AmpliFi vs. UniFi Review And Comparison

AmpliFi and UniFi are two brands owned by networking specialist Ubiquiti. I’ve used the mesh networking technologies from each brand in my home for several years, and decided to write a detailed AmpliFi vs. UniFi review and comparison.

Both brands offer excellent technology, and determining which one is the better fit for your home or business ultimately boils down to your specific requirements. My goal with this article is to equip you with enough knowledge about each brand and the major differences between them to make an informed buying decision.

How My Network Infrastructure Evolved

Apple AirPort Extreme
I used to have 4 AirPort Extreme base stations.

I used to have several Apple AirPort Extreme base stations to support my network infrastructure. But when Apple decided to exit the router business, I had to look for alternatives.

After doing intensive research and looking at a dozen different options, I decided to go with AmpliFi. Later I switched to UniFi, and I’ll explain the reasons behind that decision in this article.

In a nutshell, AmpliFi is incredibly simple to install and configure, requiring on average five minutes or less. UniFi devices require a little bit of networking expertise — or at least a little bit of tech-savviness — for a successful deployment. In return, they offer great flexibility and expandability. We’ll talk more about all that in a bit, so stay tuned.

The One-Router Problem

Arris BGW210-700 modem and router
Arris BGW210-700 modem and router

We currently live in a 3,300-square-foot ranch-style home with a rectangular layout. As soon as we moved into this house, in February of 2013, I realized that a single wireless router wouldn’t be able to sufficiently cover the entire space.

That’s particularly true because my internet uplink enters the house at a corner, which makes it virtually impossible to position a wireless access point somewhere in the middle of the home.

Initially, we tried the single-router setup. But when constant buffering while streaming movies and TV shows to our Apple TV in the family room became the norm — despite my AT&T fiber-optic internet connection that supports speeds of nearly a gigabit per second — I decided to reevaluate our networking infrastructure.

As a result, I decided to run CAT 5e/6 Ethernet cables from my office — where I’ve placed the ISP modem — through our unfinished attic and into almost every room of the house.

That was long before I discovered AmpliFi’s mesh-networking technology. That’s why I deployed four of the now-obsolete Apple AirPort Extreme base stations and daisy-chained them via Ethernet.

You can read more about how I had set up and configured those base stations in this article.

The advantage of wiring everything via Ethernet was that each AirPort Extreme offered optimal Wi-Fi performance in its respective coverage area.

And since I had joined my AirPort base stations via Ethernet, there was no performance loss when transferring data from one to the other. I had one AE in my office (the master), one in the guest room (behind my office), and another one in our family room (close to the Apple TV).

I kept the fourth base station in our master bedroom, until it broke and I decided not to replace it. When it became apparent that Apple would exit the networking device business, I looked for an alternative and stumbled upon Ubiquity — the company behind AmpliFi and UniFi.

So let’s start with an overview of my previous AmpliFi infrastructure before we take a closer look at UniFi. Then, we’ll dive into how the two brands compare and contrast.

My Requirements

AmpliFi vs UniFi - How to get the best WiFi signal at home
WiFi coverage at my home (diagram via smartdraw.com).

When I decided to get rid of my Apple AirPort Extreme base stations, I thought long and hard about my requirements for the new infrastructure. I eventually settled on the following features and key performance indicators that I wanted my new technology to meet or exceed:

  • No Wi-Fi dead zones anywhere in the house.
  • Excellent Wi-Fi coverage in our family room and my home office.
  • Ability to add additional access points, if necessary.
  • Possibility to connect the most important access points via Ethernet to my main router.
  • Automatic handover of devices to the strongest access point.
  • Speeds in excess of 100/100 Mbps anywhere in the house.

My Original AmpliFi Infrastructure

Positioning of my AmpliFi Routers and MeshPoints
Positioning of my AmpliFi Routers and MeshPoints

Based on the above requirements, I decided to go with the following AmpliFi hardware:

Note that at the time I first implemented AmpliFi, there was only AmpliFi HD and none of the other options that are available now, including AmpliFi Instant, Gamer’s Edition and AmpliFi Alien. Check out the link below for a detailed comparison!

I situated the primary AmpliFi HD router in my office. From there, I had CAT6 Ethernet cables running via the attic to different outlets in my house, where I had plugged in the two additional AmpliFi HD routers. In other words, I had Ethernet backhaul enabled on both of the secondary routers for the best possible performance.

Additionally, I had two wireless MeshPoints positioned in the middle of the house for additional coverage. In reality, the three AmpliFi routers provided sufficient coverage, rendering the two mesh points somewhat unnecessary. But since I owned them, I decided to use them.

The spots where I had positioned two of the AmpliFi routers were pre-determined by the availability of the Ethernet and power outlets in the house. And while those locations weren’t bad, from a coverage perspective, they weren’t perfect either.

But despite the less-than-perfect positioning of my AmpliFi HD routers, I was able to successfully blanket my home in Wi-Fi and everything worked as expected.

Why I Replaced AmpliFi With UniFi

I’m a huge fan of Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi mesh networking technology because it provided almost spotless Wi-Fi coverage throughout my home.

So you may be wondering: if AmpliFi was working so well, why did I decide to replace it with UniFi, Ubiquiti’s business-class product line?

I did not decide to abandon AmpliFi because I was dissatisfied with the technology or its performance! I consider AmpliFi the best mesh networking technology for consumers that’s out there, and I have recommended it to friends and family many times.

The main reasons why I decided to move from AmpliFi to UniFi were because UniFi offers:

  • Greater control over advanced network settings that I can geek out on.
  • Better handover and roaming capabilities, so that devices — such as mobile phones — quickly connect to the access point with the strongest Wi-Fi signal.
  • Access points that I can wall-mount and that don’t require a dedicated power source.
  • Integration with UniFi’s security cameras, which are installed in my home.
  • Better scalability and upgradeability, leading to a higher return on investment.

Additionally, I was trying to remove the Arris BGW210 gateway provided by my ISP (AT&T) from my network because of its technical limitations.

Unfortunately, AT&T does not officially support customers in replacing the Arris modem with third-party routers. I was hoping that I could coerce the UniFi Security Gateway (USG) to bridge between AT&T’s network and my modem, but that didn’t turn out to be feasible because the USG doesn’t support hardware-accelerated bridging.

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Hardware acceleration in bridge mode is a requirement to achieve gigabit speeds.

My UniFi Infrastructure

My original UniFi equipment
My original UniFi equipment

Below is a list of some of the UniFi hardware that I currently have deployed in my home. We’ll be moving to a new house in a few weeks, and I intend to add additional UniFi components as part of that move.

  • 1x UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) — recently replaced my UniFi Security Gateway (USG).
  • 2x UniFi 8-Port Switch (US-8-150W).
  • 1x UniFi Access Point HD (UAP-AC-HD).
  • 2x UniFi Access Points PRO (UAP-AC-PRO-US).
  • 1x UniFi Cloud Key Gen 2 Plus (UCK) — replaced my Gen 1 Cloud Key.

Initially, I had a UniFi Security Gateway (USG) and a Gen 1 UniFi Cloud Key. However, when UniFi introduced UniFi Protect and the UniFi Dream Machine, both devices got replaced by their newer and more performant counterparts.

AmpliFi vs. UniFi Comparison

UniFi vs. AmpliFi comparison chart
UniFi vs. AmpliFi comparison chart

To view a larger version of the comparison chart above, simple click on it. Alternatively, you can request a PDF copy to be sent to your email using the form below.

The rating below is based on my specific needs and requirements — for example, the ability to mount wireless access points on the ceiling and to power them over Ethernet (PoE).

Your requirements might be entirely different, potentially making AmpliFi the better choice for you.

TechnologyMy Rating
Apple Airport Extreme cluster (for reference)★★★☆☆
Amplifi HD Home Wi-Fi System★★★★☆
UniFi Wi-Fi★★★★★

I should also note that both AmpliFi and UniFi have released new hardware since I initially published this review.

AmpliFi released its first WiFi 6 router (the AmpliFi Alien) and UniFi released the Dream Machine (an all-in-one router and access point). The remainder of this article has been updated to reflect the latest hardware from both brands.

I’d also like to point out that I’ve published dedicated reviews of both AmpliFi and UniFi, which each go into more detail on their respective technology than space allows for in this post. Check them out using the links above.

Below is a high-level, side-by-side comparison of AmpliFi and UniFi based on the hardware that both brands offer as of December 2019 (and that are in the price range of the equipment I’ve used).

Note that UniFi offers more expensive, and thus more capable, hardware than I had the opportunity to test. As a result, my comparison focuses on the entry-level and non-rack-mountable UniFi hardware.

I’ve excluded higher-end hardware on purpose because I presume that readers who are trying to decide between AmpliFi and UniFi are unlikely to invest thousands of dollars in networking equipment.

FeatureUniFiAmpliFi
Wi-Fi StandardUp to 802.11ac Wave 2Up to Wi-Fi 6
5 GHz Speed (Per Node)Up to 1.75 GbpsUp to 6.5 Gbps
2.4 GHz Speed (Per Node)Up to 800 MbpsUp to 1.15 Gbps
Switching Performance10+ Gbps4 Gbps
Routing Performance3+ Gbps1 Gbps
Power-over-Ethernet✔︎
Advanced Routing Features✔︎
IPS/IDS (Speed)✔︎ (Up to 1 Gbps)
Deployment ComplexityModerateVery easy
Central Management✔︎
Scalability★★★★★★★★☆☆
Flexible Mounting Options✔︎
Upgradability★★★★★★★★★☆
Concurrent Users Per Node1,500+128
Hardware Acceleration✔︎✔︎

In a nutshell, UniFi offers the following advantages over AmpliFi:

  • A powerful and centralized management console.
  • Better wired network performance.
  • Advanced routing and firewall features, such as intrusion detection (IDS) and intrusion prevention (IPS).
  • Detailed reporting and statistics.
  • Flexible installation, configuration and set-up options.

As a regular consumer, you will likely never need all of those features to achieve excellent WiFi coverage in your home. I consider most of what UniFi offers “nice-to-have,” except for the following “must-have” features — again, based on my individual requirements:

  • Scalability and upgradeability: adding additional access points, or replacing existing access points, is incredibly easy and cost-efficient.
  • Advanced routing features: while my network topology is relatively simple, I appreciate the advanced features UniFi offers. For example, I can stick my IoT devices into a separate VLAN for added security.
  • Power-over-Ethernet: Having dedicated Ethernet connections for each access point not only ensures maximum performance, but it also allows me to mount the UniFi access points anywhere, without having to worry about a dedicated and uninterruptible power supply.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how both technologies compare, let’s take a closer look at the main differences.

Ease of Use

AmpliFi setup screen
AmpliFi setup screen

If you know how to plug in a power and Ethernet cable, and you know what a wireless network is, you can deploy AmpliFi — it’s that simple.

But don’t let that simplicity fool you. AmpliFi comes packed with advanced technology that you can fine-tune and configure using the mobile app.

In contrast, while you don’t need to be a network engineer to deploy UniFi, you may need some understanding of how IP networks function (depending on the hardware you choose). I have a technical background, so I consider UniFi easy to use. Your mileage may vary.

My recommendation: If you’re like my parents or grandparents, and you call your child or grandchildren for help every time your computer “doesn’t work,” I recommend sticking with AmpliFi or making sure you get the help you need to deploy UniFi (just don’t call me). If you’re leaning towards UniFi, but you don’t want to mess around with multiple networking components, the UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) is your best bet to get started.

Wi-Fi Standard

Wi-Fi 6 compared to older technology (Source: Intel)
Wi-Fi 6 compared to older technology (Source: Intel)

As of this writing, Wi-Fi 6 is the latest and greatest wireless standard, and it provides significant improvements over the older 802.11ac Wave 2 (Wi-Fi 5) standard — even aside from the less-confusing naming convention.

Some of those improvements include:

  • 4x better throughput per user in dense or congested environments.
  • Up to 40% higher peak data rates for a single device.
  • Over 4x increased network efficiency.
  • Extended battery life (in client devices).

TechSpot published an excellent article explaining the technical details behind those improvements, so check it out if you’d like to learn more.

For now, it’s important to understand that UniFi doesn’t yet provide support for Wi-Fi 6, while AmpliFi does via its Alien all-in-one device.

While I do have around 50 client devices scattered across my home, I’m nowhere near the limit of what my UniFi infrastructure can handle. What I’m trying to say is, while I’d love to introduce Wi-Fi 6 to my network, I’m not terribly upset that I can’t do so yet.

My recommendation: If you’re deciding between AmpliFi and UniFi for your home or small business, I don’t think Wi-Fi 6 support needs to be a deciding factor. Unless, of course, you’re trying to get away with using a single networking device. In that case, the AmpliFi Alien is likely a better choice than the UniFi Dream Machine.

Wireless and Wired Performance

UniFi offers faster (wired) transfer speeds.
UniFi offers faster (wired) transfer speeds.

When it comes to per-node data throughput, you can find AmpliFi and UniFi on different sides of the spectrum.

UniFi routers and switches easily outperform any AmpliFi hardware on wired connections, but the AmpliFi Alien undoubtedly offers the best wireless performance of any access point in Ubiquiti’s lineup.

For me, either technology offers sufficient wired and wireless performance. In fact, I’m mostly concerned with latency. For example, I don’t want to wait for a webpage to load or a device to respond.

On the other hand, I don’t operate any network-connected file servers in my landscape. All my storage is connected via Thunderbolt — because it’s much faster than Ethernet — or I use cloud storage. In the latter case, my ISP uplink is the limiting factor and not my LAN.

Funnily enough, since installing the UniFi Dream Machine, I’ve been limited to 100/100 Mbps because of a faulty Ethernet cable. If it wasn’t for a screenshot of a speed test I happened to run, I wouldn’t have even noticed.

My recommendation: If raw LAN performance is your primary concern, stick with UniFi. If you need the best-possible wireless performance and you can’t use Ethernet, the AmpliFi Alien is currently your best bet — at least until UniFi releases its first Wi-Fi 6 access point.

Expandability and Upgradeability

UniFi has a modular architecture and is easy to upgrade.
UniFi has a modular architecture and is easy to upgrade.

While you can expand and upgrade an AmpliFi system relatively easily, there are some limitations. When I started with AmpliFi, I initially got an AmpliFi HD kit consisting of one router and two meshpoints.

When I realized that the wireless meshpoints wouldn’t give me the performance I was looking for, I added two more AmpliFi HD routers and connected them via Ethernet backhaul to the main router. That was easy and fairly straightforward, and I was only limited by the location of my power outlets and Ethernet jacks.

The primary issue with AmpliFi is that there are limitations on what devices you can mix and match. For example, if you start your setup with an AmpliFi Alien router, you can only extend that network with more Alien routers or the newly introduced Alien MeshPoint.

In other words, you can’t mix AmpliFi HD with AmpliFi Alien in the same mesh network.

UniFi, on the other hand, offers much more flexibility because it allows you to mix and match any UniFi router, switch and access point. Plus — and this is a biggie for me — you aren’t limited by the availability of power outlets.

Thanks to Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), you can install UniFi access points anywhere you have an Ethernet connection, including the ceiling, walls or a piece of furniture.

That also means that as long as I have my UniFi switches connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), I don’t have to worry about my Wi-Fi shutting down when I temporarily lose power.

My recommendation: If you’re looking for deployment flexibility and want to be able to upgrade individual components over time, UniFi is the way to go.

Advanced Features

UniFi offers advanced features to get the most performance out of your network.
UniFi offers advanced features to get the most performance out of your network.

Over the years, AmpliFi has added a lot of advanced features (such as a VPN server) that used to only be available in business-grade equipment.

While that has certainly closed the gap a bit to what UniFi offers, there is still a major difference between the two technologies.

The scope of this article isn’t big enough to compare every single feature, so I’m picking a limited set of related features to illustrate what UniFi offers over AmpliFi.

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), Intrusion Detection (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention (IPS) are advanced security features that the UniFi Dream Machine can deliver at speeds of up to 1 Gbps, thanks to its powerful hardware.

I value those features because they give me better insight into what’s going on in my network, specifically as I keep adding more devices that act like a blackbox. I’m talking about smart home devices, such as light switches, door locks, etc.

Since I don’t necessarily trust all manufacturers with implementing best-practice network security in their devices, I appreciate that I can isolate them from my main network and use DPI and IDS to understand what they’re doing and to get notified if they’re doing something fishy.

My recommendation: This one is easy. If you know what you’re doing and you need detailed control over advanced networking features, go with UniFi. If you don’t know or don’t care what a VLAN is, stick with AmpliFi.

Central Management

UniFi Controller
UniFi Controller

If your goal is to deploy two or three wireless access points throughout your home or business, you probably don’t need a central management console.

I have seven UniFi devices on my network and I don’t really need a central management dashboard. But I like having it — especially because of the reporting features. It’s cool to see how much traffic I produce and what devices and apps transfer the most data.

Again, it’s not something I couldn’t live without but I appreciate having a visual representation of my network.

My recommendation: If you plan on deploying dozens of access points, switches and routers, you want UniFi and its central management capabilities. If your network won’t need more than a handful of devices, the AmpliFi mobile app is likely more than enough for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does UniFi work with AmpliFi?

That depends on your definition of “work.” You cannot mix and match UniFi and AmpliFi devices to create a mesh network. But you certainly could use a USG and UniFi switch in combination within an AmpliFi Alien.

However, you won’t be able to manage the Alien using the UniFi Controller. So while such a mixed scenario is possible, it’s clunky and has some technical limitations.

Can AmpliFi act as a DHCP server?

Yes, AmpliFi routers can act as both a DHCP client and DHCP server. Needless to say, so can UniFi.

Can I create a mesh network with UniFi?

Yes, you can certainly create a mesh network using UniFi access points. In fact, the handover and roaming capabilities outperform those you can find in AmpliFi.

What’s the best AmpliFi or UniFi Wi-Fi router?

The best AmpliFi Wi-Fi router is the AmpliFi Alien and the best (and only) access point/router combination UniFi offers is the UniFi Dream Machine.

Can both AmpliFi and UniFi create a guest network?

Yes, with AmpliFi you can create one guest network. UniFi offers support for multiple Wi-Fi networks — including guest networks. You’re only limited by the number of networks each access point supports.

Do both AmpliFi and UniFi have a mobile app?

Yes, both brands offer mobile apps but there are differences as far as capabilities are concerned. The AmpliFi app is your main configuration tool because AmpliFi doesn’t have a powerful web interface.

With UniFi, you make all configuration changes using a web interface and the app is simply a reporting and viewing tool that doesn’t allow you to make configuration changes.

Both apps work on iOS and Android devices.

Is a mesh network better than a Wi-Fi extender (or range extender)?

Yes, Wi-Fi or range extenders reduce the performance of your wireless network. Mesh networks don’t have that problem, and are thus superior as far as performance and reliability are concerned.

How does AmpliFi compare to other mesh networking technologies?

Check out my dedicated AmpliFi review for more information about how the technology compares to Eero, Linksys Velop and others.

How does the UniFi Security Gateway compare to Ubiquiti’s EdgeRouter Lite?

Check out my dedicated UniFi review for more information about how UniFi compares to EdgeMax.

Does UniFi offer parental controls?

While you can create your own firewall rules that mimic the parental controls that AmpliFi provides, there are no pre-defined rules or parental controls in UniFi.

AmpliFi vs. UniFi: Conclusion

Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi line of products offers excellent performance and reliability to get spotless WiFi coverage in your home.

But if you’re tech-savvy and enjoy pushing your equipment to its limits, I highly recommend taking a look at Ubiquiti’s reasonably-priced UniFi product line.

UniFi offers business-class performance and flexibility that you usually don’t see in products at that price point. While the configuration of UniFi devices is a bit more involved than that of AmpliFi, it’s not rocket science and you’ll appreciate the additional reporting, analytics, and control it provides.

What’s your take on AmpliFi vs. UniFi? Do you have experience with both? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

67 thoughts on “AmpliFi vs. UniFi Review And Comparison”

  1. Hey Michael,
    thanks for this article, it really helped me to make a decision.
    However, I am still not sure what the Cloud Key is for and whether I need it or not.
    Someone in the comments mentioned that I don‘t need a UniFi Controller or Cloud Key if I use the nanoHD APs, is that true?
    Best regards,
    Duong

    Reply
    • Hi Duong,

      the CK is your management device. You can probably manage each AP directly and without deploying CK. But if you have more than one AP, router or switch, the CK makes managing them a lot easier.

      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply
      • Ah thanks for your quick answer.
        So I guess I won’t need the CK because I only want to deploy two nanoHD access points, one router and one switch in my whole house.
        Best regards,
        Duong

        Reply
  2. I always cringe when people refer to UniFi as enterprise-class equipment. I know that Ubiquiti made that claim, but it’s simply a lie. UniFi is not enterprise-class, and anyone who has ever worked as a network engineer in an enterprise knows that. Only people who have never touched real enterprise-level equipment can call UniFi gear enterprise-class.

    UniFi routers (security gateways) and UniFi switches are not even suitable for a medium-size business. UniFi APs (UAP-AC-HD) May be suitable for medium-size businesses, but by no means are they suitable for large businesses, which is what enterprise-level means.

    Frankly, none of the equipment that Ubiquiti makes is enterprise-level. Maybe some of their long-haul wireless transmitters and antennas can be used in large enterprise, except that large enterprise would not beam their traffic wirelessly but would pay for fiber circuits.

    Ubiquiti Edge router’s/switches are not enterprise-level either.

    Reply
  3. According to the specs, AmpliFi HD Mesh Point has maximum 5Hz rate of 1300 Mbps, not 1.75 Gbps as in your comparison table.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for your articles and comparison, very helpful.

    I’ve used the UniFi network at home for a 2 or 3 years, added to it over time with a USG and CloudKey. I have 5 access points spread over 4 floors and an outbuilding. Originally I used Powerline adaptors to wire the APs back to the router. This was unreliable, the adaptors were slow and the APs sometimes became unadopted. Having run wired connections to 3 of the APs it is much more reliable and I can achieve full speed in speed tests (30 Mbps on a 30 Mbps fibre internet connection).

    I’m not sure I would recommend it to non techy home users, which I guess is where AmpfliFi fits in. I have seen more home users adopt simple self managing mesh networks such as Google Wifi, the attraction being they need know nothing about network, just need to put them in the right place and a massive improvement on WiFi boosters and the like.

    I have some potential projects coming up where I would seriously consider recommending AmpliFi over UniFI – the deciding factor being the level of technical competence and interest of the home owner, I don’t see UniFi as a fit and forget network – or am I wrong?

    Regards,
    Gavin

    Reply
  5. Would it be possible to use the Amplifi HD router and a Unifi LR AP? Most of my needs can be met with the HD, but I do like the long range of the LR AP.

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      I never tried that but it might, technically, work. However, you might still need a CloudKey or PC to run the management software for the UniFi AP. Plus, I don’t think you can combine the WiFi of the AmpliFi and UniFi. You’d have to turn WiFi off on the AmpliFi.

      Overall, it’s probably a bit of a messy setup :)

      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply
  6. So have you found a device that could be a real bridge for the AT&T gigabit network? If supporting hardware-accelerated bridging is the key, i was going to assume a google search would find that.

    Reply
  7. Thanks for this article, I decided that AmpliFi was good enough for my needs and it seems ok so far.

    Could you expand on how you generated the signal strength diagrams? I hear that the UniFi app has a feature for doing that, but how did you measure the strength and coverage on amplifi?

    Reply
  8. Hello, right now I’m trying to decide between the two. My main requirement is can either router block YouTube on a specific device?

    Reply
  9. I would say Amplify is nice for home installations and very small businesses. Unifi gives you control of many more features. If you aren’t a system administrator please use Amplify because Unifi is getting more and more enterprise ready. Unify tries to simplify Enterprise features but there are simply too many features an Enterprise can “dumb down” to. In short Unifi will offer many choices home office users don’t know the answer to. Just my two cents.

    /br Simpleton_NL

    Reply
  10. Michael !! Amazing and trully awesome article ! Thanks for all the info that you bring .. I really appreciate that !

    Reply
  11. Was curious about the AmpliFi app. I’ve installed a UniFi system at my work so I’m comfortable with the setup, we don’t do anything too complex as its strictly for WiFi (no gateway). Now I’m in the market for a system in our new house. The profiles, parental controls, and internet access schedule attract me to the AmpliFi system. Are these features available with the UniFi system/app?

    Reply
    • Hi RD,

      UniFi doesn’t have parental controls – at least not in the same consumer-friendly fashion as AmpliFi does. I suppose you could set up connection limits and blocking via package inspection and firewall rules, but it’s a manual effort. The other option is to add something like a Bitdefender Box, maybe even on a separate SSID to your network. I’ll be publishing a (sponsored) review of Bitdefender Box early next week, if you want to get a general idea of what that thing can do and how I have been using it with UniFi.

      Cheers
      Michael

      Reply
  12. Michael – If I want to extend wifi to a part of the house where I also want to have some ethernet ports, can I deploy a second amplifi router (rather than a meshpoint) to that location? Will this router function equivalently to a meshpoint?

    Reply
  13. Excellent info! We attempted a Cisco Aironet access point in attic with its beam-forming to cover 6k sq ft property, but enterprise setup affected AirPlay and HomePod stereo pair (Bonjour?). Before reading your blog, I was leaning toward Netgear Orbi solution. Could you please guide our Apple household, too? (Plus numerous smart home devices.)

    Reply
    • Hi Eric,

      I haven’t had a chance to review Orbi yet, but it’s on my todo list. However, I’m incredibly satisfied with Unifi and highly recommend it. If that’s too much for you, go with AmpliFi. I don’t know that AmpliFi is much better than Orbi, but based on the specs I don’t see how it could be worse.

      Reply
  14. Hi Michael,

    I have only one AmpliFi in the center of my OneStory house on a TV Table (I´m not using the Satelites as Mesh and it´s covering all my house). I´t working good with my Spectrum 400Mb sine my iphone tests get 250 to 400 all around the house. But I like new tech including MIMO-MU and more clients. Despite of a singe house I have a lot of wifi equipments, including 30 Lifx and other 50 wifi Equipos until now. Do you think that only ONE Unifi AC Pro on Ceiling will do a better job? Thank you

    Reply
    • It comes down to manageability in my opinion, and it’s my belief that the Unifi mgmt apps (the Unifi mobile app is incredible, and you can move to the also excellent controller software as you need to scale) are much better than the Amplifi app. Also, I’d recommend the NanoHD, it is the 2nd most powerful AP in their lineup, and it’s only $180USD which is about the same price as an Amplifi cube, but with many more features (4×4 MU-MIMO for starters). For that price, it’s hard to go wrong, and I cannot speak highly enough about the Unifi mobile app, and the Controller software (which is free, and completely web based, very easy to use as well).

      If you’re looking for manageability, flexibility, scalability, the Unifi hardware is a much better option. If all you need is good coverage without anything else, stick w/ your Amplifi.

      Reply
      • NanoHD is NOT the second most powerful AP in their lineup. It’s the least powerful AP among their 3rd-generation APs. There are UAP-AC-HD, UAP-AC-SHD, and UAP-AC-XG that are much more powerful than the nanoHD.

        Reply
  15. I’m doing this exact same upgrade this weekend, I’ve outgrown my Amplifi equipment (and the speed of the Teleport device is very poor). Looking forward to the update, and I hope it goes as easily as what you’ve outlined here (I also have AT&T gigabit, and the same Arris router…why didn’t MAC spoofing work so that I can get rid of the Arris device?)

    Reply
    • Hi Jayson: I have realized that the security gateway doesn’t support HW-based bridging, which means I wouldn’t get the gigabit speed from my Internet connection. So I dropped the idea of trying to get rid of the Arris modem.

      Reply
      • I’m confused: Did you measure speeds both with the Arris as a “bridge”, and with the USG connected directly via IP Passthrough? In the time since I left this comment, all my equipment arrived and I went through the (very painful) process of getting IP Passthrough configured correctly on the Arris. I have the USG Pro, and my speeds didn’t drop much at all (I do have DPI enabled, so that incurs a slight hit: I have the scheduled speed test enabled on my USG Pro and it looks like I’m averaging about 700mb/s down, and over 900mb/s up. Doing a speedtest directly from a hardwired server yields about 800mb/s both ways. The DPI feature is incredible though so I’m willing to take the hit.

        Reply
        • Hi Jayson!

          Can you share your Arris config please? What I meant was that I dropped the idea of taking the Arris almost entirely out of the equation and only using it for VLAN authentication. That would require to create a software bridge on the USG, which isn’t HW-accelerated and likely won’t get close to the speed you are and I are seeing.

          Reply
    • I’m curious about your Teleport experience – what speeds were you hoping to achieve (or what were use cases)? Put differently, were you pushing limits or encountering speed issues for more basic uses.

      Also, does UniFi have a comparable product or tool to allow the same thing? (I.e., connect through home network via VPN?) Certainly seems like a useful tool for traveling.

      Reply
      • Hi ah,

        The max speeds I got from the teleport on fast external networks was about 6mb/s which is fast enough for basic remote access needs, but not fast enough for what I needed (multiple RDP sessions, lots of file transfers…basically anything heavy on network I/O).

        The Unifi USG Pro supports VPN and is very easy to set up. I have mine authenticating against an external RADIUS server, and even with that extra step, it was *very* easy to configure. The USG Pro has a RADIUS server built into it, so you can use that if you don’t need anything like Active Directory integration, but you do have to use some sort of RADIUS server for auth. Again though, it’s VERY easy to configure, and the speeds are faster than any external wifi network I’ve found. The VPN is L2PT, so it’s very secure as well.

        The Teleport is a better idea for traveling though for one reason: Once it’s configured, you can plug it in anywhere you go (hotels for instance), then you connect it to the wifi wherever you are, and it then acts as a sort of hotspot, so you connect your devices to its wifi. I travel with a lot of devices: iPhone, iPad Pro, laptop, and a FireTV. Since those are preconfigured to connect to the Teleport’s wifi, all I have to do is plug the Teleport in, connect it to the hotel’s wifi, and then my devices will connect to it since the Teleport SSID is already stored. Since devices like the FireTV cannot connect to a VPN, the Teleport allows that to happen so you get an encrypted network instead of crappy non-secure public wifi. Same with your mobile devices, you get an encrypted network (though those can connect to L2PT VPN, so I didn’t lose that by switching to the USG).

        I was a longtime Amplifi user and frequent poster on their forums, and here’s my honest opinion: I don’t think they are going to make it. I won’t get into specifics (and I’m not sharing any NDA info by saying any of this btw), but they have made many promises over the past year or so, and haven’t met them. So I gave up on them and moved to their parent company’s equipment. I could not be happier with my decision, and wish I would have done it sooner.

        Reply
        • Thanks Jayson – I’m curious about your last paragraph (re Amplifi long term). Isn’t Amplifi just a product line/brand of Ubiquiti? In other words, are you just predicting that they’ll discontinue the consumer-oriented Amplifi line of products? (The difference may be more than technical, given ongoing support, etc.)

          Reply
          • Amplifi is the consumer brand for UBNT, yes. And that’s merely my prediction given what I’ve seen over on the forums for the past year or so since I’ve been a member. There are more feature rich consumer mesh systems on the market, and I feel like Amplifi (the system) isn’t doing a great job keeping up. The forums are rife with complaints about bugs that haven’t been fixed, and there haven’t been many features-adds in a while. They barely even support /k and /r options (fast roaming basically).

            I feel it’s a marketing fail on their part, b/c they are unique in that they have what should be the full Ubiquiti portfolio of products and engineers upon which to build, yet they don’t even seem to have some of the basics nailed down. That being said, I am a power user, so my demands are always going to be a bit more than the average user.

            For the price, you can build out a great Unifi system for about the same as an Amplifi system, and the Unifi web app is far superior to the Amplifi app. Even just a single NanoHD at $180 is a much product than the Amplifi cubes. If Amplifi could even just take some of the Unifi equipment and rebrand it, and add some consumer “flair” to the Unifi mobile app, they’d already have a better product than the Amplifi cubes. That’s just my humble opionion of course, but if you go poke around the Amplifi forums, you’ll see a lot of complaints, minimal communication from the Amplifi team, which just doesn’t cut it in an already crowded market with much more recognizable names in the consumer mesh market (eero, google, and now Linksys as well).

  16. Was your “maximum of 600 Mbps in NAT mode” over Wifi or LAN for the Amplifi? In my setup, I can consistently achieve 960Mbps over LAN and around 640Mbps over Wifi from each AP. I did find that the built-in software-routing inside the amplifi is slower than using an external gigabit switch. My formation is 4 Amplifi HD’s, all wired to an unmanaged gigabit switch. There are two ways to configure the Amplifi’s: through the app, and over the LAN in a web browser. Through the LAN page there are more options, which I have enabled: Hardware NAT, Bypass DNS Cache, 802.11k, BSS transition management, and A-MDSU. Did you enable these for your tests?

    Aside, I’ve given up on using public internet speedtest pages… instead I have a 50GB file sitting in Google Drive which I download from a web browser and it seems to saturate my fiber downlink.

    Reply
    • Hi Josh,

      That was a wired test. But in all fairness, it’s been a couple of months since I moved from AmpliFi to UniFi and features like HW NAT might not have been available then.

      Cheers
      Michael

      Reply
      • Thanks for the great write up, it was really informative for someone just starting to head the Unifi direction. Now that it’s been a few months, have you had any issues with the features mentioned above (e.g. NAT, DNS cache, etc) on any android devices? Reason I ask is the consumer garbage I’m currently using is wreaking havoc with google homes/minis, my pixel 2 and home assistant. I’m just limping along until I replace everything…. Has it been all good for you since installing? Thanks again!

        Reply
        • Hi Nick!

          I haven’t had any issues at all with UniFi but we don’t own any Android devices. We are pretty much an all Apple household but we also have a ton of IoT devices (cameras, light switches…) and haven’t had issues with any.

          Cheers
          Michael

          Reply
    • Unifi has a new speed test web page: speed.ui.com, and they also have a new speed app for mobile devices. They seem to be much more consistent with tests I do like the one you described with a large file :-). Speedtest is garbage, though their Windows app is fairly reliable for me.

      Reply
  17. Hi Michael,

    very interesting article, thank you!

    Are you using the USG setup together with CUJO? If so, how are you doing it?

    Thanks
    Lorenzo

    Reply
  18. I’m reading this and it’s very helpful in making purchase choices, but the nanoHD wasn’t mentioned (maybe it didn’t exist at time of writing?). It is 1.73Gbs, same price as pro more or less but has MU-MIMO
    Ubiquiti UniFi nanoHD Compact 802.11ac Wave2 MU-MIMO

    Reply
      • I have a nanoHD, and it’s a very impressive device…for the $180USD I don’t think it can be beat for the amount of features it offers (it’s on par with the Unifi HD which costs much more). I’m recommending this device to anyone who is considering mesh systems since it can be deployed sans the Unifi Controller software as a standalone device.

        Reply
  19. This was a very good article. It may also be worth mentioning that for a home user that may not need the SFP ports and can live with only (4) POE ports, the Ubiquity US-8-60W 8 port switch is another good option at about half the price of the 8 port US-8-150W.

    I’d really like to know what drawing tool you used to prepare the network topology drawing in your article. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Is a Ubiquity switch necessary if you don’t need PoE (or decide not to opt for it)? Already have a gigabit switch, so would prefer not to add another unless there’s a reason.

      Reply
      • ah,

        Nope, it just ties in very nicely if you are running the Controller software since that negates any need to do SSH commands, it’s fully managed by the Controller software. I think they are great bargains for the money though, I have the 16 port 150w driving 4 of the 8 port passive PoE switches, keeps it nice and clean since I don’t have to waste a plug socket on them.

        Reply
  20. hey,

    i’ll just leave some links in case it’s helpful. this is regarding at&t uverse authentication and bypassing the crappy at&t router (RG).

    this has a good overview of the situation but doesn’t present my favorite solution of the ones i’ve seen:
    http://blog.0xpebbles.org/Bypassing-At-t-U-verse-hardware-NAT-table-limits

    here is something of a megathread if you have infinite time on your hands:
    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r29903721-AT-T-Residential-Gateway-Bypass-True-bridge-mode

    imo the preferred solution for now is to just proxy the auth packets (EAP over LAN / 802.1X) and not have any of your real traffic go through the crappy RG.
    here is probably the best EAP proxy script:
    https://github.com/jaysoffian/eap_proxy

    this gets right to the point and walks you through setting it up on the USG:
    https://blog.taylorsmith.xyz/att-uverse-modem-bypass-unifi-usg/

    here is a derivative post that might have some hints if you’re stuck on something:
    http://www.jeffsloyer.io/post/att-uverse-modem-bypass-unifi-usg/

    and here is a thread discussing more of the same. it’s worth reading because they go over how the USG manual configuration presented in the taylorsmith post can be simplified because most of the necessary options are now exposed in the unifi controller GUI in newer versions (like 5.8.x stable), so your manual config file (config.gateway.json) doesn’t need to have much in it. it’s considered best practice to use the GUI as much as possible to prevent config clashes. also, they talk about IPv6 troubleshooting.
    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r31900599-ATT-TrueBridge-Mode-for-for-Ubiquity-Security-Gateway-USG

    good luck

    Reply
  21. nice article.

    i just got uverse gigabit today, and i have some unifi gear on the way.

    i also have an arris modem (bgw210). i know you said you’re working on a followup article, but in the mean time, i was wondering if you could please share some brief details about your arris/USG config (mac spoofing etc).

    thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Rick,

      I have just turned off all features on the Arris modem that I could turn off and get it as close to “a bridge” as possible. The USG is my primary router but it doesn’t have my public IP on the WAN interface (the Arris has). Beyond that, it does DHCP and the routing for all the devices connected to it. I can send you a dump of my USG config is you like, but you’d have to decipher the text and manually convert it into your config using the web interface.

      Reply
  22. Great article. Currently running an Eero mesh network in my 3400 sq foot home. Building a new home and considering changing to Unifi. My networking knowledge only extends so far – would you say that Unifi will cause many challenges for someone new to this level of networking? Any other helpful guides out there that you would recommend?

    Reply
    • Hi Lucas!

      While the initial setup of UniFi is a bit more involved, I think you should be alright if you have the patience to read the documentation or ask their support for help. Their online knowledge base is also pretty good and covers many different use cases.

      Reply
  23. Thank you for writing such an informative article. I just added a 2nd UAP in my house, although I had whole house coverage, I wanted a little stronger wifi and it gives me a back up should one of my UAPs were to fail completely. I also have read about the Amplifi system and liked it and the wife (Wife Factor) loved it because it was attractive and pretty much invisible to the eye. My wife liked that fact that the router was small and attractive. I also have AT&T, so the information that you revealed on their modems is very helpful. I’m looking forward to reading your next article.

    Reply
  24. Greetings,

    I found your article while researching the AmpliFi system for use with my AT&T Arris BGW210. I am happy I found it and will be purchasing the same setup UniFi setup as you have with the intent of maxing out the fiber connection in a home which is new to me.
    Currently I am only using the Arris for WiFi. In setting up the UniFi to work with the Arris, is it recommended to turn off the Arris WiFi permanently?
    Are there any issues with settings on either the Arris or UniFi as a result of a power outage?
    I appreciate your help. Thank you for a very detail article.

    Reply
    • Hi Beaver,

      They are not really comparable. The USG is a classic firewall and you can create rules to control traffic. CUJO is much more hands-off – it does its thing based on CUJO’s predefined rules that change daily based on global threat vectors. I’ll update the article with a more in-depth comparison shortly.

      Reply
  25. It’s definitely wife factor a significant deciding factor. Nice article Michael. Commercial class wifi set-up!

    Reply
    • Great article.

      Question… how would UniFi long range AP’s work with AmpliFi HD router? What would be the best way to link the system together?

      Thanks.

      Reply
      • Hi Travis,

        I’ve never tried that. But I would configure the UniFi AP using a Cloud Key / UniFi Controller and then simply let the AmpliFi router be the DHCP server. You won’t be able to mesh the Wi-Fi from both the AmpliFi and the UniFi, you’d end up with two SSIDs.

        Cheers,
        Michael

        Reply

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