Unifi dream machine best buy

Unifi dream machine best buy DEFAULT

How we picked

Why you should trust us

Before joining Wirecutter, Joel Santo Domingo tested and wrote about PCs, networking, and personal tech at PCMag.com, PC Magazine, Lifewire, and HotHardware for more than 17 years. Prior to writing for a living, Joel was an IT tech and system administrator for small, medium-size, and large companies.

Metaphorically, Joel has been a wire cutter for over two decades: Testing wireless home networking has been a part of his life for the past 20-plus years through all versions of Wi-Fi, back to the wireless phone extension he tacked onto the back of his Apple PowerBook. He did that so he could connect to the internet from his desk, his couch, and his bed seamlessly (a rarity for the time).

Who this is for

If you’re happy with your Wi-Fi, you don’t need a new router—it’s as simple as that. If you’re having problems with range, speed, or reliability, though, and your router is more than a couple of years old, it might be time for an upgrade. An older router that doesn’t support Wi-Fi 5 (also known as 802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and drops connections constantly, needs frequent reboots, or is slow even when you’re in the next room can hold you back significantly.

This guide covers standalone Wi-Fi routers. Our top picks will easily outperform most routers more than a few years old and are likely to save you money if you’re currently renting a basic router from your internet service provider. These routers are a good fit for apartments or small to medium-size houses with three or four people on the network. If you have more people or a large house—more than 2,300 square feet or more than one floor—you should probably look at our mesh-networking guide instead. A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve considered adding a wireless extender or an extra access point to an otherwise satisfactory router, get a mesh system instead.

If you’re happy with your Wi-Fi, you don’t need a new router—it’s as simple as that.

What you shouldn’t do is blindly buy either the cheapest router or the most expensive router you can find. Quality doesn’t necessarily scale with price, and a router with a bigger number on it or a plethora of antennas may not actually solve your Wi-Fi problems.

How we picked

We researched dual- and tri-band routers from each of the major router manufacturers, including Asus, D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, and TP-Link. We also looked for routers from less well-known manufacturers with strong reviews from tech experts or potentially interesting features that set them apart.

We drew our eight criteria below from research, as well as extensive testing. Instead of testing for the maximum throughput from a single laptop, we used four laptops, spaced around 2,300 square feet of a two-story suburban home, to simulate the real-world activity of a busy home network. We tested for speedy throughput (streaming simulated 4K video and file downloads), long range (downloading a huge file), and short latency (simulating two simultaneous browsing sessions). We repeated each test set six times and averaged the results to smooth out spikes. See the How we tested section below for more details on our testing method and results.

  • Current-generation technology: Since we’re looking to improve your Wi-Fi, we considered only dual- or tri-band routers that support the more recent Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 standards. The cheapest routers—which cost as little as $20 or $30—use a single band, or frequency, of the Wi-Fi standard that came out in 2009 (802.11n, rarely referred to as Wi-Fi 4). Any phone or laptop you buy today or may have bought in the past few years uses the new standards, and having more than one band makes it easier for your router to manage traffic around any slower, Wi-Fi 4 devices on your network.
  • Good speed test results: Speed claims on the box don’t mean much in the real world. In our tests, network speed, or throughput, varies from “this YouTube video will never finish loading” to “you can download a video game in an instant.” Generally, we looked for the routers that performed above average, and we dismissed the slower routers.
  • Good range test results: You should be able to connect to a well-placed router from anywhere in an apartment or a small house. We tested each router from up close and from far away to confirm whether it will allow you, for example, to stream high-quality videos on the far side of your living space.
  • Low latency test results: Slow internet sucks, and latency—or lag—is the time you have to spend waiting for the next thing to happen. A great router minimizes that wait even if the network is busy serving other devices.
  • At least four Ethernet ports: A free Ethernet port gives devices such as TVs, streaming boxes, and gaming consoles the benefit of unfettered access to the internet bandwidth you’re paying for. We looked for routers with at least four ports, an arrangement that also lets you connect to any Ethernet or powerline extenders you have in your home.
  • A fast processor and RAM: A router with a speedy multi-core processor and extra RAM can handle more connected devices and offer improved performance. No matter how good the radios that broadcast the Wi-Fi are, the slow single-core processors found in most cheap routers can still drag things down. Not all manufacturers publish these details, but we do consider the standout hardware when deciding what to test.
  • Nice-to-have extras: Fast, reliable Wi-Fi is what matters the most, but more expensive routers add features that bring other benefits, too. The things we like to see that justify spending more for a router include link aggregation, built-in security utilities, extra Ethernet and USB ports, VPN connections, and parental filtering.
  • Price: You can buy a router for $20, and you can buy one for $500. But we don’t consider the cheapest or the fastest to be the best. When considering both features and our test results, we looked for “the best for the most for the least.” Right now, paying around $150 buys you excellent performance and features that offer real benefits. Spending twice as much buys small improvements for few people, and spending only half as much would mean, for most people, giving up a lot.

In addition, we consulted customer reviews on Amazon and Newegg, plus professional router reviews and performance rankings from CNET, Dong Knows Tech, PCMag, PCWorld, SmallNetBuilder, and Trusted Reviews, to generate our list of contenders. After identifying every model that met all of our criteria, we thoroughly tested the most promising routers ourselves.

Our pick: TP-Link Archer AX50

The TP-Link Archer AX50, our pick for best Wi-Fi router, with four antennas raised and a yellow cable running from the back.

Our pick

TP-Link Archer AX50

TP-Link Archer AX50

The best Wi-Fi router

In our tests the TP-Link Archer AX50 created a speedy, responsive network even from across a medium house. You have to spend a lot more on a router—or a mesh kit if you have a very large home—to get anything even a little better. It’s our first WI-Fi 6 (802.11ax) router pick.

The TP-Link Archer AX50 is capable of serving speedy, reliable Wi-Fi to the growing number of wireless devices in most homes. It wasn’t the fastest Wi-Fi 6 router we tested, but it did come close, and it’s much less expensive than routers that add limited benefits. It has the features we’re looking for, such as Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, great throughput, good range, quick responsiveness (aka low latency), four Ethernet ports, embedded security software, and an easy-to-set-up interface. Unless you have a large home better suited to mesh networking, the AX50 is a good choice, as it can provide a better network than what you get from routers more than a couple of years old or many networking kits rented from an internet provider.

The latest and greatest in technology isn’t always worth paying for, but the new Wi-Fi 6 standard (also known as 802.11ax) included in routers like the AX50 will make a noticeable difference in how most home networks perform. And this model is not that much more expensive than some Wi-Fi 5 routers even though it should feel faster, longer. The biggest improvements in Wi-Fi 6 concern how routers handle simultaneous connections to multiple devices—an increasingly common cause of wireless problems in busy households. Older routers simply switched back and forth between devices, albeit at an imperceptible rate; one “slow” device on an older router, and the whole thing would grind to a halt. But technologies such as OFDMA and MU-MIMO—which we discuss in a separate section below—make it possible for the AX50 and similar routers to keep more speedy connections active even with slower devices in the mix.

Close up view of the status lights on the front of the TP-Link Archer AX50, our pick for best Wi-Fi router.

Across multiple test scenarios, the AX50 was consistently one of the fastest routers we tried. At short range, the advantage of Wi-Fi 6 was less pronounced, as the AX50 roughly tied with a handful of other routers in speed at a little over 500 Mbps. But the only routers that were notably faster are also notably more expensive: Our upgrade pick, the Asus RT-AX88U, was more than 20% faster but typically costs as much as double the price.

A chart comparing the large-file throughputs of various routers at long range.

At long range, the AX50 performed better than most of the competition, aside from a few of our upgrade alternates. The Archer AX90 is a top-of-the-line router that costs twice what our pick costs, and even then it delivered speeds that were only 50% faster than the AX50. The UniFi Dream Machine—from the highly regarded networking company Ubiquiti—and the Synology RT2600ac were in the same ballpark as the AX50, showing that good radios and reception are more important than whether a router has the “latest tech.” And at long range, the benefits of better Wi-Fi radios were more clear: While the AX50 averaged 140 Mbps, the less powerful Archer A20 and Archer A7 were as slow as 39 and 24 Mbps, respectively.

A chart comparing the latencies of different routers.

Raw speed in the form of throughput, in megabits per second (Mbps), isn’t the only thing that matters, and our latency test showed how routers handled the added stress of multiple devices accessing the network at the same time. Many networks are prone to lag and delays while you wait for sites to even start loading. Judging by the Archer AX50’s results in our latency test, we can say it won’t keep you waiting, even while multiple members of your family are using the Wi-Fi at the same time. In this test the Archer AX50 finished fifth behind the Asus RT-AX88U and TP-Link Archer AX90, even though the AX50 is considerably cheaper.

View of the blue and orange ports on the back of the TP-Link Archer AX50, our pick for best Wi-Fi router.

Like most of the routers we tested, the AX50 has five Ethernet ports: a WAN internet port for connecting your cable modem or fiber terminal, as well as four network ports for wired devices. That’s enough to keep your most demanding gear—streaming boxes, TVs, and game consoles—hardwired if you keep your router near your entertainment center. If you use a network-attached storage (NAS) server, you can link two of the router’s ports together to improve bandwidth and speed; this feature, called link aggregation, helps the NAS stream more data to the network. Link aggregation used to be restricted to more expensive routers, so its presence in the AX50 is a huge bit of future-proofing if you think you might upgrade to network-based storage later on.

If you find a NAS too intimidating or expensive but you want to take advantage of network-based storage anyway, the AX50 also has a USB 3.0 port for connecting a shared portable hard drive or SSD. This setup can’t replace a full-featured NAS, but it could help you back up your laptops regularly in the background. In contrast, less expensive routers are limited to much slower data transfers over USB 2.0 (the Archer AX20, for example) or lack USB connectivity entirely (the D-Link DIR-X1560, for instance).

One reason a router like the AX50 performs better than other routers making similar claims relates to the processor and memory inside. Just as in a laptop, the processor and memory inside a router affect its overall performance. A dual-core Intel processor and 256 MB of RAM power the AX50, and we found that those components were sufficient to keep four laptops and devices chugging along successfully in our performance tests. In contrast, the budget-oriented TP-Link Archer A7 makes do with a single-core processor and 128 MB of RAM. More cores aren’t a guarantee of success, however: The Archer AX20, for example, has a quad-core processor, yet it performed a bit worse than the AX50.

All routers walk you through initial setup, but TP-Link’s administration page for the AX50 resides in the Goldilocks zone—it’s neither too simple nor too complicated. Compared with TP-Link’s router setup, D-Link’s setup tends to be on the limited side, while Asus’s and Synology’s screens have multiple settings that appeal to tinkerers and similar geeks. Overall setup with TP-Link, either through the Tether smartphone app or the administration website, is quick. Note that you’ll have to sign up for a TP-Link cloud account if you want to use Tether.

Parental controls, security, and performance are relatively easy to configure in the Tether smartphone app. Among the parental controls, it offers basics such as time limits, content filtering, and bedtime settings. But don’t think these features are a replacement for talking with your kids: Toddlers and preschoolers are relatively complacent, but no one has more time, drive, or incentive to circumvent parental controls than a bored teenager. If you want to prioritize functions like streaming over gaming or vice versa, QoS (quality of service) settings are also included and easy to adjust.

As far as security goes, the AX50 comes with TP-Link’s HomeCare by Trend Micro, which includes a basic malware filter (blocking access to known phishing, spam, and scam sites), intrusion prevention (firewall), and infected-device quarantine. One notable feature is that it keeps a historical log noting when it has blocked malware sites; you can monitor this log and use it to warn family members that the bad sites they’re visiting are trying to phish them, for example. HomeCare is included, so there’s no subscription to pay for, as with some mesh-networking kits.

The Archer AX50 is priced squarely in what we consider the sweet spot. It performed better on our tests than our previous pick, the Wi-Fi 5 TP-Link Archer A20, even though it lacks the A20’s third Wi-Fi band. We don’t think $150 or so is a particularly steep price to pay for this router given that it uses the latest standards and had such consistent performance in our tests. Saving a substantial amount of money by choosing a cheaper model means making a noticeable sacrifice in performance. And folks who need more capabilities have to spend a lot to get just a small jump in performance.

TP-Link routers come with a two-year warranty, which is on a par with the coverage period for our other picks. The D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, and Ubiquiti routers have one-year warranties.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Archer AX50, like the Archer AX20, uses TP-Link’s updated design. If you were to place the two side by side, you’d have to flip them over to read their labels, or notice the AX50’s Intel logo, to tell the difference. This router’s plastic body is a little shiny and kind of cheap feeling next to that of the Archer A20 or Asus’s routers, but you’re probably not going to be handling your router after you install it. The AX50 has four non-removable antennas connected to the back panel, but they are articulated and adjustable.

TP-Link’s OneMesh compatibility page suggests that our runner-up choice, the Archer AX20, will in the future have OneMesh compatibility, which lets you connect additional Wi-Fi extenders that can eliminate dead spots in your home. But at the time we updated this guide, the AX50 wasn’t on that list. Although mesh capability isn’t a must-have feature right now, it would be nice.

The AX50 doesn’t support WPA3 security, but as of this writing devices with WPA3 security are rare. This will become an issue in a few years when WPA3 is more commonplace, but for now it’s OK.

You can check the AX50’s settings in both an internal website and TP-Link’s Tether smartphone app. Both offer basic settings for configuring the network, but the AX50’s advanced settings pale in comparison with those of the Asus RT-AX86U and the Asus RT-AX88U. We suggest considering either of the latter two models if you’re a networking whiz and you want to tweak your router’s radio strength, its channel selections, and the threshold where the band steering switches clients from 5 GHz to 2.4 GHz. If that last sentence sounds like incoherent technobabble to you, the AX50 would be more than sufficient for your needs.

Runner-up: TP-Link Archer AX20

TP-Link Archer AX20, our runner up for best Wi-Fi router, with four antennas raised plus a yellow and a black cable running from the back.

If the Archer AX50 is out of stock, consider the TP-Link Archer AX20 as its slightly discounted sibling. Like our top pick, the AX20 broadcasts a speedy Wi-Fi 6 network with good throughput, better-than-average range, and solid responsiveness (low latency), but it drops a few niceties to reach a lower price. It was a bit slower on our long-range tests, it has a slower USB 2.0 port instead of USB 3.0, and it omits advanced settings such as link aggregation, more robust parental controls, and the built-in security suite that the AX50 has. However, if you just need speedy Wi-Fi access in your home, the AX20 still delivers.

A chart comparing the file throughput speeds of various routers at short and long ranges.

Although the AX20 didn’t perform as quickly as the AX50, it didn’t lag too far behind: It was almost as fast in our speed test as the AX50 was at close range (7% behind) and a little behind at long distance (about 20%). On the other hand, the AX20 was less responsive than the AX50 when multiple devices were active, so a busy household might notice more lag on the AX20 than a home with fewer devices. During this test, the AX20 was about 30% behind the AX50 in latency (the time you’d be waiting for one site to finish loading and for the next to start). That’s not an eternity, but our top pick was still measurably faster on most tests.

View of the blue and orange ports on the back of the TP-Link Archer AX20, our runner up for best Wi-Fi router.

Most of the features that the AX20 sacrifices to undercut the AX50 on price are upgrades whose absence won’t affect most people. For example, the AX20 doesn’t support link aggregation (linking two LAN ports for extra speed to a single device), and it has only a USB 2.0 port, rather than a speedy USB 3.0 port, for file sharing. It also has a more basic parental control system and simpler QoS (quality of service) settings for prioritizing traffic like video streaming, and it doesn’t include the AX50’s Trend Micro security suite. Instead, it has basic firewall security and no monitoring. The AX20 supports WPA3 security, which the AX50 lacks.

In general, the Archer AX20 is about $20 to $30 less expensive than the AX50. For most people, the AX50’s better performance at long range, its better handling of the busiest networks, and its additional advanced features are worth the little bit extra. But the AX20 is a decent substitute and a good value if our main pick is out of stock, and it also outperforms our budget pick, the Archer A7, on all factors.

Upgrade pick: Asus RT-AX88U

The Asus RT-AX88U, our upgrade pick for best wi-fi router, with four antennas raised plus a yellow and a black cable running from the back.

If you’re spending the extra dough for a gigabit (or faster) internet service plan, the Asus RT-AX88U is the router to make the most of the bandwidth you’re paying for. It can serve a strong, responsive Wi-Fi 6 signal to all corners of an average home, and it has more ports for wired devices such as a desktop PC, a media streaming box, a gaming console, and NAS devices. In our tests, it outperformed the pack in speed and latency, and it includes upgrades that will keep it relevant in a rapidly changing smart home. Though it does a good job operating on only basic settings, this Asus router is the one you should look at if you think our pick doesn’t allow enough customization and you want more settings and sliders to tweak your network.

The RT-AX88U was the top performer on most of our tests, and we think investing in this model’s extra performance will pay off if you’re one of the lucky people who have 500-megabit or faster internet service. The RT-AX88U was about 15% faster than our top pick, the TP-Link Archer AX50, on our overall throughput and latency tests. Compared with our top pick, the Asus RT-AX88U has far more RAM (1 GB versus 256 MB) and a faster, quad-core processor, so we’d wager it would be faster than the AX50 if we were to add more devices to the network.

View of the ports on the back of the Asus RT-AX88U, our upgrade pick for best wi-fi router.

Beyond its day-to-day Wi-Fi improvements, the RT-AX88U justifies its higher price with a long list of upgrades over the Archer AX50 and the other mainstream routers we tested. If you need (or like) to tweak your network settings for specific cases such as gaming or content streaming, or because you need to give critical devices priority over others, the RT-AX88U offers lots of switches and sliders to change those settings in its administration console. If you’re particularly geeky, note too that the RT-AX88U has other future-proofing improvements, as well, including link aggregation on both the WAN and LAN ports (so it supports faster-than-gigabit speeds on compatible NAS devices and cable modems), two USB 3.1 ports, WPA3 security, and compatibility with Asus’s AiMesh (which connects compatible routers into a single mesh network).

The AX88U also comes with subscription-free AiProtection Pro network protection, which can help manage network traffic to prioritize voice and video communications over gaming, among other options that try to keep the most important things from slowing down. AiProtection Pro’s internet security helps prevent malware from infecting your phones and PCs, and also offers options intended to filter objectionable content from your children’s devices. These are services that would cost extra on the TP-Link Archer AX90 (see below) and all of the Netgear routers.

If your household is like mine and you’re adding smart-home devices every year, you’ll need all the help you can get to control them. Like TP-Link routers, Asus routers include Amazon Alexa compatibility, so you can turn on a separate guest Wi-Fi network using your Echo smart speaker, for example. In addition to supporting Alexa, the Asus RT-AX88U is a little geekier in that it allows you to use IFTTT (If This Then That) to automate functions such as an alert that sends you a check-in email when your kids come home from school and connect their phones to the Wi-Fi.

Close up view of the status lights on the front of the Asus RT-AX88U, our upgrade pick for best wi-fi router.

If you don’t have a gigabit internet plan and those advanced features don’t sound like things you want to use, the RT-AX88U isn’t worth the price. And make no mistake, the Asus RT-AX88U is pricey, about double the cost of the TP-Link Archer AX50. More expensive home routers exist, but the next step up from here is practically a commercial-grade router, and in that realm you get features that most people would never touch (and might need an IT degree to understand).

Budget pick: TP-Link Archer A7

The TP-Link Archer A7, our budget pick for best wi-fi router, on a wood surface with books in the blurred background.

Our budget pick, the TP-Link Archer A7, uses the older Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac), but it served our mix of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 laptops well in our tests and is the only router under $100 we recommend. Although the top picks in this guide outperformed the Archer A7 overall in throughput, range, and responsiveness, the Archer A7 held its own and surpassed a few other routers costing double the price or more. It’s a decent choice particularly for smaller spaces such as apartments and compact single-story homes, as well as for homes that don’t have lots of extra devices, like smart-home gadgets and tablets, fighting for bandwidth.

A chart comparing the file throughput speeds of various routers at short and long ranges.

The Archer A7 fulfills a modern router’s core function: You can use it with any Wi-Fi–equipped device, including the latest Wi-Fi 6 laptops and phones. It had excellent short-range throughput speeds in our tests, doing better than five of the other routers in this guide. At its best, the A7 is capable of speeds of about 430 megabits per second, a figure that conveniently matches some midtier and “performance” internet service plans. But its long-distance throughput, at our garage testing site 50 feet away, was quite a bit slower than that of our pick and runner-up, which is why we recommend the A7 only for smaller living spaces. That said, it still allowed our garage laptop to view a 4K video stream smoothly, something the TP-Link Archer AX21, Linksys MR7350, and D-Link DIR-X1560 had trouble with.

When we subjected all our routers to a busy network to test delays and lag, the Archer A7 landed solidly in the middle of the pack. Even though its latency scores were often three times those of our other picks, the A7 was still much better than some routers costing twice (or thrice) as much. If your household really hammers your Wi-Fi network—lots of video calling, streaming, and browsing all at once—spending more on the AX50 or AX20 will make a bigger difference. But “middle of the pack” is still impressive for an older router at a low price: In our tests, the Archer A7 was able to continue serving websites while the D-Link DIR-X1560, Archer AX21, and the Archer AX10 virtually screeched to a halt under the same conditions.

Whenever possible, we do check what kind of hardware a router uses—better processors and more memory often mean better performance—but the Archer A7 is a good example of why you can’t rely solely on these specifications. It has a 750 MHz single-core Qualcomm processor and 128 MB of RAM, components that fall pretty far short of the dual-core processor and 256 MB of RAM in the Archer AX50, but its performance in our tests certainly showed that it’s still a capable router.

A close-up of the WAN port and Ethernet ports on the Archer A7, our budget pick for best wi-fi router.

The Archer A7 includes the typical WAN port and four Gigabit Ethernet ports, though its USB port is limited to USB 2.0 speeds. Photo: Michael Hession

Photo of the Archer A7’s wireless activity LEDs.

The Archer A7’s activity LEDs. Photo: Michael Hession

If the A7 works pretty well for you, but you have a stubborn dead zone it can’t reach, you can extend its range with compatible TP-Link OneMesh extenders. However, since it uses the same wireless radios as every other device on your network, it’s not as adaptable as a mesh-networking kit that lets you use either wired backhaul or dedicated wireless radios. That said, it’s notable when a budget router even gives you the option to extend its range. We tested OneMesh networking for our Wi-Fi extenders guide, to mixed results: The TP-Link RE220 improved range and responsiveness when OneMesh was activated, but the TP-Link RE300 didn’t work as well under the same conditions.

Firmware updates help keep the two-year-old Archer A7 current. For example, Wirecutter managing editor Annam Swanson experienced dropped connections on her A7. After a firmware upgrade (her first in a couple of years), connections improved to her smart TV and to her family’s devices, including laptops and phones. These improvements have kept her and her family “happy with the A7 overall.”

We don’t think the Archer A7 would be as robust as the AX50 or AX20 for a larger home with dozens of devices—it has less RAM and a weaker processor, and it’s only Wi-Fi 5 compliant—but this router is certainly sufficient for a starter home or an apartment with fewer smartphones and PCs.

Other great Wi-Fi routers

If our upgrade pick, the RT-AX88U, is out of stock or priced above $350

Recently we’ve noticed that the RT-AX88U and other well-regarded routers have been out of stock due to the continued surge in work from home policies in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. If you click on the “See all buying options” button on the RT-AX88U’s Amazon page, you’ll likely be presented with a list of third-party sellers who are offering the router with a markup in price. While a consumer-grade router is unlikely to be copied by counterfeiters, reseller’s markups may push the router’s price beyond $350, and even $500. In this case we have a couple of alternatives.

TP-Link Archer AX90

The Archer AX90 is really, really big, with eight permanently attached antennas. Thanks to tri-band radios and those antennas, the AX90 was able to top all of our performance test charts (see below), though it wasn’t significantly faster than the RT-AX88U on most of the tests, and is approximately the same price (around $300). The AX90 also has a 2.5 GbE port for those who are lucky enough to have a modem and internet service above 2 gigabits, and its radio configuration will help you connect additional family phones and smart devices on the congested 5 GHz bands. Drawbacks include a $6 monthly or $55 annual subscription for advanced security and parental controls via the TP-Link HomeShield Pro service (the RT-AX88U includes a free lifetime subscription to AiProtection Pro), and fewer Ethernet ports (three versus the RT-AX88U’s eight).

Asus RT-AX86U

The RT-AX86U is about $50 less than the RT-AX88U, but it doesn't match the throughput speed or range of our upgrade pick. It has a 2.5 GbE port, if you have a compatible modem and plan. It shares many features with the RT-AX88U, including the ability to customize Wi-Fi radio settings, AiMesh compatibility, and it includes updated security and advanced parental controls (AiProtection Pro) for the life of the router. The AX86U also earned top marks on our latency test and it has a quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, which means it can still handle lots of devices and traffic—just in a smaller home or office than the AX88U could support.

What about Ubiquiti?

Every time we do a router review or a mesh-networking guide, readers ask us about enterprise-level networking options like Ubuquiti’s UniFi networking line. Although its rack-mounted models are decidedly overkill for most homes, we were intrigued by the recent introduction of the UniFi Dream Machine (UDM), which seems tailor-made for homes and small businesses.

The smooth white rounded cylinder of the Unifi Dream Machine (UDM) wi-fi router by Ubuquiti, turned to show the ports.

The UDM has a built-in 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) access point, whereas Ubiquiti’s more enterprise-level options separate the router and access-point functions into different boxes (and saddle them with enterprise-level prices). The UDM also has the single gigabit WAN port and four gigabit LAN ports that most home-level routers use. A couple of nice unique features: The power supply is built in (no wall-wart AC adapter necessary), and the UDM has an internal fan to quell overheating.

The UDM’s administration app and web interface look polished and professional compared with those of home routers, and they offer plenty of settings and graphic monitors familiar to network engineers; to folks who just want a simple-to-use router, Ubiquiti’s interface could look like an impenetrable wall of technical details. The UDM did okay on our tests, though the Asus RT-AX88U was able to outperform it. In particular, the UDM was less responsive on a vital test—long-distance latency on a busy network—than the Asus. Even the far less expensive TP-Link Archer AX50, our top pick, performed better than the UDM in some situations.

How we tested, plus the results

Testing for most Wi-Fi router reviews consists mostly of connecting a single device to Wi-Fi at various distances, trying to get the biggest throughput number possible, and declaring the router with the biggest number and the best range the winner, at least in terms of raw performance. The problem with this method is that it assumes that a big number for one connected device divides evenly into bigger numbers for all connected devices. This is usually a valid assumption for wired networking, but it doesn’t work well for Wi-Fi.

An illustration of the home used to test routers for this review, showing where browsing tests, downloading tests, and 4k streaking tests were performed in relation to the router placement.

Because we were testing in the real world, external variables (competing signals, walls, network traffic) affected our results, just as they’re likely to affect yours. The purpose of our testing was not to choose a router that was slightly faster than another; it was to see which routers could deliver consistently strong performance without encountering major issues in real-world conditions.

Instead of running just a single speed test, we used four laptops at different distances from the router in a 2,300-square-foot, two-story suburban home to simulate the real-world activity of a busy home network. Because these tests simulated real-world traffic, they did a better job of modeling real-world performance compared with a tool like iPerf, an artificial testing utility that moves data from one machine to another as fast as possible.

We also made sure to enable each router’s load-balancing band-steering feature, when applicable, to make sure that the routers would properly distribute our client laptops across all available bands to improve performance. We didn’t touch most of the other settings—you should be able to connect to your Wi-Fi and have it work without constantly fiddling with things.

We used a mix of 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) USB Wi-Fi adapters and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) internal Wi-Fi adapters to simulate a home network serving different clients. For example, some recent Windows laptops as well as top-of-the-line phones such as the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S20 have Wi-Fi 6 wireless radios, while budget smartphones, older laptops, or smart speakers are likely to be on Wi-Fi 5.

Our four laptops ran the following tests:

  • One sat in the downstairs master bedroom and simulated a 4K video streaming session. It tried to download data at up to 30 Mbps, but we were satisfied if it could average 25 Mbps or better, which is what Netflix recommends for 4K.
  • The second sat in the garage and simulated a web-browsing session. Once every 20 seconds or so, it downloaded 16 files of 128 KB each simultaneously to simulate loading a modern web page; ideally pages should load in less than 750 milliseconds.
  • The third laptop sat in the living room across the house, simulating a second browsing session. It also downloaded 16 128 KB files simultaneously, and on this laptop we looked for the same quick load times.
  • The last laptop sat in a spare bedroom downstairs at close range and downloaded a very large file.1 We didn’t care about latency—the amount of time between when the computer made a request and when the router responded to it—for this large-file download, but we did want to see an overall throughput of 100 Mbps or better.

We ran all these tests at the same time for a full five minutes to simulate a realistic extra-busy time on a home network. Although your network probably isn’t always that busy, it is that busy often enough—and those busy times are when you’re most likely to get annoyed, so they’re what we were modeling in our tests. We ran each test six times, and we then averaged the results to smooth out spikes.

The mix of these tests and devices let us evaluate each router’s speed (throughput), range, and ability to multitask (latency or lag). To test the router’s best possible speeds at close range, we placed one of our test laptops approximately 15 feet from the router, with one interior ceiling between router and laptop; we also performed a long-distance maximum-throughput test at about 50 feet, with four interior and two exterior walls in the way. We tested throughput using a real HTTP download, the same protocol you use to view websites and download files, to better expose differences in CPU speed and general routing performance.

Speed (throughput)

We characterized speed by looking at the combination of performance when downloading a large file at short and long range. The majority of the routers were able to top 500 Mbps at close distances, with some of the best-performing routers, like the Asus RT-AX88U, reaching over 640 Mbps. Only a couple of stragglers (the TP-Link Archer AX10 and D-Link DIR-X1560) fell far behind at 100 Mbps.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-wi-fi-router/

Wi-Fi that sucks can be more frustrating than no Wi-Fi at all, and the culprit in many cases is one router trying to cover too much house. Mesh-networking kits take the weight off just one router, instead spreading multiple access points around your house to improve the range and performance of your Wi-Fi. After spending hundreds of hours evaluating and testing 52 Wi-Fi mesh-networking kits in home and lab environments, we’re confident that the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) set is the best mesh router for most people who need one.

Most people, however, don’t need mesh Wi-Fi, and if you live in an average home or apartment, a regular router is just fine.

While many recent reviews tout either of this year’s new standards, Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, as the solution to all your wireless problems, based on our tests and research, we continue to recommend a Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) mesh kit as our pick and budget alternative. Wi-Fi 5 (and some Wi-Fi 4) laptops, phones, and other devices will continue to dominate your home for the next few years, and the premium that Wi-Fi 6 demands just isn’t worth it yet.

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is a great choice for folks who want to set up a lag-free Wi-Fi network all over their home, as well as anyone who needs a mesh network that can better wrangle the growing number of smart devices in a home. It’s a bit slower overall than our upgrade pick, but that’s like saying an eagle isn’t as fast as a falcon, and it’s easy to set up and manage.

The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) is the right choice if you currently use or are planning on upgrading to a gigabit or faster internet connection. The XT8 is almost a mirror twin of our pick, the CT8, but it includes extras such as Wi-Fi 6 compatibility and WPA3 security. Neither are critical inclusions right now, but both will help keep the XT8 from becoming obsolete for a longer period of time. For nearly $100 more than the CT8, the speed improvements won’t be worth it for most people in most homes. But the upgrade is worth the added expense if you’ve already invested in gigabit internet service and need a powerful mesh setup to work with all that bandwidth. It’s the upgrade pick for those who need the latest technology to squeeze out the fastest connection, always.

TP-Link’s Deco S4 will spread solid Wi-Fi 5 signals to dozens of devices throughout a large home, but it doesn’t have the top speed of our picks. And if you have more than 50 devices on your network—increasingly possible when you add smart home products on top of phones, laptops, and streaming boxes—there’s a higher chance the S4 will be overtaxed. Its price reflects that, so Deco S4 is the choice if you need to serve a few folks in a large home, and if your broadband internet service is 500 megabits or slower.

Why you should trust us

Before joining Wirecutter in 2018, Joel Santo Domingo tested and wrote about PCs, networking, and personal tech for PCMag.com, Lifewire, HotHardware, and PC Magazine for more than 17 years. Prior to that, Joel was an IT tech and system administrator for small, medium-size, and large companies.

Metaphorically, Joel has been a wire cutter for decades: Testing wireless home networking has been a part of his life for the past 20-plus years through all versions of Wi-Fi, back to the wireless phone extension he tacked onto the back of his Apple PowerBook. He did that so he could connect to the internet from his desk, his couch, and his bed seamlessly (a rarity for the time).

Who mesh-networking kits are for

If you have a house that a single powerful router can’t cover well (probably some homes bigger than 2,300 square feet or so, depending on the layout), a large apartment or small house with signal-killing interior walls (such as lath-and-plaster, brick, stucco, or concrete blocks), or one with a very long or tall, narrow plan, like a three-story townhouse, you should consider a mesh-networking kit. But before you toss everything out and get a mesh kit, you should try moving your router to a central location—in smaller houses a single router can actually be more effective than mesh networking.

Even one device with a poor connection can bring the quality of the entire network down.

If you already have a good router that you like, and you need just a little more range in part of your house, you might consider adding a wireless extender. (Here's our comprehensive guide to wireless extenders.)

Another option are mesh extenders, which like mesh-networking kits, automatically hand you off from router to extender and back, using the same network name; that makes the mesh experience a little more seamless. The takeaway is that mesh extenders may improve coverage in dead spots if you already have a decent wireless router, though they showed mixed results in our extender guide testing compared with full-blown mesh networking kits.

A wired network is always faster than a wireless one

A graph showing the wired vs the Wi-Fi throughput.
A graph showing the latency of wired vs Wi-Fi

If your house is wired for Ethernet, you don’t need a mesh-networking kit. You can run Ethernet cable to inexpensive wireless access points and outperform the best mesh-network kits we cover here, at a much lower cost. Mesh shines when you don’t have wires, don’t want wires, and have lots of trouble spots (or one really big trouble spot) with poor or no coverage.

A mesh kit won’t necessarily make your internet faster at short to medium range. As shown in the performance testing of standalone routers, the best Wi-Fi mesh kits did just as well as our upgrade standalone router pick, the Asus RT-AX88U. Mesh can offer better coverage and lower latency in a wider area, which makes your connection feel faster throughout the house because your devices aren’t grabbing at faint wisps of signal.

Mesh shines when you don’t have wires, don’t want wires, and have lots of trouble spots (or one really big trouble spot) with poor or no coverage.

A good standalone Wi-Fi router can handle multiple devices, as long as those devices all have good connections. Even one device with a poor connection can bring the quality of a single router’s network down, eating up all of the available airtime, starving the rest. The best mesh networks ensure good connections between devices, the base unit, and any satellites, reducing the situations where a poorly connected device can slow down the others. This reduces latency—the time you’re sitting waiting for the website, game server, or streaming service to respond and send data back. Replacing poor connections with better ones is what helps mesh shine.

But for spaces that a single router can’t cover, the most important thing about mesh-networking kits is how they’re designed to work together—the manufacturer has specifically tuned the units to establish fast, reliable “backhaul” connections with one another. That’s something you can’t get just by adding another access point or wireless extender to your existing router.

How we picked the best mesh network

The Wi-Fi mesh networking kits we tested lined up side by side.

For past versions of this guide, we tested absolutely every mesh kit we could find—but these days the number of mesh kits is growing, and we’re getting pickier. We researched dual- and tri-band mesh kits from each of the major router manufacturers, including Asus, D-Link, Eero, Netgear, and TP-Link. We also looked for routers from lesser-known manufacturers with strong reviews from tech experts or potentially interesting features that set them apart.

For this round, we dropped some of the poorest-performing kits from our previous rounds of testing (such as the D-Link COVR-C1203, Linksys Velop dual-band kit, and Zyxel Multy U kits). We also considered kits that cost more than $500. As you’ll see below, they weren’t necessarily better or faster than kits that cost half as much. If your home is particularly large or problematic, we’d recommend you look into hiring an IT professional to design and install a combination wired and wireless mesh network.

That left us with almost 30 kits from 11 manufacturers (AmpliFi, Arris, Asus, D-Link, Eero, Motorola, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, TrendNet, and Ubiquiti) to test, in order to find the best Wi-Fi mesh network kit.

We determined our recommendation using the 10 criteria below, drawn from research and extensive testing. To simulate the real-world activity of a busy home network, instead of testing maximum throughput from the mesh system to a single laptop, we used six laptops, spaced around 3,000 square feet of a three-and-a-half-story suburban home. We tested for speedy throughput (streaming simulated 4K video and file downloads), good coverage in spots around the house, and short latency (simulating three simultaneous browsing sessions on a busy network). We repeated each test set six times and averaged the results to smooth out spikes. See the How we tested section below for more details on our testing method and results.

We used similar criteria to our router reviews, tailored to fit our ideal mesh-networking kits:

  • Ease of setup and administration: Setting up a new network is often hard, but it doesn’t need to be. You should be able to get your home on the internet in less than half an hour with a mesh network.
  • Good speed test results: Speed claims on the box don’t mean much in the real world. In our tests, network speed —or throughput—varies from “This YouTube video will never finish loading” to “You can download a video game in an instant.” Generally, we looked for the mesh kits that performed above average, and we dismissed the slower routers.
  • Good range test results: You should be able to connect to a well-placed mesh kit from anywhere in your house. We tested each kit to see its maximum potential when close to the base unit, as well as in trouble spots in the home, to see how well the mesh signals could be successfully routed around obstacles like appliances and walls.
  • Low latency test results: Slow internet sucks. Latency—or lag—is the time spent waiting for the next thing to happen. A great mesh kit minimizes that wait even if the network is busy serving other devices.
  • Multiple Ethernet ports: Ethernet ports on a mesh kit’s satellites let you connect devices such as TVs, streaming boxes, and gaming consoles away from the base unit, giving them the benefit of unfettered access to the internet bandwidth you’re paying for. Ethernet ports on the satellites or nodes also let you extend the network with wires, using wired backhaul.
  • Expandability: You should be able to add more nodes later to extend and improve coverage even farther, if you discover dead spots or move into a larger house.
  • A fast processor and RAM: A router with a speedy multi-core processor and extra RAM can handle more connected devices and provide improved performance. The slow processors found in most cheap routers can still drag things down, no matter how good the radios that broadcast the Wi-Fi are. Not all manufacturers disclose the CPU and memory inside of their routers, but when we find outstanding specs, we do consider them when deciding what to test.
  • Nice-to-have extras: Fast, reliable Wi-Fi is what matters the most in a mesh kit, but more expensive optional features bring other benefits, too. The things we like to see that justify spending more for a mesh kit include speedier connections (like 2.5-gigabit ports and 802.11AX/Wi-Fi 6), built-in security (like WPA3), extra Ethernet and USB ports, VPN connections, and parental filtering.
  • Price: You can buy a mesh kit for $80; you can also spend over $1,000. But we don’t consider the cheapest or the fastest to be the best. When considering both features and our test results, we looked for “the best for the most for the least.” Right now, paying around $300 buys you excellent performance and features that offer real benefits. Spending 50% ($150) more buys small improvements for few people like those willing to tweak settings to achieve even better connections.

In addition, we consulted customer reviews on Amazon and Newegg, plus professional mesh kit reviews and performance rankings from CNET, Dong Knows Tech, PCMag, PCWorld, SmallNetBuilder, and Trusted Reviews, to determine our list of contenders. After identifying every model that met our criteria, we tested throughput, latency, features, and general user experience in a large test home.

It can be hard to buy a great router without testing them side by side because the connection speed classes stamped on the box don’t actually mean much. These classes come in the form of initially impenetrable alphanumeric jumbles such as “AX6600” or “AC1750.” In this case, “1750” stands for 1.75 gigabits per second. They refer to theoretical maximum ceilings defined in the specifications of wireless protocols, but have little to do with the speeds you’ll get in the real world.

One more thing: Don’t confuse the test results in our guide with the internet speed you’re paying for. For example, the Asus ZenWiFi AX is capable of throughput over 600 megabits per second at close range with no obstructions, but you still can’t get more than about 100 megabits per second from the internet if you have a 100-megabit plan from your ISP.

The best Wi-Fi mesh kit: Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8)

Our pick for the best Wi-Fi mesh networking kit the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8).

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is a great choice if you want to set up a lag-free Wi-Fi network all over a larger home, as well as if you need a mesh network that can handle a growing number of smart devices in a home. In a variety of tests spread out around a three-story home, the CT8 was able to outperform kits costing considerably more, and it was relatively painless to set up.

If you’ve read multiple mesh reviews, our choice of a Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) mesh kit as our pick might come as a surprise when many manufacturers and reviewers seem to be pushing everyone toward Wi-Fi 6. But we tested each of the mesh kits with a mix of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 devices—just like you’re likely to have in your home for a few years yet—and the Wi-Fi 6 kits we tested didn’t match the CT8’s good speed and excellent coverage.

The raison d'être of a mesh network is to provide good Wi-Fi performance all over the house, not just near the base unit. The CT8 was one of the fastest mesh kits in our test scenario. It was just behind its more expensive sibling, the ZenWiFi AX (XT8), at close range and in the attic where the test laptop was all but guaranteed to connect through a mesh point. And it actually topped the XT8 in one of the bedrooms that proved a particularly tough testing spot.

A bar graph of stacked throughput for large file transfers in which our two top picks are within the 6 highest results.

The laptop in the bedroom in question (WC3 in our graphs) was challenging because it was close enough to connect to a slower 2.4 GHz signal through multiple walls and appliances between it and the base unit—but WC3 could grab a faster 5 GHz signal if it chose to connect through a satellite or mesh node. This isn’t an unusual use case in homes that would particularly benefit from a mesh setup, but only 9 of the 27 mesh kits tested well in this situation, with the CT8 on top. Four notable kits, the Netgear Orbi RBK852, RBK853, Nighthawk MK83, and AmpliFi Alien came close, but all cost at least $100 more than the CT8.

A bar graph of stacked median latency in which our two top picks are within the top 5 lowest latency results.

In our overall latency tests, the CT8 finished in the top five. In these tests, raw speed in the form of throughput, in megabits per second (Mbps), isn’t the only thing that matters. Our latency test showed how routers handled the added stress of multiple devices accessing the network simultaneously. High latency, or lag, can make an otherwise speedy connection seem to drag, especially when the network is busy. The 12 finalists bunched at the top of this test were all tri-band kits that use their third radio band to facilitate communication with other network nodes, rather than your phones or laptops. That factor alone wasn’t a guarantee of success, however: The Netgear Orbi RBK752 was a tri-band kit that performed more like two of the dual-band kits (the Deco X20 and the Eero Pro with 2 Beacons).

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) next to its AC adapter.

A great router or mesh kit like the CT8 is relatively easy to set up, even if you don’t know much about technology. We try to avoid kits that have inscrutable setup processes or options screens, and some of our previous mesh network picks, like the Eero Pro, have emphasized simplicity and ease of use over customizability. But kits with too few settings can also make it hard to troubleshoot problems when trying to set up smart-home devices. The CT8 is just as simple to set up initially as some of our previous picks, but once installed, you have access to more settings that can help you tune the network to your home’s situation. For example, if you find that some devices or laptops in your home keep trying to connect to weaker (but ostensibly “speedy”) signals that provide an unreliable connection, you can set the Asus mesh network to reject weak connections and shunt the devices to the slower but more reliable bands.

The CT8 (and its XT8 brother) also come with subscription-free AiProtection Pro network protection, which includes service optimizations that can prioritize voice and video communications over gaming, among other options. AiProtection Pro’s internet security helps prevent malware from infecting your phones and PCs, and also offers options intended to filter objectionable content from your children’s devices. These are services that would cost extra on the Eero, Motorola, and Netgear mesh kits.

It only took 10 to 15 minutes from taking the CT8 routers out of the box to connecting laptops to the new network. By default, the network is to exclusively use the second 5 GHz band (hence tri-band) in between the two CT8 routers for speed. If you need (or like) to tweak your network settings for specific cases such as gaming or content streaming, or because you need to give critical devices priority over others, the CT8 offers lots of switches and sliders to change those settings in its administration console.

Close up of the ports on the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8).

It’s physically large, but that gives the CT8 the benefit of extra space for more connection options. Since the router and node are the same, they both have three rear-mounted Ethernet ports and one WAN port (to connect the main unit to your modem). That translates into extra connections for wired devices like streaming boxes, TVs, and game consoles. If you place the mesh node in your den or home office, you can connect your laptop or desktop PC to it for better speeds. It also means that you can connect the second CT8 to the first with an Ethernet cable for quicker speeds between mesh nodes (aka “wired backhaul”), if your home is wired for that.

The CT8 and the XT8 have the ability to rename the 2.4 GHz network separately from the 5 GHz network. This is relatively uncommon among mesh network kits—the AmpliFi Alien, Asus ZenWiFi siblings, D-lInk mesh routers, Linksys mesh kits, Netgear Nighthawk MK83, and the Ubiquiti Dream Machine were the other tested mesh networks that can configure separate network names.

Like most mesh networks, the CT8 comes with smart connect on by default. Smart connect (aka bandsteering) works great for laptops and phones: The device in your hands will automatically switch between 5 GHz (short range, but faster) and 2.4 GHz (long range, but slower) as needed throughout the day, using the same network name (SSID, see below). However, some 2.4 GHz smart devices like cameras and smart bulbs have issues with connecting to networks that have one network name. The latter is an ongoing problem with most mesh networks, which lock out settings in the name of simplicity. Changing the network name will alleviate this problem, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the expanded mesh network coverage, though you will lose the ability to roam from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz automatically on your laptops and phones.

If your household is like mine and you’re adding smart-home devices every year, you’ll need all the help you can get to manage them. Asus routers include added Amazon Alexa compatibility, so you can turn on a separate guest Wi-Fi network using your Echo smart speaker, for example. In addition to Alexa support, the CT8 offers the much geekier IFTTT (If This Then That) protocol to automate functions, such as an alert that sends you a check-in email when your kids come home from school and connect their phones to the Wi-Fi.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) next to other mesh units to compare size.

The CT8 mesh units aren’t the largest in our roundup, but they’re close. Asus has made some effort to build as minimalist an exterior as possible, but the CT8 units are a lot larger than the Eero Pro or Netgear Nighthawk MK62 nodes.

The CT8 base unit and satellite look identical, so that could be an issue if you ever move them to another location. Thankfully, when you set them up for the first time, it doesn't matter. You can connect your cable modem or gateway to either node when you’re first installing the mesh, and that unit will act as the base unit after everything is set up. If you ever move things around and try to use the satellite as a router, an error light will alert you to the problem.

WPA3 isn’t available on the Asus ZenWiFi CT8. (It is available on the XT8, our upgrade pick.) WPA3 is the newest WPA security standard, but lack of WPA3 isn’t a dealbreaker yet, since devices with WPA3 security are still rare. WPA3 will probably be more important in a business environment, like offices and shared hotspots in cafes, in any case.

The CT8 is expandable, but an extra unit goes for about $200 (since they’re the same routers with all the same electronics inside), a significant amount of money for an additional mesh point. Some other mesh kits use proprietary nodes, with different components inside (Google Nest Wifi and Netgear Orbi’s simpler nodes come to mind), which means that expanding the network is often cheaper than with the CT8.

Upgrade mesh Wi-Fi pick: Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

Our upgrade pick the Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

The Asus WiFi AX (XT8) is the right choice if you currently use a gigabit or faster internet connection like Verizon’s FIOS (or plan to soon)—otherwise, you may only get minimal benefit for the much higher price. The XT8 is almost a twin of our pick, the CT8, but it includes a couple of extras for users who need a more powerful mesh network to work with all that bandwidth. It’s our first pick to support Wi-Fi 6 (instead of Wi-Fi 5, common for the past seven to eight years) and improved security called WPA3. Among other improvements, Wi-Fi 6 should help keep the XT8 relevant in a rapidly changing smart home with more and more devices to manage. The XT8 can also serve a strong, responsive signal to all corners of a larger than average home, and it outperformed the pack in speed and latency in almost all of our tests.

A great router should provide many years of reliable service, and buying one with more recent technology can future-proof it for longer. The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) looks like our top pick, but it adds compatibility for the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, along with extra WPA3 network security. Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers have only been widely available since spring of 2020, are still far more expensive than Wi-Fi 5 routers and don’t bring a huge performance leap to most homes.

The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) next to its AC adapter.

The XT8 mesh kit was a top-four performer in most of our tests, and we think the extra performance will help if you have gigabit internet service; And it was one of the few mesh kits we tested with a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) port to support faster-than-gigabit connections, if your modem and internet provider supports them. So far, gigabit capable doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get gigabit speeds for all of your devices at all spots in your home. The XT8, TP-Link Deco X90, and TP-Link Deco X68 came the closest to providing this though, each achieving a throughput of over 600 Mbps at close range—almost 30% faster than our main pick, the Asus Wi-Fi AC (CT8).

A bar graph of stacked throughput for large file transfers in which our two top picks are within the 6 highest results.

When you take raw speed out of the equation, our main pick and upgrade pick are much closer than you’d think in other tests. Their hardware differs slightly, but the CT8 and XT8 use the same Asus routing software, and they performed similarly when all six test laptops were taxing the network at the same time. The the XT8’s latency (the time you’d be waiting for sites to respond when browsing them) was only a few percent faster than the CT8. By this measure, the XT8 was lockstep with the other top performers.

Close up of the ports of the Asus WiFi AX (XT8).

Aside from Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 compatibility, and the speedy 2.5 gigabit port, the XT8 is functionally identical to the CT8. The extra $120 upgrade may make sense for a small slice of people, but we aren’t recommending any of the even more expensive Wi-Fi 6 mesh kits. The next step up from the XT8 is a practically commercial-grade network, where you’ll find features that most people would never touch (and might need an IT degree to understand).

We’ve read user reviews and received reports that the Asus XT8 (and CT8) have had problems with dropped wireless connections. A recent firmware update has been released to improve system stability. We have added the XT8 to our long-term testing rotation and will continue to monitor posts that crop up about issues, and we are open to reevaluating our picks in the future.

Budget mesh Wi-Fi pick: TP-Link Deco S4

Our pick for best wifi mesh networking kit on a budget, the TP-Link Deco S4.

The TP-Link Deco S4 is half the price of our top pick, provided steady wireless coverage to our test home of 3,000-plus square feet, and we estimate it would work well with up to 50 devices and if you have 500 Mbps internet service or slower.

A line graph of the average web browsing latency results for the 10 top performing wifi mesh kits.

The Deco S4 was one of the few dual-band mesh networks that performed well on our web browsing latency test. This relatively inexpensive mesh kit was able to quickly feed simulated web traffic to our three test laptops while three other laptops were streaming 4K video and downloading files simultaneously. Notably, this $150-ish mesh kit outperformed the $350 Netgear Orbi RBK752 and the $250 TP-Link Deco X20 under the same conditions. A slight hiccup on this test was a barely imperceptible slowdown in one of the two 4K streams, where the average throughput was a fair 22 Mbps, when we were looking for at least 25 Mbps for a good score. The second concurrent 4K stream scored a perfect 29.9 Mbps.

Since the Deco S4 is a budget mesh kit, a few upgrades expected in pricier mesh kits are absent. Like the Asus CT8, it’s a Wi-Fi 5 mesh kit and lacks WPA3 security. As stated above, that’s not a dealbreaker at this time as most home PCs, phones, and streaming devices use Wi-Fi 5 and WPA2 security. The Deco S4 is also limited to two Ethernet ports per node, but that’s better than the Eero 6, which only has one free Ethernet port on its base router (and none on the add-on nodes). The Deco S4 is easy to set up and administer, since it has fewer settings to fiddle with than the Asus ZenWiFi mesh kits. The S4 also lacks an integrated internet security suite and has more basic parental controls.

The cylindrical TP-Link Deco S4, next to its AC adapter.

The TP-Link Deco S4 is physically smaller than the Asus ZenWiFi twins, and are easier to hide in your home. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

A close-up of the ports on the TP-Link Deco S4 wi-fi mesh networking kit.

Each Deco S4 unit has two Ethernet ports, so you can connect them together with wires, or hardwire a desktop PC directly to a Deco unit. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

If you have an internet plan faster than 500 Mbps, the Deco S4 might limit speeds in some situations, as it lacks top throughput rates that pricier mesh kits can claim. Transfer speed was an excellent 430 Mbps at 10 feet with no obstructions, but slowed to 170 Mbps when bounced through one of the distant nodes over 30 feet away and two stories up, and a slower but still smooth 48 Mbps through several walls on 2.4 GHz to our worst-case laptop in a bedroom. In any case, you’ll be fine if you’re subscribed to a 500 Mbps or slower plan.

Other great Wi-Fi mesh kits

Along with the standalone routers, our mesh networking picks have been out of stock due to a surge in home network upgrades during the work-from-home era. If you click on the “See all buying options” button on the CT8 or XT8’s Amazon page, you’ll likely be presented with a list of third-party sellers who are offering the router with a markup in price. While a consumer-grade mesh kit is unlikely to be copied by counterfeiters, reseller’s markups may push the price beyond $500, which is more than we’d recommend paying for these kits. In this case we have a few alternatives.

Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6

While the Asus CT8, XT8, and Ubiquiti Dream Machine have optional settings for tweaking their network performance, there’s something to be said about a mesh network you set up once, and almost never have to think about again (aka “set it and forget it”).

The Eero 6 is very simple to set up, so it would be a natural fit for folks who want to minimize their time fiddling with router settings. The Google Nest Wifi is another easy-to-set-up and solid-performing mesh network, but the Eero 6 has Wi-Fi 6 for more longevity and future proofing. All Eero and Eero Pro kits now have a temporary off switch for its 5 GHz network, to make it easier to connect smart devices like cameras and doorbells. It has support for WPA3 security, but that’s one of the few settings you can change beyond network name and password—its quest for simplicity removes even basic niceties (it has only one extra Ethernet port on the base unit, and none on the satellites). Eero offers a pricier package that adds four additional Ethernet ports for about $70.

During our testing, the Eero 6’s performance was competitive when our laptop was connected to the base router, but throughput dropped off precipitously when the signal was bounced through its satellites. That means it is suitable for homes with 500 Mbps (or slower) broadband connections. Eero also charges between $30 and $120 per year for their Eero Secure and Secure+ subscriptions, which are necessary for parental controls and anti-malware protection—services that the Asus ZenWiFi kits include for free.

Like its budget-priced cousin, the Eero Pro 6 is easy to set up and removes many router settings for simplicity’s sake. However, as a three-pack of identical Wi-Fi 6 routers, it’s one of the most expensive mesh kits we’ve tested so far, almost double the price of the Asus ZenWiFi CT8, our pick.

The Eero Pro 6 has two Ethernet ports on each router, which will allow Ethernet backhaul connections between the routers, as well as local wired connections. They’re also tri-band routers, with latency and throughput performance that is competitive with the Asus ZenWiFi models. Like other Eero kits, you have to register the Eero Pro 6 online with Amazon and administer the mesh network in the cloud. Technically, bad actors could monitor your data via this login, though Amazon and Eero assure us that they safeguard your data and online activities. Like the other Eero kits here, online security and parental controls require a $30-120 per year subscription. The Eero Pro 6 is a solid alternative as a simple, set-it-and-forget-it networking solution, if you can absorb the monetary costs, but ultimately, we prefer the Asus WiFi AC and AX over the Eero Pro 6 due to its lower purchase price and included extras like parental controls and internet security.

Netgear Nighthawk MK83

The Netgear Nighthawk MK83 is a good plan B if the Asus ZenWiFi AC or AX are out of stock, or if they are priced $50 to $100 over the MK83. The Nighthawk is well suited to a 3,000-square-foot or larger home with gigabit internet service, topping our throughput test and finishing in the top 12 on our latency tests.

The Nighthawk three-piece kit’s router and satellites are physically smaller than the ZenWiFi routers, and include two Ethernet ports on the satellites and three on the router for plenty of wired connections. Notably, the MK83 outperformed the pricier (and physically larger) Netgear Orbi RBK852 and RBK853 on our tests. Two shortcomings keep the MK83 from replacing our upgrade pick: lack of a 2.5 gigabit Ethernet port and extra fees. Parental control and network internet security are an extra $70 per year as part of Netgear’s Armor service. You’ll also need to spring for a $50 technical support fee if you have any issues during the MK83’s 1-year warranty period after the initial 90-day trial period expires. The $50 fee extends the technical support and warranty period to two years.

What about Ubiquiti?

Every time we update our router or mesh-networking guides, readers ask us about enterprise-level networking options like Ubiquiti’s UniFi networking line. Its rack-mounted models are decidedly overkill for most homes, but the more recent UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) seems tailor-made for homes and small businesses. We tested the Wi-Fi 5-compatible UDM in our router guide, but we also wanted to see how it would work with a Ubiquiti mesh extender.

the UniFi AP BeaconHD mesh node

If you link one or more (awkwardly named) Ubiquiti UniFi AP BeaconHD Wi-Fi MeshPoints to the UniFi UDM, you’ll have a mesh network with more expandability and settings to tweak. Pairing the BeaconHD with the UDM has a few more steps than the Asus ZenWiFi, but only took a few extra minutes overall. The BeaconHD is a wireless-only extender like Eero’s Beacons, however, so you’ll need another solution if you want a mesh node with an Ethernet port. The BeaconHD improved the Wi-Fi signal to the rest of the house, but as our tests show below, other mesh kits performed a bit better.

A bar graph of stacked throughput for large file transfers in which our two top picks are within the 6 highest results.

The UniFi Dream Machine and BeaconHD provided strong service all over the home, but other mesh kits outperformed it and were easier to set up. Graph: Wirecutter

A bar graph of stacked median latency in which our two top picks are within the top 5 lowest latency results.

Latency was a similar story: The UDM and BeaconHD were in the middle of the pack when we tested on a busy network. Graph: Wirecutter

The UDM’s administration app and web interface look polished and professional compared with those of home routers, and they offer plenty of settings and graphic monitors familiar to network engineers. But to folks who just want a simple-to-use router, Ubiquiti’s interface could look like an impenetrable wall of technical details.

Screenshot of a browser showing Ubiquiti’s UniFi controller.

If you’re an even more technical sort and have a (possibly humongous) home with some truly troublesome coverage zones, you might wonder how a UDM/BeaconHD mess setup compares with a more traditional multiple-access-point setup such as Ubiquiti’s UAP line of devices. Access points like the UAP only transmit Wi-Fi in certain rooms around your home, with wired Ethernet connections back to the router rather than chaining wireless connections between each access point. If you don’t have Ethernet wiring or can’t install it, you can’t use UAP. This arrangement is a much simpler option than mesh, as you don’t have to worry about building materials like stucco blocking a wireless signal between the router and the access points.

If you can run Ethernet cables and use standard access points instead of a mesh kit, you should consider it.

The UniFi software on the UDM (or a controlling PC with the app) lets you administer the UAP access points. It’s not that hard to use, but it definitely feels techy enough to scare off some less-technical people.

For the tests in our 2017 house, the UAP-AC-Lite access points were in the same sites as our multi-hop configured mesh kits—one in the network closet, one atop the living room TV stand, and one downstairs in the den.

Browsing throughput of Ubiquiti vs Mesh

The $80 UAP-AC-Lite units came pretty close to the top of our 2017 charts for throughput, despite that model being the least expensive version in Ubiquiti’s AP line. They didn’t quite take home the gold, with Netgear’s much more expensive Orbi RBK53 kit squeezing out a few Mbps more as tested, but they came close enough that you’d need to squint to tell the difference.

Throughput doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Latency still tends to be a better measure of how your Wi-Fi network feels, and in latency the two UAP units beat the Orbi system (and every other mesh kit we tested in 2017) everywhere.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-wi-fi-mesh-networking-kits/
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The Wi-Fi router is the heart of your digital home. Among other things, it provides wireless Internet to all of your devices. Generally, if you live in a small or medium-sized house, a single Wi-Fi router will suffice. You’ll find here my list of the best Wi-Fi 5 routers. Any of these will at least get the job done.

The year 2019 marked the time when the latest Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6, became commercially available. That doesn’t mean Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters are no longer relevant. Quite to the contrary, it makes them become an excellent deal since the standard will last for years to come.

By the way, if you think you need more than just one hardware unit to cover your sprawling home, check out this list of best Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems instead.

Best Wi-Fi 5 routers: The list

All routers on this list are those I’ve reviewed on Dong Knows Tech. You’ll find them in the reviewed order with the latest review on top. In some cases, for one reason or another, I re-visited routers that had come out a few years earlier. So the order doesn’t reflect the release dates.

I’ll update this list as I review more. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how their performance stacks up against one another.

8. Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine: An advanced router for all

The UniFi Dream Machine is the latest from Ubiquiti, and it knocks all other Wi-Fi 5 routers out of the park in terms of hardware specs. It’s a powerful Wi-Fi machine with lots and many settings and features, including the ability to host an advanced mesh/security system. Ultimately, the UDM is a router for pro/business users, but its beautiful design and easy-to-use mobile app make it fit anywhere.

Pros

Built-in UniFi Controller with lots of useful features

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance

Beautiful design, responsive web user interface, excellent mobile app

Cons

Threat Management feature reduces Wi-Fi speeds

Many features are still in beta/alpha state

Requires an account with UniFi

No Wi-Fi 6, not mountable


7. Asus RT-AC88U: The most fun router with lots of ports and features

The Asus RT-AC88U, not to be confused with the RT-AC3100, is my most favorite Wi-Fi 5 router – I’ve personally used it for years. It’s one of a few on the market with eight Gigabit LAN ports with Link Aggregation and Dual-WAN options. It has a ton of features, including the support for AiMesh.

Pros

Fast Wi-Fi performance with excellent coverage

Tons of valuable features, including the ability to guard the network against online threats

Eight LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation

Excellent support for Asus's AiMesh

Cons

Awkwardly placed USB 3.0 ports

Slow network storage speed when coupled with an external hard drive


6. Synology RT2600ac: One of the best routers for a home office

The RT2600ac is a router that has the best firmware by far. It’s somewhat like a NAS server and has a lot of network storage-related features, too. If you’re a savvy user, especially one with an interest in Linux, you’ll love it. And the fact it supports Synology’s mesh feature doesn’t hurt either.

Pros

Advanced firmware with a vast amount of network settings and features

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance

Ability to host a robust mesh system

Can turn one of its LAN ports into a second WAN port

Powerful online protection features

Cons

Can't work as a mesh satellite

Slow network storage speed when hosting an external drive


5. Synology MR2200ac: A pro mesh ready router

The MR2200ac is the latest router from Synology, and for the most part, it’s built to work with the older cousin to form a mesh network. It’s also quite fantastic as a standalone router, even though it has only one Gigabit LAN port.

Pros

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance

Powerful mesh system when two or more units are used together

Sophisticated yet easy-to-use firmware

Lots of useful and effective features with accompanying mobile apps

Ability to import settings from other Synology routers

Cons


4. TP-Link Archer C5400X: A powerful router that pretends to be a gamer

The TP-Link Archer C5400X is an awesome-looking router with tons of raw power. It’s a second on this list with eight Gigabit LAN ports but fewer features than the RT-AX88U.

It’s an all-around great router, despite the fact it’s not exactly a gaming router TP-Link wants you to believe.

Pros

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance

Solid design with responsive and well-organized interface

Extra LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation

Fast NAS performance when coupled with an external hard drive

Cons

No advanced gaming-specific features

2.4GHz Wi-Fi speed could be better


3. Asus Blue Cave: A peculiarly excellent router

The Blue Cave looks odd with a huge and purposeless hole in the middle. But it’s an excellent router with lots of features. If you intend to build yourself an AiMesh system, you can use it as a node or the primary router.

Sours: https://dongknows.com/best-wi-fi-5-routers/
UniFi Dream Router - First Impressions

The UniFi Dream Machine router is a great entry point for networking nerds

A few weeks ago, Ubiquiti unveiled the UniFi Dream Machine, an all-in-one networking device that for $299 combines a router, a switch with four Ethernet ports and a Wi-Fi access point. It has what Ubiquiti calls an integrated cloud key that lets you control your network.

I’ve been using the UniFi Dream Machine on my home network for the past couple of weeks, so consider this a review of the device.

Ubiquiti is a well-known networking brand. Most people are familiar with the company’s access points — those rounded antennas that you can find around schools, companies and public spaces.

But the upfront investment has always been a bit steep for personal use cases and even small companies. The UniFi Dream Machine sits perfectly in between professional gear and consumer devices. It represents a huge upgrade if you’re using the router with Wi-Fi capabilities provided by your internet service provider.

Rebundling UniFi devices

Ubiquiti has a range of routers under the AmpliFi brand for consumers who are looking for a plug-and-play solution. The company recently announced a new device with great specifications if you don’t want to mess around with networking settings.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you know that UniFi products offer some customizations that you think are lacking in consumer products.

Switching from an all-in-one networking device to a UniFi system has always been a bit complicated. The company has broken down the networking stack into different devices to offer you more control.

It means that you have to buy a Security Gateway (a router, the “brain” of the network), a switch (just like a power strip, but for Ethernet ports) and an access point (a Wi-Fi antenna). On top of that, a UniFi cloud key is an essential buy if you want to manage your network with the company’s controller software.

If you’re committed to the UniFi ecosystem, you get a great experience. You can manage each Ethernet port on your switch individually, you can control Wi-Fi settings from anywhere in the world and many, many more things. Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson fell down the UniFi rabbit hole and wrote a great story about his experience running professional networking gear at home.

The UniFi Dream Machine takes a different approach. It rebundles all the separate pieces that make a UniFi network come to life. You can buy the $300 UniFi Dream Machine and control every little detail of your network.

Specifications

A few words on the specifications of the UniFi Dream Machine. The pill-shaped device has an integrated security gateway, which lets you run a DHCP server, create firewall policies, take advantage of multiple VLANs and more.

In addition to the WAN port to connect your device to the internet, there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports. As for Wi-Fi, the Dream Machine supports 802.11ac Wave 2 (“Wi-Fi 5”) with a 4×4 MU-MIMO antenna — no Wi-Fi 6, unfortunately.

Behind the scene, the device uses a 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A57 processor. It has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage and consumes up to 26W.

Using the Dream Machine

Setting up the UniFi Dream Machine is a great experience. Ideally, you want to plug an Ethernet cable in your ISP-provided router and put it in bridge mode. This way, it’ll act as a dumb modem and let the UniFi Dream Machine do all the hard work.

After downloading the mobile app and turning on the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a popup that mimics the pairing popup of the AirPods. You can then control your network from that mobile app or use a web browser on your computer.

This is when it gets interesting.

UniFi’s controller software usually lists all the UniFi devices currently running on your network. With the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a single device. But if you expand that device, you can see a list of three separate UniFi components — a gateway, a switch and an AP.

As expected, you can control every little detail of your network. Once again, this isn’t for everyone and you will have to learn a lot of things about networking in order to optimize your setup. But if you’re a digital tinkerer, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The UniFi Dream Machine acts as the DHCP server in my home. I have renamed my devices and assigned fixed IPs to all my devices in order to find them more easily. You can see in real time the network they’re using and if they’re getting a good Wi-Fi signal.

I have also configured Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 public DNS at the network level.

There are a ton of possibilities if you care about security. I created a guest Wi-Fi network that only lets my friends access the internet. They can browse Twitter and stream Netflix shows without any issue, but they can’t access my computers on the local network.

I also created another Wi-Fi network for IoT devices, such as connected speakers, a printer and a robot vacuum. Connected devices don’t get a lot of security patches and have more vulnerabilities than a computer or a smartphone that you keep up-to-date. I assigned a different VLAN to this Wi-Fi network. VLANs let you create a partitioned network with different sets of rules.

I applied firewall rules to this VLAN so that I can control the devices from my personal devices, but they can’t initiate requests to my devices on their own. This is overkill for most people, but it’s fun that you can do that from UniFi’s controller. More details here.

When it comes to Wi-Fi, everything is customizable and performances have been stellar. I live in a small apartment, but the balcony has always been an issue. I often work from the balcony, and I’ve been using a cheap Wi-Fi extender that I found in a box of gadgets and cables.

I unplugged the Wi-Fi extender and tried to connect to the UniFi Dream Machine. I get better performance, even if I reduce Wi-Fi transmit power to medium.

These are just a few examples of things you can do with the UniFi Dream Machine. I feel like I’m still underusing the device (you can connect via SSH and control everything from the terminal), but I wouldn’t consider going back to an entry-level router with Wi-Fi capabilities.

Targeting prosumers

The UniFi Dream Machine is the networking device I didn’t know I wanted. I’ll never have hundreds of Wi-Fi devices connected to my home network. I don’t need a dozen Ethernet ports. And yet, I want to be in control of my network. If you miss Apple’s AirPort Extreme or if you’re a networking nerd, you should consider the UniFi Dream Machine.

Small businesses and shops often make some poor decisions at the beginning of the company. A cheap Wi-Fi router on Amazon doesn’t cut it when your business scales. The Dream Machine can be a good entry point, as you’ll be able to build upon that base device.

But if you think you have bigger needs, don’t try to run a big network from a UniFi Dream Machine. Ubiquiti sells some great rackable devices that will give you a lot more flexibility. The UniFi Dream Machine is a constrained machine after all. That’s what makes it both not good enough for enterprise customers and great for prosumers.

Sours: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/02/the-unifi-dream-machine-router-is-a-great-entry-point-for-networking-nerds/

Best unifi buy machine dream

ubiquiti-networks Logo Ubiquiti Networks Ubiquiti Networks UniFi Dream Machine Dual-band AC1733 Access Point 4 x Gigabit LAN Ethernet Ports; 4x4 MU-MIMO Technology

  • 4 x Gigabit LAN Ethernet Ports
  • 4x4 MU-MIMO Technology

UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) is the easiest way to introduce UniFi to homes and businesses. The UDM includes everything you need for a small-scale wired or Wi-Fi network. It's easy to use and still offers all the benefits of UniFi for homes and businesses. The UDM delivers the requisite high performance WiFi and fits into high density environments as part of the overall enterprise network. The UDM offers advanced firewall policies and persistent threat management to act as an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) and Intrusion Detection System (IDS). The UniFi Network Controller can provision UniFi devices, map out networks, and quickly manage system traffic. The UDM provides a managed 4-port Gigabit switch so you can easily add network storage or wired client devices.

Sours: https://www.microcenter.com/product/621162/ubiquiti-networks-unifi-dream-machine-dual-band-ac1733-access-point
UniFi Dream Machine to Dream Machine Pro Comparison

UniFi Wi-Fi Access Point Buyer's Guide: 2021

Originally Posted: January 24th, 2021
Last Edited: October 14th, 2021

Table of Contents

Overview of UniFi Wireless Access Points

Ubiquiti market their UniFi ecosystem at small businesses, but they can make great home networks as well. UniFi offers more options than typical consumer-grade equipment. If you are a nerd who likes getting their hands dirty, or just want a network that performs better, UniFi is worth a look.

UniFi networks are modular, which lets you pick the components that fit your setup. When people consider going with UniFi, they can usually make their own decisions for their router, switches, and UniFi Controller. They often ask the same question — which access points should I buy? It’s hard to make specific recommendations. My goal for this post is to provide the info you need to make the decision for yourself.

As of August 2021, this guide compares all available APs. There are two Wi-Fi 6 models available, the U6-Lite and U6-LR, and a few more in the Ubiquiti early access store. I will continue to update this guide as more models are made available. If you’re interested in the performance of the U6-Lite, U6-LR, AC-Pro, and AC-HD, see Wi-Fi Speed Tests — Aruba Instant On vs. UniFi.

Ubiquiti make many different access points. They have a list on their site that shows the different models and generations. You can safely ignore all the Generation 1 access points. Those can still be used, but should not be considered for new installations as they are either discontinued, or approaching End of Life (EoL).

The main models to consider are all Generation 2 (AC Wave 1), Generation 3 (AC Wave 2), or WiFi 6 models. See the charts below, or my full UniFi Comparison Charts for more details.

Specialty Models

Unless you have a specific need for them, you can also ignore most of the specialty models.

  • UAP-AC-EDU is an AC-Pro with a built-in loudspeaker. This model is discontinued and stopped receiving software updates in March 2021.

  • UAP-AC-SHD is an AC-HD with an extra radio dedicated to RF monitoring using Ubiquiti’s AirView and AirTime.

  • The XG series (UAP-XG and UWB-XG) are overkill for most networks, especially home networks — more on those later.

  • The UBB-US is a 60 GHz point to point bridge with 5 GHz failover, meant for linking two networks up to 500 meters away.

In Wall and Mesh Models

In-Wall APs are meant to be mounted in a standard 1-Gang electrical wall box. They can provide Ethernet connections for downstream devices, thanks to a small built-in switch. They also feature PoE pass-through, which allows you to power a security camera, VoIP phone, or other 15W PoE device.

Mesh APs are the best option for mounting outdoors, or an area without Ethernet. They allow you to extend a UniFi network with a power injector and wireless backhaul. All 2nd generation or newer UniFi APs can work this way, but the mesh models have antennas designed specifically for long range mesh performance. Wireless backhaul will not perform as well as wired, but can be the best solution for certain situations.

Essentially, mesh access points act as a wireless bridge when you are connected to them. One radio talks to your device, while the other relays it to the next-closest AP. This is why wireless backhaul will generally have higher latency and lower speeds than using Ethernet backhaul.

Always run Ethernet to your access points if you can, even the mesh models. If you’re running Ethernet outdoors, make sure to use outdoor cabling, shielded RJ45 connectors, and properly ground your installation.

From Low to High in Specs and Price:

  • AC-Lite: The old baseline. Unless you find it below it’s $89 MSRP, the WiFi 6 Lite is the better option going forward.

  • WiFi 6 Lite: The smallest, cheapest Wi-Fi 6 AP. This is the new baseline option.

  • AC-LR: LR stands for long-range. It offers higher transmit power, and can reach further distances. Like the AC-Lite, the WiFi 6 Lite or LR is the better option going forward.

  • AC-Mesh: If you need longer-range wireless backhaul or outdoor coverage, this is a good option.

  • BeaconHD: If Ethernet isn’t available, this is a good indoor mesh AP. It plugs directly into an electrical outlet, and pairs well with a UDM. For more details, see my full review of the BeaconHD and UniFi Smart Plug.

  • nanoHD: This is the cheapest 802.11ac Wave 2 access point, offering 4x4 MU-MIMO and fast 5 GHz performance. The WiFi 6 LR is the better option going forward, but the nanoHD offers good 5 GHz performance, and should be supported for years to come.

  • FlexHD: The same radios and capabilities as the nanoHD in a different form factor. It’s meant to be mounted on a desk or a shelf, and can also be used outdoors. It also makes for a good mesh AP.

  • WiFi 6 LR: The long-range version of the UniFi 6 Lite. It steps up to 4x4 5 GHz radio, allowing for longer range and higher throughput than the 6 Lite. Until more models are available, this is the best Wi-Fi 6 AP you can get.

  • AC-HD: The best AP for high-density networks. Until a Wi-Fi 6 replacement arrives, the AC-HD is the best option for supporting a lot of wireless clients in a small area. The only step up from the AC-HD are the XG models, which are intended for places like an auditorium or sports venue.

Don’t Be Afraid to Mix and Match

Since you can buy them individually, you might want to consider getting a few different models. If you want maximum performance in one area, you can have a WiFi 6 LR or AC-HD there, and use a WiFi 6 Lite or a mesh AP to extend the network into less used areas. If you want to expand coverage in the future, you don’t need to match the APs you currently have. You can add any of them at any time, anywhere you need them.

You can also mix Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 models, but you’ll see more benefits from Wi-Fi 6 when all of your access points and most of your clients support it.

A full comparison of Wi-Fi standards is beyond the scope of this guide. I’m going to highlight the main differences, and the parts that are important for picking an access point.

Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) was a big jump in complexity from the previous standard. Because of that, the certification was broken up into two waves. AC Wave 1 devices started shipping in 2013, and allowed some aspects of the standard to be optional. AC Wave 2 certifications started in 2016. Wave 2 increased some limits, and added optional support for some of the harder to implement features. Wi-Fi 6 certifications started in 2019, and Ubiquiti is just starting to release their Wi-Fi 6 lineup.

AC Wave 1

  • Focused on Improving performance in the 5 GHz band.

    • Performance in the 2.4 GHz band remained unchanged from Wi-Fi 4.

  • Mandated support for 80 MHz channels and allowed for up to 256-QAM modulation, both of which increased throughput.

  • Mandated 2 spatial streams, and supported up to 3 with Single User MIMO (SU-MIMO).

  • UniFi AC Wave 1 Models:

    • AC-Lite

    • AC-LR

    • AC-Pro

    • AC-Mesh

    • AC-Mesh-Pro

    • AC-IW

AC Wave 2 Added

  • Wider channels: 80 + 80 and 160 MHz.

  • Up to 4 spatial streams.

  • Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) for transmissions from AP to client.

  • UniFi AC Wave 2 Models:

    • UniFi Dream Machine — All-in-one Router/Controller/Switch/Access Point

    • nanoHD

    • FlexHD

    • AC-HD

    • AC-SHD

    • BeaconHD

    • In-Wall HD

    • UAP-XG

    • UWB-XG

Wi-Fi 6

  • Focuses on efficiency and multi-device performance.

  • Operates in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, but the WiFi 6 Lite and WiFi 6 LR didn’t upgrade their 2.4 GHz radios.

  • Supports up to 8 spatial streams and MU-MIMO in both directions.

  • Increases maximum modulation to 1024-QAM, allowing for slightly higher data rates when near an AP.

  • Mandates support for WPA3 for increased security.

  • Uses OFDMA, which allows for channels to be divided into smaller units.

    • Before OFMDA and MU-MIMO, all Wi-Fi transmissions used the entire channel. This meant only one device could transmit at a time, and performance scaled poorly. OFDMA divides a channel into Resource Units, allowing for multiple devices to transmit at once.

    • OFDMA is a key part of modern cellular networks, allowing them to support more users per cell than Wi-Fi does. With Wi-Fi, OFDMA is only used when both the AP and the client support it. Otherwise, Wi-Fi 6 devices will revert to consuming the entire channel. Early implementations of OFDMA in Wi-Fi 6 haven’t shown much benefit, as tested by Tim Higgins at SmallNetBuilder.

  • UniFi Wi-Fi 6 Models:

    • WiFi 6 Lite

    • WiFi 6 LR

    • Other Wi-Fi 6 models such as the WiFi 6 Pro and WiFi 6 Mesh are still in the early access store.

Antenna Differences

Another thing to consider — some models have equivalent radio specifications but differences in their antennas, and how those antennas perform. An important part of picking the right model is understanding what kind of antenna you need, and how to mount it.

  • Standard dome-shaped access points like the nanoHD and WiFi 6 Lite feature omnidirectional antennas which radiate in all directions. These are the best option for even indoor coverage. Ideally, these should be mounted on a ceiling facing down, as they focus more of their signal out of the top of the dome. Mounting them on a shelf or vertically on a wall is OK, too.

  • The antennas for the In-Wall models and the BeaconHD are designed to be mounted vertically, in an electrical box or outlet. These focus their signal in front and behind the AP, making them better at covering the floor they are on than the floors above or below.

  • The AC-Mesh and AC-Mesh-Pro offer slightly more directional antennas, making them suited for long range wireless backhaul.

  • The FlexHD and WiFi 6 Mesh are meant to be mounted vertically, either on a tabletop, a pole, or in the ceiling with their ceiling mounting kit. They also make good mesh APs.

  • Refer to Ubiquiti’s radiation patterns for more details.

AC Wave 1
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
2x2 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 867 Mbps
Indoor only
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W) or Passive 24V
MSRP: $89

The AC-Lite is a basic omnidirectional AP, offering good-enough performance for most networks. It’s dual-band, supporting 2x2 SU-MIMO and data rates up to 867 Mbps. Like all 2nd generation or newer UniFi APs, it’s capable of functioning as a mesh AP using wireless backhaul. The AC-Lite was my default recommendation for a long time, but that is starting to change with the release of Wi-Fi 6 models.

The Wave 1 APs like the AC-Lite are older, but they aren’t dead yet. Ubiquiti is still selling them, and probably will for a while as the Wi-Fi 6 models roll out and have limited availability. Even after the are removed from sale, software support should continue for the foreseeable future. The last AP EoL announcement gave over a year of notice, and I expect the same for the Wave 1 APs. The AC-Lite is still a good basic access point, so hopefully Ubiquiti will continue to support it. If you’re worried about future support, the new WiFi 6 Lite is the smarter buy.

AC Wave 1
3x3 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 450 Mbps
2x2 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 867 Mbps
Indoor only
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
MSRP: $109

The AC-LR has a more sensitive antenna and higher transmit power than the AC-Lite, which increases range and improves performance for far away clients. It also has a slight edge in 2.4GHz performance, supporting up to 3x3 SU-MIMO.

Just like the AC-Lite, the AC-LR is nearing the end of the line. The same advice applies here. For around $100 the WiFi 6 Lite is the better overall option, and the WiFi 6 LR is the better option if you need the range. Oddly enough, the AC-LR does have a better 2.4 GHz radio than the WiFi 6 Lite, due to Ubiquiti’s odd choice only upgrade the 5 GHz radio to Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 6 (5 GHz radio only)
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
2x2 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1200 Mbps
Indoor only
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W) or 48V Passive
PoE injector not included
MSRP: $99

The UniFi 6 Lite is the entry model for the new Wi-Fi 6 lineup. It’s the same size as the nanoHD, and uses the same mounting equipment and skins. It only supports Wi-Fi 6 on it’s 5 GHz radio. 2.4 GHz still uses a 2x2 802.11n/Wi-Fi 4 radio, which is disappointing.

My biggest complaint about the WiFi 6 Lite is that Ubiquiti dropped the included PoE injector. Make sure you have a switch capable of delivering standard 802.3af PoE, or 48V passive PoE. If not, any standard 802.3af PoE adapter will work.

If you’re interested in more details about the WiFi 6 Lite (or U6-LR) and how fast their Wi-Fi 6 performance is, see my full WiFi 6 Lite and LR review and speed comparison.

Note: Most of the PoE injectors that Ubiquiti make support passive PoE, which can damage equipment if you’re not careful. If you don’t have one already, I’d recommend Ubiquiti’s U-PoE-AF, a PoE switch, or a standard 802.af PoE injector from a reputable brand for the WiFi 6 Lite.

WiFi 6 Long-Range (U6-LR)

Wi-Fi 6 (5 GHz radio only)
4x4 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 600 Mbps
4x4 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 2400 Mbps
Indoor only
PoE Required: PoE+/802.3aT (30W) or 48V Passive
PoE injector not included
MSRP: $179

The UniFi 6 LR is the best Wi-Fi 6 model available right now, if you can find it in stock.

It’s the same size as the AC-HD, and uses the same mounting equipment. Like the U6-Lite, it only supports Wi-Fi 6 on it’s 5 GHz radio. 2.4 GHz still uses a 4x4 802.11n/Wi-Fi 4 radio. It also drops the included PoE injector. It boasts a wider range than the Lite model due to it’s higher EIRP limits and higher gain antenna.

The U6-LR requires a separate PoE+ power supply. Use a PoE+ switch or a 30W 802.3at injector from a reputable brand.

AC Wave 1
3x3 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 450 Mbps
3x3 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1300 Mbps
2 Ethernet ports. 1 for uplink, 1 for bridging
Indoor/Outdoor (not for direct weather resistance)
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W) or 48V Passive
MSRP: $149

The AC-Pro is the flagship of the AC Wave 1 lineup. The AC-Pro includes 3x3 SU-MIMO radios for both bands, and adds a 2nd Ethernet port for bridging to another device. It also has the benefit of being mounted outdoors — think under a porch roof, not somewhere directly exposed. It also features a USB port, which was used to support the speaker on the discontinued EDU version.

It’s the best 802.11ac Wave 1 AP that Ubiquiti offers, but all of my advice about future support on Wave 1 APs still applies.

AC Wave 2
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
4x4 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
1 Ethernet port
Indoor only
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
MSRP: $179

The nanoHD is the entry model for 802.11ac Wave 2. It’s the cheapest AP that supports MU-MIMO and 4 spatial streams in the 5 GHz band. Those features allow AC Wave 2 models to send traffic to multiple devices at once, increasing multi-user throughput. 2.4 GHz performance isn’t as impressive, so you’ll probably want to use band steering or other methods to keep clients on 5 GHz when possible.

If you value fast 5 GHz performance, the nanoHD is a good compromise between the cheaper Wave 1 APs, and the more expensive AC-HD. The introduction of the WiFi 6 LR for $179 has muddied the water a bit. If you can find it in stock, I’d suggest the U6-LR over the nanoHD. The nanoHD is still a good option though, especially if you find it around or below MSRP.

FlexHD

AC Wave 2
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
4x4 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
1 Ethernet port
Indoor/Outdoor
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
MSRP: $179

The FlexHD is easy to understand. It has the same radios as the nanoHD in a different form factor. It has a slightly higher-gain 5 GHz antenna, but otherwise should perform the same. It has a customizable RGB ring around the top which can be set to different colors in the UniFi controller.

It is also rated for outdoor use, unlike the nanoHD. Tabletop, wall, and pole mounting brackets are Included, and Ubiquiti sells an optional Ceiling Mount kit. It also makes for a good mesh AP.

AC Wave 2
4x4 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 800 Mbps
4x4 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
2 Ethernet ports. 1 for uplink, 1 for bridging or uplink
Indoor/Outdoor (not for direct weather resistance)
PoE Required: PoE+/802.3at (30W)
MSRP: $349

The AC-HD is the flagship of the AC Wave 2 line, exceeded only by the specialty UAP-SHD and UAP-XG. It offers the best speeds UniFi offers on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. It also features an antenna specifically designed for small cell spacing and vertical coverage, and dedicated hardware offload for QoS, Guest Control, and Client Management.

The antenna difference is important. The AC-HD will not cover as widely as an other omnidirectional APs. It is meant for dense deployments, not broad coverage. If you need to cover a lot of devices in a small area, these are good APs to get. They are good for homes too, just keep the antenna in mind when considering placement and quantity.

The AC-HD has two gigabit Ethernet ports. The 2nd can be used to bridge to another device, or combined into a 802.3ad-based link aggregation to support 2 Gbps uplink. This model requires 802.3at PoE+, so make sure you have a PoE+ switch or use the included power injector that is capable of that.

AC-SHD

AC Wave 2
4x4 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 800 Mbps
4x4 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
2 Ethernet ports: 1 for uplink, 1 for bridging
Indoor/Outdoor (Not for direct weather resistance)
PoE Required: PoE+/802.3at (30W)
MSRP: $549

The AC-SHD is similar to the AC-HD, but adds a 3rd radio for real-time monitoring. It supports airView and airTime, which gives you real-time visibility into channel utilization and the RF environment.

It was originally designed to monitor for security issues with UniFi’s Wireless Intrusion Prevention System, but that feature was never implemented in the UniFi controller. That makes the AC-SHD kind of an awkward product. I’d only recommend it if the real-time monitoring features are worth $200 to you.

AC Wave 1
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
2x2 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 867 Mbps
3 Ethernet ports. One for uplink, two for bridging
Indoor only
PoE Required: PoE+/802.3aT (30W)
PoE Pass-through: (1) 48V Passive, cannot be disabled
MSRP: $99

For some reason, this model hasn’t been discontinued yet. If mounting an AP inside a electrical wall plate is what you are looking for, the In-Wall HD is a better option.

I wouldn’t recommend the regular AC In-Wall unless you’re OK with its limitations, or you really need one Passive 48V PoE out port. This model is coming up on it’s end of life, and shouldn’t be consider for most new installs.

AC Wave 2
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
4x4 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
5 Ethernet ports. One for uplink, Four for bridging
Indoor only
PoE In Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
For Pass-through: PoE+/802.3at (30W)
PoE Pass-through: (1) 48V Passive
MSRP: $179

If mounting an AP inside a electrical wall plate is what you are looking for, the In-Wall HD is your best option. The HD model has 4 Ethernet ports, 1 of which supports PoE pass-through. It’s AC Wave 2, meaning it offers more performance and has more future software support than the regular AC In-Wall.

For PoE pass-through to work, you need to provide the In-Wall HD with PoE+, so make sure your switch or PoE injector supports that. The In-Wall HD doesn’t come with a power injector and is meant to be installed in a electrical wall box with Ethernet run to it, so make sure to consider that before purchasing.

AC Wave 1
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
2x2 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 867 Mbps
1 Ethernet port
Indoor/Outdoor (Weather resistant)
Poe Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
MSRP: $99

If you are looking to mount an access point outdoors, the mesh line is the best option. All 2nd generation and newer UniFi APs can use wireless backhaul to function as mesh APs, but the mesh models have antennas that are better suited for the task. The AC-Mesh is the cheapest (and oldest) mesh AP.

Wireless backhaul will always result in some trade-offs in performance. If you want the best performance, always run an Ethernet cable to your access points, including the AC-Mesh. For basic outdoor coverage, the AC-Mesh is still a good option. The FlexHD is a newer model to compare against.

UAP-M-Pro.jpg

AC Wave 1
3x3 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 450 Mbps
3x3 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1300 Mbps
2 Ethernet ports: 1 for uplink, 1 for bridging
Outdoor (Weather resistant)
Poe Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
MSRP: $199

If you need more outdoor mesh performance, the AC-Mesh-Pro is a good option. Like the AC-Mesh, the FlexHD is the newer option to compare against.

The AC-Mesh-Pro steps up to 3x3 radios for both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, and adds a 2nd Ethernet port for bridging. According to Ubiquiti it features a ”proprietary, MIMO-optimized, omnidirectional Super Antenna for exceptional 360° coverage, providing symmetrical long-range communications of up to 183 meters.”

I think the marketing department went a little far there, but it does offer additional performance over the standard AC-Mesh. With that extra performance comes a much larger size. The AC-Mesh is easy to hide, but the Pro model is more like a big white lunch tray. Seriously. It’s huge.

AC-Mesh-Pro Dimensions: 343.2 x 181.2 x 60.2 mm (13.51 x 7.13 x 2.37")

AC Wave 2
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
4x4 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
No Ethernet ports
Indoor only
Powered by standard AC wall outlet
MSRP: $199

The BeaconHD is newest mesh model, designed to work with the UniFi Dream Machine or any other dual-band UniFi AP. It consumes an electrical outlet and turns it into an access point and night light. The light can be disabled.

There are no Ethernet ports, so it cannot be wired, or provide a bridged connection to another wired device.

It has 4x4 5 GHz radio, and 2x2 2.4 GHz, which is equivalent to a nanoHD. It does have higher-gain antennas than the nanoHD though, which make it better suited for a mesh network. The BeaconHD is another good way to extend the coverage of your UniFi system without running Ethernet cabling.

If you want more details, read my full review of the BeaconHD.

AC Wave 2
2x2 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 300 Mbps
4x4 MIMO for 5 GHz, up to 1733 Mbps
1 Ethernet port
Indoor/Outdoor
PoE Required: PoE/802.3af (15W)
MSRP: $179

The FlexHD was already listed, but I’m adding it again here because it’s good to compare against the other mesh AP options. The FlexHD is flexible, it can be indoors or outdoors, operating as a normal omnidirectional or a mesh AP. It has the same radios as the nanoHD in a different form factor. It has a slightly higher-gain 5 GHz antenna, but otherwise should perform the same. It has a customizable RGB ring around the top which can be set to different colors in the UniFi controller.

Tabletop, wall, and pole mounting brackets are Included, and Ubiquiti sells an optional Ceiling Mount kit. It is the top of the line mesh AP until the WiFi 6 Mesh (which uses the same form factor) makes it out of Early Access.

AC Wave 2
4x4 MIMO for 2.4 GHz, up to 800 Mbps
Dual 4x4 Mu-MIMO for 5 GHz, both up to 1733 Mbps
2 Ethernet ports. 1 with support for 10 Gbps
Indoor/Outdoor (Not for direct weather resistance)
PoE Required: PoE++/802.3bt (60W)
MSRP: $799

Need is always a tricky word when discussing purchasing advice. For all I know, you might actually need 10 Gbps uplink, dual 4x4 5 GHz radios, a 4x4 2.4 GHz radio, a dedicated security radio, and support for up to 1500 clients. Of course, if you just want the best, costs be darned, there is the UAP-XG-US.

The UAP-XG will require a 10 Gbps capable infrastructure to support it, though. You should also be aware that the software features for the security radio have not been implemented yet, and likely never will be. I get the feeling that Ubiquiti tried to do too much with the UAP-XG, and they either changed priorities or didn’t sell enough of these to justify the development cost. Selling hardware before the software is ready is a topic for another post, but it’s frustratingly common with Ubiquiti.

WiFi Basestation XG (UWB-XG)

AC Wave 2
Small Cell for large, Dense Venues
No 2.4 GHz Radio
(3) 4x4 Mu-MIMO 5 GHz radios, up to 1733 Mbps each
2 Ethernet ports. 1 with support for 10 Gbps
Indoor/Outdoor (IP67)
PoE Required: PoE++/802.3bt (60W)
MSRP: $1499

If you’re building a Wi-Fi network for your house, this model makes no sense. If you’re designing a Wi-Fi network for a stadium, this is an interesting option for high gain, small cell coverage. These are the most specialty of specialty models. If you are planning a network which requires the use of the UWB-XG, you probably don’t need advice from me about model selection.

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The UniFi Dream Machine combines a 4x4 AC Wave 2 AP with a 4-port switch, built-in UniFi controller, and a security gateway capable of IDS/IPS performance of 850 Mbps. It is a convenient and easy way to get into the UniFi ecosystem. The UDM also has a new mesh AP model to go with it, the UAP-BeaconHD.

If you want more details on the UniFi Dream Machine or UniFi Dream Machine Pro, check out my reviews of those devices.

The only Wi-Fi 6 access points Ubiquiti sells right now are the UniFi 6 Lite and UniFi 6 Long Range, with a few others in early access. I have not heard any rumors or seen anything suggesting Wi-Fi 6E APs are coming soon, but I will update this guide when that happens. I don’t think Wi-Fi 6E support is imminent, as Ubiquiti tends to be a little slow with adopting new standards. Even their first two Wi-Fi 6 models (the 6 Lite and 6 Long-Range) have had a slow rollout and limited availability.

I expect to hear more about Wi-Fi 6E UniFi APs in 2022, and hopefully see some progress on WiFi 6 model availability before then.

Ubiquiti PtP and PtMP Comparison Charts

All my charts for comparing Ubiquiti’s models of point to point and point to multipoint wireless radios. Includes all AirMAX, AirFiber, LTU, 60 GHz Wave, LiteBeam, NanoStation, NanoBeam, PowerBeam, Rocket, Bullet, and GigaBeam models.

Read More →
Sours: https://evanmccann.net/blog/2021/1/unifi-ap-guide

Now discussing:

Ubiquiti readies new UniFi Dream Router with Wi-Fi 6, PoE, built-in screen, and AiO design

Ubiquiti is now preparing to release its latest home networking solution, delivering a series of notable upgrades to its popular all-in-one form-factor. Arriving with Wi-Fi 6, a built-in PoE switch, screen, and more, the upcoming UniFi Dream Router looks to offer plenty of power in a compact package. Head below for all of the details.

Ubiquiti showcases upcoming UniFi Dream Router

As of late, Ubiquiti has been looking to diversify its lineup with both prosumer and business-grade offerings with the roll outs of Wi-Fi 6 alongside the eye-catching debut of its Dream Machine Pro SE. Now it is looking to bring much of that power into a more home-friendly release with the UniFi Dream Router.

Adopting the design of last year’s Dream Machine, Ubiquiti’s new take on the all-in-one form-factor arrives with plenty of improvements to earn it the new name. The UniFi Dream Router most notably takes a step up to Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, ditching the 802.11ac found on its predecessor to join many of the other offerings in the lineup with support for the newer standard.

UniFi Dream Router

Its wired connectivity is also receiving an update. While there is still a total of four Ethernet ports, the bottom two have been refreshed to deliver PoE, allowing you to power UniFi Protect cameras, additional access points, and other gear in your networking setup. We’re unsure how much power output there will be at this time, though. Our best guess would be around 30W across both of the ports.

As for other upgrades, the UniFi Dream Router is also borrowing something else from the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien (reviewed right here). There’s now a miniature screen that showcases various stats like current throughput and more. It’ll likely be quite similar in functionality to what’s on some of Ubiquiti’s more server-grade releases, though just with a smaller size.

Coming to the Early Access store later on this year

In terms of what we still have yet to learn about the new UniFi Dream Router, there are two pretty crucial pieces of information. First up is when we’ll actually see the new release hit store shelves. There’s still no word on it joining the other beta products in the Early Access store, though we know that it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

The even more important aspect of the latest Ubiquiti release is pricing, which we still have no confirmation on. Given that the existing Dream Machine sells for $299, I’d be willing to bet we’ll see its new and improved successor arrive with a $399 price tag to match all of the added functionality.

9to5Toys’ Take:

Back when we first received word on the UniFi Dream Machine Pro SE from earlier in the summer, the folks at Ubiquiti hinted that we’d be seeing yet another notable unveil sometime soon. And now today appears to be that day.

While some may lament that Ubiquiti is releasing another prosumer device instead of focusing on the business efforts that caused its success in the first place. But I couldn’t be more thrilled to see something like the UniFi Dream Router on the horizon. It looks like this upcoming launch will be one of the most compelling network solutions on the market for home use period, so long as it can nail the pricing.

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Sours: https://9to5toys.com/2021/09/18/unifi-dream-router-debut/


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