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

Nancy J. Delong

The AmpliFi Alien is a person of several spiffy new routers that support Wi-Fi six — the latest, quickest model of Wi-Fi. Offered as a standalone router for $379, or bundled with a significant-driven variety extender in a two-piece mesh set up for $700, it is really a person of several […]

The AmpliFi Alien is a person of several spiffy new routers that support Wi-Fi six — the latest, quickest model of Wi-Fi. Offered as a standalone router for $379, or bundled with a significant-driven variety extender in a two-piece mesh set up for $700, it is really a person of several costly tri-band Wi-Fi six routers that exist in a high quality tier higher than most every little thing else on the market. Even so, the significant-driven specs could have you very tempted to make the splurge (at minimum, it could once it is really readily available — Ubiquiti at this time lists the Alien as out of inventory, but tells CNET it expects to have extra readily available for invest in before long).

Like

  • Rapid prime speeds by mesh standards
  • Exclusive, futuristic design
  • Basic, application-dependent set up and controls
  • Teleport aspect allows you route your world-wide-web traffic as a result of your property community although traveling

You should not Like

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

Guaranteed, the Netgear Orbi six and the Linksys Velop MX10 — two other $700 tri-band mesh routers that help Wi-Fi six — have been every a little bit quicker when I analyzed them out at my property, but the Alien wasn’t far at the rear of. In fact, it essentially finished initially in our lab-dependent prime speed assessments. On prime of that, it has a pair of more methods up its sleeve that that could assist you sense like you happen to be finding your money’s truly worth.

Together with a spacey design that consists of a cylindrical build, a touchscreen interface and a ring of LED indicator lights all around the base, the Alien router characteristics a special trick identified as AmpliFi Teleport that allows you route your world-wide-web traffic as a result of your property community from everywhere in the world. And, contrary to a good deal of VPN providers, it is really both equally a cinch to use and fully cost-free. Which is a useful layer of security if you happen to be connecting to a general public Wi-Fi community, and handy if you want to stream your nearby channels from a digital Tv company although you happen to be traveling. Other routers competing with the Alien will not offer just about anything very like it.

But the Alien’s lacking a few things, much too. For starters, it isn’t going to involve a multigig Ethernet jack able of accepting incoming wired speeds any quicker than 1Gbps. On prime of that, a person of its two 5GHz bands only supports Wi-Fi 5, which undercuts some of the tri-band attraction. People are both equally significant-conclude quibbles, but legitimate types at this price tag.

However, the Alien gets plenty of right that breaking the bank on it isn’t going to feel like these types of an out-of-this-world plan. I like it best as a standalone router, and would fairly go with Netgear Orbi six if I have been on the lookout to commit major on a certainly prime-of-the-line mesh set up. And retain in thoughts that a selection of new, less costly mesh programs that help Wi-Fi six are established to strike suppliers in the coming months. But if you want a extravagant, aspect-loaded router with a lot of horsepower and help for Wi-Fi six, the Alien fits the invoice.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Exclusive design, straightforward set up

The AmpliFi Alien and its accompanying mesh level are every stout black cylinders with rings of yellowy inexperienced light all around the base. You’d be forgiven for mistaking possibly of them for a good speaker, but contrary to the Nest Wifi and Netgear Orbi Voice, which every aspect built-in voice assistants, the Alien is just a router.

However, the hardware appears to be fantastic, and I take pleasure in that the vertical design sits the array of antennas at the prime of every unit, where they are going to carry out their best (better is often greater when it comes to antenna placement). You are going to rarely use the router’s Liquid crystal display touchscreen, but it is really continue to good to be in a position to see the time at a glance, as nicely as the occasional reminder to down load the most current firmware update each time a person is completely ready to go. 

Together with the WAN port on the base of the router, you will obtain 4 spare gigabit Ethernet ports on the back again.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

And will not be concerned —  if you would favor extra subtlety from your router, you can dim the LEDs and the touchscreen or switch them off completely. A Night time Manner aspect can also quickly dim them down to your favored setting throughout evening several hours.

I’m also joyful to see a rising selection of routers giving a simplified set up encounter, and the Alien is no exception. Just plug it in, hook up it to your modem with an Ethernet cable, hook up to its community, and open up the AmpliFi application on your Android or iOS unit (and if you would favor it, you can find a world-wide-web interface, much too). You are going to give your community a title and a password and be up and jogging in minutes. Incorporating the mesh level is just as uncomplicated, total with a signal toughness indicator in the application (and on the unit by itself) to assist make confident you have picked a fantastic location for it.

You are going to obtain a lot of command in excess of how your community operates in the AmpliFi application, as nicely as the option of generating a code that allows you route your world-wide-web traffic back again to your property community each time you happen to be traveling.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Flexible connections

Before I get to the speed test facts, a few words about Ubiquiti’s approach here. By default, the AmpliFi Alien combines its 3 bands — a two.4 and 5GHz band that every help Wi-Fi six, and a second 5GHz band that supports Wi-Fi 5 — into a one community, but you can break up any of those bands off as a different community with its own SSID as you so choose. That offers you some good command in excess of how you use the Alien in your property, but the deficiency of two distinct Wi-Fi six bands usually means that your selections all come with compromises. 

For instance, the program is made to mail its backhaul transmissions in between the router and satellite on the quicker, Wi-Fi six 5GHz band. If you give that band its own special SSID, then hook up your community gadgets to the SSID encompassing the other two bands, you will have a focused Wi-Fi six backhaul that keeps the system’s relay transmissions different from your usual community traffic. The rub is that you would not have obtain to Wi-Fi six on the 5GHz band.

Yet another option would be to different out the 5GHz band that supports Wi-Fi 5 and use it as a focused community for gaming, or for good property gizmos. Of study course, then your gadgets will have to share the 5GHz band that supports Wi-Fi six with the backhaul, which will retain you from hitting the router’s prime speeds.

Compromises apart, that amount of versatility is good to have, and the application makes it uncomplicated to personalize things as you see in good shape. I also take pleasure in that the application consists of a prioritization engine that allows you mark unique community gadgets for gaming or streaming.

The high-quality print on AmpliFi’s Teleport VPN makes it clear that some utilization facts is collected.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The other aspect of note is the aforementioned AmpliFi Teleport VPN company. To use it, you will need to log into the AmpliFi application with an Ubiquiti account, or with your Fb or Google account. You are going to ask for a 5-digit code and specify how extended you want obtain to your property community, then you will open up the different Teleport application on the iOS, Android, or Android Tv unit that youre striving to hook up. Enter the code, and AmpliFi will use Wireguard to encrypt that device’s traffic and route it as a result of the cloud back again property to your Alien. All of that is entirely cost-free.

I ran that pitch by Rae Hodge, an authority on VPNs here at CNET. She failed to like the plan of connecting by way of your Fb or Google account provided that Teleport tracks specific bits of utilization facts, which is a fair level of thing to consider. AmpliFi states that it isn’t going to obtain the written content of any communications despatched by way of Teleport, which features me some reassurance, but I concur with Rae that other focused VPNs like Nord and Express that will not obtain utilization facts at all are probably the greater selection for any one who designs to make frequent use of the aspect.

The other obvious limitation with Teleport is that there just isn’t a world-wide-web interface for it that’ll allow you teleport your laptop. I wouldn’t be astonished if AmpliFi improvements that at some level, but for now, the aspect is reserved for phones, tablets, and Android Tv gadgets.

Amid mesh routers, the AmpliFi Alien strike the quickest speeds our lab has at any time witnessed.


Ry Crist/CNET

Let us chat speed assessments

AmpliFi pegs the prime theoretical speeds of the Alien’s 3 bands at 1,148Mbps on the Wi-Fi six two.4GHz band, 4,800Mbps on the Wi-Fi six 5GHz band, and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band that only supports Wi-Fi 5. The program employs unit steering to quickly route the traffic from older, Wi-Fi 5 gadgets to the Wi-Fi 5 band, and more recent, Wi-Fi six gadgets like the Apple iphone eleven or Samsung Galaxy S10 to the bands that help those quicker speeds.

Theoretical, manufacturer-stated speeds like those use managed, lab-dependent assessments to paint the product in the most flattering light attainable. In our own lab, where we wire every router we test to a nearby server, then hook up a Wi-Fi six-equipped laptop to its community and measure the down load speeds, the figures are a good deal lower.

In the Alien’s scenario, we noticed an typical down load speed of 890Mbps when connecting from a length of 5 ft. That selection only fell to 722Mbps when we analyzed all over again from a length of seventy five ft. Both of those are better than any other mesh router we have analyzed, but note that we have witnessed standalone Wi-Fi six routers like the TP-Link Archer AX6000 go as rapidly as 1,500Mbps in that test. The Alien just isn’t running at that amount — and with no multigig WAN port on the router, your speeds from an incoming wired link will often be capped at 1Gbps (1,000Mbps).

The Alien wasn’t as rapidly or as outstanding as the Netgear Orbi six when I analyzed it in my property, where speeds are capped at 300Mbps.


Ry Crist/CNET

Authentic-world speeds, much too

Lab-dependent prime-speed assessments are all nicely and fantastic, but we make confident to just take a fantastic seem at how these things carry out in a regular property natural environment, much too. So, I lugged the Alien property with me for a weekend and ran an abundance of speed assessments at numerous distances throughout my smallish, 1,three hundred-sq.-foot house in Louisville, Kentucky, where I have an incoming fiber world-wide-web link of 300Mbps. I run a live movie stream throughout these assessments to simulate regular utilization — recall, the plan here just isn’t to see how rapidly these routers can perhaps go, but fairly, how nicely they carry out in a reasonable utilization circumstance.

In the conclude, I noticed typical speeds of 228Mbps throughout the spot, which is greater than Nest Wifi, Eero and most of the other Wi-Fi 5 routers I have analyzed, mesh or normally. It wasn’t as rapidly as the other Wi-Fi six mesh setups, I have analyzed, though — the Linksys Velop MX10, the Arris Surfboard Max Pro and the Asus RT-AX92U have been every in a position to inch it out, although the Netgear Orbi six remaining it in the dust with an over-all typical throughout my property of 289Mbps.

Though it done nicely at variety, the AmpliFi Alien’s signal toughness wasn’t as outstanding as Netgear Orbi six. That program would be a greater selection for particularly big houses that have to have a lot of coverage.


Steve Conaway/CNET

On the plus facet, the system’s mesh level did a excellent occupation of extending the network’s variety. Speeds in my back again rest room, the farthest level from the router, have been only about 17% slower than my speeds in the identical space as the router. Which is significantly greater than you will get with a Wi-Fi 5 set up, where speeds have a tendency to fall by at minimum forty% in the identical test. 

That claimed, note that my speeds only fell by 4% with Netgear Orbi six, which dedicates an whole Wi-Fi six band to the sole purpose of transmitting facts in between the router and its satellite. If you desired, you could different out the Alien’s Wi-Fi six 5GHz band as a focused backhaul, much too, which would possible web you likewise sturdy results — but all over again, you would be remaining with a 5GHz band for your community gadgets that only supports Wi-Fi 5 speeds. No these types of limitation with Orbi six, as both equally of the 5GHz bands help Wi-Fi six.

Our very last functionality test actions signal toughness in the 5,800-sq.-foot CNET Intelligent Residence. With the router and its extender jogging on the principal flooring, we use NetSpot software program to measure how sturdy the signal is throughout the whole space — both equally the principal flooring and the basement underneath. The more robust the signal toughness, the quicker you will be in a position to hook up.

We use that facts to make signal toughness heat maps, where blue is undesirable, inexperienced is fantastic, yellow is excellent and orange is stupendous. As you can see, the Alien did an enough occupation of blanketing the space in Wi-Fi, but it was a minor underwhelming when compared with the Netgear Orbi six. That remains our prime-analyzed mesh program over-all.


Chris Monroe/CNET

The verdict

You absolutely will not need to commit $700 in buy to upgrade to a mesh router that supports Wi-Fi six, but you have bought a pair of selections in that high quality, tri-band tier that are pretty powerful. Strongest amongst them is the Netgear Orbi six — but the AmpliFi Alien just isn’t much too far at the rear of it. It truly is rapidly, it is really uncomplicated to established up and use, and it features a fantastic mix of characteristics that give you a lot of versatility from your community.

I just desire the program was extra long term-proofed. We noticed the distinction a focused Wi-Fi six backhaul can make when we analyzed Orbi six, but you can’t go that route with the Alien with no getting the Wi-Fi six 5GHz band absent from the gadgets on your community. On prime of that, the Alien caps your incoming speeds at a one gig, although the Orbi six adds in a multigig Ethernet jack that supports incoming speeds of up to two.5Gbps (two,500Mbps). It truly is the greater significant-conclude splurge here — but the best engage in is to wait and see how the less costly Wi-Fi six mesh programs coming out this calendar year stack up ahead of purchasing just about anything.

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