Folk has asked me to compare the AmpliFi Alien vs UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) from Ubiquiti. It's a bit odd the request since clearly, these are two different routers entirely. Or are they? Well, find the answer in this post.
AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Similarities
These two routers do share a few things in common.
First of all, they both come in a cylindrical shape, looking more like smart speakers than Wi-Fi broadcasters. Each has its own bright programmable fancy light. The UDM has that as a ring round its top while the Alien moves that to its bottom.
Each also has a relative loudspeaker inside that makes chimes responding to changes in settings or statutes. Both include one Gigabit WAN port and four Gigabit LAN ports. Neither has a multi-gig port.
As Wi-Fi machines, both are mesh-ready. You can add more broadcasters to scale up their Wi-Fi coverage. Speaking of which, the two delivered about the same Wi-Fi range in my testing and, for the most part, similar performances.
AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Hardware specifications
|Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien||Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine|
|Wi-Fi Technology||Tri-Band AX7685||Dual-band AC2300|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||4x4 AX |
Up to 1148Mbps
Up to 600 Mbps
Up to 1733Mbps
Up to 1733Mbps
Up to 4804Mbps
|Mesh Options||Multiple Routers, |
Alien Kit (Router + MeshPoint)
|Router + UniFi Mesh Point|
|Channel Width Support||20/40/80 MHz||20/40/80 MHz|
|Gigabit Port (as Single Router)||4x LAN, 1x WAN||4x LAN, 1x WAN|
|Web Interface||Sort of|
(1-page of a few simple settings)
|Special Hardware Features||Programmable light, |
|Programmable light, |
|Processing Power||2.2 GHz 64-Bit |
(undisclosed Flash and RAM)
|1.7 GHz Arm Cortex-A57|
16 GB of Flash, 2GB of RAM
|Dimensions||9.84-inch (250 mm) tall, |
4.33-inch (110 mm) wide
|4.33-in (110 mm) wide, |
7.25-in (184.2 mm) tall
|Weight||2.65 lb (1.2 kg)||2.32 lb (1.05 kg)|
AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Differences
There are a lot of differences between these two.
Home vs. business
First, these are two routers for two different types of users: Home v.s savvy/business.
As the name suggests, the Alien is part of Ubiquiti's AmpliFi product line for home users. It's similar to the AmpliFi HD.
So, it's easy to use, has a nice front touchscreen that's a great conversation starter -- as though that were something essential in networking. On the downside, it's limited in features and settings.
The Alien does have one thing that's both cool and unique, though, which is the Teleport VPN option. As for mesh-readiness, the Alien can only work with its own Alien Mesh Point -- if you buy a kit. Else, you'll have to get multiple Alien routers.
On the other hand, the UDM is part of the UniFi family for businesses. As a result, it's much more than a simple Wi-Fi router.
It has a built-in UniFi controller you can use to manage an enterprise-class system. It has a more in-depth network setting than you even know to exist. It can control multiple UniFi access points (APs) and mesh extenders, such as the Beacon. In the future, you can use it with UniFi Wi-Fi 6 APs -- when they eventually become available.
It's important to note that you cannot use AmpliFi and UniFi hardware together. So you can't use the Alien and the UDM in the same network unless you want to use one in the standard access point mode -- in this case, you can't use one to control the other.
Wi-Fi standards and firmware/app
The two are of two different Wi-Fi standards. The Alien is a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router, and the UDM is a dual-band Wi-Fi 5 one.
Considering there are only 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 clients on the market, chances are you'll find the two quite similar in terms of Wi-Fi throughout.
The Alien is straightforward to use via the AmpliFi mobile app. It has no web user interface. The UDM comes with a relatively user-friendly UniFi mobile app but also includes a comprehensive web UI. It also includes a lot of security, online protection features, of which the Alien has none.
In many ways, the UDM is a business router that's friendly toward home users. The Alien is a pure home router that aims to give you a little extra in the cool fon.
AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Performance and ratings
These two are routers of different standards and were tested accordingly for their reviews. Among other things, I didn't try the UDM with Wi-Fi 6 clients.
But it does work with all Wi-Fi clients, and for this post, I did some extra testing on it using 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 receivers.
While the UDM can't compete with the Alien on the Wi-Fi 6 front, when working with Wi-Fi 5 clients, the two proved to be quite similar, with the UDM having some advantage over a long range.
Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien's Rating
Reliable and fast Wi-Fi with excellent coverage
Sleek design, sufficient web interface, and well-designed mobile app
Convenient and free Teleport VPN
Built-in ad-blocking feature
Limited in conventional settings and features
Unconventional tri-band setup with no dedicated backhaul when used in a mesh setup
VPN requires an app or an Android emulator to work on regular computers
No Multi-Gig port, not wall-mountable
Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine's Rating
Built-in UniFi Controller with lots of useful features
Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
Beautiful design, responsive web user interface, excellent mobile app
Threat Management feature reduces Wi-Fi speeds
The many settings and features, some still in beta/alpha state at review, can be overwhelming for home users
Requires an account with UniFi
No Wi-Fi 6, not mountable
Which to get
There's no clear cut in terms of which is better between these two. The Alien is an excellent buy if you want a fun, fast, yet relatively simple router.
But if you want a comprehensive network with lots of options while still having a ton of things to brag about, the UniFi Dream Machine is by far the most exciting choice among Wi-Fi routers.
Looking for more Wi-Fi solution matchups? Check them all out here.