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Reviewed: Ubiquiti AmplifiHD

We’ve been plagued with spotty wi-fi coverage since we moved to our new home early last year. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that our router is placed next to a concrete wall, which blocks a fair bit of the signal. This meant that the network coverage in the office, downstairs, and on the other side of said wall from the router, had a more or less useless wireless connection.

This wasn’t a big problem until I started using the office for actual work back in April. Once I did, though, I often found myself having to use the mobile hotspot on my iPhone in order to get online at all. The situation soon became untenable, and I started looking for alternatives.

I first encountered residential mesh networks back in 2012, when it was covered in the module materials for my first module with the Open University. The module authors posited that mesh networks would in all likelihood become commercially viable for the consumer market by 2015. It would take another couple of years before good consumer units were available.

Reading up on the different offerings, it seemed to me that the best solution for us was AmplifiHD from Ubiquiti, and so I went out to get their starter pack comprising one router and two satellites. As always with these things, I immediately set it up when I got home.

The first step was to replace our old router with the new one, which was quickly done. I went through the guided setup, and set it up with my preferred SSID and wi-fi-password. Next, I plugged the satellites into power outlets, and they soon connected to the router. All in all, setup could not be any easier, and I was very happy to have set it up.

The proof of the pie, as they say, is in the eating, and I immediately started testing wi-fi connectivity in the locations that have generally been problematic, and found that all of the issues I’d been having had disappeared as if by magic.

Aesthetically, Ubiquiti has knocked it out of the park with the router; it is a cube, featuring a light underneath and front display, which shows you the time and date, as well as being able to display the current network throughput. The satellites are OK looking, but feel a bit bulky, particularly compared to the router.

The only thing I find a little annoying, is the fact that only the router features ports for cable network. The internet connection in our flat is located in the living room, and I would have liked to connect my NAS to the wireless network, while placing it somewhere else. At present, I achieve this feat by using a PLC connection (Power-Line Communication), which offers acceptable speeds for storage, but not for media streaming.

In the long term, I might add another router to the network, to get additional network ports in the office. I have no doubt that if I do, setup will be as easy as adding another unit to my Sonos system.

The bottom line is this: Setup is as easy as can be, and I can manage the network from an app on my iPhone. I can manage the network even when not connected to the network, and the system delivers far better coverage than a single router could ever hope to.

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