Ubiquiti is still one of the insider tips in the WLAN area. Originally, it was more in the professional environment and less in the private customer segment. There are now also systems for home users, including the AmpliFi HD Set, which we grabbed for a test. This is a mesh system that should significantly improve reception even in difficult conditions such as crooked apartments or large houses.
First of all: The HD here does not refer to high-resolution film material as usual, but to “high density” – i.e. the high network density through the Ubiquiti set. The best way to see what is included in the set is in our unboxing for the device:
So everything is included for a direct start. The Ubiquiti Set has one major advantage over other providers: All parts are preconfigured, so there is no need to set up the mesh points. Overall setup is pretty easy too. All you need is a smartphone, setting it up via a browser is not possible. You can also connect via the browser, but you won’t find many settings there.
As always, the design is a matter of taste. I find the cube as a router and the main component of the system visually very successful, even if I’m not a fan of white devices. However, it should fit well into most offices or even living rooms. The Mesh Points are quite inconspicuous and can simply be plugged into a free socket. The antenna is held in place magnetically, making alignment fairly easy. However, the mesh points have one disadvantage: they do not offer the option of connecting devices via LAN.
Let’s quickly review the most important technical data:
- WLAN Standard(s): 802.11ac, 802.11n, 802.11a, 802.11b/g,
- WLAN transmission rates:
- Total data rate: up to 1,750 Mbit/s
- Data rate 2.4 GHz: up to 450 Mbit/s
- Data rate 5 GHz: up to 1,300 Mbit/s
- WLAN Technologie: WLAN Mesh
- Dual-Band-WLAN: 3×3 MU-MIMO
- Encryption: WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK
- Connections: 4x Gbit LAN, 1x WAN, 1x USB 2.0
As already said: Easy. The app installs, launches, and it immediately finds itself the Ubiquiti AmpliFi router waiting to be set up. The WLAN data is quickly set and you are actually almost done with the basic setup.
You are then greeted by the overview page, which provides an overview of the system status. Here you can also check the signal strength of the mesh points directly and, if necessary, initiate firmware updates if any are available. In my case, all three components received an update first.
The basic setup is actually already done. The system also offers to set up remote access via a Google or Facebook account in order to be able to control the system remotely.
The password for logging into the app is the default WiFi password, but the app also asks directly if you want to use a different one – which makes sense if not everyone is supposed to control the system.
In this case, Ubiquiti does not rely on AirOS for the software, but on a system tailored to the AmpliFi HD, which is not named in detail. The configuration is therefore only possible via the smartphone app for iOS or Android. The system is also always kept up to date by Ubiquiti. During the test period, there were several updates for both the router and the mesh points.
Let’s stay with the app for now. I wasn’t expecting much from my experience with such apps, but the AmpliFi WiFi app is definitely something to be proud of. This gives you an overview of the current data stream in the WLAN, the total data transferred, user and group management, advanced settings, and so on. In principle, every aspect can be controlled in a simple and clear way. This is how an app should be designed.
A nice feature is the possible prioritization of individual devices. Devices connected via WLAN can be easily prioritized for gaming or streaming. In theory, the ping should be lowered for gaming, while the corresponding media data should be prioritized higher for streaming. A nice solution is that you don’t have to dive into any submenus, but simply swipe left to open the prioritization menu on the corresponding device – analogous to the quick menu in the Gmail app, for example.
The only point that I don’t quite understand: is the function to “share” the guest network. You can only use it to send the text “Connect to the network “network name”. That’s it. No password or even better a QR code or similar will be created or sent. That can certainly be expanded.
A router with a display is certainly nothing new, it was there before – but I’m not sure if there was one with a touch display. Current status information can be displayed on this, by default it shows the time. You can then activate the other views simply by tapping on the display. Nice for quick information about the network, firmware updates are also displayed there and you can run them directly. Also nice: the display switches off automatically at night. By default, it’s off from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., but you can customize this schedule.
If you make changes to the settings, the display also acknowledges them briefly, accompanied by a short confirmation tone. Whether you need the display is certainly a matter of opinion, I could also do without it, since the routers usually disappear in some corner with me anyway. But you can also simply place it on your desk without being unpleasantly noticeable.
WiFi coverage and speed
As mentioned, this time I set up the system in our office, where there are many individual rooms and therefore partition walls. About 200m² should be covered and 15 to 20 colleagues should use the network. The demands are therefore quite high.
When distributing the mesh points, you must of course ensure that they are distributed in such a way that they cover as much area as possible while still being within range of the router. That wasn’t a problem for us, the connection of the mesh points to the router is flawless and we were able to cover all office spaces with it. According to the display of the various devices, the reception strength was always excellent or at least very good.
The data throughput rates were also consistently good. The specified maximum rates cannot be achieved in practice, but on average the data throughput was 15 to 30 MB/s near the mesh points/router, and 3 to 5 MB/s were still reached in the peripheral areas. If you switch back and forth between the individual mesh points and the router by walking around, you will not notice any direct interruption, but if you are transferring data, this transmission will briefly drop to a few hundred KB/s, only to rise again significantly after the change has taken place. If you are currently streaming a video or listening to music via the connection, you will no longer notice this change.
A speed test in which another PC in the network serves as a server with a gigabit connection results in an average transfer rate of 100 Mbit/s, although this differs quite significantly from the data rates actually achieved. Here I, therefore, suspect the test is the cause of the deviation.
Overall, the data throughput was always excellent, and there were no problems even with several walls between the smartphone and the next mesh point. At the very edge of the reception area – there were 4 walls and two elevator shafts between the router and me – we were still getting at least 3MB/s. Sufficient for video streams in 720p.
Of course, it should be noted here that the range and data throughput always depend heavily on the environment. In our case, most of the walls in the office are just drywall. In the case of reinforced concrete, things would look quite different. Nevertheless, the WLAN “coverage” is very good, especially with regard to the area and the number of devices that are in it. A single-family home with a small garden shouldn’t be a problem either.
In summary, only a few negative things can be found. The range is very good, the setup is extremely easy and quick, and the design is appealing. I don’t think there is much more that needs to be said than that the concept simply works. It’s not the fastest system that we tested here, but it’s easily sufficient for everyday use.
What I would wish for would be another way of connecting devices to the Mesh Points via LAN in order to integrate remote devices that only have a LAN connection. I wouldn’t mind being able to configure the system via a browser either. Here it is of course a matter of opinion whether you need these two points.
The price should then still cause one or the other argument because the currently around 350 euros is not little money – but the price is quite reasonable for the offered performance.