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Z-Wave vs. Zigbee: What's the Difference

Z-Wave vs. Zigbee

In the ever-evolving world of home automation, two names stand out: Z-Wave and Zigbee. These two protocols dominate the market, each boasting unique capabilities and specifications. But many people are puzzled about the difference between the two, and don't know which to choose.

In this article, we'll unravel the intricacies and highlight the differences that could be the decision makers for you.

What is Zigbee and Z-wave?

Before diving into the main difference between Zwave and Zigbee, let's start with the basic definition of both.

What Is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is a robust wireless communication protocol, primarily designed for home automation. It operates at a frequency of 908.42 MHz in the U.S. and at 868.42 MHz in Europe. This is a stark contrast to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth's 2.4GHz band.

Z-Wave enjoys low interference and offers a seamless integration process for a wide range of smart devices. Notably, it uses a mesh network topology, which means that each device or node can relay messages to other nodes, enhancing network coverage and reliability. The maximum number of nodes Z-wave allows on its mesh network limits to a still generous 232.

What Is Zigbee?

Zigbee is an open-source protocol that establishes high-level communication networks based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Known for its ability to support myriad devices and 65,000+ nodes, Zigbee operates at the 2.4 GHz frequency band, making it a globally accepted solution for home automation.

Zigbee employs a mesh networking topology. In this system, each device or node is connected to several others, forming a wide-ranging and reliable network. The decentralized nature of Zigbee's configuration makes it highly resilient, as data can travel through multiple paths to reach its destination, circumventing potential points of failure.

Z-Wave vs Zigbee: Key Differences

The main difference between Z-Wave and Zigbee is the frequency band they operate on. Zigbee uses the 2.4 GHz frequency band, which is shared with many other devices like Wi-Fi routers and microwave ovens. In contrast, Z-Wave operates on different frequency bands depending on the region: 868.42 MHz in Europe and 908.42 MHz in the U.S.

Though both are pioneers in the smart home automation space, Z-Wave and Zigbee each has its own unique characteristics. They also differ in the following aspects:

Network Speed

While speed may not be a pivotal factor in home automation where data packets are relatively small, it's worth noting that Zigbee can transfer data at up to 250 kbps, while Z-Wave maxes out at 100 kbps. Zigbee's higher speed could also mean higher power consumption.

While for everyday usage these speed differences are negligible, in more data-intensive applications such as video streaming or large file transfers, Zigbee's superior speed will probably provide a more seamless experience.

Frequency Bands

Zigbee operates on the 2.4 GHz frequency band, a heavily-populated spectrum shared with devices like Wi-Fi routers and microwave ovens. This can lead to congestion, and can potentially affect performance.

On the other hand, Z-Wave uses different frequency bands in different regions (868.42 MHz in Europe, 908.42 MHz in the U.S.) This can make a significant difference, especially if you travel internationally with your devices or if you're buying a device from a different area of the world.

Range and Network

When it comes to range, Z-Wave typically offers around 100 meters or 328 feet in open air, where Zigbee covers around 20 meters. Both can extend their reach considerably through their mesh network functionality, with each connected device acting as a repeater.

It's important to note that while both utilize mesh networking, there's a key difference between the two: Z-Wave devices can only communicate with other Z-Wave devices, and the same applies to Zigbee. They cannot cross-communicate unless mediated by a central hub that supports both protocols.

Interoperability and Compatibility

Given the variety of home automation products on the market, it's natural to want a protocol that supports a wide variety of devices.

Z-Wave has the advantage here. It's controlled by a single entity, the Z-Wave Alliance, which ensures that all Z-Wave devices are fully compatible with each other. On the other hand, Zigbee is an open-source protocol that manufacturers can alter to their liking, and this may lead to compatibility issues between different brands.


Both Zigbee and Z-Wave use mesh networking, enabling devices to communicate with each other. This enhances network reliability, but Zigbee can support a significantly higher number of devices (over 65,000) as compared to Z-Wave's maximum of 232. This can make a considerable difference in extensive, multi-device network setups.

Power Consumption

Zigbee tends to be more energy-efficient, making it more suitable for battery-powered devices. However, most smart home devices are powered through grounded electricity, making this less significant for most users.


Both Zigbee and Z-Wave employ robust security measures. They encrypt their signals using AES-128, a widely used secure standard. Z-Wave's security is generally considered slightly more stringent due to its proprietary nature and exacting standards, but both protocols are evolving and enhancing their safeguards against potential breaches.


Cost is an important factor in decision-making, and Zigbee devices tend to be more affordable than Z-Wave's. However, Z-Wave's higher price comes with the assurance of compatibility, interoperability, and its strict certification process. These elements may be a deciding factor depending on your budget and specific needs.

Zigbee vs. Z-Wave: Comparison Chart

A deeper understanding of the differences between z-wave and zigbee will help you choose the best option for your specific needs. Here's a brief chart displaying how Z-Wave and Zigbee differ from each other.

Protocol Z-Wave Zigbee
Device Compatibility Wide range of compatible devices Broad interoperability across various brands
Communication Reliable via mesh network Longer range, potential for network congestion
Security Enhanced with AES-128 encryption Standard, may vary across devices
Power Consumption Standard Lower, ideal for battery-operated devices
Cost Tends to be more expensive Generally less expensive
Frequency Band Uses the less congested 900 MHz band Operates in the crowded 2.4 GHz band
Application Ideal for smaller networks, strong in the hospitality industry Suitable for larger networks, used in various industries

Zigbee and Z-Wave: How Do They Work?

Z-Wave and Zigbee operate as wireless communication protocols. They're designed to create networks between devices in a smart home ecosystem. Both are based on the principle of mesh networking in which data is passed — or "hops" — from one device to another until it reaches its destination. This interconnected web of devices expands the network's range and resilience, creating multiple paths through which data can travel to reach its endpoint.

Z-Wave works by sending low-energy radio waves around the 900MHz band. Each Z-Wave device is embedded with a chip that communicates these radio waves, allowing the devices within the network to talk to each other and with the central hub. As each non-battery-powered Z-Wave device acts as a repeater, the range extends, reducing potential dead zones in your home.

smart home automation

By contrast, Zigbee uses a slightly higher frequency (2.4GHz) for its communication. It also operates on a mesh network, with each Zigbee device acting as a node. Zigbee's higher device capacity (over 65,000 nodes) allows for more complex network structures. Unlike Z-Wave's maximum of four hops, Zigbee doesn't restrict the number of hops that data can take, potentially enhancing network resilience.

In both protocols, the central hub or controller plays a pivotal role, allowing for user interaction and control over the network. The hub is also the main point of communication for Internet-connected services, acting as the bridge between your local network of devices and the Internet.

Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Applications

Zigbee and Z-Wave are widely used in various applications across different sectors. They are especially popular in home automation due to their reliability, low power consumption, and ability to create expansive mesh networks.

Where Z-Wave Applies

Z-Wave has created a powerful niche in home automation. It's primarily used in residential settings due to its high level of security, low power use, and reliable connectivity.

Smart Home Devices

Z-Wave is the protocol of choice for a multitude of smart home devices including smart thermostats, smart locks, smart lighting systems, and smart sensors. Its ability to connect different devices on a single network makes it a convenient option for a connected home environment.

Security Systems

Given its high level of security and reliable connectivity, Z-Wave is frequently used for home security systems. Its ability to function offline makes it dependable, even in situations where the internet is compromised.

Hospitality Industry

Z-Wave is a key player in hotel automation. It streamlines operations and enriches the guest experience. From efficient room control systems that offer personalized climate and lighting to sophisticated security measures and energy management, Z-Wave creates an environment of comfort, safety, and sustainability.

Where Zigbee Applies

Zigbee's open-source platform and high device limit accommodates a wide array of applications that have uses far beyond home automation.

Industrial Automation

Thanks to its large network size, Zigbee can be utilized in industrial automation, helping factories and plants manage thousands of devices simultaneously.

Smart Energy Solutions

Zigbee has been integrated into smart energy solutions, helping consumers monitor and manage their energy usage. Its low-power operation aligns well with energy-saving goals.

Healthcare and Fitness Devices

Healthcare and fitness devices rely on Zigbee's reliable connectivity and real-time monitoring. Its ability to support a broad range of devices makes it a perfect choice for multi-device healthcare systems.

Which Devices Work Best with Z-Wave and Zigbee?

If you're considering creating a smart home ecosystem, knowing which devices work with Zigbee and Z-Wave is essential.

Devices that are compatible with Zigbee

Amazon Echo (4th Gen) and Echo Plus: These smart speakers double as Zigbee hubs, controlling compatible devices directly.

Philips Hue Range: The comprehensive lighting solution uses Zigbee to connect its bulbs, lightstrips, and lamps.

Samsung SmartThings: This range of products, including sensors, plugs, and bulbs, leverages Zigbee for communication.

Yale Smart Locks: These security devices use Zigbee to integrate with broader smart home setups.

Belkin WeMo Link LED Bulbs: This lighting solution uses Zigbee to provide smart control and automation.

Bosch Security Systems: Bosch offers a line of Zigbee-enabled security devices, including motion detectors and smoke alarms.

Osram Lightify: This range of smart lighting products employs Zigbee for connectivity.

Devices that work with Z-Wave

Aeotec MultiSensor 6: This versatile device, capable of detecting motion, temperature, humidity, light, UV and vibration, operates on Z-Wave.

Honeywell Z-Wave Thermostats: Honeywell's line of smart thermostats utilize Z-Wave to enable remote control and automation.

Fibaro Flood Sensor: An early warning system for potential leaks in your home, this sensor uses Z-Wave.

Kwikset Smart Locks: These security enhancements for your home use Z-Wave to connect to your smart home network.

GE Z-Wave Wireless Smart Lighting Control: These smart switches, dimmers, and outlets use Z-Wave to enable smart control of your home's lights and appliances.

Ring Alarm System: The comprehensive home security system from Ring operates on Z-Wave.

August Smart Lock Pro: This popular smart lock uses Z-Wave to integrate with your smart home.

GoControl Garage Door Controller: This device uses Z-Wave to bring smart control to your garage door.

Note: Compatibility does not imply exclusivity, as many devices also support other protocols, allowing flexibility in your smart home setup. Always check supported protocols before purchasing a device.

Which is Better? Zigbee or Z-Wave?

Choosing between Zigbee and Z-Wave depends on your specific needs. Zigbee supports a larger network of devices, making it ideal for extensive, complex setups while Z-Wave's lower frequency is better for penetrating walls and objects, providing a more robust signal in certain environments.


Still have questions about the pros, cons, and capabilities of Zigbee and Z-wave? This section provides answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Is Zigbee dead?

No, Zigbee is not outdated. In fact, it's continuously updated and improved. The latest version, Zigbee PRO 2023, came with an array of advanced attributes to bolster security, streamline operations in hub-centric network configurations, and broaden supported frequency ranges beyond the traditional 2.4 GHz.

Does the Zigbee go through walls?

Yes, Zigbee signals can penetrate walls, but the wall's make-up can affect signal strength. The 2.4 GHz frequency that Zigbee operates on may be more susceptible to interference than lower frequencies.

Is Z-Wave the same as Zigbee?

No, Z-Wave and Zigbee are not the same, though they are both wireless communication protocols used for home automation and IoT (Internet of Things) devices. They differ in terms of frequency bands, network capabilities, device support, and compatibility.

Can Z-Wave and Zigbee work together?

Z-Wave and Zigbee use different frequencies and are not directly compatible. However, they can work together in a smart home ecosystem through a central hub or controller that supports both protocols.


Both Z-Wave and Zigbee offer reliable wireless communication protocols for building smart home ecosystems. Z-Wave excels in device compatibility and enhanced security, while Zigbee stands out with its lower power consumption and broader range.

The choice between Z-Wave and Zigbee largely depends on elements including your specific needs, the number of devices you plan to use, and the layout of your property. After understanding the specific strengths and weaknesses of each protocol, you'll be better equipped to make an informed decision.

Now it's your turn to share your thoughts and insights. Leave a comment below and tell us about your own experiences with Z-Wave or Zigbee.


All Comments Are Welcome

Aoli is an editor from Reolink. She loves to share her thoughts about how to enhance home security and helps anyone in need.