Review: Ubiquiti Amplifi
The product reviews at PEBMAC are intended to give you just the information you need, and none of what you don’t. Your time is valuable, and I don’t get paid by the word! The Amplifi mesh WiFi system from Ubiquiti is what Apple’s WiFi devices could have been. The cost for the system is very good, particularly compared to competing mesh network devices. The Amplifi router and two HD mesh units is currently $349, although you can sometimes find it cheaper at Amazon. You can currently purchase the router itself at Amazon for $129 and the mesh units are $110 each (if you buy everything in a kit the mesh units are hard coded to the router for ease of setup; if you buy them separately you’ll have to add them in via the Amplifi app, but it’s also very simple). Surprisingly, you can also purchase just the mesh points and add them in to any existing WiFi network, although performance will vary depending on what equipment you already have. The average user will likely need at least two mesh units to get coverage throughout their home. Each device will typically offer about 1,500 square feet of coverage. (If your home has Ethernet wiring built in I would recommend purchasing multiple Amplifi base stations as opposed to the mesh units). Setup is a breeze. First, download and install the Amplifi app from the App Store. Open it, and it guides you through the next few steps with helpful animations:
Connect the Amplifi router to your modem via a supplied Ethernet cable.
Plug in the power.
Reboot your modem.
The software then asks you to choose a name and password for your WiFi network. That’s it; you’re done. Seriously, it’s that simple. If you purchase the kit that comes with the mesh adapters, just plug them into power at other locations in your home to increase the range of your network.
The router itself is a small, lightweight, attractive cube that has a color touch screen which can display various information (by default it shows the time and date, but you can change it to show upload and download speed, total data usage, or some network information). It has four Ethernet ports on the rear for other devices, and a USB port that will offer additional functionality at a later date (Unifi frequently adds new features to their existing devices for no additional charge). The Amplifi app gives you lots of additional functionality, including some power user features such as band steering and DHCP configuration. One very nice feature is the ability to create groups, add devices to them, and then create a schedule for internet access. Want to cut off your kids’ internet after 8:00 PM on week days? You can create a schedule to do just that. You can also pause internet for all devices with the touch of a button. If you sign in via your Facebook or Google account, you have the ability to control your network away from home (Ubiquiti doesn’t collect or share any information, they use it solely as a single sign on for simplicity). Performance is excellent—I was surprised to find that the speed I got was actually slightly better than what I was getting via my Ubiquiti enterprise-grade Unifi mesh network that I normally use. Ubiquiti also just released a device called the Teleport which works in conjunction with Amplifi. It’s a small $100 hardware device you take with you that creates a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection directly to your home network, so that all of your network activity is encrypted and protected, as well as allowing you to access devices on your home network from other locations. I currently recommend everyone use a VPN anyway, so this is a great new feature (this device has just released, but I plan to review it separately soon). Reading online forums, the primary complaints are about problems with the mesh points losing connectivity. This is not an uncommon problem among wireless repeaters of any type, and Ubiquiti support has been good at diagnosing and correcting the issues (typically by having people change the placement and orientation of the mesh unit). If you need to upgrade your WiFi network (who doesn’t these days?) then this is what I would recommend without hesitation. PEBMAC final thoughts: I recommend the Amplifi with no reservations for everyone but power users who want ultimate control over their networks.