UniFi Diary: After 3 years with the USG, I’m finally upgrading to the Dream Machine Pro

Earlier this year, I detailed all of the plans for my Ubiquiti setup in one of the more recent logs in my UniFi Diary series. At the top of my list was to finally replace the USG that’s been in my setup for ages, and after the better part of the year so far, I’ve finally made the upgrade to the UniFi Dream Machine. So was it worth it? Not to spoil too much, but absolutely. So for the full scoop, you’ll want to head below for my thoughts on the upgrading experience, getting things configured, and some final thoughts now that I’ve made the switch to the UniFi Dream Machine Pro.

What I’ve been working with and why it’s time to upgrade

You can get a full look at the setup I had to start the year in previous UniFi Diary pieces, but here’s a quick rundown. Back in 2018, I first embarked into the world of Ubiquiti gear with the popular UniFi Security Gateway. Going into this past week’s network upgrade, I had still been rocking that device as the cornerstone of my setup, even after all of the other upgrades I’ve made along the way. That was paired with the Cloud Key Gen2 Plus for handling Protect security features and remote access, alongside a series of access points and switches, which I’ve written about at length in the past.

Hands-on with the UniFi Dream Machine Pro

But after relying on the USG for over three years, what made me finally want to make an upgrade after all this time? It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying, as I’ve tried out other gear like the standard UniFi Dream Machine and even the Wi-Fi 6-equipped AmpliFi Alien, only to not quite like the form factor for having to ditch UniFi.

But now that the USG is beginning to show its age, the UniFi Dream Machine Pro became more and more appealing, especially considering I just recently moved all of my gear to an actual server rack, which had me centralize a lot of the equipment in my setup that had formerly been split up across my apartment. The USG was one of the last accessories that hadn’t found its way into the rack, which made the UDM Pro a compelling option for its rack-mounted design. 

Form factor aside, the power that Ubiquiti has packed under the hood is also pretty enticing, as well. Here’s a quick look at the spec sheet to see just what you’ll be getting at the $379 price point.

  • Runs every UniFi OS application, including the pre-installed UniFi Network
  • 8-port switch with 1GbE RJ45 and 10G SFP+ ports
  • Integrated security gateway and UniFi Protect-ready network video recorder that supports compatible 3.5″ HDDs
  • Enterprise-class internet threat management, deep packet inspection, and WiFi AI functionality
  • Powered by a fast, 1.7 GHz quad-core processor
  • 1U-sized, rack-mountable console
  • Allows you to easily scale your deployment by connecting additional UniFi devices

More insight on the setup process

As far as actually getting things configured, Ubiquiti surprisingly makes the experience pretty straightforward and painless. There are plenty of more detailed guides out there that already do about as perfect of a job covering the experience, but the long and short of it is that the upgrade process is as simple as making sure the USG and Dream Machine Pro are running the latest firmware. Then it was as easy as creating a backup of the USG, uploading that to the UDM Pro, and plugging in all of the access points and switches into the network. 

Everything only took about 30 minutes, and a lot of that was waiting for updates to download and hardware to reboot. I had been putting off making the switch away from the USG just out of fear that it’d result in a day of fussing around, but things were wrapped up pretty quickly. 

Highlights after a few days of use

From there, everything else with the UniFi Dream Machine Pro has been pretty reliable so far. By far the biggest benefit I’ve noted so far has been the router’s 1.7 GHz processor, and support for up to 3.5Gb/s throughput really makes a difference. I never realized just how bottlenecked parts of my setup were at certain times, which has now been alleviated by the extra power.

That extra bandwidth also allows for some extra features to kick in. Ubiquiti’s intrusion prevention functionality has long been something I’ve wanted to use for the added peace of mind, but the fact that it would cut speeds in half on the USG kept me from ever keeping the setting enabled long term. Since upgrading to the UDM Pro, it has been on and without any change to my network.

One last thing that has already made itself apparent is on the security side of things, as the Cloud Key I was rocking before could only store around four days’ worth of footage with the five cameras I have in my UniFi Protect setup. On the other hand, UDM Pro can now handle weeks of coverage, thanks to its 8TB hard drive. And if a year from now I decide I need added space, I can easily swap that out for a higher-capacity drive. 

9to5Toys’ take 

After using it for a few days, the UniFi Dream Machine Pro has certainly lived up to the praise I’ve seen from other adopters in the community, and it looks like I’ll be able to go another several years before the next upgrade. However, another takeaway is just how impressive the USG still is in 2021. I have a pretty demanding setup by most accounts, and the fact that it has been able to keep up for this long is a testament to how solid it still is for getting started with the UniFi ecosystem.

But back to the UDM Pro. The only thing that makes the router just short of being an easy recommendation is the recent unveiling of the upcoming SE version. While that won’t likely be shipping until the very end of the year at the earliest, it does look to offer plenty of value for those in the market for an even more streamlined setup. 

For myself, I think the standard UDM Pro will handle quite well, considering I already have a dedicated PoE switch. But for those who can hold off until what will likely be early 2022, the SE may offer some added value even if it is more expensive. That being said, the UniFi Dream Machine is about as feature-packed as you’ll find right now, and even once the SE version launches, it’ll be hard to beat the $379 price tag here.

Buy the UniFi Dream Machine Pro now

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