About AmpliFi Wi-Fi
Until recently, if you weren’t getting a good Wi-Fi signal in some areas of your home, the only real option was to purchase a range extender (or several). The problem is that each one creates a new network, which requires a new login, depending on where you’re located.
However, several new systems have recently entered the market, all claiming to make this problem a thing of the past. One of the most recent examples of this is AmpliFi Wi-Fi, whose multi-radio system promises to eliminate deadspots and deliver “ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home.” How?
AmpliFi’s base station takes the signal from your modem and transmits it to each mesh point, which boosts this signal and provides better network coverage (don’t worry, we’ll cover all the important details shortly). Then, AmpliFi’s iOS and Android apps connect to the base station via Bluetooth LE and act as a main interface, allowing you to manage your network, monitor speeds, oversee security, and more.
If you’ve ever had to deal with the frustration of setting up multiple networks just to get a solid Wi-Fi signal, the ease of use offered by AmpliFi seems like a no-brainer. But is AmpliFi Wi-Fi really “home Wi-Fi, perfected,” or will it leave you with a lot to be desired? That’s exactly what we’ll help you answer in this review.
What Is Wi-Fi? What’s the Benefit of a Mesh Network?
The exact details are outside the scope of this review, but in a nutshell, Wi-Fi involves different radios communicating (i.e. share information) with one another over short distances via low energy signals. This way, you can send a picture, for example, from one device to another without using any cables.
Since Wi-Fi is 1) designed to work over short distances and 2) is subject to interference like any other airborne signal, this can lead to connectivity problems. For example, if your current router is set up in a downstairs corner office and you’re using a smartphone upstairs on the other side of the house, your Wi-Fi signal could be very weak, leading to slow download times, buffering for movies, and so forth.
Your signal in this example could be weakened even further since the radio transmissions have to pass through solid walls before reaching you.
As we briefly mentioned above, traditional extenders can help boost your router’s signal in areas where it might be weak, but it creates another network (which you have to log in or out of, depending on your location) in the process. Not only this, but the signal provided by a range extender will only be half as strong as the original signal coming from your router.
To address both of these issues, technology has recently advanced to the point where full-scale mesh networks can now be created with relative ease. Here, you still have a single device that broadcasts a signal, but instead of extenders, you’ll use something called “nodes” to relay data. Thus, these networks create a “mesh” of coverage wherever it’s needed
The key here is that these nodes are seen as part of the network, so you won’t have to worry about 1) logging in and out of different networks, or 2) losing a significant amount of signal strength when relaying data.
With this core concept fresh in our mind, let’s find out how this relates to AmpliFi.
How AmpliFi’s Mesh Wi-Fi Works
What’s the Difference Between Each AmpliFi Configuration?
At its most basic, AmpliFi’s mesh networks consist of three primary parts:
- Base station
- Mesh points
- Smartphone app
AmpliFi’s base station connects to your modem and broadcasts its signal to each mesh point, which then amplifies the signal to provide broader, stronger coverage throughout your home or office. There are 3 different network configurations (each of which includes a router base station and two wireless mesh points), which differ based on important factors like speed, ranges, and more:
- AmpliFi: Max power is 24dBm, with 4 radios, 10 MIMO chains, 2.36 Gpbs speed, and a 10,000 square foot range.
- AmpliFi LR (Super Long Range): Max power is 26dBm, with 4 radios, 10 MIMO chains, 2.35 Gpbs speed, and a 20,000 square foot range.
- AmpliFi HD (High Density): Max power is 26dBm, with 6 radios, 18 MIMO chains, 5.25 Gpbs speed, and a 20,000 square foot range.
The AmpliFi Base Station
Regardless of which option is right for you, AmpliFi claims their base station provides an “uncompromising industrial design” that you’ll no longer try to hide. On the front, you’ll find a touchscreen display that displays the time and upload/download speeds.
On the bottom, you’ll find an LED ring whose brightness can be adjusted via the AmpliFi app (more about this in a second), while the back features 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports to connect 10/100/1000 Mbps wired network devices to the Internet. You’ll also find a WAN port.
We’re told that the hardware sets up in seconds and will deliver “high-performance connectivity,” including parallel video streaming and other intensive bandwidth applications.
Here, we can see AmpliFi’s cubical base station with touchscreen display and glowing LED ring.
AmpliFi’s Mesh Points
Each of AmpliFi’s mesh points plug into any outlet, without wires or fuss. We’re told that all you need to do is unbox them, plug them in, and almost immediately boost your signal strength using their “advanced antenna technology” and multiple self-configuring radios.
Each of AmpliFi’s mesh points also pivot on a magnetic connector that’s intended to deliver power and adjustability.
Once plugged into an outlet, the antenna on each of AmpliFi’s mesh points can be adjusted to optimize signal coverage.
Important note: According to AmpliFi’s website, their “mesh points are designed to pair with the router included in the same bundled kit.” However, they also claim, “We may offer stand-alone AmpliFi mesh points in the future; these stand-alone mesh points can [then] be paired with an AmpliFi router.” What’s this mean for you?
At least for the time being, you’ll stuck with two mesh points until the company releases standalone devices that can be paired with your existing base station. As such, you’ll definitely be limited in regards expandability and configuration with your AmpliFi system for the immediate future.
The AmpliFi Wi-Fi App
AmpliFi’s iOS and Android apps can be downloaded and set up in less than 60 seconds.
Afterward, the app will act as the main touch point for your Wi-Fi network, where you’ll be able to keep track of security (the system will constantly report status); monitor who’s on and off your network, including how much bandwidth they’re using; provide guest access without sharing your password, diagnose problems if they occur, and more.
The Devices screen inside the AmpliFi app displays mesh point names, download and upload speed, and more. At the bottom, you’ll be able to quickly view network performance, manage guests and clients, and diagnose problems.
Taking something complex and turning it into an easy-to-use product rarely comes cheap. Will you pay a lot for your AmpliFi system?
How Much Does an AmpliFi Wi-Fi Network Cost?
At writing, AmpliFi Wi-Fi systems were available for preorder for U.S. customers, with shipping expected sometime during August 2016. Each package is priced as follows:
- AmpliFi: $199
- AmpliFi LR: $299
- AmpliFi HD: $349
In addition to the base station and two mesh points, each AmpliFi order will also include a power adapter, Ethernet cable, and Quick Start Guide.
All AmpliFi networks come with a 30-day refund policy, less S&H charges and a 15% restocking fee. Note: In order to qualify, all products must be returned in original unopened packaging.
AmpliFi also provides a 1-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. In order to request a refund or process a warranty claim, AmpliFi’s customer service department can be reached at (855) 906-8585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does this price compare to the competition? What about features?
Are There Other Mesh Wi-Fi Systems Like AmpliFi?
Although your options remain fairly limited, several different plug-and-play mesh network bundles have hit the market recently, including options like Eero and Luma WiFi. While both of these feature very different designs than AmpliFi, their systems all work using the same basic concept (i.e. a central device that connects to your modem, along with peripheral devices to boost signal, which interface through an app).
A Note About Mesh Network Customization
Mesh networks have been around for years in commercial applications like office buildings, but they often required a lot of hardware and know-how. However, it’s only recently that plug-and-play systems like these have hit the market.
Here’s the point: These commercial networks are time-intensive to configure and operate, but they also provide an immense amount of customization. As long as you have a team with the requisite skills, a whole lot of tweaking can happen.
In order to make these mesh networks geared more toward the everyday use though, much of this customization has to be removed. As a result, if you’re more interested in customizing your network than in ease of use, these at-home systems might not be your first option.
Are Other Solutions More Cost-Effective?
As far as cost, a 3-device Luma system will set you back $299, while an Eero 3-pack comes in just shy of $500.
Which Features Are Most Important to You?
Functionality-wise, Eero seems to be the most similar to AmpliFi. However, one of the biggest complaints against Eero is that they tend to drop signal, which could be eliminated (or at least alleviated) through AmpliFi’s LR and/or HD models. And even at their most expensive, AmpliFi’s Wi-Fi comes in $150 less than Eero’s comparable bundle.
We’re not provided with a lot of detail about AmpliFi’s security and diagnostic features, although we know that Luma will help detect viruses on any of the devices in your network. On top of this, Luma allows you to assign an account for each member of your house, so you can deliver some strong parental controls such as usage reports, activity information, and the ability to restrict or revoke each users’ access.
Speaking of parental controls, while it doesn’t provide a mesh network, the Torch Router seems to deliver the ultimate in online oversight. This includes features like pausing activity with the push of a button, a “bedtime” option that turns off the internet for specific users, and more.
If it doesn’t provide a mesh network, why did we include Torch in our discussion? Because it all depends on your specific needs, and purchasing the device that will meet those needs best. We’ll come back around to this thought in the final section.
Is AmpliFi Wi-Fi meeting their customers’ needs?
Are There Any Online Reviews for AmpliFi?
As we discussed in the pricing section, AmpliFi’s systems won’t ship until August.
However, a recent Forbes article claimed that their AmpliFi HD system took about 10 minutes to set up, and noted that the hardware—with its LED ring and touchscreen—was nice looking. Mesh points were similarly plug-and-play.
In the end, the author stated that their AmpliFi network provided “pleasingly fast” speeds and packed “a ton of power for speedy transmission,” regardless of where they were in the house.
From a company perspective, AmpliFi is brought to you by San Jose-based Ubiquiti Networks, Inc., a commercial mesh Wi-Fi provider that’s been around since 2005.
We’ve given you a lot to think about when it comes to AmpliFi, so let’s help you make a final decision as we wrap things up.
Is an AmpliFi Wi-Fi System Your Best Option?
Like any other product, the “best” plug-and-play mesh Wi-Fi system for you is wholly dependent on your specific needs. For example:
- Are you more interested in customization? If so, plug-and-play systems like these probably shouldn’t be your first choice.
- Are you interested in in-depth parental controls and security monitoring? If this sounds like you, it seems like Luma might provide more bang for your buck.
- Is price your #1 concern? At $199, AmpliFi’s base system is $100 less than the closest competition, although it won’t be as powerful as AmpliFi’s higher-priced models.
In addition to its lower price, we think another meaningful difference is that AmpliFi is manufactured by a well-established company, while many other at-home mesh networks are offered by fresh startups.
In the end, you can see that only you can decide whether or not AmpliFi Wi-Fi is deserving of your hard-earned money. The good news is that you now have all the important factors in mind to make an informed decision.
Before going: Tell us about your AmpliFi Wi-Fi experience by leaving a review below!
Related: Wi-Fi Safety Tips For Smarter Travel