Review: Amplifi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 30 Comments

When it comes to wired Internet, it either works or it doesn’t. There really isn’t much in between when it comes to a connection tethered by the cat-5 gods but Wi-Fi is a completely different story.

A few weeks ago, I was having trouble with my Netgear NightHawk AC3200; it kept rebooting. I think the issue was a firmware problem but when your career is dependent on the Internet working, dealing with sour router-firmware upgrades isn’t something I really wanted to worry about.

I don’t own a particularly large house, 1400sq ft ranch with a full basement (so about 2800sq ft for Wi-Fi coverage is needed when you include the basement). My previous router was not capable of covering the entire house, specifically the basement, with one part of my office receiving an anemic less than 1Mbps down; I have a 300 down, 75 up connection at my house.

To fix this issue, the option is to buy a mesh router setup and there are several good options on the market; Eero, Netgear Orbi, Amplifi, and a few others have popped up as well.

One requirement I had is that I needed to be able to connect a few device directly to the new router which presented the first problem. Eero, which I actually purchased at one point and returned when the company was still new and had initial teething problems, only has one free ethernet port which means I needed to also buy a switch. Ruling that option out leaves Netgear’s Orbi which has several ports and even connections on satellite units and Amplifi’s product. Considering I was having issues with my current Netgear router, I figured I’d give Amplifi a try.

I was sent a review unit from Amplifi which consists of a base router and two satellite units; the setup costs $349.99. The base unit has a connection for your Internet and 4 open ports along with a USB port too.

If you haven’t ever heard of Amplifi before, there is a good chance you have heard of the parent company, Ubiquiti. The company makes networking gear for large companies which means this product isnt based on a quickly built networking stack but has solid roots in the corporate world.

Setting up the router could not be easier. You are prompted to download an app and once you have it on your phone, the on-screen prompts have you up and running in seconds; some may be annoyed that it pushes you to use the company’s app for servicing but it really is a simple process. I should note that it is possible to setup the router without using the app as you can connect to it from a PC but it’s not as streamlined of a process.

Once your router is up and running, you plug in the satellites in your house and they auto-configure with no additional setup by the user. It took about five minutes to unbox, plug-in, and connect to my new network; a novice could setup this mesh system without any issues.

One issue I did run into is that the USB port on the back of the router is not currently ready for use and by plugging in my NAS, when the router rebooted after a firmware update, it was stuck in a boot loop. It took me about 45 minutes to figure out the issue and Amplifi’s customer support was helpful but it’s little disappointing this feature isn’t working yet. Aside from that, this router is fantastic.

My Samsung TV that is in the background of First Ring Daily previously could not connect to the Internet and now it has an excellent connection. In the corners of my house, I am averaging about 70-80% of my 300Mbps speed which is a huge increase over my older router.

In the image to the left, you can see a few of the speed tests that I ran once the system was up and running. The two tests on July 12th are from the Amplifi router and the dates in May are from my older Netgear router. The location of the speed tests for both May and July was in the same place, my kitchen.

The app for your phone also provides excellent visibility into what is happening on your network. You can see every device that is connected and the activity of that device on your network. Further, you can see your total bandwidth usage and manage the rest of the network as you would expect.

One feature that I do like is that you can create a temporary guest network. In the app, you can create a new network and then set a duration for it to be available. It’s a simple feature but one that is helpful for when you have a party and want to let a lot of people use your Wi-Fi but not give them your primary network access; I know this feature exists on other routers but Amplifi’s implementation is much easier to engage/disengage than what was available on my Netgear router.

Other features that are useful is the ability to turn off the Internet to a specific device. This was helpful in identifying what devices are on my network as you can turn off the device, determine which piece of hardware in your house is offline and then label it in the app. Again, a simple process and likely available on other products but Amplifi makes the entire process simple and a pleasure to use.

The point I’m getting at with this system is that it works, it is easy to use, and the apps available to use are well thought out and add real value to the experience.

The two satellite units have blue LEDs on them to show the signal strength and that little ball at the bottom is a magnetic connection that allows you to position the device at any angle for optimal coverage; they are not overly flashy and you won’t have to touch them once they are placed in your home. One thing I do wish they had is a USB port on the side so I could charge my phone as one device is takes up an outlet in a bedroom where I charge a few of my phones/laptops.

There’s a lot that can be said about Wi-Fi but for me, I just need something that works, gives me a solid connection in my entire house and provides the flexibility to dig into connected devices on my network and this system does just that. If you are looking to improve the connectivity in your house, I recommend taking a look at what Amplifi offers as I have been impressed with this router.

 

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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Review: Amplifi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System”

  1. Avatar

    ToddKlindt

    Thanks for the review. I would love to try one of these. My house is a little larger than yours and wireless struggles. I have some Powerline adapters and they aren't very fast (70 Mbps-ish) so I'm worried about how well the Amplifi remote units would work. My Internet connection is around 200 Mbps, so I hate the idea of my home wireless being the slow part.

    • Avatar

      IanYates82

      In reply to Todd Klindt:

      The amplifi units don't use the power line to communicate between satellites. However I'd still say your 70mbps may well be more consistent, and thus probably better overall, than what WiFi will give.

      • Avatar

        Waethorn

        In reply to IanYates82:

        It depends on the quality of your in-house wiring. I found that heavy devices like appliances with compressors (fridge, AC, humidifier/dehumidifier, etc.) will cause major problems with them when they cycle on. I've tried AV1000 and AV2/2000 stuff and it's all the same.

  2. Avatar

    RoHo

    Brad, nice review. I wish I had waited but already bought a Netgear Orbi. I haven't installed it yet because here in Florida we have been having severe thunderstorms daily with power outages. I hope the Netgear is as good as the Amplifi.

  3. Avatar

    Waethorn

    "One issue I did run into is that the USB port on the back of the router is not currently ready for use and by plugging in my NAS"


    You don't plug a NAS into USB.


    

  4. Avatar

    dougkinzinger

    Been using Ubiquiti stuff for years at businesses; I'm in fact certified in it. Like it so much I installed UniFi in my house. Works great. AmpliFi would be ideal for anyone (normals) who don't want to pull cable everywhere (though it'll still work if you do!)

  5. Avatar

    mruszczyk

    My big problem with these mesh wifi systems is you end up with a double nat if you're on verizon fios and want TV features. It's the worst, I wish verizon would remove their moca requirement.

  6. Avatar

    Simard57

    can we anticipate a comparison between your choice and Paul's use of Google Wifi?

    • Avatar

      Waethorn

      In reply to Simard57:

      The Google Wifi series has 2 Ethernet jacks on each station. On the main station, one will be dedicated to WAN, i.e. your router. The other 2 can use both for LAN, and will create wireless bridges for wired Ethernet devices.

  7. Avatar

    Delmont

    I was about to say didn't you just buy the Google Mesh system.. but duh... have to read the actual words.. different author :-)

  8. Avatar

    dave.erwin

    Thanks for the review. I've been looking at the Netgear Orbi but I trust Ubiquiti to keep things updated. Netgear? Not so much. Google's performance doesn't seem to measure up and they've had a couple of issues with pushing updates that bork the routers.


    Does the app help with placement of the mesh points or is it just trial and error?


    Can the mesh points be plugged into a power strip? My most likely locations are in areas that are already outlet constrained.

  9. Avatar

    Belralph

    Nice review. I actual bought this kit for a friend of mine who has a not cable friendly house based on my experience with Ubiquiti UniFi gear at work. He still hasn't gotten it out of the box so maybe your positive results will motivate him.

    Anyone who does have cat cable should checkout their new in wall AC access points.

  10. Avatar

    OwenM

    Thanks for the review. My house isn't very large but has an unusual layout which makes it hard for a single WI-FI router to reach every room. At the moment I'm using a mix of WIFI, range extenders, and Powerline Ethernet adapters to get every device connected. It's a mess and this just might be the product which makes me bite the bullet and simplify things.

  11. Avatar

    RussDW

    About 1.5 years ago I moved to a two-story house that needed better wifi coverage, and I used a HomePlug AV2 kit to route my internet signal through the house electrical wiring to a second wifi router upstairs. All is working well for an additional outlay of about $150. (I'm sure setup was not as easy as this Amplifi device, though, and I now have two routers to look after.) It makes me wonder if these Amplifi devices are also using electrical wiring to route the internet signal to the satellite modules around the house. Does anyone know?

  12. Avatar

    IanYates82

    What about it being a router.... Options for port forwarding there? Does it support anything else unique on that front?

    For the guest WiFi, can it create that as a segment that only has internet access (ie, no access to your nas)?


    Finally, can you create secondary WiFi networks permanently? A lot of these things can. Use case: all business / work devices on one virtual network. All IoT, TVs, coffee machines, etc go on another segment. The two segments can't talk (or, fancy, business can reach over but not the other way)

  13. Avatar

    Josh Durston

    Nice real world review. Most router/wifi reviews are full of charts of tests that don't mean a lot in the real world. Your documented experience speaks for its self.

  14. Avatar

    skborders

    I had an amplify router and extender in my house and they only lasted about a year. I installed a Ubiquiti access point in the middle of my home 1200 square raised ranch and I get a fantastic signal everywhere, even in the basement and garage. It has been more than 4 years and no problems.

  15. Avatar

    Martin Pelletier

    Hello Brad,


    Can the router be managed from a PC? Or only phones?

  16. Avatar

    deke1223

    I have had nothing but problems with this router. I have a LOT of bandwidth consumed in my home. 5 boys. 4 Xbox One's. 6 smart tvs. 2 ps4s. We all stream our tv content using the Spectrum tv app along with Hulu, Netflix, etc. I had a Netgear Nighthawk AC router which, for the most part did the trick, but with some dead spots at the edges of the home. It was about 3 years old, so I saw the Amplifi HD and thought I would try it out. Things have gotten much worse. Streaming video will just stop. Constant disconnects with gaming consoles , lag on pcs just a few feet from a meshpoint. I don't know if is the sheer volume of traffic, but hey, the Netgear router could handle it.

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