Amplifi Alien: A major upgrade to a slow mesh networkFebruary 2, 2021
BLUF: Amplifi Alien is a beast, in looks and performance.
I’ve been in love with my Amplifi HD Gamer’s Edition mesh. The Wi-Fi coverage, gorgeous LED screen showing network metrics, and simple web and iOS interfaces to manage the devices–everything was great. However, as I wrote in my review, the Internet speeds were often less than 1/4th my ISP bandwidth. At the same time, my ISP — Spectrum — had been very unreliable with consistent outages every few weeks and slow speeds on every device, this where comes Amplifi Alien.
Here’s the tl;dr:
- Gorgeous screen with fun content being displayed
- Very easy to setup
- If you’re comfortable spending the money, get x2 individual Alient routers ($758 vs $699 for the kit) — more LAN ports but also, what’s better than 1 Alien router? 2 Alien routers!
- Very expensive to begin with and very expensive to scale since you will have to buy another $400 (incl. taxes) Amplifi Alien main router to extend this
- The mesh satellite comes with ONLY 1 ethernet port, like why just 1 port in a such huge tower?
- The Amplifi HD cannot be connected in a wireless mesh to extend this
- Performance is significantly better than the Amplifi HD mesh kit
Given Ubiquity’s reviews, I was pretty confident that the speeds issue was primarily a Spectrum problem. After several complaints to Spectrum, at least 1 device on my network started to consistently get the 400Mbps (Apple TV 4K), on wireless. At this point, I started suspecting the Amplifi HD mesh. As I ran some more tests, I was finally able to triage this as an Amplifi HD issue:
moved all my smart home devices to a separate 2.4G band
-wired conx to router over corp VPN: 200ish Mbps
-wireless in room with main router: 350-410Mbps
-wireless in room with mesh point: *60Mbps*
-iPhone after resetting nw settings: from 70Mbps to 390Mbps
-2016 Surface pro <100
— Manan ????? (@manan) January 3, 2021
After several hours with the patient Amplifi technicians, we ran tests with no improvements, I was ready to call it: Amplifi HD is not a device I would recommend to anyone.
my current recommendation to anyone considering @AmpliFiHome products is to not buy these. Go for Eero 6. Amplifi HD is bad.
— Manan ????? (@manan) January 3, 2021
At this point, Ubiquity’s customer support stepped in and suggested they’d be willing to send me the Amplifi Alien as an option to test. I was patiently waiting for this beast of a router (it is a cost prohibitive product). In parallel, I also dropped Spectrum for Verizon Fios 1Gbps. Once I got the Alien kit setup, I saw an immediate and significant increase in speeds across my devices, once Verizon Fios was implemented, it got better.
One of the biggest differentiator between Amplifi Alien kit and Amplifi HD kit is the fact that the Alien kit’s satellite comes with a single RJ45 for Ethernet connection. I used to connect my HP Pavilion: Entry-level Gaming Desktop. It’s also surprising that there is only 1 ethernet port on the satellite while there are 4 on the main router, why?!
Here are some pivot charts (1/12 is when I setup the Alien kit and 1/13 is when Fios was enabled):
In pure performance improvements, the Alien kit is very effective. Speed tests directly on the Alien main router and the satellite are 1Gbps:
The setup of the device is as easy as the Amplifi HD. The display is definitely more–more beautiful, more useful, more colorful, more everything. Here’s the Amplifi HD and Alien next to each other:
Some more pictures of the Alien’s gorgeous display:
The Alien main unit is at almost one end of the apartment and the satellite next to my HP Pavilion so I can use a wired connection between the desktop and the satellite. The HP is at the other (extreme) end of the apartment (although, given the layout of the apartment, the main unit and the satellite are in a straight line obstructed by a bunch of furniture in between):
For photos of the app, the Amplifi HD Gamer’s Edition write-up has several.