Ubiquiti AmpliFi Mesh Router Review – Security Can Actually Be Simple

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Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi mesh router somehow offers not just a robust mesh whole-home WiFi system with an incredible layer of security and killer features, but it’s also the easiest router I’ve ever set up in my entire life.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Mesh Router
$340
Rating
Pros
  • Ultra-simple setup
  • Full-featured app for configuration
  • Free built-in VPN adds significant value and security
  • Zero-configuration mesh network in the box
  • Parental and per-device controls
Cons
  • Not the least expensive mesh system on the market
  • Web-based admin UI is limited when compared to the app

The setup instructions say it all, really:

  1. Connect AmpliFi to your modem via an Ethernet cable.
  2. Download the AmpliFi app and follow the in-app instructions.

That's literally it.

You don't have to turn on your laptop and browse to an IP. You don't need to login with some silly default password that the whole Internet knows. It really is phenomenal, and it's a wonder why things aren't done this way more often.

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The package includes the uniquely cube-shaped router, as well as two network extenders that plug directly into outlets. You don't even have to pair these extenders with your router. That's all done automatically out of the box and requires no user intervention at all.

Most routers look nearly identical to one another, but not AmpliFi. The understated cube design isn't just unique, it's incredibly satisfying to have on a bookshelf or elsewhere in your home because it's actually aesthetically pleasing. That's a far cry from the usual router design, which often have antennas coming out all over the place and don't stack or sit well on most shelves or other places where you might display something in your home.

Along the back is a series of Ethernet ports; 4 switching ports for wired devices and a single WAN port where your modem plugs into. A USB type-A port is present and the unit is powered by a USB Type-C cable which connects to a standard wall outlet plug.

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It even has free built-in VPN for your mobile devices

VPN is one of those terms you probably hear every day, but not everyone understands what a VPN is or actually does. The concept is simple: the network data from your phone is encrypted with a special set of keys and protocols and then sent over the Internet to a specific destination, in this case your AmpliFi home router. AmpliFi then takes this traffic and is able to decrypt it so that it can be sent where it needs to go.

This concept is most important when you're using public hotspots, like the one at the local coffee shop or at an airport, as the encrypted data won't be able to be understood even if it is intercepted by a 3rd party. Ubiquiti calls this Teleport, and it's probably one of the single best reasons to own an AmpliFi router.

Teleport VPN begins with the app, found on your favorite app store. Ubiquiti provides access codes within the app to give other sites and services access to your router. These codes are only generated when you request them and are only available for a set amount of time, so this isn't a code that'll work forever if someone were to somehow get ahold of one.

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Once you input the code, the app does its thing and creates a VPN link that can then be enabled anytime you'd like from your phone or other mobile device. This is a game-changing feature as it provides a secure VPN link for your mobile device to secure your data, all without charging a monthly fee of any kind.

It also takes the worry out of the paid VPN model. I don't know about you but I'm always wary of sending my data to some third party, however reputable they might be because, at the end of the day, you have no control over how they store or handle your data. With AmpliFi Teleport, your data is totally and completely your own, no matter what device you use and no matter where in the world you are.

Nothing to mesh up

Mesh networks have become increasingly common in an age where everything in our house is connected to the Internet. Out of the box, the Ubiquiti AmpliFi mesh router system can cover up to 10,000 square feet of space. Unless you own a multi-million dollar mansion, that means AmpliFi will absolutely blanket any space you have with glorious wireless networking.

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By default, your network will be setup with a single SSID that broadcasts on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Bandwidth and channels can be chosen for each band individually, and you can even broadcast a second SSID, as well as a Guest network for greater versatility. This guest network can even be scheduled or manually toggled on and off within the app via a single button.

Each range extender plugs straight into any power outlet in the wall and will automatically set itself up and connect to your AmpliFi router without need for configuration and pairing.

My home is much smaller than the maximum range of the system; 1/10th the size, to be exact. As such, I don't need an extender anywhere in the main level of my home, but the basement is a different story.

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Since my home office is located in my basement, it was paramount that I have a good WiFi signal down here, and AmpliFi helped me achieve that with zero effort. One extender sits in the outlet behind my monitor, which is located downstairs and across the house from the router. Where I got little to no signal before, I now get a perfect 4 out of 4 bars of WiFi with no signal loss or degradation.

With that being said, because of the size of my home I needed to enable the "router steering" setting to ensure that devices on the main floor weren't trying to connect to the extender I had in the basement. Without this setting enabled, I found the connection on some of my devices would "die" all of a sudden, and I had to disconnect/reconnect to my wireless for things to function as planned.

There was also a time where I needed to disable the "band steering" setting that's enabled by default. This setting points devices to the 5GHz channel first, which caused issues when trying to join some smart home devices to my network. Most smart home devices still only use 2.4GHz networks and, as such, will have issues when trying to forcibly connect to a 5GHz band.

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Each mesh point can be configured to run off the 5GHz or 2.4GHz bands; 5GHz provides better performance, while 2.4GHz provides a longer range. Mesh points can be paused at any time and can even generate additional SSIDs when needed.

If you've still got dead zones in your house, you can purchase additional mesh points from Ubiquiti for around $120 a piece. There's no limit to the number of mesh points that can be added to a system, which will be a relief for folks with unique home setups that might cause issues with WiFi signal strength.

A dashboard you'll actually use

Network dashboards sound like a great concept until you actually try to use them. Unless you run a professional NOC, most of the information presented on a typical network dashboard is useless to most folks. Ubiquiti takes what's actually important to most home users and places it right on the front of its app, giving you glanceable information to make sure your network is running smoothly and nothing has been compromised.

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Ubiquiti AmpliFi AH NS app dashboard
AmpliFi App – Dashboard

As soon as you open the app, you'll be given a breakdown of what's connected to your router including a general overview of the status of everything. In my example, you'll see the main router, the single extender that I've currently got plugged in, as well as the two phones I've connected to the Teleport VPN service. These two phones have also logged into the AmpliFi app and been given administrative access to my router; an important note for security purposes.

Being able to see this last part, at a glance, is beyond brilliant and offers me a feeling of security that I've never had with a router before.

In addition to this, all clients that are connected to the router can be found by clicking the "clients" button on this main screen or by swiping over to the tab up top. From here you can perform a number of actions on each client, as well as pausing Internet connectivity on any number of devices (or all of them at once). Clients can also have their traffic optimized for gaming, streaming, or just general usage with the click of a single button.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi AH NS app devices
AmpliFi App – Devices

You can even create a quick static lease for each client with the single click of a button on the status page of each client. That's a far cry from the absolute pain in the butt static IP configuration that most other routers employ.

Even the real time transfer rate is visible on each and every client, including the entire transfer rate of all clients connected to the router. It's tons of information without going into information overload; an impressive UI design that's all accessible via the app on your phone.

Parental controls at the forefront

As a parent, I'm definitely concerned with what my son would be able to access online. Since he's only 5, he doesn't have any personal devices that can access the Internet, but being able to turn off connectivity to any device he might have access to is an important security measure and brings a significant peace of mind to parents that have children with personal Internet-accessible devices.

Ubiquiti presents a handy "create a group" feature from within the clients tab; something that's advertised very well until you finally get around to creating a group of devices. Each group can have a name (e.g. "Kids"), and a set of devices can be added to any of these groups. A "quiet time" can then be configured, which will then turn off Internet connectivity to any device in the group.

You can always turn off connectivity to devices manually from the client's list, which could be a handy way to call everyone to dinner, if the need arises.

App insights

You may not think about this initially, but that LCD up front can be very bright, especially at night. Ubiquiti offers a way to adjust the brightness of this LCD panel and even offers a "Do Not Disturb" style mode, which can be enabled through the app and will shut off the display during typical night hours. These hours can be completely customized to your liking or personal schedule, and folks who store their routers in a common room (or even a bedroom) will certainly find this feature to be a lifesaver.

WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) can be enabled at will within the app and is valid for a 2-minute setup period. This is an easier way of using WPS than the typical push-button method that most routers employ, as it gives a visual reminder within the app for when it's enabled. It also provides an extra layer of security since you have to enable this within the app, which is only accessible by logging into your account or being on your local wireless network.

One big downside for some users is the inability to configure the router via a traditional web interface. Ubiquiti offers a web interface for the initial setup and for opting into beta firmware but, beyond that, the Android or iOS app is designed to handle your daily administration and configuration tasks. This doesn't pose a problem for me, personally, and I can't see too many people getting irked over this design, but it's sure to upset at least a few people in the world.

Conclusion

The Ubiquiti AmpliFi mesh router system has been transformed from an already excellent product at its launch into one that's a must-buy for every household. Heck, the free VPN service alone is worth the price of admission, simply because it can reliably and completely replace those paid VPN services that many folks have been buying into.

Outside of this, it's a stellar-performing mesh network that's easy as pie to setup and maintain. AmpliFi offers a significant number of features that are not only useful and powerful, but also easy to find and configure. The app provides a wealth of information at your fingertips without being confusing or daunting and, overall, the design exudes a level of professional, thoughtful design that most other routers on the market could only dream of.

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Assistant Editor

Nick has written for Android Headlines since 2013 and has traveled to many tech events across the world. He's got a background in IT and loves all things tech-related. Nick is the VR and Home Automation Editor for the site and manages the Android Headlines YouTube channel. He is passionate about VR and the way it can truly immerse players in different worlds. In addition, he also covers the gamut of smart home technology and home automation. Contact him at [email protected]

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