cortex-A7 @ 1.5 GHz + RISC-V MCU @ 400 MHz
- 1.2 TOPS with support for INT8/ INT16 NPU
- 2GB DDR4 memory
- 8GB eMMC
- Quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 @ 1.5 GHz + RISC-V MCU @ 400 MHz
- 2.0 TOPS with support for INT8/ INT16 NPU
- 4GB DDR4 memory
- 8GB eMMC
I think we can all agree that these figures are more than enough to run our smart home server configuration or Home Assistant server. The part that is very interesting is that we have onboard NPU for AI tasks.
But, let’s see what connection options we have to this processing power:
We will get:
- EFR32MG21 Zigbee module (this is being used more recently with multiple Sonoff devices)
- RTL8723 2.4Ghz Wifi and BLE wireless (FN Link 6223a-srd)
- RTL8201F 10/100M LAN port
- YC1175 Bluetooth 5.2
And for the other options:
- TF card slot for your microSD card
- USB 2.0 port
- USB Type C for power
- RGB LEDs for status indication
Here are some photos made by me of the internals:
In terms of look and feel, it looks like a thin internet router, will be fine anywhere in your home. Depending of course if you have an available LAN port near by. In my case it is easy since I got ethernet ports added everywhere while refurbishing this apartment.
First, we need to use a USB type C cable to power our iHost hub. This can be the one provided or a different one, but there is no power brick in the package, only the cable. Any USB charger with at least 2A output should be ok.
The front panel LED string will start with a red light animation and go to solid red light when ready. Add the LAN cable to the mix and give it a few moments to get networking sorted and the LED lights will switch to solid blue.
When ready, simply type in in your browser “ihost.local” and a welcome screen should be loading asking for the timezone, language, and a password. Hit login and you are ready to look for the Setting menu.
You will need to “Link” your eWeLink account here. Choose the QR code or the user/pass option and you should see the iHost smart hub on your eWeLink account too. Go for the settings there and make sure to run the software update if available to get the latest version of everything.
The software and add-ons
This is the part that makes or breaks this device completely. Even if we just had a quick look on the coming soon page it mentioned “Docker” and open API…
In short, we get a device that has Docker image support and being advertised as something to support Tasmota, Node-RED for the DIY users…
Let’s see this in action! Install a micro SD card and follow the prompt in the Add-ons menu to format the micro SD card. Click on the top right “plus” icon and you will be greeted with a search modal and some information what kind of images to look for.
By default, we get the eWeLink addon ready to be installed, but you can add new options this way. For example type in Homebridge and choose the recommended one oznu/homebridge to add it to your add-ons list. Click on the Install button and be patient, it will download the image and install it….this can take time!
And yes, based on this screenshot, you can install Home Assistant on this device and act as a HA server. I am pretty sure you know by now where this is heading for and the price is 10x better now for it! If so head over to the official store and order one or two Sonoff iHost for your smart home projects 🙂
Ok, I may have rushed forward a bit intentionally, but let’s head back to the other software options. After you installed the provided eWeLink addon, and used the Web UI tab on it (after installation, click on the add-on in the left sidebar list for options and information)
Here, after logging in to your account you will see the compatible devices, this list will grow with time, but the main items are available already. Click on the “Sync” button next to the items you wish to see on your main dashboard too and that is it. Now head over to the home screen and the synced devices should be there, ready for action 🙂
I have also added some Zigbee devices with the “plus” icon on the home screen and this is my current demo list:
On the home screen you will see the big plus icon in the top right corner. When you click on this, there are there options.
- Add Zigbee device
- Add a camera
- Add group
Add a Zigbee device
After you click on this option, you will need to click on the Pair button and the scanning will get started.
Add a Camera
Click on this option and you will have three variations. You can scan for an ONVIF enabled camera, RTSP or ESP32.
Add a group
As it states, you can create device groups here and assign a room to them optionally.
On the devices you can perform the actions or see details. For example here is the device options open and also the graph opened up of my POW20A. (review here if interested)
Scene control – local control
I guess this is mainly one of the more important features as we get local scene control when there is no internet connection. Nothing much to add, usual Trigger and Then settings with an easy to use UI.
Here is an example scene ready to use:
As with other newly released Zigbee hubs we get the security center in the Sonoff iHost smart home hub too. This is not just a software part, but we also get the physical buttons on the top of the unit for quick actions.
This is again something very important for many. In case you do not know, this will enable you to create “dashboards” and cast them over the network. For example you have an older tablet and wish to re-use it, this is a great way to create a smart home dashboard on it as you will only need to type in the URL and it is ready based on your settings.
We got a really good looking roadmap of what to expect. It is obvious that this will be a device from the start, that should enable regular users and DIY pros to build on top of it and expand over time.
For me, the most interesting updates are:
- Zigbee compatibility add-on
- TTS and what it may bring to tha table with speaker and microphone available
- NSPanel Pro add-on (Click here for that review I made)
- Tasmota add-on! This will be awesome for DIY users if done properly
- Matter compatibility
- AI tech…really curious what will Sonoff add as default features
I will instant buy 2 more units for myself of the bigger version. This is a great Raspberry Pi replacement for many users, great options, Docker support, good roadmap.
If you think my review was helpful, please consider using my link when purchasing, coffee is expensive lately for long night testing 🙂
🆓 – I was interested in the product, I received it for testing
💵 – I got it for free, 100% my own opinion