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.
Table of Contents
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||4×4 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 2×2 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 2×2 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.
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13 thoughts on “AmpliFi Alien vs UniFi Dream Machine: Two Ubiquiti Wi-Fi Universes”
I assume the question nowadays is better posed between the Alien and the Dream Router? I feel like UDR now gives a cost-effective way to enter the UniFi world at a fraction of the cost and still have the benefit of an all-in-one device. It may not quite have the same beefy specs as an Alien, but it seems to decently approach it for the cost and you get the added advantage of the UniFi config interface and future expandability.
Hello! Just found your site and digging the depth. Here’s a small issue with this. On the spec sheet table for these two, you indicate that the Alien has a web interface and the UDM does not. However, in the third paragraph under “Wi-Fi standards and firmware/app,” you say the opposite.
Keep up the good work.
That was a typo, Su. I confused myself obviously. 🙂 Thanks for the report. Fixed. (The next time you can just highlight the typo and hit the red button to the right of the screen.)
Great comparison! Currently, I have an Apple Time Machine Router on main middle floor and two Ubiquiti APs located on top floor and basement. The APs are connected via ethernet down to the basement rack system with rack into unfinished PoE boxes and then into a netgear switch. I am trying to decide which direction to go to upgrade my current setup. One option is to go with the Dream Machine to replace Apple Time Machine and upgrade the older Unifi AP LRs with newer Unifi 6 Lite or LR or nanohd. This would upgrade my system to 802.11ac. The other option would be to go with Alien router and two additional Alien routers/mesh units to replace the Unifi APs and be connected via ethernet down to the switch. My internet is 600 mbps right now. I can upgrade to 1GB if needed. Not sure if upgrading to wifi 6 is the right thing to do as wifi 6e is coming so trying to decide if I upgrade to wifi 5 now and just wait until later to go 6e when appropriate. Which direction would you recommend and with which ubiquity products?
If you’re using UniFi APs, then go with the UDM, Bryan. If not, keep the current setup and wait for a while.
I purchased the UDM today and now I need to upgrade my 2 APs. Do you recommend Unifi 6 Lite, Unifi 6 LR or nanoHD?
It’s up to you, Bryan. They all are gonna work similarly, the difference is in how you connect them and what kind of speed you want.
I don’t see the Alien on Amazon currently…
Yeap. My guess is they want to sell from their own store for a better profit margin. 🙂
Love the stuff you put out. Do you plan on putting information such as switch bandwidth for future articles? This kind of information is a PIA to get from individual manufacturers and quite desirable for someone like me that has a small enough network where I want to best add an AP and or wired switch to make my home network wider before I start looking into old enterprise hardwire.
I might do that with 10Gbps switches, Yoob. Generally, unmanaged switches have consistent performance. There is not a huge difference between them.
I think you might have pulled the spec sheets for the wrong routers
Thanks, Yoob. Putting in one wrong digit and all hell broke loose. Fixed. 🙂