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AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Two Ubiquiti Wi-Fi Universes

Folk has been asking 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 are 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 statues. 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.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine vs AmpliFi Alien Wi Fi Routers Front
The AmpliFi Alien and UniFi Dream Machine are two (almost) completely different Wi-Fi router from Ubiquiti

AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Hardware specifications

Ubiquiti AmpliFi AlienUbiquiti UniFi Dream Machine
Wi-Fi TechnologyTri-Band AX7685Dual-band AC2300
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs4×4 AX 
Up to 1148Mbps
4×4 Wireless-N
Up to 600 Mbps
5GHz-14×4 AC
Up to 1733Mbps
4×4 AC
Up to 1733Mbps
5GHz-24×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps 
None
Wi-Fi Compatibility802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ac/ax802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ac/ax
AP ModeYesYes
Mesh-readyYesYes
Mesh OptionsMultiple Routers, 
Alien Kit (Router + MeshPoint)
Router + UniFi Mesh Point
Channel Width Support20/40/80 MHz20/40/80 MHz
Gigabit Port (as Single Router)4x LAN, 1x WAN4x LAN, 1x WAN
Link AggregationNoNo
Dual-WANNoNo
USBNoneNone
Mobile AppAmpliFiUniFi
Web InterfaceNoYes
Power SupplyInternal Internal 
Special Hardware FeaturesProgrammable Light, 
Built-in Speaker, 
Touchscreen
Programmable Light, 
Built-in Speaker
Processing Power2.2 GHz 64-Bit 
Quad-Core CPU 
(undisclosed Flash and RAM)
1.7 GHz Arm Cortex-A57
Quad-Core CPU,
16 GB of Flash, 2GB of RAM
Dimensions9.84-inch (250 mm) tall, 
4.33-inch (110 mm) wide
4.33-in (110 mm) wide, 
7.25-in (184.2 mm) tall
Weight2.65 lb (1.2 kg)2.32 lb (1.05 kg)
Hardware specifications: AmpliFi Alien vs UniFi Dream Machine.

AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Differences

There are a lot of differences between these two.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine vs AmpliFi Alien Wi Fi Routerss Back
The back of the two routers. The Alien’s WAN port is on its underside.

Home vs. business

First, all 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 the home. 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 than 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 extender, 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 department.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine vs AmpliFi Alien Wi Fi Routers With Retail Box
The Alien and UDM sure share fancy packaging.

AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Performance

These two are routers of different standards and were tested accordingly for their reviews. Among other things, I didn’t test 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.

Alien vs UDM

AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Ratings

AmpliFi Alien Wifi 6 Router by Ubiquiti Labs

$688.00
8.3

Performance

8.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable Wi-Fi with excellent coverage
  • Sleek design, useful mobile app
  • Convenient Teleport VPN for mobile devices
  • Effective ad-blocking feature
  • Mesh-ready

Cons

  • Limited in conventional settings and features
  • Unconventional tri-band setup with no dedicated backhaul when used in a mesh setup
  • VPN doesn't support regular computers
  • No 160MHz channel support, multi-gig port, not wall-mountable

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine

8.9

Performance

8.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Built-in UniFi Controller with lots of useful features
  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • Beautiful design, responsive web user interface, excellent mobile app
  • Mesh ready

Cons

  • Threat Management feature reduces Wi-Fi speeds
  • Many features still in beta/alpha state
  • 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. If you want a fun, fast, yet quite simple router, the Alien is a great buy.

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 interesting choice among Wi-Fi routers.

Looking for more Wi-Fi solution matchups? Check them all out here.

See also  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers of 2021: Pick One for Your Home Today!
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12 thoughts on “AmpliFi Alien vs. UniFi Dream Machine: Two Ubiquiti Wi-Fi Universes”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.)

      Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
    • I might do that with 10Gbps switches, Yoob. Generally, unmanaged switches have consistent performance. There is not a huge difference between them.

      Reply

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