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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