06/06/2020

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AmpliFi Alien review: This Wi-Fi 6 mesh router is futuristic, but not future-proof

The AmpliFi Alien is 1 of various spiffy new routers that support Wi-Fi 6 — the latest, swiftest model of Wi-Fi. Available as a standalone router for $379, or bundled with a high-run selection extender in a two-piece mesh set up for $seven-hundred, it’s 1 of various pricey tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers that exist in a quality tier over most anything else on the market. Even so, the high-run specs could have you remarkably tempted to make the splurge (at least, it could after it’s available — Ubiquiti now lists the Alien as out of stock, but tells CNET it expects to have additional available for buy quickly).

Like

  • Rapidly major speeds by mesh criteria
  • One of a kind, futuristic style and design
  • Uncomplicated, app-dependent set up and controls
  • Teleport feature allows you route your world-wide-web visitors as a result of your house network when touring

Never Like

  • No multigig WAN port
  • 2nd 5GHz band only supports Wi-Fi 5
  • Touchscreen on the router is overkill

Positive, the Netgear Orbi 6 and the Linksys Velop MX10 — two other $seven-hundred tri-band mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 6 — had been just about every a bit more quickly when I examined them out at my house, but the Alien wasn’t far guiding. In actuality, it in fact concluded initial in our lab-dependent major speed assessments. On major of that, it has a few of extra tricks up its sleeve that that could assistance you really feel like you’re receiving your money’s truly worth.

Together with a spacey style and design that involves a cylindrical make, a touchscreen interface and a ring of LED indicator lights all around the base, the Alien router functions a special trick named AmpliFi Teleport that allows you route your world-wide-web visitors as a result of your house network from any where in the earth. And, contrary to a great deal of VPN services, it’s the two a cinch to use and wholly absolutely free. That’s a useful layer of stability if you’re connecting to a community Wi-Fi network, and helpful if you want to stream your area channels from a digital Tv set assistance when you’re touring. Other routers competing with the Alien do not give everything pretty like it.

But the Alien’s lacking a handful of factors, much too. For starters, it isn’t going to include a multigig Ethernet jack capable of accepting incoming wired speeds any more quickly than 1Gbps. On major of that, 1 of its two 5GHz bands only supports Wi-Fi 5, which undercuts some of the tri-band appeal. Those people are the two high-conclusion quibbles, but reputable types at this price tag.

Nevertheless, the Alien will get plenty of ideal that breaking the bank on it isn’t going to feel like this sort of an out-of-this-earth concept. I like it very best as a standalone router, and would instead go with Netgear Orbi 6 if I had been looking to devote big on a really major-of-the-line mesh set up. And retain in mind that a amount of new, considerably less pricey mesh systems that support Wi-Fi 6 are set to strike merchants in the coming months. But if you want a fancy, feature-wealthy router with plenty of horsepower and support for Wi-Fi 6, the Alien suits the monthly bill.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Unique style and design, straightforward set up

The AmpliFi Alien and its accompanying mesh place are just about every stout black cylinders with rings of yellowy environmentally friendly light-weight all around the base. You’d be forgiven for mistaking both of them for a clever speaker, but contrary to the Nest Wifi and Netgear Orbi Voice, which just about every feature developed-in voice assistants, the Alien is just a router.

Nevertheless, the hardware appears great, and I value that the vertical style and design sits the array of antennas at the major of just about every device, wherever they’re going to accomplish their very best (larger is often far better when it arrives to antenna placement). You’ll barely use the router’s Lcd touchscreen, but it’s however wonderful to be able to see the time at a glance, as nicely as the occasional reminder to obtain the most recent firmware update when 1 is ready to go. 

Together with the WAN port on the bottom of the router, you are going to come across 4 spare gigabit Ethernet ports on the back.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

And do not get worried —  if you’d want additional subtlety from your router, you can dim the LEDs and the touchscreen or convert them off entirely. A Evening Manner feature can also mechanically dim them down to your preferred environment through evening hours.

I’m also content to see a growing amount of routers featuring a simplified set up knowledge, and the Alien is no exception. Just plug it in, hook up it to your modem with an Ethernet cable, hook up to its network, and open the AmpliFi app on your Android or iOS device (and if you’d want it, there is certainly a world-wide-web interface, much too). You’ll give your network a title and a password and be up and running inside minutes. Adding the mesh place is just as straightforward, comprehensive with a sign strength indicator in the app (and on the device itself) to assistance make absolutely sure you’ve picked a great place for it.

You’ll come across plenty of manage in excess of how your network operates in the AmpliFi app, as nicely as the choice of producing a code that allows you route your world-wide-web visitors back to your house network when you’re touring.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Versatile connections

Just before I get to the speed exam details, a handful of words and phrases about Ubiquiti’s method here. By default, the AmpliFi Alien combines its 3 bands — a two.four and 5GHz band that just about every support Wi-Fi 6, and a next 5GHz band that supports Wi-Fi 5 — into a one network, but you can break up any of those people bands off as a individual network with its have SSID as you so pick. That provides you some wonderful manage in excess of how you use the Alien in your house, but the absence of two unique Wi-Fi 6 bands means that your selections all appear with compromises. 

For occasion, the process is intended to send its backhaul transmissions concerning the router and satellite on the more quickly, Wi-Fi 6 5GHz band. If you give that band its have special SSID, then hook up your network products to the SSID encompassing the other two bands, you are going to have a committed Wi-Fi 6 backhaul that retains the system’s relay transmissions individual from your typical network visitors. The rub is that you will never have access to Wi-Fi 6 on the 5GHz band.

One more choice would be to individual out the 5GHz band that supports Wi-Fi 5 and use it as a committed network for gaming, or for clever house gizmos. Of class, then your products will have to share the 5GHz band that supports Wi-Fi 6 with the backhaul, which will retain you from hitting the router’s major speeds.

Compromises aside, that degree of adaptability is wonderful to have, and the app will make it straightforward to customise factors as you see healthy. I also value that the app involves a prioritization motor that allows you mark particular network products for gaming or streaming.

The high-quality print on AmpliFi’s Teleport VPN will make it crystal clear that some usage details is gathered.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The other feature of observe is the aforementioned AmpliFi Teleport VPN assistance. To use it, you are going to want to log into the AmpliFi app with an Ubiquiti account, or with your Fb or Google account. You’ll request a five-digit code and specify how extended you want access to your house network, then you are going to open the individual Teleport app on the iOS, Android, or Android Tv set device that youre seeking to hook up. Enter the code, and AmpliFi will use Wireguard to encrypt that device’s visitors and route it as a result of the cloud back house to your Alien. All of that is fully absolutely free.

I ran that pitch by Rae Hodge, an authority on VPNs here at CNET. She did not like the concept of connecting by means of your Fb or Google account provided that Teleport tracks sure bits of usage details, which is a fair place of thought. AmpliFi suggests that it isn’t going to gather the written content of any communications sent by means of Teleport, which gives me some reassurance, but I agree with Rae that other committed VPNs like Nord and Convey that do not gather usage details at all are almost certainly the far better alternative for any one who designs to make common use of the feature.

The other evident limitation with Teleport is that there is just not a world-wide-web interface for it that’ll enable you teleport your laptop computer. I wouldn’t be amazed if AmpliFi variations that at some place, but for now, the feature is reserved for telephones, tablets, and Android Tv set products.

Among the mesh routers, the AmpliFi Alien strike the swiftest speeds our lab has at any time viewed.


Ry Crist/CNET

Let’s talk speed assessments

AmpliFi pegs the major theoretical speeds of the Alien’s 3 bands at 1,148Mbps on the Wi-Fi 6 two.4GHz band, four,800Mbps on the Wi-Fi 6 5GHz band, and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band that only supports Wi-Fi 5. The process works by using device steering to mechanically route the visitors from older, Wi-Fi 5 products to the Wi-Fi 5 band, and newer, Wi-Fi 6 products like the Apple iphone eleven or Samsung Galaxy S10 to the bands that support those people more quickly speeds.

Theoretical, company-detailed speeds like those people use managed, lab-dependent assessments to paint the item in the most flattering light-weight feasible. In our have lab, wherever we wire just about every router we exam to a area server, then hook up a Wi-Fi 6-equipped laptop computer to its network and measure the obtain speeds, the figures are a great deal lessen.

In the Alien’s circumstance, we observed an typical obtain speed of 890Mbps when connecting from a distance of 5 ft. That amount only fell to 722Mbps when we examined again from a distance of seventy five ft. Both equally of those people are larger than any other mesh router we have examined, but observe that we have viewed standalone Wi-Fi 6 routers like the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000 go as quickly as 1,500Mbps in that exam. The Alien is just not running at that degree — and with no multigig WAN port on the router, your speeds from an incoming wired connection will often be capped at 1Gbps (1,000Mbps).

The Alien wasn’t as quickly or as amazing as the Netgear Orbi 6 when I examined it in my house, wherever speeds are capped at 300Mbps.


Ry Crist/CNET

Genuine-earth speeds, much too

Lab-dependent major-speed assessments are all nicely and great, but we make absolutely sure to just take a great search at how these factors accomplish in a standard house natural environment, much too. So, I lugged the Alien house with me for a weekend and ran an abundance of speed assessments at a variety of distances during my smallish, 1,three hundred-square-foot house in Louisville, Kentucky, wherever I have an incoming fiber web connection of 300Mbps. I operate a dwell movie stream through these assessments to simulate standard usage — remember, the concept here is just not to see how quickly these routers can quite possibly go, but instead, how nicely they accomplish in a real looking usage scenario.

In the conclusion, I observed typical speeds of 228Mbps during the spot, which is far better than Nest Wifi, Eero and most of the other Wi-Fi 5 routers I have examined, mesh or usually. It wasn’t as quickly as the other Wi-Fi 6 mesh setups, I have examined, while — the Linksys Velop MX10, the Arris Surfboard Max Professional and the Asus RT-AX92U had been just about every able to inch it out, when the Netgear Orbi 6 left it in the dust with an in general typical during my house of 289Mbps.

Though it carried out nicely at selection, the AmpliFi Alien’s sign strength wasn’t as amazing as Netgear Orbi 6. That process would be a far better alternative for particularly substantial houses that demand lots of coverage.


Steve Conaway/CNET

On the in addition side, the system’s mesh place did a excellent career of extending the network’s selection. Speeds in my back bathroom, the farthest place from the router, had been only about 17% slower than my speeds in the same home as the router. That’s significantly far better than you are going to get with a Wi-Fi 5 set up, wherever speeds are inclined to slide by at least 40% in the same exam. 

That explained, observe that my speeds only fell by four% with Netgear Orbi 6, which dedicates an total Wi-Fi 6 band to the sole function of transmitting details concerning the router and its satellite. If you wanted, you could individual out the Alien’s Wi-Fi 6 5GHz band as a committed backhaul, much too, which would most likely internet you equally sturdy outcomes — but again, you’d be left with a 5GHz band for your network products that only supports Wi-Fi 5 speeds. No this sort of limitation with Orbi 6, as the two of the 5GHz bands support Wi-Fi 6.

Our last effectiveness exam steps sign strength in the 5,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home. With the router and its extender running on the primary floor, we use NetSpot application to measure how sturdy the sign is across the total place — the two the primary floor and the basement down below. The more powerful the sign strength, the more quickly you are going to be able to hook up.

We use that details to create sign strength heat maps, wherever blue is negative, environmentally friendly is great, yellow is excellent and orange is stupendous. As you can see, the Alien did an adequate career of blanketing the place in Wi-Fi, but it was a very little underwhelming when in contrast with the Netgear Orbi 6. That continues to be our major-examined mesh process in general.


Chris Monroe/CNET

The verdict

You unquestionably do not want to devote $seven-hundred in order to update to a mesh router that supports Wi-Fi 6, but you’ve received a few of selections in that quality, tri-band tier that are fairly compelling. Strongest between them is the Netgear Orbi 6 — but the AmpliFi Alien is just not much too far guiding it. It is really quickly, it’s straightforward to set up and use, and it gives a great blend of functions that give you lots of adaptability from your network.

I just wish the process was additional foreseeable future-proofed. We observed the change a committed Wi-Fi 6 backhaul can make when we examined Orbi 6, but you can’t go that route with the Alien without the need of using the Wi-Fi 6 5GHz band away from the products on your network. On major of that, the Alien caps your incoming speeds at a one gig, when the Orbi 6 provides in a multigig Ethernet jack that supports incoming speeds of up to two.5Gbps (two,500Mbps). It is really the far better high-conclusion splurge here — but the very best perform is to wait and see how the considerably less pricey Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems coming out this calendar year stack up in advance of getting everything.