- What Is the AmpliFi Alien Mesh System?
- Technical Specifications
- Mesh Router Setup and Configuration
- Mesh Kit vs. Multiple Standalone Alien Routers
- How I Tested the Alien Mesh Kit
- How to Position the Meshpoint
- Performance of the Alien Mesh Kit
- AmpliFi Alien vs. Other Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Systems
- Frequently Asked Questions
Following up on my previous article about the AmpliFi Alien as a standalone router, in this review I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the AmpliFi Alien mesh kit, which combines that device with a meshpoint to significantly extend the range of your wireless network.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Alien — Ubiquiti’s first Wi-Fi 6 router — I’d encourage you to check out my previous review first, as this article builds on what I’ve written there.
AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit
- Excellent performance
- Ethernet backhaul (backbone) support
- Easy to set up
- Slick design blends into home decor
- No dedicated wireless backhaul channel
- Lack of 160 Mhz wide channels
- Meshpoint is tied to router
What Is the AmpliFi Alien Mesh System?
The Alien mesh system consists of two devices: the Alien router and a meshpoint that has most of the same features, sans the beautiful touchscreen on the front and the four switch ports on the back.
The purpose of the mesh kit is to extend wireless signal range beyond that of a single AmpliFi Alien router. Ubiquiti accomplishes that by creating a mesh network that wireless clients can transparently roam in.
Roaming is a feature that was previously reserved for enterprise networks. But thanks to companies like Ubiquiti, we can now enjoy the same seamless Wi-Fi experience found at airports and convention centers.
Practically, roaming means that a wireless client, such as your smartphone, can hop seamlessly from one access point to a different one with a stronger signal.
For example, if you have two wireless access points positioned on opposite sides of your house, and you stream a video to your smartphone while walking from one side of the house to the other, your phone can automatically connect to the access point you’re approaching as the signal of the original access point gets weaker.
That said, the handoff from one access point to the other isn’t always completely seamless because it depends on the Wi-Fi implementation on your client (e.g., your phone) and how that works. But in my tests using Apple devices with the AmpliFi mesh kit, the transitions were incredibly smooth.
From a technical perspective, the Alien mesh kit has roughly the same features and specifications as the individual router, with some minor differences.
For example, the meshpoint lacks the haptic touchscreen and additional gigabit Ethernet ports on the back. It does, however, have signal strength indicator LEDs on the front that the main router doesn’t have. Everything else is the same.
That means the meshpoint has the same guts as the standalone router, including tri-band radios that consist of one 5GHz Wi-Fi 5 and one 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi 6 radio, CPU, memory, etc.
Here’s a quick comparison showing the specs of the router and the meshpoint. I’ve marked the differences in bold.
|Alien Router (AFi-ALN-R)||Alien Mesh Point (AFi-ALN-P)|
|Ethernet Ports||1x WAN, 4x LAN (Gigabit)||1x Uplink (Gigabit)|
|LCD touchscreen||4.7-inch Full Color||None|
|LED Status Ring||Yes||Yes|
|CPU||2.2GHz 64-Bit Quad-Core CPU||2.2GHz 64-Bit Quad-Core CPU|
|Antenna||High-Performance Custom Antenna Array||High-Performance Custom Antenna Array|
|Wi-Fi 5 Radio||5GHz||5GHz|
|Wi-Fi 6 Radios||2.4 and 5GHz||2.4 and 5GHz|
|Dimensions||110 x 110 x 250 mm (4.33 x 4.33 x 9.84″)||110 x 110 x 250 mm (4.33 x 4.33 x 9.84″)|
|Weight||1.2 kg (2.65 lb)||1.2 kg (2.65 lb)|
|MIMO||2.4GHz: 4×4 5GHz: 4×4 (low-band) + 8×8 (high band)||2.4GHz: 4×4 5GHz: 4×4 (low-band) + 8×8 (high band)|
|5GHz Wi-Fi Speed||1,733 Mbps (low band) / 4,804 Mbps (high band)||1,733 Mbps (low band) / 4,804 Mbps (high band)|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Speed||1,148 Mbps||1,148 Mbps|
|Channel Width||20, 40, 80 MHz||20, 40, 80 MHz|
|Wi-Fi Standards||802.11ax/ac/n/g/a/b (Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6)||802.11ax/ac/n/g/a/b (Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6)|
|Signal Strength Indicator||No||Yes|
Mesh Router Setup and Configuration
Setting up a mesh network using the Alien mesh kit is incredibly simple and in line with the setup of the standalone router. That’s because the router and meshpoint come from the factory pre-linked.
While that’s super convenient because you don’t have to do anything to link them during the setup process, it also means that you can’t use a meshpoint from one kit with another (standalone) Alien router or kit; it’s effectively “hard-wired” to the router of the mesh kit it came with.
By the way, the same is true for the AmpliFi HD kit, which consists of a router and two wireless meshpoints.
After unpacking my mesh kit, it took me less than five minutes to create a mesh network using the AmpliFi app on my iPhone.
The basic steps included:
- Create an AmpliFi account (I already had one from my previous AmpliFi review).
- Plug the Alien router (AFi-ALN-R) into a power outlet and connect it to the ISP modem using the supplied Ethernet cable.
- Plug the Alien meshpoint (AFi-ALN-P) into a power outlet.
- Pick a name and password for the wireless network (SSID).
- Position the meshpoint within range of the router.
Mesh Kit vs. Multiple Standalone Alien Routers
You have several choices when it comes to creating a mesh network using Ubiquiti’s Alien platform.
You can either get the mesh kit (one Alien router and one meshpoint) for $699, or you can purchase two or more standalone Alien routers for $379 each. If you do the math, you’ll notice that you’d save $59 by getting the kit over two individual routers.
So if there’s a chance that you might want to extend your wireless network in the future, you could get the kit from the get-go. From there, you can add additional standalone routers, if needed. But unless you live in a mansion, I doubt you’d need more than two units.
What’s not possible (yet) is to buy a standalone router and then add a single meshpoint down the road, as Ubiquiti only sells them as part of a kit.
On the other hand, any Alien router that joins a mesh network effectively becomes a meshpoint. So it might not be worth using two full-fletched routers, only to dumb one down when creating a mesh network.
However, there are some use cases where using two Alien routers might be better than buying the mesh kit. For example, you can easily downgrade your mesh network by selling the second Alien. Plus, every Alien has four Ethernet LAN ports you can use to extend your wired network.
My recommendation is to go with the mesh kit if you’re looking for a plug and play solution, and if you want to save some money. Otherwise, consider building your own mesh kit with two or more individual Alien routers.
Individual vs. Replicated Settings
One thing that’s worth pointing out is that the meshpoint automatically replicates all the settings of the main router. That way, you don’t have to make configuration changes on both units.
However, there are some exceptions to that rule that can come in handy for certain use cases.
For example, you can create additional wireless networks for specific bands on the satellite unit or meshpoint. That can be helpful for isolating certain clients, such as HomeKit-enabled light switches that work best on the 2.4GHz band.
Uncoupling the various bands from a single SSID is possible on most wireless routers, but it’s worth pointing out that with an Alien mesh network, you can do that on a per-node basis.
How I Tested the Alien Mesh Kit
A few weeks before I started writing this article, my family and I moved into a two-story, 2,700-square-foot home.
The main floor has a family room, master bedroom, kitchen, dining area and home office. The lower level has the kids’ bedroom, a guest bedroom and a partially-finished basement that doubles as my server room.
Every room in the house has at least one CAT6 Ethernet port, which makes it easy to create a high-performance mesh network that feeds into my 1,000/35 Mbit internet connection.
To conduct my tests, I positioned the Alien router on the lower level, on top of my server rack and next to my Netgear Nighthawk CM1200 cable modem.
I positioned the Alien meshpoint on a shelf in the far end of our family room. That way, I could create both horizontal and vertical distance between the two units — which was only a factor for the wireless backhaul tests.
During my first round of tests, I used the wireless backhaul option to test maximum download speeds from each room of the house.
After I completed the initial round of tests, I connected the meshpoint via Ethernet to the router and repeated the test cycle to see how much better the mesh network performed.
Note that it’s not sufficient to connect both the Alien and meshpoint via Ethernet; you also have to manually enable the “Ethernet backbone” setting. If you don’t, the Aliens will ignore the Ethernet link and continue transferring all data wirelessly.
As far as wireless test clients are concerned, I ran all the speed tests on both an iPhone 11 Pro (which supports Wi-Fi 6) and a 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro (which speaks only Wi-Fi 5). I performed all tests using a single SSID that combined both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands.
Unlike in my single router review, I didn’t create two separate SSIDs for both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. Instead, I used a single SSID that combined both frequencies.
What’s important to understand is that I conducted my speed tests in real-world conditions (see the test results here). That means I didn’t bother to turn off my other access points and wireless networks to reduce the potential for interference, and I didn’t disconnect my 50+ wired and wireless clients from the internet.
I set up my test this way because there are plenty of “lab tests” out there that show you how the Alien can reach speeds of up to 1 Gbps under perfect conditions. However, chances are that the conditions in your environment aren’t perfect, and I wanted to demonstrate what the Alien mesh kit can deliver in a real-world, everyday scenario.
How to Position the Meshpoint
When setting up your mesh network, it’s important to correctly position both the router and the meshpoint for maximum range and reliability. In my house, I tried to accomplish that by visually separating the available space into thirds. I then placed the router between the first two thirds and the meshpoint between the last two thirds.
In other words, the two units are roughly a third of the total horizontal distance apart while covering equal space to the left and right.
To help find the sweet spot for the meshpoint, you can use the signal strength indicator on the front of the device. To get a numeric value representing the signal strength between the two access points, you can also use the AmpliFi app.
Of course, if you decide to leverage the Ethernet backbone feature, you don’t have to worry about the wireless connection between the two devices; you can place them as far apart as you want.
Performance of the Alien Mesh Kit
As I mentioned in my review of the standalone router, the Alien doesn’t have a dedicated radio for wireless backhaul.
What that means is that the Alien has to borrow bandwidth from the radios it uses for communication with its clients in order to shuffle data back and forth between the router and the meshpoint.
In other words, your wireless clients have less bandwidth when they’re connected to an Alien in mesh mode vs. if you operate a standalone router.
Of course, the solution to this backhaul problem is to enable the Ethernet backbone option on the router. For that to work, you have to connect the Alien to its meshpoint via an Ethernet cable.
You can see how much of a difference that makes in actual transfer speed in the comparison tables below.
Overall, I was quite pleased by the performance of this duo and I only experienced connectivity issues in my office, which is separated by (at least) four walls from the nearest MeshPoint.
AmpliFi Alien vs. Other Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Systems
I openly admit that I’ve been a fan of Ubiquiti ever since I stumbled across AmpliFi HD a few years ago. As a result, most of my experience with Wi-Fi mesh networks is limited to either AmpliFi or UniFi — Ubiquiti’s business-class offering.
So while I lack the hands-on experience with systems from Eero, Google and Orbi, I can certainly point out some of the main differences between these technologies.
Before we look into how those technologies compare head-to-head, let’s check out some of the unique features that the Alien has and lacks.
Note that out of the brands mentioned above, only Orbi supports Wi-Fi 6. Both Eero and Google provide mesh networking with up to three bands, but those are Wi-Fi 5 bands.
So if you want to compare apples to apples, you have to compare the Alien to Orbi and ignore the other technologies.
Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Orbi WiFi 6 System
|Feature||AmpliFi Alien||Orbi AX6000|
|160 MHz Channel Support||No||No|
|Dedicated Wireless Backhaul||No||Yes|
|WAN Port Aggregation||No||Yes|
|Built-in VPN Server (Teleport)||Yes||No|
|Advanced Network Settings||No||No|
Much like the AmpliFi Alien, the Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 (RBK852) doesn’t offer support for 160 MHz wide channels. However, it does support a dedicated wireless backhaul channel with four data streams on each band.
Practically, that means that hauling data back from meshpoints to the main router doesn’t reduce the available bandwidth of your wireless clients.
Additionally, the Orbi system allows you to aggregate LAN ports for multi-gigabit speeds, assuming your ISP supports it. All the ISPs in my area are capped at 1 Gbps, so I don’t have use for a multi-gig uplink.
What would be useful is aggregating LAN ports to create a multi-gig backbone link between two Orbi units. Unfortunately, neither Orbi nor Alien support that.
The bottom line is that both mesh systems are incredibly capable and you can’t go wrong with either one. Personally, I prefer AmpliFi because the Alien looks much slicker than the Orbi, and because I’ve had such a great experience with the brand over the past few years.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Alien handles that out of the box and without any additional configuration settings. That said, there are dedicated configuration options to enable band and router steering, as well as roaming settings (802.1v) via the web interface. However, unless you have specific use cases for these settings, you don’t have to worry about them.
Also, note that the Alien firmware had an issue in 2019 that prevented the Ethernet backbone option from working correctly. However, that issue has since been fixed.
To achieve gigabit speeds, I recommend a CAT6 or CAT5e Ethernet cable between the router and meshpoint.
Yes, the Alien has a web interface — albeit a basic one. As a result, you’ll probably do most of the configuration using the excellent and intuitive mobile app.
At the time of publication, they seem to be. So I guess I was lucky that I got my review unit before the supply ran out. But if you create an AmpliFi account, you can get notified when the devices are back in stock.
Neither the router nor the meshpoint has a USB port, so you can’t plug in storage devices like you could with the older Apple AirPort base stations.
Yes, you can enable parental controls using the AmpliFi mobile app (iOS and Android). See my standalone router review for more information about that.
The Alien can act as a VPN server and you can download AmpliFi’s Teleport app to act as a VPN client on mobile devices and Android TVs (e.g., those from Samsung).
Band steering is a feature that allows routers to steer client devices towards the 5GHz band if they support it. What’s important to understand is that signal strength doesn’t play a factor in whether or not the client gets steered towards the often less-crowded 5GHz band.
So don’t enable band steering to improve coverage, as it will likely do the opposite. I’d only enable this setting if you have great coverage on the 5GHz band in all the areas you need. Check out this article for more information on how band steering works.
No, the Alien is a tri-band Wi-Fi system that supports Wi-Fi 6 on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and Wi-Fi 5 on the 5GHz band.
MU-MIMO stands for multi-user multiple input multiple output, and it’s a technology that allows routers to communicate with multiple clients at the same time using multiple data streams for each client to improve throughput. The AmpliFi Alien fully supports MU-MIMO.
Yes, you can enable DNS-based ad-blocking via the Alien’s web interface. However, there is no advanced configuration available — you can only turn it on or off.
AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit Review — Final Words
Much like the standalone router, which I reviewed here, the Alien mesh kit did not disappoint. It’s incredibly easy to set up and it performs as well as I expected. For example, with the exception of my office (which is on the far end of the house), both my iPhone 11 Pro and MacBook Pro achieved data transfer rates of several hundred Mbps. That’s more than enough for most users.
While there’s certainly room for improvement — like adding support for 160 MHz wide channels or a dedicated wireless backhaul — I think this Ubiquiti offering is worth the money.
The mesh kit provided sufficient coverage for both floors of our two-story home, even if I did have to move the meshpoint a bit closer to my office to achieve proper signal strength. The good thing with the Alien’s meshpoint is that I could do that while only being restricted by the availability of power outlets.
If I wanted to get the absolute best performance, I could have left the meshpoint in the family room (connected via Ethernet backhaul) and added a second Alien router to my office, also connected via Ethernet. I may do just that for a follow-up test and update this article with the results, if I get a chance.
Of course, the million-dollar question is whether it’s worth investing in a mesh kit, or if you should just go with a standalone router. If you’re in a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment, the standalone router is likely more than enough to provide sufficient Wi-Fi coverage.
However, if you need to cover a vertical distance — such as a multi-story home — I’d recommend spending the extra money and going with the mesh kit. If you’re on the fence, you can try the standalone router first and, if that doesn’t work, add a second router. Just know that doing so will cost a bit more in the end.
Now I’d like to hear from you! Are you currently shopping for a new Wi-Fi router, or do you already have experience with the Alien? Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below!
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
On this blog, I share in-depth product reviews, actionable information and solutions to complex problems in plain and easy-to-understand language.
36 thoughts on “AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit Review”
It’s July 2022, It’s only now that our subdivision get AT&T fiber service. I used to have a Xfinity service and the the service port is in the middle of our house. I won a Amplifi HD from Mike Kummer years ago and that’s my wifi-router for years. Then I upgraded for 1 GB service from Xfinity, so I have upgraded to Amplifi Alien.
However the Fiber entry is now in one of the corners of my house and now I have dead spots. I bough another Amplifi alien, put it around 50 ft apart and now I have good service in my 3 level house around 1,200 sq. ft per level.
For the advanced wireless setting, what is the effect of Allow DFS channel? and btw, 160. MHz is available for bandwidth selection now.
I got a TP link Deco mesh and returned it the next day and just bought another Ampli Alien. I wish that Alien can use the wifi-5 as backhaul in addition to some wifi-6 so to have more bandwidth for regular wifi-use.
Should revive CONs on this review. 160meg channels are now open and have been for some time now. Mesh node tied to router only true if you buy the set which most people don’t do because for 50 bucks more you can get a second fully functional router. Screen on units used as a mesh node is specific to the node. You see things like speed between node and router which is very handy.
Michael, Thanks for a great review. I’ve gone ahead with the purchase and install of a mesh for a two story. I’ve found your reporting is in line with my readings. I’ve even got extended use outside of the house to cover the patio, garage and front porch. That’s an amazing out put for a residential unit. I haven’t installed the wired backbone yet (must run a separate Cat6 cable). My ISP provides 1Gbps up and down.
I am a little confused with the reason the iPhone 13 pro can’t get higher speeds above 450Mbps, even after I’ve turned off all other devices,but Apple and ISP indicate that the readings seem appropriate. Looking into reasons but haven’t received a written response from Apple. However, their technicians have indicated that it may be the Router. If you have any thoughts, I’d look forward to your comments.
Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it!
Do you have a MacBook, Mac or laptop that support Wifi 6 to see what speeds you can get in general? That way, you can narrow the issue down to the router (or the iPhone).
Hi, your review convinced me to go with the Alien router and mesh kit, which I got some time ago. My house is approximately 4000 sq feet spread across 3 levels (basement, main floor, second floor). The router is in the basement where all of the wiring comes into the house while the mesh point (wired backhaul) is on the second floor. This leaves the main floor with no device, but I was thinking that the signals would overlap enough to cover the floor. Lately, my PCs, iPhones, etc. have been needing to reconnect more frequently. According to the Amplifi website, the router and mesh kit should cover up to 6000 sq feet. That said, do you think it would make much of a difference to add a second Alien router as a mesh point on the main floor? TIA!
that’s tough to say because it depends on so many factors, including wall structure, appliances and other obstacles that might influence the signal quality. I have made a good experience with using an Alian as a wireless mesh point in my house but that might not translate to yours. The only thing you can do is try it out. Maybe get one on Amazon and return it if it doesn’t work :)
Thank you for this detailed and insightful review. I am wandering into a new world of unknown territory. I live a small island that for years only got 0.07mbsp, I upgraded to xplornet is attain an astounding 2.2mbsp for $170.00 per month (ugh). Enter COVID and I now teach post secondary from home. Much to my chagrin my online classes were going sideways due internet bellyflops. So I now commute to work remotely (priceless). Just ordered Starlink, it should arrive in a couple weeks, all of my appendages are crossed this will resolve my problems. I live on acreage, my home and studio are two separate buildings. My game plan is to set up the Starlink dish on the hydro shed and keep router and Amplify Alien router this out building. What would be the best method to then get the internet to home 100 ft away and studio 100ft the opposite direction. Would this be 2-3 standalone router or a mesh system? Or am I simply dreaming and asking too much of the system and I should simply prioritize my work space and limp along with sad internet at my home. Thank you for your time. Sara
for the best-possible performance, I’d get one Alien Mesh System plus an extra Alien and position them in each location. Then run Ethernet between the three nodes. If you have line of sight, you could try a wireless connection between the three, but you’d have to test that out.
Alternatively, you could look into a solution from AmpliFi’s sister brand UniFi and go with a UDM plus two access points – see https://michaelkummer.com/tech/ubiquiti-unifi-review/ and https://michaelkummer.com/tech/amplifi-vs-unifi/
Thank you for the great article. We have a Surfboard8200 docsis 3.1 modem in the office at one end of house and we have two Asus 3100 routers (second as mesh node): one next to the modem and the other more to the middle of house. House is a rancher about 2750sf.
Great speeds when it works, but the signal dropping is killing us. We have gig service from xfinity but that’s only Ethernet connected and download only. Upload is around 40…on wireless we can get 200-300+ but then it drops as the system bogs down.
My main objective is to have all devices able to run consistently and not have the signal degrade over time (not distance, I get that), which seems to be happening more and more with five of us at home – Zoom calls, smartphones, etc. I’m not looking to upgrade all our devices to -6, just eliminate the need to reboot the router(s) every night.
Question: will wifi 6 router/mesh system solve this problem? Reading up is seems like wifi6 is designed to handle more clients, but will it consistently?
also, i have ethernet running in the house via gigabit switches. So do you just plug in the mesh?
Ancillary question: i know this is about the Alien mesh, but how do you connect the ethernet link to the second part in the NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (RBK852) – Router with 1 Satellite Extender 11AX Mesh AX6000 Wi-Fi (Up to 6Gbps) ? Seems like there are only output ethernet on the second unit.
I think the issue you’re experiencing could be caused by buffer bloat or a lack of QoS on the ASUS router. The problem is when the upstream is full, your downstream and ping times will suffer. I have the same Xfinity line and know what you’re talking about. My solution was to enable Smart Queues on my UniFi Dream Machine Pro (sister brand of AmpliFi) which ensures that one device can’t consume all the upstream bandwidth.
The AmpliFi Alien doesn’t have Smart Queues but it has QoS, so you can define high-prio devices that get more bandwidth than others. Combined with the likely better signal (due to WiFi 6), you should notice measurable improvements.
Hope that helps!
I’m moving to a location with very limited (2) ethernet ports available and no chance to re-route cables.
Is the following scenario possible with 2 Amplifi Alien Routers:
Connect the 2 Alien Routers via Wireless Backhaul giving the full house wi-fi access (at a slight performance loss). But allowing the furthest (remote) Alien to have extra 4 devices connected via ethernet (low-power servers without wifi) too?
Yes, if you get two Alien routers rather than the kit.
in a previous reply above, you noted that it would be better to use two alien routers (as opposed to one alien and one mesh point) if the user needed additional gig ports in the “remote” location (as the mesh point has only a single uplink port).
i’m in a similar situation and wonder why you couldn’t simply add a switch in the remote location to “split out” ethernet to the mesh uplink port and the other wired devices. i assume(?) the connection from the alien router and mesh point can travel through switches in-between, yes?
I haven’t tested it, but I assume you could connect the two Alien’s via a switch if the ports are isolated on their own VLAN and, thus, only see each other. I don’t think a regular (unmanaged) switch would work.
Thanks so much for your very practical and informative review.
I’m in a rented home for now in rural MT, where currently I have 400 mbps DL 24 mbps UL from Spectrum. 940 mbps is available, but comes at a SERIOUS price premium.
Because 2.4 GHz-only Nest devices (thermostat, Nest Guard security hub) were occasionally dropping off my LAN in the middle of the night when I was never awake to see if anything else was affected, I purchased a single AmpliFi Alien. I decided against the Mesh-only addition, because I thought I’d want the 4-port gigabit switch upstairs in my office if I DID expand.
When it worked, my Apple 3 TB Airport Extreme Time Capsule served me well, with DL rates that ranged up to 400 measured over WiFi in my living room (about 12 feet from the router). Upstairs I could reach 180-200 mbps sometimes (speedtest.net). I used an Apple “brick” 802.11n Airport Express in Bridge mode, but that probably didn’t help much if at all, because the only place I could position the bridging device was among the cluster of devices in my upstairs office rather than half-way between the downstairs router and the upstairs devices.
I’ve been quite impressed with the single Alien. DL rates to the downstairs computer are almost indistinguishable between WiFi and wired connections to the router, hovering about 450 mbpsec (remember, I’m paying for 400). The DL rates to the upstairs MacBook Pro are even more impressive, often approaching 380 mbpsec. However, those rates to the upstairs computer drop dramatically but inconsistently when I’m streaming 4K to my LG smart TV, which is connected to the downstairs router by gigabit EN. Curiously, the impact on speedtest.net UL rates is much greater, with drops to 1-2 mbpsec occurring if my TV is accepting streamed content.
So, now I’m trying to sort out whether adding a second Alien upstairs would make any sense. For now, I have only one upstairs device on EN (my Laser printer), but it’s actually a wireless client as well, with my Airport Express again in Bridge mode and connected to the printer by EN. As you probably know, the Airport Express has only a single 100 mbpsec EN port. (I cannot put my Airport Extreme Time Capsule into bridge mode as a way to get the additional 4 gigabit EN ports upstairs, because the Extreme must be configured into Bridge mode while EN-connected to the router doing DHCP, and it must retain that connection mode; i.e., I cannot place it into bridge mode, then take it upstairs and have it sit with no EN connection to the downstairs router.
Collectively, your reported performance ratings suggest that I probably wouldn’t see much improvement from adding the MESH point (and indeed, might see degradation, because I have no way that would pass Feng shui muster to run EN cable between the two Aliens. Of course, there are other options; e.g., Powerline or MOCA adapters. I have no idea just how much traffic actually travels on the backhaul circuit, but I know that “gigabit” Powerline adapters typically come NO WHERE close to those data rates even when configured by people well aware of how different ac wiring patterns in their homes can affect those rates. Still, if what the backhaul needs to do in general service is “only” 50-200 mbps, that still might be worth considering.
Apologies for the long post. The two key questions are whether I’d boost my overall performance with a second Alien living upstairs, and why my UL speeds are SO degraded from my upstairs devices when I’m streaming to either of my TVs (both 4K, one EN and one on WiFi) downstairs. This isn’t really a big deal for me, because I’m now retired. Just a year ago that would have created real issues, because as a physician, I spent a good bit of my time at home connected to enterprise Electronic Health Record servers, where Citrix would require the entire screen to be repainted every time I pressed a key! (I didn’t realize what that could do to one’s sanity until I tried it on an airplane, encountering the latency of a connection to geostationary satellites!
Thanks for the feedback and detailed information!
To answer your questions:
1) Drop in speed when streaming to TV: Could be a number of reasons. Sometimes when devices clog your upstream or downstream your modem or router suffer from what’s called buffer bloat. I don’t know how much bandwidth your TVs consume, but it shouldn’t be nowhere near your total available bandwidth. The other thing that could happen here is that the AmpliFi recognized the TV as a “priority” device because it wants you to have a great streaming experience. You can check the QoS settings in the AmpliFi app for the TV and other devices and make changes – see https://help.amplifi.com/hc/en-us/articles/115005226567-Enabling-QoS
2) If any of the above apply, I don’t think a second Alien would boost your performance much.
I’d play with the QoS settings and see if it makes a difference. Either way, let me know here please.
Great review. I’m currently look at replacing my existing plume network with the AmpliFi Alien mesh and I’m wondering about how does the Alien handles density issues within the house, tied with a large coverage area, and a ‘noisy’ surrounding environment in the neighborhood? I would need to cover about 5700 square feet and 3 levels, but the construction has a lot of potential interference with refraction and deflection from walls and materials etc. I’m thinking I’ll need three Aliens to cover the inside of the house, the garage and out to part of the back yard.
Any thoughts or suggestions on this?
Yeah, you might need more than two Aliens to cover that area. But I’d start with two and see how that goes. You can always add on with individual Alien routers. If possible, connect them via Ethernet for the best performance.
I don’t have any hands-on experience with super-dense environments but the Wi-Fi 6 standard should definitely help!
Thanks for the review, Michael. If I’m reading these results correctly, building on what you wrote, the *sole* “purpose of the mesh kit is to extend wireless signal range beyond that of a single AmpliFi Alien router.” But it does so at considerable cost. Maybe because of the lack of dedicated wireless backhaul.
In comparison to your test of the stand-alone router, it seems like your best overall results were with just one stand-alone router upstairs? The stand-alone router placed upstairs had a max speed of 660Mbps (family room) and 240Mbps (kids’ room), an average speed of 460Mps, and a median speed of 470Mbps.
In contrast, the wireless mesh seems to never be the fastest option, and has the lowest average and median speeds. The only advantage of the wireless mesh seems to be extending/improving coverage and speeds to the office and master bedroom only as compared to having the modem in the server room downstairs.
Am I reading that correctly?
Pretty much, especially if you don’t run an Ethernet cable between the two Aliens (wireless backhaul). The main purpose of the mesh kit is to extend coverage. If your area is small enough, a single Alien is likely going to deliver the best performance.
Hello. I really like your write-ups on the AmpliFi Alien routers. It was very informative. I actually own three and they are all Ethernet connected. I tried the wireless connection but the Ethernet worked best covering over 4,000 sq ft.
During my set up and testing I also discovered that the placement of your router is very important. I had one of my routers sitting on a mirror top table. Although Ethernet connected, I noticed no activity with my up and down speeds on the front display when doing a speed test with my iPhone 11. I later learned that mirrors significantly hinder your WiFi signals.
Needless to say I moved that router to another location, still Ethernet connected, and now I can see the up and down speeds when doing a speed test.
Learning more about the placement of my routers prompted me to relocate all of them. Fortunate for me I was still able to connect them via the Ethernet.
Wanted to share that experience because the placement of your routers can make a significant difference in how they perform.
Great feedback Ken, I really appreciate it and I’m confident other readers will find it very useful!
Congratulations Michael for the excellent article. I’m from Brazil and I just bought one on Ebay. Looking forward to testing. Soon I will post my results. Thank you
Awesome, thanks for the feedback and enjoy your Alien!
When you did Ethernet backbone, do you have Ethernet cable from router to switch, or the exact cable for the Ethernet port the MeshPoint is plugged into? Does this make any difference?
I have only tried direct connections during my testing, but I don’t see why having a switch in between wouldn’t work.
Is it only 1 gigabit backbone over ethernet when transmitting between the alien router and its meshpoint. Would that be slower then transmitting over wifi if it has a 4gbps capability? I was looking potentially to two alien routers used together as I like the ethernet ports on both and was thinking of sending one wire between them but thought is that even faster or not?
Anyways great posts. I just found this and loving the information.
I doubt that the wired backbone would be slower than Wi-Fi, especially because the Alien has to share bandwidth between the backbone and any connected clients (it doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul channel).
Plus, even when theoretical Wi-Fi speeds are higher than wired, the latter usually wins unless you are under perfect conditions.
This is a super-helpful post, thank you! Would love your quick advice on my setup.
3 story, 2800 sq ft home, all rooms wired with Cat6. Modem on the 1st floor, and planning to put 1 alien router there. The 2nd story is the main floor (kitchen, family room, office), and I’m deciding between another alien router or mesh point. For this location, I need to plugin an apple tv. Planning to use wired backhaul between the 1st floor router and this main floor (either mesh point or 2nd router).
Given I need to plugin an apple tv, I need additional gigabit ports. So, would you suggest simply getting a 2nd alien router? Or would you buy a switch and then use the mesh point?
thanks for the feedback! Considering your requirement for additional switch ports, I’d go with two Aliens because the Alien mesh point lacks additional ports beyond the uplink port (as you know).
Thanks Michael. Would you suggest this 2 alien mesh setup vs. putting a few UniFi In-Wall HD AP’s around the house? Alien seems simpler for sure
It depends on where you want to go with this. You can install the Aliens and be done with it. But if you like to tinker and have the flexibility to expand your networking infrastructure, UniFi is a great way to go. I’m running on UniFi right now, even if it might be a slight overkill :)
So many non-stop popups showing me people I don’t care about that have subscribed that i couldn’t even finish the article. Driving me nuts.
Thanks for letting me know and I apologize for the inconvenience!
That annoying pop-up you are referring to should only show one time when you reach the end of the article, spend for than 60 seconds on the page or when you move your mouse outside of the content window (like when you’re closing the page).
If the pop-up shows more than once, then I assume you have some sort of cookie blocker installed that prevents my plugin from storing a cookie to remember not to show the popup again. Could that be the case? Other than that, I don’t know why you would see it more than once.
As a temporary workaround, try appending ?test=ActiveCampaign to the URL you want to visit. For example, https://michaelkummer.com/tech/amplifi-alien-mesh-kit-review/?test=ActiveCampaign
Let me know if that worked — my plugin looks for that parameter and suppresses any popups if it finds it.