Choosing a Smart Home Controller is very much like buying a car - the decision to choose a particular manufacturer is only the first choice you have to make, after that there's a bewildering array of models and options on top!
Fibaro Home Center Controllers include an intuitive User Interface (UI) and dedicated "panels" for controlling heating, alarms, irrigation and many other common Smart Home areas. Unlike others, the UI is mostly wizard driven and is very stylish and modern looking - it has a really high-end feel to it. And, for obvious reasons, Fibaro Home Center Controllers have the best compatibility with Fibaro devices!
|Feature||Home Center Lite||Home Center 2||Home Center 3|
|Graphical Block Scene Editor|
|Virtual Devices - IP Strings|
|Virtual Devices - LUA-based|
|Fibaro App Widgets|
|Android Wear Support|
|Alexa Voice Assistant|
|Siri (via iOS App Shortcuts)|
|VOIP - Voice Over IP|
|Number of Plug-Ins||Limited to 5||Not limited||Not limited|
|Recovery / Backup||Fibaro Cloud Only||Fibaro Cloud & Local USB Drive||Fibaro Cloud & Local Internal|
|Home Automation Support|
|Z-Wave Plus (868.4MHz)|
|Z-Wave Protected Mode|
|Recommended No. of Z-Wave Devices||30 - 50||up to 232||up to 232|
|Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|433MHz (OOK, FSK, GFSK)|
|868MHz (OOK, FSK, GFSK)|
|IP Camera Support|
|Satel Alarm Integration|
|Processor (CPU)||ARM Cortex-A8 (720MHz)||Dual-core Intel Atom (1.6GHz)||Quad-core Arm Cortex A53 (1.2GHz)|
|Storage (Flash)||128MB||2GB (+ 4GB Recovery Disc)||8GB|
|Ethernet||10/100 Base-T||10/100/1000 Base-T (Gigabit)||10/100 Base-T|
2.4GHz / 5GHz
|Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|Case||Plastic||Cast Alloy||Soft-Touch Plastic|
|Dimensions ((LxWxH)||90 x 90 x 33mm||225 x 185 x 42mm||220 x 140 x 35mm|
|- The Fibaro Home Center 3 is "hardware ready" for these technologies, support for devices using them will be added in the future over time.|
What do these differences mean?
The Fibaro Home Center Lite (HCL) is a powerful Smart Home Controller packed into a tiny size. It is capable of running your entire home, but does have some important differences compared to the Fibaro Home Center 2 (HC2) and Fibaro Home Center 3 (HC3).
Scenes enable you to control multiple devices all at the same time. Scenes can be triggered from other devices (such as sensors) or from external events (such as the weather). They form an important function of your home automation system. Fibaro Home Center Controllers offer three ways to create Scenes - Graphical Block Editor Scenes, Magic Scenes and LUA Scenes.
Graphical Block Editor Scenes
The Graphical Block Editor is available in all the Fibaro Home Center Controllers. The Graphical Block Editor enables you to create relatively sophisticated scenes using a number of customisable blocks. These scenes can have multiple triggers and multiple actions. More information is available in - Creating Scenes in the Fibaro Home Center
Similarly, Magic Scenes are also available across the whole range of Fibaro Home Center Controllers and offer a simpler way to create scenes. They are restricted to only one trigger and one action.
LUA Scenes are the most advanced scenes available and are based on the LUA programming (scripting) language. These types of scenes allow you to do almost anything, but do require basic programming skills. LUA Scenes enable you to create very sophisticated scenes, far more complex than the basic "If / Then" format offered by the Graphical Block Editor. The Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller does not support LUA Scenes.
If your Smart Home system is (or will be) very small, then the scenes available in the Graphical Block Editor and Magic Scenes of the Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller will likely meet your needs.
However, if you expect to do more complex control, especially things like Multi-Zoned Heating, then the LUA Scenes would be the best option, so choosing one of the Fibaro Home Center 2 or Fibaro Home Center 3 Controllers would make more sense.
You can also download scenes that have been created by other Fibaro users from the Fibaro Marketplace, saving you the time of writing them yourself!
Virtual Devices are exactly what they sound like - devices in the Fibaro Home Center Controller that aren't physical devices. Virtual Devices are very useful for controlling devices via other networks, such as AV equipment that can be controlled from your Wi-Fi / Ethernet network (IP Strings). They are also useful to create a simple button in the Fibaro App that can control a number of scenes - quickly and easily.
Scene & Device Control or Complex Logic (LUA)
To create Virtual Devices that control scenes or other devices on the Fibaro Home Center Controller itself, or to carry out complex logic within a Virtual Device, you need to use LUA. Therefore, these types of Virtual Devices cannot be created in the Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller.
Remote Control of 3rd Party Products (IP Strings)
Virtual Devices can be created that control products via the IP network (Wi-Fi or Ethernet), using IP and HTTP requests. These are fully supported in the Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller as they use a different type of Virtual Device configuration and command protocol (IP/HTTP Strings).
Once again, the Fibaro Marketplace offers a wide range of Virtual Devices that have been developed by other Fibaro users. You can simply download and install these to save you time developing them yourself.
General Software Features
Remote and Mobile Access
You are able to control the system from a smartphone, tablet or computer whether you are at home or away. The Fibaro Widgets enable you to create shortcut buttons on Android and iOS devices allowing you to quickly run often used scenes. Android Wear support also allows scenes to be quickly run from an Android Wear Smartwatch.
Alexa and Google Assistant are both available for all three of the Fibaro Home Center Controllers, with the integrations being improved upon all the time.
Alexa has two available Skills, the Smart Home version that offers basic functionality ("Alexa, turn on the light") or the Custom version that provides lots of extra features such as camera integration ("Alexa, ask Fibaro to turn on the camera feed").
Google Assistant and the Fibaro Home Center Controllers work together to make Fibaro appliances even more convenient to use! With the Google Assistant integration you can control lights, cameras, thermostats, sensors, scenes and more, all without lifting a finger.
Siri voice control is also supported, but only via Siri "shortcuts" at this time.
VOIP - Voice Over IP
The Fibaro Home Center 2 and Fibaro Home Center 3 Controllers both support VOIP - this is easy to set up and enables you to talk over an IP network (Internet or home network). It's a good feature to create an intercom system or access control (door or gate).
This is not available in the Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller.
Several Fibaro Home Center Controllers can be used together to create much larger systems than possible with just one. Using two or more Fibaro Home Center Controllers allows you to have more than 232 Z-Wave devices on the whole system and you can configure your system to maximise Z-Wave network access by locating the Fibaro Home Center Controllers in different parts of the building.
When configuring a system to have more than one Fibaro Home Center Controller, one of them must be the Master and others are then the Slaves. Only the Fibaro Home Center 2 and Fibaro Home Center 3 Controllers are capable of working as a Master, whereas all three can be used as Slaves. The Fibaro Home Center Lite Controllers can't be used as a Master.
The Geolocation feature uses the location based services on your smartphone. When you are within a pre-determined range of your home, this can trigger scenes to run. For instance, a heating scene could be triggered when you are 5 miles from home, or an outside light scene when you are just arriving home. This is available in all the Fibaro Home Center Controllers.
There are a vast array of Plugins available from Fibaro and third-party developers. These Plugins help provide support for external systems, such as Philips Hue, Sonos, IFTTT and Yamaha. Plugins allow you to do more advanced things without needing to develop your own code.
The number of plugins is limited to 5 on the Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller due to the lower specification of memory (RAM), storage (Flash) and Processor (CPU). On the Fibaro Home Center 2 and Fibaro Home Center 3 Controllers there is no real limit to the number of Plugins that can be installed, however, you may see its performance affected if you run too many!
Recovery and Back-up
All Fibaro Home Center Controllers can have regular back-ups, and in the event of an issue, can recover previously saved versions of software and configuration. The main difference is how this is done - the Fibaro Home Center Lite Controller can't store back-ups locally, it can only store them in the Fibaro Cloud servers. Wheres the Fibaro Home Center 2 and Fibaro Home Center 3 Controllers can also store their back-ups locally - using internal storage on the Fibaro Home Center 3 Controller and an external USB drive on the Fibaro Home Center 2 Controller.
Home Automation Support
Z-Wave Series 300
All Fibaro Home Center Controllers support Z-Wave and Z-Wave Plus devices, however, it is worth looking at this in more detail as there can be some limitations.
The Fibaro Home Center Lite and Fibaro Home Center 2 Controllers do not use a Z-Wave 500 series chip, so they are not actually Z-Wave Plus devices themselves. They do support Z-Wave Plus Command Classes used by Z-Wave Plus devices which means they should work with most Z-Wave Plus devices. However, some device features may not work and you may not get the improvements in range that Z-Wave Plus devices offer. Other improvements such as extended battery life will still be available as they are at the device level.
The Fibaro Home Center 2 Controller also has software support for Z-Wave Protected mode which uses AES-128 encryption to make your Z-Wave network much more secure.
Z-Wave Series 500
The Fibaro Home Center 3 Controller uses a Z-Wave Series 500 chip, so it is a full Z-Wave Plus device and will therefore experience all the improvements that the Z-Wave Plus protocol implements.
The extended features of Z-Wave Plus include increased range (up to 150m), greater battery life, more available RF channels supporting higher bandwidth communications, standardised methods for Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware upgrades amd improved self-healing, fault tolerance and diagnostics on the Z-Wave network.
The Fibaro Home Center 3 Controller includes a huge array of onboard hardware - there's ZigBee, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), 433MHz and 868MHz radios - all of which makre for a fantastic value Smart Home Controller!
At launch, these radios won't be active, but support for a wide selection of Home Automation RF protocols will be added at a later date.
IP CCTV Cameras
IP CCTV cameras are supported by all Fibaro Home Center Controllers via the Ethernet network. There is support for hundreds of popular camera types, as well as generic camera support.
Satel Alarm Integration
The Fibaro Home Center 2 and Fibaro Home Center 3 Controllers also feature support for Satel alarm systems - they can be directly connected and integrated into the system.
So ultimately which Fibaro Home Center Controller would Vesternet recommend?
As we've mentioned previously, this is really down to the specific requirements of each customer, but based on our experience we would say that the Home Center 3 is currently the best choice for a number of reasons:
- The Fibaro Home Center Lite has historically proven to be underpowered for most customers, with most needing to upgrade to the more powerful model within a few months as their Smart Home system expands.
- Both the Fibaro Home Center 2 and Fibaro Home Center Lite utilise the older 300 series Z-Wave chip, it doesn't really make sense to choose outdated technology when a newer version is available.
- The Fibaro Home Center 2 is also the same price as the Fibaro Home Center 3, so purely from a financial perspective the newer version makes most sense.
- The majority of other customers are choosing the Fibaro Home Center 3 over the other versions.
Getting Help and Advice
Hopefully this guide has helped clarify the main differences between the Fibaro Home Center Controllers and what they mean in actual real-world use. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.