AmpliFi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System Review

Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System

Networking. A headache to set up, devices drop off and refuse to rejoin and our range isn't large enough. The £349 AmpliFi HD Home Wi-Fi System by Ubiquiti is a trio made up of a router and two mesh points for extending range. Mesh based Wi-Fi solutions have garnered an almost ‘miracle’ status of expectation in recent times for the apparent simplicity the concept offers. So the AmpliFi HD has taken up residence in our large home, where it has been used non-stop for two months now, to see if it rids our networking headaches. . .

Design

Out with the buttons and in with a circular LCD touchscreen. It’s bright and simple to navigate, with a pleasing touch of the screen allowing you to slide through various display windows showing total usage, current speeds, network info, port status and even a humble clock. Furthermore, the cubic design of the AmpliFi is practical as well as rather modernist with its set of exterior features and LED accent lighting. Refreshingly it’s not long and unruly in shape, so we can’t knock it over, which is a problem we have with our BT Homehub and the thousands of similarly designed router products that currently reside in most homes. Spinning the AmpliFi around will reveal a WAN port, four gigabit LAN ports and a USB port.

The easiest router set-up ever?

Without question. The first step is to download the AmpliFi App (available on iOS or Android), it guides you through the entire and highly minimised set-up process. If you do stumble into any issues, we noticed a live chat button to lend a hand within the App and this service is available 24/7 after set-up too. Following this you hook up your current router to the AmpliFi; in our scenario the BT Homehub. Then AmpliFi has a brief conversation with it and we can choose our new network password and name (deeper security settings and configurations can be made). And it’s all set up! To put this almost unbelievably simple process into perspective, which incidentally took around 90 seconds to complete, figuring out how to disable the Wi-Fi on our Homehub was a half hour affair!

Then we have the Mesh Points to place throughout our home to expand the network, which it has to be admitted are lightyears ahead of the TP-Link extender products we used to gain a larger network previously. The AmpliFi Mesh Points are one of the key selling points of this new system and plug into any power outlet to communicate with the AmpliFi HD router or with another mesh point automatically - no additional setting up required. We have our network configured to what AmpliFi refer to as the mesh multi-hop. The design of these mesh points is very smart, the antenna is magnetically attached to the plug on a pivoting ball-joint mechanism which means we can position them protruding or swivelled with 180° of freedom. Each mesh point has a real-time LED signal strength reading, so we can easily have an optimised signal passed through our home by adjusting their position.

Gain full control with the AmpliFi App

We’ve never been able to find out exactly who’s using all our bandwidth previously, but now we can find the culprit with the AmpliFi App. As well as assisting with the set-up, it also displays everyone on the network and what their realtime activity is. We now know a lot of occasions when our network becomes sluggish is actually not someone's fault, but rather the fault of devices like the PS4 and our large variety of smart-products engaging in over the air updates. What’s even better is we can choose to pause these culprits to free up bandwidth and also prioritise their necessity, with preferences of priority from uploading and downloading to streaming or gaming optimisation. It really works too, so we can now enjoy the latest episode of 'Better Call Saul' on Netflix in HD without being interrupted. The App design cannot be faulted. 

Additionally the entire AmpliFi system monitors the network for any faults and the App will plainly let us know that ‘everything is great’, displaying the detailed signal strength of each mesh point on the home screen; and if we want a deeper insight we can just tap on the icon of any hardware piece. A very useful feature for businesses like cafes or restaurants and those who have accommodation on Airbnb, is the ability to set up guest access on your network. You can choose the number of guests allowed, for how long and an optional password. This network is displayed to a said guest as being totally separate to the main one.

Strong & Stable Network?

To give a little further perspective. We were previously using a BT Homehub with a TP-Link range extender, and in a word the result of this was a battle. We had to restart the Homehub and network extender almost every day because devices would go offline for no reason and then refuse to rejoin. We believe that a major contributor of this was due to Windows, Android and iOS devices all mingling together and not playing nicely with their different Wi-Fi frequencies. Our AmpliFi network is now a multifunctional ecosystem, different operating systems and devices mingle happily, perhaps because the router has three separate antennas inbuilt to manage separate frequencies? But then again, just one device on our previous network could be refused entry on occasion. Regardless, we’ve been using the AmpliFi HD system for nearly two months and almost unbelievably not a single reboot has been needed and all our devices stay online permanently! It’s the most stable networking product we’ve ever used and moving throughout the home makes no difference - this is a genuine single network. It gets better, because our network perimeter is now wider and we can get a connection outdoors and in rooms that were previously out of range and had dead spots. In fact, our entire home now has Wi-Fi coverage despite the solid granite walls the signal has to compete with! AmpliFi claim that the range of the HD system with the two mesh points utilised is 1,858m² (20,000 sq.ft) and with coverage right through our long house and surrounding garden this claim appears to be about right.

File transfer speeds have also skyrocketed in performance from our previous Wi-Fi arrangement. When sending files the AmpliFi has the potential for speeds of up to 5.25 Gbps claimed by Ubiquiti. We think this can be generally ignored as it appears to be an equation based on adding the speeds of each mesh point and router capacity together, and we’re frankly not sure why this was done. Nevertheless, our local transfer speeds are the fastest we’ve ever had. Consistently notching steadily around 1.2 Gbps with 802.11ac devices regardless of how close they are in the network or to the AmpliFi router.

Verdict

Finally, after years of waiting, we have the perfect networking solution with the AmpliFi HD. A 90 second set-up, 24/7 rock solid reliability, coverage throughout a large home and rapid speeds.

Not to forget to mention that a significant part of what makes the AmpliFi HD system so brilliant is Ubiquiti's studious design that challenges just how a network should be managed by including a first rate App, an attractive design with an at a glance circular touch screen readout and a charmingly simplistic mode of network expansion.

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