Prior to moving into my apartment at the beginning of the year, I set out to devise and build an ideal home network. For this, I turned to the Ubiquiti UniFi line, a collection of networking gear that proved well equipped for handling the needs of this tech-savvy writer. Since the initial install, I’ve been nothing but thrilled with the decision, well at least up until a few weeks ago, when Ubiquiti debuted its latest product. Enter AmpliFi Alien, the recently-released Wi-Fi 6 router that’s making me reconsider my entire setup. Head below for a full report on why one of Ubiquiti’s latest is one of its most compelling products yet.
The latest networking standard has been rolling out through most of 2019 thus far. There’s no doubt that if you’ve read up on home networking in recent months, that you’ll have come across details on Wi-Fi 6 and everything it brings to the table. Amongst the ever-growing roster of devices that fit the new spec, Ubiquiti’s most recent consumer-centric router launches as the company’s very first product to tout Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, period.
What does AmpliFi Alien offer?
One of AmpliFi Alien’s crowning achievements is its support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 networking standard. Fitting the bill for 802.11ax support brings a variety of perks like enhanced range, increased network bandwidth, and more reliable connectivity. Specifically for Ubiquiti’s recent release, that means you’re looking at up to 7685 Mb/s of throughput access its 16 spatial download streams. There are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports around back for building out a wired setup.
On top of its impressive specs for actually getting your devices connected to the world wide web, Ubiquiti has also thrown in its usual flair to the design. The roughly one-foot tall router touts a sleek black outer casing and along the bottom, there’s an LED ring that illuminates with very fitting green light. Staying true to the company’s other AmpliFi devices, there’s a 4.7-inch full-color touchscreen display built-in as well. Here you’ll be able to monitor network usage, tweak settings, and even run a speed test.
How AmpliFi Alien mixes up my current kit
This laundry list of features certainly makes it a compelling option on paper, but how does this router compare when actually put to the test versus its prosumer-facing brethren? Well, saying that AmpliFi Alien does anything else but deliver would be selling things short.
About two weeks ago I picked up AmpliFi Alien after being initially intrigued by Ubiquiti’s proposition. As after all, a Wi-Fi 6 router from the company was something that I, like many others, had been hoping for quite some time. But as someone who had already heavily invested in the more feature-packed UniFi ecosystem, I wasn’t expecting AmpliFi Alien to hold its own nearly as well.
Wi-Fi 6 speeds make all the difference
One of the hallmarks of Wi-Fi 6 connectivity is increased throughput and noticeably faster speeds. This is an area where Ubiquiti’s latest doesn’t hold back, offering performance near the top of my internet’s maximum speeds. My apartment is set up with a 1GBps connection, which typically equates to around 900Mb/s speeds when hardwired.
Throwing AmpliFi Alien into the mix offers upwards of 700Mb/s performance when using an iPhone 11 Pro in the same room as the router. Or when on a different floor, I’m still looking at around enjoying speeds in the 500-600Mb/s range. Even on devices that don’t come equipped with 802.11ax support, connections have been sitting around 400Mb/s+.
These stats are even more impressive compared to what I’ve been using over the past several months. Right now my apartment’s Wi-Fi needs have been handled by an UniFi AC Pro on the first floor and a nanoHD on the second. Even when standing directly next to both of these access points, the best speeds don’t even come close to the average connection rates offered by AmpliFi.
Range and Reliability
Ubiquti doesn’t tout the exact range you’re looking to get out of AmpliFi Alien, but through my testing, it proved to be more than adequate for my two-story abode. Placing the router in a centralized location was more than enough to cover all of my connected devices without introducing dead zones and the like.
Aside from speeds, the area that I’m most impressed with the Wi-Fi 6 router is in its performance serving the internet to various devices simultaneously. Part of originally setting up my UniFi system meant running Ethernet cable throughout my apartment to various locations like my home theater, desk setup, and to install various access points. Doing so helped supplement the wireless coverage with speedy hardwired connections that ensured lower latency links for gaming consoles, my media server, smart home hubs, and even security cameras.
Alien is trying its hardest to make all of my work for naught though, as its Wi-Fi output is solid enough to provide wired-like speeds without a physical link. That means that devices like my PS4, Apple TV, and MacBook Pro were able to function without taking a noticeable hit to performance. A big win for tackling unsightly cable runs.
Alongside its top-notch performance, pricing is another area that AmpliFi Alien excels in. It enters with a $379 price tag, which is drastically under what I spent going all-in on the UniFi platform. Compared to the Security Gateway, access points, and PoE switches, Ubiquiti’s Wi-Fi 6 router is priced very competitively against the more prosumer-oriented devices. One router was enough to blanket my two-story apartment with adequate coverage. And even if a second router was needed, picking up the pair is still more affordable than grabbing the entire UniFi stack.
AmpliFi Alien isn’t perfect though, at least not for this writer’s needs. Even though Ubiquiti included the latest Wi-Fi spec here, that doesn’t mean it can necessarily keep up with all of my setup’s demands. Fitting into the AmpliFi lineup means that Alien isn’t necessarily equipped for handling professional levels of devices. While the router performs quite well under circumstances for a typical home, trying to switch my entire smart home, server, and surveillance kit over to the system didn’t fare too well.
Trying to keep up with the requirements of supporting two Synology NAS, three Mac mini’s and a whole host of other devices proved to be too much for Alien to handle.
Alien is a massive upgrade over Ubiquiti’s previous AmpliFi router systems and provides a pretty balanced mix between customer and professional features. While it might not deliver the power needed for me to permanently move my system over, I think most will find that AmpliFi Alien provides plenty of room to breath for must use cases. Unless you’re running a full-blown home server, multi-camera surveillance kit, or have way too large of a home for one or two routers to cover, then it should certainly fit the bill for your needs.
At the end of the day shows just how much of an improvement Wi-Fi 6 is for home networking. Hopefully, Ubiquiti is planning to bring a similar package to the UniFi lineup come 2020, as even an 802.11ax access point would be fantastic.
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