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AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi System Review: Still a Mesh Novelty

I was first introduced to the AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi system a few years back, at its launch, and somehow never got around to reviewing it. Ubiquiti got in touch with me again recently, and here we are — better late than never.

Indeed, after all those years, this mesh Wi-Fi solution still manages to be quite a novelty now. It deserves your attention.

Though not perfect, the AmpliFi HD is one of the most easy-to-use Wi-Fi solutions on the market. Thanks to the 3×3 Wi-Fi 5 specs — quite rare considering most existing canned mesh systems use the 2×2 specs –, it also delivered an excellent performance. To top it off, its well-thought-out AmpliFI mobile app is a pleasure to use.

If you’re in the market for a purpose-built plug-n-play mesh that quickly covers your entire home with reliable Wi-Fi, the AmpliFi HD is a safe choice at a current cost of $140 as a single router or $340 as a mesh of three hardware pieces.

Just make sure you have plenty of power sockets around the house and, most importantly, don’t need a lot of networking features and settings.

AmpliFI HD
The AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi system includes a router and two mesh points.

AmpliFi HD: Cool, unique design

The AmpliFi HD is quite different from other Wi-Fi systems. Instead of three identical hardware pieces, it includes a router and two identical mesh points. Both the router and the mesh points are unique in their own way.

Ubiquiti: UniFi vs AmpliFi

UniFi and AmpliFi are two major networking product lines from Ubiquiti. They serve two demographics and therefore have different architectures and separate mobile apps and web user interfaces.

The UniFi family — represented by the Dream Machine (UDM), UDM-Pro, UDM-SE…, or the Dream Router (UDR) — aims at business/pro users. They are comprehensive routers that can also function as the central controllers of various products.

On the other hand, the AmpliFi family, represented by the HD Wi-Fi system or the Alien, is for the home environment. They are simple Wi-Fi routers, ease-to-use but with a limited feature set.

The UDM is the first UniFi product that also works well as a home router, thanks to the friendly design. In a way, it’s a bridge between the two product lines. And the UDR further solidifies that approach.

Still, Ubiquiti’s UniFi products can be overwhelming and overkill in many cases. Generally, home users should go with AmpliFi instead of UniFi.

A cute router with a touchscreen

The router is a medium-size cubic box — measuring almost 4 inches on each side — with a large touchscreen that you can use to set up quickly. The screen also has multiple pages that display helpful information about your network.

On the underside, the router has a glowing white light to show its status. The whole thing looks quite eye-catching.

And if you’re concerned about too much distraction, don’t worry! You can dim the screen, as well as the undercarriage light, or turn them off completely. Or you can set the “night mode” to make sure they stay off at certain hours.

AmpliFI HD Touchscreen
The router’s screen gives you helpful information at a glance.

The router has a USB port on the back, which is “reserved for future use” per Ubiquiti. Considering the system is now a few years old, it’s safe to say the port is useless.

Other than that, there are the usual four Gigabit LAN ports (for wired clients) and one Gigabit WAN to connect to an Internet source. And hooking the router to the Internet and turning it on is about all you have to do concerning setting it up.

Bulky but flexible plug-in mesh points

That’s because the mesh points are pre-programmed to work with the router out of the box. So plug them in, and your system is ready. There’s no need to sync or manually add them, even though there’s an option for that via the Amplifi mobile app if you purchase additional hardware.

Ubiquiti told me that you could use an unlimited amount of mesh points together, but generally, you shouldn’t use more than a few, considering there was no wired backhaul option — more on this below. (The AmpliFI HD router also works with the AmpliFI Instant mesh points, which support wired backhaul, but I haven’t tried that out.)

Design-wise, the mesh point is quite impressive. It consists of two separate parts that join via magnetism. One part is the power adapter that goes into a wall socket. The other is the Wi-Fi hardware, which you can swivel around at the joint. Not only is this design neat, but it is also helpful since the mesh point is bulky. Being able to move its top around means you can fit in certain tight places.

Remember that, due to the plug-in design, you might have a problem finding the right spot in your house to place the mesh point. Like in all mesh systems, you don’t want to put the AmpliFI HD mesh points too far or close to the router. And it’s a matter of luck to have an available wall socket at the sweet spot.

AmpliFi HD: Hardware specifications

Both the AmpliFI HD router and the mesh point features 3×3 Wi-Fi 5. It’s the second mesh system I’ve worked with that uses the higher-end specs, the first being the Asus Lyra Trio. The rest of the canned mesh systems use mid-tier 2×2 specs.

Full NameAmpliFi HD Wi-Fi System
HardwareOne router, two mesh points
DimensionsRouter: 3.91 x 3.85 x 3.92″ 
(99.5 x 97.8 x 99.6 mm) 
Mesh point: 9.60 x 2.13 x 2.27″ 
(243.83 x 54 x 57.75 mm)
WeightRouter: 14.46 oz (410 g) 
Mesh point: 7.90 oz (224 g)
Wi-Fi SpecsDual-band 3×3 Wi-Fi 5 
5GHz : Up to 1300 Mbps
2.4GHz: Up to 450 Mbps
MU-MIMO SupportNo
MIMOYes
AP (bridge mode) SupportYes
Dedicated Wireless BackhaulNo
Wired Backhaul SupportNo
Network Ports (Router)1x Gigabit WAN
4x Gigabit LAN
Price at Review$140 (Router) / $340 (Router + two mesh points)
AmpliFi HD’s hardware pacifications

Like the Asus counterpart, the AmpliFI HD is a dual-band system, with the top ceiling speed of 1300 Mbps on the 5GHz band and the 2.4GHz, 450 Mbps. Unlike the Asus, though, the AmpliFI HD mesh point doesn’t have any network ports.

As a result, you can’t connect a wired device to it, nor do you have the option to use network cables to connect the hardware to have a wired backhaul setup. And that means this setup will suffer from signal loss.

AmpliFi HD: Great for home users, lacking for enthusiasts

I tried the AmpliFi HD as my primary Wi-Fi system for a few weeks, and I can say this for sure: If you’re a home user — who only needs something that works and not much else — you’ll love this system.

AmpliFI HD Mobile App
The AmpliFI HD’s well-designed mobile app is a pleasure to use.

Easy setup, well-thought-out mobile app

For one, the mesh is dead-easy to set up. As mentioned above, you can do that via the touch screen and use its default setting. But even when you want to customize further, it’s easy, too. Just install the AmpliFI mobile app on your phone.

The app will recognize the system automatically and allow you to manage your network via a well-thought-out interface. It also provides tons of valuable metrics about your network, from connection speed to connected clients.

And it gives you in-depth information. For example, for the connection between the router and the mesh points alone, you can find out:

  • In which topology, star, or daisy-chain, they connect to the router.
  • Which band is working as the backhaul — 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and you can manually pick one.
  • How strong the backhaul signal is with a clear indicator.
  • Pause a mesh point.
  • Turn on or off the LED lights.
  • Name as the mesh point to reflect its location.

And even more. Similarly, you can figure out which hardware unit the clients connect in real-time and other related information for those clients.

There’s also a simple access control that you can use to block or pause the Internet connection of one or a group of clients. For example, you can group your kids’ devices into a profile and disconnect that profile from the Internet during nighttime.

Overall, it seems Ubiquiti has put a lot of work into the mobile app to provide an exceptional level of depth and intuitiveness.

Limited features and settings

In return, though, the AmpliFI HD doesn’t have the same amount of network settings as standalone routers. Here are what you can do with it:

  • Customize the Wi-Fi network’s name and password. Note: you can’t name the two bands as two separate networks.
  • Guest networking.
  • Customize the Internet connection type and the router’s local IP address
  • Switch between the router (default) and access point (bridge) mode. The latter is useful when you need to use the system with an existing router or gateway.
  • Perform IP address reservations and port forwarding.

(Update: With the latest firmware, there’s also an excellent VPN feature called Teleport, similar to the one used in the latest Wi-Fi 6 Alien router.)

And that’s it. There are a lot of what I’d like to have from a router that the system doesn’t provide, such as:

  • There’s no support for Dynamic DNS support.
  • You can’t program the system to filter certain websites based on their URLs or categories.
  • No QoS setting or the ability to show Internet bandwidth per client.
  • There’s no built-in online protection.
  • No activity logs.

So, if you want to have an advanced home network, you’ll find the AmpliFI HD sorely lacking, the way you’d find most canned mesh systems.

No web interface, login required

Another thing that might shun savvy users is that the AmpliFI HD doesn’t have a web user interface. Technically there’s one web setup page that you can use to change a few settings, but you can’t use it to customize any other aspects of your network.

Also, to fully take advantage of the mobile app, you need to log in with Ubiquiti, which might lead to privacy risks. In addressing my concerns on this matter, Ubiquiti vaguely said that its “goal is to create the best customer experience, and any information collected is simply used to elevate network performance.

In return, you can use the mobile app to manage your network even when you’re out and about. This type of vendor-assisted network administration is prevalent among Wi-Fi systems, including those from Google, Linksys, TP-Link, and others.

AmpliFi HD’s detail photos

AmpliFI HD BOX
The AmpliFI HD mesh system comes in a fancy box.

AmpliFI HD Front
The router unit is a cube with a round touchscreen on the front.

AmpliFI HD Ports
On the back, the AmpliFI HD router has the standard four Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port.

AmpliFI HD Underside
The router is not wall-mountable

AmpliFI HD Mesh Points
Each of the AmpliFI HD’s mesh points consists of two detachable parts that join via magnetism.

AmpliFi HD: Fast, reliable performance with an excellent range

I tested the AmpliFI HD for more than three weeks and was quite happy with it. During this time, there was no unexpected disconnection or any problem.

The coverage was excellent, too. By itself, the router unit had an outstanding range, which helped find the right spots to position the mesh points. Still, I did have to run some extension cords to place them where I wanted.

Overall, the mesh could cover some 5000 ftΒ² (465 mΒ²) with excellent Wi-Fi signals with all three hardware units. You can get even more if you’re willing to sacrifice the speed.

Ubiquiti Labs AmpliFI HD Router Performance

The AmpliFi HD had about the same sustained speeds as those of the Asus Lyra Trio. As a single router, my testing method averaged some 525 Mbps at close range and about 430 Mbps at a long distance.

Without a backhaul band, the AmpliFI HD indeed had a signal loss as a mesh. Devices hooked to the mesh points got less than half the performance when connected to the router.

But the net speeds were still quite impressive. At less than 10 feet (3.05 m) away, I got the sustained rate of round, 241 Mbps. At 40 feet (12 m), it now averaged about 210 Mbps.

Ubiquiti Labs AmpliFI HD Mesh Point Performance

The AmpliFI HD had proper signal hand-off and band steering, both of which have a toggle switch within the mobile app. When turned on, a connected client indeed automatically switched between the hardware units and bands to get the best performance as I walked around.

Keep in mind that the Wi-Fi range and speed depend greatly on the environment and hardware, so your experience might be quite different. However, comparatively, I was pretty happy with AmpliFI HD’s performance.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD's Rating

8.3 out of 10
AmpliFI HD
Performance
8.5/10
Features
7/10
Design and Setup
9/10
Value
8.5/10

Pros

Ridiculously easy to set up

Fast and reliable performance

Useful VPN for mobile users

Well-designed mobile app

Cons

Limited number of settings and features

No wired backhaul

Vendor login required for remote administration

Bulky mesh points

Conclusion

The AmpliFi HD is proof that Wi-Fi 5 solutions are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Yes, Wi-Fi 6 is here, but it will take a few years before it becomes mainstream. In the meantime, mature Wi-Fi 5 solutions, like this mesh system, are safer choices, not to mention less expensive.

So, again, if you’re looking to cover your large home quickly, the AmpliFI HD is an easy plug-n-play recommendation. But if you think of yourself as a savvy user, or are concerned about your privacy, consider Asus’s AiMesh or Synology’s Mesh solution instead.

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